Minor changes. Major impacts.

One of the clearest benefits of introducing tangible design factors to customers and stakeholders is the increase in the rapidity of useful feedback. As a critical ingredient in any innovation’s success, feedback response and its frequency greatly influence the ability of a design team to capture enough attention to move from innovation diffusion to accelerated adoption. This is the heart of an ongoing collaboration between designer/innovators and users.

It is not just a matter of A/B testing. Although the value of A/B testing (also called multivariate testing) cannot be denied when correctly designed and implemented. Marked improvements can be seen through testing elements like text, layouts, images, form factors, user interface components and even and colors. Not all elements produce the same improvements, and by looking at the results from usually small-scale tests, it is possible to identify those elements that consistently tend to produce the greatest improvements. What we observe is that all product and service experiences benefit from the scrutiny of small changes, rapidly tested, to accelerate positive outcomes.

Factors that, by themselves, seem inconsequential when considered in terms of behaviors and in market outcomes, may have exponential impacts. A couple of very different examples come to mind. The first is service and the second is product related.

I heart you

In a recent in the FastCompany Co.Design article online, Joe Gebbia the CEO of Airbnb (a “community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world”) described the way a small change in the presentation of user-desired affiliation data transformed engagement:

For a couple years, registered Airbnb users have been able to star the properties they browse, and save them to a list. But Gebbia’s team wondered whether just a few tweaks here and there could change engagement, so they changed that star to a heart. To their surprise, engagement went up by a whopping 30%. The star, they realized, was a generic web shorthand and a utilitarian symbol that didn’t carry much weight. The heart, by contrast, was aspirational.

This change points to the way in which a website can move from offering a utility service to being a marketplace and community for discovery and sharing, both behaviors that drive increased adoption and retention of users. But not every small change is without pain. Consider Apple’s recent redesign of a seemingly inconsequential component.

Many people will not heart you

With the recent release of the iPhone 5 many were completely underwhelmed by the advances in the technology it contained. It was a little faster. It was a little shinier. But nothing to rave about it would see; unless you talked to someone who build iPhone accessories. For those manufacturers, the change in one connector was going to transform their business entirely.

The accessories market for mobile phones globally is about $35B. For iPhones it a little more than $3B which is not a significant share on face value. But Apple has decided (in their infinite wisdom) to move from a 30 pin connector which has been standard on their iPod and iPhone devices for nearly five years, to the new Lightning connector. The primary driver is the new connector makes more room for other technical features in the device which will improve performance of existing functionality. Overall, not much change.

For accessories manufacturers this is a huge change. And for users an even bigger headache. iPhone 5 purchasers are going to need new dock connectors, new cables, new chargers, new cases, and the list goes on. This doesn’t take into account all the e-waste as we move from one set of connectors and adapters to another. One small change is going to ripple across the market for years to come. One wonders what kind of testing was considered or conducted to help manage this shift.

The case for rapid testing and prototyping is not new. The direct incorporation of the user in the experience is where there is significant traction to be found. Small changes, tested and results incorporated rapidly into the product or service development cycle can produce significant results. Just remember, that your small change might be someone else system nightmare; it is better to collaborate early, and often.


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2 thoughts on “Minor changes. Major impacts.

  1. @drewcm Kinda like cycling. Raising a bike’s seat .5 cm can have a huge impact in terms of power delivered to the pedals. #innochat

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