Andrew Harder

Experience Strategy and Design Research

March 25, 2014

What We Buy When We Buy Design Research — blog post on Ethnography Matters

Like most good ideas to come out of Eng­land, the inspi­ra­tion for our work­shop at EPIC 2013 came from con­ver­sa­tions in the pub. In this case, we were talk­ing about “the great divide” between client and agency research teams.

Within a few years of each other, we had both left user expe­ri­ence agen­cies to work as design research man­agers inside big com­pa­nies. Despite hav­ing worked in-house pre­vi­ously, this marked a tran­si­tion in both our careers.

In agen­cies we  both sold design research to large com­pa­nies. We faced sim­i­lar chal­lenges; fight­ing for more bud­get and time in the field to do more insight­ful work and want­ing ear­lier involve­ment with design­ers so we could shape their work with­out compromise.

When we moved in-house, we faced new ter­ri­tory. Sud­denly we had all the time we wanted, years of it. We had a research bud­get, some­times a lot of it. We could work with design­ers from the minute they got their brief or in some cases, we were work­ing to shape the design brief.

Yet we were also faced with some hard truths that we hadn’t antic­i­pated. In our expe­ri­ence work­ing for big con­sumer prod­uct com­pa­nies means you are a small cog in a large machine, with objec­tives and depen­den­cies that spread far beyond a spe­cific research project. Cou­ple that with a com­plex web of prod­uct own­ers and stake­hold­ers and a design team to keep engaged, and you start to see why design research projects often come unstuck.

Often after spend­ing bud­get on ethno­graphic research, design teams are still strug­gling later on, want­ing insights that the research did not pro­vide. And some­times, no mat­ter how clearly the exter­nal research agen­cies were briefed on project objec­tives, the deliv­er­ables unwit­tingly under­mined the project vision, approach or relationships.

 

Read the full post on Ethnog­ra­phy Matters

March 16, 2014

Video of Electronics District in Shenzhen

I spent a great week in Hong Kong recently. I went to the fan­tas­tic UX Hong Kong con­fer­ence, met some great local design­ers and spent a day over the bor­der in Shen­zhen. I have a lot of notes from the trip that I will write up soon, but I wanted to start by shar­ing some video I took in Shenzhen.

One dif­fer­ence that always effects me in China is the feel­ing on the street. The noise, the crowds and the skies all defeat my pow­ers of pithy descrip­tion. So here we go, two videos I took of the street around Huaqiang Bei, a major elec­tron­ics dis­trict in Shenzhen.

November 26, 2013

Podcast with uxpod on ux, disruption and cultural errors

A few weeks ago I had a great chat with Gerry Gaffney, of UXPod fame. We talked about why emerg­ing mar­kets are inter­est­ing and how they pro­vide great envi­ron­ments for new dis­rup­tive tech­nol­ogy. We also spoke about my con­cept of “Cul­tural Errors”, which describe the com­mon mis­takes that west­ern design­ers make when they start work­ing in emerg­ing markets.

The pod­cast is now live on the UXPod web­site.

The video? It’s an ad for the Tata Nano, at the time of launch the world’s cheap­est car. Watch it and think: what user needs do Tata think are important?

September 11, 2013

The c is for colour, not cheap

The biggest sur­prise of yesterday’s iPhone 5c announce­ment is that it isn’t really cheaper. In many emerg­ing mar­kets, con­sumers buy phones unsub­sidised. In these mar­ket, the iPhone 5c will be about USD$549 and the 5s will be about USD$649. The iPhone 4s stays on the mar­ket as the cheap­est iPhone at USD$450.

Mean­while, cheap Androids from Sam­sung cost from less than USD$100 in India for exam­ple.

This pric­ing shows that, as usual, Apple have stayed closer to their DNA than pun­dits pre­dict. The iPhone 5c is another high-margin prod­uct that shows no sig­nif­i­cant com­pro­mise in hard­ware spec or soft­ware expe­ri­ence. Apple have restricted a few hardware-led fea­tures to the 5s like fin­ger­print scan­ning and some cam­era tech­nol­ogy, but the soft­ware expe­ri­ence will not be sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­en­ti­ated within the iPhone range.

Rather cheek­ily, let me point out that this case shows good sup­port for my dilemma of lux­ury tech­nol­ogy. Fac­ing the gulf between hard­ware price and soft­ware value, Apple kept prices high and didn’t chase the global mass mar­ket. The value in mass mar­ket smart­phones is still being cap­tured by Android.

September 10, 2013

The iPhone 5c and the luxury technology trap: hardware sets price but software creates value

In Delhi two years ago, I met a fan­tas­ti­cally eru­dite guy. He was study­ing for an MBA, but there are so many MBAs in India that it isn’t the same marker of high edu­ca­tion as it is in the West. A friend of mine liv­ing in Ban­ga­lore hired an MBA as a per­sonal assis­tant and then found her lit­er­acy was very low. Any­way, this guy was very enter­tain­ing and quotable and taught me a lot about Indian atti­tudes towards tech­nol­ogy. One thing he said stayed with me

IF YOUR FRIEND HAS AN IPHONE, YOU KNOW THEY HAVE A GOOD PHONE. THE PROBLEM WITH A NOKIA IS THAT YOU DON’T KNOW IF IT’S A GOOD PHONE OR NOT.

Well, maybe not any­more. Apple is widely expected to release a cheaper iPhone today, under­min­ing this rock-solid brand-is-quality per­cep­tion. The New York Times has a nice piece on the risks of a lux­ury brand mov­ing mass-market.

FOR APPLE, THE DEVIL WILL BE IN THE DETAILS: JUST HOW MUCH LOWER THE PRICE OF THE CHEAPER IPHONE IS, AND JUST HOW MUCH CHEAPER IT LOOKS AND FEELS. IF THE IPHONE IS DEEMED CHEAP, IT COULD GET INTO THE HANDS OF SO MANY PEOPLE WORLDWIDE THAT IT LOSES POWER AS A STATUS SYMBOL AND TURNS APPLE INTO A MAKER OF COMMODITY PRODUCTS LIKE DELL, HEWLETT-PACKARD OR ASUS.

 

and appear­ing later

FIVE YEARS AGO, MR. JOBS DESCRIBED THE COMPANY’S STRATEGY TO INVESTORS WHO WERE ASKING HIM ABOUT WHETHER APPLE WOULD SHIP A NETBOOK: MINIATURE NOTEBOOKS THAT COULD BE BOUGHT FOR AS LITTLE AS $200. HIS ANSWER WAS, IN SHORT, NO. “THERE ARE SOME CUSTOMERS WHICH WE CHOSE NOT TO SERVE,” MR. JOBS SAID.

So now, years after that strat­egy was made pub­lic, Apple are choos­ing to serve middle-class emerg­ing mar­ket consumers.

A chal­lenge in rang­ing smart­phones is that there is a gap between price and value. The price is largely set by the hard­ware choices, and so the most effec­tive way to reduce price is to use cheaper and fewer com­po­nents. But value to con­sumers is largely deliv­ered by soft­ware fea­tures rather than hard­ware choices. Prod­uct man­agers can spend years of per­son hours argu­ing about whether to use a 3MP or 5MP cam­era to save a few dol­lars on build cost, while users spend all their time on Insta­gram and Facebook.

Of course there are sub­tle and impor­tant inter­plays between hard­ware enablers and soft­ware delighters, but pick up even the cheap­est Android phone and you get a touch-screen, an app store and a browser. Cheap Androids are slow and they crash, but they are still smartphones.

This value-price gap presents the clear­est dan­ger to Apple from rang­ing a cheaper hand­set. If the iPhone 5C runs iOS, then how much value can be pre­served for the pre­mium model? Crip­pling the soft­ware makes lit­tle sense given that Android doesn’t do this and is already firmly estab­lished in emerg­ing markets.In my view, restrict­ing the release of new hard­ware fea­tures like fin­ger­print scan­ning, faster Blue­tooth or NFC won’t be suf­fi­cient to cre­ate a dif­fer­en­ti­ated expe­ri­ence. Sam­sung uses screen size as the most vis­i­ble dif­fer­en­tia­tor in their port­fo­lio, but this would be very new ground for Apple. Look­ing at their exist­ing prod­uct range the most effec­tive dif­fer­en­tia­tors would be slower data con­nec­tion speeds and a non-Retina dis­play (which has the added ben­e­fit of being clearly demon­stra­ble at point of sale, rein­forc­ing the link between value and price).

Of course even post-Jobs, Apple retains some power to sur­prise pun­ditry like this post. And as the most suc­cess­ful tech­nol­ogy brand we all have a lot to learn from their work. Apple con­sis­tently get con­sumers to part with hun­dreds of dol­lars more than their com­peti­tors do, earn­ing them mar­gins the rest of the indus­try only dreams about. How they man­age this new prod­uct launch will be very illuminating.

September 7, 2013

Important lessons from an unlikely source

 

I have always found it true that the more real tal­ent a per­son has, the more secure he is in that tal­ent and the less likely he is to be a jerk.

most of the tantrums peo­ple throw don’t really come from anger with oth­ers as much as from an inse­cu­rity within them­selves. Some of the nicest, gen­uinely warm peo­ple I have dealt with have been those with the great­est tal­ent and success.

And some of the biggest jerks have been peo­ple on the perime­ter of suc­cess who have bluffed their way to where they are.

The source of the wis­dom? Dolly Par­ton in her auto­bi­og­ra­phy My Life and Other Unfin­ished Busi­ness. As she her­self might say, the world has many lessons if you don’t mind lis­ten­ing to a hill­billy now and again.

May 17, 2013

The heart wants what the heart wants

The 1.6 mil­lion peo­ple who live in the Gaza Strip live in iso­la­tion. Both Israel and Egypt tightly con­trol their bor­der cross­ing: for instance, only 800 peo­ple a day can cross into Egypt and all men between 16 and 40 require spe­cial clear­ance. It’s not just the peo­ple who are restricted. All phys­i­cal mate­ri­als must be checked and approved before it enters Gaza.

These restric­tions on move­ment of peo­ple and things has led to a thriv­ing econ­omy that is lit­er­ally under­ground. Gazans and Egyp­tians have dug tun­nels under­neath the Gaza-Egypt bor­der and use them to get mate­ri­als into the Gaza with­out cus­toms or approvals.

Source: National Geographic

Peo­ple smug­gle in weapons and drugs, but also mun­dane essen­tials like clothes, cement and car parts. If you give peo­ple an oppor­tu­nity for com­merce they will take it.

Source: New York Times

The New York Times filed a delight­ful story about a Gazan tun­nel oper­a­tor smug­gling in four-hour-old KFC to his cus­tomers. The fries will be soggy and the menu lim­ited, but it’s an expe­ri­ence that briefly lets them break their iso­la­tion with each mouthful.

This phe­nom­e­non really tick­les me. In the dra­matic sit­u­a­tion of closed bor­der cross­ings and ille­gal and dan­ger­ous tun­nelling, the Colonel’s face appears and promises that famil­iar salty and fatty mouth­ful. The tun­nels make us pon­der grand con­cepts like free­dom, lib­er­a­tion, safety, tran­si­tions and desire. But even in these polit­i­cally fraught tun­nels, every­day life and dreams goes on.

In this most exotic of sit­u­a­tions, amongst every­thing else, peo­ple still want fried chicken. We shouldn’t for­get that life is expe­ri­enced mouthful-by-mouthful.

 

Older Posts