Meanwhile, Apple Pay

apple-moneyRemember when Apple brought sexy back? Well, they’re trading some of it back and buying into a revenue stream that’s not best defined as ‘sexy’.

Payment processing.

In the last few days Apple has generated a ton of discussion. More than usual even. Funny how a string of calculated announcements by the most well known company in the world will do that. As we all know, Apple has turned self-promotion into a science. But does any of this year’s new hardware represent a noteworthy new chapter to the Apple story?

I don’t think so.

But that’s not to say that this doesn’t have the potential to be an extremely noteworthy year for the company.

Apple makes good looking products. Hardware and software. For the most part, the company has relied on stark and simple means to sell their own well-designed aesthetics. Sex sells, right? Just show some nice curves, play some trendy music and call it a day!

The company’s latest push suggests that their products are ‘getting even smaller’. The next few months promise Apple’s first smart watches and almost-unbelievably razor thin new laptops. But the company is getting much smaller than this, intangible even. Let’s not forget their bid to take over transactional payment processing: Apple Pay.

In my opinion, this is the company’s most noteworthy new endeavor in the past three years. It’s not even a close race (sorry Apple Watch!).

The Apple Story does tend to focus upon sexy new products and packaging (Remember: this ‘packaging’ including the company’s own internally-developed marketing and in-house marketing agency). Design standards is certainly the side of the story that we’ve been focusing on this week.

But their Story is also about unexpected pivots, moving into new markets and even creating their own. They were the first to successfully sell the world on a touch screen. They convinced us that a household could benefit from a tablet device. And even before all that, who would have guessed that Apple was going to redefine the music industry?

As a market innovator (and even a market creatorApple Pay is the company’s newest juggernaut. At least, they certainly hope it will be. In fact, it’s jarring just how assertively their out to conquer payment processing. They’ve outsourced their marketing to as many partners as possible. It feels a bit out of character.

Payment processing.

Sexy, right?

No?

Apple is certainly trying to make Apple Pay look stylish. It’s a unique marketing challenge for the company: generating excitement for something most consumers aren’t immediately attracted to. Most consumers don’t pay attention to which payment processor they use. It’s the same dilemma faced by credit card issuers for years. Just ask Capital One.

Capital One has been screaming “What’s in your Wallet?!” to deaf ears for years. For all their effort, many of their customers still don’t even know they’re Capital One customers. Meanwhile, Apple typically relies on its devoted brand advocates. A typically Apple consumer knows exactly what phone is in their pocket. But, three years from now, will consumers care about what brand of ‘digital wallet’ they utilize? One thing’s for sure: the Apple Pay venture will take much more of a push to reach the masses than something as inherently playful and aesthetically destinct as an iPod.

So it really should be no surprise that, while we’ve all been talking about another year of even thinner laptops, just about every major bank/credit card has its own targeted Apple Pay marketing push. Remember, as you were watching announcements about the new hardware, these were the sponsored ads.

Apple understand the revenue potential to be found in the minutia of payment processing. Their isn’t much data to work with yet, so we can only speculate how much revenue is on the table for the company. Safe to say that they’re banking on sky-high digital dollars. Stay tuned.

We’ll be back after these messages:

Web Design for Short Attention Sp–

These days, people only read the headline. Heck, they might only scan the logo.

How are you expected to introduce a web-based service in the age of super-short attention spans?

Whatever your site or app’s mission, less is more (particularly in matters of presenting content). UX and UI design today is all about editing, finding the simplest means to communicate ideas and guide a user’s interaction. The word of the day is: ‘SHORTCUTS.

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The right comparison can make a complicated concept easy. Remember when Apple told people to “swipe, like turning a page?”

It all comes down to reducing cognitive load. New site visitors want to navigate through your site as if on instinct. This isn’t even an unrealistic expectation. We’ve all been trained by the UI of countless other sites. Most people are really, really good at looking at websites. Consciously or not, they’re also very good at judging a site’s UI. We don’t always have to cave into the latest trends, but it’s unwise to outright ignore new or evolving design standards.

One simple design step is to provide visitors with some simple visual cues along their way. This can be the careful selection of (just a few!) choice lines of copy, or pictures of your service that distinguish your brand and offerings. As a bonus, these visual cues teach users to recognize your site layout. Keep it simple. One or two takeaways per site visitor is all you can ask for. Let this be your goal. Give visitors too much at once and they’ll feel attacked and will likely ignore the whole barrage.

Bad experiences stick with us. Most first impressions are formed visually (certainly with a web-based service). The good news for new business is that today, more than ever, good UXD > brand loyalty. In the web space, we’re now all trained to know that other options are just a click away.

If it isn’t easy for visitors to accomplish a desired goal, and your business model is dependent on repeat use, you have a major UXD problem. Don’t design processes that require folks to remember things from earlier in the process. Imagine having ordered from Amazon already and then struggling through the process the next time you wanted to order something… not good.

Make a point to provide your repeat visitors with some shortcuts to–

DID YOU SAY: “SHORTCUTS?!”

Peeweesplayhouse

Sigh…

 

 

One Secret Behind UXD that ‘feels’ Right

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User Experience Design is a powerful tool. It’s one of the few means for organizations to defeat existing brand loyalties. No matter how committed users may be to the competition, a superior design gets noticed.

UXD can actually be felt by site or app users. 

Abstract as ‘feeling superior design’ may sound, it’s a noteworthy distinction. Creating a complicated interface that feels simple is, actually, extraordinary difficult. Building a site or app that will  feel intuitive for users is an endlessly complex process. But I can tell you one thing: such work always stands on the same foundation.

Working with talented UX developers, the key takeaway I’ve gleamed is that the best UXD is built around what users actually do with a web-based offering, not necessarily just what they might initially claim to want from the design.

A few anecdotes help explain:

In pedestrian friendly campuses, such as universities, one interesting construction practice is to hold off on designing the pathways between buildings. Instead, grass is laid and walkers are allowed a sort of ‘test period’ to determine the pathways. The actual walkways are then built, with consideration for the worn paths on the grass.

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A Sony focus group in the 1980s serves as another illustrative example. Sony executives were surprised to learn that the majority of focus groups were eager for stereo systems and equipment in any color, so long as it wasn’t the traditional gray or black. Testing this data, Sony held new focus groups. These yielded the same result. People wanted more color options! However, for an added variable in this latest round of focus groups, these respondants were offered a free Sony product before leaving. And, to see if they’d put their money were there mouth was, they were given a wide variety of new color options. Still, the majority of these focus group members ultimately chose gray or black!

My favorite anecdote about actual watching behavior, rather than only responding to requests, is a quote from Henry Ford. When Mr. Ford was asked about his opinion on focus groups, etc, his alleged response was, “If I’d asked the people what they want, they would have told me ‘a faster horse’!”

Of course UXD would never work if the opinions of all stakeholders aren’t considered. To be sure, hearing and accounting for everyone‘s opinion is vital to the process. But it’s all for naught if you don’t also take a close look at actual behavior. Watching how a web-based tool is currently used is a crucial step towards building new tools that people will actually use and appreciate.

This is the foundation for UXD that just feels right.