Tweet-commerce: service on demand

Two colleges of mine, <a href=”http://twitter.com/#!/lifeonmarw”>Marwin</a> and <a href=”http://twitter.com/#!/Joopey”>Daniel</a>, went to Austin to attend the SXSW-conference. While in Austin, Marwin wanted to find a new pair of Jefferson´s by Native shoes.
The conference was really intense and Marwin longed for some spare time in the afternoon. Spare time he´d rather spend relaxing in a bar than running around Austin trying to find the shoes.
–       Why don’t you tweet about it? Daniel suggested sitting next to him in the crowded conference hall.

Marwin (lifeonmarw) tweeted:

<strong>lifeonmarw:
</strong>”Where can I buy Native shoes in Austin? <span style=”color: #808080;”>#sxsw</span> any tips? <span style=”color: #808080;”>#nativeshoes”</span>

30 seconds later someone attending the conference replied to his tweet.

<span style=”color: #808080;”>”@lifeonmarw </span>Nordstrom at barton creek square mall”

He decided to check out the store in the afternoon since it wasn´t that far to walk. One minute later Native Shoes the company replied twice to Marwins tweet.

<strong>nativeshoes:
</strong><span style=”color: #808080;”>”@lifeonmarw</span> try Complete Clothing in Austin [<span style=”color: #808080;”>link</span>]”

<strong>nativeshoes:
</strong><span style=”color: #808080;”>”@lifeonmarw</span> <span style=”color: #808080;”>@shoebacca</span> is also a texas based online retailer”

-Check this out! Marwin said. I got two answers from Native shoes themselves in less than a minute after my tweet. That´s what I call a quick response, don’t you think!
-Indeed it was, Daniel said. And all you did was to use the hash tag <span style=”color: #808080;”>#nativeshoes</span>. At least you have some leads of where to buy them now.

One minute later Marwin got another reply to his tweet. This time it was from Shoebacca, one of the stores selling the shoes in Austin.

<strong>shoebacca:
</strong><span style=”color: #808080;”>”@nativeshoes</span> thanks for the shout out and recommendation! <span style=”color: #808080;”>@lifeonmarw</span> let us know if we can help [<span style=”color: #808080;”>link to shoebacca</span>] :-)”

-Wow, Marwin shouted to Daniel. I am about to tweet myself a new pair of shoes!

<strong>lifeonmarw:
</strong><span style=”color: #808080;”>”@shoebacca</span> wow! great support! Only online? At SXSW. Thanx for the help!”

<strong>shoebacca:
</strong><span style=”color: #808080;”>”@lifeonmarw</span> we´re online only but check out our speedy shipping options here [<span style=”color: #808080;”>link</span>]. Hope you have a blast at <span style=”color: #808080;”>#sxsw</span>!”

– It looks like I am in for a drink later on after all, he said with a smile. The supplier just solved my problem.

The hunt for new shoes was over.

<em>It is time to step out of your site and face your customer. Do not limit your service to one single place. Be responsive and offer it where your customers are. Do you have the guts to sit and wait for them to find you?</em>

Waiting for Messiah

<a href=”http://www.storytella.se/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/jesus2.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-119″ title=”jesus” src=”http://www.storytella.se/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/jesus2-150×150.jpg” alt=”” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>It was the day for the new website to reveal itself to the organization. Many had waited a long time for this to come true. The era of frustration and resignation was now finally about to end.
The site had been developed for almost a year. Project managers, interaction designers, art directors and developers were the ones that had made it happen. The solution had been tested iteratively into perfection on several real users.

There was an air of excitement among the editors in the conference room today. Finally they were about to witness the birth of a system supposed to solve everything that didn´t work today.

Dorothy who had been an editor for almost a decade watched the project team demonstrating the features of the new website. This was something completely different from today´s disaster. Different but not familiar in a way that Dorothy had hoped for. There were several parts in the current system not present in the new one. Where would they place all their content? A heavy weight of content without destination carried on her shoulders.
– Will there be any training for the editors, she asked.
– No, there is no budget for that kind of activities, the project manager answered.
The project manager referred to a manual containing over 100 pages for them to read.
– Everything is in the manual, he said.
– Wouldn’t it be easier if we have someone to ask directly, she said?
– I recommend you to start with the manual, he answered.
Dorothy glanced at the manual and all the text. It didn’t look easy at all actually.

When the demonstration team with all their promising ideas of the new concept had left, the editors sat silently in the room. The former feeling of energy had now been extinguished. exhausted.
Dorothy opened her mouth first:
– Since it´s only three weeks left until launch of the new site, I suggest we just copy-paste all content from the old site to a container in the new one. Then when all content is in place, it´ll be easier to transform.
Everyone agreed. No one had time to think any further about it since they had to go back and publish content in the current system anyway.

On launching day, the project team was pleased they made it on time. There was just one problem.  None of the cool features and tailored content for the users where in place. On the other side of the site, there was an editor group who didn’t understand the concept left with a manual of 100 pages.

<em>No system in the world will be the answer to your prayers on its own.The realization and success of a new concept lay in the hands of those raising and governing it. Make sure they are part of the solution early. Otherwise they will be part of the problem later on.</em>

Life unplugged

There were two of us now. It may seem like a small number, considering the size of the total population. At least we were two, me and Dan who I managed to unplug yesterday.

– Remember one thing, Dan, never let them see you in public places. The sentinels can´t see you as long as you´re not tagged. But as soon as someone who knows you put a tag on you, they will find you.

Dan looked at me with tired eyes. The past 24 hours had been horrible for him. Not being able to sleep, constantly seeking any type of device.
– Are you saying there will be no more partying for me then? Ever? Don’t you get bored, just being here, without that extra dimension in your life?
I sighed and took a deep breath. Exhaled. Slowly. Obviously, we had a long way to go.
– In the end there will be no extra dimension, Dan. Online will be the only dimension. When all your friends offline have left you, when you do not longer care if you spend a whole sunny day or a whole summer for that matter inside a dark basement chained to your devices, when you do not longer remember how rain feels like on your skin  or the smell of flowers in spring. Then there will be no extra dimension in your life. Your digital you will be the only version worth your name.
– But all my friends are always online. They never wanna do stuff in the real world anymore. And if it’s just you and me now, what are we going to do with all our time?

Dan sounded annoyed. I could understand him. Remembering what it felt like to unplug and being separated from the devices that had me chained for such a long time. That irritating feeling of being drawn away from a drug I was addicted to. Constantly being somewhere else in the mind. Never taking part in life for real. Always the quest for comments and likes online. The feedback junkie. Like an actor getting kicks from the never ending applause from his audience.
– We have to continue the resistance, Dan. More people have to be unplugged or the world as we know it will seize to exist.
– I was quite happy with all the comments and likes. With hundreds of people following every step I took, he said with an angry voice.
– Were you ever happy yourself about the moves you took in the real life or was it just for show? To have something to write about online and getting high from people liking it?

Dan nodded intensively. I was about to lose him. It was time for the final stroke.
– If we continue this destructive behavior we will transform into feeders for the advertising intelligence. Our staring eyes are already the batteries keeping the social networks running, I said with a serious voice.
This must have made an impact, I thought, but noticed that Dan wasn´t listening anymore. He looked like he suffered badly from abstinence, desperately seeking a digital device.
– I can’t stand this anymore! Here we are, in a house where no one can see us, knowing nothing about what goes on in the online world. I don´t care if the social artificial intelligence swallows me in one bite. I need a device now!

Suddenly a phone started ringing outside. Phones were by far the most common gateway to the online dimension. We both ran for the door. I with the intention to keep it closed, Dan with the intention to open it. He got there first and rushed towards the ringing phone. The last thing I heard from him was:
–  Man! Do I have something to tweet about! It´ll be retweeted for ages!

This story is based on reality. Any resemblance to fiction is purely coincidental.

The feature creep, excellent bug to kill a concept

Two companies competed in getting visitors to use their search service. There was the Sweet Search company which had all the tools necessary to search things and there was the Right Answer company focused on providing the answer whatever it was.
The Johnson family desperately looking for the meaning of life, engaged in both search companies. With several hours spent on searching, their kids got bored and complained. Mr. Johnson had an idea and contacted Right Answer.
–          Is it possible to include a service for children while we do the search?
Right Answer thought for a while.
–          No, sir, that kind of service will not get you any closer to your answer, will it?
Mr Johnson felt annoyed about the sarcastic answer and immediately contacted Sweet Search.
–          A service for kids while the parents do the search? Not bad idea at all, Mr Johnson, Sweet Search answered.
–          Excellent! We will end our engagement in Right Answer and do all search at Sweet Search instead.

A while later the new service for kids was installed just next to the search service at Sweet Search. Several families switched their engagement from Right Answer to Sweet Search. The numbers went up and at Sweet Search there was celebration time all day long.
–          Maybe we should install a weather service as well? Someone suggested. I mean, it could be nice to see what the weather is like while you search, wouldn´t it?
–          Excellent idea, management said.
And so it was settled. A week later the new weather service was installed next to the kids service next to the search service in Sweet Search.

The day after, one of the employees at Sweet Search went to the management and said:
–          I wonder if it´s possible to install a service for the employees as well? You see, we all have a need to file different searches into categories and we have no where to put it.
Management thought for a while. What harm would a little service for the employees do? Probably nothing, he decided thinking about the excellent decision to install that first service for kids.
A week later the new category service for employees was installed next to the weather service next to the service for kids next to the search service.
Suddenly the numbers went down. There was a loss of 20 % in the client base only the last month. To counter the fall, Sweet Search installed an athletic search service designed especially for athlets next to the category service for employees, next to the weather service, next to the service for kids, next to the search service.
Now there was a loss of 50 %.

A local newspaper smelled headlines and started digging in it. Were people no longer interested in search services?
They went to see Right Answer and found out their numbers had raised by 40 % the last month.
The reporter at the newspaper got hold of Mr. Johnson.
–          Are you still engaged in Sweet Search? They asked him.
–          No, he said. We switched back to Right Answer a week ago.
–          But why? I thought you liked the service for kids offered by Sweet Search?
–          At first we did… but then we got lost in the search. There were so many different services that didn´t appeal to us. We didn’t see the forest for the trees so to speak.
Mr. Johnson approached the reporter and shook his head slowly before he continued:
–          You see, I don´t know what Sweet Search is offering anymore. Is it even possible to find things there? Or are things just left there?
–          Are you close to finding the meaning of life at Right Answer then?
–          You never know. At least, the search goes on! He said with a smile.

Recognize the scenarios from two familiar companies 2001?

These examples might be old but the fact still remains. Adding features for some visitors may harm the user experience for common visitors. The more you include unique features not supporting the main purpose for visiting your website or web service, the concept once so clear and obvious will transform into a container of content formerly known as the most powerful service on the web.

User friendly dead ends

Stephen was working in the Big Office. Doing his job day in, day out. Just like every other day, several tasks were waiting on his desk when he arrived in the morning. One of them had ‘Urgent’ written all over it. It was from Upper management and it stated: Produce new web service for hairdresser comparisons. Deadline: December 31.
With the new task in his hand, Stephen knocked on the door to Upper management. Like every other day, Upper management sat at his desk staring at his computer.
“This new web service for hairdresser comparisons,” Stephen said waving the errand in front of Higher management without getting any attention. “Can you perhaps be a little more specific?”
He felt tired standing there. Thinking of all the tasks that needed to be dealt with. When was it ever going to end?
“Orders from the top, it has to be implemented this year,” his boss Upper Management mumbled without looking up. And it has to be user-friendly.”
Stephen sighed. Only three months left. He could forget about taking that trip to Mexico over Christmas.
“That’s a bit tight,” he said. “But I’ll do my best and try to find someone who can develop the service. User-friendly.”
He didn’t expect to get an answer from Upper Management since he didn’t ask any questions. This was an order and orders from Upper Management were something Stephen had to deal with every day.

Back in his office he opened Google.  He typed ‘user friendly’ and ‘development’ into the search field. 3.540.000 search results came up. The first one was ‘The User-friendly development agency’.
“Perfect! Now we’re home and dry,” he said happily to himself, relieved that it was so easy to find a match. “Google is really great!”

Stephen met the User-friendly development agency first thing the next day. The agency representative asked him if he could be any more specific about the web service they were about to develop.
“It has to be possible to compare hairdressers. All hairdressers, that is, he said emphasizing ‘all’.”
The agency representative nodded and smiled.
“It has to be launched this year and, most importantly, the service must be user-friendly,” he continued, quoting Upper Management in order to make as few misunderstandings on the way as possible.
“Of course, the agency representative answered. We know all there is to know about user-friendly things.”
Stephen left the meeting with a good feeling inside. This task that seemed so tricky at first, turned out to be quite easy after all.
At the User-friendly development agency the new web service for hairdresser comparison was taking shape. The service made it possible to compare a barber with a stylist, an individual hairdresser with a whole hairdressing franchise. The solution was really awesome!
“So, what do you say, Stephen? Isn’t it beautiful?” said the representative from the User-friendly development agency excitedly about the new web service.
”Well… yes, it looks nice I guess”, Stephen nodded. ”Is it user friendly as well?”
”Absolutely”, the agency assured him. ”It is so damn easy to use, try it out yourself!”
Stephen sat next to the nice lady at the User friendly development agency. She showed him the different steps in the web service and how you were supposed to use it. Stephen clicked through the pages and yes, the buttons were really easy to notice. The pages had lots of information about the new service. He especially liked the comparison of saloon square meters.

On the way back to the office, Stephen visited the travel agency and booked the trip to Mexico. His former worries about not being able to travel at all, was all blown away.
Back at the office, Stephen didn’t even knock at the door of Upper Management.  He went right in convinced Upper Management would love this new service.
“The new web service for hairdresser comparison is here,” he shouted out as he opened the door. “User-friendly as hell!”
Upper Management giggled. He wasn’t alone with his computer today. Karin, his fiancée sat next to him.
Stephen didn’t understand what Upper Management saw in Karin. She had frizzy colorless hair all over her head and half of the face. It was a well-known fact around the office that she went under the name ’the woman in the brushwood’.
Karin looked at Stephen with something that resembled a smile behind all that hair.
“Excellent news!” she said. “You see, I am so goddamn tired of being the woman in the brushwood.”
Stephen turned red all the way down to his shoes. Was she a mindreader too?
“So now since we are about to get married next month, I’ve finally decided to fix this, she continued and pointed at the hairy mess. Even though I am deadly scared of cutting my hair.”
Stephen didn’t understand why she was pointing at her awful hair just after his victorious entrance. Why couldn’t she give him a moment of glory right now?
“Stephen, where should I go then?” she continued. “Which hairdresser does the best and cheapest bridal hairdos? The wedding is depending on you now, Stephen,” she said in an ironic desperate voice.
“I have no idea,” Stephen said trying to make eye contact with her underneath everything. “How would I know where you should go to have a bridal hairdo?”
“But you just entered the room saying there is a new web service for it!” Karin spoke loudly.
Higher Management looked at Stephen for the first time in ages.
“Well…the new web service makes it possible to compare hairdressers, not find the one you need.” Need so badly, he thought to himself.
“But it is really user-friendly,” Stephen continued in a falsetto voice. “For instance, you can easily compare the size of two hair dresser saloons.”
“Why would I want to do that” Karin asked. “I want a nice hairdo to a nice price with clients pleased with their new hairstyle.”
“I can show you how you are supposed to compare, how the service is supposed to be used,” Stephen said.
“How you are supposed to compare?” Karin laughed at him. “Wouldn’t it be better to build a service based on what you need to find instead of how you are supposed to compare things?”
All of a sudden, Upper Management rose from his former inactive mood and came to Stephens rescue.
“Karin, don’t be so stubborn now,” he said with a voice so soft that Stephen had to blink to see if it was the same guy. “You see, we have documentation supporting the fact that the service is user-friendly.”
Exactly! Stephen thought to himself. That was the whole idea of it. If you only understand how it was supposed to be used, it was the simplest thing to use.
Karin sighed.
“Alright then, Stephen, I wish you the best of luck with your ‘user-friendly-if-it’s-used-as-it’s-supposed-to-be-used-web-service’,” she said. “I’ll ask my question at some internet forum instead.”
“That sounds excellent, Karin,” Upper Management said, “surely you´ll get the answer of where to find the best hairdresser for this matter!”
Stephen returned to his desk. Pleased at last. He had been in charge of developing a user-friendly web service for those who want to compare hairdressers. Not for people like Karin who should never have left the brushwood in the first place.

<em>Is Stephen’s user-friendly web service going to be useful? Successful usability isn’t about constructing scenarios for supposed use. It’s about answering the real questions that arise from true user needs. Helping Karin find her way to the best bridal hairdresser and not let her get lost in the brushwood of user-friendly dead ends.</em>

Inform and entertain does not pay your salary

<strong>- a little story about content</strong>

Once upon a time there was a content named Extra. Extra worked in an office like many other offices. This particular day Extra was a bit nervous. He was called for by Management. And Management didn’t look too happy today.
– Extra, management said, since you joined the team, productivity has dropped by 55 %. Do you have any idea of the reason for that?
Extra shook his head.  Why did Management blame him for the productivity loss when there was so much other content within the company?
–  What do you do at work? Management continued.
– Sitting at my desk, like everyone else here I guess, Extra said kindly, aimed to please the new Manager in charge.
Management glanced out in the landscape. Extras desk was squeezed in right in the middle of everything.  There used to be Feng Shui in this room, he saidly remembered.
Well actually there was a time before Management arrived, when the desks were all wrong. No one had communicated to the desk provider what the landscape looked like. And the desk provider didn’t look like he knew what Feng Shui was at all.
– So, what´s your main focus when you sit at your desk then? Management said.
– I am filling in the blanks, Extra proudly announced.
– Filling in the blanks, you say? For whom? Who do you work for?
– The information department of course, like everyone else here.
Wasn’t it obvious? This new Management was really one of a kind, Extra thought for himself.
Management sighed.
– The information department? The other content, they are all working for the users. You know they´re the ones paying for the party.
Extra took a deep breath and spoke without inhaling.
– But the information department convinced the floor manager I was necessary and that I absolutely needed to sit here. I mean, in case the users needed some extra information, and there I was.
– Has anyone needed the extra information yet? Management yawned.
– Not yet.. noo..  but I mean there is no harm done, is there?
Management leaned forward and looked deeply into Extras eyes.
– In fact there is. You see, the other content have difficulties completing their work cause you keep interrupting them all the time. It´s like you are trying to get the attention preventing other content from pleasing the users.
– So one isn’t allowed to be nice to the people anymore, is that what you say? What happened to “inform and entertain”?
– Inform and entertain doesn’t pay your salary, Management said. And as you know, the amount of salary paid is based on the monthly measures in Analytics. I am afraid this month none of our content will be pleased.
– But the information department will be pleased, I am sure they will, Extra whispered desperately.
– You know, their salary is also based on the measures and how well our content stand up for the users needs. In the long run, they will have to lower their salary as well.
A moment of silence appeared in the room.
– Do you see what I mean now? Management continued.
Deep down, Extra believed he did. But everyone deserves a second chance, right?
– Hey, there must be room for me somewhere in this office? I mean, I´ve been within the company for several years now and I know all there is to know about the extra information, he said holding on to the final straw.
– Sure there´s room for you, Management said. I am going to give you just the kick you need, he said and got up from his chair.
– Thank you, Extra said relieved, Information department will be grateful, mark my words!
Management nodded and with a determined expression in his eyes pressed the button in front of him.
First everything got fuzzy and the Extra found himself stuck in a dark metallic place.
– Where am I? He shouted out.
A dark voice answered slowly.
– You´ve been erased.
With Extra in the trash productivity rose by 70 %. Even the information department was pleased with the outstanding results and after a while they didn´t even remember a guy named Extra with his desk right in the middle of everything.

<em>Feeling sorry for Extra? Then you have a problem killing the darlings that steal your money.</em>

The story is also published at <a href=”http://www.valtechlabs.se/inform-and-entertain-doesn%e2%80%99t-pay-your-salary”>Valtechlabs.se</a>

Det var en gång en user experience konsult…

som bestämde sig för att dra igång en blogg om situationer kopplade till användarupplevelser i internetrelaterade projekt. Hon valde storytelling som teknik för att konkretisera saker som var svåra att få grepp om. Genom att berätta om det som en historia fick komplexa situationer kött och blod och alldeles plötsligt blev det tydligt vad som var problemet.  Sen gjorde det förstås inget att historierna i sig kunde vara rätt underhållande att läsa bara för sakens skull.

Välkommen till Storytella. Bloggen där allt kan hända.

<em>Det här är den första storyn på Storytella.se. Fler historier ligger i pipen och bara väntar på att bli berättade.</em>

Personas without storytelling – nothing more than expensive wallpaper?

<a href=”http://www.storytella.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Lisa-persona.png”><img class=”alignleft wp-image-288″ title=”Lisa persona” src=”http://www.storytella.se/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Lisa-persona-300×228.png” alt=”” width=”227″ height=”173″ /></a>The project team was gathered in the project room. Every wall was covered with pictures of people that represented different user groups for the system they were about to build.

– They are called Personas, the project manager announced, and they will guide us through the development of this new school web. I’ll read one of them out loud in order for you to get to know our presumed users better; she said and cleared her throat standing next to a picture of a young woman.

“Lisa is 32 years old. She is a teacher and lives in a small house just outside Gothenburg together with her husband, their two kids and a full grown Golden Retriever. She uses the school website to communicate with her students and their parents. Functionality needed for Lisa on the school web: be able to produce a weekly letter, place reviews on each student. Quotation for Lisa: “Quick but wrong.”

Dean, one of the developers, stared at the picture of “Lisa” and said.

– What’s with the dog?
– The dog? The project manager said.
– Yeah, why is the dog important? He continued.
– Well, the dog doesn’t really matter here… But it characterizes the Lisa persona better, gives her flesh and bones, the project manager answered gruffly.

The new school web was developed during one year. “Lisa” and the other personas hung in the project room during the whole project. Hung there like an expensive wall paper that no one noticed.

Would Lisa have a different impact on the project team if her whereabouts were described from a storytelling perspective? Let’s say the project manager instead read this out loud:

”The school bell rings for the morning break. Lisa makes sure all of her students are out of the classroom before she heads off to the teacher’s room. Today is her last chance to place reviews of her students. She is lucky. The only computer in the room is free for once. She logs on using her electronic id and sees the start page of the school web. She clicks on the heading “class list” and sees the names of all the students in her class. The list view doesn’t say if a review has been placed or not. She clicks on the name Alice and sees that she has already given her a review. Continues to Oliver. No data is shown for Oliver. She writes a short review about his achievements. On her way back to the classroom she realizes that she once again forgot to specify that the review concerned “fall 2011”. And once again there will be at least one parent complaining about not finding his child’s review at the parents’ meeting tonight.” <em></em>

<em>Think about what effect you want your <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persona_(marketing)”>persona </a>to have. Are all the parts of the persona presentation really relevant for the system you are building? Is it important to know that Lisa has a dog? Or is it enough that she is frustrated at work? By telling the story behind the user, the whole project team will be able to visualize her situation and come up with possible ways to solve her problems.</em>