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Un geek adorador de los juguetes anime, de las series anime y de los droides, autor de The Book of Impossible Machines y One Small World disponibles en la App Store de Apple

HBR Case Study: Time for a Unified Campaign?

The issue for small brands of any kind is always related to their hability to play a game were most companies play by its big name, most of those brands spend millions in marketing to get in touch with their costumers but as for small size business the struggle to get profitable is always something that is not a nice ride. Mexico has a wide experience for tourism and some local entrepreneurs find their place here, side by side with big brands and its massive budgets. This case, that we found on the Harvard Bussines Review shows that even at the bottom side, there is always a way to get in the right direction, sometimes you just need some advice and creativity, and be really prepared to take any chances that cames after you.

HBR’s fictionalized case studies present dilemmas faced by leaders in real companies and offer solutions from experts. This one is based on the HBS Case Study “Barceló Hotels and Resorts” (case no. 511108), by John T. Gourville and Marco Bertini. It is available at hbr.org.

Welcome, welcome.” Beatriz Soto greeted Fernando Ruiz, the COO of Alegre Hotels, as he stepped out of his taxi into the Cozumel sunshine. He smiled, extended a hand, and kissed her on both cheeks. “Palma Cay’s first month,” he said. “How is it going?”

“Operationally, very smoothly,” Beatriz replied. They walked into the luxurious lobby. “A few electrical issues in the spa and conference center, but nothing to worry about.”

Fernando’s eyes moved quickly from the marble floors to the skylights, the mahogany reception desk, and the glass doors framing the infinity pool and the ocean beyond. In one corner of the lobby, two women sat under a potted palm, sipping sangria while children played at their feet. In another, a concierge watched a scuba-diving video with a man and his teenage son. The hotel looked fabulous—five-star, just as they’d intended.

“Have the bookings picked up?” Fernando asked.

“Honestly, not much,” Beatriz said. “Can we step into my office to talk before we do the walk-around?”

She led him down a long corridor to a door marked “Hotel Manager.” Beyond it was a small room with a partial view of the elaborate garden. Beatriz picked up some papers from her desk—a memorandum on Palma Cay letterhead clipped to several Excel spreadsheets.

“I know this hotel made a lot of sense in 2007, when Alegre broke ground,” she began. “And I think it still makes sense. The economy’s got to come back to full strength sometime. But our bookings for the high season are looking terrible. I’ll be lucky to fill half our 1,000 rooms.”

Fernando knew that bookings had been slow, but he’d hoped for better news. Beatriz went on: “You know my track record. I’ve handled tough times before. Palma Cay is Alegre’s new flagship, and I think I can make it work by lowering prices for the key travel agencies, tour operators, and online portals. But I can’t do that within my current budget. I need help.” more

“What sort of help?” he said.

“Give me $700,000 from corporate funds. I’ll put together a plan to get this hotel on track.”

“Beatriz, you know how Alegre works. You’re responsible for your own P&L, just like all the other hotel managers, and that includes promotional spending of any kind. In fact, we barely have a marketing budget at the corporate level. How could I justify giving what little there is to one hotel when plenty of others are struggling, too? Mexico City, Cancún, Caracas—bookings are down everywhere. Pretty soon everyone would be asking for special funds.”

“But my capacity is double that of Alegre’s next-largest hotel. And this is our flagship property now. Our newest luxury resort. I can just see the headlines if Palma Cay is empty the first winter: ‘Alegre’s Latest Gamble Falls Flat.’ We might never recover.”

“I can just see the headlines if Palma Cay is empty the first winter: ‘Alegre’s Latest Gamble Falls Flat.’”

“So make sure that doesn’t happen.”

“I want to—but I need help. Please just look at my proposal.”

“Of course I’ll consider it.” He was tempted to tell her about the idea he’d been mulling over—a corporate-level promotional campaign—but thought better of it. “Now let’s see the conference center. What were the electrical issues?”

Distinct Personalities

Fernando sat in the airport thinking about Palma Cay. After three years and $500 million in development costs, it was a gorgeous hotel, the best designed and best located in the company’s portfolio. Its success was critical to Alegre’s health—his CEO, Carmen Fiera, had made that clear. But the tour operators and travel agencies that Alegre had always relied on to fill rooms were having trouble selling any resorts, and bookings were particularly slow for Palma Cay. more

Beatriz clearly believed she could fix the problem. Fernando trusted her intuition and thought that her plan had merit. Since 2001, when she’d arrived at the company, she’d turned around two hotels. The first was an aging beach property that had struggled during the winter months. Beatriz had noticed how many amateur and professional athletes were doing off-season training in the area and decided to court them by investing what money she had in a state-of-the-art fitness center. Now the hotel was nearly always fully booked. The second was a city hotel that she’d transformed from fusty to hip simply by hiring an inexpensive decorator to make it over, opening a new restaurant that attracted a night and weekend crowd, and targeting youth-friendly travel operators.

But Fernando couldn’t help thinking that the slow start at Palma Cay was symptomatic of a much broader problem—one that would require a bigger solution. Alegre was the third-largest hotel group in Latin America, with 206 popular, high-end properties in cities and resort towns from the Caribbean to Argentina. Yet few travelers thought of their hotel as an “Alegre hotel,” as they might think of a Marriott or a Four Seasons, because the company had always preferred to emphasize the distinct personalities of its properties, each of which was tailored to its locale. Operations were highly decentralized: Each hotel retained its own identity, managed its own business with full profit-and-loss responsibility, ran its own incentive programs, and handled its relationships with key intermediaries. The benefit was diversity (if the family-friendly beach properties weren’t performing, the boutique urban hotels or inland golf retreats could pick up the slack) and flexibility (local staffs could tweak operations to suit their circumstances). The downside was that guests might return again and again to one hotel yet be completely unaware of the larger Alegre family. The company had no way to stimulate demand across its portfolio; it didn’t even have a loyalty rewards program, which was now standard practice in the industry. In a year when forecasters were predicting a decline of 20% to 30% in hotel occupancy, that was a big competitive disadvantage.

Since he’d been recruited to the company, in 2008, Fernando had thought about changing this. Now, given the dire situation at Palma Cay, he might have the ammunition to do it. The executive committee would probably agree to invest in a local price promotion to boost the hotel’s fortunes. But should the company instead spend that money on a broader, more daring initiative? Should it take this as an opportunity to launch its first-ever portfolio-wide campaign directed at consumers—a branded price promotion paid for with corporate resources and contributions from all the individual hotels?

The ringtone of his BlackBerry interrupted his train of thought. It was Hans Edelman, a Dutchman who managed Alegre’s most profitable hotel, in Buenos Aires. “Hello, Hans,” he said.

“Fernando, hi. I just wanted to confirm that you’re still planning to visit next week. One of our regular guests has requested the suite you usually stay in. May I move you to the fifth floor instead?”

“Of course, of course.”

“Excellent. While I have you on the phone, may I speak to you about something else?”

“Sure.” more

“I understand that Palma Cay has requested some extra promotional funds and that you’re considering it.”

Hans had worked for 12 years with Beatriz’s current deputy, mentoring him up through the ranks at Alegre, and the two men were still close. Fernando assumed that was how the information had traveled so quickly. “Yes,” he said.

“I also understand that you’re considering a corporate campaign with significant discounts for guests.”

This time the source must have been Ana Montoya, the company’s chief marketing officer. Fernando had briefly floated the idea past her the previous week, just before she went to Buenos Aires. “Again, yes,” he said.

“With all due respect, I would be unhappy with either option, and I know many other managers would also feel that way. We’re all dealing with the same economy, and some of us are faring better than others. You’d be taking from the rich hotels to give to the poor ones. And you can’t advertise an upscale urban hotel like mine in the same breath as the family resorts, with their children’s pools and gourmet pizza parties. It would completely undermine what we’ve created here.”

Fernando had always appreciated Hans’s direct style, but this was pushing it. “Hans, it’s not your decision.”

“Of course it isn’t. I apologize. But all the top hotel managers at Alegre chose to work here because of the autonomy—the opportunity to manage a unique property and make it their own. That’s why we stay.” Hans had rejected an offer from a major global hotel chain the previous month, as Fernando knew. “I thought you’d want that input.”

“I appreciate that, Hans. I’ll take it under advisement. And I’ll see you next week.” more

“Yes, sir.”

Fernando was annoyed—not with Hans (his reaction was to be expected) but with Ana, for mentioning the possibility of a corporate promotion before the idea was fully formed. He was about to call her when he heard the boarding announcement for his flight. By the time he was settled in his seat, he had calmed down. He would wait to talk to her in person.

An Uphill Battle

Ana knocked softly on Fernando’s office door. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, come in,” he said. “I had an interesting call from Hans yesterday.”

Ana grimaced. “I’m sorry. He was talking about his competitors in Argentina, and I very casually mentioned some of our ideas for boosting demand. That was it, and we moved on. But I could tell he was filing it away. It was my mistake.”

“We’re at such an early stage with this, Ana, and it would be a major change for the company. The directors are big on keeping operations decentralized; they all emphasize the ‘local approach’ and how it has gotten us where we are today. They’re still talking about Beatriz’s fitness center! Getting everyone to buy into a corporate campaign, especially one targeting guests directly, would be an uphill battle, and we can’t start it with rumors flying and our star managers assuming the worst. We have to develop a clear plan and get everyone on board—Hans, Beatriz, everyone.”

“You’re right, of course. How was Palma Cay?”

“The hotel looks great, but peak-season bookings are terrible. Beatriz wants more money for a promotion.” more

“Actually, I just got a similar request from Peter in Cancún.”

“How much does he want?”

“$200,000.”

Fernando sighed. “It’s only a matter of time before others start to call. Well, we can probably increase bookings with local interventions like that, but what about something bigger and better coordinated? Why aren’t we sharing data, establishing best practices, launching customer loyalty initiatives, getting our brand recognized? What about long-term strategy? This economy is a companywide problem, not a hotel-specific one.”

“Why aren’t we establishing best practices, launching customer loyalty initiatives, getting our brand recognized? What about long-term strategy?”

As his voice rose, Ana moved to shut the door. “Believe me, I want all that, too,” she said. “I’ve spent five years tinkering with brochures and uniforms. But I’m really not sure we can find a one-size-fits-all message that would work. I mean, we’re in 21 countries. We have city, beach, golf, and mountain hotels. Spas, conference centers, pools, casinos. Families, couples, singles, businesspeople. Historical, modern. Old, young. How do you craft one message around all that? And how would a single price promotion work when the hotels are used to setting their own rates and discounts? Would it apply to everyone?”

“I agree that it would be difficult,” Fernando said. “But it may be worth the risk. We could sort out the logistics on price; I think we would want to include every hotel and focus on early booking. And the message could be something around luxury, or personalization, or… ” He trailed off, thinking about all the taglines he’d dreamed up over the past few months and then discarded as too narrow, or too bland, or too predictable.

“Have you mentioned the idea to Carmen?”

“Not yet. But she’s back from New York tomorrow. And she’ll want to know how we’re going to hit our numbers this year.” more

“At Palma Cay or companywide?”

“Both.”

What Would You Do? Some advice from the HBR.org community

Staying close to each property’s customers has obvious advantages. But a corporate brand is needed as well. Best Western’s present tagline is “The World’s Largest Hotel Family.” It wants to be known not as a chain but as a collection of independent properties with similar values and standards. That model could be emulated.

Joseph E. Buhler, senior analyst, PhoCusWright

Alegre has a wide range of resorts and an equally diverse customer base, with different needs, tastes, and budgets. Find a promotional campaign that shows global presence but preserves the strategy of niche identity and pricing. Increase marketing by location. Work with travel agencies to push the unique experience. Don’t treat the client like he’s part of a herd.

Julio Garcia, CEO, Victoria Travel

An overarching campaign wouldn’t adequately stimulate demand across Alegre’s range of customers, so Fernando should continue to let individual hotels drive promotional decisions. That said, a corporate branding strategy would allow the company to share insights across properties and develop targeted cross-selling messages, while guests accumulated points in a loyalty-rewards program.

Denise Lee Yohn, branding consultant, Denise Lee Yohn, Inc.

Alegre should build a brand around “wholesome vacations” to suit all needs—young or old, luxurious or budget-friendly, adventure or leisure—and create a loyalty program and a corporate web portal. This campaign would be centrally controlled, with every hotel manager contributing a pitch for his or her property; Fernando could develop a single image for the consumer to see.

Niket Anjaria, management trainee, Raj Petro Specialities

Which promotional strategy should Fernando pursue?

Raúl González is the CEO of Barceló Hotels & Resorts for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

It’s understandable that Fernando desires a companywide campaign, but as he says, Alegre may not be ready. He should begin by allowing Beatriz to build a campaign for Palma Cay, which could then be used by other Alegre hotels in the same class. He could grant her request for funding on the condition that he work closely with her to develop a promotion and messaging that are relevant to other Alegre properties.

Of course, Fernando will face resistance from hotel managers who believe that Beatriz is getting special treatment in Alegre’s otherwise decentralized structure. He needs to make it clear that this is not a precedent for bailing out hotels when their bookings are low. Rather, it is an investment in the brand: Palma Cay’s campaign would benefit the entire portfolio. Similar appeals from other hotels should be considered case by case and approved only if they would provide broader benefits for the Alegre brand.

Fernando needs to make it clear that Palma Cay’s campaign would benefit the entire portfolio.

In building the campaign, Fernando and Beatriz need to address two underlying issues: how to alleviate the pressure on inventory management caused by last-minute reservations and how to break Alegre’s dependence on intermediaries. These are common problems for hotel groups across Europe, including Barceló Hotels & Resorts.

To tackle the former, I would recommend that Alegre follow the airline industry model: Incentivize customers to book earlier by offering lower prices in return for advance purchase and prepayment, with fees for cancellations. We’ve tried this at several of our hotels with great success.

Dependence on intermediaries must be handled more delicately, because Alegre needs to maintain the strong relationships with tour operators, travel agencies, and online portals that have long generated the bulk of its bookings. But Fernando must figure out how to communicate directly with customers and take control of his brand. A campaign at Palma Cay would give him an opportunity to begin positioning Alegre with a target market while increasing bookings at its flagship.

This case study is based on Barceló’s experience in Spain. In 2008, like many other hotel groups, we faced declining occupancy. Up until that time all marketing and promotional activities had been financed and managed at the hotel level. Managers in the region turned to headquarters for assistance in combating the crisis and increasing bookings. We used the opportunity to develop broader messaging that was relevant to all our hotels, but we focused on consumers in Spain. more

Many people in the company feared that no one-size-fits-all campaign could possibly meet the needs and individual personality of every property, so we chose a tagline for a regional communications campaign that highlights the diversity of our offerings: “More than you can imagine.” The tagline was used on the corporate website and in brochures, directories, and a promotional video.

Fernando could take this approach and use Palma Cay as a starting point to refine and even test Alegre’s message before pushing a companywide campaign.

Kevin Lane Keller is the E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

Fernando should follow his instincts and creatively leverage the Alegre brand to benefit the entire portfolio. This collection of hotels needs to be greater than the sum of its parts. He should find ways to help consumers make appropriate connections between the hotels and increase the likelihood that they’ll visit other Alegre properties.

However, it will be difficult to implement any companywide campaign if it’s unclear what Alegre stands for as a brand. What is it that makes each property an Alegre hotel? Are all the hotels of the same quality? Do they offer the same experience? What is the thread that holds them together? Fernando’s starting point should be an understanding of what it means from the customer’s perspective to stay at an Alegre hotel.

That distinguishing quality then needs to be articulated to consumers, probably through a soft endorsement rather than a corporate brand. Because Alegre properties, unlike Hiltons and Marriotts, don’t carry the company name, they have to establish the link for consumers. Each hotel could retain its unique identity but be labeled or endorsed as “an Alegre property,” along the lines of what Starwood has done with its many brands and The Leading Hotels of the World has done more explicitly with its singular properties. To allay Hans’s fears about diluting the brand, Fernando might consider developing two or three subbrand concepts to help logically categorize the hotels, such as “urban upscale” and “luxury family resort.”

With a corporate endorsement, Alegre could more effectively cross-sell the hotels in its portfolio. For example, a loyalty program that gives customers the opportunity to earn travel rewards at any Alegre property might well increase reservations across the board.

Fernando should then devise a promotional campaign that individual hotels could adapt. It should not be heavy-handed. In fact, he should be careful to preserve the autonomy of the hotel managers while giving them the tools they need to effectively market their properties. If they were armed with a broader promotional message about the benefits of the Alegre brand, they could focus on explaining to consumers as well as travel agents and tour operators how their particular hotels deliver those benefits.

The sort of bottom-up branding approach that Beatriz advocates is rarely successful.

Saying no to Beatriz’s request might be difficult for Fernando, especially if it meant accepting low bookings for the flagship in its first winter. But the sort of bottom-up branding approach that Beatriz advocates is rarely successful. Fernando could end up spending a lot of corporate money feeding individual budgets and miss the opportunity to build the reputation of Alegre’s entire portfolio. He will get much greater bang for his buck if he smartly invests in the corporate brand. 

A version of this article appeared in the June 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Vía Harvard Bussines Review

20 SECRETS OF TOP-CONVERTING WEBSITES AND HOW THEY CAN BOOST YOUR HOTEL BOOKINGS

Re-cap of Bryan Eisenberg’s presentation at SES Chicago

If the average conversion rate for a website is around 3 percent, why do some websites achieve a 10 percent conversion rate? What do they do that the others don’t? This is the question that Bryan Eisenberg set out to answer in his presentation ‘20 Secrets of Top-Converting Websites’ at the SES Chicago conference this December. Bryan revealed 20 of his most valuable tips that will help you increase your hotel website conversion rate. Bryan is a New York Times bestselling author and a recognized authority in improving conversion rates, persuasion architecture and persona marketing.

First of all, what is a conversion? A conversion is when someone takes a desired action on your website i.e. they purchase a product, download a whitepaper, or in the case of the hotel industry, they make a reservation. You may attract a lot of traffic to your website but this means nothing if your site isn’t designed to facilitate conversions.

How effective is your hotel website in regards to conversions? You can learn this by analyzing the metrics of your Analytics software. Through analytics you can learn what the most popular pages on your site are, where users spend the most time, and where you may be losing people. No matter what your conversion rate is, chances are you could still improve it. Below is an outline of tactics that the top converting websites use according to Bryan. Does your hotel website incorporate these tactics?

THE TOP CONVERTING WEBSITES DO THE FOLLOWING:

1. They Communicate Unique Value Propositions & Unique Campaign Propositions

Does your hotel website communicate your Unique Value Proposition? What is it that makes you unique among other hotels, and how does this appeal to your target audience? Think about your unique campaign proposition too. How are you packaging up and selling your hotel?

2. They Make Persuasive & Relevant Offers

Are you offering promotions and packages that are relevant to your guests? How persuasive are your offers?

3. They Reinforce Their Offer Site-wide

Make sure your offer is consistent and repetitive throughout the site. If a guest sees your offer on your homepage, make sure it is repeated on your reservations page so they feel confident they are still going to receive the offer.

4. They Maintain Scent

Make sure you have a consistent look and feel on every page and on every form of your website so that users always know they are on the right track. For example if a user clicks on a form it should match the previous page so they won’t feel lost. Make sure your offer doesn’t change anywhere along the way either. If you promise something, you must deliver it.

5. They Make A Strong First Impression

Similar to first impressions of people, users will size up your website in a matter of seconds. Make sure your first impression is impactful.

6. They Appeal To Multiple Personas/Segments

Your website must appeal to different personality types. Bryan segments the personalities into four groups: Spontaneous, Humanistic, Methodical, and Competitive. He referenced Jacob Nielsen who has also conducted research on these personality types and web usability. Below is a list of the four personality types and the questions they will want answered on your website:

A person who has a competitive personality is decisive and looks for the bottom line. This personality asks ‘what’ questions. Regarding your hotel, this person will want to know location, comparison to other hotels, and star rating systems.

A person who has a humanistic personality appreciates a hotel with a friendly staff that is helpful and polite. This personality asks ‘who’ questions. He/She wants to feel good about a hotel and values learning about the experience of others who have stayed there.

A person who has a spontaneous personality is impulsive and appreciates a personal touch. This personality asks ‘why’ questions. He/She avoids cold, hard facts and wants to know if the staff will help her, or if there is a restaurant or nightclub. This personality type will be impressed by silky sheets, quality toiletries and special touches.

A person who has a methodical personality likes to see the hard facts and wants to see the information presented in a logical manner. This personality type asks ‘how’ questions. He/She is not impressed with the personal touch and will look for things such as check-out times, prices, and what comes with the room.

7. They Don’t Slice & Dice (Website) Optimization

Not only should your website appeal to these four distinct personality groups, but you must also optimize your site design, content and search features in a way that meets the needs of each personality type and encourages conversions. Website optimization is the art of improving your website to optimize the visitor experience and conversion rates, not to be confused with search engine optimization, which is the process of improving volume and quality of traffic to a website from search engines.

Let’s look again at those personality types and see how they may navigate through your hotel website. If the different personality types cannot access the information they are looking for, the way they want to look for it, they will get frustrated and leave your site.

A person with a competitive personality may go directly to the online reservations page. This person will most likely choose a hotel from the drop down menu by city and select the first hotel. He/She may also look at hotel details and the map. This personality type won’t typically look at the other pages on the site but will rely heavily on the search button.

A person with a humanistic personality will look at the homepage first, and be drawn to particular adjectives in the copy such as ‘charming,’ ‘cozy,’ or ‘historic.’ This person may try to search for hotels in the city under these adjectives such as ‘historic.’ He/She will also want to see the image gallery and the video, and will most likely look at services and amenities. This personality type will also want to read reviews before making a reservation.

A person with a spontaneous personality will look at the hotel brands on the home page. He/She won’t read much about the brands but may be impressed by the logos. This person will look at descriptions of area attractions such as shopping and restaurants. He/She will also look at images of the hotel and imagine if they would have a good time there.

A person with a methodical personality will most likely spend the most time on a hotel website. He/She will try the registration tool and read through all the copy, which they will most likely find too ‘fluffy.’ This person is looking for facts and would appreciate a ‘fast facts’ list. This personality type will check all the maps and driving instructions and will want to find it all.

To learn more about personas and personality types see Bryan’s blog post ‘Use Personas to Increase Conversion Rates.’ 1

8. Leverage Social Commerce: Use Voice of Customer

People love to read and write reviews. This is especially true for the hotel industry. Do not try to hide from these reviews, instead use the voice of the customer to help sell your hotel. Bryan referenced the case of Amazon selling Tuscan milk2 on their site. It is one thing to sell it, but a surprising 1,141 people have written reviews about the milk, and hundreds more have claimed the reviews as helpful. Some of the reviews are even in the form of poems.

9. They Use (voice of customer) For Navigation

Listen to what your customers are saying, and make sure your navigation caters to their needs. For example, if you host weddings at your hotel make sure it is easy for guests to navigate that section of your website. Listen to your guests’ common questions and check to see if their questions are being addressed on your website.

Listen to what your customers are saying, and make sure your navigation caters to their needs. For example, if you host weddings at your hotel make sure it is easy for guests to navigate that section of your website. Listen to your guests’ common questions and check to see if their questions are being addressed on your website.

10. They Use It (customer reviews) For Promotions

You can also incorporate guest reviews on your promotional material or e-mails. For example, you could put testimonials from meetings or weddings on your e-mail campaigns that are targeted to that segment.

You can also incorporate guest reviews on your promotional material or e-mails. For example, you could put testimonials from meetings or weddings on your e-mail campaigns that are targeted to that segment.

11. They Use It (voice of customer) For Credibility

People tend to trust reviews written by past guests. If you have these reviews on your website it adds authenticity and may even help your guests learn about your hotel. For example, if a previous guest wrote that your hotel is far from a subway stop, the next guest will be prepared to take a taxi.

Bryan referenced ‘The Brooks Group’3 website which sells sales management books. They post reader reviews on their site, as well as a ‘would you recommend to a friend’ feature. These reviews have helped The Brooks Group increase sales and have lowered their book return rate.

12. They Use It (voice of customer) For Feedback & Research

You can learn a lot about what is working in your hotel and what isn’t, by reading the guest reviews. There may be some problems with your facility or staff that you were unaware of, and the reviews allow you to identify the problems and fix them.

You can also use a focus group to test your website usability. You may think your website is easy to navigate until you watch a user try to click through it. Bryan promoted the use of sites such as www.usertesting.com. This is a company that will conduct a test on your website for $100.

13. They Use Persuasion Principles Like Scarcity

Persuasion principles such as scarcity are very effective. If you offer a room discount for a limited number of rooms, chances are that guests will feel that they can’t pass up a special deal. Bryan referenced Robert Cialdini’s 4 six principles of persuasion, which are reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, linking, and scarcity.

14. They Make Forms Engaging

Every form on your website should be easy to use and follow a consistent look and feel. Bryan referenced proflowers.com5 and said they make everything on their site engaging, including their forms.

Make sure your forms are short and there are no surprises. Some websites trick the user and claim all they have to do is enter their e-mail address to receive something, but when the user hits submit, they are taken to a more extensive form.

15. They Provide Point of Action Assurances

A point of action assurance will help your guest feel more confident about taking an action on your site or making an online reservation. For example, make sure the guest knows they can make changes to their reservation, show them the lock symbol when they are entering their credit card information, and let them know you are not going to share their personal information with anyone. Make sure you are responding to any lead you receive. Bryan claims that the average lead loses 6 times its power in the first hour you don’t respond to it.

16. They Keep You In The Process

Make sure your site communicates with the user what the next steps are. A good reference for this is the ‘Land’s End’6 website. For example when a shopper makes a purchase they see a pop-up with an image of their selection to assure them that they are ordering the correct item. When a guest makes an online reservation on your site make sure they know exactly what they are getting, and what they have to do to confirm the reservation.

Make sure your site communicates with the user what the next steps are. A good reference for this is the ‘Land’s End’6 website. For example when a shopper makes a purchase they see a pop-up with an image of their selection to assure them that they are ordering the correct item. When a guest makes an online reservation on your site make sure they know exactly what they are getting, and what they have to do to confirm the reservation.

17. They Consider Email Preview

E-mail is still the number one way to reach your target audience. You should only send targeted messages to people who have chosen to opt-in.

18. They Budget For Experience

Budget for some website testing and for some trial and error. What is it going to cost to improve your site, and how will that pay off? Bryan claimed that Amazon has hundreds of tests being conducted on their website at any given time. Even very small changes can greatly affect your conversion rate.

19. They Utilize a System for Prioritization

Prioritize your website goals and make sure your website design is in line with these goals.

20. They Make Data-Driven Decisions

Make decisions about your website based on the data you can collect from analytics software and your testing. Too many companies make the mistake of depending on the HIPPO (acronym for Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). Collect the data of what needs to be improved and make a ‘to do’ list.

And the bonus tip which also the most critical point . . .

21. They Know How To Execute Rapidly!

You need to be aware of what is going on in the travel industry at all times, and be prepared to execute changes. For example, just 2 hours after Michael Jackson had died, Amazon changed around their whole website to accommodate demand for his books and CDs. Focus on trends to see what is spiking up or down.

Bryan also suggested 5 steps to great conversion rates next week:

1) Identify the problems, review the analytics, check for high exit-pages, bounce rates, or poor quality scores.

2) Create a ‘to do’ list on things to improve.

3) Develop a hypothesis for why something isn’t working on your site and why the changes you propose should solve the problem.

4) Prioritize your ‘to do’ list by resources and impact.

5) Start testing.

As Bryan says, think of the small details – they all add up. Similar to website optimization, any small step you take can have a big impact. Start with the 5 steps listed above and analyze the data from your analytics to see if your conversions have increased. Do not think of execution as a one-time event, rather it is an on-going process.

References

1 Use Personas to Increase Conversion Rates

2 YouTube – ABC News Amazon.com Milk

3 The Brooks Group

Robert Cialdini’s Principals of Persuasion

www.proflowers.com

6 Land’s End

High Converting Websites Referenced by Bryan:

http://www.proflowers.com

http://www.overstock.com

http://www.mint.com

sheet music plus

lower my bills

See Nielsen List of Top 10 Online Retailers by Conversion Rate: March 2009

Vía Oroko Hospitality

Apple’s 8 years of iPad: a revolution in iOS computing

Eight years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced iPad, positioned as a new device category between the highly-mobile iPhone and conventional Macs. Some critics were disappointed that it wasn’t a Mac in tablet form; others were upset it wasn’t a telephone, that it wasn’t smaller, that wasn’t larger–or that it effectively was a larger iPod touch. All critics have since agreed that iPad is a disastrous, disappointing problem Apple should feel bad about despite it being the most popular, most profitable, most influential new form factor in personal electronics since iPhone itself.

 

A Pad, born without a viable route to market

By 2003, Apple’s iPod was on its way to becoming a blockbuster hit franchise. The new music player had shifted the company from being a specialized PC maker into a new force to be reckoned with in consumer electronics. Internal development subsequently began on an even more ambitious project: a lightweight tablet device oriented around Apple’s new Safari web browser, internally referred to as “Safari Pad.”

Work on thin, light ultra-portable network computers had been going on in labs outside of Apple for many years, but most of these were based around the idea of a server-hosted UI displayed on a highly mobile, dumb terminal connected by a fast wireless network. By the early 2000s, WiFi was solving the problem of a fast-enough network. However, the concept of tethering tablets to a remote server doing the heavy lifting hadn’t taken off.

Apple’s approach with Safari Pad followed a familiar strategy for the company: making the local device smart enough to work on its own, rather than being just a dumb video screen blasted with updates over the wire. However, one obvious problem for Safari Pad was that Apple’s customers were already accustomed to using the rather heavyweight Mac UI, based on a precise mouse pointer and keyboard. Selling them on a feature-reduced tablet powerful enough to do some tasks but lacking the horsepower of a typical Mac was seen as a stretch, particularly at the price such a device would require.

Apple’s Newton Message Pad 2000 with expansion slots. | Source: Aaron Eiche

Apple had the failure of its Newton MessagePad (which Jobs finally canceled in 1998 after four years of unimpressive sales) fresh in mind. The state of the art in developing a “smart screen” handheld tablet that attempted to sort of be a smaller desktop computer simply couldn’t deliver enough valuable functionality and performance at a price attractive to the mainstream market. A simpler, cheaper PDA (such as a Palm Pilot) was good enough for many, and for everyone else it made more sense to buy a fully-capable notebook computer.

In parallel, Microsoft had been attempting to get its PC partners to sell Tablet PCs: essentially Windows notebooks either in a stylus-driven slate format without a keyboard, or a “convertible” notebook with a complex hinge that tried to coax a standard old laptop to jump through new hoops. But these had all repeatedly failed, wave after wave, as buyers saw too little new functionality at too high of a price compared to the basic bog-standard PC notebook.

Scaled down to scale up

Work on Safari Pad at Apple was instead identified as an ideal starting point for developing a more sophisticated mobile phone rather than a scaled-down notebook Mac in the shape of a tablet.

Prior to iPhone’s debut in 2007, “smartphones” were barely capable of running simple Java applets, playing a limited number of MP3s, sending simple text messages and pulling up the “baby Internet” of simplified mobile web pages using WML, iMode or WAP to spoon-feed content to anemic devices.

By scaling down its macOS frameworks and core OS to run well on a newly-emerging class of ARM chips, Apple was able to launch iPhone as a huge leap in mobile performance, capable of browsing and navigating actual web pages; sending and receiving standard emails with attachments; organizing, playing and buying music and videos–and even browsing Google Maps using a new mobile interface designed by Apple to make Google’s maps for the web into a flawless, multitouch experience equally impressive to its Safari, Mail and iTunes apps.

iPhone rapidly vaulted from a ballsy bet into a massive success, cloning the iPod’s successful iTunes Store into a new iOS App Store where third party, powerful mobile iPhone apps could be developed for a rapidly expanding audience of enthusiastic buyers.

After creating a platform of mobile iOS users that was significantly larger than the installed base of its Mac buyers, Apple was now in the position to sell its new iOS users an expanded tablet-sized device that its conventional Mac users initially would not have seen as powerful enough to do their familiar tasks.

And sure enough, when Apple launched iPad in 2010 it was dismissed and critiqued by many Mac users as not being powerful enough, but enthusiastically adopted by people who were relatively new to iPhones and eager to use their familiar apps on an even larger canvas.

Apple introduced iPad as a large, thin iOS canvas, not new Mac alternative

 

A success story expressed as a crisis

Sales of Apple’s new “big iOS device” were far higher than analysts had expected. They looked at existing tablet customers, mostly a small niche of people drawn to various fragments of Microsoft’s Tablet PC project, and saw very limited potential for a new tablet. They looked at existing PC and Mac users and saw audiences who expected tablets to match the features of a “full desktop OS,” including things like rendering Adobe Flash content on the web and working with application documents in multiple overlapping windows.A primary reason why analysts are so frequently wrong about Apple is that they look at the company through the distorted lens of the status quo

A primary reason why analysts are so frequently wrong about Apple is that they look at the company through the distorted lens of the status quo, expressed in the generally unsuccessful (either by lack of ambition or giddy credulity) new product attempts of its rivals, or the basic commodity offerings they’ve been selling on a runway that leads toward lethal price erosion.

iPad was broadly seen as a failed attempt to replace the Mac, something it doesn’t attempt to do, and which would be foolish for Apple to aspire to do. Apple was quite clearly familiar with the fact that it was selling far more iPhones than Macs. While it was doing everything it could to expand Mac sales, iPad offered an opportunity to sell a new type of computing device to users familiar with iPhones but not Macs.

The idea that Apple was trying to shift its Mac customers (who every few years were paying around $1000 to upgrade their device) to instead buy a tablet priced at around $500 or less is simply asinine. iPad was targeted expressly at iPhone users who wanted to expand their iOS experience.

This strategy clearly paid off. Sales of the new large iOS devices boomed and then boomed again with the introduction of iPad mini, which delivered the same “larger iOS experience” in a lower priced package. However, after reaching a peak in 2014, sales of large iOS devices with iPad branding began falling.

Apple’s latest reported FQ4 unit sales of iPad have fallen by 26 percent since the Q4 peak back in 2014. The company will announce its holiday quarter sales next week, and those numbers will clearly be far below the all-time quarterly high reached in the winter of 2014: a whopping 26 million iPads sold in just three months.

The same people who opined from their soapbox blogs that iPad needed to be more like a Mac to attract buyers like themselves subsequently congratulated themselves for outlining why iPad would fail as they predicted. But they were wrong on both accounts. iPad sales went down because Apple began offering a “large iOS experience” integrated into its larger-screened iPhones starting with iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

This wasn’t a problem for Apple because iPhone buyers tend to replace their phones faster than the typical refresh cycle for iPad. Apple didn’t force buyers to shift from using an iPhone and an iPad to a larger iPhone Plus; it simply offered a wider variety of options to attract as many different kinds of buyers as possible.

However, Apple didn’t ever scale down its Mac lineup to make a macOS tablet, or to bring windowing or other desktop Mac legacy to iOS. The most obvious reason for Apple’s one-way expansion is that the Mac users base is (relative to iOS) quite small and is only growing very slowly. There’s simply very little great potential to spawn new product categories from the stalk of that user base.

MacBook Pro is not evolving into an iPad

 

The premise of iPad

The key value of iPad is that it delivers a larger canvas for familiar iOS apps (and is easy for existing iOS developers to target). It accomplishes this by focusing on what makes smaller iOS devices great: they are simple to use and aggressively manage battery and memory use to deliver extended battery life on an affordable, highly mobile device.

Layering on the complexity of the more sophisticated Mac UI–which was designed to be dependent upon a larger power supply and the assumption of a faster processor and availability of more RAM and copious storage–is how Apple would strip value from iPad, rather than being a way to improve it.

By keeping its iPad and Mac lines distinct, Apple has set clear expectations for each, and made each very good at different things. There is some overlap; writers can type on either; musicians can compose and perform songs on either; artists can paint and sketch on either and business people can present, chart and message on either.

However, the two products are aimed at very different types of uses, without a mingling of expectations that would only complicate the decision of whether high mobility or full performance is clearly more important to a specific task. Hybrids in mobile electronics are typically worse than a product designed to be optimized for a specific task, an idea conveyed by Tim Cook using the phrase “refrigerator-toasters”

Starting at the end of 2015, Apple released iPad Pro. Rather than being a transition or convergence of iPad and Macs, it followed the same pattern Apple initiated in making a new, larger and more powerful version of its existing, popular iOS device. Apple separately enhanced its MacBook and MacBook Pro lines to focus on improving what makes Macs great, but it didn’t ever mingle the two together to create a hybrid.

That’s because hybrids in mobile electronics are typically worse than a product designed to be optimized for a specific task, an idea conveyed by Tim Cook using the phrase “refrigerator-toasters.” There are probably not a lot of hardcore Mac users who rushed out to buy an iPad Pro to replace their notebook. That product was intended to be a more powerful iOS experience, not a way to down-sell Mac users.

In retrospect, it’s hard for an intelligent and informed person to criticize Apple’s strategic course, given its trajectory. While plenty of people insist that Apple should be following their advice, the fact is that Apple’s approach has sold the most tablets and the most premium notebooks. Microsoft, which is often deluged with praise for following a different path from Apple in offering its Surface tablet-hybrid notebooks, has not come even remotely close to achieving similar sales.

At some point, if you’re advising the winner of a game to follow the tactics of the loser, you have to stop and admit that your advice is really stupid, even if you manage to deliver your ideas in a way that is influential to people who read your work and nod along with you without any capacity for critical thinking.

Contempt of competence

The volumes of irrational hatred, contemptuous derision and frothy scorn that have been sprayed in the direction of Apple’s iPad are quite incredible, given that actual buyers immediately began adopting Apple’s modern vision of highly-mobile, slate-sized computing, and that those sales have consistently maintained a lead over all other rivals for a solid eight years, the entire span of time that tablets have sold in meaningful volumes.

From its original launch, criticisms were fired at nearly every aspect of Apple’s new tablet. A review of the media’s coverage of the new iPad in 2010 makes it clear that very few members of the media (or financial analysts) saw even a sliver of the real potential of the new product, and they didn’t come around until Apple began reporting its sales figures.

Expressing a rare standout opinion, David Pogue of the New York Times noted of naysayers at its launch, “That [criticism] will last until the iPad actually goes on sale in April. Then, if history is any guide, Phase 3 will begin: positive reviews, people lining up to buy the thing, and the mysterious disappearance of the basher-bloggers.”

But by and large, the iPad was equated with Microsoft’s Tablet PC and Amazon’s Kindle and mocked as “over-hyped and under-delivered,” while pundits demanded 2.0 features a year early. Hours after the iPad’s unveiling, the phrase “iPad a disappointment” became a “spicy” trending topic as ranked by Google. Bloggers offered top ten lists of “reasons not to buy” the iPad.

Dan Lyons, then employed by Newsweek, had built a career of mocking Jobs. While he had plenty of nice things to say about free equipment Microsoft sent him to review, at the launch of the original iPad he sniped, “I haven’t been this let down since Snooki hooked up with The Situation,” adding in his “insta-reaction” that “Jobs himself seems tired and low-key. Speculation about his health, and its impact on Apple’s ability to innovate, may only increase after today’s event.”

It’s been so long, it’s hard to remember that the people who today say that Apple can’t innovate without Steve Jobs were less than a decade ago saying Apple couldn’t innovate because of Steve Jobs. The best way to convincingly lie is to incessantly repeat overtly preposterous nonsense billowing from a crowd of other aligned liars, because those people will occasionally include an endorsement of your credibility among the lies they spew.

Lavish praise for imcompentent flops

A year after iPad shipped, it had immediately become the most popular tablet computing platform, handily outselling a decade of attempts by Microsoft and its partners–including HP, Dell and Samsung–to sell Windows Tablet PCs.

Yet many of the same bloggers and journalists who had derided iPad out of the gate turned around to express giddy anticipation for Google’s Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets in 2011, which attempted to deliver a similar form factor (albeit being heavier and thicker), promised functional support for Adobe Flash (without delivering, among a series of other sloppy software problems) and claimed to usher in new innovation and competition (although they really just attempted to drive prices higher), with devices that weren’t even ready for sale and wouldn’t be for months. Every last Honeycomb tablet was a huge flop.

Outside of Google’s failed Android tablet platform, RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook also basked in the giddy hopes of journalists seeking to find a dramatic rival for Apple’s iPad, right up until it failed to make any real impact among the corporate users it was supposed to have wooed even before being delivered, solely on the basis of Blackberry brand recognition.

Palm’s unfinished webOS TouchPad also enthralled critics, who then marveled at the potential suggested by Palm being acquired by HP. No doubt the company that had flopped around for a decade delivering tablet turds for Microsoft would be quick to pop out a wonderful TouchPad, despite webOS never making any progress as a phone.

Amazon attempted to reanimate the cadaver of RIM’s PlayBook by house-branding a refreshed version of the device (from the same contract manufacturer) as Kindle Fire. Yet Kindle Fire hasn’t really ignited anything and certainly didn’t have the intended goal of stoking an Amazon-controlled mobile hardware platform. Further efforts by Amazon to build its own iOS with Fire Phone were a disaster, and even the remaining bits it salvaged, particularly Alexa’s verbal interface, have largely delivered flash and hype without much useful heat.

More recent efforts by Google to turn Android tablets around have been profitless busywork. Intel’s attempts to defibrillate Android tablets with its Atom chips failed despite incredible billions spent on subsidies. Android tablets are now nearly as forgotten as a strategic initiative as its Android Wear watches, robots and Google TV.

With new iPad Pro models expanding the capabilities of what an iOS tablet can do, with corporate partnerships expanding the use cases for mobile workflows in the enterprise and with new attention to iPad-specific productivity features in iOS 11, sales of iPads are again on the rise. And with users increasing adopting iPhone X as a more compact phone, we may see a further expansion of users augmenting their phone experience with the larger canvas of iPad.

But at no point will iPad focus on trying to be a Mac for global iOS audiences who increasingly don’t know anything about the Macintosh.

Vía AppleInsider

an architectural vanishing act, the disappearance of the vernacular home

ask any kid to draw a house, and chances are they’ll start with a rectangle and inevitably draw three lines on top — uncomplicated, but a realization that robert venturi would no doubt delight in. this notion of a house transcends culture and location, and manifests itself in two simple shapes, i.e. the vernacular home. this idea is was the starting point for architect kim seongyoul of rieuldorang atelier when designing the ‘manhwaricano’ home in korea.


all images by joonhwan yoon

I started designing with the question of how architecture can enter the world of emotion,’ kim seongyoul describes. the architect wanted to discover beauty from ordinary things — like simple geometric shapes — and this is just what he and his team accomplished with this project. this design uses the shape of the ‘idea of a home’ to create a negative space in a complex and beautiful project; thus offering a poetic reading of the average inhabitance.


the gable shape creates a passageway through the building

 

 

all that remains of this old vernacular notion is the footprint it once occupied and the ideas it left behind. the vacated space in the form of a gable becomes a sequence leading into the house. kim seongyoul asserts that history is a part of any project and that architecture, like art, always fits in this eternal timeline.


light floods through the canopy overhead


the ‘manhwaricano’ home in korea


the architect wanted to discover beauty from ordinary things, like simple geometric shapes


the design uses the shape of the ‘idea of a home’


a negative space in a complex and beautiful project is created


a poetic reading of the average inhabitance is offered


kim seongyoul asserts that history is a part of any project


architecture, like art, always fits in an eternal timeline


the vacated space in the form of a gable becomes a sequence leading

 

 

full article here

 

project info: 

 

project name: manhwaricano
architecture firm: rieuldorang atelier
lead architects: kim seongyoul
project location: manhwa-ri, dudong-myeon, ulju-gun ulsan, south korea
completion year: 2017
gross built area (square meters or square foot): 144.25m²
photo credits: yoon, joonhwan
other participants: lee hansae

Vía Design Boom

Facebook chooses friends over publishers: Changes that will affect News Publishers and other Media

Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Facebook announced Thursday that it will begin to prioritize posts in the News Feed from friends and family over public content and posts from publishers. It will also move away from using “time spent” on the platform as a metric of success and will instead focus on “engagement” with content, such as comments.

Why it matters: Facebook is the most widely-used news and information platform in the world; almost half of Americans rely on it for news. These changes will significantly impact the way people around the world receive and distribute information, possibly limiting the spread of fake news.

  • Moving forward, Facebook will prioritize “posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions” between people.
  • Pages will still remain in the News Feed, but they will likely see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease.
  • Facebook Head of Product Adam Mosseri‏ says the move is more about valuing stories that facilitate meaningful interactions between people.
  • The change will completely shift the publishing landscape, to the disadvantage of publishers that rely on the tech giant for traffic.
  • But, but, but: Facebook Journalism Project lead Campbell Brown told publishers in an email that the change will not affect links to publisher content shared by friends.

What this means for brands

  • In the short term, this will cause a tsunami of changes for everyone: Facebook, publishers, advertisers, investors, etc.
  • In the long term, it will force the entire digital ecosystem to focus on building meaningful relationships with consumers instead of click-bait. Audiences vs. traffic, as The Verge’s Casey Newton puts it.
  • “My initial reaction is it appears organic reach is finally moving toward zero,” says Rich Greenfield, Media Analyst at BTIG. “Zuckerberg is basically telling brands you either need to spark a meaningful, engaging conversation with your content — or spend ad dollars to reach consumers in the News Feed.
  • “It puts tremendous pressure/focus on great storytelling.”

Zuck’s mission: Bring back meaning

Data: American Press Institute; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

Most Americans admit to using Facebook for news, yet many say it’s the platform that they trust the least as a source for news.

  • As BuzzFeed’s Craig Silverman points out, the platform is not being used in the way its founder had envisioned, which Zuckerberg made clear to investors in his opening statement on his last earnings call.
  • The move to shift away from “time spent” as a metric for success is likely a response to that revelation, as it will force users to spend less time “passively scrolling” and more time facilitating conversations.
  • “When people are engaging with people they’re close to, it’s more meaningful, more fulfilling,” David Ginsberg, director of research at Facebook told The New York Times. “It’s good for your well-being.”

The timing

Data: Parse.ly referrer dashboard; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Traffic patterns show that Facebook has been planning a pivot to “meaningful engagement” for months.

  • The tech giant created the “Facebook Journalism Project” to mend its broken relationships with publishers a year ago, in anticipation of strategy changes.
  • It has been trying to convert premium publishers to its separate “Watch” video content tab since last year.
  • Executives have repeatedly told investors that News Feed inventory was becoming saturated, leading to slower ad load, and that they would focus on shifting publishers to video-based partnerships instead.

The publisher dilemma

Publishers, specifically those that rely on Facebook for the majority of their traffic, will probably be hit hardest by these changes in the short term.

  • However, most premium publishers have a healthy balance of traffic referrals across the ecosystem, according to a study from Parse.ly that measures referral traffic for medium to large-sized vetted publishers.
  • This is especially true for some of the larger, most established players that have diversified revenue models and traffic referral strategies.
  • Upstart publishers that have leaned on Facebook for audience in the past few years might be uniquely affected by the change, according to Parse.ly CTO Andrew Montalenti.

The bottom line

Meaningful engagement with the platform is not just a moral decision for Zuckerberg:

  • Facebook has seen younger audiences flock to Snapchatand other apps because they don’t feel a sense of intimacy with close connections and they don’t feel empowered to participate in meaningful conversations.
  • Until now, Facebook tried to acquire or copy competitorsthat innovated towards meaning.
  • Now, it’s taking a step to ensure users don’t abandon a platform that unintentionally got away from its mission.

This is the first meaningful response by a technology CEO to the looming “Techlash” against the giant technology companies controlling our lives:

What to watch

  1. This will create a new wave of publishers and technology focused on direct-to-consumer interactions.
  2. Expect artificial intelligence and chatbots to gain more traction as brands and publishers try to figure out the best ways to facilitate meaningful conversation and engagement.
  3. Publishers will pivot away from meaningless short-form video, because the update will weed out publisher video from the News Feed if it doesn’t drive meaningful conversations. Expect instead for publishers to invest in quality, on-demand video on Facebook Watch.

Vía Axios.com

Usability Testing Of Mobile Applications: A Step-By-Step Guide

The mobile market is huge and growing at a very fast rate. With an estimated 4.5 billion subscribers worldwide, it is forecasted that the number of mobile phones will surpass the world population.

Before Begin … A Couple of Words About This Guide

As the title of this article says, this is a step-by-step guide. The reason why I went for such a structure is to provide completeness. Very often one comes across articles that describe in detail a particular phase of mobile application usability testing. While great (so great that I have cited several of these articles in this guide), it may become confusing for someone who is new in the area of mobile usability testing to be able to figure out what is needed, how it is done and how each step is linked. This is where this article comes in.

Question no.1 – Do you need to read each step? No. If you feel confident about any section, feel free to skip it. Here is an index of the main sections of this guide:

Key sections of this guide (TL;DR)

  1. What is mobile application usability testing?
  2. Setting the objectives of the usability test
  3. Creating the tasks that will be performed
  4. Creating the test documents
  5. Finding and recruiting test participants
  6. Implementing the usability testing method
  7. Reporting usability test findings

Question no.2 – Can this guide be followed for testing the usability of mobile websites? Yes. The testing methodology is for mobile testing. It can be used for both mobile website testing and mobile application testing. I focused on mobile application usability testing because mobile applications are extremely popular (as will be explained in the next section) and also because it seems that the majority of articles, or at least those that I came across tend to focus more on mobile website testing.

Mobile Application Usability

So let me kick off this guide with a question. What do phone users spend most of their time on? Interacting with mobile applications (or apps as most of us refer to them). Yes, you read that correctly. A recent study shows that phone users in the US spend 86% of their mobile usage time solely on apps. Another study actually calculated this figure to be as high as 89%. And taking this further, it has also been found that mobile users spend 80% of their mobile app usage time using just five apps (out of the total of 24 apps they typically use in a month).

Thus it comes as no surprise that there has been an explosive increase in the number of phone applications especially those for games and social media. Forbes actually estimates that by next year, there will be almost 270 billion apps downloaded.

That being said, mobile phone applications are still restrained by the relatively small screen size and limited performance capabilities of the devices on which they run. It is true that phones have come a long way with larger screen sizes and increased processing capabilities. It is also true that mobile app design has evolvedconsiderably. However, they lack the screen sizes and processing capabilities of larger devices such as laptops or desktop computers.

Research shows that usability is key for the success of mobile apps. In fact, a common trend among successful mobile phone applications is that they are perceive by users as being easy to learn, user-friendly and less time-consuming when completing tasks. Other researchers have actually identified a direct link between mobile application usability and user acceptance.

Despite the importance of mobile application usability, there is a lack of an agreed-upon list of guidelines. In this regard, the best way to evaluate the usability of mobile applications is through usability testing.

Mobile Application Usability Testing

Way before you start thinking about what you will test and how, you need to devise a usability test plan. This serves as a blueprint for the actual test and although there is no specifically-set structure, it typically contains the following sections (Rubin et al. 2008):

  1. Purpose, goals and objectives of the test
  2. Research questions
  3. Participant characteristics
  4. Method (test design)
  5. Task list
  6. Test environment, equipment and logistics
  7. Test facilitator role
  8. Data to be collected and evaluation measures
  9. Report content and presentation

An interesting variant that can be very handy when testing mobile applications (due to the smaller teams involved) is the 1-page usability test plan proposed by David Travis from UserFocus.

The 1-Page Usability Test Plan by David Travis (Image Source: UserFocus)

Based on the usability test plan, it can be stated that in order to test the usability of a mobile application, (apart from the application itself) you need the:

  1. Objectives of the test
  2. Tasks that will be performed
  3. Test Documents (content form, orientation script, pre & post-test questionnaires)
  4. Test Participants
  5. Test Method

1. The Objectives of the Usability Test

The first step of any usability testing session is to set the goals straight. What questions do you want to answer with the usability test? What hypothesis do you want to test with the usability test?

So how does one set the goals? There are various ways one can do this. One handy technique that I use is a variaton of the methodology outlined by Michael Margolis from Google Ventures. This basically involves asking a number of questions (interviewing) to the app’s stakeholders (and that includes the development team behind it) to explore important areas:

  • The app’s roadmap
  • Users and markets for whom the app is targeted
  • The app’s competitors
  • Research that has already been done and other that the team requires
  • The potential impact of the above research
  • Timing and scope

The answers obtained from these interviews will give you two very important things:

  1. What the stakeholders already know
  2. What they would like to know

Based on the answers given to the above questions, it is now easier to start identifying the goals and what usability metrics one should use to measure them.

It is also very important that the identified goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Prioritized

2. The Tasks that will be Performed

Once the objectives have been set, it is time to move to the next step – setting tasks. Tasks are typically just one sentence long and should consist of the interactions that need to be performed by the test users, example:

  • Register an account
  • Sign into your account
  • Upload a photo
  • Accept a friend request

Instead of asking the test user to perform a task and hence make them feel that they are being tested, tasks should be converted to task scenarios. These provide more context for why the participant is doing the task and hence look more like natural interations that a typical user will perform with your application. In this regard, the task scenarios that are set should be:

  • Realistic, actionable and without any clues on how to perform the steps (Source)
  • Ordered in a sequence that ensures a smooth flow of the test session
  • Tied to one or more objectives (Source)

As with any form of testing, it is very important to perform a dry run of the usability test to ensure that the performance of the tasks will ultimately achieve the objectives that have been set.

3. The Usability Test Documents

There are a number of documents that you would need when conducting usability testing. While the number of documents and their content may vary, you would typically need the following:

For additional usability testing documents that you might find useful, please head over to the Usability.gov site.

4. The Test Participants

The mobile application usability testing method that will be discussed in the next section is a user-oriented testing technique, meaning it involves real users undertaking realistic tasks that the app is intended to achieve. Although testing with real users is more resource-consuming, this realistic scenario tends to yield more accurate results.

Raluca Buidu from the Nielsen Norman Group recommends recruiting test participants who have been using their devices for at least 3 months. This would overcome any difficulties resulting from the usage of the device rather than the app itself. In addition to this, using the test participants’ own devices tends to reveal more issues since they will be using real devices rather than top-of-the-range devices and fast internet connections that are usually available in development environments.

There are several considerations that need to be taken when choosing the participants for a usability test. Participants must:

  • Be representative of the users for whom the app is intended (i.e. the target users)
  • Own a device whose Operating System is the one on which the app is intended to run (including the appropriate version/s)
  • Be considered in terms of the stage at which the application is currently in. This may range from an app that is in its initial phases to one that has been already on the market for some time. In this regard factors such as confidentiality and the expertise that the test participants have with mobile applications could be crucial
  • Be available at the time, place, frequency of the intended usability tests
  • Agree to the compensation terms that you are offering (if any)
  • Be ready to sign a usability test participation consent form

An effective technique to ensure that the right test participants are recruited is to build user personas and then use them to screen potential test participants in order to find the right candidates. This is applicable of course if you already have a pool of potential test participants at hand (e.g. your registered users) or if you want to perform the recruitment process yourself.

If you would like to outsource this process, there are several recruiting agencies that can do that for you. Which one to choose is entirely up to you as both methods are fine and both have their pros and cons. An interesting survey conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group) shows the following interesting findings:

  • Most companies recruit their own test participants
  • Recruiting agencies are quite expensive (approximately $84 per person if recruiting average consumers or students and approximately $161 per participant if recruiting high-end professionals)
  • Companies recruiting their own participants spend an average of 1.15hrs of staff time per participant recruited

For additional detail on how to recruit participants for usability studies, please head over to these articles:

5. The Mobile Application Usability Testing Methodology

There are two main methods for conducting usability testing of mobile applications. Needless to say, each comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. These are:

  1. Laboratory-based usability testing
  2. Remote usability testing

In this article, we will be using laboratory-based (or lab-based) usability testing. This testing method enables the testing of mobile applications by involving real users using real devices. In it, the evaluator (whose role will be explained below) has full control over the test and can easily set the tasks – thus enabling him/her to test all usability aspects. It has also been found to yield results that are more accurate and easier to understand. In fact, several usability experts such as Raluca Budiu from the Nielsen Norman Group and Jeff Sauro from MeasuringU recommend it as the preferred usability testing method for mobile.

The ‘Components’ of a Lab-based usability test

Lab-based usability testing involves the observation of test participants performing assigned tasks using a mobile device in a setup similar to the one shown below:

The typical setup for usability testing on mobile (Image Source: Lorraine Patterson (edited))

The above setup can be split into the following ‘components’:

A) Camera

There are two distinct camera setups. Luckily, both will help capture the users’ gestures.

  1. Document / fixed-position cameras: The camera lies on a fixed point. (e.g. IPEVO’s Ziggi HD Plus)
  2. Cradle-based cameras / Mobile testing sleds: The camera is fixed to a cradle on which the mobile device is placed. The user then holds the cradle in his / her hand when performing the assigned tasks. There are a number of cameras that one can choose from such as Mr. Tappy and MOD 1000 to name a few. One can also find a number of DIY setups such as this one from Rik Williams who assembled a testing camera sled in just 15 minutes, using materials that are readily available in any office and Harry Brignull who built a testing sled for less than $8. Although DIY setups are relatively cheap and fast to build, they do have their own limitations that can affect the testing procedure such as unnecessary additional weight and less durability and portability than a professional testing sled. The advantage of using a cradle-based camera is that it allows users to operate their mobile device using natural movement – just like they would be using the app in real-life, unlike the fixed-position camera which confines the device to remain on a flat surface. Conversely, cradle-based testing sleds are sometimes criticised for the additional size and weight that they add to the device being used for testing, although the increased usage of lightweight material has minimized this.

Wireless testing?: In a recent article on Smashing Magazine, Colman Walsh describe an interesting and cost-effective setup that makes use of Apple’s AirPlay technology. The reasoning behind it is that unlike document and cradle-based system, the testing equipment is entirely invisible to the test participant. Although it is not an ‘official’ testing methodology, the article is definitely worth a read.

B) Webcam (Optional)

A webcam can be pointed towards the user’s face so as to provide an alternative view that can assist the interviewer in understanding the user’s interaction by capturing his/her facial expressions.

C) Recording software

The recording software is needed to project the session onto the facilitator’s screen and ideally record it too in the process. Some software also allow the session to be projected in real-time on multiple screens via a network. This can be particularly useful when involving a number of stakeholders. Very often, both document cameras and cradle-based cameras come with their own software. If that is not the case, then there are some very good tools that one can use so it is entirely up to you which one to use. For instance Jeff Sauro from MeasuringU uses GoTo Meeting to save the audio and video as a compressed, shareable .wmv file and Camtasia to save the webcam video. One can also use WebEx or Morae although the price for the license is a bit on the high end.

D) Test venue

Although it has traditionally been carried out in specialized usability testing labs, the availability of sophisticated technology at a reasonable price, means that one can now conduct this type of testing without the need for hiring specialized labs. If you are going to set up your own testing room, it is very important to ensure that there is adequate lighting that is ideally not right above the mobile device being used by the user since it can cause a glare on the screen.

E) Facilitator

As the title implies, the role of the facilitator is to facilitate the testing process, that is, to ensure that the test runs smoothly by addressing any issues that the test participant may have with the task being assigned or device they are using. Other than that, the role of the facilitator, who should ideally be a usability specialist, is to observe the test on their screen and ensure that the test participants perform the assigned tasks.

The Testing Procedure

The testing procedure can be structured into 6 steps as shown below. The time next to each step is based on the typical time that each step takes as recommended by David Travis from UserFocus. If one adheres to these suggested times, then each session would take approximately an hour to conduct.

STEP TIME
1. Welcome / Signing of the consent form 5 min
2. Pre-test interview 5 min
3. Carrying out the test tasks 35 min
4. Post-test questionnaire 5 min
5. Post-test interview 5 min
6. Debriefing 5 min

All of the above steps have been described earlier on. However, little has been said about step 6 – debriefing. Debriefing is a process that is undertaken at the end of each test session and it involves going through and analyzing the actions performed by the participant. Since the debriefing session is conducted with the participant, this provides additional insight on why that participant performed such actions. Thus, while the test session indicates the problems, it is the debriefing session that provides the insight on why those problems occured.

Reporting the Results of the Usability Test

After all the usability test sessions have been completed, you need to go through all the data, compile it, analyze it and present it in a way that it contains actionable recommendations.

First of all, the data needs to be split between quantitative and quantitative data.

  • Quantitative data from the testing session may be used to compute usability metrics such as completion rates, success rates, task times, satisfaction ratings and error rates.
  • Qualitative data can be compiled to provide insights about the paths taken by participants, problems experienced and answers that they provided in the questionnaire, post-test interview and debriefing sessions.

While there is no fixed structure for reporting, it is generally recommended to include the following sections:

  1. Background summary: The application that was tested, where it was tested, what equipment was used, what was tested and who was the testing team.
  2. Methodology: How the test was conducted, task scenarios, metrics that were collected. Also include information about the test participants (brief summaries of demographic data – do not release any confidential data such as participant names).
  3. Test Results: The compiled qualitative and quantitative data together with an analysis of this data.
  4. Findings and Recommendations: Based on the observations from point 3 (i.e. substantiated by data), provide a set of recommendations that one needs to implement in order to fix any usability issues that have been identified. However, do not just report the problems here. Be sure to highlight any findings that showed good usability.

Wrapping it Up

As you can see, there is indeed a structured approach to mobile application usability tesing. Better still, this approach can be tweaked to meet the needs of any application that is being tested and any stakeholder who is interested in the outcome of such tests. Moreover, the importance of usability testing, especially for mobile – with the large array of devices and their respective specs has long-been documeted. This is why there is absolutely no excuse as to why, at this day and age, one should not conduct usability testing.

(Lead image source: Ben Bashford – Creative Commons License)

Vía Usability Geek

Stuff No One Told Me (20+ Pics)

In 2010, illustrator Alex Noriega was having some problems at work and so he started a blog as a way to figure out where he was going wrong. “I wanted to put on paper all that I had learned in life as simple as possible and try to see if what was happening around me made any sense,” he says. Although it didn’t help him to make sense of anything, it did however lead to this beautiful series of illustrations.

His blog is called Stuff No One Told Me (SNOTM for short), but while Alex may have learned life’s lessons the hard way, he’s making it easy for the rest of us by teaching us everything we need to know. His illustrations range from sobering reminders of things we often overlook in life to useful nuggets of zen-like wisdom to help us to become more conscientious humans. Take a look for yourself, and don’t say no one told you.

More info: SNOTM

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 Vía Bored Panda

ENGEL House / CMC architects

© BoysPlayNice
 

© BoysPlayNice
 

Location
In a small community in the Western region of the Czech Republic, not far from the spa town of Karlovy Vary, this villa was designed as a recreational house for an accomplished man, his family and friends.  The architect’s intention was essentially to assimilate the romantic context of this small village, posited just under the massive cliffs and ruins of a Gothic castle, where the town originated. Andelska Hora (originally in German Engelsburg), belongs to a protected area of the country, and sits above 600 meters in altitude.  The local climate, as one could expect, has dramatic extremes.

© BoysPlayNice
 

The concept of this villa evolved from traditional forms of Czech village living typologies, which include ‘saddle’ or A-frame roofs made from wood timber construction.  The design brief was of course for a completely modern recreational villa, for both summer and winter seasons.  The land plot is 2 163m2 and has ideal South orientation, approached from the North, with fabulous views of the regions ‘waves’ of green hills.  The built-up footprint of the villa is 346m2.

© BoysPlayNice
 

Composition
After careful analysis of the site and surroundings, a ‘cross’ configuration was proposed in plan, with double-height massing of the main functional components of the villa.  The crossing forms are flat-roofed and one floor in height, containing secondary or support spaces. The orientation is North-East/South-West for the axis of the main body of the villa. The basic planning principle allows for a simple and clear entry court, off the local street, with easy garage access.  This resulting ‘L’ shape forms a semi-enclosed space, giving ground-floor orientation and an excellent view to the open countryside.

© BoysPlayNice
 

Disposition
The main living space is in the South-West end of the double-height volume, which also includes an open gallery to the upper level. The living style is informal, with the kitchen-dining also oriented to the roofed, outdoor kitchen and entertaining area.  Separating the living room from the kitchen area is a towering black metal fireplace with glass doors, which is a main feature of the well-proportioned space.  The side wings of the ground floor, which form the cross in the plan, have master bedroom, study and service functions. The upper level of the main villa body, with its open gallery to below, has three guest bedrooms and bathrooms.

Roof Plan
 

Interior
The villa brief asked for wood timber construction, made from massive wood beams and panel walls, which ultimately form the ‘wood-living’ concept of the house.  The wood panel wall system is left exposed to view, with a light white-toned stain, elegantly contrasting the dark wood floor and wall cladding.  The primarily wood interior is contrasted with metals, both finished and unfinished, and features decorative lighting made from Czech crystal.  Bathrooms are generous, but simple in design, also with contrasting, large format ceramic tiles in dark brown and beige colors.

© BoysPlayNice
 

Lower Floor Plan
 

© BoysPlayNice
 

Facades
The façade materials were selected so as to fit well into the context and have lasting beauty.  The forms and materials concept attempts to assimilate simpler, utilitarian objects and buildings common in the region.  The vertical ends of the main villa body are from recycled, charred Spruce wood, and the East-West façades are clad with standing seam, pre-oxidized RHEINZINK. The lower crossing wings are clad with CORTEN, or rusted steel sheets, which give the feeling of workshops or shed-like service buildings supporting the main living spaces.

© BoysPlayNice
 

Gardens
Generally, the landscape is composed of existing trees and new indigenous plants, complimented with low-maintenance, succulent types of bushes and flowers.  The swimming pool is oriented South-West, and, like the villa, is warmed with a heat pump system.  Terraces have Ipe wood, which ages quite well and has very good durability.

Best Xbox One games: The BEST games you need to play in 2017 #CreditCardMurderers

 Own an Xbox One, Xbox One S or Xbox One X? Find out the best games you need to play on Microsoft’s family of Xbox One consoles
The Xmas date is just days ahead, your credit card is sweaty and ready to recevive the kick in the balls your are about to give it, let’s be honest, as gamers we love to make good investment in our hardware and games, sometimes more than is wise to do. But heck, the industry love us and we are here, this xmas to empty our

While Microsoft’s original Xbox One was left dragging its heels compared to Sony’s fourth-generation PlayStation console, both the slimmer Xbox One S and 4K-capable Xbox One X have flourished. Now excellent homes for all sorts of games, from AAA blockbusters to platform exclusives, now’s the time to pick up the Xbox One controller and start playing.

Whether you’ve opted for the dirt-cheap Xbox One S or splurged on the 4K superiority of the Xbox One X, or heck – still have your dust old Xbox One under your TV, you’ll be wanting some decent games to play. That’s where we come in.

Here at Expert Reviews, we’ve always got an Xbox controller in our hands and as such, can let you know which Xbox One games are worth playing in 2017. From racing titles to blockbuster shooters, all the bases are covered for every budget. Here are 2017’s best games you need to play in 2017 on your Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X.

Best Xbox One games in 2017

1. Forza Motorsport 7

Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes: 4K and HDR 

Turn10’s Forza Motorsport 7 is currently the best game on Microsoft’s family of Xbox consoles. It looks utterly gorgeous on the One and One S, but if you’re lucky enough to own an Xbox One X, you’re in for a real treat. With HDR and 4K textures, Forza Motorsport 7 is a must, plays like a dream, and is one of the best sim-racing games of this generation. Vroom Vroom.

Forza Motorsport 7: Standard Edition – Xbox One

2. Destiny 2

Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes: 4K and HDR 

Destiny returns, and this time its story is actually worth playing. While the original’s plot was a convoluted mess, and something worth skipping, this sci-fi shooter sequel is well worth picking up and – crucially – playing side by side with your friends. Having refined the shooting gameplay and added a bunch of new weapons and abilities, Bungie has created a sequel that feels fresh, and is miles better than its predecessor.

Destiny 2

3. Resident Evil 7

Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes: HDR

After the over-the-top mess of Resident Evil 6, creators Capcom have returned to the long-running horror series’ roots – with a spooky house and scary (ahem) residents. The Xbox One version doesn’t have PS VR support, but this intense burst of a horror game is brilliant on a normal screen, with fantastic sound design that will have you squirming on the sofa.

Resident Evil 7 Biohazard (Xbox One)

4. The Witcher 3

Xbox One X Enhanced? No: In development

The Witcher 3 arguably sets a new benchmark when it comes to immersive storytelling, managing to weave a complex tale across a sprawling, beautiful game environment. Combat is a pleasure, as are the conversations you’ll have with the game’s host of memorable characters. With hours worth of side quests and two excellent servings of DLC available, you’ll be adventuring with Geralt of Riviera for months to come.

The Witcher 3 (Xbox One)

5. Gears of War 4

Xbox One X Enhanced? Yes: 4K and HDR

The original Gears of War helped to define the cover shooter, but running and ducking gameplay has become somewhat unfashionable in the wake of Doom’s kinetic ballet. It’s a surprise, then, that Gears of War 4 is so much fun to play. The enjoyable romp takes place 25 years after the events of Gears of War 3 and comes with an excellent co-op mode. It’s not revolutionary, but it boasts some spectacular set pieces and a suitably pulpy story.

Gears Of War 4 (Xbox One)

6. Rocket League

Xbox One X Enhanced? No: In development

Cars with rockets hitting balls into nets! Rocket League has been a bit of a sensation since its launch, letting players across PC, PS4 and Xbox One tear up virtual pitches with rocket-propelled automobiles. The game plays a bit like football, if football was created by a 5-year old who liked to play with remote-controlled toys.

Rocket League Collector’s Edition (Xbox One)

7. Overwatch

Xbox One X Enhanced? No

From its colourful design to its stripped-back shooter toolset, Overwatch offers an accessible, addictive and very welcoming experience for players. Seven million people played Overwatch within a week of its release, and it has continued to dominate the multiplayer scene since. It’s a well-polished shooter that’s easy on the eyes, and a lot of fun to spend a few hours on.

Overwatch Game of the Year Edition (Xbox One)

8. Dark Souls 3

Xbox One X Enhanced? No

Like the Dark Souls and Bloodborne games before it, Dark Souls 3 is a masterclass in game design. You’ll come across so many memorable locations during your playthrough that you’ll find yourself chatting with them as if you’ve just got back from a (particularly violent) holiday. Dark Souls 3 is hard, yes, and that may put some players off – but I’d urge you to give it a go. Once you’ve gotten used to the game’s rhythm of death, pushing further into the darkness becomes an experience like no other.

Vía Expert Reviews

Facebook test a major change in its timeline

Facebook just scared the hell out of publishers in one small test that were conducted in some countries, when those publishers lost almost 60% of the organic reach in little time. The question here if there is anything Facebook do wrong, or the companies expect to much from them.

In newsrooms in six countries scattered across the globe, alarm bells started to go off over the weekend: Something very strange was happening to the newsrooms’ posts on Facebook. Instead of appearing in the News Feeds of people following them on the social network, the posts were appearing in a new, separate section of the site, termed Explore Feed.

Facebook in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Cambodia had begun to function differently, separating out posts from people and posts from pages.

On Saturday, Filip Struhárik, a journalist at the Bratislava-based newspaper Denník N, published a warning on Medium that spread quickly among social-media managers and Facebook observers. “Pages are seeing dramatic drops in organic reach. Reach of several asked Facebook pages fell on Thursday and Friday by two-thirds compared to previous days,” he wrote. “Sixty biggest Slovak media pages have 4 times fewer interactions (likes, comments, shares) since the test. It looks like the effect in Guatemala and Cambodia is the same.”

Several headlines have since focused on another part of the test: that pages could pay to appear in the main news feed. Mashable called it “a nightmare” pay-to-play scenario.

Needless to say, publishers were worried. In response to Struhárik’s story, the head of Facebook’s News Feed, Adam Mosseri, responded to him on Twitter. “This image reflects a test in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia,” Mosseri wrote. “It’s not global and there are no plans to be.”

When Struhárik followed up to ask how long the test would take—“days, weeks, months”—Mosseri replied, “Likely months as it can take that long for people to adapt, but we’ll be looking to improve the experience in the meantime.”

“It seems hard for me to see how the Explore Feed could be anything other than bad news for publishers.”

Publishers outside these six countries could breathe a sigh of relief. The effect of this kind of drop in traffic, particularly in the fourth quarter, when many (American) publishers have sold through a higher percentage of their “inventory,” would be devastating.But for those inside those countries, newsrooms were, to put it gently, freaking out.

Marko Miletić works for the Serbian site Mašina, which saw its Facebook pages reach 58 percent fewer users last week as the test began to roll out, and 72 percent fewer interactions. “We don’t know how long this test will last but it can influence informational and political pluralism (at least the amount that existed on social network),” he wrote to me. That’s because, as he sees it, Facebook’s organic tools are all that smaller media publishers and “grassroots political initiatives” have. They can’t afford to pay for distribution on Facebook by “boosting” posts.

Other publishers are trying to put a happier face on the changes, or at least withholding immediate judgment.“It’s too early to say anything definitive about the impact this is having on our traffic and reach,” Jenni Reid, the web editor at The Phnom Penh Post, told me. “The two feeds still don’t seem to be fully separated yet for some people here in Cambodia, but so far it doesn’t look positive.”

Reid, who was a social-media editor for The Economist before her current position, said that it was hard to imagine how the Facebook change might positively affect their number of readers. “In its current format, it seems hard for me to see how the Explore Feed could be anything other than bad news for publishers,” she said. “It seems a strange move given that Facebook has been trying to build bridges with news organizations since the start of the year through the Facebook Journalism Project.”

“Seven out of 10 of the most popular Facebook pages here are news websites or newspapers.”

These changes are significant for the broader media ecosystem in Cambodia, Reid said. “Last year, Facebook edged ahead of television as the number-one source of news for Cambodians according to one survey. Post Khmer, the Khmer-language Facebook page for the Phnom Penh Post, has the fourth-most likes in the country, and seven out of 10 of the most popular Facebook pages here are news websites or newspapers,” she told me. “That’s striking compared to, say, the United States, where there isn’t even a news publisher in the top 50 most popular pages among Facebook users.”

Reading between the lines, it’s clear: Cambodia’s news infrastructure experienced a radical change, overnight. And none of the editors I was able to contact, or anyone that they knew, had heard from Facebook about the change before it happened. They just walked into work one day and everything was different.

 It’s possible that, in the long term, separating page posts out from people posts would be a good idea. News Feed has serious problems. Maybe the split feed would be a superior experience. But to see how it would be before making a huge change, one can imagine Facebook would want to do some major testing.
From Facebook’s perspective, the company has to be allowed to try out new versions of its software. It can’t be asked to keep its tools static because publishers have gotten used to them. And some tests might need to be disruptive to get to a future, better Facebook. This iterative process is, in fact, how Facebook has built the product that so many people use for an average of more than 50 minutes per day.

But Facebook did not simply end up controlling news distribution in countries across the world. They strategically entered the market, much as any company would, as part of their own competitive battle with other internet companies. Some responsibility must come with the deliberate rerouting of the public sphere through Facebook’s servers and ad networks. Right?

None of this is to get at the content of the test. Vox’s Matt Yglesias argued that the change could be good. “Facebook-induced traffic boom just devalues page views,” he tweeted. Total ad spend in the country is fairly fixed, so a decreasing number of page views should lead to rising advertising prices for publishers over time, he said. Certainly, when Facebook started sending more traffic to publishers, we saw the reverse: Ad rates declined as there was simply more supply. The reverse could be happen (although I can’t imagine there is a digital-media sales team out there who wishes they had less inventory to sell).

Facebook’s scale might estrange it from how other people see the world.

In any case, if you’re a publisher in one of the six affected countries, that must be cold comfort.

Facebook has been unusually forthcoming about this test after it was initiated, which is good. Mosseri responded on Twitter and followed up with a blog postthat partially explained their rationale. “The goal of this test is to understand if people prefer to have separate places for personal and public content,” he wrote.But Facebook’s response has been strangely blind to the bind that it has put whole countries’ worth of publishers in. Mosseri’s response to a Slovakian journalist was to assure him that there were no plans for the test to go global.

Facebook executives like to argue that people don’t understand the company’s staggering scale, but the test shows how that very scale might estrange it from how other people see the world.

Are all the people in the test areas some tiny percentage of Facebook’s user base (say, 1 percent) who want to see more posts from their family and friends, or are they the citizens of six sovereign nations who have come to rely on Facebook as a crucial part of their news-distribution infrastructure?

They’re both. And in this case, their news publishers are simply stuck reckoning with internet-company power, desperately tweeting.

I put these questions to Facebook: Were media organizations notified of, briefed about, or consulted with before the change was made? How were these countries selected? What deliberations were made about the possible trade-offs between what you’d learn and the probable deleterious effects on the media business and information ecosystem in these places?

Facebook has not responded.

Vía The Atlantic

 

40 awesome packaging designs

Packaging is something we’re bombarded with on a daily basis. So creating an eye-catching packaging design that can be reproduced for years is a real challenge, especially with trends in industrial design now demanding biodegradable or renewable packaging.

Now more than ever, packaging design matters. The designs below show the direction in which many different industries are focusing their packaging design for years to come.

01. Moses Lake Cellars

These labels were designed to work together as a collection

Thirst is a design agency specialising in the craft drinks industry, and it’s currently exploring new techniques and executions in packaging design as part of its Studio Series. This range of bottle labels for luxury wine brand Moses Lake Cellars was designed to work as a collective on a dinner table.

“We wanted to explore typographic lettering techniques that were bold and youthful, yet still carry the luxurious qualities associated with wine,” says Thirst. To give an extra touch of luxury, the studio used heavy paper stock, and each label is double folded, white onto gold.

02. CS light bulbs

These clever boxes pair light bulbs with insect illustrations

Everyday products such as light bulbs tend to lend themselves to fairly utilitarian packaging, but these, produced by Belarus electrical company CS, boast beautiful boxes that turn the product into an important part of the packaging design.

Designed by Angelina Pischikova, with line illustrations by Anna Orlovskaya, this amazing packaging uses detailed drawings of insects, and the bulbs themselves are paired with certain bugs depending on their shape and size. Long, thin bulbs are stored in dragonfly boxes, while the coiled stripes of an energy saving bulb become the abdomen of a bumble bee.

 03. Dolce

Dolce’s packaging uses imagery from Alice in Wonderland

Located in the heart of Belgrade, Serbia, Dolce is a cake shop that combines traditional techniques with a modern approach. Independent design studio Metaklinika was tasked with creating a range of packaging for the brand. The whimsical result takes inspiration from Baroque aesthetics, and uses iconography based around the theme of Alice in Wonderland.

04. Leafs by Snoop

Pentagram’s designs for Snoop are dope as heck

With cannabis slowly becoming less and less illegal in the USA, cannabis branding is increasingly becoming a thing, complete with packaging to match. Snoop Dogg brought in none other than Pentagram to design the brand identity and packaging for his line of cannabis products: Leafs by Snoop.

Stepping far away from the idea of furtively buying a grubby little bag of greenery, Pentagram’s designs include a distinctive leaf-based logo (including an animated version), luxurious weed boxes and a range of edibles including six chocolate bars and cannabis sweets called, of course, ‘Dogg Treats’.

05. Colour me Blind 

Graduate Alexandra Burling’s designs for milk, cornflakes and tinned tomatoes are aimed at visually impaired customers

For her graduation project at , graphic design student Alexandra Burling wanted to see if it was possible to create an aesthetically appealing packaging design for the visually impaired. Following her research period, she decided to focus on groceries.

“I wanted to give blind people the liberty of doing something so obvious as going down to the supermarket and buying milk,” explains Burling. “The aim was to provoke discussion and pave the way for innovative thinking about how packaging design can appeal to more senses than sight.”

06. Karamelleriet

A sweet packaging style for these caramels

Copenhagen design studio Bessermachen created this frankly beautiful branding and packaging design to reflect the handmade aesthetic of the caramel producing Karamelleriet.

Creating an entirely new visual identity that contains everything from the logo to packaging to display and flyers, Karamelleriet has achieved an expression that is the caramel production worthy.

07. Allsorts Black and White

A new look for an old-school sweet

Back in 2014, Liquorice Allsorts had a mini facelift from Bond Creative Agency for Cloetta – a leading confectionary company in the Nordic region. The new packaging used the traditional sweets’ distinctive shapes and colours and used them as the basis for a more modern design.

The agency’s recent update for Cloetta’s Black and White edition follows the same theme, but with the colour stripped away. “The silver print and matt finishing give a tasty touch to the functional cardboard box,” says Bond.

08. Spine Vodka

This vodka brand gets down to the bare bones of packaging

German designer Johannes Schulz created this inspirational packaging for Spine Vodka. “It was a private project I started after my graduation of an international communication design school in Hamburg, Germany,” he explains. “Spine is a high quality product just like the design, reduced and simple with a consciously ‘twist’ in his message and a memorable name fitting to the project.”

Integrated the spine with the ribcage to communicate a product with a ‘backbone’, the uniqe 3D design approach sets it aside from its 2D counterparts. “The transparent glass material stands for a product that don’t has to hide something,” Schulz concludes.

 09. The Lovely Clinic

SomeOne used this painterly design to represent transformation

London-based creative agency SomeOne’s created this tactile packaging as part of its branding scheme The Lovely Clinic. Faced with the challenge of branding a beauty client, SomeOne decided it was time to challenge the industry norms. “The beauty sector is awash with images of impossibly beautiful women, who hint that if it wasn’t for a particular brand, they would resemble the back of an elephant rather than a glowing example of perfection,” it points out on its website.

“We centred on the visual theme of paint – globally recognised as a way of either enhancing the existing – or a way of working with basic elements to create something astonishing,” adds senior designer Tom Myers.

10. Brandless

Brandless trademarked the white space on its designs

US company Brandless has taken minimalism to the extreme by trademarking white space in its range of food and home items. Co-designed with Brooklyn agency Red Antler, each product is made up of a single colour with the white box design dropped on top. The text in the boxes is effectively negative space, and is readable thanks to the colour underneath peeking through.

Interestingly, the lack of identity means that the range can dodge a fee known as Brand Tax, which means Brandless is able to sell all the products at a standard price of $3.

Vía CreativeBloq

Nordea’s new Danish Headquarters

Copenhagen / Denmark / 2017

Built on a base of slate with scintillating, transparent facades, this bank sets new standards for work in the financial sector by providing an approachable environment that opens up to the city. With a tribute to the great Nordic landscapes, the new Nordea Headquarters rises like a sparkling giant ice block on a charcoal slate base. The crystalline facade allows daylight to flow through the building and is a key component in the vision of creating transparency between employees, clients and…
read more
Project details
Year 2017
Client Nordea Properties
Status Completed works
Type Office Buildings / Corporate Headquarters
Website
Vía Archilovers

Selvatica

Designed by Siegenthaler & Co. | Country: Colombia

“Selvatica is a brand of fruit infused teas from the natural rain forests of Colombia. We wanted to portray the environment in which the Acai, Camu-Camu, Copoazu and the Arazá fruits grow. The illustrations depict the environment in which they flourish, the animals that feed from them and how the harvest is collected. We created a small window into the Amazon rain forest.”

Hello My Name Is

Designed by YANG:RIPOL | Country: United Kingdom

“Hello My Name Is is a skincare brand which extends their name depending on the products. We worked on the package design for their new line of facial treatment masks containing special ingredients from traditional oriental medicine such as horse and snake oils, which have been used for generations.

We have established design principles based on the brand positioning, target market and ingredients.

Inspired by the Chinese pictorial tradition, with its artistic depictions of creatures and patterns, the result incorporates animals camouflaged among themselves to represent the unique ingredients which are the key point of the products.”

 

 

lily jencks + nathanael dorent transform 17th century ruins into contemporary country home

 the collaborative efforts of lily jencks and nathanael dorent have transformed a set of stone ruins in scotland into a contemporary and environmentally friendly country home. in repurposing the original structure — the remains of an old farmhouse — the design team has created a property that affords sweeping views across the region’s picturesque, undulating landscape. ‘located in a remote countryside area, this project was conceived as passive and self-sufficient, well-insulated and using solar energy,’ explain the architects.


all images © sergio pirrone

 

 

as the original farmhouse had been modified on a number of occasions since its construction, lily jencks studio and nathanael dorent architecture carefully selected a sequence of materials and geometries that would highlight its storied history. ‘the first layer is the existing stone wall, within which sits a black waterproofing EPDM rubber clad pitched-roof ‘envelope’, and within that a curvilinear interior ‘tube’ wall system,’ says the design team. ‘this interior curved surface is made of insulating polystyrene blocks within a gridded wood structure, and is covered with glass reinforced plastic.’


a set of stone ruins has been turned into a contemporary country home

 

 

the different layers serve two main purposes: they emphasize the narrative of time, while reflecting a variety of architectural expressions. ‘these three layers are not designed as independent parts, rather, they take on meaning as their relationship evolves through the building’s sections,’ the architects continue. ‘they separate, come together, and intertwine, creating a series of architectural singularities, including in some areas a particularly revealing simultaneous reading of these three layers.’


the design team preserved the existing ruin walls

 

 

the house’s more public programs, including the kitchen and dining areas, are contained within the ‘tube’, while private areas, (including bedrooms, and bathrooms), are found at each end of the property. the home’s windows and doors are positioned in response to the the structure’s existing walls, as well as the views from the site. ‘at the windows and doors the tube funnels out towards the light, creating a ‘poched’ space within the thickness of the tube wall, and between the envelope and the tube, that can be used for furniture and storage,’ explains the design team.


the house’s public programs, including the kitchen, are contained within the central ‘tube’


the home’s windows and doors are positioned in response to the the structure’s existing walls


more private areas are found at each end of the property


the architects reinstituted the pitched roof that would have been there originally


the house is located in a remote countryside area


the dwelling affords sweeping views across the region’s picturesque, undulating landscape

project info:

 

design team: lily jencks studio [lily jencks (director) + pati santos (architect)] and nathanael dorent architecture
executive architect: savills [michael leybourne (architect) + allan lees]
structural engineering: manja van de worp (nous engineering)
program: private house
location: dumfries, scotland
area: 180 sqm
year: 2014-2016
photography: sergio pirrone

Vía DesignBoom

rojkind arquitectos opens ‘foro boca’, a sculptural concert hall in coastal mexico

in boca del río, mexico, rojkind arquitectos has completed ‘foro boca’ — a structure designed to house the city’s philharmonic orchestra. the building’s shape was informed by the stones used for the foundation of the neighboring breakwater, with large sculptural volumes housing the concert hall and other programs. the project is located in the center of the city along a coastal avenue, and forms part of a larger masterplan intended to revitalize the neighborhood.


all images by jaime navarro

 

 

able to accommodate 966 guests, the main stage — designed for classical, traditional, and contemporary music — can be adapted for dance and theater performances. meanwhile, the back of house area has been designed specifically for the orchestra, containing all necessary facilities. the boca del rio philharmonic orchestra, formed in 2014, has attracted local and foreign musicians, making it the heart of the cultural life of the city. in addition to providing a yearly season of orchestral concerts, the center will house an after-school social development program for low-income children named ‘orquestando armonia’.


the project is located in the mexican city of boca del río

 

 

‘the foro boca has the goal of functioning as an urban detonator capable of inciting modernity in the area’, explains rojkind arquitectos.‘the forum itself is a tool that has permitted the reconstruction and renovation of the infrastructure and urban image of this part of the city.’ see designboom’s previous coverage of the project here.


the building’s shape was informed by the stones used for the foundation of the neighboring breakwater


large sculptural volumes house the concert hall as well as other programs


internal circulation routes span a central void


timber has been used throughout the scheme’s interiors


illumination is provided via carefully positioned apertures


the concert hall can accommodate up to 966 guests


the project forms part of a larger masterplan intended to revitalize the neighborhood

 

 

full article here

project info:

 

architect: rojkind arquitectos | michel rojkind
team: agustín pereyra (project manager), arturo ortíz, adrián aguilar, sandra carvajal, fernanda casar, salvador cortéz, diego díaz lezama, paulina elizalde, rubén garcía, daniel gaytán, paulina goycoolea, jorge gonzález r., alfredo hernández , laura hernández, pablo herrera, julieta inclán, carsten lemme andrea león, félix mendoza, gerardo salinas, julio serralde, alfonso paz, cynthia ponce, víctor velázquez, ditter vergara, beatriz zavala
media: lorena garcía cordero / dinorah martínez schulte

 

structural engineer: EMRSA — enrique martínez sergio pérez, martín s. lópez, elsa serrano, miguel ángel allende josé mejía, kevin cruz, josé martínez vargas
acoustic consultants:
akustics — octavio barragán, cristian ezcurdia, hugo garduño
auerbach pollock — friedlander, len auerbach, kevin macphearson, tom neville
seamonk — lincoln aguirre, itzel alba, cristian ezcurdia, jorge romero
MEP engineer / specialties: gralte S.C. — jorge romero, daniel velázquez, ismael hernández, mario navarro, germán muñóz
lighting consultant: artec3 — maurici ginés, jose cardona, ana ayala, carmen valle, itzae cardeña
builder: ingenieria y desarrollo arquitectónico S.A. de C.V.

Vía DesignBoom

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