Month: April, 2012

Post-PC v. Post-Web

Diagram showing overview of cloud computing in...

Diagram showing overview of cloud computing including Google, Salesforce, Amazon, Axios Systems, Microsoft, Yahoo & Zoho (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With mobile devices, some have declared the death of the World Wide Web. Apps will rule the Internet from hence forward.

But this is business, not technology. The dominant technology will rule the world hence, and it’s not clear what this technology will be.

The greatest confusion lies in equating the Web with PCs. Granted, PCs will probably disappear and be replaced by mobile devices of some type.

The question remains, though, whether these mobile devices will be effective mini-PCs with more and more computing power that run apps instead of programs.

What’s the alternative, you ask?

The cloud.

Imagine a mobile device that has no computing power but can only access the cloud. No need for apps. In fact, a great need for mobile Web pages.

The Web rules in this scenario.

Now the question is business not technology.

Or, in other words, cloud computing service companies versus hardware companies.

Amazon wins in a cloud computing dominated market. Apple loses.

Apple wins in an app dominated market. Amazon loses.

These are big names and the stakes are very high.

An entire coffee shop culture will develop around this issue with an “I told you so” winning side and a “our technology is obviously better” losing side.

What side will it be?

Go study Beta versus VHS.

In other words, nobody knows.


Every User Is Not Unique

Individuality Task

Individuality Task (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every user is not unique and does not have unique experiences.

I am not proposing this as a provocative statement, but as a fact. Though we are emotionally tempted to fancy ourselves different from everyone else, we are not. Possibly, our American culture predisposes us to think of ourselves as unique. Whatever the reason, UX experts must realize that it is not true, even if it sells well in front of client decision makers.

Why are we not unique? Because categories exclude it, and UX requires categories.

By definition, a category is a group that shares enough characteristics to be combined into one concept. For example, we have these creatures descended from wolves. In general, we can say that these creatures have four legs, a male and female gender, gestate and nurse their young, and so on. We have enough shared traits to create the category of “dog.”

We don’t say one dog sees a limited color spectrum while another dog has spider-like eyes. We don’t say one dog likes to eat meat while another dog picks berries from bushes. We don’t say one dog is emotionally driven to create relationships while another dog likes to live completely alone. As a category, dogs are not unique and do not experience the world in unique ways.

So too with users. The very existence of the category “user” presupposes shared characteristics and shared experiences. When we say “users,” we mean a group of human beings who are alike. If they were all unique, we couldn’t have a category. We also wouldn’t have UX.

UX relies on the non-uniqueness of users to predict responses. With this predictability, even each UX designer would experience each UX design in unique, hence unshareable, ways, which would make team interaction impossible.

Maybe we just want to believe we are unique, even though we are not.

Established v. Disruptive Media

Tim Berners-Lee: The World Wide Web - Opportun...

Tim Berners-Lee: The World Wide Web - Opportunity, Challenge, Responsibility (Photo credit: Fräulein Schiller)

Established v. Disruptive Media


Read through the current literature or just sit around and chat with marketers, and you’ll hear about traditional versus electronic media. Traditional media contain newspapers, radio, TV, and the like. Electronic? The Internet, the Web, mobile devices, and whatever new technologies loom on the horizon.


This bipolar categorization creates confusion. Marketers say things like, “We have to augment traditional media with new electronic media.” Or,  “Businesses are pulling back from traditional media and moving dollars to electronic media.”


Some even use the terms Old or Legacy Media for the pre-Web age (1989, I’m guessing) and New Media for anything that after.


The problem with this schism is that it creates a mental map separating the “traditional” from “electronic” media when in fact they are both simply media. A better categorization is established media versus disruptive media in the Schumpeterian sense.


In the 1990s, the Web became a disruptive media. I worked at a telecomm company at the time. One of the big wigs loved to talk about how many Trimline phones the company had sold. The fact that the company’s brand new Web site had collected hundreds of unanswered customer emails was lost on him. Or that the Web site was nothing more than an electronic brochure.


The Web simply confused him. Who can blame him? Even email was a novelty back then


Now, what company doesn’t have a well-functioning Web customer care center? The Web is now an established medium. Marketers go through their check list: newspaper, magazine, radio, TV, Web, etc.


One of the current disruptive medium is mobile. Some are even declaring the Web dead, or at least moribund. We should not ask ourselves what is new, novel, hot, cutting-edge, but what new medium confuses us, makes what we thought we knew something we’re no longer confident of. Media are categorized into established and disruptive.


Don’t ask what’s new. Ask what’s destroying what you thought was solid.