signals of noise

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e-Commerce and Memory [1]

This post is part of a series where I develop a concept of adding “memory” to e-commerce sites to improve the experience of customers with the site. [Part 2, Part 3]

Add memory to e-commerce for a better experience.

What do you do when you get back to work in the morning? Yes, the first thing is to get the menace of email out of the way. But then there are two other broad categories into which the daily routine can be divided. One, is a set of new tasks that need to start on that day or needs your attention on that day. Two, and more importantly perhaps, is a continuation of what you were doing the previous evening before you left. You need to complete the incomplete tasks at hand. This where our memory serves us well. We explicitly remember that there are somethings that we need to complete before proceeding with other things.

How I hope the same was true with web applications too. And especially for e-commerce. It will also help answer that all important e-commerce question: How do increase customer loyalty? Let me explain.

When I go over to a e-commerce site (e.g. to research a product (books, lenses, camera accessories, etc.) I do not necessarily buy it with my first visit. If it is something specific I will read reviews on the site, or in case there are none go off to a search engine to get that information. If I am only certain of the class of product (e.g. a wide angle lens with Nikon mount) I might compare the product specifications, reviews and then may be continue the research elsewhere on the web. Fairly straightforward. Nothing what others won’t be doing.

Here is where I feel a little bit of memory would serve both the e-commerce sites as well as the customers well. On Flipkart for example I can see a list of recently viewed products when I am on a product page. But not on the home page when I land there. So if I am returning to the site to do further research or even buy a product I have to do a search again or at best access it quickly from my wishlist if I have added it there (which is also not very convenient if it is as long as my Flipkart wishlist).

Not only is this an extra step to get to my goal, it is also a missed opportunity for the site to remind me that I was looking at something the last time I was there that I have not yet made a decision on yet (as far as they know since I might have picked it up from somewhere else for whatever reason). So how should this memory thing work for e-commerce?

Just stop here and think about it. I will be back with my thoughts tomorrow in part 2 of this series.

How iPads are Made [Video]

This is a rare video on the inner workings of the Foxconn factory where iPads are assembled. This doesn’t in the least look like the horror place that reports suggest. This is possibly how any factory would be like. But then in China everything is censored. So this could also be the edited version meant for mass consumption.

UX: What is Experience?

This is the second post in a series of posts I am doing on the fundamental need and principles of user experience. (part 1)

Before we jump into user experience lets first look at what ‘Experience‘ means. Why? Knowing what experience means before diving into user experience will help us deliver better results and also hasten the learning curve.

So what is experience? The dictionary definition goes such.

Experience (noun)
1. A particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something
2. The totality of the cognitions given by perception; all that is perceived, understood and remembered.

Experience is also
…the aspect of intellect and consciousness experienced as combinations of thought, perception, memory, emotion and imagination…

The key words here are thought, perception, memory, emotion and imagination. If you think about it, it is one or more of these that really shapes our experiences.

  • Our perception of an experience varies as everyone has their unique way of organizing and interpreting sensory information.
  • A memory of a past expereicen is against what we always judge our present experiences.
  • Before we actually experience something we imagine how that experience is likely to be.
  • The emotional response to an experience is what will ultimately determine if the experience was good or bad.

The Kailash Temple at Ellora makes one go 'wow' when seen the first time.

Experience is associated with sensory stimuli – visual, audio, touch, taste. An awesome experience results when this stimulus is in response to something you have previously read or heard about. It is like seeing the Kailash Temple at Ellora for the first time.

Experience is subjective. Different people will perceive similar things differently and different things similarly. For example, the sitar, guitar and the cello are all string instruments but not everyone who likes one may like the other.

Experience is small things. Like the curved back of the iPad inviting you to pick it up. A good experience is almost always made up of many small little things. So it is important to identify these small things and features and ensure they add up to deliver the big picture.

The remembrance of an experience is high when the experience as bad as well as when it is good. So how do you want to be remembered?We remember both good and bad experiences. But with very different outcomes! We want to re-live, repeat the good experiences, suggest it to others. It is exactly the opposite for bad experiences: we will never repeat those and never recommend it to others. Quite possibly we may even try to dissuade others. We don’t particularly like or dislike the average experiences. They are generally completely forgotten once over. Any doubts where we want to be?

UX: What is that?

Anyone anywhere building products know and talk about the important role user experience plays. According to Forrester research:

- More customers will be willing to purchase. On average, companies that provide a superior experience have 14.4% more customers who are willing to consider them for another purchase than companies in the same industry that offer a poor customer experience.

- More customers will resist doing business with competitors. Compared with companies that offer a poor experience, companies that offer the best experience in their industries have 15.8% fewer customers who are likely to consider doing business with a competitor.

- More customers will recommend you. Companies with the highest experience scores have 16.6% more customers who are likely to recommend their products or services compared with their lowest-scoring competitors.

[the numbers are slightly old, but they may only be more convincing today.]

Clearly user experience is an aspect of product development that you can only ignore at your own peril.

I am not an expert with user experience. But I have had prior experience at Siemens doing workshops to redesign user interfaces to provide users with superior experiences. And in my current role as product manager it is far more important than it ever was. Besides, my adventures with photography has kind of got me more interested in the subtler aspects of good design.

As I already said, I am not an expert with user experience. But I am learning. And here I will try and share what I pick up, point out resources that can be of help to anyone interested in this field. I can’t promise to be very sequential with this but I will try.

I will start with the next post and we will first of all look at what is experience.

Content v/s Hardware

There is a very interesting observation about “Hardware Companies Will Have To Quit The Tablet Market In 2012“. The basic premise of the argument being content providers can undercut on hardware price and make it up via content sales. Which means Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble are perfectly poised while the HPs and Dells of the world will struggle.

Which leaves me wondering about Android and Windows 8 tablets. Neither Google nor Microsoft makes hardware. But they have content. Will it mean that they will also have to get into the hardware game? Or at least start sharing some of their content revenue with their hardware partners?

Interesting times ahead.

[image: IntelFreePress]

iPhone 4S Coming to India?

The iPhone 4S seems to be headed to India. Aircel has this page up on their website where they say they will start accepting pre-bookings from November 18th. This is the first indication I have seen of the 4S coming to India. Is Apple becoming a little more friendly with India? Wouldn’t be surprised considering Tim Cook’s point about Apple owning just 5% of the entire handset market. If they need to make inroads, India will play a big role. If this is going to happen in the next month, at least we won’t be waiting for the year or so we had to for the iPhone 4.

More significantly though this might lead to further drops in the iPhone 4 and 3GS prices! That will be awesome. Meanwhile over at Airtel’s site I noticed a subtle Rs. 1000 increase in the prices of both models. May be they also know something and want to make a little more before slashing prices.


What Guy Kawasaki Learned about Experts from Steve Jobs

Guy Kawasaki wrote a blog post on what he learned from Steve Jobs during his days at Apple. He lists a dozen learning about experts, customers, design and products. But the one on experts is the true gem. (Yes, there is a smirk on my face!)

Experts are clueless

Experts—journalists, analysts, consultants, bankers, and gurus can’t “do” so they “advise.” They can tell you what is wrong with your product, but they cannot make a great one. They can tell you how to sell something, but they cannot sell it themselves. They can tell you how to create great teams, but they only manage a secretary. For example, the experts told us that the two biggest shortcomings of Macintosh in the mid 1980s was the lack of a daisy-wheel printer driver and Lotus 1-2-3; another advice gem from the experts was to buy Compaq. Hear what experts say, but don’t always listen to them.

(Yes, there is a smirk on my face!)

iOS 5 is Coming

The iCloud website is live with a link to setting up iCloud on iOS devices. Maybe I see it because I access it from my iPad. The link gives a 404 right now, but should be live soon.


Why the ‘Aakash’ can be good for India

Can Aakash change how the web is accessed in rural India?Sandwiched between the launch of the iPhone 4S and the passing away of Steve Jobs, India launched ‘Aakash’ the cheapest tablet on the planet. There was no dearth of crass jokes suggesting that it was the knowledge of this tablet was the last shock of His life.

Of course, on paper, ‘Aakash’ is not anything even close to existing tablets in the market today. The specs are fairly 5 state-of-the-art for the early 21st century. But that is not the point with this tablet. At the price point (sub Rs. 3000) it has the potential to reach many who would otherwise have no access to a similar device. Yes, it wouldn’t support any great processing ability, but it would enable access to the Internet. And that is something that India could do with at the grassroots level.

Now it only remains to be seen how efficiently the government distributes this device to where it is needed most. It would also be great if some NGOs put aside some of their budget to provide these devices to children in schools. The only thing that worries me is the 3-hour battery life. How is that going affect people who have access to as much power in a whole day? A little bit innovation on that front could do the cause a lot of good.

PS: Here’s what the specs look like.

  • Hardware:
    • Processor: Connexant with Graphics accelerator and HD Video processor
    • Memory (RAM): 256MB RAM / Storage (Internal): 2GB Flash
    • Storage (External): 2GB to 32GB Supported
    • Peripherals (USB2.0 ports, number): 1 Standard USB port
    • Audio out: 3.5mm jack / Audio in: 3.5mm jack
    • Display and Resolution: 7” display with 800×480 pixel resolution
    • Input Devices: Resistive touch screen
    • Connectivity and Networking: GPRS and WiFi IEEE 802.11 a/b/g
    • Power and Battery: Up to 180 minutes on battery. AC adapter 200-240 volt range.
  • Software:
    • OS: Android 2.2
    • Document Rendering
    • Supported Document formats: DOC, DOCX, PPT, PPTX, XLS, XLSX, ODT, ODP
    • PDF viewer, Text editor
  • Multimedia and Image Display
    • Image viewer supported formats: PNG, JPG, BMP and GIF
    • Supported audio formats: MP3, AAC, AC3, WAV, WMA
    • Supported video formats: MPEG2, MPEG4, AVI, FLV
  • Communication and Internet
    • Web browser – Standards Compliance: xHTML 1.1 compliant, JavaScript 1.8 compliant
    • Separate application for online YouTube video
    • Safety and other standards compliance
  • CE certification / RoHS certification

What Next for Facebook After the Timeline? Ubiquity.

Will the Facebook timeline soon be our online identity?

Facebook could soon be Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, About.Me, Blogger and a lot more possibly. How?

So Facebook launched the beautiful new profile design – Timeline. I absolutely love it. More for the beauty of it than rediscovering my Facebook past. Which isn’t such a bad thing either.

But the timeline is visible only when you are logged in to Facebook. Now consider that going forward if you are active on Facebook your timeline is just your lifestream. Now consider just the public updates, residing at “”.

Now remove the login friction. So anyone visiting that page can see your public timeline. Kind of like Twitter, right? Right, only a lot more. Of course a lot will depend on how much sharing you are doing publicly, but voila, you have a new home on the web. Kind of what or tries to do. Only better. Or even your blog. Why do you need a blog when your writings are anyway on the timeline.

Welcome to the new personal web space. The Timeline is here. And it is here to stay.

What do you think? Would it be better to just have one place to manage your online life? Or is it plain creepy?

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