Monday, August 18, 2008

When the product experience overshadows the web

"I remember why I never take this thing". These were my last few words before I ended my conversation with my friend. I was near the end of my journey on the TTC. A journey that I normally avoid due to its long commute times, grimy seats, and share of odd balls. I have been thinking about this journey, and its timeliness to a conversation I was lucky to have with a user experience designer. This designer had just finished telling me about the "launch" of the new TTC website,, and there involvement with it. It was a cool conversation because of the amount of usability testing they were doing, but that's a side bar.

The more important part: the site sounded awesome, since checking it out, I would say they moved from the 1920's to the 1980's. I'm not jumping for joy, but it's a step up. For me, nothing really touches the London transport site:

But this isn't the point here. What was important, was that I realized that no matter how well the redesign was, even with its fix to the trip planner, the bad experiences I have on the TTC overshadow the improving web site. The experience on the TTC matters more to me than its presence online. My bus was crowded, it was late, and I didn't get a seat. Compare this with GO Transit's website: it is arguably now less advanced or "cool" than the TTC's, but the GO is mostly on time, it doesn't smell, I can get reading done. The "Go product" is an enjoyable experience and makes up for the sub-par site.

I thought this was an interesting problem. It made me think about its application to clients agencies choose. If the product is just a really bad experience for users, does your ability to provide them with a completely different look online matter. Aren't you just trying to provide a bandaged solution at this point. On the other side, if you can find clients that understand this symbiotic relationship. That the product experience + communication experience (here I refer to online) are both important tools in an experience formula, that they are willing to improve the product, than you have yourself a good client to work with.

It was an interesting experience aboard the TTC and it made me think about the relationship between products and what we do online.

And no, I won't be taking the TTC again unless it's a Sunday afternoon.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Knowing what company you work for

For those starting off in interactive, one of the most difficult things that occurs is not a challenging problem or an angry client. It is explaining what your company does. I'm sure you can recall saying to a friend, "I work in digital advertising" or "I work in an interactive agency". You explain it. You know it. But the inevitable result is the distorted words that comes out of your friend's mouth, "so you build websites then". Ughh. Sigh. Why can't your friend understand what you do?

Explaining it from the wrong angle. I think we have trouble explaining what we do because we are trying to define ourselves strictly as marketers. We, the digital community, are product designers first, and marketers/advertisers second. We create digital products. We have information architects, project managers and builders. We create exceptional designs but also consider the experience of the user when they interact with the digital product. Secondly, we consider our digital products place in the advertising social circle, and what methods will help make people aware of this new "building".

So next time, when someone asks what you do, tell them you design digital products. A simple metaphor helps us most of the time.