Make A Wish! — a talk on successful projects and songs

My talk at UXcamp Europe, May 26th 2012 in Berlin.

For successful projects you need two things: You need to know what you want to do and if this is the right goal, and you need to make sure that everybody involved works towards the same goal. In this talk I explain how to go about this, what this has to do with Disney songs and why song-driven design is the new thing now. Also, I got roughly 400 people to sing about user experience.

Storytelling und Magie (und das Target Principle)

Mein Vortrag vom World Usability Day, 10. November 2011 in Mannheim.

Storytelling und Magie! (Und was das mit erfolgreichen Projekten zu tun hat.)

Storytelling ist in aller Munde, doch niemand weiß genau, was sich dahinter eigentlich verbirgt. Meistens beschränken sich die Erklärungen auf „Gutes Storytelling erfordert gutes Zuhören“ und danach wird es schon dünn. Doch wie erzählt man wirklich eine packende Geschichte? Warum lohnt sich das? Und was kann man davon für die eigene Arbeit lernen?

Why first impressions matter

First impressions matter, but not in a way you’d think. Let me explain…

When experiencing a product or a service customers will be guided through this experience by their first impression. In a way this is snap-judgement and in a way it is totally unfair of them to do so but that’s the way it is.

You see, our brain is constantly bombarded by millions of tiny bits of information. So our brain became very good at filtering out what’s what and what is worth paying attention to. And thus we judge things and the quicker we can judge the better we are off. See for example our tendency to put people in boxes: This person is a pusher and that person is a whiner and so on. Sure it is rude and will never do these people justice but for our brain it is a shortcut, which in some situations can be very handy.

But to rate an experience you need a baseline, something to compare it to. And this is where the first impression comes in. Our brain tries to judge something very quickly and then only ever compares it to this initial assessment. So if your product fails at the first impression it’ll be very hard to convince the customer otherwise. If on the other hand the first impression is a good one all further interactions with the product will be helped by this. Your customers might even forgive you some minor errors here and there because their general opinion of the product is good.

You know this from pitching ideas to clients. If at first they didn’t like an idea how often did you convince them of it anyways? Probably only very few times and when you did it probably took you quite some effort.

So your product and service needs to make a good first impression to smoothly sail your customers through the experience — if it doesn’t you’ll face an uphill battle against your their initial judgement. It also has to make a good last impression but we’ll discuss this in the next article.

Example: How having a clear vision can help your company

There is a video making the rounds on the Internet lately and I want to show it to you because it illustrates how having a clear vision can help you and your company.

The year is 1997 and Apple Computers has just bought Next, the company that Steve Jobs founded after he was thrown out of Apple. Of course Jobs also founded Apple together with Steve Wozniak so for him it must have been surreal to finally be back.

At the end of the developer conference of that year he took to the stage in his aw-shucks-just-comin-bye mode and answered questions from the audience. Keep in mind this was before he took the helm as the interims CEO — Gil Amelio was still in charge and Jobs merely consulted for the management. Have a look at this:

Apple WWDC ’97 Steve Jobs Closing Keynote

Now, for sure hindsight is 20/20 as we all know how these ideas played out. Most of them were correct, some weren’t (for example he reversed his stance on the clone makers just half a year later). But remember that at the time what he said was unheard of for many people. Not for all, of course, and he bragged about how he is using network technology already but this was a time when computers still had floppy drives and serial modems, if any.

So it’s fascinating to look back at what the original vision was. But it’s even more fascinating to look back and see how he made Apple execute on his vision.

What your client really wants

Picture the scene: You’re working at a design agency and your job is to develop a new project for an important client. The brief contained all the usual catchphrases like “cutting-edge design”, “integrated horizontal solution” or maybe “leverage our social-media strategy”. In other words you’re stumped.

Your boss calls for a meeting to discuss what you will propose to the client and it only goes downhill from here on. Someone suggests a crowdsourcing campaign, someone suggests a massively multiplayer game and someone suggests a viral marketing video because the brief clearly called for an “innovative B2B solution”. There has to be another way…

And there is! As soon as the meeting is over you call the client and ask them directly what it is they actually want. And you find out they need a new online store. But with an animated intro. And tied into Foursquare because what the heck, that’s where the kids are these days, right? Your question as to how they came up with this list of features gets no answer.

So you shrug, you sigh and then you design a mobile app for the simple reason that nobody mentioned this idea yet. Sounds familiar?

Getting clients to talk requirements is easy. Sure enough they have many bright ideas and they will gladly talk about these all day but can they tell you what you really need to do? How do you find out for yourself what it is you should be focusing on? And how can you get everyone to focus on the same things?

So you have two problems: Finding out what it is you should do and then getting everyone involved on the same page. Any ideas?

Welcome to The Target Principle

So here’s the thing: I’ve been trying out a new way of developing projects. I am using this mainly for User Experience Design projects but it might even apply elsewhere. So far I’ve been rather successful with this method and now I want to develop and refine it further.

I call it the Target Principle and it helps with the questions “What do we want to do?”, “What to we need to do?” and “How do we go about it?”. It is not entirely new, of course — I’d say it’s a collection of things applied in a novel way. It helps particularly at the beginning of a project and it is great for doing workshops with several people in one room.

Let me say outright that I’m still mulling this over; I don’t have the definitive answer to everything and this blog isn’t a straight up how-to. Instead I want to explore these ideas and invite you to come along and have some fun along the way. Also, this website is still very rough around the edges; I’ll get to fix that eventually.

This is what I want to do on this blog. It’s about time for me to start writing again anyways.

Demos 2010

These are songs that for some reason just seemed to stick, that somehow stood out for me amongst all that I wrote. I did not want to wait until I would do a proper album again so I put them together like this. These are demo recordings, wrong notes and all.

Demos 2010 (back cover)Demos 2010 (front cover)

1. Krabat, 2. I Feel Fine, 3. Start Again (Dance With Me)
All Songs written by Holger Eggert.
Recorded January and May 2010.
Photo by Stefan Freimark.
© Holger Eggert / Levelgreen