Archive for the Tag 'functionality'

World Innovation Forum T5 case study: Mixed-Use is Effective Use

Point: Merging functionality can create innovations in efficiency and convenience
Story: As someone who spends more than my fair share of time in airports, I’ve wondered if passengers don’t deserve frequent flier miles for distances walked all over the terminal buildings. The food court is one place, the gate is in another, and finding a power outlet to recharge the laptop for the long flight home is always a challenge. In most airports, no single location suffices for all these purposes. When sitting at the gate, one doesn’t know if one has time to go grab a bite to eat. And when sitting at the restaurant, one doesn’t know if one’s flight is about to board.

OTG tackled this problem when they designed the airport experience for JetBLue’s new T5 terminal at JFK airport. OTG created a new mixed-use approach for some of the gate space. About half the 26 gates have special 16-seat clusters called “re:vive” that lets passengers eat, recharge, and keep an eye on their flight. Touchscreen monitors and credit card readers let passengers order, pay for, and have food delivered right to the gate. The ordering process even provides a delivery time estimate before a passenger gives the final “OK” for the order.

“Re:vive” is more than just a passenger convenience. It also boosts revenues for food concessionaires by reaching the underserved market of so-called “gate huggers” — passengers who don’t want to leave the gate area.

The “re:vive” concept is not unlike the notion of mixed-use building developments for cities, which create buildings with retail on the first floor, offices on the second and residential condos or lofts on the top floors. Mixed-use reduces urban sprawl and urban commuting times in the same way that re:vive reduces airport terminal sprawl and the burden of dragging luggage to and fro. Co-locating the functions that people need provides convenience.


  • Look for the customer activities that are currently separate but that could be concurrent or co-located
  • Merge functionality to reduce time, opportunity costs, and logistical overhead
  • Grow markets by serving those that don’t or won’t move from activity to activity

Source: World Innovation Forum presentation May 6, 2009

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Developing New Products with Less Guesswork

Point: Use technology to get real-time, full-time feedback from users

Story: Designing new products seems like a guessing game: which features do users want? In the early days, engineers had to guess. Then came market research: asking people which features they’d like to have or which they prefer from among the choices. Of course, users often have difficulty articulating what they want.

Next, some companies hired ethnographers to observe users in action. Software maker Intuit, for example, sent software engineers to watch how users tried to use accounting software. Intuit’s QuickBooks succeeded because its developers had watched users struggle with traditional accounting software and solved the difficulties they were having.

Other companies built usability labs, which have the advantage of measurement but are in controlled settings. Ethnographic techniques and usability labs improve upon market research, but they are expensive and can only watch a small sample of users for a short time.

Now, technology lets companies go one better. Software companies who host their applications in the cloud can see what customers are doing – in real time, all the time. They can see which features really get used and which don’t. They can notice if users hit the “undo” button frequently, which suggests that the feature isn’t doing what users expect it to do. Sam Shillance, co-creator of Writely, found that what users of his word processing tool wanted most was a way to let several people edit a document together. (The Writely app was bought by Google and is now in Google Docs). Finally, as new types of users adopt the product or as new uses arise, developers can continue to adapt their software from the stream of feedback of usage patterns.


  • Think about how you can put more of your product or service? on the web or in cloud media so that you can watch user behavior.
  • Look for evidence of frustration (e.g., use of “Undo,” help requests, problem reports)
  • Watch which features users use first, and keep those simple. That will make your product easy to adopt and will reduce first-use frustration.
  • Improve the functionality of the most-used features.
  • De-emphasize (or rework) the least-used features.

For further information: The Netbook Effect by Clive Thompson

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