What Should Customer Experience Professionals Do About HTML5?

The increasing popularity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad – neither of which supports Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight – has piqued interest in HTML5 as an open source solution for creating Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).  Steve Jobs’ recent attack on Flash as being unfit for the iPhone calls into question the long-term value of player-based application platforms. But can HTML5 really replace Flash and Silverlight? 

To understand the user experience pros and cons of HTML5, Rich Gans – one of our Researchers serving customer experience professionals – talked to designers and developers at Cynergy Systems, EffectiveUI, Roundarch, and Yahoo! who are building complex online functionality. We have just published the results of this research in a report entitled “HTML 5: Is There Any Truth To The Hype?”

The truth is that while HTML5 is promising and can help improve experiences for text-based content, it is not yet a viable alternative to player-based technologies for designing rich, highly functional user experiences. 

The downside to using HTML5 today is that it:

  • Could lead to inconsistent experiences across today’s browsers
  • Will require that users download a browser that supports the technology
  • Compromises performance for graphics-heavy experiences

 

 However, there are a few places where HTML5 can help improve user experiences today, including: 

  • Experiences for people with disabilities
  • Apps that are solely intended for Apple devices
  • Producing text-heavy sites that require text resizing

 

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Stratospheric Levels Of Hype

If you are in the mobile industry and you've never heard of Foursquare, there is something wrong with the way you keep up to date on new trends. Indeed, Foursquare is one of the most hyped social location services, enabling users to "check-in" to locations in the real world from pubs, bars and restaurants (through to any conceivable location) - sharing them with updates on social sites like Twitter or Facebook, wrapping points and benefiting from potential discounts. Foursquare recently announced it had passed the 1M users mark. The rate of growth is indeed quite strong, bearing in mind the company had just 170,000 users at the end of 2009. According to TechCrunch, Yahoo! was rumored to have made an offer above $80M to acquire the start-up! I am not a financial analyst, but let's say $100M for just 1M users seems high at first sight. So what makes it so valuable and why is foursquare being perceived as the new Twitter? Here are a few thoughts:

- First of all, foursquare is not the only one in town but is probably the one with the most active PR team. It struck some interesting deals with Metro newspapers, with TV channel Bravo, with Vodafone in the UK (on-deck and via SMS promotion) and more recently with even the Financial Times, if we believe business insiders. What makes it quite successful is its entertainment-centric approach. It is quite addictive as it is primarily an interactive game. There are others (not only Gowalla) such as MyTown (a sort of a real-world monopoly), which passed the 2 million active users mark a few days ago!

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Consumer Product Strategy Podcast, Episode 2: Virtual Goods, Real Money

Here is the second video podcast in the "Find Your Popcorn" series, part of a new approach to our research processes. So to hear me talk about how gaming sites' promotion of virtual goods (paid for with real currency) could help other companies build new revenue streams, please click on the video link below. And as ever, please share your thoughts and feedback on both what we are saying and how we are saying it.

And watch this space for updates on how to subscribe to future podcasts via iTunes.

Q&Agency: Roundarch

Welcome to Q&Agency! Each week, I get to talk to agencies small and large and get to hear (in their words) what differentiates them and the experiences they create. To help bring some of that information to you, I'm showcasing an ongoing series of interviews with small to mid-size interactive and design agencies. If you'd like to see your agency or an agency you work with here, let me know!

On May 5th, I talked with Jeff Maling the President and Chief Experience Officer and Geoffrey Cubitt the President and Chief Technology Officer of Roundarch. Edited excerpts from that conversation follow.

Forrester: Tell me a little bit about your agency?

Jeff: Roundarch was founded in 2000 by Deloitte and WPP. At that time, the idea was to bring together the technology and program management skills of Deloitte with the creative skills of WPP to tackle large web problems. Over the past year or more that has translated into large digital problems of many types including mobile, touch screen, etc. But for the most part, we’ve stayed true to the vision because we’re specialized in large-scale digital solutions for fortune 500 companies, the government, and large international organizations. We have about 220 full-time employees primarily in New York and Chicago, smaller offices in Denver and Boston, and a virtual office in DC (where we mostly work in secure locations). Like any good agency or consultancy, we also have a few nomads who refuse to move into one of our offices.

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Why Consumer Brands Need Mobile Strategies - Especially In Asia

I just returned home from a trip to Bangkok and Bhutan. Civil unrest in Bangkok kept me from wandering as much as I would have liked. I had a lot of opportunity in Bhutan, however, to wander about and talk to people. As a bit of a background, Bhutan is a land-locked country bordered mostly by India to the south and China to the north. Much of the northern portion where we traveled is covered by mountains, so wireless is the primary infrastructure for communications. The average annual income is about $1,300, so they are not a wealthy nation. They've only been allowed access to TV and the Internet for about 10 years.

A consumer brand might argue that in a country where the annual income is only $1,300 and little infrastructure exists for the import of goods, there isn't much point in marketing -- let alone a digital marketing strategy that includes mobile. Countries like these are opening up, however, and their wealth is growing. Personal care products and Coca-Cola was on the shelves in most of the small shops we passed. In a country where cell phones certainly outnumber PCs and cellular connections (even if prepaid) must outnumber fixed, mobile has to be part of the mix.

Teenagers had cell phones. One of my guides had a Nokia N73 and the other had a Nokia Xpress Music. These aren't dumb or cheap text-only phones. They have high-resolution screens and are capable of music, videos and Internet. (My guide was checking and posting to Facebook DAILY.) Monks had cell phones. Women selling vegetables in open-air markets had cell phones.

Here are a few pictures from my trip:

Senior monk with his cell phone

Teenagers checking out the latest message

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KIN Studio - A Great Means Of Sharing Events

I was the photographer at a wedding this weekend. We used the KIN phone to take photos throughout the course of the day - hair styling, make-up, and the event. We also exchanged a lot of messages: "We're running late! Someone else has to go pick up the cake," etc. Here's a quick snapshot of the Web page below.

We saw Nokia do this with with their Lifeblog a number of years ago. The KIN Studio has similarities. I would have to say I was sitting on the fence a bit re the dictated cloud services approach to the KIN photos. Over the weekend, I was happy that I didn't have to say "ok, now sync" or upload them one at a time - I liked that it just happened. Would have been fun for everyone at the event to have one of these phones.

 

The Data Digest: How US Youth Multitask

A couple of weeks ago I published a Data Digest on European consumers’ media consumption. One of the questions that always comes up when I present this data to clients is how focused consumers are when they're watching TV or using the Internet. Our Technographics® data shows that consumers aren't focused at all: About 40% of US youth were watching TV the last time that they used the Internet, and a third were texting.

But consumers don’t just multitask across different channels; they also do many different things on the PC at the same time. We asked European consumers the following question: "Which of the following activities do you regularly do at the same time when you’re using your PC (by that we mean that you are combining multiple activities)?" About half of European youth use IM when using the Internet, and about 60% listen to music. Undivided attention is something that's hard to find these days.

Discussing How To Build The Business Case For Social Media

I had the pleasure of hosting an IT Services Marketing Association (ITSMA) workshop, “Building the Business Case for Social Media in B2B Marketing” at our London office this week. There were 12 IT services marketers attending, and we all enjoyed very informative presentations led by Moira Clark, Professor of Strategic Marketing at Henley Business School. Moira has lots of practical experience and did extensive research work for Cisco in 2009. We also heard from DNX Ltd, a marketing agency with several tech vendor clients, as well from LinkedIn.

I certainly learned a lot personally about using social media - there was quite a bit of “hands-on” work: assessing a company’s social media strategy, comparing listening platforms, and launching a community. Here are some of the highlights that I remember most (and consider me an experienced tech marketer now trying to understand the impact of social media on the marketing mix).

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How Good Is The Customer Experience At Canadian Bank Sites In 2010?

As part of a larger project that Harley Manning explained in a recent blog post, I've published a document that evaluated the customer experience at six top Canadian Bank Web sites. The premise was simple: we wanted to test how easy it is for a user who wants to find a checking account at a bank with a local branch that has weekend hours. We also wanted to know the fee structure and minimum balance requirements.

How did the sites perform? Overall, they did poorly, with no site achieving a passing score on our Web Site User Experience Review methodology. All of the bank sites we reviewed provided the necessary content and function needed to complete the goal, but none of them did so in a way that was contextual, findable, understandable, and trustworthy. Specific problems that plagued the sites included missing or misplaced content and function, inefficient task flows, and poor use of space, to name a few.

On the plus side, each of the sites provided a lesson for others to learn from. For example, while National Bank of Canada scored lowest in our evaluation, its page that sets up the application process clearly lists eligibility criteria, the information required to open an account, and a clear list of the steps in the online application process.

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What Role For The CMO In Social? The Research . . .

Last night, I hosted my first Tweet-up to talk about how senior marketers should approach social. Thanks to the team at Aspect and to the many lively tweeters and bloggers who were there. We'll do it again soon. Maybe we'll even get a 'real' French-speaking analyst, like my collegue Thomas Husson, to play along next time. 

So what did we talk about? 

In my just-published research "CMOs Must Orchestrate Social Initiatives" I call for marketing leaders to lead social. But when I say lead, I don't mean 'own'. The CMO, as the steward of the brand experience, must connect the dots of the company's social efforts around the consumer. 

The CMO must ochestrate social around the customer

The marketing leader has to help make sense of it all - not do it all. Indeed, every department has a role to play. I've outlined two distinct roles for the CMO to play: driving or shepherding, depending on the objective set for social. In both cases, these roles beg CMOs (and marketing staff) to act transversally, across different departments. 

This is a posture of sharing control - just like we talk about with consumers - which also must happen internally. Ideally, it should happen first internally . . .

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