jess mcmullin's blog

Best Buy uses Personas to shape retail experience

Electronics giant Best Buy is using personas to focus its stores on particular customer segments -

From USA Today:
Best Buy’s plan is to revamp its stores according to the types of customers they serve, a strategy it calls customer centricity. The company came up with five prototypical customers, all of whom have been given names: “Jill,” a busy suburban mom; “Buzz,” a focused, active younger male; “Ray,” a family man who likes his technology practical; “BB4B” (short for Best Buy for Business), a small employer; and “Barry,” an affluent professional male who’s likely to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a home theater system.

Over the next few years, each of Best Buy’s 608 stores will focus on one or two of the five segments…

It’s interesting that they are focusing stores on just one or two segments - that there is a primary persona for a retail location. While we know that each primary persona needs an interface tailored for them, creating a new interface usually doesn’t take the same capital costs as opening a store. What does a store’s focus on soccer mom Jill mean for the Best Buy customer who is more like Buzz, the young active geek? Thanks IDBlog

Blogger redesign from folks at Adaptive Path and Stopdesign

Blogger relaunched today, upping the ante for Typepad, the paid blog service from SixApart (makers of MovableType blogging software).

Behind the scenes, Adaptive Path and Stopdesign collaborated on the new functionality and look. Folks at Blogger share some of the new features that position the service to bring blogs to the masses. For web geeks, the fact that a handful of the best designers in the medium created new templates is pretty cool too - and it’s interesting to see how many of those templates take the CSS Zen Garden approach and simply restyle the same codebase.

Peter Morville goes on the road this Fall

Information Architecture and Findability is Peter Morville’s contribution to the UX roadshow circuit. Boston, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. will all be Fall stops - $695 US for the day for early registration (reasonable compared to IA Summit workshops, still spendy for students and folks out of work).

Of course, with PeterMo findability comes to the fore: "The biggest problem on today’s web sites and intranets is findability". That’s true more often than not, and the workshop looks like it provides good groundwork for up-and-coming findability specialists.

One of the challenges for people offering workshops is balancing depth with broad appeal. I’d be interested to hear any thoughts from workshop alumni for Adaptive Path, Rosenfeld & Krug, or others…was the workshop too general? Or was it too specialized or over the heads of attendees?

Survey - Help plan the location of future IA Summits

ASIS&T is running a survey about IA Summit locations and what influences your decision to attend. Speak up if you want more than ping pong between East and West USA with an occasional stop in the middle.

Metadata? Thesauri? Taxonomies? Topic Maps! - Making Sense of It All

Lars Garshol, Development Manager at Ontopia posted a fantastic article on the relationships between different classification tools - topic maps, ontologies, taxonomies, and more. Well worth the read, since it's a clear explanation that separates similar concepts that too often get muddled.

Design of Sites - Pattern Browser

The Design of Sites authors have put their patterns in a web based pattern browser. Currently there is a 1 year free offer - I wouldn't pay $30 US for a subscription, but it's a good way to see what value the book offers before buying it. Unfortunately, I'm still not sure where to return to the pattern browser to login in - maybe they missed the "provide a login for existing users on the registration page" pattern ;-) That aside, it's still a great resource.

IA Summit recap at Boxes and Arrows

This year's IA Summit, themed "Breaking New Ground," seemed to have the right mix of new and returning folks, a nice variety of interesting and well-attended pre-conference workshops and several tracks of presentations to suit the IA of every flavor

Thoughts on presentations from Saturday and from Sunday.

Happy Birthday Boxes and Arrows! Congratulations on two amazing years.

Boxes and Arrows turns two, and Christina Wodtke reflects on the past two years, both for the zine and for our profession.

B&A constantly amazes me, and everyone in the UX field is indebted to the long hours put in by authors, editors, and the technical team. Thanks guys! Here's to a long and wonderful future for B&A :)

Morae - Usability video solution from the makers of Camtasia

One of the hassles of usability testing with video is handling all the equipment. Editing the video into something useful is an even bigger challenge. Some professionals have looked at screen recording software as part of the solution.

Now TechSmith, the folks who created Camtasia, have released Morae, an integrated recording and editing solution for usability testing. For $999 USD you get three applications for recording, annotating, and editing usability video. That's pricy compared to consumer screen recorder software, but if it works well and you do a lot of video based testing already it's probably worth it. For people like me that mostly just watch and type notes in a discount testing arrangement, it might be a tool to start using video without the huge time crunch of capturing and editing tape.

Microsoft Application Archetypes - developing guidelines around types of application

Microsoft is working on expanding their user experience guidelines for the next generation of Windows "Longhorn" with a concept called application archetypes.

The one-size-fits-all approach to the Windows user experience is becoming less useful. We're planning a new approach that recognizes a set of different models for "Longhorn" applications. We're calling these models archetypes, meaning "something that serves as the model or pattern for other things of the same type."

Interesting to see the different archetypes they've defined: Document editors, Database apps, Production/development environments, E-commerce, Information/reference, Entertainment apps, Viewer apps, and Utility applications. The most interesting part - the lines between the desktop and the web really seem to blur with some of these, and IAs and others with a web focus will need to embrace and extend to stay relevant.

As well as general guidelines, the team is working on a book of "user experience recipes" for different archetypes - taking design patterns and showing how they integrate together for a particular purpose. The recipes are heavily based on scenarios following a particular user through several tasks (I wonder if they have personas for each application archetype?) You can see the sample recipe for Database apps.

(on an interesting sidenote, check out the graph at the bottom of the article showing how people rated it. One for Widgetopia...)

37Signals boys have been busy - Book and new project management application

This is old, but news to me: 37Signals has released their book Defensive Design for the Web. Congratulations! While "contingency design" might be more accurate, the tie in to defensive driving will help communicate the topic to non-UX geeks.

On another 37Signals note, they've released Basecamp, a web based project management tool that is clean, simple, and effective without all the headaches of Sitespring (Macromedia's discontined foray into the space) or PHPCollab (open source Sitespring attempt). Well done.

IA Summit Redux - Bay Area and Online

For those of you in the Bay Area that couldn't make the Summit or missed sessions, there is a Summit recap happening this week, on Saturday, March 20th. IA Summit presenters from the Bay Area like Brett Lider, Jesse James Garrett, and John Zapolski will share their sessions again. Please RSVP to Peter Merholz: peter AT peterme DOT com.

For those of us not in the Bay Area, there are video clips from the Summit up online, thanks to the hard work of Bob Doyle. Check out the AIfIA CMS Workshop, the Poster presentations, and Jared Spool (evil RealPlayer required). Presenters' slide presentations are also making their way onto the Summit site (look for handout links by presenter names).

Personas & Scenarios in the wild

It's been interesting over the last 6 months to notice personas escaping from the design team out into marketing. Not surprising, since personas largely derive from marketing's user archetypes. Sightings: MSN Personas and IBM print ad (thanks Brett), and the more scenario-focused Macromedia Central Portraits and Vodafone's Future Vision. Vodafone's piece isn't just about marketing - it's scenarios in the sense of prototyping the future. Most of the scenarios involve technology that only exists now as concepts or clunky kludged prototypes, not the polished integration of wearable, mobile communications into everyday life depicted in their scenarios.

One of the challenges of personas being more publicly visible is that clients or other departments may start building up preconceived ideas about how personas work, what they should include, and how they should be used. The marketing scenarios and personas shown above are all valuable, but don't have the level of detail required to make decisions about behavior. I'm not sure how well George Olsen's Persona Toolkit would be accepted by folks who already have set expectations about the deliverable and its usefulnes.

Know of more public personas? Drop a line in the comments...

IA Summit blogging

The IA Summit has set up a group blog where all conference-goers will have posting access. For those blogging the conference on their own sites, you can trackback to http://www.iasummit.org/cgi-bin/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/1

Thanks Atomiq

IA Slam Workshop looks like a blast at Summit preconference

A hypothetical design project brings together small teams of IAs to share thoughts on process and deliverables as they come up with "big ideas" and specific solutions. The fictitious Company X, represented by the moderators, will get input from teams formed from workshop participants. It looks like a great break from the standard PowerPoint drill, and there will even be fabulous prizes...

Because it's shorter (2 hours) the IA Slam is also cheaper than other preconference activities...something to consider if you'll be in Austin on the 26th but don't have $575 for a full day.

The Commoditization of User Experience

Adaptive Path's Simple Solution series of reports is the first widespread commoditization of user experience practice...and it's worth thinking about what IAs and others should do in a world where $49 buys the fix to a common problem.

This week Adaptive Path launched their new reports. The star of the launch is a free report - Jesse's analysis of U.S. presidential candidate sites. Upcoming reports on Search, CMS, and ROI will make a profound impact in different circles.

But the reports that will have the biggest impact are the two small ones already available from the AP Simple Solutions series - Boutique Software Sites, and Registration & Login. For $49USD, you buy 5 or 8 pages with some explanation, site structure or flow, and wireframes. Forty-nine dollars buys you an IA solution based on design patterns, best practice, and AP's experience. How to integrate that solution or develop your own is something UX practitioners will need to face in the coming months.

Update:I should just add here that this is a good thing. Commodity comes from maturity, and our practice is growing up. There's plenty of other more worthwhile things to do than reinventing the basics of registration.

IA Summit 2004 - Austin, TX Feb. 27-29

The 2004 Information Architecture Summit is accepting online registration - early bird rates last until January 24th.

The program is coming together with outstanding speakers - it's hard to pick which sessions to go to.

The pre-conference workshops on the 27th offer a range of options too. For IAs involved in content management, AIFIA is sponsoring a workshop on errr... Content Management for IAs with a roomful of incredibly smart CM people who will share their insights - from the Content Management Bible's Bob Boiko to Managing Enterprise Content's Ann Rockley and lots of others.

7 myths of usability ROI

BayCHI presentation from Oracle's Daniel Rosenberg puts common ROI approaches through the wringer. The thing that stands out for me is that ROI calculations don't include any consideration of the end user - if the product costs more to own, but the company makes back its money faster, then ROI suggest that this is the right decision - even though long term sustainability might be compromised.

The scalability of findability - can IA move beyond web sites?

In the IA community we're fond of findability. It's a simple conceptual hook that lets business grok a key aspect of our work. However, findability also sets some arbitrary boundaries for the practice, and runs into challenges once we move beyond single web sites. Taxonomies and facets just don't scale across the web as a whole, and struggle to be globally relevant in cross-disciplinary enterprises like General Electric.

It makes most IAs cringe to think about automatic categorization tools. However, it's also the inevitable future of large scale findability efforts - no IA superhero can manage billion-document findability from traditional top-down or bottom-up approaches evolved to address site level issues.

Automated classification and semantic analysis is important for people who plan IA careers lasting into the next decade. We don't all need to become Autonomy drones, but it's worth keeping a finger on the pulse. One interesting project that is going to go commercial with Factiva is IBM's WebFountain. WebFountain is also different than many alternatives because the idea is to build a platform for findability - letting other people build modules that tailor the WebFountain base for particular uses. While most of us don't have to deal with enterprise architecture and beyond today, staying relevant in the future will require us to understand the issues at play. Rather than dismissing the advance of machine categorization and semantic analysis, we should be prepared to take advantage of new tools that further findability and ultimately the user experience.

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