September 11, 2007

Peter Merholz @ d-construct

Filed under: uncategorized — gavinedwardsuk @ 8:56 am

Talk: Experience Strategies

The importance of experience. In this session Peter will cover historical experience.

Experience is the product

Its 1883, subscribers to the Scientific American Supplement received the new edition. In it they learned learn about a new product: a new photographic apparatus.

Alongside the article is the instructions. Apparently you can use this new device in 17 simple steps. You do this (a), then this (b), followed by this (c) etc etc etc . Wonderful!

This new camera was based on film and not plate not plates. This was a breakthrough but in order to help people realise the power of this device he needed a powerful statement, one people could understand, he simplified it with the phrase….

“you press the button, we do the rest….”

So he invented the Kodak camera, its now 1888. They removed complexity and made it simple by focussing on 3 steps not 17! He made photography available to a new audience. He essentially created the market for ‘consumer electronics’ (ok so there’s no electronics but it was the start.)

What’s the highest compliment?

Never breaks – but its lacking emotional resonance etc

What we want to hear that our products are cool, and that they create excitement

Bring on yet another apple example…(steve jobs iphone launch)

One of Adaptive Paths favourite quotes:
“When you start at a problem and it seems really simple with all these simple solutions you don’t really understand the complexity” – Steve Jobs

This diagram represents a traditional approach to design


Take the 1970s, VCRs, breakthrough that became adopted. Technology only lasts so long before it becomes redundant.

Then you get into the problem and you see it’s really complicated. The diagram should really de the other way up. The experience should be key as we develop over time with features being added as we grow, and the correct technology being implemented for the needs.

Take all the toolbars exposed in Microsoft Word – you get left with no room to work because of the amount of features – this starts a feature war and products become fat. Evidence shows people do buy on more features. You’re more likely to return it, but it gets it off the shelf.

When VCRs began adding features it actually took away what you could do. They became so complex they were unusable and people just used tehm to watch videos from Blockbuster.

“But the really great person will keep going and find the key underlying principle if the problem and come up with a beautiful elegant solution that works” – Steve Jobs
Quote from ‘insanely great’ (1984)

For the latest release of Microsoft Word, they recognised they had lost their way….so the new beta(windows) shows how striping back the interface, starting from scratch creates UE that people actually use. By understanding the problems you can begin to realise solutions

Now…thank god for the Wii – now we don’t have to use the iPod every time we want a great experience reference!

Nintendo’s approach to designing an experience has resulted in a huge payoff as it overtakes in sales numbers (see recent sales stats in NYT June 8 2007). this diagram shows why

Products are people too…. People interact with computers/interactive products as we do people. We get emotional, we name them etc, we don’t want to offend the computer we work with….bizzare but true

Tivo – it’s a hardrive but in the development of its personality they gave it a character, a face, Wii have the done the same.

O’reilly – designing from the outside in

Vision statements – much like kodaks’, as long as they satisfy this goal they are doing it right.

A stake in the ground something to work towards – a point on the horizon to know you are moving towards it. (very waterfall approach!)

Google – we want to design a calendar. Yahoo and Microsoft had calendars for years so people assumed they were successful (combined with webmail.) Google tackled it fresh. First thing they did was to create a vision statement –

They set out to build a calendar that works for you;
Fast, visually appealing and layouts for you
Drop dead simple
Easy to share
See your life in one place

Designed for a consumer world and where not everyone has a calendar

In 8 months they went from 0 to second place!!!! Yahoo msn had tools out there for 5/6 years! It shows how creating the right vision can direct a solution.

The vision statement helped them catapult into the new market.

Zoom back to the early 90’s

The Tandy Zoomer + the Newton message pad, both proved to be massive flops, pretty much everyone thought this market was dead. This was of course not true. The problem was that the technologyn drove the experience rather than need driving the solution with correct implementation of technology.

Jeff Hawkins (on intelligence) – realised that the Tandy Zoomer was designed by comity So he sat down and wrote a list of goals.
Fits in shirt pocket
Syncs seamlessly with a pc
Fast and easy to use
No more than 290

Post the demise of the Tandy Zoomer, Jeff carved out a block of wood, he took it everywhere and would write on it every time he wanted to make a note of something. People thought he was mental but it gave him a realistice idea of what was and what wasn’t useful.

He developed the palm pilot – he would say to people when they said, ‘What if?’, where does your feature fit into my block of wood. By having basic explicit goals and having a prototype he had the idea of experience first, then features, then technology.
He realised that when used with a PC, you leverage this system to do the complex stuff (ala Kodak – camera is the input – with a couple of functions). The factory that developed the pictures was still as complex as ever, you cant remove this complexity from the process, but can move them in the system, placing functionality where appropriate)

Peter didn’t want to show the iPod, but he needs to. Its not the best for features, it’s not the best technically. Apples genius was realising you don’t need all the functionality, leveraging itunes to do all the complex stuff.

You don’t need to duplicate functionality. You put it where it is appropriate.

It’s important to think about Experiential requirements. You can simply write a solution for each problem but building prototypes helps expose more issues and do this in less time.
Having an experience strategy helps you manage trade offs. (Analyse a solution and realise alternative and appropriate solutions)

Read Flickr’s vision


The experience is the product – the only thing the user cares about.


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