A book review & proposition
by Susan Wilhite
Our chance to change the world is arriving. We don’t even have to squint to see it.
Robert Fabricant of frog design has written of the emergence of user and product centricity and the decline of customer centricity. It’s no longer about the buyer and the sale.
Jared Spool of UIE is giving talks in advance of his forthcoming school for maker designers. He expounds on the necessary retreat from the retread of invention to the riskier moves toward innovation, all driven by design – both product/service and business model design. (Luke Wroblewski’s notes from the An Event Apart presentation, Seattle, April 2013).
Fortunately, there’s a backgrounder on the rise of UX in Wood, Hewlin and Lah’s book Consumption Economics: The New Rules of Tech (2011). UX people can zero in on Geoffrey Moore’s Forward through to Chapter 6.
Here’s the gist – Cap-ex vs. Op-ex
The tech business is shifting its adoption model that moves the risk of ROI from the buyer to the seller. Rather than landing a big sale up front (capital expenditure/CapEx), the seller is paid if and when the product is used (operational expenditure/OpEx). Put another way, payment is dependent on value seen by the buyer, so the product must appreciate, not depreciate, in value over time.
The product is no longer a thing. It is a dynamic resource.
Consistent and increased use depends on great (read: simple, clear…elegant) product design. This concept synchs with a metered business model.
To wit: a taxi rider pays by the minute or the mile, or pays not at all if the taxi doesn’t arrive at the desired destination. Moreover, a rider is unlikely to tip or use the cab again if the trip was unpleasant. In taxis we pay for the duration of the service but we come back for the smile.
Metered product use is logged and paid for one microtransaction at a time. Users pay just for what they use – no major upfront costs. (For a new screed on making those microtransactions delightful, see Dan Saffer’s new book Microinteractions.
In this way, steady use that may lead to mastery instills greater product loyalty and promotes adoption of add-ons and further services. Again, the seller is paid when the product or service returns value in the wild.
Still, the full power of this trend will transpire faster and smarter as UX practitioners understand and fully leverage this emerging opportunity.
Riding the wave
Until recent years responsibility for a customer’s successful adoption of a product rested mostly on the customer.
More recently we hear about nurturing the customer. In the CapEx days, any nurturing or massaging of the adoption fell to the seller’s “front line”: sales and consulting. These people held the customer’s hand (for a price) and sold add-ons as the customer/buyer endeavored to incorporate a technical product and extract the value of the initial and ownership costs.
The sales and consulting roles were often not effective for ensuring adoption success.
Now, with the OpEx model, the products themselves and the use models are designed to nurture the end users, prompting microtransactions and promoting advanced use.
UX Design is now driving. Along with the standard studies and iterative design, UX can craft and track intelligent, responsive designs that evolve organically as end users individually and collectively discover their most effective practices and techniques, within the product/service and as part of their total work ecosystem. Think of products and services acting like simulation games. Big Data and crowdsourcing inform this approach.
Which users should UX designers work with? If user nurturing is to stem from product/service design, it behooves us to partner with users experimenting with evolved processes and practices as they work within their domains. This alliance nourishes a grounded understanding of the larger work landscape and how products/services support users’ work.
One thing is clear – with product abandonment and adoption costs running closer to zero, the end user’s experience is more critical than ever in securing business or driving it away. UX researchers and designers can make the OpEx model come alive by infusing our unique philosophies, goals, and
practices into emerging business requirements.
*Autodesk is a member of TSIA, the organization that produced this book.