22 December, 2017

Bibliography – Books I read in 2017

This article was originally published on Linked In.

On route to Sweden this year, I met an amazing 78-year-old young man (yes, you read it right. YOUNG!) who talked to me for over 5 hours on a 10-hour flight. We discussed oldest human civilizations, evolution, philosophy, culture, gender equality and what not. Couple hours into our conversation, I asked, ‘Sir, Have you read Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, and Steel? It might interest you.’ He gave me a nerd look and said, ‘Parimala, what do you mean by asking if I read books. Of course, I read books. I am a professor emeritus at Lund University.’ I was baffled. Here, I was, murmuring about things I know, to a learned man who did not throw an air of attitude or ego around a less learned individual like me. Apparently, this wonderful man grew up amidst 3000 books at his home where books were his best friends for most of his childhood. He has another 3000 decorated beautifully in his home and reads about 75 books a year on average. He speaks about the origin of chilies, with the same ease as about a 3rd century BC Ganesh idol in Gudimallam.

The Power of Reading

The wise professor on the plane told me three things:

1)     Your history knowledge is poor. You must read more (my friends know I read a lot and here was a man telling me to read more. I love it though)

2)     You are such a poor listener. Listen.

3)     Throw your phone in the garbage and focus on experiencing life

Reading and Writing books do exactly the same things he said I was not good at. They enhance knowledge about our roots. They help us to listen better. They help us dump technology in exchange for a good time with books that transform us into a real wonderland with utmost easy.

I read few books this year (broadly in two categories – technology and learning) and I’ll share few nuggets from some of them in this post.


The Enchanted Objects – David Rose

David Rose is a gifted innovator of our times. He does not go about putting chips under the human skin or USB's in our heads. He humanizes technologies in ways I have not witnessed before. He worries about old people forgetting to take their medicine. He worries about people needing to remember right things at the right time. He dreams about augmenting human capabilities.

His book Enchanted Objects aims to create enchanting experiences for people using technology without disrupting human feelings/emotions.

My favorite quote: “I’m particularly interested in your willingness to flex and consider the world from three perspectives: technology, design, and business. It takes a polyglot to understand and make smart decisions about human-centered products, so your ability to understand and communicate with other scientists, engineers, designers, psychologists, executives, and entrepreneurs – as well as customers and users – is essential to taking part in the next wave of the Internet.”

If you want to humanize technology, do yourself a favor and read this book.

The User Experience Team of One – Leah Buley

“Cut the crap, do what needs to be done.”, writes Leah Buley who has worked on many user experience projects as a one-woman army. In her view, many people make their way into user experience by crossing over from an adjacent field. These crossovers are the people who are carrying UX forward, taking it to new levels and new organizations.

A quotable quote from the book: “Finishing a UX project is like sweeping a floor. You get the big pile easily, but those last few specks of dust are impossible to ever really clean up. You just keep cutting the dirt pile in half until finally you’re left with an acceptable amount of grime to put the broom away and get on with the next thing. Suffice it to say, the work is never really done.”

If you are a UX team of one (which most UX folks are), this one is for you.

Lean UX – Jeff Gothelf

This book teaches you how to apply lean principles to improve the user experience. The book is so lean; you can read it in a couple of days.

Few quotes from the book: “Best experience never gets built.” and “Test your riskiest assumptions first.”

The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

In my experience, it is the boring stuff that people do that lead to great things in the first place. I could not say it any better. “I have learned from both my own successes and failures and those of many others that it's the boring stuff that matters the most”, confesses Eric Ries.

Another good quote: “The question at the heart of lean - which of our efforts are value-creating and which are wasteful?”


Free to Learn – Peter Gray

Peter Gray is an American Psychologist who found that play was critical to raising happy and self-reliant children, who can grow up to become better students of life. To his son, the school was a prison, and he had done nothing to deserve imprisonment. This experience and the decisions he took thereafter to educate his son, became the basis for this book. He writes about hunter-gatherer communities and how children were educated using play. This is a necessary read for every parent, educator, and mentor who teachers, mentors, inspires or guides people.

A noteworthy quote from the book: “Free play is nature's means of teaching children that they are not helpless. In a play, away from adults, children really do have control and can practice asserting it. In free play, children learn to make their own decisions, solve their own problems, create and abide by rules, and get along with others as equals rather than as obedient or rebellious subordinates. None of these lessons can be taught through verbal means; they can be learned only through experience, which free play provides.”

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi

Paul Sudhir Arul Kalanithi was an Indian-American neurosurgeon and writer. His book When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir about his life and illness battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. Death is a white elephant in the room. It is so certain, yet we live our lives thinking it is never going to hit us. Paul documents his life as he approaches death and how his wife Lucy (the couple was heading for a divorce before Paul was diagnosed with cancer) stood by him after learning about his condition. They even chose to have a baby, Cady, knowing that the Paul might not be around in her growing up years. Cady did fill his last days with joy and a peaceful death. Paul, not once asks, ‘Why me?’ He handled this with such courage that Cady, Lucy and his entire family and everyone who knew him will learn from his courage.

Paul’s note to Cady: “When you come to one of the many moments in life where you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man's days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

A heart-wrenching, soul-stirring story of hope!

The Dance of the Possible – Scott Berkun

“We always have more freedom than we think, we just forget.”, says Scott Berkun. If you do not have the freedom to read his books or blogs, then just know that you forgot and do remind yourself. Scott is one of the consistently wonderful writers of our times. He wrote this short book about creativity.

 “We can learn three simple rules from our ancestors in this regard: 1. if there’s something you want to do, you must simply go and do it. 2. If you want to be better at something, do it more often. 3. If you want to improve faster, ask someone who knows more than you to watch you and give their advice.”

“The shower is one of the few places left that we all must go where there are no advertisements, no news, no screens and no input for our minds. We relax, we sink back into the comfort of our bodies, and our brains slowly recover from everything we’ve asked them to do all day long.”

What I like about Scott is that he does not claim to know everything. He makes an attempt to do so. If you think you are not creative enough, Scott will surely tell you, you are creative! How? Go read this book.

The Dip – Seth Godin

The Dip is an old classic from Seth Godin. Seth’s microblogs are good enough to inspire you to do good work. His books with classic examples and metaphors can push you to your limits.

Favorite quote from the book: “The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that's actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path The Dip is the combination of bureaucracy and busy work you must deal with in order to get certified in scuba diving. The Dip is the difference between the easy "beginner" technique and the more useful "expert" approach in skiing or fashion design. The Dip is the long stretch between beginner's luck and real accomplishment. The Dip is the set of artificial screens set up to keep people like you out.”

Another one: “But what if I fail? We all get to laugh at you.”

The Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls - Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

This year, I started reading kids’ books thanks to my older kid. This book illustrates the tales of 100 extraordinary women from across the world spread across multiple centuries. These tales highlight the challenges that women faced, as back as 700 BC and how they fought through it.

Few notable quotes from women across generations:

"You hold all life's possibilities in the palm of your hands" - Fado Dayib's mother

The stars are not very different from us: they are born, they grow old, they die - Margherita Hack

"If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it" - Grace Hopper

The time is now - Wangari Maathai

I, for one, am proud of this book.

With this, blogging for 2017 comes to an end and it shall begin in the new year.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year 2018!

12 December, 2017

Oredev Developer Conference 2017 - A Speaker Report

This article was originally published on Linked In

Øredev Developer Conference is one of the premier developer conferences in Europe. Well-known for their passion for conferencing, special care-taking of speakers and keynote-level topics. I had first heard about Øredev in 2013. At the time, I dreamt of being at the conference someday, but I never imagined being a speaker. This was the first time I submitted a 1-hour talk to Øredev and voila, my talk was selected for the conference.

Conference Topics

Even before I started to prepare for my talk, I got a chance to look at previous years’ recordings of the conference. Very few conferences bring the variety that Øredev brings – be it Product Management, User Experience, Development, Testing, Quality Assurance, DevOps, People Leadership and so forth. The conference also attracts keynoters from top universities across the world working in areas like AI, AR, VR, Mobile, Conversational UI, Bots and many others. Speakers in these areas are mostly practitioners working full-time and presenting their life’s work. Some of these speakers come with a backing of 30 years of professional work. Wow!

My Talk

My talk was on How to Design Intuitive Mobile Apps using Machine Input. I am studying about machine input for 2 years now. I believe that our generation and the ones coming after us do not need the next big website, next cool mobile app or the next sexy bot working for us. I believe that we need products that augment our capabilities and make us better, not the ones who make us feel like shit or in other words, less human.

A bunch of innovators like Dan Saffer, Golden Krishna and David Rose strengthened my beliefs through their wonderful books. It has taken me forever to study the complete works of these great men. Nevertheless, each learning day has been fruitful. I also wrote about it HERE in early 2017. Over time, my interest only grew and hence the idea for a talk was born. If you want to know more about my talk, the kind folks at Øredev have recorded my talk. You can watch it HERE.

Sessions I loved

The Real, the Virtual, and the Cortex - Noah Falstein

Noah talked about VR, AR and Mixed Reality and its life-altering realities. He touched upon neuroscience, talked about how these technologies have enhanced our lives and put us under threat. Often, at conferences, I meet people who want to stitch a chip into kid’s bodies so we could track them when they are at school or other gory stories of how cyborgs can raise the quality of human life.

People like Noah give me hope that we do not want to build invasive products that creep into our bodies, that we need to have empathy, that our communications have to be humane. I just loved the humane touch he gave to his talk. You can find Noah’s talk HERE.

Software & storytelling, programming & play – Linda Liukas

Linda is a great storyteller who teaches programming to kids, girls, young women (and others too) using innovative approaches. Her primary audience includes 6-year-olds on average. For a change, she had an audience with average ages of 25 – 30 years at Øredev where she keynoted.

Before the conference, when I looked up her work, Linda came across as this little charismatic girl, always smiling, doing what she loves and working with the most awesome generation one ever can – young kids. It was good to learn about her. My takeaways from her talk included the metaphors/analogies that little kids can understand and key principles around teaching and learning. Linda is a breath of fresh air! You can watch her talk HERE

What is AI? Can computers become intelligent through playing games? – Julian Togelius

Julian is an Associate Professor at New York University. He showed several case studies of games and how computers could become intelligent using gaming patterns with live demos of some of the old games he has studied. His emphasis lay on AI and how videos games can help augment AI. Again, his talk demonstrated the deep work done in AI for several years.

Writing Apps for Mars – Kurt Leucht

Kurt’s talk could have touched many a developer’s ego. He asked one fundamental question, ‘Developers take pride in the products they build. But do they know how those products perform in the real environment?’ He went on to give an example of onboard software for Mars rover (Oh! By the way, Kurt works for NASA. Ahem!) and show the differences between a good mobile app and a business app that serves a mission-critical need. A fabulous talk for mobile enthusiasts to focus on the purpose of building apps. Kurt’s talk is HERE if you are curious.

Conversational UIs: Talking to Siri, Alexa, and Your Web Browser – Scott Davis

Scott was a high-energy person who gave a fabulous talk on bringing Siri, Alex and web browsers together. His talk had real-life examples of how his daughter who cannot speak clearly types data, asks Siri to read it for her, while Alexa listens to Siri and executes the commands. This is the kind of technology we need to create – to augment the abilities of differently abled people of our times and upcoming generations. I felt great hope for the future. Scott’s talk can be watched HERE.

Key takeaways

Øredev is a conference with ~1300 attendees and 100+ speakers. It is not humanly possible to attend all sessions. I watched many of them after the conference. It was fun. You too can watch the Øredev talk videos HERE.

I loved the talks around Conversational UIs, Bots, Virtual Reality concepts, Leadership and Product management talks. I was happy to learn (repeatedly) that there are humans who are concerned about fellow humans and not super gaga about plugging USBs into people’s heads or integrated chips into people's bodies. Linda Liukas’s teaching techniques were the biggest takeaway as I am looking up to designing my own tutorials next year. If you want to do just one thing after reading this, watch Linda’s talk for me.

Until next Øredev, Aloha!

24 October, 2017

Who do you want your customer to become?

Customer is King

Thinking about the customer is a high-risk innovation type. Customers' needs and desires keep changing, which adds to the risk. Inspiring customers to behave in a new way is something very few organizations are thinking about.

Defining New Behavior
Steve Jobs' Apple designed touchscreen interface which inspired customers to behave differently. Henry Ford never thought about motivating horses to run faster. Instead, he built cars. Elon Musk didn't continue Henry's tradition. He is working on promoting faster travel through Hyperloop and supporting space tourism. Google is going a step further, building driverless cars. These products augment human abilities and improve their well-being in better ways.

Things get interesting when specially-abled people start to use such innovative technology. For example, a blind person using a cane could use google maps to guide her to the destination. Countries like Japan can entrust driverless cars for octogenarians who continue to drive and cause accidents. There are innumerable opportunities.

Drones were discounted as toys in the early days. Today, they are used in photography in extreme conditions of climatic disasters, war scenarios, spying, products delivery and for many other purposes. A typical drone looks like a toy with a remote control, needs zero learning and is ready to fly as soon as you unpack it.

Drones discovered new customer behavior.

Hotel Bookings
Travelers want to book hotels in advance because when prices are cheaper. But, they are intimidated to make a payment in advance. If they are not sure to make it to the hotel, they would like to avoid refund hassles. They prefer paying on the day of their check-in. In many cases, travelers would like to cancel the booking. Since they didn't pay earlier, they are happy to cancel without spending a penny. Maybe, they are okay with a small cancellation fee, occasionally.

Booking.com re-defined customer behavior in many ways:
Travelers can book the hotel in advance without making payment. Travelers can cancel the hotel with Zero cancellation fee. Hotels with cancellation and non-cancellation policies are highlighted, directly encouraging travelers to book the hotels with free cancellation facilities. Highlight cancellation dates and how much cancellation fee applies after due date. Free cancellation feature encourages many tourists and business travelers to book hotels on booking.com for visa purposes if some countries have trouble issuing invitation letters to them.

Booking.com discovered new customer behavior.

Innovate with the Customer in Mind
Organizations / People looking to innovate with the customer in mind must spot unique change or trend in customer behavior

Steps involved in Customer Innovation

  1. Discovery of a new customer behavior
  2. Creating a new type of customer based on the behavior
  3. Creating a new market

This is a high-risk innovation which takes a long time to become disruptive. If done right, this innovation can re-define future of products and services.

Think Uber, Airbnb, SpaceX!

How do you innovate?

09 October, 2017

What's the burning problem you want to solve?

The App Story

Want to order books? There's an app for that.

Want to rent furniture? There's an app for that.

Want to make mobile payments? There's an app for that.

Want to tweet while you drive the car? There's an app for that! Remember Tesla? Tesla loves you so much that it supports social media buttons on the car interface

Want to talk to your driver? There's an app for that. Remember Uber? They care so much for your safety that they encourage drivers to chat with you as they drive.

Want to keep the baby busy? There's an app for that too!

The Bot Story

Want to get to the call center analyst faster? There's a bot for that.

Want to converse with an e-commerce company? There's a bot for that. 

The patient wants to talk to the nurse? There's a bot for that too!

What's the burning problem you want to solve?

The world has many problems to be solved. Only few are worth solving. When we think of building a website, an app, a bot or even a robot, we need to ask ourselves three fundamental questions: 

1. Is this a problem that many others have?

2. Is this problem serious enough and worth solving?

3. How often does this problem occur?

How severe is the problem?

Mosquito Bite Problem
Is the problem similar to a mosquito bite? There are mosquitoes, and they do bite people. But doing nothing is a viable option. In few cases, mosquito bites may lead to serious diseases, but those are rare cases in rare places. But, that's only rare. Fixing moquito bites is a 'Nice to Have'. Is this serious enough? May be not!

Shark Bite Problem
Is this problem critical enough that many customers are trying to solve? Are they panicking that they are late to the market? Are they looking at competitors? Are they feeling as if a giant shark is going to eat them up. This is a Shark Bite problem.

"Feature should be a Shark Bite Problem on a Mosquito Scale" ~ Omar Mohout

Products or features must be built based on the seriousness of problems that occur at high frequencies. If we don't solve shark bite problems on mosquito scale, customers move to greener pastures in due course of time.

We live amidst an ocean of websites, apps, bots, robots and what not! Quote the problem and there you are - someone tells you about an innovative app or bot that solves your problem. We believe in a future of screens, smartphones, tablets, and laptops. We believe in a future where every possible technology is stitched into our brain, skin, flesh and appears to work for us. We believe in a world of interfaces. Some problems may go away with interfaces, but most of them can be solved only with meaningful solutions. So, what is the burning problem you want to solve?

Inventor and M.I.T. Media Lab researcher David Rose picks interesting problems and solves them. Take a look.

David or the Screen Guy?

07 September, 2017

Four Ways to Improve Airline Customer

This article was originally published on Linked In

Seth Godin recently wrote an article, Four ways to improve customer service a while ago. Here's how I think, we can apply this concept to improve Airline Customer Service. Read on...

1. Delegate it to your customers. Let them give feedback, good and bad, early and often.

Customers are more expressive today than ever. Given the penetration of internet, even children and teenagers have taken to social media to express dissatisfaction, with certain products or companies. Few airlines don't respond to complaints via email or phone. When a customer tags them on twitter, they immediately connect with that customer to fix the problem. Because the whole world is watching them. Live. Airlines use Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to promote their business. Customers use the same media to highlight problems, complain about problems or appreciate good gestures. When one customer does something on social media, hundreds and thousands join them, because they sympathize with the user. This leads to a small complaint or appreciation growing manifold, thanks to the retweets, likes or comments of many other customers, who went through similar experiences with the same airline or some other airline.

The bad thing

In case of negative feedback, the brand value of the company plummets, in a matter of minutes or hours or days - the brand that was built over many years, hits the dust of the ground, with one tweet or post. The companies start wondering what went wrong. Take the case of United Airlines incident. A common seating problem on one of their flights in April 2017 ended with a man being bloodied and dragged from his seat and an already troubled airline earning more bad press. How did it all go so wrong? Firstly, the passenger was treated like a criminal although he paid for his seat. Secondly, the CEO, Oscar Munoz is believed to have defended the airline's action in an official email to his employees that it was the right thing to do.

Overbooking on flights happens all the time. Airlines boost their profit margins by overselling, betting against the number of passengers who will miss their flights. In this case, the problem arose because United decided at the last minute to fly four members of staff to a connection point and needed to bump four passengers to make way for them. One bad thing led to another bad thing that eventually led to the downfall of United Airlines.

The good thing

Users are giving feedback for free. No interviews, no surveys, at zero cost. For FREE. KLM Airline has a dedicated social media team to serve customers. What started as a three member customer support team during the eruption of Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 with employee volunteers, grew to 250 employees working full-time by 2015. In November 2014, KLM announced that they made €25m from social media segment alone. These are the fruits for listening to customers all the time and responding in the best possible way.

When things go wrong (and things do go wrong), if companies acknowledge the problem and fix it, customer loyalty only goes up.

"Encourage customer behavior and create a strong customer support system around it. Create an environment where users can give feedback, early and often. This leads to customer retention and loyalty."

2. Delegate it to your managers. Build in close monitoring, training, and feedback. Have them walk the floor, co-creating with their teams.

Technical Managers handling product teams for airlines need to closely monitor customer feedback and work with the development teams to fix problems. Hands-on managers who know about incoming issues in depth can be of great help during problem resolution phases.

App stores are a great source of feedback for airline mobile apps. Products like Appbot, and Gnip help you identify specific problems, as well as problem patterns. They also categorize problems so product teams can learn quickly about which features are performing well and which are not.With individual teams focused on building specific features into the product, technical managers, product managers and relevant stakeholders must keep an eye on customer feedback on app stores and other media to offer timely resolutions. People who run airlines are business people, who need a strong technology hand to support them. Highly capable technology teams need to close this gap, monitor and gather customer feedback and support business teams by acting quickly during disruptions.

3. Use technology. Monitor digital footprints, sales per square foot, visible customer actions.

Every customer who is online, leaves a digital footprint, whether he likes it or not. This footprint can be used to construct the preferences of the customer. Analytics plays a great role in offering humanizing experiences based on customer data and past history. Products need to be coded to capture critical events, actions etc and create patterns around product usage. Products like Adobe Experience Manager, Firebase, MixPanel, Omniture and several others assist products to capture exactly what a customer does as part of his journey. Analytics can identify where users err often, how many times do they abandon the journey and why they do so. This, in turn, can guide the long term vision and roadmap of the products.

Airlines need to have a strong analytics wing that studies customers for several years and months. Data coming out of such analytical research is used to target specific customer segments, push promotional offers customized to their needs, give them what they need it, exactly when they need it. Analytics teams need to work closely with product development, social media, marketing and branding teams to accomplish good customer service for customers.

4. Create a culture where peers inspire peers, in which each employee acts like a leader, pushing the culture forward. People like us do things like this. People like us, care.

Back in 2010, when the Icelandic volcano broke out, many flights were disrupted, In particular, KLM Airline was worst affected of other airlines. They did not hike up prices for upcoming flights or seek a penalty from customers for canceled/delayed flights. Instead, they focused on helping customers, who were stranded for many days. They made sure that customers were informed about this natural disaster and they made alternate arrangements for them. This, in turn, re-enforced customer's trust in the brand called KLM.

At KLM, social media teams respond to tweets from customers to book a flight ticket, modify seats, purchase special meals and even search for their lost item. Queries are answered on twitter. In most instances, customers get a response in less than 13 minutes of their tweet or post going public using KLM handle. Payments are made using a payment plugin on Facebook. KLM has built many custom products to enable better outreach to customers.

KLM would never have imagined coming this far, and be profitable in this pursuit. How did this happen? KLM has the best social media team in the world. This happened over a period of 5 years. Good reputation didn't come easy. They worked hard for it. KLM focused on building a Customer Service oriented culture.

Culture plays a key role in how an organization grows over a period of time. Empowered employees go to great lengths to do great work, in turn inspiring their peers. First and foremost thing is to keep employees happy, focused and empowered. Allowing employees to fail, learn and move on is critical to creating an open culture where great stuff gets built.

In the article that he wrote on customer service, Seth Godin quotes,

"You've probably guessed that the most valuable one, the fourth, is also far and away the most difficult to create. Culture is a posture that lasts. It's corroded by shortcuts and by inattention and fed by constant investment and care.
Big company or small, it doesn't matter. There are government agencies and tiny non-profits that have a culture of care and service. And then there are the rest…"

How do you handle customer service?

28 June, 2017

How To Educate Mobile Users Using Contextual Tutorials

You heard good things about an app. You downloaded and installed it. You launched the app. You are faced with 7-screen long swipe tutorial that educates you about each and every feature in the app. You hope to remember the features like a memory expert would. Except that, you won't! Mobile app tutorials make or break the app based on their design. Let's take a look at two types of tutorial and which one of these creates a positive impact on users.
 1. Screen by Screen Tutorial

Pulse app throws a big help file called Quick Tutorial educating the user about 4 gestures. The first thing the user does is to 'Dismiss' this screen, due to cognitive overload. As he uses the app thereafter, he struggles to recollect which gestures are mapped to which tasks. In many apps, a quick tutorial is a first-time launch screen that disappears into wilderness forever. Users end up uneducated.
Another example is a static tutorial like the one above. Perhaps, some users take a screenshot and store it. In this case, user's don't just forget the tutorial, but they even forget where the screenshot was stored in the first place. End solution - uninstall the app, reinstall and re-launch the app. Easy. Isn't it?


Users don't install apps to get a Ph.D degree in How to use your app. They want to accomplish their primary goal, quickly. They are least interested in browsing a 7 screen tutorial on app design features.

Conventional wisdom states that tutorials/static educational screens must be displayed at first launch of the app. Users must go through the learning process (if you are lucky, there'll be a skip option), before proceeding to use the app. This works best in a world where tasks happen in a linear sequence - one task after the other. Sadly, tasks are non-sequential, occurring in a random manner. This leads to remembering features, gestures or ideas difficult.

2. Contextual (Just In Time) Tutorials
A contextual (just-in-time) tutorial is displayed just in time when the user needs it. A contextual tutorial tells the user what is the right thing to do at that moment in time, without referring to the previous or next screen. It provides relevant and necessary information, unlike screen by screen tutorial which throws loads of information at once, irrespective of which flow the user might be using.

Contextual tutorials can be used to educate users in multiple ways:
a. Interactive Tour, One Feature At A Time

Elk is a currency converter app with simple UI. A user can convert a value from one currency to another for whole numbers and decimals. For e.g., a user can seek conversion of 10.35 INR to HUF. This app doesn't show a long tutorial at first launch. Instead, the feature is introduced step by step, the app waits for the user to try the step, understand it and then move on to next feature. Interactive tour works well for complex apps.

b. When Users Commit Errors
When users commit errors, it is common practice to display an error message, educating the user. It turns out, users don't want to be educated. Rather, they love to be guided when they go wrong. On Wego app, when the user forgets to select travel dates during flight booking, a simple action dulls rest of the screen and highlights just the departure and arrival dates, indicating that user needs to enter this data to proceed. This is a delightful way to tell users how exactly they went wrong, where they went wrong and how to fix it. The job is done well.

Users are no longer excited about elaborate onboarding ceremonies before performing their task. They want to setup the app as quickly as possible, complete the task on hand and get out. It's best to think of contextual/just in time education as improving the quality of lives users have by creating delightful experiences for them.

Do you have a contextual tutorial in your app?

08 June, 2017

Top UX Influencers You Need to Know

This article was originally published on Linked In.
If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
Thus said, Isaac Newton. Thanks to the Internet, I am constantly learning from the work of many great people across the world. This article is a small attempt to introduce you to few giants in User Experience (UX) space. This list is never complete as there are hundreds of thousands of people who are quietly doing their work.
Twitter is a treasure trove of experts in different fields. I frequent Twitter to learn from the experts on specific topics like UX, read about latest trends and apply them to projects based on the context. Many experts I wrote to, responded graciously and guided me. I am amazed and grateful forever, for the great work done by these great people who have generously shared their experience and expertise for free to make this world a better place for all of us. Aspiring UXers and designers looking for inspiration can learn from these UX influencers with a great legacy behind them. The names are in no particular order.
Donald Norman @jnd1er
The founding father of user experience, Donald Norman is credited with coining the term “user experience”. He is one of the world’s most famous UX Designers with @NNgroup. Don Norman’s books are intense, thought-provoking, and showcase his love to create humanizing experiences for users.
Recommended Reading: All of Donald Norman’s books
Luke Wroblewski @lukew
Luke Wroblewski is my digital transformation hero. He is a straight-speaking UX guy with a penchant for all things UX in Web and Mobile. His deep work and advice on building next generation mobile apps are close to none other. True to his Twitter bio, he is truly humanizing technology. Luke is a truly hands-on, highly insightful technical subject matter expert of our times.
Recommended Reading: Every article he has ever written!
Jared Spool @jmspool
Jared Spool is a UX legend and one of the most influential authority on UX design for almost 40 years. His articles, talks, and workshops give you fundamental insights we need to build great experiences. He emphasizes on overall human experiences while building products. Jared’s thought-provoking satire on his experience of flying United Airlines experiences can air drop you into a thinking pool.
Recommended Reading: Every article he has ever written!
Steve Krug @skrug
Steve’s best-selling book Don’t Make Me Think was the first book that got me thinking about usability. His books are simple and easy to understand for beginners. His insights on human-computer interactions and user testing are commendable. If you are starting out in usability, this guy’s body of work does wonders for you.
Recommended Reading: Don’t Make Me Think
David Rose @davidrose
David Rose is a world-renowned MIT Media Lab researcher who has built fabulous products with enchanting experiences, as he calls them. The products he has built imbibe subtle human feelings. His products and book are must learn stuff. David is one of the gifted UX artists we have today.
Recommended Reading: Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things
Bill Buxton @wasbuxton
Bill Buxton is a Principal Researcher, Interaction Designer and a relentless advocate for innovation and design. His 2007 book, Sketching User Experiences reflects his love for human values and culture.
Recommended Reading: Sketching User Experiences
Alan Cooper @MrAlanCooper
Rightly called the Software Alchemist, Alan Cooper is the ‘Father of Visual Basic,’ and Inventor of design personas. Alan’s books focus on how not to drive users crazy and keep them sane.
Recommended Reading: The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity.
Golden Krishna @goldenkrishna
One of the top hands-on designers with a legacy of great UX work at Zappos, Amazon, Samsung, Cooper and now at Google, Golden Krishna is a human-centered designer who is making technology human-friendly.
Recommended Reading: Best Interface is No Interface
I follow many others like Jakob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini, Adrian Zumbrunnen, Susan Weinschenk, Karen McGrane, Annette Priest, Laura Klein, Ethan Marcotte, Jess James Garrett and a hundred others. I’ll add their information once I have read their books/blogs and learn more about their body of work.
I use the term Expert for a constant learner, a teacher or a guru. With due credits to all great people who claim to be experts as well as those who don’t think of themselves as experts, we need to understand, there are no EXPERTS on any subject or in any field. Every so called expert builds on the knowledge and experience of their predecessors and contemporaries. Making this world a better place to live is the only thing that matters. And many people do that. I express my heartfelt thanks to everyone who share what they know and help others to become better moment by moment through Twitter, books, blogs, and other online/offline forums. THANK YOU!
Guru devo bhava!