Start Up Blog

Colors, Apps and Cognitive Shortcuts

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 17, 2014

airbnb app icons old & new

I have my apps set up so that they will automatically update whenever I am connected to wifi. It’s pretty handy to have the latest version of something, assuming of course they make it better than the previous version.

But what I’ve noticed recently, or more aptly haven’t noticed, is that apps have a habit of changing their logo, or colour scheme. Which most often means I can’t find it, and all of a sudden I have the chance to drop the habit of using their service, or even worse finding a replacement. It’s worth remembering that the shape and the colour of an app’s logo is the cognitive shortcut we look for when we need to use it. And more often than not a logo or colour change is really only serving the people who make it and not those who actually use it. Unlike aribnb (who recently changed their logo) get front page stories when someone in their office sneezes, most app developers and curators are not so fortunate.

Just because we become bored with something we see a zillion times a day, it doesn’t mean our customers want to relearn what to look for.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

Meeting efficiency barometer

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 25, 2012

As I write this I am siting in an airport lounge and thinking about how much work I have got done, simply because I have not been interrupted by meetings.

But let me start by saying there is nothing more powerful than people sharing ideas when done right, the problem is that most meetings are what I call ‘Public Reading Scenarios’. That is people aggregating in the same room so that someone will read to them, something they could read in their own time, or more often the case, is totally irrelevant and no meeting is needed.

So I started doing this weird exercise every time I happen to be in a meeting filled with people. What I do is this:

  1. I count the number of people on the meeting.
  2. I decide what I think the average salary in the room is.
  3. I work out the hourly rate of the average salary.
  4. Add this to the number of hours the meeting goes for
  5. Work out the cost of meeting in wages

Last week I was in a meeting with 22 people. I calculated the average salary as $150k per annum, which then translated into an hourly rate of  $75. The meeting went for 5 hours. The cost of this meeting was then $8250. I don’t care how big or wealthy the companies involved are, this is a lot of money. What makes it more significant is that most meetings are pointless – as this one was.

This meeting in particular was what I call a ‘Public Reading Event’. There was now real exchange of ideas, debate or in depth discussion. Rather a few people stood in front of copy heavy power point slides and read it out to the people sitting around eating muffins and pretending to listen. A total waste of time and the $8250. This is before we add to the price the opportunity cost of real work that wasn’t done during the 5 hours, or the cost of the meeting ‘culture’ it creates. And we all know a strong ‘meeting culture’ results in a vortex of indecision and slow business practice.

No point raising the issue without proposing a solution. So here is mine.

We add a widget to every email / meeting / calendar organiser which does my calculation above and estimates the ‘Cost of the meeting’. So when the meeting request is sent through the organiser and the participants see the cost in time – which is the real cost. It would say something like – estimated cost of meeting $3000. If people have to travel it should calculate that cost as well. This will make people think twice before they send the meeting request. It will also make us think twice before we accept the request. We measure the cost of most things in a company, but for some reason we rarely measure the cost of employees time in ‘salary employee’ environments, which is ironic when they usually represent 20-50% of the cost of running most companies. The widget is a pretty simple idea that could be mashed into any calendar function. Maybe it’s an iPhone calendar app that someone ought build?

When a meeting does occur and we agree it is worth while and attend, there would be a pretty strong emphasis on the value that occurred during it. I’m certain that ‘Public Reading Events’ would be a rare experience indeed.

So the only question remaining is which nimble app startup firm is going to build this?

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More evidence of screen culture

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on January 16, 2012

Screens are beginning to permeate our entire existence. This latest effort from Samsung is seriously a step into the future. A fully connected web enabled window. It’s not hard to imagine this appearing in architectural designed houses and offices in the next 12 months a la minority report. Again it seems that UI is what really matters.

Startups need to be thinking about how they design around next generation screen UI beyond Apple.

 

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The new usability experts

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 19, 2011

Are not who we expect them to be. It’s not Jakob Nielsen or even Steve Krug. In fact it is Joe Citizen.

Without even realising it, the average web surfer or smart phone addict has become an expert in usability. This doesn’t mean we could ask them what a sight should look like, how it should work or to advice us of any design imperatives. it’s a little different than that. But have no doubt, they are the experts. And their expertise is different. it is more like this – they know what sucks. They will not tolerate a site that sucks for more than a few seconds.

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We have entered an age of mass usability expertise – and this has been driven by social media. As entrepreneurs and aspiring startup geeks we have to remember the training our users are getting. They are being trained on what is ‘best practice’ by the worlds best – brands like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Foursquare. Brands with the greatest UI’s ever seen are training the everyday person on what good looks like. Even if it is occurring at a subconscious level. It is happening.

The impact of this is significant. For me it puts flow first, and features second. The flow of the site and intuitive nature must be put above all other technology and feature desires we have. If we fail with our usability, there wont be a second chance to win back the experts who’ve already decided we don’t cut it.

Invest 5 minutes in glass

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 7, 2011

This is an amazing piece from Dow Corning on the future of glass in our lives. It really sets the tone on how they will through their products make our lives better. It makes me wonder why more startups and large brands are not creating films about the future, and how they will shape it in a positive sense.

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Good stuff is not enough

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 1, 2011

Making really good stuff is not enough. We’ve got to be good as well. Good people. We’ve got to have a DNA encoded into our business which shows we stand for something that is wider than what we sell. I’m not talking about any of that Corporate Social Responsibility crap, or even triple bottom line reporting. I’m talking about caring enough to leave good things behind us in our trail. For the things we touch to be the same or better after we’ve been there.  And most of all, we need to make sure our trail is going to be good, before we carve the path that takes us forward.

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Component Retail

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on February 28, 2011

Brands will start shipping product components and raw materials to stores for to be assembled on site… as part of the retail experience.

The customers will become the theatre at transaction.

The desire to create and customize will conspire to create highly interactive and profitable retail concoction. What we’ve already seen in digital…’A mash up of co-creation and mass customization’… we will inevitably see in retail…. The retailers that survive anyway.

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A Tiny Twist

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on November 16, 2010

Today I sent this tweet which got quite a bit of comment:

There were over 400 video sharing websites when Youtube launched. Often it’s smarter to do it better, than build something new.

Immediately after the tweets started coming through about other businesses which entered the market late and taken a strong hold’.

The most recent example for me is Instagr.am

It’s ‘another’ photo sharing platform to add to the long list of mobile apps for doing just this, including but certainly not limited to Flickr, Twitpic, Yfrog, img.ly, Mobypicture…. I’m sure there are hundreds.

Next thing I knew all the photos being shared on my tweet stream had all converted to the Instagr.am format – so I had check it out. Turns out Instagr.am added a tiny twist which enabled it get busy with the ‘in’ crowd. By simply adding a filter feature, it made  photo sharing a whole lot more fun.  What filter does is transform the pic and stylise the look to give a retro feel, add few scratches and a white Polaroid frame and you’ve got the hottest new pic app on the entire web. It’s easy to use, and once again photo sharing has been reinvented.

So what’s the lesson here?

Design matters. In fact design is the thing that wins in the long run. Humans like things of beauty. It is coded in our DNA, we prefer the beautiful. Side note: beautiful is both usable and and nice to look at, it must have both.

Existing Market. Sometimes it’s easier to build a better version of something people are using, than to invent a new market. We don’t have to invest time convincing people it is worth participating. Rather, we just need to show them why we are superior. In an industry like we apps where the switching barriers are so low usability and design are often the catalysts for this to occur.

The question for startups is this: How do we sustain a leadership position against the next tiny twist?

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Kulula Air – Eyeball worthy

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on September 10, 2010

I was recently email some pics of Kulula Airlines livery. I’d describe it as eyeball worthy. Because it’s worth looking at, it’s worth talking about. There is no shortage of in cabin jokes from cabin crew while talking to passengers, but few have the courage to paint their personality on the fuselage like Kalula have. In an era of media proliferation, the trick any startup needs to master is the ability to be talked about. Nice work Kulula.

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