Friday, October 31, 2008

Voice of the customer

If you're in Ottawa on Nov 13, check out this event on Voice of the Customer.

Figuring out what users really want is probably the biggest challenge product managers and designers face today. It's easy to fall into the trap of simply gathering user feedback and turning into product requirements. How do you create the game-changing breakthrough products that users can't even imagine? You've heard it said that if Henry Ford asked for user feedback, he'd have built a faster horse carriage.

We partnered with OCRI to set up a panel of three user experience experts to find out how they go beyond user feedback and discover the true needs of their customers, and translate that into products that will sell. If you're a product manager, software executive, or UX designer, you won't want to miss this event.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Business models to learn from

I was flattered when I read this post by Andrew Waitman about business models to watch. Andrew is a respected VC in the Ottawa tech community, and he cites Macadamian as one of the business models to learn from, particularly in a tight investment climate. Also nice to be mentioned along with some companies I really admire: Fidus, Pythian, MXI and Fuel Industries

Social media and user feedback

Here's something you would have never seen prior to social media - users banding together to critique your product, using your product.

This month Facebook redesigned their interface, with the aim of reducing the clutter, and a number of users joined in protest by forming Facebook Redesign Protest groups.

The redesign was well executed, but what really impressed me was the response to the protest by Facebook execs. They are very confident that users will love the new redesign, and they find it humerous that people are using their product to protest their product.

The immediate feedback loop of Web 2.0 can be your downfall if you're not careful. Some Web 2.0 companies only look at feedback, and things like split-testing (creating two pages with two different designs, and serving each to half of your users to see which gets a better response rate or better feedback). In chatting with one of our Sr. Usability Architects, Scott Plewes, last night, he related that any time you don't use direct observation as part of the user-feedback mix, you risk missing the context and misinterpreting the data. Bottom line - you need to understand the motivation behind a user's decisions or you are flying blind.

I don't have the inside line on the Facebook redesign, but I'm sure Facebook employed a number of testing methods to gather feedback on the design - things like focus groups, ethnographic research (observing users using Facebook in their natural habitat), and usability testing. Where a number of Web 2.0 companies would have hit the panic button and rolled back the changes when they saw the protest, Facebook execs were calm and confident that they did the right thing, no doubt because they did their homework.

Friday, October 3, 2008

How do you structure a team for innovation?

I had the privilege of attending the Forbes Leadership conference yesterday. If you ever have the chance to attend, it's a must.

The topic was innovation, and one panel was on innovation and teams. One panelist mentioned that he believed innovation was a team sport, an idea that I subscribe to.

We talked a bit about how to structure a team for innovation - what individual backgrounds, personalities, and roles make a great team that comes up with breakthrough innovations? Judy Estrin had a great answer - what's most important is not the specific backgrounds, but that the team has cognitive diversity. If you're trying to come up with a disruptive product, you need a team of people who each approach problems from different angles - who will challenge one another and help spark creative ideas by following brainstorming paths they might not have otherwise followed.