Discussion Point – “Digital Native Services”

Agree or Disagree? Why?

The Internet distribution model doesn’t work on scarcity it works on ubiquity. What we have to do is find models that involve very broad distribution and in which you can make money all along the way.

This notion of user empowerment is a not only  obvious but a fundamental change brought on by the technological revolutions and market forces.

User experience research, ethnography, guerrilla anything are all trendy in the wonderful world of understanding your users and how to integrate yourself into their behaviour patterns. I tend to think all these methods are a way to empower the users’ voice to drive decisions being made in the products we hope they will use. At first glance this argument is rather sound and logical but after sometime conducting this research you start to see the deeper meanings and drivers in your users and in your businesses.

Fundamentally we have a linear relationship = business provides X, user votes for or against X by their usage characteristics. Too simple to be true. Businesses are made up of users and users have their own agendas in addition to everything we normally assume (think ‘users want to have a quick fun experience’ ) Businesses find their customers to have convoluted and rich needs and then the business sifts through that completely normal but complex pile of customer needs and tries to match up what it can address. So in review users have needs and businesses try to pick up which needs they can make some impact with and earn some money.

Fine and dandy this will work just splendidly as long as you can discreetly define who is who and what matters, which you might do quite a few times from difference perspectives in the landscape. Eventually the business will want more users and this broadens everything from needs to functions and onwards. This complicates the strategy, design, and user research greatly, and that is where we are finding ourselves constantly in the crossfire as user researchers. The risk in our work lies in getting the understanding of the user’s top needs wrong, but there is an even greater risk in studying the wrong users, in the wrong environment, and worst of all studying the wrong problem space altogether.

The gravitation towards broad distribution models seems justified in the logic of, “hey if I just get this out there to everyone then the folks who really want it will pay for it along the way.” Look at all the start-ups popping up like mushrooms all over the world right now. They are all moving pictures, words, videos around the world and between people, but how many of them have truly changed anything in how we fundamentally communicate. They are all modern post offices; digital, compartmentalized, personalized post offices. A post office has the widest distribution model of all ( everyone, everywhere ) and all its customers pay along the way. Libraries fit into this group as well. These are institutions that everyone in every language has some kind of experience with, these are our native services.

“Native services” in my mind are the fundamental services that we as a civilization have at our core. Post Office, Library, School, and Hospital are just some examples of the archetypical services that children play at and draw pictures of all over the world (first world?). We are in the age of birthing our digital equivalents and they are of the mind to empower users, distribute broadly, and make money all along the way. Our “digital native services” are  Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. These are becoming change agents of our vernacular and our daily existence. Future tykes at kindergarten will be drawing multicoloured googles, blue Fs, and tweeter birds in their representations of their families and daily activities. Users become empowered in their diapers and ripen in complexity with age. Good luck keeping up with the breadth and depth of their needs as they start learning more about what they need at younger ages. No longer will existing frameworks enforce some semblance of standardization on their needs. No one is going to make it easy for businesses except the user experience research professionals, who live and breathe this stuff with a passion.

(for the purpose of this post the word users is interchangeable with people, really for the purpose of this blog)

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