Apple’s watch: an iPhone accessory for your wrist

My prediction: the Apple watch is to your wrist as CarPlay is to your car.

CarPlay makes your car an “accessory” for the iPhone that displays certain apps in a different way optimized for that situation. The apps are running on the phone, and the phone is the “brains.” An Apple watch could work the same way, displaying optimized versions of apps like Clock, Messages, Mail, Weather, and more.

This feels plausible because, today, a single iOS app can have two sets of capabilities and two UIs: one for iPhone and one for iPad. CarPlay adds a third, and my leap is the watch would be a fourth.

This concept implies the watch doesn’t replace your phone, create a new “category,” or cost thousands of dollars. I would expect it to cost the same as a fancy Bluetooth headset. It is, after all, a Bluetooth accessory.

An Apple watch is analogous to a Bluetooth headset in another way: you don’t need one to have a great experience with your iPhone. It’s completely optional. If you don’t want to give up your watch or go back to wearing one, you can still just look at your phone instead.

The question I have is how they do this without damaging their relationship with Nike. For a long time now, Apple has sold running accessories that have both Nike’s and Apple’s name. The two companies are good friends and I think they are happy to let the other do what it’s good at. So this new product would have to be an evolution of that history, I think.

Maybe there’s a base version that doesn’t do fitness tracking, but Nike sells a pricier FuelBand-branded version that does? I’m not sure. But I don’t see Apple getting into a fight with Nike to kill the FuelBand by adding fitness tracking into their own first-party wristband.

Bonus prediction: it comes in five colors, like the iPod Nano.

Less is more, better, and more profitable—once you have a context

Let’s say your company makes knives. If you know the context for their use is a sushi restaurant, you can make just a few, simple, extremely sharp knives and make your customers very happy.

If you don’t know who would use them, or when, you’ll probably make different sized knives, add scissors, maybe nail clippers, perhaps a bottle opener…and hey, why not a screwdriver?

Bonus points: do you think you can charge more for the professional knife set, or the multitool?

UX replaces basic BA work, but here comes data science

I’ve observed that once an organization institutes a design process before development, the design function effectively replaces what’s traditionally done by IT business analysts. This makes sense, as this article from UC Berkeley points out, since the pendulum swings from what the stakeholders say to what the users need.

The recent focus on data science, however, is an area of opportunity (or perhaps, refuge) for displaced BAs. (Note the purple area at the lower right.) Many designers come from art school and are disinclined to attack data problems.

I’m generalizing in a way that’s insulting to both groups, but the larger trend is undeniable: as businesses incorporate more design to stay competitive, the days of those that transcribe stakeholder dictums into documents are numbered.

UX replaces basic BA work, but here comes data science

I’ve observed that once an organization institutes a design process before development, the design function effectively replaces what’s traditionally done by IT business analysts. This makes sense, as this article from UC Berkeley points out, since the pendulum swings from what the stakeholders say to what the users need.

The recent focus on data science, however, is an area of opportunity (or perhaps, refuge) for displaced BAs. (Note the purple area at the lower right.) Many designers come from art school and are disinclined to attack data problems.

I’m generalizing in a way that’s insulting to both groups, but the larger trend is undeniable: as businesses incorporate more design to stay competitive, the days of those that transcribe stakeholder dictums into documents are numbered.

A silo-less way to build your products

Bill Buxton is a legend in the field of computing, and his book Sketching User Experiences is a classic for those building products. The title is actually a bit misleading: the book doesn’t specifically cover sketching, but instead provides a detailed walkthrough of the process of building great products.

These pictures from the book illustrate the product development process with increasing levels of maturity:

  1. Engineering builds something, sales tries to sell it (no design)
  2. Design is introduced prior to engineering
  3. The walls separating those groups are broken down; management and marketing are integrated so the product has a consistent vision and story

If you’re struggling to get your company to focus more on design, try painting this larger picture and treat it as a stepping stone.

Feature cards: prioritizing product ideas with users

Amberlight Partners created an innovative, visually-oriented way to engage users in prioritizing future product ideas. First, they create a “card” for each idea featuring an illustration of the concept. This way, the user understands the gist of the idea without getting hung up on the potential UI.

Then, the user places the card in one of three categories:

  1. Really important
  2. Nice to have
  3. I wouldn’t use this

Finally, the person running the activity asks the user what led to their decisions.

Tip: Don’t over-explain the possible features and bias the users. After all, it’s likely they will get little to no explanation in the real world.

Story Mapping

Agile user stories, when built and released individually, often don’t add up to anything cohesive or useful from the customer’s perspective.

To address this, Jeff Patton invented a technique called Story Mapping to group the features necessary for a customer to actually see value and accomplish something in the real world.

It’s a much smarter way to do release planning.