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Category Archives: Misc


Popfly is the first of a new generation of web tools that enables users of all skill levels to create or edit their own mash-ups for use within applications or to simply spice up their web sites or socials sites.  


Key Messages:

Popfly is a tool that enables you to easily build and share mashups, gadgets, and Web pages

  • Free Web-based tool built with Silverlight
  • Build applications using popular services (Flickr, Halo, Twitter)
  • Share your applications almost anywhere (Facebook, Live, Blogs, Web pages)
  • Connect with other creators

Why Popfly:

Add some fun to your Facebook profile, web site, or Windows Live Spaces page

  • Custom Games – Asteroids, Whack-a-mole
  • Quizzes, tests – Who’s more popular

Build a home page

  • Organization or Club site – schedule, photos, videos, roster, maps and directions

Mix and re-mix photos and videos

  • Take pictures from Facebook, Flickr, Windows Live Image Search, or Windows Live Spaces

Unify your online personality

  • Show what you dug on Digg, what you buy and sell on eBay, your Halo 3 game scores, and more

Over the last 18 months I’ve come to use Starbucks more and more – so much so that it’s now a bit of an in-house joke with some of my colleagues as to where I will be located at any point in the day 🙂

Whilst always wanting to support local retailers I’m neither pro or against multi-national/global organisations – as a consumer I choose based on experience. And the Starbucks experience for me (and others) is consistently good – for someone who has a lot of meetings in London, Starbucks consistently supplies great coffee, power for my laptop, wi-fi access via T-Mobile and toilets (required if you drink a lot of coffee).

I have been amazed at the consitency that Starbucks manages to achieve in environment, service and quality regardless of where you go in the world. So, on an airport stop-over a while back I bought a book called “The Starbucks Experience – 5 principles for turning Ordinary into Extraordinary”, but I only just got round to reading whilst on holiday. I’d recommend it as essential reading – apart from a couple of over the top customer service stories the book provides a really interesting insight into the Starbucks business, without coming across as a self-promotional piece (the book actually wasn’t written by Starbucks).

One part of the book really resonated with me – the principle that “Everything Matters”. Before now I always thought that Macromedia had it spot on with “Experience Matters” (a tagline no longer used at Adobe), but this goes one step further and says it’s not just the experience that matters, but everything that happens before and after the experience and everything that went into making the experience happen (i.e. behind the scenes).  

A great quote from the book: “The moment you think something doesn’t matter… be ready to start bailing”. This is so true – just think about the impact on the overall experience when just one thing goes wrong (for example, I always hate it when you’ve had a good meal out and then are just left waiting endlessly for the bill).

I was thinking about all of this when I read Ryan Stewart’s blog post “We should never settle for web interfaces that are ‘good enough’“. In the context of everything matters we should not accept or deliver web interfaces that are ‘good enough’ – in fact, every part of the service or application (finding the service, interacting with it, getting help/support, receiving goods/services) should matter equally if it is to be successful and gain a loyal customer base.

But ‘good enough’ is not just an issue for web interfaces; the launch of Vista raises the bar in terms of user interface design for desktop applications and thus ISVs too need to think about the design, implementation and quality of their application user interfaces.

There is a growing divide between standard browser experiences and the new generation of RIAs and Smart Client applications (using rich technology like Flash, Flex, WPF, WPF/E) – I’d certainly bet my money on the success of online brands, websites, software and services where the vendor doesn’t settle for just good enough and where they are subscribed to the principle that everything matters.

Posted by: Andrew Shorten

One of the areas where I think there is a obvious opportunity to differentiate around experience is in online shopping – yet most online experiences today are, in my opinion, poor. How many times have you had to wade through complex checkout processes, been unable to get meaninful product information or perform product/price comparisons or been left stuck with an unanswered question that has meant you abandon your purchase?

This topic came up recently whilst we were meeting with a company that focuses specifically on customer experience design and generated a lively debate.

The challenge seems to be that retailers are continuing to see a significant uptake in online shopping and a shift in revenue which is now being generated online rather than in traditional (and expensive) high street or out of town retail stores.  Consumers also are quite rightly seeing the benefits from improved choice, transparent price comparisons and the ability to shop whenever and wherever is convenient and thus are making use of the internet to purchase everything from groceries, electrical goods, theatre tickets to clothing.

Hence the problem – there is currently a lack of demand to radically improve the online shopping experience, when a ‘good enough’ service is seeing high adoption levels and a good ROI for retailers.

Harley Davidson product configurator (Flex) It would also seem that existing technologies (e.g. Flash/Flex) have not enabled retailers to augment current offerings within the browser (typically product configurators or single screen checkout applications are somewhat seperate to the rest of the site) and the opportunity and use-cases for providing desktop experiences has not been fully explored.

I am however hopeful that we will start to see enhanced retail experiences soon.

As online shopping continues to gain popularity retailers will be under increasing pressure to differentiate on more than just price. I fully expect that the richness of the shopping experience, including product configuration, product comparison, checkout and delivery slot selection will become more important and the experience more relevant to the goods being purchased. Why for example is it acceptable today for the experience when buying a CD to be the same as that provided for buying a widescreen LCD TV? With the CD, track listings and a grainy picture might do the job, but with a widescreen TV product closeups, interactive demonstrations, documentation and real-time personal assistance would provide a differentator to buy.

When focused on reducing shopping cart abondment or increasing browse-to-buy ratios even a 1% shift is a significant amount of revenue for large e-commerce operations. Once revenue from online sales starts to flatten then the importance of retaining a potential purchaser will undoubedtly increase and investment in user experience will need to be made.

We are now starting to see radically improved e-commerce services where the digital experience offered goes way beyond the browse and add-to-basket functionality that we experience predominately today.

Otto ecommerce application The Otto store for example represents a significant investment in defining how an online retail experience can be presented in such a way as to make selecting clothes engaging – customers can view complete outfits, select from a carousel of clothes and mix and match items on a virtual model; making the whole experience far closer to that in a physical retail environment. Whilst Otto is a desktop only experience (requiring a download/install) it does reward a regular shopper with a significantly enhanced experience – it will be interesting to see how this also benefits the retailer in terms of increased basket values, repeat purchases and reduced returns. This example challenges the way that we deliver digital experiences for shopping – just think how this could be adapted for grocery shopping at your preferred supermarket or selecting a holiday package from your preferred tour operator. Applications like those from Otto will force other retailers to consider their digital engagement strategy and step up to the mark if they want to differentiate themselves from other etailers.

With regard to delivering richer browser experiences, the emergance of WPF/E  will enable some of the UX work that has started with AJAX to be extended further to enable audio/video playback, rich comparison widgets and personalised interactive experiences to be integrated far more closely into existing HTML pages than is possible today with Flash. Given that XAML is being used to declare these user interfaces, there will be possibilities to consider the impact this will have on enabling rich content to be searchable, dynamically generated and exposed in such a way as to be accessible to screen readers and other assitive technologies – all of which are important to online retailers.

One thing that we probably won’t be able to solve in the short term is the frustration often associated with having goods ordered online delivered – having to wait around all day for the delivery and then it not turning up. Although I did recently come across the Hippo Box, which at approx £160 might provide a solution for those receiving frequent deliveries 🙂

Posted by: Andrew Shorten