Tag: persuasion

From app design to sock choice: Everything communicates

They say that everything communicates.

Quick digression: the reference to “they” reminds me of the classic scene in Pulp Fiction

You know the one – where Vincent and Mia are having dinner at Jackrabbit Slim’s – here excerpted for your reading pleasure from the IMDb script database.

MIA

Is that a fact?

VINCENT

No it’s not, it’s just what I heard.

MIA

Who told you this?

VINCENT

They.

Mia and Vincent smile.

MIA

They talk a lot, don’t they?

VINCENT

They certainly do.

But, back to the post: everything communicates. Meaning what you wear, what you say and how you say it, where you live, when you eat, how you walk, etc. Everything.

The same is true of your website, enterprise software, or mobile productivity app. Everything about your app communicates.

So, when you are conceiving it, start by understanding what the heck you’re actually trying to do. Understand the context. Listen. Observe. Learn more about a usability technique, called contextual inquiry, that provides some useful guidance.

In addition to understanding context, it’s important to understand what the actual design elements themselves communicate. For example, elements like typeface and color are too often taken for granted.  They are considered more a matter of personal taste than deliberately approached with data in mind.

And, finally, understand the elements that lend credibility to your app.  This is perhaps the least understood yet most crucial aspect to design. I studied this subject years ago, stumbling across what I still consider to be the seminal, original work addressing persuasion and credibility in technology: BJ Fogg’s Persuasive Technology.

My 2005 article in Pragmatic Marketing magazine, Seven things you can do to improve your credibility on the web, is a good quick summary of some of Fogg’s research and writing, primarily focused on the credibility of promotional-oriented websites.

So, as a team, remember: think about what your _________(fill in the blank: app, website, office décor, customer thank you gift… whatever) communicates to see if it is saying what you want it to say.

Seven amazing business books: Part 1

A little over two years ago, Steve Jobs famously said “the fact is that people don’t read anymore” in remarks he made critiquing what he believed to be the flawed, digital book business model of the Amazon Kindle.

That may be true, but it doesn’t make the power of the ideas that we consume from the content of a “book” (be it a bound set of printed paper, eInk on a Kindle, or an audio recording narrated to you by the author) any less transformative.  So, with that little bit of personal inspiration, I felt the need to write this post.  With a little more room in the header, I would better entitle it “Seven amazing business books you’ve probably never read.”  You will see why in a moment.

I’ve read many, many books over these past 50 years. Over the past 30, since entering the working world, I’ve read, skimmed, or tossed pretty much every one of the major business books du jour, along with hundreds of others, ranging from Soundview book summary to freebie, author-signed copy at conferences.

In recent years, with the Google-ization of all information, plus a really darn fine community library just up the road from my home, I’ve found myself thinning down my personal library of bookcases full of these business books accumulated over time. (Thank you Half Price Books!)

But, in the process, I’ve culled down to a single bookcase what is my essential personal reference library, including what are, in my opinion, some of the truly undiscovered jewels of business writing. Without further adieu, let me share seven of the most amazing books that I’m betting you’ve probably never read, starting with the first two today and going in the order of most recent to oldest.

Persuasive Technology, by BJ Fogg (Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2003) – This modest, unassuming soft cover book, by a Stanford professor, is one of the absolute best references for how human cognition works in relation to (and is influenced by) technology. But, with our increasingly digital society, I would expand the reach of this book to more than technology and say that its relevance is to how one wields persuasion in business, in general.

For example, his section on the attributes making a website more credible or less credible to users is a must read. But, I have found myself going back repeatedly to Professor Fogg’s research and findings on the subjects of credibility, trust, expertise, and different modalities of persuasion, to apply them to other areas of conducting business, beyond technology. I highly recommend it.

The Drucker Self-Assessment Tool: Participant Workbook, by Peter F. Drucker (Jossey-Bass, 1999) – Alfred Sloan may have invented the principles of 20th century management in his work at GM, as we came to learn it, but Peter Drucker literally “wrote the book” on modern management, by codifying those principles.

However, as great a thinker, writer and teacher on business as Drucker was, I have found his Self-Assessment Tool for non-profit organizations (NPO) to be required reading for any NPO manager, board member, or funding providers. In typical Drucker style, it is simple, logical, and unwaveringly precise in its objective, towards making modern NPOs stronger in every way through critical inspection of mission and data-based, public scrutiny of results.

More amazing, never read books to come in the next post.  In the meantime, tell me about your favorites.