The convenience tradeoff - how to guess the future of mobile and marketing


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Guessing the future of mobile is a fool's errand. But that doesn't mean we're in the position of knowing nothing about the future. This presentation goes through the process of trying to understand what the future of mobile might hold, from the points of view of convenience and affordance. It then looks at how this new era of computing might impact the work of PR, marketing and communications folk, arguing that we need to speak a broader range of languages, including data and statistical analysis, design and development and business value measurement. The presentation was delivered at the CIPR Share This Live conference in London on 11 July 2013.

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  • In some quarters, convenience is being cast as the enemy of the good
  • Yet convenience has served us well for millennia
  • In a paper by OLCL Research and Rutgers University, a wide ranging study concluded that when it comes to getting access to information, convenience was the best predictor of behaviour.
  • And history is littered with examples of convenienve trumping better judgement. Take the VCR wars of the 1970s. Historians now conclude that the biggest factor in the eventual success of VHS was not quality, or available content, or even price. It was recording time.
  • In other words, the VHS format won out because it required people to change tapes less frequently.
  • In fact, we live in an age of getting what we want.
  • User experience design is a discipline that has exploded, solely with the purpose of serving that need – to give people exactly what they want, when they want it, with the minimum of fuss.
  • And they’ve taken it seriously, as a trip to Flickr demonstrates. Gov.UK, lauded as the greatest design accomplishment of the past year, is all about giving you public information with the minimum of fuss, or in this case, clicks.
  • But you can go too far. History is littered with examples of where convenience was the sole design factor.
  • When convenience is over-simplified, it can result in plainly poor design.
  • Mypersonalyfavourite – a solution in search of a problem, if ever there was one.
  • A lot of work has gone into understanding the impact of convenience. But it turns out that this is not really where we should be focusing.
  • We should be concerned with a different, and much more powerful, concept, stolen straight from design 101: affordance.Affordance is the property of an object that affords us to do something. A car affords driving. A cigarette affords smoking. A door affords being shut when people are making too much noise.But in design terms, perhaps the best affordances are those that are unexpected.
  • Theory of Affordances was coined by psychologist James Gibson, but was popularised by usability engineering legend Don Norman.
  • Tristan Cooke on his Human in Design blog got excited recently by his glif. Made by Studioneat, it’s a simple device that is marketed not by what it does – basically keep your iPhone still – but by what it affords.
  • Affordance is a useful way to think about what we value in something like a mobile phone.
  • But we can go further. If we redefine a mobile phone as a little batch of computer processing power that remains with us permanently, then we can imagine more affordances. Once we start thinking not of mobile computing, but wearable computing, the list of affordances includes these:
  • And now we’re thinking about the affordances of wearable computers, I think it becomes clear that the future of mobile looks a little bit more like Startrek with communicators embedded in clothing, than it does like Google Glass (sorry Google).
  • The convenience tradeoff - how to guess the future of mobile and marketing

    1. 1. The Convenience Tradeoff By Peter Sigrist, 33 Digital
    2. 2. Convenience If everyone is busy making everything, how can anyone perfect anything? We start to confuse convenience with joy. Source: Apple by Design, 2013
    3. 3. Convenience
    4. 4. Convenience Convenience such as anytime access and speed of recovery “was by far the best predictor across all information seeking.” Source: Dervin & Reinhard, 2006
    5. 5. The 1970s format wars Sony: Betamax JVC: VHS Quasar: Great Time Machine Philips: Video 2000 Sanyo: V-Cord Quality Price Content Recording time
    6. 6. The 1970s format wars The principle factor in the success of VHS was how many times you would need to change the tape. Source: James Lardner, Fast Forward: Hollywood, the Japanese, and the VCR Wars, 1987
    7. 7. THE SIREN SONG OF CONVENIENCE The age of desire
    8. 8. The age of desire We’re getting close to a science fiction fantasy, where we believe we are entitled to have everything we desire. This is a credo that’s taking over in user interface design. Source:
    9. 9. A Flickr obession A search on Flickr for “desire path” reveals the strange obsession with unplanned paths across lawns and through the snow, revealing routes of maximal convenience.
    10. 10. When convenience is in charge But what happens when convenience is the only factor?
    11. 11. When convenience is in charge Convenience alone leads to design of questionable value. In such cases, the focus has typically been on only one type of convenience, such as time-saving.
    12. 12. Convenience alone leads to dead ends You don’t need anyone to tell you that these inventions are bad. Yet it’s worth considering why. It’s all about affordance.
    13. 13. Taxonomy of convenience Source: Time saving/ buying Effort saving AppropriatenessPortability Accessibility Avoidance of unpleasantness Six categories of convenience (Yale & Venkatesh, 1986) How enjoyable/creative is the time spent? How valuable is the time taken? How much easier is a task, thanks to a product or service? How much does a product or service fit a given need? How much can a product or service stop an activity feeling like a chore? How much a product or service can be used wherever and whenever a consumer wants
    14. 14. Affordance
    15. 15. Affordance The value of a well-designed object is when it has such a rich set of affordances that the people who use it can do things with it that the designer never imagined. Source: Don Norman, 1994
    16. 16. Affordance Source: Watching movies Reading the morning paper Stop-motion videography Long exposure photography Mini-computer Facetime (Hands free)
    17. 17. Mobile affordance • Connection to leisure services • Workplace and productivity enhancements • Connections to friends and colleagues • Notifications and active life management • News and current affairs • Life-enhancing ideas and inspiration • Public safety information • Government and utility services • Self-tracking and performance monitoring • Handiness and comfort A non-complete list of the things a well designed mobile device should afford.
    18. 18. Mobile versus wearable • All of the mobile affordances still apply, but in addition: • Invisible and instantaneous access to information • Audio and physical inputs and outputs • Instant switch between public/network/private states • Secret/subtle relationship with information sources Does changing the context or definition help? What if we talk about personal or wearable computing instead of mobile devices? Do we think of different affordances?
    19. 19. The affordance conclusion We’re going more Not so much Source: Source:
    20. 20. So what?
    21. 21. What does it mean for comms Most communications decisions are still made using the paradigm of: • mass media • brand control • bi-directional relationships
    22. 22. What does it mean for comms We need are entering the age of peer to peer relationships, which means: • information flows fast, free • the public does the talking • communicators need a new language
    23. 23. What it means for comms Skills/knowledge • Techniques for activating peer to peer comms through WOM and social • Data and insights • Development and design • A/B test and learn Impact • Value-based measurement • Culture of risk • Managing with less control • Structured for responsiveness
    24. 24. The journey What is the journey we need to go on as clients and agencies? Learn the language Practice the skills Test and be ready to fail
    25. 25. Peter Sigrist, July 2013 Managing director, 33 Digital @psigrist