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Posts from January 2013

Let's do better with mobile design

One of the ironies of mobile MR is that after almost a decade of increasing the clutter on online questionnaire screens with gadgets and images in the name of increasing engagement we now are faced with a platform were less really is more.  This point is driven home by Mobile Usability, a new book by Jakob Nielsen and Raluca Budiu.  What I like about the book is not that it sets out some startling new principles for mobile design, but rather how it derives those principle.  IMHO, much of what market researchers have argued for in web survey design is based in intuition and salesmanship rather than solid empirical research.

I have always felt that while there are things we can learn from website design, online surveys are a fundamentally different beast than websites.  Nonetheless, the basic thrust of the Nielsen and Budiu argument rings true for mobile MR:

The desktop user interface platform differs from the mobile user interface platform in many ways, including interaction techniques, how people read, context of use, and the plain amount of content that can be grasped at a glance.

 From this they suggest three basic principles when redesigning a website for mobile:

  1. Cut features to eliminate non-core functionality.
  2. Reduce word count.
  3. Enlarge interface elements to accommodate the “fat finger” problem.

One of the most interesting discussions in the book focuses on the cognitive aspects of mobile use. They describe something they call “the peephole effect,” arguing that reading on a small screen like an iPhone significantly degrades comprehension.  They cite research in which 50 participants were asked to read the privacy policies of 10 popular websites on either a desktop or an iPhone.  The comprehension scores for the iPhone were half those of the desktop.  MobileconfusionThey attribute this to two things.  First, we have to rely on memory for the proper context for the limited amount of information in the currently viewable space.  Second, we have to scroll and scrolling is distracting, further degrading memory of what we already have read.  And if we have to refer back, it makes things even worse.

There is a good deal more in the book that researchers might find useful.  But the real issue, from my point of view, is the use of theory and empirical testing in combination to drive design.  It’s been rare to find this combination in so much of the ROR on web survey design.  Let’s try to do better with mobile.

About those 2013 predictions

Like it or not, the MR prediction season is upon us. For the most they will look eerily like last year and, in many cases, the year before that. A couple of weeks back on the heels of the Mayan bust I read a piece (unfortunately, I can’t remember where) descrFortune telleribing how people respond when their doomsday predictions fail to materialize. It seems that mostly they tap dance a bit and then just double down. 

The Mayans aren’t around to rinse and repeat, but the same cannot be said for market researchers and our assorted camp followers (industry observers, consultants, bloggers, trade pubs, etc.). I recognize that predictions are a necessary annual entertainment, but I also challenge those earnestly recycling their 2012 predictions to avoid the more  hyperbolic and over-worked words and terms that form the heart of the MR predictor vocabulary. Be a little less breatheless.  Stop trying to scare the bejesus out of us.

Here is my list:

  • Transformational (and associated forms)
  • Any and all superlatives in front of the word opportunity
  • Disruptive
  • Paradigm
  • Massive (and associated forms)
  • Game changing
  • Made-up words that cause raised eyebrows in conversation with normal people or cause MS Word to write a squiggly red line under.  Gamify is a good example (which, by the way, Word proposes the word gasify in it’s place which may speak to the wisdom of the Word spellchecker.)
  • Reimagined
  • Pivotal
  • Borderless
  • Disintermediation in all its forms
  • All forms of the word representative except by people who actually understand the principles of sampling

From where I sit it looks to me that like the vast majority of MR firms get what's happening.  There is a broad consensus on where the industry is headed, the threats and opportunities we all face, and the pace at which client preferences are changing.  The challenge is getting there and another round of predictions is not especially helpful.  Unless, of course, someone has something new to say.