Design Thinking, what is core?

the-flower-of-design-thinkingCore to design thinking is prototyping & testing. If you browse around the web you find many aspects linked to design thinking, one more fancy than the other. But central to all; prototyping and testing.

The reason is clear; designers think differently then the rest of us (let’s say the engineer). What differentiates a designer from an engineer is that an engineer creates a solution to a carefully analysed and understood problem, whereas a designer creates many solutions as a means to understand the problem. For a designer, a prototype is a hypothesis. Well, that is how I see it.

The image shown aims to illustrate my view on Design Thinking.

It tries to bring across 3 main points:

  1. Core to design thinking is prototype and test, serving the design process, of which evaluation (learning) is a core element. It does not say anything about time to market (speed to get it out there) nor about the quality of the prototype. This is a skill in itself. Talk to a designer to get a feel for this.
  2. Contextual to design thinking are the many tools and methods that you can apply to get a better understanding of the problem space and help you to identify the solution space. These tools are not core, and often distract from what design thinking aims to achieve, which is to make ideas tangible to find out why they do not work (which is a different way of saying “do I understand the problem”). Some even go as far to say that design thinking by itself may not be enough anymore. For example, “In the era of Living Services, Fjord have created their own design system – Design Rule of 3 – which consists of design thinking, design doing and design culture.” Yes, I agree. The larger the (scope of the) project, the more difficult it is to understand the problem space, so you need to scale up on your exploration, and manage expectations concerning time to market.
  3. Basis of any design project, at least in my experience, is a business opportunity and/or a business model. Only in rare situations, a design project is performed completely outside any business context. For that reason, I place the business model canvas as a leave of the root of the flower.

OK, I admit. I just wanted to create a nice illustration and immediately came up with a flower, so I tried to fit Design Thinking to the idea that I had and make it work. I think it does, more or less. What do you think?


Street-value: the (perceived) value of products

Pricing – or the street-value – often is still cost based, Apple being one of the rare examples of companies who understands that the cost of production is not related to the amount of money people are willing to spend. Cost is what you invest to create value. Sales-price is the value created in the eye of your customers). (production) Cost and (sales) price are not related.

A few years back I had the privilege to work for a major fashion company at one of the product development sites, driving innovation and coordinating a small innovation team as a internal service provider. The director at the time recognized employees working in operation capacities had little time to look beyond the immediate product and production needs. He initiated the innovation team, with the task to bridge operations with academies and institutions where new ideas are born and developed. Remember, this was the early 2000s, way ahead of the innovation curve.

Naturally, I could not help but do a few small experiments. Just to check if I was wrong. As it turned out, I was not. Well, not in this case.

knitwear_iconObserving some of the product review meetings, what surprised me was the process of determining the price-tag; a multiple of the production cost. Pricing a product appeared to be mainly based on the raw material used, production costs; cost of goods, transport etc. Although these are important to consider since you do not want to sell at a loss, I wondered what they had to do with the sales price.

When Apple introduced a new gadget pro, I often was the first to spent whatever they were asking to have it. Production cost never entered the process, I did not care. The new gadget pro was beautiful, innovative and appealing and I just had to have it.

With some of the fashion products I had the same (with some shame I have to admit that I discovered a more than average interest in shoes). Knitwear was one of the products. Some sweaters just feel great, nice, comfortable. And some of these sweaters were priced very low, which I though was totally wrong.

The value of a product is in the eye of the customer. The customer judges the quality of a products, and – probably related – the value of the product. But they do this based on what they see and experience. This is very direct in the case of sweaters and other garments; customers value based on what they see and feel. Apple understand that in a good way, it is luxury – no dependency – and they manage to price their products at a level that people are willing to pay for it. The pharmaceutical industry also has understood this (see e.g. here), but maybe not in a good way as there may be life depending needs underlying the purchase intent. Nevertheless, they seem to target a pricing level they can get away with.

So, it the only thing that seems to count is the perceived value of products.

To evaluate this, I performed a small experiment. I would give a person a sweater and asked them to answer 3 simple questions (one a scale from one to five); do you like it, do you think it has quality and do you think it is expensive. For this experiment, I used twelve sweaters from the then current collection, randomly collected to cover the full range of price offerings. Participants were members of the companies, but not working in the knitwear area. Just to make sure they did not know or could not estimate the production costs. 7 persons participated.


A simple regression showed the relation between the 3 parameters (like, quality, cost). See images below. It suggests that people do not differentiate well between quality and expense, meaning, in the eye of the consumer, (perceived) quality and (expected) cost are the same. Most variation was found with like, suggesting subjects do know what they like, but that each person likes something different – as expected. More interestingly, like did not have a high correlation with quality. So, people seem to be able to recognize quality, even if they do not like it themselves personally.

expected price
Conclusions from this that the perceived quality is the main driver for the expected cost, and that both quality and expected expense appear independent from personal preference.

What does that mean for pricing? Yes, you should check cost of goods, but this basically just helps you to decide whether you should consider having the item in your catalogue/portfolio. It does not help to decide the price. To decide, just borrow the eyes of your customers and evaluate the (perceived) quality.


voice of the customer, helpful for innovation?

Is innovating supported by a user-community, or the voice of the customer useful? Yes. Absolutely! Although, no. Well, maybe. It depends. Basically, as always, it depends on what what kind of innovation you are pursuing. In this post I try map my experience with community supported development/innovation on the well-known “Innovation Management Matrix“, to indicate in what situation you will make most out of the community.

What is the Innovation Management Matrix? This is a marketing 1-to-1 on innovation management. Vertically, we plot extend in which the problem is defined (ranging from not, to well) and horizontally we plot how well the domain is defined (also from not to well). Greg Satell in Forbes gives a good overview.  He starts from two basic questions “How well is the problem defined?” (for example, Steve Jobs defined the problem for the iPod as “1000 songs in my pocket.”) and “Who is best placed to solve it?” (or what is critical for solving the problem) to arrive at the Innovation Management Matrix, as shown below.



So where are you in this matrix? Or where will you be with your project? Of course, in hind-sight, it is always easy to draw a straight line from problem to solution. Looking back, the road always was clear. Going forward, unless you work with a great visionary like Steve Jobs, the road might look a bit hazy. foggy, unclear, or even non-existing. And even if you do know where you are, then what? If I know I am disrupting the business, how does this help to make my innovation successful?

Allow me to side-jump for a moment and talk about on-line user-communities. A user-community to sound ideas is gaining popularity. “Sophisticated online crowdsourcing platforms are making it ever simpler to manage and support distributed workers. In essence, the crowd has become a fixed institution available on demand.” Advantages are clear; you can actually ask your users what the think. Better, you can ask what they think while you are working on your project. Not completely real-time, but close enough. This speeds up the process tremendously. Raving forward at virtually light speed towards the light of innovation is the kind of image you should be imagining now. The ‘only’ challenge is to create a community, which is time and resource intensive. But once you have established a community, you can just ‘throw in’ ideas and see what sticks. Well, sort of.

Personally, I had very good experiences working with STREAM-Research (offered by ATOM-Design), to create a user-community to support the UBS WM innovation team in understanding customer needs and driving one of their innovation projects forward.

Preparing a presentation on the success of the project, I came to the conclusion that “The Innovation Management Matrix” depicts the solution space, but not really helps to define a strategy on how to get there. However, placing this matrix in the context of user-community supported innovation, the options for each of the cells of the matrix become clear. See the image below.



Let me run you through the cells.

Problem space defined, but domain not defined. Basically you are transferring knowledge from a master domain to child domain. This situation occurs when for example, a product that is a huge success in on country is planned to being introduced in a different one, or when one business model (e.g.  ‘Uber’) model and validating whether it would work for the room rental business (couch surfing).  The strategy that might work best here is to run through a sequence of user-stories (as known from the mother domain) and see which applies or what problems you encounter.

Problem space is defined, and domain is defined. This is your incremental innovation. A user community might be an over-kill here, or at best to validate acceptance of changes and improvements. Still a valid use-case for community based innovation, but maybe not the most exciting one, or the best use of resources. Also, risk here is that the project slide off into either disruptive innovation or break through innovation, simply because of all the insights obtained through the community.

Problem space not defined, but the domain is defined. This is the basis for disruptive innovation, and a user community may be instrumental for finding-out undiscovered user needs and wishes. This situation occurs when for example new technologies or new approaches challenge the common way of doing things.

Neither the problem space nor the domain are defined. So, this basically is phishing. No need to consult a community here.

In sum. Innovating using a client community usefull? Absolutely. From my experience, taking the innovation management matrix as reference, there are two situations in which community based innovation are especially effective; the more straight forward transitioning from one domain to the other (Problem is understood, but the (new) domain is not) and, more challenging, using the community to gain insights and validate hypotheses (the domain is understood but the problem is not). Incremental innovation and more basic research seem less likely scenarios for which to apply community based innovation.

Stickiness template – Creating products/services for which users return

what adds stickiness to the value proposition?

The stickiness template adding to the Business Model Canvas to help add stickiness to services and products being defined

Why do customers come back? What creates the stickiness of products or services? Why are Apps sticky? Why do customers continue to use certain service while abandoning others? How do you make something sticky? It seems to me that the service or product needs to be ‘of value to the person’. Ok, a no-brainer. I know. But why then, if this is a no-brainer, is it so difficult to create products that are of value to people? Maybe not a no-brainer after-all?

In this post we introduce a template that helps to understand the aspects of the service that will create stickiness , which in turn may help to design products that have this stickiness property we crave for to ensure continuity of business. More insights may be obtained if we split the ‘of value to the person’ in two factors; value and personal.

What is valuable? Valuable can be insights or simply monetary value. Information about how the current status of investment markets is valuable to a trader, and he probably is willing to pays for getting that information early, or better, for getting the information about the investment markets that impact the trader’s current investment portfolio early. Valuable is also simply the price-tag. If a magazine subscription costs X, and by becoming member of a certain club will give me 50% discount, then that club become valuable by the amount of 50% of X.

What is personal? Some skin in the game makes it personal. The more I share, the more whatever it is becomes an extension of myself, ergo personal. By definition what I as a person produce is personal. It comes from me. It is the result of my, my interests, my experiences, my reflection on the world. Companies like Amazon utilize this by profiling clients, to make suggestions fitting your interests. You can even take it a step further, as Douglas Adams pointed out back in 1999 in his column “Build It and We Will Come”. “And on the basis of another – not entirely disinterested – suggestion of mine they [Amazon] are going to start a running poll on which books people would most like to see turned into movies. This is information that no one has ever been able to collect before.” And we happily tell what we are interested in, if that helps to make it easier to find what we are looking for.

In other studies both there may be referred to product meaningfulness and product superiority. Product meaningfulness concerns the benefits that users receive from buying and using a new product, whereas product superiority captures the extent to which a new product outperforms competing products (Rijsdijk, Langerak, and Jan, 2011, as referred to by Robert G. Cooper)

If you put the two parameters, valuable and personal, in a simple marketing 1-on-1, you get the following ‘stickiness-template’, that may help helps you to decide how to make your product or service more sticky.

The stickiness template goes a step further than the business model canvas and the value proposition canvas. The business model canvas is an excellent tool to explore new business opportunities or – when altering an existing – the impact of possible changes. This helps you to define a business that is sustainable. The value proposition canvas focusses on service design and aims to link the customer needs and wishes (positive and negative) to the service/product offering. This helps you to design products and services that customers need and want. With the stickiness template I try to zoom in to what customers want again, what makes customers come back.

Building on this previous post, where i looked at the user journey of a WM Client Advisor and evaluated opportunities for digital and print channels. Specifically, I tried to check what the digital and print channels would be competing with, at each step of the user journey. That, I think, is a powerful approach; evaluating not only the opportunity/possibility, but also the risk, in the sense of what else is competing for attention. The updated template has boxes where you can list the competitor for attention.

UBS house viewThis template has been the result of my work at, Here is one of the examples. The UBS CIO MyHouseView tool  I will use the example of the UBS CIO Year Ahead and the CIO House View tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the template. At the end of each the year, the UBS publishes an outlook on market developments and onto the new year. This is the CIO House View Year Ahead publication. Other WM service providers have similar publications.

As part of last year’s CIO House View Year Ahead publication, we took part in conceptualizing and implementing a tool to offer curated content based on which visitors could browse the content in the light of their portfolio, i.e. content that is maximally relevant. The goal was that visitors would not just read the CIO Year Ahead content, but that they would be presented with content that was of special interest for them. To achieve this, the visitor was invited to indicate their portfolio structure (percentage bonds, equities etc). Based on the entered portfolio, the tool would show relevant content. You could then proceed and print out your personal version of the CIO Year Ahead publication, including the for your relevant content.

The images below show the sequence. Alternatively, you can try the tool here.

As far as we could tell, the tool was a success. It was well received by the Client Advisors, frequently visited and many visitors printed their version of the publication.

whiteboardUsage of the tool dropped after january, and thereafter basically laid idle. What was wrong? Why was the tool not ‘sticky’? Why did visitors not return, or why didn’t it attract new visitors. So we worked on a stickiness-template on the whiteboard to look at the tool, to find its weak points. Are there any?

There were not may points to ensure stickiness’ therefore the template is quite empty. But it was not bad. considering we did not consider this in detail when designing and building the tool.

Entering the portfolio information is clearly putting some ‘skin into the game’, and to our knowledge there is no other tool that offers something remotely similar. A missed opportunity here is the possibility to comment on the articles for other visitors to read.

Curated content, portfolio based, also clearly is adds to the stickiness. For this, there are alternatives. For one, the visitor, if a client of the UBS, can simply call his or her wealth management advisor. Alternatively, editorial reviews in financial newspapers and/or services like Bloomberg could also provide similar information although maybe not curated to the visitor’s portfolio.


So, if there are stickiness factors in place, why was the tool not sticky? As mentioned, as far as we could tell, the traction was good for a month of two, but the quickly dropped. The answer appeared painfully simple; no new content. The content was not updated. Originally intended, but never executed, the content remained unchanged. The project as over taken on the inside lane by other activities, reducing the long term vision to a single shot effort. This means that after a few visits, you probably have read most interesting to read. Moreover, coming february, the content written a few months before, would be largely outdated, virtually removing all incentives to ever return. It will take another 100 years before the content may be interesting again, for historic reasons.

The update frequency, is not captured by the template. Update frequency of curated content nor the expected return frequency; both important if trying to maximize the stickiness factor. So these were added to the template.




  • Rijsdijk, S.A., Langerak, F., & Jan, E. (2011). Understanding a two-sided coin: Antecedents and consequences of a decomposed product advantage. (2011). Journal of Product Innovation Management 28(1): 33–47
  • Cooper, R.G., (2013) New products – what separates the winners from the losers and what drives success. The PDMA Handbook of New Product Development. K.B. Kahn, Ed. 3rd edition.  pp. 3-32 .

Digital transformation: Competing for attention

Digital technologies are forcing companies to transform. Digital transformation is not an easy topic and possibly disrupting the complete value chain of most businesses faster than we think. Brian Solis gives some insights in what to consider when taking on ‘Digital Transformation’.

A key tool to manage this process is user journey mapping (see e.g. here, or see here for more basic information about user journey mapping). This is true for any transformation, but especially digital transformation because of the sheer amount of content flowing towards us through our digital devices and competing for our attention. Yes, there are the 5 ‘W’s to help you understand digital transformation from a business point of view. But if the user is simply being entertained, persuaded, lured, do you know what you are competing with at the level of attention?

Remember OurDigitalDayOur digital day (see on the right)? I though was a funny, bit sarcastic user-journey of us in today’s digital life, showing how we are connected throughout the day. Actually, how we are only connected digitally and maybe ignore the physical world around us. But this overview was just generic, maybe a bit sarcastic and for sure self-reflective. But generic. I also was trying to make a point, namely that although we are connected throughout the day, we are not always connected using the same channel, or using the same device. This means, that when you are defining your digital transformation strategy, you have to map out what you will push through which channel.

I like to take it one small step further, looking at a specific user journey, and map-out the channels and opportunities for using those channels. What it boiled down to, is mapping out the channels and the attractors you are competing with at specific points of the user journey.

The user journey I looked at was one of the Wealth Manager Client Advisor. Over the past years I have been consulting in FinTech, helping traditional financial institutions to move the communication towards the clients on digital platforms. In most cases it has been a discussion mainly about technical implementation; “how to implement“. Much more relevant, but also a much more difficult discussion, is “what to implement“. With what implementation do we actually reach our clients. As Our digital day indicates, clients are fluent in reaching content through whatever device, therefore any offering must be platform agnostic. But in the journey towards covering all channels in this multi channel platform agnostic day and age, where do you start, and how do you get there.

In this user journey below, the ‘user’ is the Wealth Manager Client Advisor. The purpose of the journey is to support digital transformation; how to move printed information onto a digital platform. When does it make sense, and what platform/channel should it be moved on.

DDWMCA_1 Morning wake-up. The CA checks his phone for messages and important news. Printed material does not enter the scene here.

Entering this space competes with social contacts, the shower and a first cup of coffee.

Breakfast. If not talking to loved ones or being distracted by pets, the CA may be browsing information, trying to find out what happened the night before, chatting checking out social media etc.

Entering this space competes with actual news, social media, personal discussions, walking the dog and a good espresso.

DDWMCA_1 Commuting into the office, by bus, train or street car. Maybe by bike? Depends a bit on distance of travel and means of travel. Standing on the streetcar will limit the CA’s possibilities to swiping.

Entering this space competes with whatever is entertaining and easy to consumer (i.e. little interaction needed, minimal attention needed) such as for example reading (can also be print), watching a movie, playing a game, etc.

DDWMCA_1 In the office.

Entering this space competes with work. This can be a digital channel or printed materials.

DDWMCA_1 Client meeting. Somewhere in a bar or restaurant, maybe outside in the sun, or in the office.

This space can be occupied by printed media or by digital channels (e.g. using an iPad). The advantage of printed material is that the client probably much better remembers the discussion. The challenge with digital channels is to add to the discussion (simulate, support) and not interrupt (movie, animation).

DDWMCA_1 Comitting back home, by bus, train or street car. Maybe by bike? Depends a bit on distance of travel and means of travel. Standing on the streetcar will limit the CA’s possibilities to swiping.

Entering this space competes with whatever is entertaining and easy to consumer (i.e. little interaction needed, minimal attention needed) such as for example reading (can also be print), watching a movie, playing a game, etc.

DDWMCA_1 Coming home.

Entering this space competes with post (invoices) family, social events, dinner, a cold beer and maybe a dog. Little space for digital channels, but print – provided recognizable within the post – might have a chance.

DDWMCA_1 In the evening. Relaxing at home.

Entering this space competes with social events, actual events (e.g. European Soccer Championship etc.). Print, if it manages to enter this space, has the advantage that the reader will always check the next page for something interesting. The same is true with digital channels, but the next page can be a completely different web-site.

DDWMCA_1 Going to bed

Competing with a good book, social media, just sleeping, or all other opportunities a dark bedroom offers. Print or digital, make it interesting.

CompetingForAttentionIn sum, when creating a user or customer journey, when looking for the most opportune channels to support the digital transformation, interesting to consider is what you are competing with in terms of user attention . This spans beyond the device or channel you are considering. I mean, during breakfast you are actually competing with a nice espresso and with the dog wanting to go for a walk. How would you do that? How would you shape your digital channel such that the dog has to wait two more minutes? When would you offer print material so that it does not end-up on the big pile (or how do you make sure it is the first thing the client pulls from the pile)? Ideas?

Broadband: how wide should the pipe be?

Broadband, digitisation, digital transformation, big data, it has been a long process, mainly driven by technical innovation. Still. Back in the day, in 2001 working for The Fantastic Corporation, I wrote this Spoof article on digital fascination and how it is driving business descisions. Well, in all honesty, I did not know it then, my focus was on using the scientific method as a tool (which it just is), so the article was meant to illustrate how a fool with a tool remains a fool (you can freely exchange tool for ‘new technology’ or ‘technology focus’, or….). Anyhow, here it is. Enjoy.

Broadband: how wide should the pipe be?

Investigating end-user constraints on big-data accessibility

Broadband, the next generation Internet is at our doorstep. Technical advances have created fast connections, so called pipes, with even the most remote location possible. Anywhere, you will have the information highway at your fingertips. But what will this new technology bring us? Will it improve the end-user experience? This paper describes an experiment investigating the influence technical aspects of broadband such as pipe dimensions on the end-user experience.


Broadband is maturing from an experimental stage and becoming within reach of every consumer. Fibre technology is dominating the market, allowing for data delivery with near speed of light. Over the last years network operators have invested a lot in high- speed glass-fibre technology, even more than there is demand for. As a consequence the prices for high-speed connections have dropped and have become affordable for every consumer [1]. Broadband is truly getting out of the labs and into the market place. The type of connection determines the speed in which you can send and receive data. The connection is commonly referred to as ‘pipe’. In particular, the dimension of the pipe determines the amount of data you have access to per time interval. There are two factors of the pipe influencing the transmission rate (see Figure 1), its lengths and its diameter.

Figure 1: an illustration of the factors pipe length and pipe width. Either a shorter pipe or a large diameter reduces transmission time. Length T results in larger transmission times. Pipe width D, due to the possibility of parallel transmission, results in reduced transmission times.

Figure 1: an illustration of the factors pipe length and pipe width. Either a shorter pipe or a large diameter reduces transmission time. Length T results in larger transmission times. Pipe width D, due to the possibility of parallel transmission, results in reduced transmission times.

The length of the pipe influences the access speed. The longer the distance, the more time it takes to receive or distribute data. Already running at the speed of light, the distance may be the least important factor. The diameter of the pipe also influences the access speed. A large diameter allows for parallel transmission of data, increasing the amounts of data per time unit received, whereas a small diameter allows for mostly sequential data transmission. Obviously, compared to parallel transmission the sequential data transmission results in a lower connection.

The end-user experience

The influence of the pipe dimensions on the end-user experience is still unknown. Not surprisingly, technical advances are driving the broadband market, ignoring the importance of information about the end-user experience. Contrary to technical aspects, the consequence for the end-user experience of these parameters never has been investigated. However, unless end-users experience benefits from technical advantages, all investments in these systems may be in vain. Reports from the market, such as [1], suggests the need for an alternative approach: using the end-user needs as basis for broadband rollout and development. This means answering questions like ‘What is the influence of the width?’, and ‘What is the effect of pipe length on the consumption of a so- called ‘compelling’ site?’ ‘Does the amount of joy the end-user experiences depend on the speed with which the data is consumed?’ This paper aims to systematically investigate and by doing so give insight into the effect of pipe dimensions on the end-user experience.

Experimental set-up

This paragraph describes the prototypes used and the experimental set-up and the task the users had to perform.

Figure 2: The largest (left, 80% percentile) and smallest (right, 20% percentile) of pipes normally available in the environment of consumers. These dimensions were used for the prototypes.

Figure 2: The largest (left, 80% percentile) and smallest (right, 20% percentile) of pipes normally available in the environment of consumers. These dimensions were used for the prototypes.

Apparatus used

As the focus for broadband is the consumer market, the sizes of pipes used for the experiment reflect those that commonly are available for house appliances. Figure 2 shows the two extremes (taken are the 20 percentile and 80 percentile of dimensions found). A prototype to control the information pick-up by end users was constructed. This prototype will be referred to as ‘GLobal Information SenSitive Experience transducerS (from here on referred to as GLASSES-TM). Figure 3 shows the prototypes used during the experiment. Various versions of the GLASSES-TM were created, to match the experimental conditions.

Figure 3: The four prototypes of the GLASSESTM, developed for the conditions of the experiment. Each prototype matches a specific combination of pipe width and pipe length.

Figure 3: The four prototypes of the GLASSESTM, developed for the conditions of the experiment. Each prototype matches a specific combination of pipe width and pipe length.

Experimental conditions

Table 1 shows the prototypes and the experimental condition for which it was used.


Subjects were presented twelve different tasks, and asked to grade the page on a seven point scale running from highly interesting to extremely dull. Subjects were given as much time as they considered required.

Dependent and independent parameters

As stimuli a twelve web pages were selected ranging from full multi-media experience to a page with text only. The stimuli were presented in random order. Six subjects participated in the experiment. All subjects were member of the Fantastic Corporation R&D department. After making participation to the experiment part of their MBO1, subjects were found to participate willingly and voluntarily. An aside, using the MBO to motivate the participation in such experiments might be the only useful application for the still controversial MBO [2]. Stimuli and conditions were randomised for each subject. Measured were the grading of the web pages and the amount of time used viewing the page.

Table 1: An overview of the experimental conditions and the GLASSES-TM’s used for each of the four conditions.

Table 1: An overview of the experimental conditions and the GLASSES-TM’s used for each of the four conditions.


This section gives the results of the experiment. Given the novelty of the broadband media, the data was recorded using Reverse Engineering techniques2 and analysed using Bistromatcis3 [3, 4].

Interaction: grading and pipe dimensions

Figure 4: results of the grading of web pages for the pages with multimedia content (left) and for the text only pages (right)

Figure 4: results of the grading of web pages for the pages with multimedia content (left) and for the text only pages (right)

Pipe dimensions were found to have most effect with multimedia content (see Figure 4). For text only pages only a small effect was found if the differences between conditions are extreme (a small and long pipe verses a short and wide one). For the grading of the pages, the best condition was found to be a short and wide pipe.

Conclusions and further research

For multimedia applications the dimensions of the pipe preferably is short and wide. For non-multimedia applications the benefits of a short but wide pipe are less clear.
During the experiment it was noticed that with narrow pipes end-users start to compensate the reduced information flow by active exploration, by making head- movements. It is known that information pick-up closely relates to possibilities of action [5]. Based on our observation it is believed that there is room for improving network and web technology by linking the behaviour of the user to the data transport. Further research will focus on how active exploration of the end-user can compensate for the dimensions of the pipe.
Also, additional applications of GLASSESTM are being developed. Especially promising are preliminary experiments conducted with additional filters GLASSESTM with a short but wide pipe. Depending on the end-user, the same information has to be presented in a different format to enhance it application and consumption. For the creation of these filters an Extremely clear yet Motionless Liquid (referred to as XML) was found, and successfully applied. Figure 5 – left shows a first prototype using a short and wide pipe encapsulating such a filter.
Further investigations will also focus on data filtering by using semi transparent reception, the so-called Partially OccLuding trAnsmission pROtocolair Information Device (also known as POLAROIDTM, see Figure 5 – right). However, as the results of the experiment show, to reduce data access, one could also use a longer and/or narrower pipe.

Figure 5: Two examples of possible applications of GLASSESTM. Left, a subject wearing a preliminary prototype incorporating a personalized XML filter for optimal information pick-up and right, subject wearing a prototype incorporating POLAROIDTM based semi transparent filtering techniques.

Figure 5: Two examples of possible applications of GLASSESTM. Left, a subject wearing a preliminary prototype incorporating a personalized XML filter for optimal information pick-up and right, subject wearing a prototype incorporating POLAROIDTM based semi transparent filtering techniques.

In sum, despite its slow roll-out [e.g. 1] broadband shows potential, and may have an extremely interesting and promising future, provided technical constraints are investigated and developed taking into consideration end- user needs and constraints.


[1] Karlin Lillington (2001) A ninety billion dollar mistake In: The Guardian. August 23, 2001
[2] Milkovich, G.T. & Wigdor, A.K. (1992) Pay for performance, National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC.
[3] D. N. Adams. (1982) Life, the Universe and Everything. Pan Books
[4] D. N. Adams (1986) Mostly harmless (the fifth part of the hitch hiker’s guide trilogy). Pan Books
[5] Gibson, J.J. (1979) An ecological approach to visual perception. Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, London. [Reprinted in 1986].

You can download the original paper here

Digital transformation, more than putting stuff online

It was a going to be a hot day. The föhn was blowing over the Alps. A warm strong northern wind, making Ticino the south of Switzerland, warm and humid. The air would soon be so heavy, you could peal if of like paint of the station’s wall. It is said the föhn makes people go crazy, even more than usual, and I was happy to be on the train north, into the moderate temperature and into the territory of the rational sane people. Well, so they say.

I was on my way to meet with Konsti, one of the guys from the bank’s innovation team. He called me to help on digital transformation. They realised that digital transformation is more than putting stuff online. A no-brainer; it is not just making stuff available digitally, even if this often still is the approach taken.

One of the problems wit digital transformation at banks is that often they are so far behind, those who are working on it believe they can catch-up simply on common sense. Luckily Konsti had a bit more than the average common sense. A lot more.

Digital transformation?
The last couple of years I have been involved in projects at a major Swiss Bank, in the wealth management area, on projects aiming to make market analytics and investment insights available digitally.

We are trained to ignore information, or to put it positively, we focus on what interests us and what we like. Well, depending on how the information is presented to us. If your client advisor gives you a document, you will glance over it, at least. A mail from a central mail address – even if it is from your Wealth Management service provider? Maybe. A notification from an wealth management app, well, yes, buy only if the content on the app is crisp and clear, otherwise it will only invite to turn off the notifications or – worse – to delete the app. We ignore most information thrown at us, and concentrate only on that what interest us, or excites us, or that we are forced to do (yes, it is tax-declaration-time again….).

No, digital transformation is not just converting the document into a PDF and sending it by mail, or posting it on the website for clients to download. But it is also not enough to reformat, e.g. put the text as is on a blog or website like this (I need to follow my own advise/insights…)

When I pick up a book to read, I find a nice seat, decent light, probably my glasses, maybe a cup of tea, and off I go. Point is that I am investing time in preparing for it, preparing myself for it. I will give the book or article a chance, give it a try. If I go and sit down to read some investors information I got from a client advisor, I will give it more than a glance, look for something interesting. This is completely different reading content on-line. Preparation is virtually zero. Pages come and go. If it does not grasp me, I am gone. My (average user) famous 8 seconds attention span.

This means that for digital transformation not only the channel of distribution is important, but also the way you address your readers.

Tools such as the business model canvas, and the value proposition canvas are extremely helpful in understanding how the ecosystem changes moving from traditional print distribution to digital channels. These help you to understand how the business model changes, and map out the customer needs and what value to provide to address that.

But to understand the needs of the customer, you will have to talk to clients and/or customers. In wealth management not always easy.

Over the past months we used the stream services to create an on-line community – The Exxchange – to evaluate under what conditions research information becomes interesting. Through a sequence of activities, such as discussions, surveys and chats etc, we explored how affluent clients deal with wealth management information via on-line channels. This confirmed our understanding of the business model and how this changed. Moreover, it gave insights into what is important for users when reading on-line; what is the information they look for when they ‘scan’. During this scanning, you have to grasp their attention, to give them a reason to continue reading.

Three main learnings relevant for digital transformation in Wealth Management information raised to the surface;

  •  an easy recognisable topic  (people look for what they know). This does not mean content has to recognisable in terms of logos and names, but it helps to invest in a constrained and concise visual/verbal language, so that within the given channel users feel familiarity and can build on previous experiences.
  • when dealing with investment opportunities make it easy to recognize what are the risks/opportunities, especially using graphics and charts. Remember you have 8 seconds; at a first glance the opportunity and risk has to be recognisable. Maybe not in full detail, but detailed enough to look further.
  • give it exclusivity; the information must be something they cannot find somewhere else. In case of wealth management information, something like speed to the market, or profound and well articulated easy to digest insights.

Main learning for digital transformation is that in the process of digitising information, moving from a traditional print approach to on-line channels, it is good to work with tools such as the business model canvas, and the value proposition canvas, but it is not enough. To attract readers in the fast moving digital/online world, you need to understand the customer in their behaviour and in what triggers their interest. Talk to them.

Effective use of prototypes

A prototype is an early sample or model built to test a concept or process or to act as an object to be replicated or learned from. This can refer to hardware (i.e. tangible items), but also to software models or simulations. An excel sheet with model of how a business may develop is also a ‘prototype’. A prototype is anything that is designed specifically to test and validate a new design.

RierveldConnectionThe main reason for prototyping is to give you the ‘oh-I-should-have’ feedback. This is feedback you would like to have before you have the final version of what it is you are building or constructing. For example the figure on the right, let’s say you are building a chair and you are trying a classical connection method using dowels. If I would have created and tested a prototype, I would have realized that the diameter of the dowel is critically important and should not be selected too small. I now have in our living room a chair that is almost perfect, and a constant reminder of the ‘oh-I-should-have’-importance of prototypes.

As the purpose of a prototype is testing, a prototype is not defined by its quality, i.e. the material used, the precision of manufacturing, the choice of color, the finishing applied etc, provided it serves the purpose of testing. Clearly, the material and manufacturing quality used must be selected based on the purpose of the prototype. For example, if you want to test the maximal load balance of a bridge you will not build a bridge from paper, although a paper version of the bridge would be sufficient to evaluate the aesthetic properties.

prototypes_when to applyThe matrix on the left shows the generally accepted guidelines on situations in which prototypes are more likely or more appropriate. Basically, this depends on the risk of the final product as well as the cost of producing a prototype. The higher the risk, the more likely the design process is supported by prototypes, while higher costs inversely relate to the likeliness of using prototypes throughout the development process.

Types of prototypes are typically split into horizontal and vertical prototypes. A horizontal prototype is one that covers the product or process from start to finish. Typical examples of horizontal prototypes are fire-frames. The purpose of horizontal prototypes is clarify requirements and to validate the scope. Vertical prototypes, however, focus on a specific aspect of the product and make a working version. The purpose of a vertical prototype is a (technical) proof of concept; to show the design will function under realistic load and use.


Prototype quality

The quality of the prototype (e.g. finishing, precision, care of creation) often is taken as proxy for the quality of the thinking leading to the prototype. Although those who have built prototypes know this is not necessarily related, but still motivates you to build a presentable prototype for every stage of the development process. However, this sometimes undermines the effectiveness of your prototype as means of testing and validating. Test subjects’ reaction and feedback often depends on the quality of the prototype. They may react differently to a sketch compared to a perfect rendering. With a beautiful rendering you may find them hesitating to even touch or point, while with a sketch they will be immediately look for their pen, even while talking to you. Depending on the phase of development and the characteristics of the product you are testing, you have to balance quality and finishing to optimize feedback.



I experienced this difference when I was called in to help evaluate a new software prototype. The development team told me they had produced a prototype, which they had evaluated with a few end-users. The feedback collected up to that point was very poor at best. To the users, everything seemed good and perfect. Too good and perfect, which contrasted with the feeling within the team. I participated in one of the evaluation meetings and verified that the end-user had little or no comments about the prototype. Except maybe for the position of the logo and the colors used, all seemed perfect. I am exaggerating a bit, but software, and especially software prototypes, are difficult to prototype for two key reasons. First, it is easy to make a software prototype appear like a finished product. With some artistic skill, basic web technology or even using a simple presentation tool, you can create a prototype running on your iPhone, which you can make to look like a finished App. The prototype from the example here is shown above. It shows two screens, one of which is the prototype (after two weeks of hacking) whereas the other is the real application, which took at least another 6 months to complete. I do not recall anymore which one was which, and at the time the state of development was also not clear to the end-users who were asked for feedback. With prototypes like this it is difficult to understand the state of development. This is less likely to occur with physical products. Take for example the images below, of the 1963 Citroen Ami6. Nobody will have difficulties understanding which is a prototype.


Just out of curiosity, I created a new prototype (right); obviously hand-drawn, and went back to a few of the end-users. This prototype, although in terms of structure was a copy of the previous version, it was more clearly in its initial stages of development. By presenting itself for what it was; a first sketch, this prototype invited a completely different type of feedback and discussion. Subjects revealed more flaws and eagerly looked for a pen to make corrections, resulting in a list of issues for the development team to chew on. This is exactly the purpose of prototypes; to invite examination and criticism. paperprototyp_smallAt the early stages of development a prototype that shows the stage of development, like the sketch in the example, is often more suitable to invite feedback compared to a more polished looking prototype, which may make users reluctant to criticize. Or worse, they may leave with the impression that the product is almost finished. Another risk of polished looking software prototypes is illustrated by the case of member of the marketing team testing a prototype and then one week later informing us that he already had a potential customer, and inquiring about release dates.

Prototypes help to ‘ground’ the discussion, to align different views and expectations. This is true not only for discussions with the client, but also between members of the design team, helping to facilitate work across disciplinary borders. A prototype cannot be disputed as a written description can. In this way, prototypes help to get a formal approval at each stage of the process.

A business view on UX?

User Experience or UX is ‘the next big thing’ (here, here, or here). Actually, it was the next big thing last year, and should be happening now. But more than one year into the next big thing, and where are we now with UX?

[pullquote]“User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” – Don Norman [/pullquote]By the way, UX was not invented one year’ ago, but several. The term was first coined by Don Norman, from the Nielsen Norman Group Design Consultancy, who declared that “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”

Also, UX originally was defined much wider and much more user oriented compered to what currently seems to be the accepted scope and target. At the moment, UX seems directly linked to interactive products. For example, Smashing Magazine declares UX as: User experience (abbreviated as UX) is how a person feels when interfacing with a system. Also, UX appears to have shifted to the designer’s point of view, i.e. how to create User Experience, uxdesign defines User Experience Design “to refer to the judicious application of certain user-centered design practices, a highly contextual design mentality, and use of certain methods and techniques that are applied through process management to produce cohesive, predictable, and desirable effects in a specific person, or persona (archetype comprised of target audience habits and characteristics). All so that the affects produced meet the user’s own goals and measures of success and enjoyment, as well as the objectives of the providing organisation.” And here, again, more from a designer’s point of view, defines User experience (UX) as having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations. The accompanying model shows (design) tools relevant when
[pullquote]Donald Morman’s original definition of UX actually was quite good. Why not stick to that?[/pullquote]
Let me add to the confusion. Or maybe try to remove it a bit. My interest is in framing it a bit more holistic, actually, trying to argue that Donald Morman’s original definition of UX actually was quite good. Why not stick to that?

Take this example a few years ago from Optimizely. It has changed in the mean time. With the platinum plan, you get the CEO’s private phone number. That makes me smile. Smile is good.



Or this example, the key-card holder from hotel Geroldswil. Again a ‘boss’ thingy. This was a card with house rules accompanying the hotel key-card. They show humour. For example ‘The housekeeping lady gets very upset if you smoke in your room’ and ‘..need to rent a police car or just talk to someone, talk to the boss of the hotel’. Again, a grin, a faint smile even, something I remember and share. If only the shower wasn’t so terrible, I would definitely would try the hotel again, just because of that description.

Hotel Key Card - House rules


Point is the UX actually covers more than interactive media. UX covers all aspects where the user or client gets in contact with the company.

Apple – naturally – has understood this very well, and took their brand and design thinking to retail when creating their Apple stores and in the process reinvented the use of glass in architecture and the glass industry as a whole. Good read; Apple by CLOG, explaining how apple’s flagship stores drives retail design, and in the process revised the glass industry.[pullquote]Apple by CLOG, explaining how apple’s flagship stores drives retail design, and in the process revised the glass industry.[/pullquote]

To what extend a company’s brand or corporate identify differs from the user experience you might ask? Are the mirrors? Since experience refers to ‘an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone.’ and since ‘a brand‘ is a distinguishing symbol, mark, logo, name, word, sentence or a combination of these items that companies use to distinguish their product from others in the market [i.e. recognisable to the individual user] it follows that any impression perceived by the user as distinguishable or unique, contributes to the brand or corporate identity. UX seems to be at minimum to be part of the Brand.

UX goes beyond the product or artefact, and also is impacted by the people whom the user is in contact with (human resources) and by the content that is the user is exposed to. I tried to summarise it in the following overview [download here]



The UX is influenced by any one of these elements, or any of its combinations.

As individual elements,

  • Content; Any content you produce adds to the user experience. This can be carefully designed brochures, but also quick;y drafted emails and notes. Take the examples mentioned before. Even the pricing schema adds.
  • Artefacts; artefacts such as applications and interactive media are becoming the first contact with a user or client, and form the basis. A hundred years ago, the first contact with a company may have been the sales person or representative. Now it is the App logo in the App store.
  • Human Resources; slowly becoming indirectly important, moving from the first line of contact to the second line as more and more applications are taking over the first contact a client or user has with a company. Still, it is not to be underestimated; products are still made by people


  • Content and Human Resources come together in any situation were there is a client contact without support by an artefact, like for example the front office.
  • Content and Artefacts come together in the non-human controlled channels, like web-sites (Web1.0), apps and print work such as brochures.
  • Human Resources and Artefacts come together whenever a client meeting is about an artefact, such as the support desk.

And all combined occurs in situations where artefacts, content and people come together in harmony to meet with a user, such as sales meetings, sales presentations etc.

Knowing UX covers more aspects than ‘just the interactive device’ does not mean that we have to address all aspects when designing an artefact. But like with Osterwalder’s business model, it often is helpful to have a bigger picture so you are aware of what you are focussing on, and can decide what not to focus on.

Where do users look first?

Googling where do users look first shows that we 1) like people (faces), 2) do not like to read (scan) and 3) are impatient (<3 seconds?) . Now, success designing your web-page.

The following situation motivated me to check it. Today I observed a discussion between a project manager and a consultant on interaction design. Topic was the proposed screen lay-out of a wire-frame for a new portal.

“where do users look first? Are there areas that are more important that others?”

Good question. I would probably have referred to affordances. I am totally convinced by Gibson’s Ecological Approach to visual Perception and the concept of Affordances. The purpose of our vision is meaningful information pick-up. We pick-up our interest, our skills, our experiences, and simply because we are human. For example, being social beings we will look at people. More specifically; we look at their faces. Put an image of a face on your page, and chances are users will look at it.

“Well, that depends”, the interaction designer replied, “we need to sound this with users and evaluate.”

The project manager nodded enthusiastically.

My initial reaction was; “this is an interesting KPI to weed out competency …..“

Most things have been tested, and have been published on. If you are not completely up to date, then I would expect an aswer like ‘let me check’, and Google a bit. I do not want to suggest that anybody can find any answer to any question on Google, but an interaction designer, having expertise in interaction design, definitely can find an answer.

Taking my own advise, I Googled ‘what do people look at’ and found some interesting results. I realized that, apart from picking up information that us meaningful to us, we also are creatures of habit.

First, we like faces. The image below was found on, showing the difference between man and woman looking at a scarcely dressed woman wearing sport shoes. Apart from the fact that the men hardly look at the shoes, what is very apparent is that both man and woman look at the face of the model.

Second, we do not read; we scan. However, we seem to follow the pattern that we have learned through reading; from left to right ,and from top to bottom. Nielsen reported an F-shaped structure for scanning pages. “Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe.“ People scan. They scan the sentence, and they scan the paragraph.

Third, we scan for 3 seconds before focusing on a particular area, or click away. ConversionXL reports an eye-tracking research that shows people use less than 3 seconds before focusing on a particular area.

So, where do users look first? My conclusion is that there are areas, or topics that your visitors will focus on, or focus on first. And yes, we absolutely have to test and validate this. But I would probably recommend looking for research and/or heuristics to help structuring and optimizing any design prior to testing. I respect the decision to ignore information found, after it has been looked for, assuming there are clear arguments.

However, I am not sure if in this time and age with fasts amounts of information available at our finger tips, the immediate response when a design is questioned can be “we have to test”.