Wrenches and hammers

Tools
Tools by fissionchips (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Per Axbom’s tweet, written in frustration about digital often seen as the answer to everything, stirred a range of emotions in me. On the one hand, I was quick to agree with the statement, thinking about how  commonplace the digital tools have become in our daily lives. They’ve become so mundane and we have become so accustomed to them, that we’ve started appreciating the tools more than what they help us accomplish or who they enable us to be.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help thinking how the technological achievements of the relatively short period of time would not have been possible, if someone somewhere didn’t go, “I wonder how I can eliminate the imperfections that physical things limit me to?” and didn’t think of making ones and zeros do the job for them.

We arrive at lasting change, when we aren’t satisfied with the existing order. In our heads, problems require solution. In our attempts at finding it, we tend to focus more on the nature of the solution rather than the problem. I believe that, in part, the technological advancements are to blame for it.

It is crucial that we consider, understand and address the real need in the solutions we promote for a given problem. Often, it’s easier said than done. Eric Meyer and Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s book Design for Real Life has had a profound effect on how I view creating processes and designing flows that serve humans and solve problems. Eric and Sara rekindled my love for looking beyond the obvious. A highly recommended read for anyone in touch with humans!

Later, Per followed up on his original tweet, by proposing the discussion about offline solutions to digital problems as an alternative:

I like the idea of breaking free from the hypnosis of the “offline denial syndrome”, as James puts it. Maybe the medium is not the answer. Maybe online and offline aren’t rivals, struggling for minutes they get to be used as solutions. If we see them as tools, maybe it would be easier to consider the problem first. A wrench and a hammer serve different purposes. A wrench can be used as a hammer, but it really shines its purpose as a wrench.

Tools of the trade

Tools of the trade
Photo courtesy of John M. P. Knox

The tools we choose for our work say more about our creativity as to how we put them to use than the end product. Using the same tools as our competitors’ does ensure you achieve the same results.

The above is true for digital products. Take a website as a product, for instance. The tools to produce it are the same. The are available for everyone. However, the end result—everything from code to user experience—is unique.

All components are there. Just use them. The particular combination of ingredients to achieve an exceptional product is the mark of a true creator.

This post is part of the #blogg100 challenge—100 blog posts à 100 words in 100 days.

The survival of contemporary pigeon post

Photo courtesy of Jehanzeb Khan
Photo courtesy of Jehanzeb Khan

I am an inbox-zero advocate, because I like it neat and tidy. I used to label my conversations before I archived them, just to be able to find them easier later, but not any more. Too much hassle.

Sometimes I am amazed that e-mail has survived this long. The technology may be exceptional, but the idea is centuries long. (As is my waiting time before the addressees reply.)

No wonder messaging applications have lately seen such popularity among users. Contemporary communication is on-the-spot. When it isn’t required to be prompt, it is flexible—unconstrained by size, location or type of message.

This post is part of the #blogg100 challenge—100 blog posts à 100 words in 100 days.

Free lunches never come without overpriced drinks

Every time we use an app or surf the web, we leave traces of ourselves. Often willingly, we put our lives on display, ignorant of the price tag hanging from our sleeve. We become the product without realising it.

Companies offering “free lunches” are usually good at hiding the fact that the meal is cheese and the plate is a mousetrap. Free lunches never come without overpriced drinks. The mousetrap is constantly hungry for life, demanding your breath.

My searches, reminders and purchases are all the material to be sold, all in the name of convenient personalisation. Just for me.

This post is part of the #blogg100 challenge—100 blog posts à 100 words in 100 days.

All labour deserves its wages

A customer’s perspective should never encompass getting something for nothing. Your gain is always someone else’s pain—always, without exception. It is amazing how the mentality of all labour deserving its wages got replaced by the how-much-can-I-get-without-losing-a-cent attitude.

The era of digital produce only contributes to the deterioration.

Somewhere along the road to the current freedom of content distribution, someone (we?) decided we all were owners of the collective goods. We all became neighbours, sharing everything from food and clothes to entertainment and love.

We cannot deem the digital world different from the material. We cannot assume any labour is free.

This post is part of the #blogg100 challenge—100 blog posts in 100 days.

Adaptive apps – are they here to stay?

The overflow of information I face daily through the abundance of channels is striking. Personalised search results, breaking news in my area, film suggestions based on my ratings – the apps are getting smarter as the algorithms get more complex with the purpose of bringing me the right information at the right time and place.

When I’m at work, I don’t require navigation at my fingertips. When I’m in a car, I don’t watch films. When I’m on vacation, I don’t (usually) read e-mail. Apps that learn from users’ habits of using a device and adapt to users’ behaviour are therefore smart, really smart. Moves is an example of an app with minimal setup requirements or settings alternatives. It just “knows” whether you walk or run or cycle and “remembers” the places you’ve been at, learning your moves in the everyday.

Adaptive apps are built with the user’s needs and goals in mind. They empower users to focus on the current situation they are in without being disturbed. Ultimately, they make it fun using technology without jeopardising efficiency. (Haven’t all technological innovations been about just that – smarter solutions to achieve efficiency, thus adding new value?)

Necessary apps at the right place and time

Cover is an app that learns “when and where you use different apps and puts them on your lockscreen for easy access.” It is a very interesting idea that I think is on the verge of breaking new ground of interaction with a mobile device.

Cover – The right apps at the right time is a video by Cover for Android on YouTube

Homescreen adapting to user’s context

There’s also Aviate. Reminding of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Home, it is an “intelligent homescreen that organizes the information in your phone and surfaces it at the perfect moment”.

AVIATE is a video by Aviate on YouTube

Here to stay?

I doubt that the apps themselves are going to be dominant as the ones staying. The mindset behind them though is bound to be incorporated across the mobile operating systems at some point. Furthermore, I’d be curious to see a similar solution for desktop, even if, at first, it might be about my behaviour and habit based coupled with time (and timezone?) regulated applications.

Applications that enhance my efficiency and empower me to focus on the essential for the moment are fundamentally the ones that I think well can stand the test of time.

What I learned during the past 100 days

Blogg100 Logotype

The #blogg100 challenge is over, today is the last day. 99 blog posts later, this is what I’ve learned.

1. Writing takes effort

Blogging as a form of writing takes effort. It was strenuous at times to find the right thoughts to write (which is one of the reasons I shared several videos instead).

2. Writing takes effort

In order to get the worth of time you spend on writing, you have to perfect your skills. To become better, you have to learn to practise and practise to learn.

3. Writing takes effort

Every time I heard someone was a professional blogger, I was a little bit skeptical of it. Is it possible to blog full time, and better yet make a living by it? Now I know better. It is possible. If you are good.

Conclusion

So there you have it. After one hundred blog posts during one hundred days, I am taking a break from daily writing. I am not drained though. I will continue blogging on celareartem.com, continue practising and becoming better.

Social media as a solution to bad customer service

Exceptional customer service is among other things about being on equal terms with your customers and serving as a customer ambassador in your company. Yesterday, I received a question on Klout. Here it is: can businesses use social media as a solution to bad customer service?

While it is a valid question with a pretty simple answer, I think the problem causing the question lies deeper. The issues that I think are of bigger weight are these:

  • How is your business utilising different channels of communication to practice exceptional customer service today?
  • How do you manage bad customer service in other channels? Is there really a difference?
  • What causes bad customer service?

Bad customer service is not something that just happens, that you do not have any control over. It is very often a reflection of your company’s values, priorities and methods. Thus, while social media can be a solution to bad customer service (which really is the manifestation of your failing to spiking your channel strategy up a bit), it is most definitely not the solution to the root of your problem.

Analysing thank-you-for-downloading-[browser] pages: Opera

This post is a part of the enterprise I have set out on—an analysis of how different web browser developers use words and images after you have decided to give their product a try by downloading it.

Opera logo
Opera logo

Web browser: Opera

Opera is the fifth and last web browser in my thank-you-for-downloading-[browser] page test. Opera’s thank-you page is clean and simple, with a clear headline, “Thank you for choosing Opera Browser, we hope you enjoy it.”

1. What is about to happen

By removing most of marketing-type of content and only having two sentences taking up the whole page, Opera are sending an unwritten message to the user. “If your download does not start automatically, please click here.” What’s about to happen? The download will start automatically! What’s the unwritten message? Downloading Opera Browser is easy.

Opera’s thank-you page in Safari on OS X
Opera’s thank-you page in Safari on OS X

2. What is required of user

Opera are making a point of ease of installing their browser, too—not just downloading it. The “please click here” bit does it graciously. True, both Chrome and Firefox included a link to force start a download on their thank-you pages. The big difference is though that Opera rely solely on that, without making any assumptions as to what operating system or browser you are using to download their product. The text is the same on both Windows and OS X.

Opera’s thank-you page in Internet Explorer on Windows 7
Opera’s thank-you page in Internet Explorer on Windows 7

3. How to get started

The only way for users to get a hint of how to get started with their new browser is a link Help in their secondary navigation. The link leads users to Opera’s forums, where they are encouraged to search, to see if their question has been posted before.

4. Spreading the love

Opera provide do not let users who chose to give their browser a try to share their choice (just like Firefox).

Other observations

Opera is the only company assuming publicly that users choose to give their browser a try.

Conclusion

My suggestion to Opera is to continue keeping things simple and considering how adding a way for people to share their browser with others might be of use.

Analysing thank-you-for-downloading-[browser] pages: Safari

This post is a part of the enterprise I have set out on—an analysis of how different web browser developers use words and images after you have decided to give their product a try by downloading it.

Safari logo
Safari logo

Web browser: Safari

Safari is the fourth web browser whose thank-you page I am testing. Both Internet Explorer and Safari are hard to find a download page for, since there are many ways to download these two browsers. Just likw with Internet Explorer, there is no Safari thank-you page to analyse. A single get-our-latest-web-browser page from Apple is also as hard to find—there are several. Let’s look at this support page instead of this one, for example.

1. What is about to happen

Just like Microsoft, Apple do not offer any overview of what is about to happen when you click, or have clicked, on their Download button. The only thing that suggests the coming action is the text on the button saying just that, “Download”.

2. What is required of user

Neither do Apple include anything that users are required to do during the download/installation. Very loose system requirements are present though: “Any PC running Windows XP SP2 or Windows Vista or Windows 7”. Both Apple and Microsoft seem to rely strongly on the ease of installation of their product.

Safari’s download page in Internet Explorer 9 on Windows 7
Safari’s download page in Internet Explorer 9 on Windows 7

3. How to get started

Apple do not provide any introduction to Safari for users who decide to download their product. They seem to expect users to know how to operate their newly downloaded addition to the family of programs on their PC.

There only link that vaguely resembles some kind of support with Safari (the link to “detailed information on the security content of this update”, is broken.

4. Spreading the love

There is a way for users to share the download page with their friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter. But users are expected to know where to click, in order to do it. (Hint: the icon with a title/tooltip “Share”, good luck!)

Other observations

The download page is part of apple.com, which makes it seem to be consistent with everything Apple. There are ambiguous to a common user codes and ID’s on the download page, like download ID (DL1531) and SHA1 (Windows)= f601df0106987bfffc3f22b046ba835e4f8d29c6, whatever that means.

Conclusion

My suggestion to Apple is to think twice how they want to promote downloading their product on apple.com. The best way would be including a link to a download page on the presentation page of Safari. But that would be too obvious a choice, wouldn’t it?

Last up: Opera. Don’t miss it, follow me on Twitter for updates.