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Customer Experience, Design, Service Design

The Brilliant Excel Prototype That You Absolutely Need to See!

March 31, 2013
Excel Prototype Graphic
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This weekend I am reading Service Design: From Insight to Implementation and came across a truly exceptional prototyping tool. Well, it is not actually a tool, per se, rather it is a brilliant solution that the team came up with.


In 2009, Norway’s largest general insurer, Gjensidige (pronounced yen-SEE-dig-ah), decided that they wanted to serve their customers beyond the typical insurance experience where insurance is complicated, involves multiple stakeholders and channels, and is a classic example of the mistake where a service is sold as a product. No small task.

Before the change program began, Gjensidige employed customer service designers to challenge what the ideal insurance service might look like. The initial task was quite broad – Gjensidige wanted to find out about people’s behaviors, motivations, and relationships to insurance. It was critical to not only understand the mindset of Gjensidige’s customers but also that of their staff.

The approach taken by Gjensidige is typical of service design; insights research, workshops, service blueprinting, service proposition development, concept sketches, and presentations, testing and, of course, delivery. The team learned that quantitive methods are good for creating knowledge and understanding of the files, but they are not terribly useful for translating knowledge into action and helping organizations actually do something with it. Qualitative methods are better suited to bridge this gap so, off they went and developed a prototype.

As expected, the true challenge here was to make the invisible visible…or rather make the right things visible and remove the rest of the noise in the offering.

I am reading the Kindle version of Service Design: From Insight to Implementation so I can’t tell you the exact page number is but if you are interested, search for “Experience Prototyping the Service” and you will find this amazing story of resourcefulness. Anders Kjeseth Valdersnes, the design team’s Microsoft Excel expert, built a prototype of the product in Excel, which had all the tools required to handle the actuarial tables and live information visualization. Now here is the astonishingly brilliant part – instead of spending a week or two designing and coding a browser-based prototype with a functioning back-end database, Anders did it in TWO DAYS and designed it to look like a website so that it could be tested with customers and prospects. In two days! In Excel! That is nothing short of brilliant.

With this prototype, the team was able to conduct experience prototyping with customers discussing and buying insurance, a salesperson selling insurance, and someone trying to submit a claim.

This is exactly the sort of ingenuity that I find inspiring. Well done, Gjensidige, very well done.




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Customer Experience, Design, Service Design, User Experience

Swift Air Media’s In-Flight Customer Experience Goes Glocal at 30,000 Feet

March 15, 2013
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A customer experience at 30,000 feet presents an interesting situation. For one, she is feeling like one very captive customer, sometimes one very bored customer, and very often, both.


In-flight movies and beverage service have helped assuage that but what about in-flight wi-fi?


Yeah. What about that?



True, you can now work while crossing the Atlantic but it is arguable that this is indeed a good thing. On many flight flights wi-fi is a paid service which means the customer has to have enough of a motivator to pay for wi-fi. Somehow paying to do work is a something of a conceptual stumbling block to an impulse purchase. But what if what you could do online would actually help you once you arrived at your destination? What if you could discover new places to stay, eat, and have fun in the city you are about to land in a short amount of time? Making in-flight content relevant for air travelers is exactly what SwiftAir Media is aiming to do with their launch of their native commerce platform for corporations and publishers.

Scott Terrell of Swift Air Media told me in an email, The publishing revolution is really about giving people the information they need and want given their current location and environment. We’re simply applying that to the inflight travel guide experience — telling people what they should do, see, and buy in the city where they’re about to land.”

Back in January 2011 the concept was born:

With Southwest Airlines as their first client, SwiftAir Media provided them with the platform and services to create their own publication to sell direct to the in-flight consumer. Publishers now have a workflow software and can help both with SwiftAir’s media and services division to develop destination specific in-flight content. According to a recent market research report, “Global Market Aviation In-Flight Entertainment and Communication Market (2012 – 2017) the in-flight entertainment and communication market will be worth $3 Billion by 2017. Fair enough, that’s the business side of the equation but what can the customer get out of this?

Imagine you are flying from Phoenix to Chicago, you get on wi-fi on you iPhone and it looks something like this. Offers, deals, and promotions for the Chicago area, updated in real time and right on, say, your iPhone. Scott said it like this, We’re allowing Southwest and other brands to reach their customers and tell relevant stories to them because of our Native Commerce Platform and the E-commerce functionality it has. So people can explore, read, save, share, and buy while in the air, and then again once on the ground.”

mobile screen

A notable development on device usage tells us that mobile devices are the preferred device in-flight, which makes sense because who, except those fortunate enough to be in first class, have enough room for anything other than a tablet or a smartphone? We know that Apple has an 84% share of people who connect to GoGo wifi. In an article  from TabTimes entitled, “Bye bye laptop” we learn that most users of Gogo’s in-flight Internet service now use tablets and smartphones to connect to the Internet followed by laptops. Article here: Bye bye laptop? Most users of Gogo’s in-flight Internet service tap iPads and … – TabTimes

Let’s take a look at how these activities break down from a customer usage perspective, again, from the good people at GoGo:


Let’s look at some current in-flight trends. Much of it is focused on passive viewing like the extended viewing times that Virgin Atlantic recently announced, “The move is an extension of the boarding to disembarkation total entertainment package that the company introduced on several of its routes last year, and it means that on an average five hour flight, passengers can benefit from screened entertainment for about an extra hour. It is a departure from the recognised system of only commencing entertainment after the aircraft has taken off and the obligatory announcements have been made, and turning the service off again as much as 20 minutes before the aircraft lands.”

But that content has little if anything to do with the specific destination the traveler is going to and providing content that will be informative and helpful upon landing which is why what Swift Air Media is offering shows such promise. This is basic customer experience / service design thinking: know your customer and add some value in whatever context you can do so.

ABOUT SWIFT AIR MEDIA: SwiftAir is an innovative in-flight travel guide designed to provide air travelers with virtual tours, special deals and insider information about their destination city. The complimentary Web-based technology is viewable on board flights equipped with a Wi-Fi connection. Revolutionary to the marketplace, SwiftAir offers key benefits to their partners – both vendors and airlines – as well as to the end-users of the platform.

As a vendor, SwiftAir provides a fresh and exciting entry point to reach an engaged audience who will be more receptive to learning about new products and services. Being featured on the SwiftAir platform, businesses can help consumers shape their travel experience while gaining exposure to a new and captive audience.

As an airline, partnering with SwiftAir can provide unmatched value to passengers by enhancing their on board experience. Additionally, it can serve as a secondary revenue stream to help recover the costs of providing Wi-Fi to air travelers.

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Thank you. Enjoy your flight. ;  )

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Staying Curious, Ever Curious.

March 4, 2013
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One of the great things about choosing Design as a profession is that encourages you to be a lifelong learner. I was going to say “forces” you but people who choose Design as their work tend to be naturally curious so there is no forcing going on at all.


I recently came across this inspirational video, which was perfect for a Monday morning because all of us need some help from time to time. One of my favorite interview questions to ask is, “What do you do when you are bored?”. I won’t give away the answer I am looking for but here’s a hint: The best people are almost never bored.

Stay curious, my friends, stay curious.

The Future Belongs to the Curious from Skillshare on Vimeo.

Here are some of the places I go to satisfy my curiosity, maybe you will find them inspirational also.

And a big thank you to the people who create these sites and blogs, I’d like you to know that I appreciate all you do very much.

SMASHING PUMPKIN Probably my default, go-to site along with ReadWrite.

READWRITE Want to not only be the first to know about technological advancements but also understand them too? Yeah, me too.

VEER A playground for the visually-oriented.

THE DIE LINE That’s “die” as in “die cut” not, like, mortality. This is about packaging and some really sweet packaging at that.

OUTLAW DESIGN BLOG Really good stuff, pretty much all the time. That’s why it’s on my list.

DESIGNER DAILY A quick read that is almost always something I hadn’t known about. Curiosity loves discovery, doesn’t it?

WE MADE THIS Oh, this is just delightful stuff. Just go there and see for yourself.

AD GOODNESS I haven’t worked in advertising in many years but I still admire some of it from afar. Good stuff from Frederik Samuel


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ROUNDUP: Design 3.2.2013

March 2, 2013
Photo of a box and cup
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In this Roundup, we have prototype tools for mobile, another salvo in the Responsive Design wars, a thoughtful piece on Design-Thinking MBA’s, HTML5’s Smart Elements, Words-as-Images, and the ever-popular new and improved web design methods.


Admittedly, this stuff is not for everybody. Just the really cool people. ; )

Cheat Sheets for Graphic DesignersA useful collection of 40 cheat sheets for the designers and developers.

Brilliant Web Forms: Everyone hates filling them out but these designs are making them more fun. Sometimes a lot more fun.

 Should Designers Fear Design-Thinking MBA’s? “In discussing this issue with colleagues, I’ve found that many of us in the design community have become somewhat defensive and protective about the unique qualifications we possess and quick to point out the essential differences between the two practices.”

HTML5’s Smart Elements: HTML5 just may be winning the Native App vs. HTML5 debate but only time will tell. Until then, these smart elements are pretty handy.

Words as Images: Designer Ji Li’s book entitled Word as Image brilliantly illustrates the power of “picturing words”.

 A Few Design Trends Worth Noting: Just trying to keep it alive, fun and refreshing.

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Almost Flat Design is the Most Refreshing Design Trend in the Last 10 Years

February 24, 2013
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You have seen it more and more over the last year or so, that elegant looking design on that sweet new mobile app that is just so incredibly clean. It is flat color but it is anything but boring. In fact, there is just enough depth to highlight key elements and is very different from that skeuomorphism interface convention where things looked like bookshelves, and leather books.

Fifteen years ago I worked with a Designer at Ogilvy & Mather and the client was suggesting (insisting, actually) that the website interface should look like a room with objects that people could click on. The Designer was silent for a long moment and then asked, “Instead of being constrained by analogous old conventions that people are familiar with, why not create new interfaces that embrace the new familiarity with computers that people now have?”

The Designer lost the argument, of course, and we went ahead and built an interface that looked like a room but the look around today and his vision is bearing fruit in the form of Almost Flat Design.

People are discovering that Responsive Designs are difficult and the modular nature of the components work extremely well with an Almost Flat Design solution.

Matthew Moore got this Almost Flat Design discussion rolling a few weeks ago over at Stuff & Nonsense when Google made everyone sit up and take notice with their arguably better-than-Apple-design:

Matthew Moore: Almost Flat Design — Stuff & Nonsense, And All

Talking about Almost Flat Design is one thing but seeing it is much more helpful. Here are some examples: 10 Inspiring Examples of Flat (or Almost Flat) Design

Of course, since trends, and especially Design trends, tend to swing the pendulum way over to the other side of wherever it started from it does beg the question, “Must a responsive web design be flat?” I mean, is it like a law or something? Or maybe just unhip…which is kind of  crime of sorts, isn’t it? Noah Stokes has a nice take on the whole RWD flataciousness issue.

Noah Stokes | Es Bueno / Responsive Web Design Leaves Me

I personally love the elegance of Almost Flat Design and have been filling my Evernote notebook with really well-executed examples of it wherever I find it. Good heavens, even Microsoft has weighed in with Windows 8! And a pretty good barometer of trend-worthiness, the Twitterverse has been weighing in also. What more proof do you need than that?


Love Google’s clean -so called almost flat- design! Apple take notice!


RT @jeremydjohnson: Almost Flat Design: #UX


@ben_hr @dannolan @boredjessica i swear the most productive thing i did this week was say ‘make it that ‘almost flat’ design, that’s hot’




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