Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Much more than just a commercial....

I like all Johny Walker commercials... and this latest "Black Label" ad is one of the best I have seen on television for a long time.

I am not crazy about whisky and I may not become a convert watching the ad. But, the splendid art element in the ad is indeed intoxicating.

Watch the ad as taken from YouTube here:

So, for now it is just watching and no drinking!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hasta la Vista (Microsoft) Baby!

Vista ... Yes, see you later... not now. I am better off with my X(P)!

I begin this post with an entertaining and quite telling video "Don't Give Up on Vista" Ad created by Apple Mac. [Embedded from YouTube]

Why do we hear everywhere only wrong things about Vista? I would have liked to believe, it was just me ... but I guess, this is not the case!

Microsoft does a good job, pushing the latest release of its software by bundling them with affiliated hardwares. Microsoft's, age long and by far marketing's one of the most successful product introduction strategy has helped Microsoft Sales... enumerous times.

However, if the product being introduced and pushed (read forcefully) to users is not yet ready, then this can have a catapult effect. Since, windows 95 all MS products have been released on later dates than announced and have been buggy. This has been talked about so much that probably users (and even MS developers) have started considering bugs as product features. But, with Vista it is not just about bugs - it is about pushing a product with new design, significantly changed interface without user's consent. Just when we thought, we are doing well with XP, the Vista unsettled us.

First, IT department installed Vista on all office PC's - I guess it was because keeping up with the latest MS release makes licensing and updates easier (another MS Strategy). Next, when I went to buy a new PC only a week or so after Vista was launched, none of the retailers carried a PC with XP. I had to adjust to the Vista Life at my home PC. Later, when I ordered my Laptop online, I made sure to check the appropriate Windows OS (yes, XP) for the laptop. Here again, Vista was the default selection. It sounds funny, because, in most places, I would prefer getting the most recent release of a product -fight to get it. But, with Vista, I am way too apprehensive.

Today, when I read this blog "Walking Off Into the Vista" on the New York Times, I felt I most definitely am not alone in agonizing.

Few days back I had written that competion for the online collaboration and enterprise application market is very engaging and it would be worthwhile to see how Microsoft responds to already leading players like Google and IBM. I also wondered then, how would Google be successful in converting MS Office users to Google Docs... As much as I see user's sentiments about Vista, I am made to belive that Google need not do a lot, Microsoft will do that for Google!

Having said that, I still believe that Microsoft will respond aptly to all these challenges. My bet is still on the Redmond dwellers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Keeping your online customers yours - forever

An e-commerce website, if anything, is extremely slippery.

It is not enough to add stickiness factor to your website. Besides the content, a trustworthy functional experience is extremely important for your customers to be loyal and to continue business.

At the end of the day, the online experience of each individual customer equates to your profitability, loyalty and brand equity. You do not want to take chances that compromises any three of these. Listed below are few key considerations to keep in mind to ensure that your online customer remains yours forever - that is, if you are a serious high-traffic website:

Error Messages Do Not help

A troubleshooting manual, an FAQ page or 'Send Feedback' button do not help when customers encounter error messages on your website

A most carefully drafted and user-friendly error message is not any better than the error itself. Consider an offline customer. If your doorway is under construction and you have clearly put instructions on how to enter your shop - it is quite likely that a customer will approach the next door shop. Just remember, it is way too easier for your online customer to move to a (next door) competitor site.

The key is to pro-actively keep your site error-free and take immediate action on every instance of an error reported.

Your Customers are not your Support Engineers or QA testers

They are not the most technology savvy users either. Do not treat them any different from how you would treat an offline customer.

Take for an example, I am flying a helicopter. I would most definitely like to get instructions about how to keep my helicopter flying or to land safely, if something goes wrong mid-air. But, on an e-commerce website, If I receive an error message during navigation / transaction, then I would have to be in my most generous mental states to make a complain about it. In most likelihood, I would silently move away from the site to a competing site.

The key here is - do not ask your customers to help you fix your websites problems. Fix your website problems, pro-actively, sooner than your customers encounter it - again and again.

Do not under-estimate ambiance and service

In a restaurant, for example, unless your returned food is repeatedly ignored, you will give another chance, if the ambiance and service is delightful to you.

Similarly, in a website, make sure that the few minutes of user experience there is as delightful as the ambiance of their most favored restaurant. This requires a lot of insight into user behavior and an understanding of the online design principles. In my experience, simplicity always wins. Most customers, do not need gazillion functionalities - they make key repetitive interactions with your site. Know these behavior and make your site to adapt to these behavior.

As for an offline customer who dis-likes polyester, you will not take him to the polyester dress section, instead show him/her more cottons, if that is what the liking is for. Similar personal attention should be given for an online customer. And not just the preferences should be noted for content displayed on the site, but also for the most used actions. I like the Microsoft metaphor of keeping the less used action items hidden. If they were all to be kept expanded through out, there would be no space left for writing, for instance in Microsoft Document.

The key here is - give your customers what they want. Step into the shoes of EACH customer and think through their minds to give them an experience that brings them to your website again and again - and also give tolerance to some error messages, that they may encounter occasionally.

Do not test the Patience of your Customers

Patience is a virtue. But, your online customers forget that just while they are online.

What makes your website the most slippery is trying your customer's patience. The number of clicks required to get a task performed, complicated navigation, redundant questions and irrelevant requirements - these are some of the aspects of a website that unreasonably try user's patience on a website. Avoid them, where and as much as you can.

The key here is - Identify and implement the state of equilibrium between form and function, when it comes to designing your website. If you give due importance to one over the other, you will make your website more slippery for some while trying to appease few others.

Take Away
Security, Privacy, Performance etc are some other key considerations that you should be vigilant about while maintaining a high traffic website. The points mentioned here are not comprehensive. They never can be. This dynamism in the phenomenon of user-website interaction makes the task of online marketers equally challenging, as well as rewarding.

A good insight and knowledge of your customers and a pro-active approach can keep your customers yours, forever.

Design Quote

I read a nice thought about good design somewhere that I found very appealing. Reproducing the thought in my words:

The Design Path

A good design traverses through the path of -

Comfort -> Contentment -> Joy -> Delight -> Bliss

Next time, when you critique a design, think of its journey into the making...

Monday, November 12, 2007

They walk among us ... someone we know?

I received this over email and found it quite funny. Just read through. Do you think you have one of these?


I walked into a Blimpie's with a buy-one-get- one-free coupon for a sandwich. I handed it to the girl and she looked over at a little chalkboard that said "Buy one – get one free". "They're already buy-one-get- one-free", she said, '"So I guess they're both free". She handed me my free sandwiches and I walked out the door. They walk among us and many work in retail.

A friend of mine bought a new fridge for his house… To get rid of his old fridge, he put it in his front yard and hung a sign on it saying: "Free to good home. You want it, you take it." For three days the fridge sat there without even one person looking twice at it. My friend decided that people were too untrusting of this deal. It looked too good to be true, so he changed the sign to read: "Fridge for sale $50." The next day someone stole it. They walk among us.

One day I was walking down the beach with some friends when one of them shouted, "Look at that dead bird!" Someone looked up at the sky and said, "Where?" They walk among us.

While looking at a house, my brother asked the real estate agent which direction was north because, he explained, he didn't want the sun waking him up every morning. She asked, "Does the sun rise in the north?" When my brother explained that the sun rises in the east, and has for sometime, she shook her head and said, "Oh, I don't keep up with that stuff." They walk among us.

I used to work in technical support for a 24/7 call centre. One day I got a call from an individual who asked what hours the call centre was open. I told him, "The number you dialled is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." He responded, "Is that Eastern or Pacific time?" Wanting to end the call quickly, I said, "Uh, Pacific." They walk among us.

My colleague and I were eating our lunch in our cafeteria, when we overheard one of the administrative assistants talking about the sunburn she got on her weekend drive to the shore. She drove down in a convertible, but "didn't think she'd get sunburned because the car was moving." They walk among us.

My friend has a lifesaving tool in his car designed to cut through a seat belt if he gets trapped. He keeps it in the trunk. They walk among us.

My friends and I were on a beer run and noticed that the cases were discounted 10%. Since it was a big party, we bought two cases. The cashier multiplied 2 times 10% and gave us a 20% discount. They walk among us.

I was hanging out with a friend when we saw a woman with a nose ring attached to an earring by a chain. My friend said, "Wouldn't the chain rip out every time she turned her head?" I explained that a person's nose and ear remain the same distance apart no matter which way the head is turned. They walk among us.

I couldn't find my luggage at the airport baggage area, so I went to the lost luggage office and told the woman there that my bags never showed up. She smiled and told me not to worry because she was a trained professional and I was in good hands. "Now," she asked me, "Has your plane arrived yet?" They walk among us.

While working at a pizza parlour I observed a man ordering a small pizza to go. He appeared to be alone and the cook asked him if he would like it cut into 4 pieces or 6. He thought about it for some time before responding. "Just cut it into 4 pieces; I don't think I'm hungry enough to eat 6 pieces." Yep, they walk among us and... they reproduce...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A smile from Yahoo! today ...

For last few days, I have had some not so good experience with Yahoo! People who know me will identify the reason.

Anyways, today I was chatting with my friend on the chat interface of Yahoo! mail. And, the context sensitive messages of Yahoo! in the chat window really amused me. I thought, it was yahoo! way of bringing a smile to me.

Chat: My friend was in an 'advice giving' spree. For instance, she was writing stuff like - "bad thing happens for a reason" and "it takes a few tries to get there ..." etc.

Yahoo!: The context sensitive message from Yahoo! was "lianhlee is about to drop knowledge..."

Chat: Now, it was my turn to reply and i shot 3-4 messages at a time.
Yahoo!: And I was stopped by this message - "LIANHLEE IS TYPING! LIANHLEE IS TYPING!" This was hilarious!

My friend types slowly. This Yahoo! context message was "Tell Raunaq to use fingers of both hands when typing"

Well, simple and intelligent ways to hook people up. I loved this... it made me feel like I am talking to a friend in a familiar coffee shop surrounding. The chat window, created just the right atmosphere.

And thanks Yahoo! for this.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wal-Mart embraces the Linux Installed PC (gOS)

Last weekend, we were shopping for a home-office PC.

While driving back, with a 'Vista' installed PC - we could not help but think about the dominance of Microsoft. I mean, not a single store still carries a Linux based PC. 'You can get them - but you will have to order online'!

So, this recent announcement of 'gOS', a linux based PC available in the 600 Wal-Mart stores immediately got my attention. For the product details and the news-wire read yahoo! and gizmodo.

As, I have mentioned in my comment in gizdomo, this new product will make initial connections with the linux users. When you cannot get a PC, even with "no OS" installed, the price point and its availability in stores, is a Green signal for the Green OS.

The 'g' in the name could not be any more relevant than it is now. I understand that the PC comes bundled with some of the 'g' apps and this time, I am talking about Google. The 'greens' adding up to the 'red' ticks for the folks in Redmond.