Awash in Information

by Paul D'Alessandro on November 20, 2009

Leave a Message
Creative Commons License photo credit: tavarua

Too many people mistakenly attribute the success of the iPhone to its sleek design (aesthetics) or to the blind love for the Apple brand (emotion).  However, for years I have argued that although these are important the real secret to its success is the iTunes store and more recently its evolutionary path into the app store.  This is what I call the context of the product or service that you deliver.  The context is the ecosystem with which you surround your offering.  It is the sales process, the service process, ancillary products or even complementary ones.

Kindle is another recent product that puts itself in a strong “context”, the Amazon book store.  Both products benefit substantially from the myriad of things that you can do with the core product.  The companies that offer these products, Apple and Amazon benefit in the revenue and engagement model does not stop with the initial purchase.  That is only the beginning.

Recently, I have grown increasingly concerned about the pollution of this contextual differentiator.  Consider the post yesterday from the Kindle team on Twitter (KindleReads):

We are working on a solution for you to organize your Kindle libraries, to be released as an over-the-air software update next year (1:07 PM Nov 19th, KindleReads)

The problem the Kindle team is referring to is an overwhelming amount of information that the user is finding increasingly difficult to manage on their Kindle.  The same thing happens when one shops today in the iTunes store.  There is simply too much information to cull through.

The challenge of not having the right meta-data and information architecture stands to pollute the contextual differentiator of what makes these two products so great.  This is the same challenge that more products and services are finding their way into these days as they lose the notion of simplicity and the basic tenet of “chunking theory” in their offerings.  The basic question I pose to designers today as they ever expand the context around their product or service is, “How will your lowest common denominator consumer find that which they seek?”  The answer is not search.  You need multiple paths to information and it is critical that they are intuitive to the user.  Without a channel strategy to information your customers now awash in information will find their way to a better experience.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Trent December 15, 2009 at 8:15 am

Paraphrasing Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody; “We don’t have an information problem, we have a filtering problem”.

Fix the upfront filter, and I think you fix the information problem.

Paul D'Alessandro December 15, 2009 at 9:01 am

Great observation Trent… I am always reluctant to refer back to the old days of “knowledge management” but in this case I think it applies… The conundrum is how do you organize all these apps and books as it is such a new space that even the taxonomy or meta-data that would do the up-front filtering is in question! This is why good Information Architects are so important to the discipline of xD.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: