Vodafone Christmas.. together to make the world a happier place

Vodafone values putting a smile on somebody’s face, making the journey from TV viewer to life-long Vodafone customer start on the right foot. Kids love to wake up to a white Christmas day.. and nothing beats the joy of experiencing their happiness. Vodafone organises the impossible, a white Christmas for the Italian bimbo (child) who goes to sleep hoping to wake up to a snowed up front garden.

The whole neighborhood puts in a helping hand. From Granny scraping ice from the freezer. To mummy busy crushing ice. And people cycling bucket-loads of ice – enough to cover the green lawn with a white Christmas for the boy. There’s even somebody dressed up as a snowman as he wakes up to a drop jaw snow-covered front-garden. Sono le piccole cose che ti fanno godere il Natale… Christmas spirit is all about enjoying little things.

Vodafone’s power to you, enjoying little things together, and bringing great smiles and expectation to TV viewers is working out well. And not just on TV, do people build enjoyment together. In Italy, ‘Bicciclettamente Smart’ invited people to the Arena di Milano to cycle 510 stationary bikes, generating enough electricity to power a large Christmas tree. I looked up news about this, but there’s yet no mention of whether Vodofone reached the objective of lighting up the world’s largest human energy powered Christmas tree.

Anybody who was there… please leave comments below, in your own language, and tell us all about it. Are you one of the fans that won one of the 100 smartphones?

Facebook Bicciclettamente Smart event page

Kia “I Like It” – is integration with Siri next?

I thought that “I like” was a facebook fans thing. But it, along with the FB thumbs-up icon, are now being used by Kia in a global marketing campaign to attract more followers.

At no point does the ad ask you to go and “like” Kia’s facebook page. I found the ad on YouTube in Italian and German after having seen it on TV. The respective facebook pages each have about 35,000 likes.

The real success is in the global page with 1.1 million + followers. The “I like Kia” section is consistent on country pages. And this resonates well with what Doug Schumacher from Zuum, reveals about Kia’s extraordinary 17% increase in facebook fans in 2 weeks (Full report here).

Kia comes with a 7 year warranty. Reliable.

Kia adopts the term closest to facebook, “Like” as part of its brand. Social.

A reliable car manufacturer that is fast becoming part of the social fabric. The next thing we know, it will be tethering an internet connection with your iPhone, taking commands on Siri and giving you personalised updates as you drive. I like it.

KIA “I Like” Brand website

Google Instant.. another breakthrough for users to experience “common intelligence”.

 Google Instant was launched in the US on Wednesday.

Marissa Mayer VP for Search Products and User Experience says.. “It provides the user with an easier way to enter a query, with a lot of feedback and awsomely makes search very very efficient.”

Google co-founder Sergey Brin says “I think it’s a little bit of a new dawn in computing”.

One more intelligent step in the direction of user experience by Google! On the 30 August I wrote about the future of a child of Google and facebook. Google is the strongest search engine by far, taking 92% of  the market in te UK and 83% in the US. Facebook has over 500 million users and over 1 million websites have integrated with its platform. Yet, we have seen many a social network come and go without even a gravestone left in its memory. However encouraging these numbers may be, the future lies not with them but with whoever is innovating, making his offerings obsolete before the competiotion will. Users need products that evolve and adapt to their individual specific requirements.  The personalised experience that we as users really need is to know enough when we need to, and without having to ask for it. I call this “common intelligence”. We do not want to log in to five websites to get all the information together: we want them to talk to each other and present the information without as much as an extra click.

This is why Google Instant is another important step. It gets the search results out to you as you type. It is not just a drop-down box under the search box… the results page changes as you type so that San Francisco Museum comes up as the first result after the user has typed only sfm and has not yet pressed enter.

google instant

But we need yet to see more networking between Google users and the providers of Web content. Will Google (or indeed search) ever become everywhere on my Internet space? Will it be integrated with with my computer, my email and my Facebook so that, when I am writing a short message to my friends, it brings up in my Compose screen all that I need to know? As I type… “Will be in San Francisco and would love to see if there are any works by Picasso at the museum of modern art…” … will it bring up San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in a little box, a link to its website and its position on Google Maps (just in case I need attach them). I would then love it to also bring up some relevant information such as the fact that Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger (’55) is exhibited there.

Common intelligence… isn’t it?

Learn more about Google Instant

Priority Inbox in Google’s gmail

I write about user experience all the time.. and so Google’s gmail deserves applause. The internet experience has just become better with the personalisation offered by Priority Inbox. It sifts through the emails that come in and brings forward the ones which are truly important. It learns with you and you can help it learn.

Check it out…

People always need to know more… is Facebook always going to be enough?

People in general need to know just about enough about anything that surrounds them. Some of this is called is gossip, some known as current affairs and some as networking. It makes knowledgeable people interesting. It makes it easy for this lot of interesting people to have a thousand friends on Facebook – connecting with everybody, sharing photos, making events popular by attending them and YouTube videos a success because they post them on their walls.

Facebook Creator ZUCKERBERG (Photo by Andrew Feinberg - Everystockphoto.com)
Facebook Creator ZUCKERBERG (Photo by Andrew Feinberg - Everystockphoto.com)

A decade ago, the Internet was nicknamed the Information Superhighway. The world talked about building an Information Society. Companies talked about how many Knowledge Workers they employed. In the world we live in, you don’t ask somebody who comes in for an interview if they have Internet at home. You don’t ask if they use email, if they’re familiar with how to write a document on a computer, or if they are on Facebook. People don’t send in typewritten CVs through the mail. They apply online, or send a PDF through email.

At the same rate that people have become more connected to the Internet, computing resources have also become ever so more accessible. Using computing power to extract intelligence has become infintely more possible. We now need not think how much such power we need: we can hook to a grid that gives us much as we need, when we need it. Virtualised computing resources, available on demand, are sometimes referred to as cloud computing. The information superhighway has become a reality not because you can Google up just about anything, but because all this data is now connected. There is also so much computing resource that we can crunch it into the useful information we need, when we need it.

So, begs the question: When will this infinite computing resource be used to connect data and people intelligently? When will this be done so that it matters not where the data is stored, what email account you used to upload it, whether you tagged that person as a friend on Facebook or whether it’s on the Googlemail contacts?

Today: You meet somebody at a party. A month or so later, you need a graphic designer and you remember that the person you met at the party was a freelance designer with her experience at one of the big publishing houses in Milan. You remember just the first name: Inga. So you go to Facebook, look up the friend who organised the party. You look up his friends, and in it you find Inga. Then you add her as a friend. When she accepts the friendship request, you can send her a message asking to meet and discuss the project.

Tomorrow: You meet Inga at the party. A month later you need a graphic designer – quick – and you think she might be interested. So you start composing a new email… “Hi Inga, we met at Mike’s housewarming party…”. Email will match which Mike in all your contacts had an event called “housewarming” to which both you and an ‘Inga’ were invited. Privacy settings permitting, email will immediately connect you with Inga and offer to add her to your contacts. Inga has shared some photos of the party which are intelligently matched with your profile picture: you are prompted to validate them and if you confirm that it’s you in the photo they will also be published to your wall.

In February’s post about Usability I wrote about digital natives who need product usability to evolve and adapt to their expectations. Facebook has stopped being innovative and, at this rate, even if it now prides 500,000-plus users, it will be replaced by any future social engine that will make it possible for information to be truly ubiquitous. The next big thing will be the Facebook that is also a Google of what I call common intelligence.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Juan Pablo for the inspiration.

Rubber Stamp it if you like it

Your government, public sector entity or your supplier does not allow you to electronically deliberate on what you like or do not like from their online service? I suggest you send them back the paper forms they send you and show them that you have the option to like or dislike it.

Citizen and client engagement is topical on this blog and it’s always tackled the subject from the electronic end. Nation have introduced the Like stamp.

Image of the Like stamp

The next time time you recieve a court summons think whether you want to send it back stamped in deep red ink, using the stamp below…

Image of the Dislike stamp

Cities Rating à la Web 2.0

Cities like everything, in the user-centred Web 2.0 life that you as readers of this blogpost have, deserve a rating. Easy to remember ratings, that residents, visitors and businesses that drive the economy can contribute to. Visually meaningful ratings like the page-rank on Google toolbar – just simpler!

Ratings have been around for ages and some people visiting cities check the Michelin guide for restaurants. Michelin says “Stars represent only what is on the plate. They do not take into consideration interior decoration, service quality or table settings.” And that’s exactly what a city rating should do! Forget the monuments, the stretch limos, the celebs that live in it, and anything that doesn’t do anything for you. Rate it on what it offers to make your life better at that instant. Just like thumbs-up for “like” on Facebook.

So here’s the rating key:

  • The wanna-be cities will be called WB for short.
  • The ones faring less than that will be called WC, not only just because “C” comes after “B” but also because they would share the acronymn with the bowl.
  • And then, to complete the rating key, WA cities – to mean waa’ a city!

vote now!

Start using it… comment below or on TripAdvisor and use the above measure. Just credit me, and if you make some money share it with me.

London, Paris and Rome are WA. Greetings from London!

A review of the usability of some US eGovernment websites

A few days ago, I came across the website of  NIC Inc. They call themselves “the people behind eGovernment” and so I had a look at some of the websites in their portfolio. I actually only looked at those that NIC claim have won some awards. I assumed (rightly or wrongly) that the rest would not be as good.

Below, I am listing particular features which I liked in some of the sites and I am making some notes about why. I would love to hear your thoughts.

  • Common to all the ones I liked
    I like the fact that service clusters are listed at the top part of the screen, that they stay there all the time and that the layout changes little or not at all. I like the fact that as a basic accessibility feature they all have an option for font sizes. They also all have a prominent Search-box. Finally links to the social-media are always there and prominently displayed — Oklahoma went as far as producing widgets (see below).
  • Utah http://www.utah.gov/
    I particularly like the clean look, especially the stylish icons and how they spring up on-mouse-over (even if I am not sure about the scroll thing). Same applies to the effect that the top menu bar produces on-mouse-over, opening up myriad of links related to the particular option (e.g. business). I like the layout, the design and the way you get a complete look at all that Utah offers in the 2 min it takes you to scan the homepage. I also like the search box, and how in less than ten words under the control itself, it prompts the user about how to use search — making no assumptions about how versed with search s/he is. I don’t like the fact that they used graphics for the headings but I like the way the headings are well placed for catching attention during a quick scroll.
  • South Carolina http://www.sc.gov/
    I like the fact that the most important services are immediatley available. I like the fact that there is also a link called “All online services” which takes you to a long list.
  • Oklahoma http://www.ok.gov/
    I like the scrolling overview at the very top and the fact that the top part serves as both a one-word title for the “slide” as well as a clickable-menu. It could have been better aesthetically designed but the idea is very good for a quick tour and fills the space with more useful information than a plain photo of a smiling woman or the Statue of Liberty. I particularly like their widgets. Imagine if governments could make their data available in their open gov initiatives and, also give incentives to other (non-gov) data-owners to open up theirs. Then open APIs could be used to allow people to harness data, crunch it and splash it intelligently in a widget… look at the UK government’s Apps list.

I look forward to your comments!

The Evolution of “Usability” in a more UX-aware environment

The term “usability” is defined in the international standard ISO 9241-11 “Guidance on Usability”:

   The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a context of use.

ISO 9241 is a standard with 28 parts, and talks about the ergonomics of computer-related products. The concepts behind usability as a quality aspect in software are further entrenched in ISO/IEC 9126 standard on “Software Engineering – Product Quality”. ISO 13407 is a development-oriented standard on “Human-centred design processes for interactive systems” and seeks to provide guidance on human-centred design activities throughout the life cycle of computer-based interactive systems. The principles are thus well understood and have been researched profusely within the area of Human Computer Interaction (HCI).

Web 2.0 has however added a new dimension to usability. Users no longer fit a “specified” profile (as thought out in the definition quoted from ISO 9241-11 mentioned above) which may be used to form a clear design approach. Instead, Digital Natives want to interact with Web systems in a way that they can personalise their experience – products need to evolve and adapt to the individual user’s specific requirements. Myhill (2004) borrows the term ‘Desire Line’ from the area of urban planning to describe this concept as follows:

   A desire line normally refers to a worn path showing where people naturally walk. Desire lines are an ultimate expression of human desire or natural purpose. An optimal way to design pathways in accordance with natural human behaviour, is not to design them at all. Simply plant grass seed and let the erosion inform you about where the paths need to be. Stories abound of university campuses being constructed without any pathways to them. Planners responsible earn great respect for their cunning in allowing the desire lines to form before finalizing the construction of the paved pathways.

Bevan and Curson’s (1998) tutorial on Planning and Implementing User Centred Design makes reference to Bevan’s (1996) Usability Context Analysis methodology for “gathering and documenting information about the characteristics of the intended users, tasks and environments.” This is based on the recommendations of the aforementioned ISO 13407. While this remains recommended even in the development of Web 2.0 systems, the concept of “desire lines” and thus the ability for Web systems to adapt to the user’s needs through usage itself, becomes ever more relevant. Myhill (2004) cites Belam, Martin (2003) who describe a usability aspect of the BBCi Web Site where the “web user interface and the information structure, such as their subject index” are adapted “based on what people are typing into the Search facility” which are, in turn, checked for “desire lines” on an hourly basis. The concept of tailoring the site to ‘hits’ has now evolved to tailoring the site to the individual ‘user’. This ‘intelligence’ is in fact now considered standard – Google uses it to tailor ads, Amazon uses it to recommend other purchases you can make, etc…

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned Roto (2007) as I believe it is one of the key works of the UX Manifesto.  Roto, from Nokia Research Centre, notes – and I agree – that it is important to note the subjectivity introduced by “experience” since this makes each user a different stakeholder to product design and each experience a personal perception. Usability, as may be confirmed by the definition in ISO 9241-11, is what Roto calls “a product attribute”. A User Experience (UX) starts with the expectations raised by peers, is formed during the interaction with the product and continues to be affected beyond the interaction stage by all that we all that I hear about it or its manufacturer. In this sense, Usability is only a subset of UX.