The touch points for social media obviously go far beyond a share button these days and it is impossible to separate social from the overall strategic design. I guess many UXers might avoid recommending APIs or might be shy about it since they fall into tech territory.
I might be one of the few UX designers out there who include not just the “what” but the “how” in coming up with a user flow and strategy. In other words, the “how” will involve the tech components that propel the user’s journey. This is not to limit the choices when formulating a UX strategy, rather, it is a method of adding credibility to the design.
Get familiar with social APIs
Research, research, research. Yes, I know, most of the documentation around APIs is written for a developer audience but that’s okay. As long as you understand the intended functionality and how it might be integrated into your UX strategy, you can make a recommendation.
Choosing the right social API for the job
You’ll need to research which APIs do what and how you might get APIs to creatively work together within your overall UX design. Think of it like a subway line. Your design must indicate where the passenger needs to change trains and get to where they need to go with an easy way to make a return trip. There is a lot of opportunity in getting APIs to to work together in ways that may not be intended by the respective developers who made them.
This is a pretty broad and sometimes daunting term – “future proof”. More accurately, make sure that whatever API you recommend can be replaced by something else or closed off without creating a dead-end. Your overall design should not solely depend on a social component to be a success.
As we know from the past five years, APIs get discontinued, disallowed or disappear altogether in the nebulous, fast changing social media world. So it’s important to keep your design modular enough so that it doesn’t fall apart if the API suddenly becomes unavailable.
I’ll admit the pricing wasn’t always competitive, however, we eased the transition for the consumer by offering a bricks to clicks strategy. This strategy involved incentives for consumers to buy more online and bundling products to make the value-add proposition stronger.
At the time, Amazon was leading the charge. They were spending an exorbitant amount of money on marketing and planting the idea of shopping from the comfort of your own home.
When we look back from where we are today, Amazon is still leading the charge and is stronger than ever. Yesterday, they posted that their earnings exceeded their projections by 10% and their net sales increased 34% this year. They have become the largest online department store with the built-in e-commerce intelligence to understand what the consumer might want next.
Today, we have much more to consider in our online shopping strategies. If you’re building online shopping around a specific brand, you need to make it social and it needs to be targeted on the consumers’ lifestyle.
It’s not just social for the sake of social, rather it’s social in a way that allows the consumer to find the items that suit their lifestyle and share them with their circle of friends. Fab.com does a great job of building communities around things people like. It’s mostly geared towards Urban hipsters, nevertheless, the idea of making the products seems like treasure – treasure you can’t find anywhere else, is what makes the experience appealing to consumers.
Pricing isn’t so much a problem anymore as most retailers have architected their product fulfillment to factor-in the cost of delivery and the absorption of that cost in order to make buying online much more enticing (free shipping for X-number of dollars).
Consumers are more confident now. Even with clothing, which used to be risky to buy online, it seems we’ve almost cleared that hurdle as consumers settle into the brands that they know in terms of sizing and style.
I think we’re now ready to go a step further with mobile devices. Stores don’t really need to keep as much inventory as they used to. They only need to offer enough sizes and styles for a consumer to try it on.
If it’s not the right color, no problem. They can use a branded mobile app to make their purchase from the store and have the right color delivered to their home for the same price. This tactic in combination with mobile payment through smartphones, makes it easier for the customer to get what they want and builds a great deal of confidence in the brand.
There a number of ways to leverage mobile and we’re just now scratching the surface. Starbucks’ mobile app has seen huge growth. Over 45 million transactions have been made over the last 14 months with their app.
While the idea of the mobile wallet is still in it’s infancy, I think consumers will be much more amenable to swapping their store credit cards for an easy app to make in-store purchases, using the same account to also shop online. Oh, and no more lining up at the till!
This system, coupled with a stronger lifestyle brand can make for a powerful combination when it comes to today’s consumers.
Links of Interest:
Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) - if you don’t know what it is, you’ve probably been living in a cave for the last 18 months.
This is the scariest thing in the tech world since the beginning of the internet.
It could basically shut down any site deemed to be engaged in “infringing activities” and that includes most of the content sharing on social media sites. It’s scary because they could do this without a court hearing or a trial.
Am I surprised? No. I kind of knew something like this was on the horizon. The free content train couldn’t run forever. Now this causes a huge panic – and any company that uses social media as part of their marketing strategy may as well get their pink slips ready if this bill gets passed.
The US kind of sees the Internet as their thing and since it all started with DARPA in the 70’s, it kind of was – not to mention the fact that the rest of the world adopted their protocols for data transfer as the standard. So yes, I guess they feel they have the right to legislate this technology for the rest of the world.
The sad irony is that most of the media companies standing behind this bill are the ones benefiting from social marketing and the exposure their content is getting online. So is it worth it? Have they done the math to see if losing that exposure and forcing each and every user to pay for content will drive up their profits? I’m not an actuary, so I honestly couldn’t tell you.
Being that I’m employed by one of the largest media companies in Canada, I understand the struggle. The fact that newspaper circulation is declining and that readers online are getting the content for free is killing us.
On the other hand, we gain massive exposure through social media channels and without that, we might be back to relying solely on local audiences and traditional marketing methods. I don’t know what the answer is but this bill may do nothing more than drive ‘free content’ underground.
Remember Napster, Limewire and Hotline? There were a lot of peer-to-peer underground applications and communities sharing content for free online just 8-13 years ago. These applications were led by hacker communities and all this bill would do is create a new underground internet. The technology got here faster than they could make laws to govern it and unfortunately, this bill, regardless of its intentions, is too little too late. I don’t think we can go back and start applying rules to the World Wide Web. We can only go forward. The thing that governments and media companies need to grasp is that it’s not just about the content.
The way users are consuming the content online has changed. Sites like YouTube and Facebook have made content social and interactive in a way that traditional media couldn’t do on it’s own. The most interesting thing is that users are no longer forced to be faithful to a brand. They aren’t forced to buy an entire album or newspaper if they want just one song or one article. They don’t have to buy a subscriber package with 300 channels just to watch that one TV show they like.
It’s all in how content is bundled to suit a person’s life-style. People want good content. What that means to you and what that means to me might be different – so why not let people create their own content bundles? Why not take the Amazon approach and recognize that people change over time and their tastes and interests may vary from year to year? If we listen to the users and give them the content they want, the way they want it, they will pay because by virtue of doing this, you are creating a service.
I think the underlying reality here is that media companies need to change to allow consumers more choices and better services. I may be over-simplifying but I think that would be the best way to move forward.