Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mobile Shopping in Japan

It was an article in Der Standard from August 8th, were I read about shopping using a mobile phone in Japan. Xavel a trendy japanese fashion label succeeds in offering brands for young ladies between about 18 and 25 years and this article was one of those which made my brain jumping up and down one whole day ;) But why what is so special on retailing via mobile phone, okay, it's funny but why am I so excited?

One prerequisite for the success on Shopping via a Mobile is some kind of "unused" time which can be made "useful". In Japan where most of the employees need 2 hours to go to work and 2 hours again to get back home, lots of this "unused" time is available. The traditional japanese normally uses that time to sleep.

Whoever had the wonderful opportunity to visit Japan (I can only recommend that, you will never forget this experience :) will also remember another picture of the country - Wherever you go (Subway, train, Cafe, ...) you'll find thousands of (normally young or very young people), who stare like banned on their mobile phones. So what they do is not really talking but playing games, sending SMS or MMS using iMode services and so on. So what we've got here is "unused time", devices which are accepted by most the (young) population and a technology which is ready for commercial use.

What else is missing? Right, we still need the a product. A realization that works right plus a marketing concept that creates the "Must Have" effect. And exactly on that point I discover the strength of a japanese company. The focus group was set so tight that the developer could create an exactly defined product. Try to visit the site http://www. girlswalker.com (the website of the mobile shop) and you won't have any difficulty to find out for whom these products are made. (I'd say) 18 to 25 year old girls and women. There is no try to motivate a housewife buying in this shop, or 50 year old managers or maybe 20 year old boys (don't worry all these things will come). No, just one exactly defined focus group. Without if and however. Additionally there is this great idea of spreading, where friends can inform each other about their purchasings ... and voila a new market is being born :)

Of course other traders will follow, some will succeed, some won't. However, shopping via a mobile phone could also be a part of life in our latitude. The question remains how long it will take to find the right people who can do it right in the practice.

Windows Live

First of all I really want to congratulate the start.com team for their amazing work. I remember very well the day this site found its way to our usability group at Hyperwave. We were really impressed about the DHTML solutions of the MS team and the way they handle a browser based application. Thanx for that.

After reading about live.com and I when realized the concept of this whole "live" stuff of Microsoft in my brain it made 'click' and I decided to take a closer look on the design and the usability of the whole application. So I'll try to figure it out at the following points:
  1. First Impression

  2. Look and Feel

  3. Usability

  1. First Impression

  2. The light-blue/white colors seem a little bit flat to me and the "Windows Live" logo has a little bit too much of a beta-look ;) One could say the design looks quitly (which I would prefer), but for my opinion it is too "normal" and has a bit the look of "under construction" yet.

    The next point is the "Search" field. For my opinion the shadows on top, left and the colored one on the right side are too much. The "search for..." value is not really necessary.

    The menu on the left side confused me a little bit, because the icons seem to be a little too big in comparison to the font size. And what means "Add content" on top of the row? It took quite a time until I realized the meaning of that. At the first look it's difficult to understand this.

  3. Look and Feel

  4. First of all - applications without dialogs can be great, for my opinion this is really the greatest challenge and I think the guys from MS did a great job here.

    Logo, Sign In, Search Field
    The white space between logo and "Sign In" functionality seems to me as wasted space. And Why use a whole line only for the search field? Okay, it should look like Google but I think in that case it could have been better to combine the first two rows.

    Toolbar on the right side
    Again, I think a combination with the "Sign In" menu points would be useful. When I try out these three menupoints, I realize three different kinds of 'links'.

    • Settings
    • Opens a menu, which works very good.

    • What's new
    • Opens a new site in the same window

    • Hide
    • Hides the whole content.
      (The "hide" functionality is a mysery for me ;) What is it good for?)

    Menu on the left side
    As mentioned before "Add Content" on top of the list seems confusing to me. The icons look a little bit too big in comparison to the text, and why did MS rotate the open icon ?! Normally the open icon looks down 'v' .
    So that seems confusing too, cause it is a change of a known behavior. The wording is simple and sounds okay to me.

    Main Content
    The ligh-blue/white colors, as I said before do not really "excite" me ;) It seems a little bit too normal for my opinion. There is no wow-effect. The lines are also hardly to see.

    Drag and Drop
    I love this, it's really great ;)

  5. Usability

  6. Add content
    It took a while until I got the point of this function... (Why shall I add a search result to my portal? RSS Feed is clear, but does not work always correctly.) When I open the "Add Content" function the system shows me the same functionality (Search) two times. So either there should be a combination or the "Advanced Options" could be opened always per default. I'd prefer the solution at start.com. The advanced options show the following:

    • Subscribe to a specific feed by entering the URL below
    • The whole copy and paste process looks a bit complex to me. I'm not sure if I would use that

    • Add a Gadget by URL
    • .. is unfortunatly added under "My Web"

    • Import OPML file
    • This is new to me. Don't know exactly how to use this at the moment.

    Add to my page
    The add to my page function could be placed besides back to my page. I would not always provide this function.

    The subscribe function is not an ideal solution I think. It took me again some time to realize that the RSS Feed is being placed under "My Web" from where I can open and add it.

    Remove Content
    Well, I tried out the "Remove a content" functionality. Unfortunatly it has been removed without a warning, which is a bit unusual. The other problem is that there is no way to get the content back. (On http://www.google.com/ig they solved this quite nice using a yellow backgrounded message with undo functionality)

    RSS Feeds
    I love the "collapse all" and "expand all" functionality. What I miss is an alt text at the more>> link that a new site is being opened now.