30 July 2006

Liz, Dan and Interaction Design

I just read Liz Danzico’s interview with Dan Saffer. I have a lot of respect for Dan and his work. We have had conversations on line, but I have never met Dan. Maybe I will be lucky enough to cross his path at a conference sometime soon.

I agree with Dan’s take on a lot of things, but there is one small item in this interview that I take exception with. Dan represents the ATM has having one of the most beneficial interfaces on the planet. I think the ATM interface, particularly if you include the versions at the grocery and department stores, as one of the largest opportunities for improvement in interface design.

The switching from hardware operators to software buttons… from the keypad to the right hand buttons… they confuse many users after some twenty years in existence. Every time I go to a new bank or make a purchase at a different store I have to relearn the rules. It is even to the point where most have to be prompted by the cashier or we find little notes on the control pad. It reminds me very much of my first computer – with documentation that said “press Enter” though the key was labeled “return.” How was I to know?

The convenience of remote banking transactions and 24/7 availability is awesome and has made bank transactions immeasurably more useful. But as an example of excellence in interaction… I hardly think so.

I am very much looking forward to reading Dan’s new book.

29 July 2006

The vision of the long tail

Book reviews are not the norm for me or for this blog, and you will not find this a comprehensive review of the book, but Chris Anderson was kind enough to extend a prerelease copy and it definitely struck a cord.

While Chris has termed a somewhat mundane and well-known phenomenon as the “Long Tail” (a variation of what has been taught in stats classes for years as the Pareto’s principle or the 80/20 rule in more laymen’s terms) he brings an evidentiary vision that has crucial implication to the digital world.

There have been many reviews that both rail on, and complement the book. I find it visionary and a must read for anyone in small business or in marketing.

Let me give you a quick example. I lived in Kansas for most my life. For some reason the laws in Kansas will not allow the ownership of more than one liquor store to a single person. This eliminates the chain stores very effectively. Score one for the entrepreneur. Further, only liquor stores can carry anything other than beer. This allows each storeowner to positions themselves and somewhat unique – or at least ale to accommodate the exact nature of their clientele. Just across the state line, this is not the case. The grocery stores and drug stores are all well stocked with wine, whiskeys and other so called “hard” liquors. Being a graduate student for the last few years I have developed an expertise in the under nine-dollar bottle of wine. In Missouri, I get a very limited choice – those titles that the chain store distribution channel deems worthy of the trouble of stocking. In Kansas, many liquor storeowners pride themselves on a unique and thoughtful selection of wines. This allows me to explore more than the mainstream.

I like a better selection. I like not being strictly in the mainstream. Sure, there are purchase decisions that I make with little thought and I tend to follow brands or even on brands (big fan of Target’s Archer Farms). Call me an elitist or a snob, but in some areas I like a broad selection that allows me to explore beyond the “short tail”. In my choice of music, movies, wine, beer, software and many other areas, I now have more choices. More are to come and I am ready!