Thoughts on advertising

Getting a deep level of empathy from another fellow human being is one of the most yearned desires of every person.

A message in recognition of a person’s  actualized self is more powerful than one centered around what you are trying to sell.

Insights from Tim

  • Western design emphasizes minimalistism and simplicity
  • Chinese design emphasizes more is better, more is prosperous
  • aim towards form completion
  • users really care about their end goal

Ideation process

  1. Gather qualitative data through user interviews
  2. Gather historical quantitative behavioral and segmentation data if any
  3. define problem statements
  4. define personas
  5. Prioritize personas base on segment size and organization strategy/mission fit
  6. Prioritize problem statements based on problem and product feature fit
  7. generate many design concept variants  as different approaches to tackling problem
  8. curate and prioritize them as agile stories
  9. implement base feature set
  10. roll out to user base
  11. validate outstanding hypothesis to gain visibility
  12. iterate on results
  13. head back to step 1

External references

  • User centric design high level –

Tim on User centric design

Design thinking is a more elaborate waterfall like model as compared to User centric design

  • It was originally created by the dude from SAP which is the founder of IDEO

User Centric Design

Helps avoid thinking of solution purely in functional terms devoid of human values


  • Business Goals – numbers you want to hit as a business


  • List of hypothesis revolving around your business goals


  • Who
    • the various personas about your user
    • it is centered around the kinds of physical behavior they exhibit
    • it is centered around the emotions and attitude
    • In a market place or social network the following distribution would hold true
      • 1% content creators – the protagonist
      • 9% synthesizers – they transmute the inputs from the creators
      • 90% silent majority – they observe and consume what was generated
  • Problems / Needs
    • centered around the day to day needs they have in their role
    • centered around the day to day problems they experience because of the need they have
    • qualitative and quantitative data to size of each segment of persona as well as the conversion rates in prior experiments
  • Themes
    • The commonly recurring themes identified based on qualitative feedbacks gathered from interviews with users.



Insights from Vibhu

  • Orkuts’ growth was driving by recruiting influencers to their platform and paying them to generate content
    • Influential writers for news columns
  • Initial community that gets seeded drives the DNA of the community that crystallizes around it
  • It is possible to have two drastically different communities on the same platform
    • Brazil community on Orkut was focused on something else
    • India’s community on Orkut was focused on sharing code and resume
  • Google does not understand social networks. Seeing from the functional perspective, pieces of code that serves as social proofing will appear as inefficient, unnecessary and redundant thus removed
  • The nuances of UX is not often appreciated by the engineering community

Takeaways from conversations observed for the week

  • Ved and Tim
    • Abstract terms like simplicity can get interpretated differently
    • Simplicity could mean minimal number of clicks
    • Simplicity could mean the look and feel is something I am most familiar with
  • Regina
    • To keep the tendency to do everything yourself in check
    • much better to learn from the mistake of others
    • find a group of people that are actively learning how to solve the pricing problem and learn their lessons. It’s cheaper
    • personal branding is important. Not being taken seriously results in lack of access to resources in times of need

Relevant resources

  • The design of everyday things
  • Dont make me think

Book Summary: Hooked


Key Points

  • Habits are one way the brain learns complex behavior
  • habit forming products increase Customer Life Time Value (CLTV)
  • Customers of habit forming products are relatively price insensitive
  • Viral cycle time –
    • time it takes for user to invite another user
    • higher user engagement levels – more visits per day > grow faster than competitors
  • Older Habits are more resilient than New Habits  – LIFO
  • Habit potential
    • Frequency
    • Perceived utility
  • Vitamins versus Painkiller
    • Habit formed over time could transform a vitamin into a pain killer
    • Habit forming technologies are both vitamins and painkillers
  • Types of Product Creators
    • Peddler
    • Facilitator
    • Dealer
    • Entertainer

The model


  • habits are built upon
  • External triggers
    • put yourself in their shoes to understand the task they want accomplished
  • Internal Triggers
    • 5 whys – till arriving finally at a basic emotion


  • increasing motivation is expensive
  • reducing effort is easier
  • must be easier than thinking
  • identify desire and use technology to take out steps


  • Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain
  • Seeking hope and avoiding fear
  • Seeking social acceptance and avoiding social rejection


Subjected to users current situational context

  • Money
  • Physical effort
  • Brain cycles
  • Social deviance
  • Non-routiness


  • implicit choice of doing things the old way
  • a new more convenient way to do things

Variable Reward

  • Tribe – who it comes from
  • Hunt – material outcome of action
  • Self – perception of self mastery


  • Reciprocation – humans treat machines like humans too
  • Escalation of commitment
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • leads to improvement of service for the specific user which increases the likelihood of  users returning
    • content
    • data
    • followers
    • reputation
    • skill

Habit Testing

  • Identify
    • who are the product’s habitual users?
    • Based on frequency of use
  •  Codify
    • make sure at least 5 percent of users will find your product valuable enough to use as much as you predict they would
    • Habit Path: a series of similar actions shared by your most loyal users
      • codify they steps they go through
        • where they come from
        • decisions they make when registering
        • sift through data for similarities
  • Modify
    • identify ways to nudge new users down the same Habit Path taken by devotees
    • Cohort tracking

Enabling Technologies

  • Technology wave
    • Infrastructure – when technology makes an existing behavior easier
    • applications built on top of infrastructure – causes more people to exhibit behavior
    • subsides – the next technology wave starts forming
  • Look for Nascent Behavior
    • discover apps occupying the first screens on mobile devices

Further Readings

  • Just Enough Research, Erika Hall
  • Something Really New: Three Simple Steps to creating truly innovative products, Denis Hauptly
  • Evil by Design, Chris Nodder

Book Summary: Simple and Usable Web, Mobile and Interaction Design

Key Points

  • More features equals more complexity
    • the more features you add, the less chance you have of coming across a new feature that is of real value to someone. Features will fall flat
    • building massive legacy of code that needs maintenance thereby increasing maintenance cost and slows down reaction to the market
    • users can’t easily find the features that are important to them. They also start resenting to pay for features they don’t use.
  • Three perspectives when designing any piece of technology
    • The manager’s
    • The engineer’s
    • The user’s
  • Simplicity
    • To feel in control
    • what feels simple to someone in one situation may not be true for everyone in every situation
    • Technology becomes interesting when it is catered for a wider audience than the experts
    • Prioritize features that satisfy mainstream user’s needs with minimal effort
    • People recognize and place value on the small differences
    • It does not mean want or poverty. It means anything foreign to it should be taken away
    • Watch out for fake simplicity –
      • a.k.a. I tried my best to explain it to you. If you don’t get it, its your own fault!
      • shifting responsibility for failure onto the user
      • most people don’t bother reading instructions, they prefer to get on with doing
    • when user needs to correct an error, it breaks his concentration and makes the experience feel complex
    • High Data Ink Ratio: don’t waste inks on anything that isn’t content or in repeating content
    • Simplify sentences
  • Managing change within organization
    • Connecting change to the benefits
      • companies tend to measure success by making money and growing
      • need to understand how this piece works before attempting to simplify user experience
      • Simpler design = sell more cars or sell at higher price?
    • Prioritizing changes
      •  divide up a fixed number of points across all desired features
  • Benchmarking the design
    • Write down a one-line description in the simple terms
    • Write down any guidelines I want to stick to
    • Watching people in the real world
  • Audiences
    •  Types
      • Experts
        • make a lot of noise
        • wants a complex product, a.k.a. a rocket ship
        • might be best to ignore them
        • interested in customizing their settings
        • value precision of control
        • want perfect results
        • wants to take things apart to see how they work
        • wants an exact match
        • wants principals
      • Willing adopters
        • ok using fancy new features as long as we make them just a bit easier
        • will put up with a problem because they have learned to tolerate them
      • Mainstreamers
        • They use technology to get a job done now
        • value ease of control
        • want reliable results
        • afraid to break something
        • Vast majority of people are mainstreamers
        • wants a good match
        • wants examples and stories
        • only really care about a bicycle will get confused by complex products
        • Best to watch how they would use the product
        • If you want simplicity, and to be seen as innovative, you should aim to please this group
        • tend to forget what they learned when under pressure
    • Key insight
      • If you want to make something simple, design what mainstream audience wants and can do when under pressure
      • people don’t graduate from one group to another even after years of using a product they tend to stay in the same group
      • It has more to do with their underlying attitude towards technology than the amount of time spent using it
  • Mainstreamer’s Emotional needs
    • achieve a lot
    • still feel in control  of the outcomes
    • don’t want to worry about the software or technology
  • Capturing the experience in a story
    • describe the experience using the user’s language in a story
    • avoiding describing in too much details
    • A good user story is brief, concrete, credible and uses relevant details
    • Components
      • World
      • Character
      • Plot
    • Test your insight by spending more time watching people in the real world
    • Make sure to capture the correct vision
    • Understanding what’s core takes time
    • The really great person will keep on going… and come up with an elegant really beautiful solution that works
  • The four strategies
    • remove
      • get rid of all unnecessary buttons
      • Do a few things far better than their rivals
        • Example: BaseCamp does a fraction of what Microsoft share point does but is described as addictively easy to use
      • Remove the clutter to focus on solving a few important problems really well
      • users can meet goals without distraction
      • don’t remove it because it is difficult to build!
      • watch out for sunk cost fallacy: do not avoid getting rid of them because they are already there
      • Watch out for What ifs – find out whether users really find the feature important
      • Identify user’s goals and set them in order of priority – focus solutions that completely meet users’ high priority goals before moving on to lower priority goals
    • organize
      • arrange the buttons into groups that make more sense
    • Hide
      • hide all but the most important buttons behind a hatch and only reveal it when absolutely necessary to do so
    • Displace
      • create a very simple remote control with a few basic features
      • control the rest via a menu on the TV screen

Further Readings

  • Insanely great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that changed Everything, Steven Levy