Category: The New Relationship

Cyborgs are coolCyborgs can do way more than humans. They can turn themselves into molten metal, they can make their eyes glow red, and most of all they can use Cyborg Interfaces. Human interfaces, or User interfaces are slow, clunky, and passé, at best. You see, when a human has to interface with a system, they need pretty icons, practical and familiar layouts/design, and structure. Cyborgs need none of these. Linus Torvalds is a lower-case “c” cyborg. He doesn’t need a Human interface any more than a meteor needs wings.

Mr. Torvalds, and Cyborgs, are both technically superior to us. They can process data at incredible speeds. They can also type really, really fast, so using interfaces such as the command line is easy for them. But for us mere humans, we need a little help. It’s not that our minds are weak. They’re just too busy monitoring our bodies as they replicate skin (Cyborgs don’t have this problem), or keeping the ol’ ticker going (don’t confuse Cyborgs with the Tin Man – they will probably kill you for it as they are and always will be heartless).

We, as humans, interact with many different types of systems on a daily basis, such as computers, automobiles, and even simple things such as milk cartons. We understand these systems best when there is an interface in place to facilitate that interaction. In the examples above, these interface elements might be:

– A mouse, a keyboard, and a screen
– Steering wheel, keys, pedals, and dials
– A handle, a cap, and a translucent bottle

How might you respond if you were asked to drive a car using a keyboard and a monitor? Would translucency benefit your computing experience as much as it does pouring a glass of milk?

We (well, most of us) mortals have certain expectations when interacting with any system, and if these expectations are not reasonably met, we become frustrated. The net effect: we leave, we stop using it, we throw it away, or we make fun of it. A good interface is always simple, clear, and rarely noticed by the average human. A good interface is not defined by a certain color palette, a set of icons, or a font. A good interface is not a set of buttons or graphics that take you through the steps. Sure, interfaces use these and other elements, but a true Human Interface is built around the Human for whom the system was originally intended. If they struggle to use it properly, they aren’t doing something wrong. The interface (and possibly the system for which it is built) is flawed.

Another defining characteristic of a great interface – if not always, then often – is the lack of extensive documentation detailing how to use it. This is not to say that you can just throw away your documentation and win the award. You need to carefully craft your product so that the number and order of the steps to complete a task or objective are sequential and obvious. An example of this is the Apple iMac. The iMac’s original manual was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world’s smallest manual, containing only 32 words — something revolutionary in a world where PCs were sold alongside their voluminous manuals outlining how to get the complicated machines up and running. The manual wasn’t short for brevity’s sake, but rather a reflection of the fact that the machine was simple to set up and use.

A good user interface requires little instruction, because the interface is designed in the first place to satisfy the needs AND instincts of the end user. They will feel that using the interface is instinctual, natural, and even familiar. Keep these points in mind when designing your product. It will save you a great deal of time and money in the long run, not to mention the frustration you’ll save your customers as they try out your product or service. This can only lead to increased customer satisfaction which will in turn produce better brand evangelists for your business, a great reward for caring about your customer’s experience.

The MoonHave you noticed that the moon, when settled near the horizon, is an extraordinarily large, clear, and gorgeous astral sphere? If so, then you’ve no doubt been amazed at the detail that’s present, and the immense beauty that seems to be lost when the moon is high in the sky. On the horizon, the moon is incredibly full, bright, dripping with clarity, and – probably most amazingly – it’s not any larger than when it is directly overhead. Your eyes are merely being tricked by what’s referred to as the “Moon Illusion”.

That’s right, in reality the moon is closest (and measures largest from our Earthly perspective) when it’s high in the heavens, and not when it’s “down to Earth” on the horizon.

You no doubt won’t believe me. That’s ok. Test for yourself and you’ll see that the moon is smaller on the horizon than at it’s zenith (this is because the moon is actually around 4,000 miles farther away from you when sitting on the horizon than when it’s right above you).

So why does it look so much bigger on the horizon? It’s simple: Relatability. If you can’t relate to something, chances are your mind will misperceive it.

Ebbinghaus IllusionTake, for example, warm water on freezing feet after you’ve had them in the snow or cold for an extended period of time. Your mind knows the water is an appropriate temperature. You’ve even tested it with your hand. However, your feet aren’t used to being so frigid when they feel warm water, and therefore your nerves tell your mind the water is scalding hot. Same goes for optical illusions, like the one with two circles surrounded by other circles of either larger or smaller size. Your mind is used to judging size based on what’s nearby. That’s why the lower center circle in this image looks larger than the upper center circle. What a mouthful!

These principles of perception apply to most everyone. We know that people OFTEN make decisions based on their own level of comprehension. We also know that one’s perception is ALWAYS (and only) based on past experiences and those things which are familiar. If your business is seen like that moon surrounded by a body of blackness and a mist of sparkling specks, then your charm will likely be lost on a great portion of your market. To put it another way, we recognize the moon as a prodigious body when it’s laying next to the mountains, and trees, and buildings because we – Earth-bound humans – can relate to mountains, and trees, and buildings. The moon is no more mighty on the horizon then it is in the night sky, but since we’ve seen plenty of these earthly objects from a variety of perspectives, we now have something, quite simply, to relate it to.

Who cares?

The moon can afford to rarely stand out – nobody is trying to put the moon out of business. You, on the other hand, are not so untouchable. Failing to show your absolute best side – in a way that’s easily relatable to your target market – can make or break your chance of success. The moon is unfathomably awesome. I doubt there are many people on the planet who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to venture to the moon just for the chance to stand on it’s surface. Yet, somehow, the moon is a little too distant, and a bit too drowned out by the vast night sky for most humans to give it much thought. Likewise, if your corporate demeanor is aloof, forbidding, or formal, your days are now numbered. Trying to create a barrier between the inner workings of your company and your customer merely creates confusion and questions. Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Sallie Mae, and AT&T, among others, have operated on the premise that you need only hand them your money, and they’ll do the rest. This attitude of “what we do is too big to understand, son – take your lunch, say thank you, and move along” was the chime of industry 10 short years ago. Now, it’s the death knell of these monoliths. Your customer is wanting to know the REAL you, not just your glossy exterior. If you won’t tell them who you are, what you believe, why you’re here, and what your driving passion is, then they’ll find someone who will.

Customers today are seeking a friend, someone to trust, and someone to champion. Don’t misunderstand, this is not an invitation from your customer to slack off and just talk. Unquestionably, you still have to rock their world if you want their attention. Nobody champions the mediocre – your extraordinary business must continue to be extraordinary. But this is the information age, and everything has changed, including the customer. They are ready to see you in a relatable environment, and just like the moon, the better you look in their familiar setting, the better chance you have to garner their interest.

Are you using today’s technologies and tools and help your customer put your awesomeness into perspective? Are you showing them not only that you’re great, but how great you are compared with what they’re familiar with? In other words, get them to see how great you are compared to their baseline, and your business will experience an explosion of both loyalty and growth.

If you’re not actively inviting customers to love you, you’re missing out on the chance to create brand evangelists, generate free chatter, and improve your bottom line. Most of all, you’re missing out on the chance to solidify a New Relationship™ with your customer, something which only a handful of companies will survive without over the next few years.

detergentOne last note: comparing yourself to your competitors used to make for great advertising. Remember all the detergent ads in the 90’s? Today, making your focus one of comparing yourself with a competitor is ineffective at best, and suicide at worst. What’s to say your customer relates to your competitor any better than you. Instead of leading your customer down an unknown path, figure out where their interests and your offerings intersect and laser beam your full focus on that. The customer no longer wants to know why you’re the better brand. They want to know why your the BEST brand FOR THEM. It’s not about you. It’s not about you compared to… It is all about your customer, and for the first time in history, they know it.

Do you?

Now, go be relatable.