Category Archives: Design

‘Think jobs, pains and gains, not build, measure and learn’–Osterwalder

osterwalder

By Dennis Clenente

In the startup world, who doesn’t know Alex Osterwalder, the lead author of the global best-seller, Business Model Generation, the handbook for visionaries, game changers and challengers? Osterwalder invented the “Business Model Canvas,” the strategic management tool for designing, testing, building and managing business models.

Last October 22, Startup Grind in New York City hosted a brief live Skype interview with Osterwalder from Switzerland and his co-author Yves Pigneur about their latest book, Value Proposition Design. Host Bob Dorf, co-author of The Startup Owner’s Manual, gave a short introduction of Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas before introducing him and Pigneur, saying how it was initially developed for big companies but was discovered and used more by startups through the years.

Taking a cue from that, Osterwalder, speaking from Switzerland, began his talk talking about how the once-mighthy Kodak fell by the wayside. “It failed to create a value proposition for the digital camera.” Now even big companies use the canvas.

In the new book, Osterwalder expands on his canvas concept to include Value Proposition Design (VPD), a guide for creating products and services that customers want

Determining customer needs certainly takes precedence here. For him, it’s about relentlessly taking a customer perspective, listening to customers than selling to them.

It’s not surprising to hear this from him, since he has utmost respect for Steve Blank’s work on customer development. For him, building first is a waste when the way to go about conjuring up your idea is to think about what he calls “jobs, pains and gains,” NOT build, measure and learn.”

“There’s a danger with build measure and learn. You do this you start in the worst possible way to test your ideas,” he said.

To avoid this, he suggests using the Value Map to determine the jobs, pains and gains. They come in a square and circle.

So we have come from the rectangle in the Business Model Canvas to the square (value proposition) and circle (customer development). In this manner, he says in the book, you (see and) achieve fit when your value map meets your customer profile.

“(But) you will want to test the circle first before the square,” he advised.

There is more to explore in this colorful book, including how it states these statements plainly yet clearly, “The Business Model Canvas helps you create value for your business. The Value Proposition Canvas helps you create value for your customer.”

Osterwalder says he didn’t want to reinvent the wheel with the book. VPD goes “hand in hand with the Business Model Canvas.”

The important thing is to turn your ideas into value proposition prototypes with the many available practical tools offered in the book.

Why add more tools?

Who wouldn’t believe Osterwalder when he says, “I believe (why) a surgeon (needs) many tools than just a Swiss knife.” No pun intended even if he’s Swiss.

Still, wondering if the new book is for you, here are some questions to ask yourself:

Are you overwhelmed by the task of true creation?
Frustrated by unproductive meetings and misaligned teams?
Involved in bold shiny projects that blew up?
Disappointed by the failure of a good idea?

If so, Osterwalder believes Value Proposition Design will help you in the following ways:

Understand the patterns of value creation
Leverage the experience and skills of your team
Avoid wasting time with ideas that don’t work
Design, test, and deliver what customers want

Mobile apps need to reduce burden in health systems

cohere photo

By Dennis Clemente

“Reduce the burden.”

That was Frederick Muench’s call to technologists last October 14 at the NY Mobile meetup at Microsoft. “Reduce steps 3 to 1 if possible.”

It’s not common someone from the Health Interventions at North Shore Health System’s psychiatry department talk about how important user-experience design is for health systems.

It’s clearly a good point in the medical field where life-and-death situations hang over the air.

He cited how text messaging, being inherently social, also reduces the burden for people. It is indeed fast.

Still, the technology that carries text and other innovations has not yet solved the lifespan of batteries.

Muench’s introductory talk on the challenges facing health systems was followed by demos from those in the health space — Cohere Health, Addicaid, SIPPA and Care + Wear.

Clay Williams, co-founder of Cohere Health, talked about how his startup is helping people with chronic diseases understand their condition, take action to improve their health, and engage more fully with those who support them in their treatment and care.

Celiac disease is one of the most-talked about issue these days compared to other diseases. Williams think it’s because “(people) feel ignored.”

An app called Celiacare will be launched in a few weeks which will also include a meal management system.
The next presenter, Addicaid, is clearly a marketplace app that helps addicts find each other on meetups.

Addicaid cites that in the U.S. there are over 23.4 million active addicts, particularly alcoholics and worldwide, 200 million. However, less than 10 percent reportedly receive treatment and to make matters worse, less than 5 percent stay in recovery.

Addicaid hopes that its app can be the go-to for addicts looking for a support network easily on its app. While it is currently building a prototype, it has reportedly signed up over 10,000 users in New York.

The two other presenters were SIPPA and Care+Wear.

SIPPA is a “patient-centric” software that aggregates health information into one secure system, controlled and managed by the patient.

It is trying to solve fragmented health records everywhere by facilitating the consolidation of health records.
Care+Wear is working with hospitals to create products that improve the quality of life of patients who are undergoing long-term medical treatments. It showed its newly launched Band which is being mass-produced in China.

The meetup was hosted by Amanda Moskowitz.

Storytelling in app world needs both Agile and Waterfall

brooklyndesignBy Dennis Clemente

Does the Agile methodology work in storytelling? If you ask Brian Kelly of Small Planet Digital, a full service mobile agency with 57 apps in the Apple Store, he thinks storytelling needs both Agile and Waterfall.

Using TV series as a case study, Kelly argued how Agile alone is not enough. “A pilot is the MVP, the episode the sprint and the season the version. Nobody writes the season(s) upfront.”

Stressing this point, he said, “When Agile works, it works but we’re often hired to tell stories and create new narratives. And agile is not really good for telling these great emotional stories.”

Kelly was one of three presenters at the Brooklyn Mobile Designers meetup along with
Refinery 29’s UX director Eben Levy and senior UX designer Juan Sanchez as well as Luke Miller, formerly of Yahoo and whose energetic speaking voice, will do him well in his incarnation as a mentor at General Assemb.ly.

Both Levy and Sanchez talked about the lessons they’ve learned in mobile design. Some of the key learnings they shared:

• Never assume they’re going to use (a feature)
• Consistency of experience is important
• White space is part of our background
• The problems you face may not be the interactive but how you need to diversify interface points
• Work closely with data analysts, to (design) in an honest way
• The biggest thing for us is the monetization of mobile
• Challenge is how to balance advertising needs vs. user needs
• It uses an internal tool to test

Using a newsfeed as case study, Miller advised people to take these three points to heart: usability, pagination and universal app for mobile and tablets. He stresses how it’s wrong to use a product person (internal) as test user.

Miller talked about the tools he has used. At Yahoo Finance, Miller used Hype. For interaction, he now uses a new tool called Pixate. “(The latter is) almost object-oriented programming, not timeline based, and with no coding.”

He urges designers to use data collection. “It’s good for hypothesis.”

How not to overdo on your site or app’s features

cohn-agile-lean

By Dennis Clemente

If studies indicate 50 percent of a product’s features go unused, how do you make sure you don’t overdo it? The answer is quite obvious: You need user testing. What’s less obvious is how you go about this process.

At the Kaplan Center last September 22, The Agile/Lean Practitioners group brought back Danielle Tomson of the Occum Group and Steven Cohn of Validately to discuss various ways of gaining user insights from the prototyping stage.

Tomson said there are three types of user tests: desirability, usability and feasibility.

In terms of desirability, she said it’s important to interview, observe, survey and A/B test. When interviewing, ask for open question, making sure to dig deep.

“Instead of telling the user what specially needs to be done, give them a task,” she said. “Ask the user what he expects to happen. What’s in it for them?”

Breaking it down, asks the what, when and how questions. Does the user want to use it? Would they use it? How would they use it? When is it essential in the early phase and in creating new features on old products? How is the minimum viable service (.i.e. test the service before the product, figure out the interviews, surveys, paper prototyping)

Quantity is not always quality when it comes to number of users. Tomson adheres to Jacob Nielsen’s five-user test method: test more users if they are in a highly different group (egg. 5 students and 5 teachers). Read more here http://www.nngroup.com/articles/why-you-only-need-to-test-with-5-users/

As for usability, ask what does the product fulfill in the user’s needs? Why and why not? Do the features or UI/UX enable them to do so? Does the product do what you intended? Figure out how what tools to track behavior.

As for the feasibility part, ask how this feature can achieve business goals?

Constantly validate, but Tomson says it’s also important to keep two things in mind: the goal and hypothesis. “A goal is something you hope to achieve—what do you want the behavior to be? A hypothesis is something you think will happen—what do you believe the behavior will be?”

Cohn talked next about his startup Validately and how it is supposed to recruit users, create tests and get rapid feedback for different types of prototypes. Demonstrating Validately’s functions, he shows how it can show both low fidelity and high fidelity, including support for Axure and Balsamiq. With Axure, he said you can just add in the URLs and test the prototype on Validately. For safety, he said you can create a non-guessable URL to send to just a few people.

Overall, the validation site should be able to gauge desirability, measure usability, test the look and feel and make custom tests.

Cohn’s key takeways about user testing involved the following:
• Test what people do in their native environment
• Filter qualitative feedback based on actions
• Test on customer segments
• Be open to data

The future of UI design is in the cards

By Dennis Clemente

The future of UI design is in the cards

That’s the prognostication of lively and dynamic speaker Christopher Tse who is inviting people to stage a counterculture revolution in UI design. “Rather than Silicon Valley (leading it), let it be New York this time,” he implored his audience at the NYC UX Acrobatics meetup at Amplify in DUMBO, Brooklyn last July 8.

Titled “Patterns of Card User Interface Design,” Tse’s talk started with an overview first of how designers have tapped card-based UI to present units of content responsively across a wide range of mobile devices and screen sizes. “We see this with Twitter cards, Google Now cards, Passbook passes, Pinterest tiles, Facebook Paper.”

When done right, Tse said a card can look like a responsive web content, work like a focused mobile app, and feel like a saved file that you can share and reuse.

Card UI design

“As these “cards” become more interactive, they go from being just concentrated bits of content and turn into mini-apps that can be embedded, capture and manipulate data, or even process transactions,” he said.

“If you look more deeply into the current state of card-based UI, you can see that cards are growing out of just concentrated bits of content and are turning into mini-apps that can be embedded, capture data, and drive actions,” he added.

Thinking about how playing cards carry information in digestible form should give you the idea. To put playing cards in place, you need a container. In Card UI design, a container can be a narrative, to help tell a story, a conversation or workflow, or a discovery channel the way Facebook and Pinterest rounds us up.

What needs exploring is the architecture beneath the cards. “This is to see whether cards built on the foundation of HTM5, CSS3, and modern Javascript, can re-inject the ethos of the Open Web back into mobile development and turn back the tide against proprietary platform lock-ins and app silos,” Tse said.

How is Tse planning his counterculture revolution n UI design?
Recent announcements from Google around the unification of their UIs using Material Design and from Apple about notifications widgets in iOS 8 show that that the big players are also firmly behind this new UI trend.

Saikiran Yerram, a veteran software developer/designer, showed a prototype of a card-based playlist app, created using Google’s Material Design guidelines, bringing multiple web-based educational tools into one unified learning experience.

Perhaps the best way to promote Card UI design is to find people who work in government, policy-makers or those in non-profit organizations, according to Tse who is clearly on a mission to democratize his ideas. Addressing the audience, Tse said, “Let me know if you know anyone.”

Is it important for a mobile UX strategy to be ‘fickle’?

By Dennis Clemente

Could a meetup called “Context in Mobile UX Strategy: The importance of being fickle?”come only from someone with a background in continental philosophy. It appears that way when you’re talking to Thomas Wendt, a UX strategist and founder of Surrounding Signifiers, a strategy and design consultancy currently with an innovation team at American Express talking in a midtown Manhattan office.

The context Wendt is talking about concerns the discourse of a mobile UX strategy between user and (portable) device. “Strategy should also be movable, fickle and adaptive. We should be able to adjust based on changing priorities and contexts. It embraces the fickle nature of how we exist in the world.”

But Wendt is not fickle when it comes to mobile design practices, as he adheres to the following:
1. Contextual inquiry. Observe directly within the context of everyday use
2. Ethnography. Observe indirectly within the context of everyday use
3. Participatory design. Have users participate in the design process
4. Storyboarding. Sketch a narrative from beginning to end
5. Contextual personas. A great place to start…a terrible place to end(?)

Explaining the latter, he breaks the context of personas as doing (involving physical activity and ability habits), thinking (involving cognitive assumptions, educational ability) and feeling (involving psychological state, anxiety, confidence, stress, desire)

Context for him is cultural, for only then can have its meaning. For his industry, “meaning emerges out of the difference between self, world and micro world.”

What makes mobile portable? “Mobile is about potential and adaptation. The portable phone became mobile when we establish discourse with them,” he said.

Wendt emphasizes how the interface is not just a screen, but an interaction space. He sees how the interface has evolved from being a screen-based graphic to a discourse-based one that involves a more natural and organic interface – for instance, those touch-enabled computers and Google glasses.

Yes, it’s been that long since the era of the command line and graphical interfaces.

The meetup was hosted by the Catalyst Group, a team of researchers and designers fascinated by how people interact with websites and software.

Follow https://twitter.com/Thomas_Wendt Wendt looks up to http://andrewhinton.com/

Web design is going to be more responsive

By Dennis Clemente

Have you ever wondered how you can make your website look just as good on your laptop, as it is on your smartphone, as it is on your tablet…ad infinitum?

At least a hundred web developers and other curious seekers attended the “The Essentials to Responsive Web Design” meetup on January 22 at 632 Broadway in Manhattan to find out the new shoes they have to fill with the Internet now in various platforms.

Clarissa Peterson, a freelance web/UX designer & developer working on finishing her book on responsive design with O’Reilly, presided over the subject matter in a manner that kept both beginners and advanced HTML and CSS users interested about this new development in web design.

Peterson tempered her technical knowledge with more accessible insights as she showed one website’s responsiveness with another’s pitfalls. For those well-versed on the subject, she talked about CSS with fluid grids, flexible images and media queries that allow a site to respond to any device.

Getting into some unavoidable comparisons, Peterson showed the burdensome fixed-width layout the NYTimes (nytimes.com) and the fluid adjustable widths of the Boston Globe (boston.com). She cited inconsistencies in some with separate layouts– usa.gov on mobile is “good to look at”; the website was another thing altogether.

“Responsive design should fit any device,” says Peterson, as she emphasized the growing number and different sizes of devices with Internet access.

Beyond esthetics, Peterson cited the importance of functionality in a web design, using one Stephanie Rifer’s telling experience with her mobile phone: “I just transferred money at my desk using my phone, because logging into my banking app requires fewer steps.”

In terms of navigation, Peterson explained how the three-grid navigation on http://starbucks.com makes the site flow effectively, but she pointed out how its simplicity works for our convenience where its coding—the dirty work behind the building process–was far more complex.

The examples showed how the technology is there and that developers just need to re-think everything: the design process, content development, and making sure to have prototypes, wireframes and frameworks. Got your web design? Check if it passes the test here: http://foundation.zurb.com/. Also visit http://responsinator.com/ or try Adobe Edge.

How responsive design will work with e-commerce sites could be the most interesting challenge for developers. United Pixelworks (http://www.unitedpixelworkers.com/) is one good working example.

The Internet is changing yet again. WordPress carries some responsive themes but will need more as demand for it grows. Old browsers will need to adjust and the quick solution, Peterson suggests, is add media queries.

“A pixel is not going to be a pixel anymore,” Peterson mentions twice during her presentation. “For typography to be responsive, we’ll need to use ems.”