Monthly Archives: January 2009

I keep hearing complaints that Apple’s restrictions on the App Store are too much – that Apple has not created a truly open marketplace.

As recently as last week, I heard a local iPhone developer here in Denver say, “Their restrictive SDK makes it harder to develop and their approval process requires developers to jump through way too many hoops”

He is right – and so what? Who really suffers in the end? Although Apple does not always get it right, they tend to think about the end user over the developer. A more restrictive platform creates obstacles for a reason. If the platform is totally open, developers will find it much easier to create applications that crash the phone, take up all the resources, forgo security best practices, or simply write software that malicious.

A great example of an open platform that developers love is Andriod. It is very open, and developer centric … and that also means it is easier to do very bad things. Case in point, recently published a story on an Android App that was adding adware and destroying the memory on their G1 phone…

…[MemoryUp] destroyed my memory card/system delete. Then my email was spammed. TMobile can’t stop you from downloading this! So don’t!” In fact, many note that their SD cards were wiped totally clean.

The only way consumers of the open platforms can be sure the application is safe is to wait for the community to self police (in other words, wait for someone else to find out there’s an issue with the app and then complain about it) — in contrast, Apple reviews every single application submitted to help weed out the really bad ones (although I’ll admit, holding out for months on “Pull My Finger” was a bad move)

As developers, we may want to take a pause and contemplate if a more restrictive platform is actually better for the people we are developing for – even if we have to design and code with one hand tied behind our back…

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions is a brilliant book – a must read for anyone trying to understand people’s decision making processes.

The book outline written by Bill Odom sold me (thanks for the referral sean) … a little excerpt:

The Power of Price
Why a 50-Cent Aspirin Can Do What A Penny Aspirin Can’t
The placebo effect is well-known and real. It’s not just a matter of fooling oneself; placebos can actually trigger endorphins and opiates and other biological reactions that actually change body and experience. What is interesting, however, is that price has an impact on efficacy.
Ariely, Waber, Shiv, and Carmon made up a fake painkiller, Veladone-Rx. An attractive woman in a business suit (with a faint Russian accent) told subjects that 92% of patients receiving VR reported significant pain relief in 10 minutes, with relief lasting up to 8 hours.

  • When told that the drug cost $2.50 per dose, nearly all of the subjects reported pain relief.
  • When told that the drug cost $0.10 per dose, only half of the subjects reported pain relief.
  • The more pain a person experienced, the more pronounced the effect.
  • A similar study at U Iowa showed that students who paid list price for cold medications reported better medical outcomes than those who bought discount (but clinically identical) drugs.
  • A further study on SoBe Adrenalin Rush showed that students at the gym reported less fatigue when told that the drink was more expensive.
    • And this wasn’t just self-perception. Ariely gave the subjects a 15-question puzzle as well.
      • The control group that didn’t drink SoBe got 9/15 correct
      • The “expensive” group got 9/15 correct
      • The “discount” group got 6.5/15 correct
    • One more variation: Ariely printed “Drinks such as SoBe have been shown to improve mental functioning” on the cover of the quiz booklet, and referred to 50 scientific studies showing its efficacy.
      • The “discount” group improved their score by 0.6
      • The “expensive” group improved their score by 3.3…in other words, they did better than the control group!
    • The effect declined when subjects were asked to stop and reflect on the relationship between price and quality. They were far less likely to assume that discounted drinks were less effective.

Amazon Link

Fun idea from Microsoft – but the viral video is so bad that everyone here thought this was a prank:

Do a little digging though and you find out its the real thing:

I know that some agencies actually work hard at making things so bad that its good – and that, in this case, it is helping spread the word about the product. But I’ve never been one to subscribe to the belief that : “any press is good press”. This is actually a cool & innovative idea that is going to be made fun of because if how it is currently being marketed, and, IMHO it will diminish it value in the eyes of the end users

Short Plug:

Juan Sanchez just turned me on to a Mac utility, Blogo. It allows me to easily post to various blogs and to update Twitter – It’s a little expensive ($25), so not for the blogger on a budget, but I find it much faster to write using this app than using the “rich” editor in wordpress (and it allows you to drag and drop images from your desktop right into the post)

There’s support for WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Typo, Drupal, Expression Engine, Twitter, etc… There’s also a “Microblog” viewer that allows me to follow Twitter (I find that it launches MUCH faster than Twitterific)

I’ve written this post (and my last 2) using it – there are a few bugs with the editor, but its really a pretty handy tool – Thanks Juan!

Everyone is making their predictions for 2009, so I thought I’d make mine for fun…

“Web 2.0” will lose traction – thank goodness! :
Executives and investors are tiring of “web 2.0” marketing initiatives and business models (please, nobody try to describe “web 3.0”!). Web 2.0 is a buzz-word that everyone struggles to define – Chris Bernard did the best job when I asked him to describe what it meant to him:

Basically, Web 1.0 is bad Photoshop and web 2.0 is good Photoshop ..

For the last 3 years, everything that was “new” was called “Web 2.0” – When the term that is used to describe something new… is several years old… guess what happens to the term.

Mobile, duh! :
I think it is obvious that the “next generation” mobile computing platform is upon us. Large platform providers like Apple, Palm, Intel, RIM and Microsoft are all focusing on more sophisticated platforms for mobile development and this will aid in the proliferation of very interesting software and hardware. Therefore, in 2009, we will see an even broader shift to mobile computing. An interesting trend in this market is emerging as families are tightening their belts – they are looking beyond desktop and laptop purchases and opting instead for lower priced iPhones. Additionally, software for mobile devices is much less expensive. Ironically, the “high-end” smart phone market is also turning into the low-end computing market.

Cloud Computing :
A few companies that you may have hear of like Amazon, Salesforce, Microsoft, and Google have all decided that enterprises will no longer want to maintain their own infrastructures. These cloud computing providers are betting huge capitol into the notion that companies will want to power their digital business on someone else’s servers. What is awesome about the power of cloud computing is nearly infinite scalability. This low cost computing power will als help power the next trend .. Small Business SaaS…

Small Business SaaS :
Look for the new breed of SaaS models to take over the web. Cloud computing is enabling nimble and innovative companies to create very compelling and low cost online software services. Larger enterprises like Adobe ( and Microsoft ( have been heavily investing in this market. However, we are seeing much smaller companies innovating in this area as well (,,, The most exciting trend for us is work we are involved in with Web-To-Print. With Adobe’s proliferation of PDF workflows, combined with momentous gains made in browser based technologies — companies like FedEx/Kinkos, Staples, and Office Max will provide new and interesting options for small businesses. These new services will bring the power of traditional desktop publishing, combined with the economies of scale of large retail printing facilities, to provide low-cost, high quality printed materials.

A Focus on the Digital Customer Experience :

Larger enterprises are having to focus their digital business across multiple channels (mobile, desktop, set-top, kiosk, browser, etc.) – which provide them with two major competitive advantages.

The first advantage: brand. If you look at the top 10 iPhone App Store applications, nine of them are known brands. As long as these brands continue to offer good products, their brand trust will elevate their services above others. The second advantage: resources. In 2009, look for enterprises to shift their resources to create consistent, engaging and useful software. Especially now, in a more challenging economic market, digital channels are a very cost effective way to do business. These enterprises are realizing that the way to differentiate will be through providing their customers great utility, usability, efficiency and engagement.

For the last year, the industry been hearing a lot about designer developer workflow. Both Adobe and Microsoft are developing tooling that enables designers and developers to integrate more effectively, and iterate on software more rapidly. Let me ask a question that seems obvious: So What? Who does this “rapid iteration” serve?

Look at Adobe’s own diagram for RIA workflow:

Ironically, this diagram does not show true iteration – it only accounts for “design tweaks”. Where’s the business requirements? Where’s the measurement of milestones? And… the most important question, where is the person that the software is intended for?

I’m not completely dense, I realize that Adobe’s diagram is not intended for for use as a project planning roadmap. They aremerelyshowing how CS4 fits into an RIA project – (folks at EffectiveUI often look at our public facing process documentation and complain that it is too simplistic or not entirely accurate – truth is, every project we do is unique in its own way so it is impossible to accurately & concisely diagram any realistic software process)

Where was I …. oh yeah – workflow…

It is easy to get stuck in the tooling and forget about the end result – to value process and the technologies over the final product. There is a shift happening in our industry – I would say we are trending in the right direction. New workflows are forcing designers and developers to collaborate – why is that good? Because it forces humility into the process. In the software creation world, “Big Egos with Big Ideas” rarely produce “Big Wins”.

A Healthy Conflict

Our projects are lead by 2 types of architects. One is technical, of course. But we do not categorize the other architect as a “designer”. Design is just a part of the overall objective. We’ve adopted the term “Experience Architect” – Both architects are held accountable to 2 goals – 1) end user satisfaction and 2) ensuring a business success. While the Technical Architect focuses development architecture and legacy integration, the Experience Architect focuses on the end user and the business and user goals as well as brand consistency and aesthetics.

I have yet to work on a project where no compromise is required. Designers will always need to make compromises because of technical or integration limitations – development will always need to make compromises because of what the end users really need. Where I’ve seen projects fail is when one department is given priority over the other. When design “owns” the initiative, you can wind up with software that looks amazing, but is ripe with performance issues. When development owns it, you can wind up with software that performs, but is not usable. When both teams are equally subservient to the user and business goals – they are forced to work together.

There are some surprising results from this type of structure … interestingly enough, developers have good ideas for usability, and designers can challenge development into new ways of thinking.

What about “me”
It is time to look beyond mere team collaboration; we need to involve the people who the software is intended for. We need to listen and have empathy for those we are creating for. I know – not an original concept… but we must keep saying it until it is heard. New workflow improvements only get us half way there and do not ensure highly usable software…

%d bloggers like this: