Mobile March 2015

Mobile-marchAh!  Mobile March…  The change of seasons 🙂

Conversation with a sponsor – outsourcing:

Target is changing approach to balance between in-house and agency approach to the digital technologies.  At some point most of the online tools and sites were created by different vendors, and may not have been as consistent as the company desired.  Teams were also spread around the globe and a dilemma of when to set a meeting to accommodate Seattle, Minneapolis, and India was a constant issue.

Current approach is different: teams are located together in the building, more developed in-house, and even if off-shore teams still play a significant part in the development process, they are responsible for the complete projects, rather than their components.

The new approach is more convenient, less wasteful, and more comfortable for everybody involved.  Is it the future?  Interesting…

Mobile 2020

In 5 years, the main topic of the conversation will be the Internet of Things.  However, if it is possible to connect some of the “things” to the internet, it may not be reasonable.  Be smart, not stupid about it.

Tesla has and iPad as a dashboard – good.  Carrots do not need to be connected…

Digital assistants will be popular – and more trusted.  Digital assistants will automatically buy over $2B of goods and services.

2020 – User Experience dominates… and it is not just “user experience,” but an experience in general. 

Wearable devices will be more common.  By 2016, 30% of corporate wellness programs will capture bio metric data.

By 2020, computers will replace 50% of processing jobs.  However, we will see 500% increase in digital business jobs.  Economy will face shortage of qualified workers.

In 2020 Mobile will be over 50% of digital commerce (paying with a phone in the store, not necessarily shopping on the phone).  Security will improve, but there will be still “anti-hacking jeans” to protect the new mobile valet.

By 2020, iBeacons will increase sales by 5%.  When one major retailer adopts the technology, the rest will follow.


Everything you have today will be very similar… but better, easier to access.  The internet speed won’t significantly improve 😉

There will be more fluid change in business and companies need to be prepared for it.

What is Material Design?

  • a design language
  • a way of communication
  • a style guide
  • an asset repository
  • a philosophy


Material design is not a code repository or rule of law.  Material design can change…   If your product is not appealing, material design will not help.  However, if you are creating an tool, adhering to the commonly accepted principles will help your users to understand the tool faster.

floating-action-buttonOne of the approaches of Material Design is the “Floating Action Button” that promotes one action above all others.

Buzz Feed’s results of “materialization” of the app:

  • 22% increase in page views per session
  • 27% increase in shares per session

hamburgerInteresting – “hamburger menu” does not seem to perform very well.  The word “Menu” did better in A/b tests.  Will it change when users are more familiar with the “hamburger,” or is it something more “human” – less processing time to read a word then decode a symbol?

Why care about material design?

  • it will be adopeted among google ecosystem and beyond
  • it can reduce “cognitive load” – users know how to interact and will spend more time in the app interacting with content
  • Google made significant investment in UX – your company probably can not make this type of investment


Approach to task classification for mobile apps:

As a user I want to….                     so I can…

Receive notifications                     to keep up…
………………….                                   …………..

The agency is using agile development, but does a clean cut between the design and development to assure that the design is completely approved by the client.

Challenge: engaging customers in the early stages of the project.  solution: show visual prototypes fast – with the prototyping tools.

Financial services

mintMint is not a financial service, but it integrates with financial services.  Every bank needs online tools.  Maybe a bank does not need to build something like Mint, but can just integrate with Mint?  This is interesting…  though I am a bit skeptical about iBeacons used in banking… 😉


Just a presence of a mobile device (phone) between talking people changes the relationship…

Most effective naval commanders expressed…  empathy

The interest in well-being is higher in Twin Cities than in Loss Angeles or New York.

Smart Watches – User Experience Design

The number of companies working on wearable devices increased 5 times from 2013 to 2014.  Despite all this effort, the devices do not work well yet, but they will improve.

How do we think about wearable’s design from the philosophical perspective?

watchThere are three types of devices:

  • Contributors (collect data)
  • Companions (display messages – depend on the phone)
  • Connectors (independently connected to the internet)

Touch is not the holy grail… other mechanisms matter more than touch, and…  now you get only 300px 😉

When mobile phones were new, designers tried to apply desktop experience to them.  The same will happen with smart watches – at first.  However, the watch is not a phone, at best, it can get a glance.

How we should think about smart watches?

  • Invisibility

Technology should connect us to life, rather than take us away from it.

Mobile is a lifestyle. We need to target the motivations of the life style. not the technology.

What smart watch train ticket app does?  One one thing, but it does it very well, and stays out of the way.  It shows the time of the train’s departure and shows the scan-able ticket.  That is it!

  • Intimacy

Experience should be personalized, and should be empowering.  For example: can get a notification, and can take action).

  • Interaction

For the first time, designers would need to designed what you hear and what you feel.

What you say?  What you touch?  Pressure sensitivity (how hard the watch is pressed).  Plus – connection to other devices.

  • Intention

Context before UI.

  • Interruption

Micro-interactions and movement

Buzz Feed

buzz60% of traffic is mobile.  State of mind today – everything is mobile. Mobile users share more then desktop users.  Buzz Feed editors preview article on the mobile platform first, and then on the desktop.

Buzz Feed does not do responsive design!  Why??

  1. Performance
  2. Content optimization (content for the mobile experience is different than for the desktop)

Buzz Feed does tests – and have different templates for web and mobile.

App users share more and spend more time with the app than mobile site users.

Investigative journalism is doing very well, but, does it doing better than “cat playing piano”?  No.

Both type of content (thoughtful journalism and … cats… ) can coexist. Cute or Not app was created as a desktop feature, and then transformed into an app.

MN Search – Local SEO and PPC


Focus on highest pay-off activities!

reviewsGoogle+ click-through rate is a significant ranking factor.  Google Reviews are very important – they are not only contribute to the ranking in the search results, but also make the search result more attractive for the consumer, particularly when competing companies do not have reviews.

Make a page for each service.  For example, a dentist can have a specific page for each service rather than one services page.  It will also help with PPC, as each page can be used as a landing page for a specific service offering.

Use “lazy links” – BBB lets you pick a page for a link – good for linking to a page deep in the site, what can help this particular page to have better exposure in search engines.

Another lazy link is sponsorship of a meetup group.



Creating a page for a specific location will help with ranking for this specific location, and will also helps to get business for the specific location.  Examples of work in the location, such as landscaping, etc., or any other types of “portfolio,” can be beneficial for search and help with conversion.

Create an epic FAQ page (people would need to click on the link to see the answer) – and study what questions are the most popular.

Keyword research with Google Suggest for SEO or PPC


For PPC, bidding on “review” terms will save money and will assure that the people who search for the term are further down the sales cycle.

No matter what you do…  you still may not rank.  😦   Use PPC.


Use Bing (much cheaper PPC bids) as a laboratory and when a successful and profitable term is found, use it in Google.

Mark testimonials on your site with schema.  Promote an opportunity to provide a testimonial as much as possible; provide anonymous options (possible on some sites) for private topics (divorce, bankruptcy, etc.).

Experiment fearlessly!

Content Strategy Meetup – How Meaningful Numbers Improve Findability and Satisfaction (Intranet)

AllianzAs usually, an insightful event!  Though I have not worked on an intranet for a while, it was a pleasure to learn from the expert of the field.  Unrelated curious observation: many people in the audience complained about issues with site search mechanism, and difficulty in correcting it.  Our entire industry seem to be in the same boat 😉

Public sites sometimes used by employees to find internal information…  because this is the only place they can find this information.  As a result, this could lead to a resistance to changing public sites.

Allianz Intranet currently has 91% satisfaction rate and 74% of employees claim that they can find what they are looking for.  The industry benchmark: 65% should be able to find what they are looking for.

Intranet redesign steps:

  1. Content inventoryintranet
  2. User testing
  3. Focus group – card sort (categorization)
  4. Focus group – naming conventions
  5. Intranet naming contest (get employees excited)
  6. User testing
  7. Contests (to introduce the new intranet)

Key – involve employees throughout the process.

Allianz has employee survey response rate at about 65%.  Though the company surveys employees about 20 times a year and uses this information.  The survey results define topics that executives (and managers) answer during general meetings.  One of the questions is “What is the buzz?”  Company’s management wants to be a part of the water cooler conversations rather than ignore them.

Communications department owns the intranet – departments can not decide where the information will be placed, though they receive advice from communications team.  Communications team has a web writer, who places the content into needed location.  The intranet exists for the users rather than catering to departments’ desires, that can be based on industry jargon.

All intranet data is shared with management twice a year.

Intranet search tool is not functioning well, and it is a known issue.  Unfortunately, correction of the tool on the current platform would be prohibitively expensive.  Communications team explained the situation to the employees directly – yes, replacing of the tool would cost the company too much, and we can find better use for this amount of money.

Two types of metrics are used:

  • metricsEngagement (how much users look at “my staff”)
  • Business metrics (make an impact on the organization)
    • “I feel well-informed” – Allianz at 94%
    • “News are timely” – Allianz at 94%
    • There is open and honest two-way communication at this company” – Allianz at 91%

Communications send employees only 6 emails a year.  New (improved) intranet became more popular than email.

The site is updated Tuesday and Thursday at 1:00 pm, and, based on the survey results, it is considered by the majority of the employees just about right.

Leadership is involved: 20 members of leadership team writes stories – communications does not write stories for management, though they can edit and correct grammar.  Ability to rate the story creates competition among writers.

Communications, who is viewed as consultants, recommends as short stories as possible.  As it is an intranet… no worry about SEO 😉

Top intranet pages: benefits and careers. these sections were so important and popular, that communications had focus groups for each of the sections.

Top ten search terms are used to promote the searched information throughout the company in any available form (monitors in hallways, etc.).

Intranet-specific metrics (survey):

  1. I’m satisfied with the intranetsurvey
  2. I can find information
  3. I’m confident Intranet info is accurate
  4. Intranet has improved during last year
  5. Articles are easy to understand

Additional questions, which are the most beneficial for improvements:

  • What are things you like?
  • What would you improve?

Allianz intranet does use a slider with top articles, and everybody seem to like it.

Term confusion:  “Archives” was not quite understood…  was replaced with “What you missed” – questions related to “where can I find old articles?”  disappeared.

Savvy approach:  one executive was fixated on individual survey answers, and wanted to see changes based on these random requests.  Solution: showing trends analysis before any samples from the survey.

Book – Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst

good-boss-bad-bossVery insightful book.  Beside general approach and perspective, the book also has many very specific and useful examples.  The main point of the book is difference that good management can do in employee’s well-being and company’s performance. Swedish study determined that employees who had good managers were healthier in general and had less heart attacks than employees who reported to a “bad boss.”

Harm of competition within the organization:

A group of engineers were responsible for generating innovative ideas.  The meetings were noisy, argumentative, and a number of innovative ideas were routinely generated.  the new manager decided to increase competition among the engineers and introduced an intensive for individuals.  Under the new brainstormrule, the individuals whose ideas were implemented received bonus for their individual contribution.  The atmosphere immediately changed.  The engineers stopped sharing their ideas and bounce them from each other.  Though they never cared before who was the author the idea listed on the board, now all ideas had a name attached to them. The number of ideas generated shrink dramatically.   After one brainstorming session where most of the time were spent on argument of who generated the idea between two engineers and a manager rather than the ideas themselves, the manager removed the individual incentive system.  The engineers were happy to see the change, and gradually, the number of ideas increased to the previous level.

The damage of forced ranking system (rank and yank) could be somewhat reduced if cooperation with others is included into the requirement of good performance.

Managing more knowledgeable employees:

In many situation of modern workplace, a manager has a team of employees who are more knowledgeable than the boos in the areas of their expertise.  (Ha ha – this is my permanent situation 🙂  ).  The manager should learn and delegate, and be very careful with decisions.

Medtronic CEO, who came from a different industry, spent first 9 months on the job learning the products, talking with customers, etc. Even after that period of learning, he deferred the decisions to specialists.  The company grew significantly during the CEO’s tenure.

Employee appreciation:

happy-employeeOne university dean had to deal routinely with faculty members requesting more money and threatening to move to another school.  The dean developed an effective approach to the situation: he would start from explaining how much the faculty member was valued by the school and respected by colleagues before considering the money questions.  In most situations the money was not that important.

Communicating bad news:

Any bad news need to be communicated with understanding and compassion.  One fired executive happily hired an HR management that handled the firing as an HR head of his new company.

Clear communication is necessary – stating that no layoffs are coming in the next 6 months, or even three months, is a significant relief for nervous employees,  as they can relax during that period of time and be more productive.

interruptionThe danger of interruptions:

It takes a knowledge worker 25 minutes to recover from an interruption. Manager’s job is to shield the team from interruptions to allow the team to be more productive and relaxed.

Chapter-by-chapter book review – an excellent source.


Ted: Linda Hill: How to manage for collective creativity

A fantastic Ted Talk combining ideas that sparked through a few books and courses I was lucky to enjoy already.  Managing for innovation is different from “visionary leadership” where the leader sets the vision and everybody is called to execute.

Leading innovation is creating a space where people are willing and able to do the hard work of innovative problem solving

Our role as leaders is to set the stage, not to perform on it…


Innovative companies allow arguments – it is beneficial in the process of innovation.

Hire people who argue with you

Experiments rather than pilots. The only objective of the experiment is to learn.  The pilot is a trial; if it did not go well, somebody is to blame.

Innovation takes a willage

Book – Becoming a Better Boss

boss-bookVery insightful book.  The author compares management to dieting – something everybody knows how to do, but not many people are willing or able to invest enough efforts to see any significant result. Good management is against our nature as …  preference for a good diet 🙂

The general insight (as from the “Managing the company of the future” class), is the importance of capitalizing on potential of the employees, and recognizing this potential. an interesting point in the book is tailoring the jobs to particular individuals.  Usually, companies create “generic” jobs that can be filled with a “generic” employee from a specific field of knowledge.  Would tailoring of a job be better?  How to replace the employee in case the employee decides to leave?  But, if the job is truly satisfying, the employee would most likely stay longer…

Interesting perspective on letting go and appreciation of employees: it is an “unnatural” state for people.  When the company is not doing well financially, there is a tendency for its managers to become more involved into day-to-day tasks of their teams…  what is not helping the company.

Interesting point: as the information dissemination becomes easier, the middle manager may not have a “job to do.”  What would this job be?  The coach and the person who help his team to succeed… The author points out that managers on temporary assignments do better job than in permanent roles – as permanent roles have an incentive to “justify” the manager’s position.

Interesting story: a manager of sales team tried to spend more time on individual coaching… instead of attending required meetings.  After several weeks of the effort, the manager’s satisfaction improved, the team’s satisfaction improved, and the results (sales) increased…



Coursera – Managing the Company of the Future

university-of-LondonVery interesting course – the course about the future of management, that considers current trends and possibilities that the “future” may not be so dramatically different from the present in five years…  though many business leaders would like it to be different.  Very realistic course – what makes it particularly useful.

The class classifies “means” and “ends” of management into traditional and new approaches.


Emergence – self-directing organization.

Linear alignment – objective of “making money” for shareholders.

Obliquity – objective of higher level, such as benefiting society in a fundamental way.

Interesting observation from the class: management innovation can come from the inception of the company at the start-up, from the company’s leadership, and from within of the organization.  The third approach is the most challenging.  Middle management attempting the change, is recommended to:

  • align with existing strategic priority of the organization
  • put the management innovation they are trying to implement in the language of business ($)
  • experiment, learn, adapt
  • build partners, build capabilities
  • stay under the radar as long as possible 🙂
  • and don’t expect to be appreciated…

Management innovation is a frustrating game





Interesting to note, an average company believes that it would like to be closer to the right in the next 5 years, but it does not believe it will actually achieve the needed shift.

The role of the manager is changing from the industrial era, to the “knowledge era” to the “post knowledge era.”  As the information is available, the manager becomes the enabler of employees to achieve their objectives – the role transforms into understanding of the employees’ needs and providing needed resources.




Instead of concentrating on the task, the manager of the future needs to concentrate on the potential of the employees (what can be achieved by understanding of their needs).