Dirk Knemeyer

The end of usability culture, December 24, 2004

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

* Corporations base decisions on money.

* Strong brand experiences make more money.

* The Web is not successfully being leveraged as an integrated component of most corporate brand experiences.

* The Web is in the process of becoming ever more present and important in our lives.

* Corporations understand this and will pay big bucks to take advantage of it, even if they don’t know how yet.

Given these points, do we honestly believe that the safe, statistical methodology of the usability culture is going to continue to direct the state of major corporate Web experiences? Once they move past the jargon and sound bytes, business leaders will demand that we do better. They will change the paradigm, whether we like it or not.


Brand experience, February 1, 2004

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

An experience – not a purchase

In a traditional brick-and-mortar store sense, the only direct interactions that companies had with people were limited to when they chose to come into the store. And, certainly, that is often not convenient or easy. People typically go into a store to make a purchase or research a purchase. It takes time and a proactive decision to do. And it is on that basis that what people are purchasing is framed. We still think of buying LeBron James athletic apparel as being limited to the apparel itself. However, we can re-define what is being purchased. Imagine if everyone who pre-ordered new LeBron James sneakers on the Internet also received or had access to these types of extras:

* Short, periodic emails from LeBron talking about his preparation for professional basketball

* Entry into a contest to be flown to Cleveland (where LeBron plays basketball) and have front row seats on opening night of his first game

* Access to a protected online multimedia experience of LeBron’s process of working with shoe designers, touring Nike’s facilities and otherwise being engaged in the process of helping Nike to produce his signature products (could also be a DVD that is shipped to each purchaser)

* Limited series of trading cards exclusive to the pre-orders of the sneakers

* Some sort of special, visible “smile” on the product (specially colored laces?) that delineate it as being a first-purchase Internet product

And these are just a small sample. But the point is that it would be painfully easy to build so many different facets into the experience. In so doing, they are deepening the Nike brand while making the very most of the LeBron brand. Even though this could theoretically happen in a traditional context as well – pre-order with the distributor, give them your information, they pass it on to Nike – it is more difficult from an infrastructure perspective. And besides, traditional stores aren’t thinking that way nor are they incentivized to do so. That level of experience needs to happen at the manufacturer level, and the volume of interactions that I am proposing above – a volume that truly can change behavior and make people look at what it is they are purchasing in an entirely different way – is optimized for a virtual business model.

Getting back to the issue of immediate gratification, it is the most immediate possible. The moment an interested purchaser first hears of a new, upcoming line of LeBron James apparel, they could go straight to the Nike website and make a pre-order. Then, immediately, they are taken to the video of LeBron working with designers, or sent an email from LeBron, or some other bit of immediate gratification that completely re-defines what is being purchased and is uniquely digital in its ability to gratify.


Warby Parker, January 15, 2004

A short comment contextualizing the prediction could go right here

Physical environments provide the opportunity to create lush solutions that deeply affect the five human senses. These simply cannot be replicated on the web. Digital interfaces are visual, but are relatively shallow in their size and resolution. Sound on websites, in practice, is more often seen as an annoyance than a component to a pleasant experience. There are sophisticated devices that can deliver selected smells from a web interface, but, even forgetting their scarcity, it is hard to imagine that engineered sprays of a combination of base chemicals can even begin to approximate environmental olfactory reality. Touch and taste cannot be created on the web.

[…] In the context of our actual interface, we can only do so much. If we really want to move people, we need to step outside of that interface and solve the problem holistically. That means creating solutions that account for all of the senses and begin to approximate or even approach the positive and powerful elements of an actual in-store experience. With the idea of providing people with real, physical things – whether it be actual products, or something that is very pleasurable, or fun, or something useful that is branded and amplifies the overall brand experience – we must move far past the digital interface.

[…] The overarching lesson when considering experience design in the context of eCommerce is that we need to abandon the flatland of our screen. Sure, we can create visually spectacular solutions, incorporate sound, or even experiment with new technologies aimed at scent. But those are hollow, incomplete solutions that will not enable a paradigmatic change from brick to click. Instead, we need to use other media and opportunity to invade the physical plane, to be present not just on the screen but in a more powerful and rich way. That requires creative problem solving and will greatly benefit from past solutions that, even if they weren’t created with “experience design” in mind, successfully enabled companies like my glass client to create integrated experiences within personal environments. We’re already pretty good as an industry at cross-promoting the physical to the digital. The secret is to innovate the physical and do so from the intentional perspective of experience design.