Monday, 21 September 2009

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Regulatory capture is not hard to spot.
"Executives at Britain’s broadcasting watchdog are wined and dined by television companies, foreign dignitaries and advertisers almost every day of the week, official documents show."

The consequences are not hard to find.
In a rushed consultation .... the BBC will prohibit millions of people from programming their existing set top boxes. If implemented this will make it difficult to view or record HDTV broadcasts with free software. Where’s the consumer interest in that settlement?

But who shall guard the watchman? Tom Watson seems to be having a go at it, and Parliament is undoubtedly the right place.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

User-centred design vs. expert-centred design

The rather tacky graphic above is an adaptation of a figure in Edgar H Schein's Process Consultation. I have used versions of it for about the last 30 years. I am posting it unimproved, prompted by annoyance at the abuse of the term user-centred design in a post by Liz Sanders that was revived in the Design for Service blog. She seems to think that user-centred design and participatory design are mutually exclusive. Not so. The ISO standards on Human Centred Design certainly support particpatory design.

For my money, the further right a project can move on the diagram above, the better.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Monday, 14 September 2009

Customer Satisfaction, Share Price, Quality of Service

Work led by Claes Fornell has shown that customer satisfaction is a lead indicator of share price. The well-established links between customer satisfaction and corporate value do not seem to be exploited by the usability community. Example papers can be found here, here and here.

Findings by his company in the UK are reported here. Familiar faces do well; Toyota, Virgin. In the UK mobile field, Tesco Mobile seems to be doing well. Given the solid nature of Fornell's survey methods, it seems surprising that OFCOM doesn't use them. NIH perhaps?

To quote from a 2006 paper,

" Specifically, the authors find that customer satisfaction, as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), is significantly related to market value of equity.Yet news about ACSI results does not move share prices. This apparent inconsistency is the catalyst for
examining whether excess stock returns might be generated as a result. The authors present two stock portfolios:
The first is a paper portfolio that is back tested, and the second is an actual case. At low systematic risk, both outperform the market by considerable margins. In other words, it is possible to beat the market consistently by investing in firms that do well on the ACSI."

Knowing your users vs. being nosey

I am learning Inkscape. Two reasons. Firstly, since Smartdraw and Fireworks got ruined, I have needed to find a decent vector graphics package that does not require too much learning. Secondly, when can I use sees .svg being usable in a year or two, and it will take me that long to learn the package. I heartily recommend it. Anyway, I wanted to buy the manual. This is not open source, and comes from InformIT. When I get to the checkout,I have the choice of answering 14 questions, including salary, age, gender, type of work, or 'just create my account'.

Obviously, I choose the latter. Amazon don't ask questions like that. It doesn't work. I use the 'contact us' to tell them it doesn't work, and get an email from PTG (Pearson Educational Customer Technical Support) (fortunately I opened it rather than treating it as spam) telling me I have to answer (some of) their questions if I want to buy the book, but not admitting they insist I have to answer all of them.

Inkscape needs to find a better publisher.

Pearson need to understand the difference between obsessive market data-gathering, and being customer-focused. In my experience, companies are quite likely to choose going bust over making such a change.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Products, systems and services

The life cycle perspective of systems engineering has long considered the relation between system products and services. An example given by Stuart Arnold is of a bridge; it changes from being a civil enginering project to being a traffic engineering service.

Ergonomics has considered features beyond the central 'product' for a long time. John Hughes at IBM looked at the experience of receiving a Selectric typewriter, from how to design the box to be picked up safely, and unpacking the typewriter etc. (written up in Design Studies, but not showing up in the Scirus search - so much for peer-reviewed credibility).

Don Norman has written a nice piece on these lines called Systems Thinking: A Product Is More Than the Product. It covers packaging and support; very different in the eyes of the vendor organisation, but both part of the experience so far as the user is concerned.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Quality In Use for cabin baggage

Business travel for men requires suits, shirts, smart shoes. This means a wheelie-bag a) to look after same and b) because backpacks ruin suits.
I have had a cheap Carlton (wheel squeak was terrifying and above safe levels), expensive Tripp (fell apart), cheap frameless case (zip went), mid-price Muji (lovely, but telescopic mechanism jammed - shut fortunately). I don't know anyone who has cracked the problem. Having just ordered a new case, this is the situation as I see it.
User requirements
The trade-offs are between cost, weight, durability (or perceived durability), detail design (pockets, straps, handles, quality of zips, luggage tags), and satisfaction, presentation of self (social significance in Susan Boztepe's framework below).

Candidate designs
Fashionable and not given bad reviews
Briggs and Riley, Rimowa

Sensible and probably what I should have bought
Antler, Samsonite

Interesting but not for my business purposes
Tom Bihn
Eagle Creek
Cool Tools has a favourable review of Rick Steves Convertible Carry-on

Sounded great, but doubts about actual weight

What I bought
Sub-0-G (not least because it was half-price). I chickened out of the tiedot design and now have to work out how to make a black case stand out.

Useful places for advice
Tripadvisor (new forum)