The Eyeo Festival took place in Minneapolis last week. I missed it. I missed it for a very good reason, which is that I just started a new job as a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. But I still followed from afar, wishing I could hear firsthand about some of the fantastic projects and ideas that get presented there (and I’ll certainly check out the videos as they get posted).
What is the Eyeo Festival, you might be wondering? It’s a small annual conference that “brings together creative coders, data designers, and creators working at the intersection of data, art, and technology for inspiring talks, workshops, labs, and events.” I’ve been to two out of the four conferences and have come away both times incredibly inspired and impressed. This is not just big data. This is big, beautiful, informative data. The coders, designers, and creators both at Eyeo and elsewhere provide living proof that big (and small) data doesn’t have to be ugly, messy, or impossible to understand.
It can have an emotional impact and make a point like this project by Kim Rees and Periscopic, which uses mortality data from the World Health Organization to estimate the number of years lost to gun deaths in 2013 alone.
Okay, maybe “demigod” is a little over the top. But maybe not.
John Maeda is both design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and chair of the eBay Design Advisory Board, where he collaborates with design leaders across eBay to disseminate design thinking. But that’s just what he’s doing now. He previously served as the president of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and before that, he was a professor and head of research at the MIT Media Lab.
Now where I come from (Cambridge, Massachusetts, these days), RISD and the Media Lab are synonymous with innovative thinking. But eBay already changed the way about 145 million people shop — most people would say that’s already pretty innovative. So how do you improve innovation by disseminating design thinking at eBay?
In advance of John’s talk, he was kind enough to answer some of our questions about what he’s been doing and why. I hope you enjoy John’s responses, and I look forward to seeing many of you in New York on June 24th and 25th!
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
When I was maybe 2 years old, my mother lost track of me in a Toys-R-Us store. After a dozen stressful minutes, she finally found me - holding a Fisher-Price airplane. And so began my love affair with airplanes and aviation. So as I looked through the break-out schedule while attending NVIDIA’s GPU conference two weeks ago in San Jose, California, Gulfstream Aero’s session on transforming manufacturing and field service with desktop virtualization caught my eye. It didn’t disappoint.
There are 2 reasons why I liked this session so much and why I think it’s worth sharing with you:
It’s a nice example of technology that makes the work easier for employees, and helps them improve the customer experience directly.
It’s also an example of how a technology that’s not necessarily a money saver (in this case, VDI) shines when it enables workers do something that would be difficult or impossible any other way.
As I write this, I am in seat 1A of United flight 1607 from Philly to Houston. playing on the screen in front of me is CNBC. I make no secret of my disdain for much of the so called "news media" so I won't launch into my usual rant there (there are some superb journalists out there, but Murrow and Cronkite must be rolling in their graves!). I am bristling over the coverage right now that is focused on the 787's latest woes. As usual, the talking heads are clueless and painting a doomsday scenario for Boeing! It's a bunch of finance people who don't understand the engineering realities. They're smart bean counters, but not engineers. I am an old engineer, so let me shed light on what the Wall Street mouths don't know. There is an important lesson here for I&O leaders!
Cosmopolitan magazine certainly doesn't publish articles such as "Seven Hairstyles That Will Make Your Man Yawn." Wildly desirable is more like it. And so too, is it with great software. If you want your applications to be successful, you better make them wildly desirable.
My latest published research has identified seven key qualities that all applications must exhibit to be wildly desirable, with our choices based on research and inquiries on software design and architecture; assessment advisories with clients; and interviews with leading experts, including both practitioners and academics.
Forrester defines the seven qualities of software as:
The common requirements that all software applications must satisfy to be successful: user experience, availability, performance, scalability, adaptability, security, and economy.
All seven qualities are important, but if you get the user experience (UX) wrong, nothing else matters.
The UX is the part of your application that your employees and/or customers see and use daily. You can do an exceptional job on project management, requirements gathering, data management, testing, and coding, but if the user experience is poor, your results still be mediocre — or even a complete failure.