Category Archives: business

Understanding “Purpose”

At the top of the UXD stack is purpose: “Why are we doing this project.” It’s critical to understand as much as possible about why the project stakeholders want to invest time, money, and energy into the endeavor.

I remember reading a quote about ten years ago by Elizabeth Boling that stuck with me:

“Designer” does not mean “artist” – though lots of people want to think it does. The job of a designer is not self-expression, it’s problem-solving.

The better we understand the problem, the better our chances will be at solving it. This sounds obvious, but its very easy to get caught up in what we can do without thinking about what really needs to be done.

the old Hay Net home page - have hay, need hayA great example of understanding purpose that I remember from the same era as Boling’s quote above was in Jeff Veen’s talk from the Adaptive Path UX Week in DC. He shared this example from the USDoA Farm Service Agency: Hay Net.

The purpose for this site couldn’t be more clear, could it? It’s a clearing house for people to exchange hay. You either have hay, or need hay, and the prominent links help you initiative such an exchange.

Things to consider for a site or application’s “purpose”

Here are a few items to jog your thoughts when considering purpose for a business site:

What product or service does the company offer?

Make sure you understand fully the features and benefits of what the company provides to the market.

How do they compete with this product or service?

Are they the cheapest? Are they the highest quality? Are they the innovator offering something that nobody else has? Understanding how they compete will help you craft the visual and writing style to support their desired market position.

Will the actual transaction occur online?

Many product companies sell their items online through an ecommerce site. But not all transactions are suited for the web. Typically, the larger the purchase price the less likely the transaction will occur online. If there isn’t a shopping basket involved, what is the next logical step you’d like the audience to take to move them towards an eventual sale? Seth Godin coined the term permission marketing to describe the series of smaller (and mostly non-financial) transactions that occur in the process of making a larger commitment sale. If you’re working on a project for a services firm or another company that has an involved sales cycle, I highly recommend taking Seth up on his offer to get the first several chapters of his book for free.

Understanding purpose will help drive successful design decisions throughout the project.

The more you understand about the nature of your client’s business, the better suited you’ll be for success. Keeping the client purpose in mind will help avoid resembling the quote we’re all warned by in Jurassic Park: “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”


Posted by on April 26, 2010 in business, uxd stack


Geniant Joins EMC Global Services

EinsteinLast week, Geniant was officially acquired by EMC, the global storage, software, and services company. Traditionally EMC was known for their large-scale storage solutions. Over the last several years they’ve shifted their focus to a holistic approach to storing, retrieving, and securing information.

EMC acquired Geniant specifically for inclusion in the Microsoft Services group of EMC Global Services. Not too much should change in the short term. As we get fully integrated with our new team, I’m looking forward to the best of both worlds: having the increased opportunities afforded by a global organization while still working inside a super-talented user experience / design group. Given the wide range of opportunities related to EMC products and services, there should be many rewarding projects to work on.

EMCInterestingly, we learned during orientation that the “2” at the end of the EMC logo is simply an ornament. It’s never pronounced nor included in text versions of the company name. It’s only used in the type-based graphic logo. Regardless, when seen it does the intended trick of invoking thoughts of relativity, intelligence, or Albert Einstein himself.


Posted by on July 14, 2007 in business


Mock Data Generators

As Dan Brown demonstrates on his “Representing Data in Wireframes” poster, the fidelity of your data can make a big difference in its ability to identify flaws early in the design process. The main reason designers use repetitive or otherwise lo-fi data is that it takes time and creativity to develop realistic data. Here are two tools that could help generate higher quality “dummy” data for your mock-ups and prototypes in less time than it would take for you to make up your own lo-fi samples.
Kleimo Random Name Generator
This web page uses data from the US Census to randomly generate up to 30 male and female names at a time. It has an attribute for obscurity as well. This little page can be really helpful for creating a realistic list of names. A random pop culture reference is fun to throw in every once in a while. But if your list of names reads like the credits for the Simpsons, you could loose some credibility with your clients.
Truly Random password and number generator
A lot of junk came back when I googled “random generator mask” trying to find a web-based application for generating random strings and numbers using a mask. Most of the hits were for Windows applications to generate passwords or lottery numbers. After trying several I finally found one that could be very useful for generating mock data. Solid Programs‘s Truly Random creates random strings based on a mask you provide. The mask is useful for creating numbers to match the format of your data. The downsides to this app (it’s in Windows and its not very easy on the eyes) are outweighed by the power it provides to generate plausible data quickly. It costs $19 to register Truly Random.
I wish someone would develop a web-based app to deliver both of these tools on a single, easy-to-use page (see update below). If not as a web app, a Universal Binary would be nice.

UPDATE: Benjamin Keen’s Data Generator provides the best of both tools mentioned below in an easy to use online form. He provides many useful datatypes (phone/fax, names, custom lists, etc.) that should cover most of the needs I can think of. Many of the types allow masked options editable for custom formats (like a Texas drivers license or client-specific account number). The output formats include HTML, Excel, XML and SQL. Very nice work.

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Posted by on November 6, 2006 in business, code, design, prototyping


BI Wisdom, from LOST

The Pearl station orientation video

Seems like the fictional Dharma Initiative on the TV show LOST understands the importance of Busines Intelligence.

Careful observation is the only key to true and complete awareness.

– Dr. Mark Whitman Wickman* (or is it Martin KandallCandle*?) in The Dharma Initiative 5 of 6 Orientation (Station 5 – The Pearl)


Update: My brother-in-law pointed out the obvious to me over dinner this evening. His names are Candle and Wickman. I should have realized.

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Posted by on May 10, 2006 in business


Navigator Acquired by Hitachi Consulting

So, the conversation I have had with several friends lately regarding Navigator’s aquisition goes like this:

Me: Navigator was bought last week. Now I work for Hitachi Consulting.

Firend: Hitachi? Don’t they make harddrives and TVs? Can you get me an HDTV? 

Yes, they are the same company, but it’s a very big company (think the GE of Japan, they are both very diversified). Hitachi Consulting is a global consultancy that’s the services division of the Hitachi parent company. They now have offices worldwide with bases of operation in Japan, the US, and Europe

I’m excited that Navigator is now part of Hitachi Consulting. We’re contributing our depth of experience in Business Intelligence and Content Management to Hitachi’s larger national presence and broader consulting services. I know it sounds cliche, but it really is a win-win-win for Navigator, Hitachi Consulting, and our collective clients. Read the full press release at the Navigator website.

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Posted by on February 6, 2006 in business


People really do win on

I don’t remember which productivity or business blog I was reading when I first learned about In Bubble Wrap, but I have been visiting for the past couple of weeks.

IBW is like Woot in that they offer a single product each day in a very limited quantity. The differences are 1) all the products are business-related, 2) the “winners” are chosen at random, and 3) all the products are free. Yes, FREE! It’s a unique way for the folks at 800-CEO-READ to promote their site and products.

Most of the daily offerings have looked intriguing, and I quickly developed the habit of checking the site and entering in the daily draw.

I entered the contest on 11/30, hoping to win a copy of Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell’s “Creating Customer Evangelists.â€? Well, I must have been overachieving that day, because I won the one-of-a-kind grand prize instead, a free visit from the authors themselves. Very cool. While the details haven’t yet been confirmed, Ben and Jackie are going to spend a day with all of us at Navigator sometime in Q1 or Q2 conversing about their experiences, our business, and the principles in their book. What a deal!


  • check out and see if you can’t win something cool as well
  • if you don’t win but are still interested, buy it anyway from 800-CEO-READ
  • and, although it’s too late to win a copy of “Creating Customer Evangelistsâ€?, you can still learn more about the book, Jackie and Ben at their site.

Happy popping!

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Posted by on December 10, 2005 in business