DISCOVER

Every movement begins with a moment.

The Power (and Perils) of the Ecosystem

Posted 21 January 2016 9:00 AM by Mahan Archer @MoxieUSA, @OffPanel

These days you can’t swing a dead Windows Phone platform without hitting the word “ecosystem.”

The fundamental interconnectedness that brands are bringing to their products is intended to make our lives easier, smarter and more fun. When executed well, ecosystems create a brand version of golden handcuffs: the more deeply you buy in, the more entrenched you become — and the less you want to leave.

Apple is the ecosystem king. Ever since the first iPod, the company has embarked upon a carefully laid strategy in which no product is an island, and each new addition makes all the other pieces more valuable and powerful. For example, consider the recent HealthKit platform, which uses the sensors in your Apple Watch to feed fitness data to your iPhone. This data can then be shared with hundreds of iOS health and fitness apps you buy or download for free from the App Store. If you are health conscious, that is quite a value proposition.

Ecosystems are spoken of with reverence within marketing circles and also have a high approval rating among experienced design practitioners. Even if we somewhat cynically believe that the end goal is user lock-in, these carefully integrated platforms, products and services really are making life better. Plus, there is an added bonus for app designers: The APIs (application programming interfaces) that come with a robust ecosystem give us the power to add lots of cool, free features and capabilities that our creations might not otherwise have.

But experience designers should beware. Once you start tapping into all those ecosystem freebies, you are leaving behind the security of a small, enclosed app where you control everything. It may seem like a great deal, with someone else doing much of the heavy lifting, but the truth is that your designs must become more intentional, not less.

Why No One Takes Diet Advice From Me

Perhaps an illustration will help.

“Lose It” is an iOS app that I think is absolutely brilliant. It takes something that is very difficult — losing weight — and by making it easy to track your calories and exercise, gives you the tools you need to be successful.

This app has made a lot of smart design choices. It includes a database of common foods with nutritional information, provides graphs of your progress and incorporates social support by broadcasting your progress to your peers. Lose It even allows you to record the caloric information of pre-packaged foods simply by scanning the package bar code with your phone.

And it works. After four months of using Lose It, I was down to my college weight. I still wanted to lose about ten more pounds (the “freshman fifteen” is a real thing, people), but as long as I didn’t make any big changes to my routine, everything was going to be smooth sailing.

It was around this time that I made a big change to my routine. I bought a new iPhone.

Per the Apple reputation, everything transferred over easily, and I was up and running on my new device in about fifteen minutes. After the transfer, however, Lose It seemed to occasionally, well, lose it. Most notably, it started doing this strange thing where it would overwrite my actual weight with my goal weight every night.

I would wake up in the morning and Lose It would congratulate me on reaching my goal. I would say, “Shucks, really, it was nothing.” Then I would weigh myself, realize I was still ten pounds over, and record my real weight. Later that night, Lose It would again reset me to my goal weight. After a week of this, I opened the app and showed my wife an incredible journey in which every 24 hours I would lose ten pounds, but then immediately gain 9.75 of them back. She declared me the “worst yo-yo dieter ever,” and we both thought that was pretty funny.

It got funnier. I mentioned earlier that Lose It has a social aspect. You can set up a support network, and whether you gain or lose weight, the app will dutifully report the fluctuations out to your network. That piece was still going strong, although it reported selectively. Each night, when Lose It reset my weight downward, it would stay mum, but each morning when I replaced the fake number with my actual weight, the app would proudly proclaim to my network, “Mahan Archer weighed in and gained 10 lbs.”

So, my friends were seeing a running commentary on my efforts that looked something like this:

2 days ago

Mahan Archer weighed in and gained 8 lbs.

3 days ago

Mahan Archer weighed in and gained 8 lbs.

4 days ago

Mahan Archer weighed in and gained 8.5 lbs.

Mahan Archer earned a steps bonus of 61 calories

5 days ago

Mahan Archer weighed in and gained 8.8 lbs.

6 days ago

Mahan Archer weighed in and gained 9 lbs.

I had forgotten about the social piece until my buddy Doug reached out and said, “Dude, whatever you are doing, it is not working.”

The Perils of the Ecosystem

At first, I assumed that Lose It had some sort of charting bug that was being exacerbated by iOS 9, but as I started to delve deeper, I realized that something more interesting was happening.

Lose It had been coded to interact with Apple’s new HealthKit platform — meaning that it could write to and read from a shared set of my health data. By default, the app was set to pull my weight from HealthKit each night, and if I had been entering my weight there, all would have been fine. However, I was entering my weight into Lose It, as instructed, and the app was overwriting my input with nonsense.

By not fully anticipating the interplay between their app and Healthkit, the Lose It designers had introduced a big wrinkle into what had previously been an outstanding user experience (UX).

Standing Up to the Challenge

So, as UX designers, how do we make the leap from designing freestanding, autonomous apps to creating ecosystem-savvy experiences?

Here are some Moxie UX pointers for approaching that very scenario:

Understand the ecosystem – The major ecosystems differ not just in technology, but also in philosophy. Your work should understand and reflect that. Don’t try to be too prescriptive with your Android users or invade an iOS user’s privacy. Play to the ecosystem strengths of each platform, even if you are designing a common, cross-platform app.

Think about inputs and outputs – This is old UX wisdom, passed down from father to son and mother to daughter for generations. Still, it has never been more relevant than today when so many of our designs trigger, or are triggered by, other software. What data is coming into the app? What should the data do? What must it never, ever do? What data transformations are we pushing back out of the app? Post a guard at every entrance and exit to your code, and always know the agenda of the data passing through.

Deputize your front-end developers – Your front-end developers share a lot of your UX DNA. Plus, they know those ecosystem APIs better than anybody. Also, they’ll help you trace how data runs into, through and out of your app. What are you waiting for? Join forces with those awesome people.

Always test your app within the context of the platform – It’s not enough to ensure that communication with the ecosystem is happening. You’ve got to observe the outcomes of that communication and shake out any unintended consequences.

I hope these morsels are useful as you leave the relative safety of the self-contained app and venture out into the ecosystem. It’s a big world out there.

NOTE: Even though I called out Lose It as the cautionary tale in this post, it truly is an awesome app. If you want to shed a few pounds, you should download it yesterday.

Share:

Add your comment

 
 

 

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

#crisis #socialmediacrisis #socialmedia #digitalmarketing #socialmarketing #strategy #influencers #communication #pr #media #ideation #creation #content #planning #culture Snapchat Snap Inc. advertising marketing social media community management brand millennials authenticity Spectacles Wearables customer customer service Paid Media Podcasts Content Sponsored Ads Content Marketing #content #marketing #media #analytics #digitalmarketing #ideation #creation #production DecisionIQ strategy big data personalization Humanizeit Facebook Facebook Live Video Media Media Planning Data Intern Instagram Stories ftc guidelines social influencer social influencers social media influencers social media broadcasting live video Processing prototype prototyping user experience ux technology programming coding java ideas design visual arts mix reality mixed realities tutorial sketch Twitter Carousel Ads Ad Exchange Programmatic FBX Disney virtual reality projection mapping RFID Tumblr Voice Tone Axure wireframing UX software collaboration Measuring Usability UX Best Practices Designing User Journeys Stop counting clicks Designing for completion Designing for satisfaction Dieter Ram and User Experience Less is more Less but better Influencer Marketing learnability user interface user-created content gaming maker editor Super Mario Maker Nintendo digital media chat bots messaging mobile applications automation F8 Mark Zuckerberg Business F8 Conference Email office agency communication Slack Facebook at Work meetings productivity Wearable tech Healthcare Experience Patient Experience Service Design Strategy Creative Moxie VR Six Flags Six Flags Over Georgia theme parks Samsung Samsung Gear Samsung Galaxy VR headset Oculus Rift Playstation VR roller coasters Dare Devil Drive Websites Web dev development digital reactions emotion analytics dislike social metrics clicks Brands Consumers CPG Retail Consumer Marketing Consumer Insights Super Bowl Commercials Football Cultural Phenomenon Game adtech martec auto-responders automated marketing Experience Design Interaction Design Ecosystem iOS Healthkit Ad blocking Forbes Condé Nast GQ interactive media ad-light hashtags hashflags audience visual emojis campaign management 1-to-1 marketing omnichannel CES CES 2016 Oculus Sony PlayStation uSens HTC special mapping hand tracking games PetBot WonderWoof BowTie Pets OTT digital distribution Netflix Reed Hastings on-demand #yearahead #2016 #newyear #2016predictions #digitalstrategy #modernism user-generated content UGC Consumer Connection Integrated Marketing Manufacturers Accessibility usability engagement rate disability awareness creative process creativity fail fast hiring ideas imperfectionist perfectionist personnel progress test and learn fast casual restaurants social media campaigns QSR social strategies in-store promotions in-store social media promotions successful social media campaigns Logos Typography Branding #CPG #Retail #ConsumerInsights #CRM #ConsumerDirect #Seamless #OmniChannel #MoxieMakers #frontierism #intelligence #architecture insight moments Unit3C FutureX lab innovation open house Q&A UnitFilms 48in48 General Assembly Non-Profit Ponce City Market Branded design technical design style guide wireframes brand guidelines Consumer Products Interactive Marketing GIF social campaign modern marketing Cannes Lions new media pop culture meme Web Accessibility QA media buying mobile apps targeting wires Advertisers Apple Store EasyPay self-checkout app mobile payment Sporting Events Sitecore CMS delivery Content Marketing Strategy Brand Content Marketing Content Strategy Brand Content Strategy Social Content Strategy Cannes humanity what3words life saving dot Agency Partnership Agency Relationship Competitive Review Millennial Marketers email marketing omni-channel digital marketing esp email service provider process WCAG 2016 Planning Connected Omni AR Commerce Social Innovation Create Content Strategy OMMA MediaPost Internet Week TV & Video Media Planners Creative Conundrum real-time scalability Customization smartphone loyalty advocacy live streaming content democracy Open Source Node.js Cheerio Handlebars Hyperquext MongoDB Atlassian Stash PhantomJS Shopping On-demand economy Sharing economy Everything on demand Instant delivery iPhone App Amazon Now Build Automation DevOps Native Advertising Machina Forrester SXSW Machine Learning Data Streams Web search results Data Platforms ROI Instagram Purchase Behavior Like Content Consumer Channel Role and Purpose ExactTarget Salesforce Cloud Responsys Oracle Silverpop IBM Agency Culture Innovation and Technology Client Relationships Platform Partnerships Ever-evolving Digital Age geo-fencing tablet Android second-screen Austin FOMO Meerkat scaleable vector graphics Flash animation interactivity code browsers uber-savvy consumers integrated digital-connectedness Valentine's Über Bloom that Open Table Waze marketing research google music art sports illustration sculpture food green entertainment movies photography real time marketing cheat sheet smart homes vine print 3d printing street art painting fashion influencer movie billboard outdoor mobile wallet toys film halloween history space films cars anniversary
×

PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR INFORMATION
TO DOWNLOAD THE PAPER.

Error: All fields are required.
×
THANK YOU.
YOUR DOWNLOAD IS NOW AVAILABLE.