Insights from Nebo

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December 8, 2010

Augmented Reality Check: What really counts as added value?

In an effort to add value to their products and services, many companies have started to embrace augmented reality (AR). The technology is expected to generate $350 million dollars for businesses by 2014. However, not every application of the technology lives up to this promise. Here, we'll examine what it takes to actually add value to a product using AR, and what is just a gimmick.

Our first example is a cookie with an AR code baked in. The cookie is not a new product, but is a good example of what most companies are doing with the technology.

Demo of Augmented Reality Cookies from Tellart on Vimeo.

So what's the added value? It does very little to actually entice me, and feels like a waste of time. Though a creative use of 3D technology, it unfortunately still falls flat.

Our other example was developed by AKQA for the US Postal Service to help people see which box will fit their shipping needs.

This application is not flashy. However, it is a memorable and innovative use of AR technology. It provides users with an engaging experience that is practical and useful, generating repeat visits, and most importantly, repeat business.

In order for companies to succeed using AR, or any other technology to add value to their products, the use of the technology must be truly innovative. It must be practical to the product, and engaging to the consumer. If not, the company risks being eaten up by the competition.

November 10, 2010

Negating The Value of Customer Feedback

The first clue that the company wasn't interested in my true opinion was when the "service consultant" asked me to give him an excellent rating, otherwise he'd get yelled at for doing a bad job. Now the reality of the situation was, this service consultant was far from excellent. But instead of looking for feedback as a means of improvement, they've decided to look for feedback as a means of validation.

There's an old saying: What gets measured, gets managed. And if your bonus is based on a metric, customer satisfaction ratings in this case, then the organization has created an incentive to improve the numbers, not necessarily the customer experience.

Even worse, this particular organization has created a punishment response that puts the pressure of a better customer satisfaction survey response on their front line staff. As a result the staff doesn't care about providing better service, but they do care about getting that oh-so-important excellent rating.

The root cause of this issue is simple. It's a badly designed reward system that incentivizes the wrong behavior. And this phenomenon of "making it look better on paper" appears at all levels of the work world. The CEO who improves short-term performance by juggling numbers on the balance sheet is no different than the service consultant begging for a better survey rating. Or event the marketing manager who calculates ROI numbers for their campaigns by tweaking a spreadsheet.

So how do you design better reward systems? I'm not sure. It's definitely something I'd love to learn more about. If anyone has any book recommendations, please leave them in the comments.

November 8, 2010

Progressive Disclosure: A Design Principle Turned Project Management Tool

The Principle of Progressive Disclosure states that by presenting small, manageable amounts of information at a time instead of large buckets of information all at once, a designer can dramatically reduce the amount of confusion and frustration involved in using an interface. This principle has other benefits as well. Applied to project management, progressive disclosure means it's easier to get more done when you focus on the immediate next step, instead of focusing on everything that needs to happen over the course of a project.

When people are presented with an abundance of options, it creates an overwhelming feeling of anxiety: what psychologist Barry Schwartz calls the paradox of choice. The interactive industry commonly applies this to website users (i.e. keep your design and calls to action simple), but the same thing happens to project managers.

When you're working on a project and you split your focus between what needs to happen now and everything that will need to happen ever, it's easy to be affected just like a confused, frustrated consumer. It's not that you shouldn't ever think about future deliverables, but they can often be a psychological distraction. A good project manager knows when to not bother thinking about them, lest they should become like the customer choosing between fifty products: paralyzed and all-together incapable of making a quick, accurate decision.

Managing a project starts with managing your own time. So, what can you do? One solution is to keep your task list limited. Put tomorrow's task list out of sight and don't add to today's list once you've created it. Focus on making progress, not on completing entire projects. This article from Behance and some words from a coworker recently drove these ideas home, and they've helped me be more productive.

What helps you be more productive? How do you handle your to-do list? We'd be interested in hearing your ideas, and, as always, feel free to drop a note in the comments or shoot us a tweet.

October 8, 2010

What's On Your Personal Mood Board?

Inspiration, as the cliché says, can spring from anywhere. However, how often do we vacate our usual books, blogs, and bits of pop culture to discover what inspirations lie beyond our sphere of influence?

As creatives, it is important that we act as sponges of the world, soaking up knowledge so that we may better reflect and interpret it. With that said, we should be a little adventurous in finding inspiration in order to refresh our thinking. Not only does researching and participating in something new provide sources of inspiration, but it improves our cognitive thinking by causing us to break our usual patterns.

Finding a new source of inspiration doesn’t have to be a chore, either. Just take little things in your life and use your imagination to come up with ways to skew the experience. Try reading a book from the children’s section of a book store while actually sitting in a chair in the children’s section. Be a fly on the wall at an elderly singles function. Maybe take a class in medieval cuisine or advance geo physics. Or, just take the time to do something you haven’t found the time to actually do. Whatever the case, opening yourself to new habits and experiences can only lead you to greater inspirations.

September 29, 2010

What You Can Learn From The Most Interesting Man In The World (Among Other Things)

When many companies first think of social media, they think only of what they can do directly through channels like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. But the truth is that while you can do some amazing things directly through any of these sites, the inspiration that your fans are looking for (that will get them to actually engage with you), often comes from elsewhere first.

Such is the case with Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World campaign. Sure, Dos Equis posts an update once every week or two on Facebook, and yeah, they have a treasure hunt competition going on. But, rest assured, neither of those are the reason they have 773,000 of some of the most active fans on Facebook.

The real and obvious reason is the tv commercials. Go ahead and check out their fan page. Every fan post (and there are a lot of them) is some play on the tag lines of the commercials. For example:

The line "stay thirsty my friends" has even generated it's own shorthand on the fan page: STMF.

This doesn't mean that you just have to be using TV, but that your social media campaign doesn't have to be driven by frequent status updates; the driving force behind it can come from elsewhere. Do something interesting offline, in a different medium, or on social media and you'll generate word of mouth. So, get to it! That hilarious, bold, edgy idea you've been sitting on is probably the key to your success on the social web.