Tag Archives: user experience

Your brand is not your logo

It’s been said before, but it bears saying again: Your brand is not your logo. It’s not your color scheme, or your tagline, or even your principles or your market segments or your penetration. Your brand is the gut feeling regular people get when they think of your company.

This includes your customers, suppliers, partners, employees, investors, enemies, and general public. It is shaped by the way you interact with them, in every phone conversation, transaction, and problem escalation.

These are the only things that matter. The other stuff people normally call “branding” is just window dressing that clarifies and can enhance your brand value. But the real branding is done in your day-to-day operations, not in the marketing, PR or design department.

People love Amazon because you can get just about any piece of media or media equipment you want at the best price anywhere, and it’s easy and fast – despite how bad the logo and Web site look.

People love Netflix because it emancipated millions of us from video-store slavery with its free mailing system, easy online queues, and no late fees. Its “branding” people think of is nothing more than a reminder (in the form of a red envelope) of the joy of escaping from video store hell.

People love Macs because they don’t ask you to tell the computer when you connect a camera. It just knows. And they don’t make you hunt and search for drivers with every new printer or piece of software. They just install automatically. Compared with people’s traditional experiences, that’s a welcome relief. The fact that they’re prettier is just window dressing on that key benefit.

To really stand out, you need to deliver your product or service like no one has ever done before. It’s not enough to be a “leading provider of ___ solutions.” You need to change their expectations of the entire market.

Why do people love your company? Do they know? Do they have a reason? 

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Highrise working beautifully as an online contact manager

lghighrise.pngWe’ve been experimenting with Highrise from 37signals for a customer relationship management/address book tool online. The boys at 37signals are adept at creating simple-yet-powerful Web productivity tools.

I’ve personally been creating and sharing a few contacts in cases, adding followup tasks, and it’s remarkably easy. All of the notetaking I used to do in the “Notes” field of Outlook contacts or my Apple Address Book, I can do instead in date-stamped entries associated to that person — and I can search to find them anywhere, and tag them as well.

The “ahh” moment
Today, I entered a contact from a few years back who called me out of the blue, and when I finished the entry, I realized I wanted her on my iPhone address book too. So I click the “vCard” link, and the vCard file downloaded from Highrise to my computer, and then opened Address Book and added it! Now when I plug in my iPhone, it will automatically sync and put her in. Excellent and thoughtful step from the Highrise team to integrate so well. This makes a no-brainer deciding where to add new contacts.

Breaking through the Surface

Surface shotWow. So Microsoft are now soft-promoting the new Surface computing platform, which sort of brings the iPhone, the Minority Report grab-screen, and some oPhoto-like snapshot galleries together in a Frankenstein coffee table. Ever since the iPhone announcement, people have been talking a lot this year about the “pinch” touch-screen technology that allows manipulation with your fingers. This guy Jeff Han at NYU has developed a pretty cool interface as well.

I appreciate the future-factor, but what’s even better is this faux-commercial for Surface now appearing on Flixxy. It playfully raises all the questions I continually ask myself: is this better than interacting with humans? Is this better than handling photos myself? Isn’t a real postcard more thoughtful? Isn’t painting more fun when you can smell the oils and get messy? What would happen if I diverted all the time that I spend messing with technology instead to my kids? And finally, which has more party appeal — the FrankenSurface or a vintage 1981 table-top Ms. Pacman machine?

Anil Dash, Deborah Schultz and Web Evangelism

I’m at the Web 2 Expo in at the Moscone Center in San Francisco right now, hearing from Anil and Deborah about the tenets and trials of Web 2.0 community, and what it takes to become an effective “evangelist” of Web 2.0 in your organization.

Interesting that it’s not really a comparison to religious “evangelism” that we’re talking about, but more about “witnessing” — the act of living the life you talk about and promote. Otherwise, you’re just in sales.

I met a car sales guy once when I was looking for a Toyota, and when I asked him what he drove, he said “a Buick.” This is what I’m talking about.

I’m into good human experience. Good customer service, good technology, good communication, good management. This is why I say please and thank you, why I use a Mac instead of a PC, why I try to write and speak clearly with punctation, and why I thank people who do work for me. It’s not PR, it’s not evangelism, it’s not promotion, it’s just good human experience. Whether you give or get. Hopefully, both.

T-Mobile Dash smashes

T-Mobile DashThis is one of the coolest phones I have ever had. Those of you who know, know that I tend to follow the mobile phone world a little too closely at times.

I bought the T-Mobile Dash (HTC Excalibur) about 3 weeks ago and the thing is rocking along. Great call quality. Nice keyboard for texting. And you have to LOVE the way it will sync up with all your POP and IMAP mails, and gets RIM-style push Exchange email courtest of the Microsoft Direct Push Technology.

Web browsing is great on EDGE, and even better when you’re in range of an 802.11 wi-fi signal. The screen is what sold me. It’s just beautiful.

I also popped in the 1GB micro-SD card for storage, and now I’ve got Gwen Stefani videos and Grey’s Anatomy to watch on that tiny, gorgeous screen, not to mention several videos of my kids wrestling in the kitchen.

The 1.3 MP camera is a little slow to fire, but it takes GREAT whiteboard pictures, which are worth quite a bit when you’re doing usability, planning and design work. Or when your kids draw really great murals that you have to erase before your next meeting but don’t want to forget.

The Onceler has come

The LoraxOne of my pet vices is getting a hot Egg McMuffin and McDonald’s coffee every now and then when I find myself in the cold car in the morning. I love McDonald’s coffee. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they lace it with heroin.This week, I stopped by on my way in to work. It was REALLY cold out, and as I pulled around to the “first window” to pay, I noticed that the window was open only wide enough for an arm. The rest of the glass was fogged up. I didn’t really look hard to see who was there, but when I heard the “$3.87 please” I thrust forth my four dollars, and an arm appeared to take it, returning my change a moment later.”Hmm. The Onceler has arrived,” I thought.I pulled forward to the second window, and noticed the same window space there — open about 5 inches. This time my coffee and a McDonald’s bag appear at the end of a hand, one after another. I caught a girl’s smile and “thank you” through the slot before I pulled away, but it made me think:The Onceler has arrived. McDonald’s has become a machine we trust. We drive up, order the #1 in any city, and politely drive forth to hand our money to the faceless hand in the first window and take our product from the faceless hand in the second window. We trade our cash for the thneed, and we’re happy.

Nike+ knows human interface

Screenshot of Nike+If you haven’t seen the wonder of Nike+ yet, and you’re a study of interface design, you need to spend some time checking it out. I first went to see the site at the encouragement of my brother, who’s a tech-skeptic but also a sports trainer.As usual, I was talking about technology and iPods and asked him casually if he’d seen any clients using the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit.”Isn’t that kind of overkill geekness?””No, it’s really COOL,” he said with dead certainty. He then explained how it’s changing the way people are thinking about their runs, that it tracks their running pace, their stats, and will switch into your “power song” when it senses you are running out of steam.So I had to go dig through the NikePlus site, and sure enough. Some of the most compelling consumer user interface design I’ve ever seen, from just over the hill. They’ve built a mashup with the Google Maps API for people to draw their running routes and track their runs. They’ve also built a realtime run calculator that’s tracking every mile uploaded from the NikePlus running tribe — from all over the world.Even I, an enthusiastic but lazy runner at best, got really excited about being a part of this community of people who are running to beat their own best times, routes, and stats. Nike is creating a whole community of like-minded lifestyle people around its all-inclusive mantra “if you have a body, then you are an athlete.” With the help of Web 2.0, they’re going to quickly change the way we think about running the way Apple changed the way we think about and interact with music.If you don’t believe me, go see it and tell me you disagree.