13 November 2006

European Market Research Event – Day 1, afternoon

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European Market Research Event
During the afternoon sessions of the European Market Research Event, I attended presentations by Clive Grinyer of France Telecom Orange, Sarah Pearson of ACB/University of Sussex and Francesco Cara of Nokia. There is also a short write-up of a talk by Valérie Bauwens of Swisscom.

Clive Grinyer, France Telecom Orange

In his highly entertaining presentation, thought-provokingly called “lipstick on a pig”, Clive Grinyer reflected on the relation between usability and design.

Grinyer once worked with Jonathan Ive in a company called “Tangerine”. After some time at Samsung and the Design Council, he joined the legendary Orange mobile brand where he is the head of design and usability and develops user interfaces on handsets, mobile portals and web services, thus helping to create the next generation of communication services.

During his talk, Grinyer spent a lot of time reflecting on the perceived and actual role of design.

Design is more than just the work of a magician designer, a decorator or an innovative engineer. It is more than fashion or product design (with all respect for Jonathan Ive).

Design is really about creating a complete service experience, an approach which has been pioneered by Steve Jobs.

But quite often companies still have the tendency to put lipstick on a pig, to render something attractive that is underneath unattractive.

Grinyer in other words is upset by the superficiality of design and advocates a people-centred approach. People, he says, are old and young, have different values and different levels of comfort with technology. They are not just between 16 and 25.

Because many people have different views of what simplicity is, also designers do, and Grinyer provides us with some funny examples of ‘simple solutions’ designers have come up with.

He says that we often end up with a situation where:

  • Technology rarely works
  • Usability is poor and uncovered too late in the process to correct
  • Customer uptake is slow or doesn’t happen
  • Revenue is reduced
  • Customer experience is random and brand delivery is inconsistent
  • In short, technology rarely just works

Did you ever try to set up email on a phone?

Orange tries to design the full experience across many touchpoints.

To do that well, you need to find out who your customer really is, what they really do, what they want to do, and somebody needs to show them what is possible, what is next, and make them want to do it!

Companies and designers also need to be aware that customers always tell the truth, but not always the way you think.

Experimentation is therefore important, designers have to come up with more than one idea, and you have to test things with real people.

In the end, Grinyer says, design has both a scientific and emotional side. Usability and ergonomics provide the physical and cognitive knowledge but design also delivers attraction, delight, comfort, safety, enjoyment, pride, clarity, wow and awe.

Designers in other words need to design the full experience.

Download presentation (zipped PowerPoint, 6.2 mb, 64 slides)

Valérie Bauwens, Swisscom

Another excellent talk took place while Clive was speaking, so I could not attend it. It was by my Belgian compatriot Valérie Bauwens, who is a senior user researcher at Swisscom’s Customer Observatory and who works closely with Stefana Broadbent.

Valérie was kind enough to guide me briefly through her talk afterwards.

Swisscom’s User Adoption Lab has been looking specifically at how people use technology in their daily lives, by doing in-context interviews and observing people in their homes.

A key result of the research is that each communication tool is specialised in its use, depending on its functionalities.

Download presentation (pdf, 875 kb, 29 slides)

Sarah Pearson, ACB/University of Sussex

Sarah Pearson, who is a managing partner of ACB at the Sussex Innovation Centre of the University of Sussex, presented the results of an elaborate ethnographic study on “the impact of personal video recorders on television audience behaviour during commercial breaks using video ethnography”.

In short, PVR’s (which are TiVo-like devices) allow you to fast forward advertisements and are perceived to be a massive threat to the advertising model.

Research done in focus groups and in labs confirmed the perception of this threat.

During initial research Pearson found however that there was an amazing difference between what people perceive of the technology, and what people actually do.

Pearson today presented a more elaborate piece of ethnographic research, which was funded by a (very worried) consortium of Ofcom, Channel 4, Channel Five, iTV and Initiative.

The research wanted to go beyond claimed behaviour and to get a deeper understanding of people’s actual behaviours.

It turned out that there was a somewhat surprising tendency among the majority of participants to initially watch live TV and only revert to the PVR as a kind of back-up. Not surprisingly, of the 3480 opportunities to see adverts, 70% were live and only 30% were time-shifted. And only two-thirds of the time-shifted ones were actually skipped. So 80% of adverts were still viewed entirely, which means that PVR’s are not going to have such an impact as once feared.

I was hoping for some more insight on the fast-forwarding behaviour. It seemed to me that ads were browsed and skimmed like pages in a magazine and some of them merited more in-depth investigation. However, Pearson didn’t provide much insight into this, in part because of NDA restrictions.”

Download presentation summary (pdf, 20 kb, 2 pages)

Francesco Cara, Nokia

Francesco Cara, who is the director of Nokia Design, Insight and Innovation, provided the last talk I attended during the day.

Cara, who has a cognitive science background, provided a talk on organic innovation, where innovation is created in dialogue with the end-user, in an open, interactive way.

Nokia, argues Cara, advocates a human approach to technology, with a strong emphasis on dialogue. Fast prototyping and ethnography are crucial, with the latter assuming a strategic role.

Cara provided the case study example of Skype, which is a typical example of convergence, bringing together voice telephony, instant messaging and broadband access.

The ethnographic and contextual interview study, which took place in Germany and Brazil, explored who the Skype users really were and how they used the service.

Some of the learnings showed that Skype should not be seen as a replacement but as an additional that has a number of quite distinct features: such as openness (the channel remains open), targeted and intimate, low virality and enriched communication.

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