Category Archives: Business Development

“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them”

– Steve Jobs, on Mac OS X’s Aqua user interface (Fortune, Jan. 24, 2000)

Between the times when I’m doing something useful with my home PC, I like to tweak settings, replace or add hardware and generally try to optimise things in an endless quest to make it start faster, run better or do tasks more quickly or easily. This inevitably leads to a point where the PC doesn’t work at all. The fun then is restoring it to working condition in an endless cycle of OCD madness.

Apple has gone a long way towards protecting me from my self-imposed tenth circle of suffering with their iPad tablet devices that prevent such levels of customisation. Their elegant design and inherent usability may take away some of the fun but they have also signalled a new world order in computing.

According to research company NPD DisplaySearch, more tablet computers will be sold than notebook computers in 2016. Microsoft is making an even bolder claim by predicting that tablets will outsell standard PCs during 2013.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1Designing for a tablet presents some interesting challenges, not least in the design of the user interface which needs to embrace the standards and paradigms of tablet computing. The most obvious of these is the replacement of mouse navigation with the less precise navigation of touch. The ability to manipulate objects directly by touch provides a more engaging user experience and if virtual objects are metaphors for real objects and actions then tasks become more intuitive.

A Great User Interface

A touch interface also means the need for larger controls and moving away from traditional menu based user options to consider for example, having translucent bars and fading controls that appear and disappear as the user interacts with the application. With limited space for larger controls we also need to think more carefully about what is needed on each screen and whether it is critical to what the user needs at the time. If not, then perhaps it’s critical in a different context, or maybe not at all.

A great user interface is not however centred on the capabilities of the device but on the way that users think and work. It makes the difference between an application that inspires users and one that is tortuous and demotivating to use.

The widespread use of tablets may provide the impetus for us to re-think user interface design in general and perhaps inspire us to move to the next level in human-machine interaction.

Twitter – inane drivel

Inane drivel

A stream of inane drivel

There are many good reasons why a business should use Twitter, most of which are to do with brand promotion including news, advertising, special promotions and support. Another may be simply that your competitors are using it and you feel the need to match them (although also see Don’t Compare). Twitter can give the impression that your company is young and trendy, which for some industries is an advantage.

But therein lies a potential problem. In the early days of the web, company websites were often the sole responsibility of a junior in the IT department who was keen on playing with new technologies, with no budget and no buy-in from senior management. The result was that, despite substantial central marketing budgets, the company message and image (on the web at least) were in the hands of an enthusiastic junior baggy jeans and an overriding interest in Star Trek. And so it may be with Twitter, for a new generation of social media enthusiasts, resulting in a stream of inane drivel in the guise of customer social interaction.

For a Twitter account to have real business value, it needs to be under the control of senior management with a consistent style and message. Thought needs to be given to what you want to achieve using Twitter and how you can build credibility as a source of useful information relevant to your customer community. As with your website, you will need to track your impact in the Twitter community, whether it’s increased sales, better support or other measurement related to your goals.

If used properly Twitter can improve relationships with customers, increase sales and help in developing customer networks. Improper use will damage your company reputation through a lack of substance or inappropriate messages.