When heading to Disney World who knew one of the most magical moments would be not having to use any of the following: ID, credit card, debit card, cash, or wallet to purchase anything, anywhere.

Disney launched their “magic bands” late in 2013 – and at first glance it seemed like a theme park enhancement. A way to get on rides easier, to verify your tickets, etc… But the killer feature was living the week without a wallet. I’m always interested in new payment methods, I’ve tried square, paypal – I use my starbucks app for every ice-tea purchase, but I haven’t seen anything that “just works” like this. And at scale, with 17 million people entering just Disney World’s Magic Kingdom each year.

image via: http://blog.silive.com/goofy_about_disney/2014/06/post_34.html

The bands are a water-proof and unobtrusive – a wearable that never needs to come off. It holds a RFID chip that holds all your information. That with a 4 digit pin number, and you’re set for anything needed at any Disney park or even Downtown Disney shopping area.

It’s liberating, simple, and convenient. Almost too simple, which I’ll assume leads to bigger average purchases then non-band shoppers. And something I can’t believe someone else like a VISA or MasterCard hasn’t yet been able to achieve (imagine wearing your VISA and AMEX bands all the time 😉

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Smart Watch

Did you know 1.2 billion watches are sold annually worldwide? With 77% of those being mechanical (think “has a second hand”)? And around 120 million of those were sold in the US – more than the number of iPhones sold.

It has been about a year since my pebble smart watch shipped to my home. My first one died, and they promptly replaced it. And it’s been with me on a number of trips, in-the-water, out-and-about, and on my wrist for countless hours. They’ve improved the software, added features, and designed new and interesting watch faces.


It’s wonderful at moving the cognitive load of: buzz, dig in pocket, unlock phone, view, slide, read – to just: buzz, glance. And a glance that is faster, less intrusive, and less rude in social settings.

So what’s the problem? I love watches. That space on my wrist is reserved. I own a number of watches – most inexpensive, but watches I enjoy – and I miss switching them out.

Rolex has sales of over $4b on watches ranging from $5k to $70k (or more). And if you think that’s pricy, google: Patek Philippe to see what a half million dollar watch looks like. The largest Swiss manufacture has $8.8b in annual revenue. The global watch market is reported to reach $46b by 2017.

Now tell me again why smart watches are a big deal?

What if Apple, Samsung, Sony, or LG could take a sliver of that share? Of that wallet?

Fossil, the only traditional watch manufacture I’ve seen mention Google’s Android Wear currently has 5.2% of the global watch market share. Are they looking to grow share? Or are they the only watch company getting ready to protect their share from newcomers that have zero history in watch manufacturing, but can make a digital device better than most.

And if google is providing the software, you know it will be good – so what is Fossil competing on vs. the others? Digital watchfaces?

For me, and my watch addiction, I’m torn. I love the functionality of a smart watch, but want the quality, story, and feeling of a traditional watch.

Ever heard the saying “You can judge a man by his watch”. It’s a brand tribe, it’s a class, it says “i’ve made it”. Watches are the only acceptable jewelry for men anywhere in the world.

If you are wearing one of the 29 million swiss watches sold each year, will you trade a $5,000 watch you got on your 40 birthday for a $300 Samsung smart watch? How do you compete with that as a smart watch maker?


Motorola/Google is showing, for the first time, a classically designed smart watch. They’re moving in the direction of tradition with the Moto 360. Something that has the quality, and look of a mechanical. A look that’s been classic for a 100 years.

Will that work? Or, is there a space somewhere else? A “second wrist” device? This is the one thing I like about Samsung’s new Gear Fit. While it has the time, you could wear it opposite a traditional watch on the other wrist without looking like a total fool. And it’s actually selling well – they’ve sold out of the first run of 250,000.

watch-fit (image: source)

Or if just a bit narrower, it could complement a traditional watch like a trendy leather wristband bracelet thing (sorry, I have no idea what these are called).

This is why I was surprised to hear the rumors around Nike’s Fuel Band. There still seems like a segment that would want something to complement a watch, not replace one. But as phones get almost as good as any of these bands at tracking, and people giving up their children before their phones, maybe the writing is on the wall. You shouldn’t compete against someone’s phone. It’s going to win.

Then Apple. With rumors heating up, and seemly the name that is emerging is “iWatch” – which describes the design. And if they were designing a watch, wouldn’t they look to braun over something futuristic? Or something totally different altogether? To truly innovate?

Because it’s not really a smart watch category, it’s a “give me information that’s important to me quickly” category. And that could take many shapes and sizes.

Jeremy Johnson @ Big Design
Jeremy Johnson @ Big Design

A couple weeks ago I gave a presentation to a crowd at the Big Design Conference around how we can quickly learn from our customers using a variety of different methods. In the past when I’ve worked with a number of large organizations, moving fast has always been an issue – but many organizations today have cracked the code, and despite their size they move quickly to learn and adjust to make better products for their customers. Products that they truly find value in and enjoy.

If you missed Big Design, it’s a great Dallas area conference, you can see the recap of the conference here via seen.co.

Jeremy Johnson @ Big Design
Jeremy Johnson @ Big Design

The title of the presentation comes from the mantras of startups: “Fail Fast”, “Move Fast & Break Things”, “Keep Shipping” – these are all great slogans, but unknown to many – these are really all about learning. It’s about getting things in front of your customers early, and often. Watching – and learning. Finding what ideas were not quite as brilliant as you once thought – and finding this out as fast and cheap as possible.

With my background in User Experience and customer research, I’m always curious with how they fit in this model. Taking from Agile, Lean, and User Centered Design I went over the build-measure-learn process, and how you can start to shape your organization to move fast, without leaving your customers behind.

Here’s the presentation hosted on slideshare:

@philiplikens took some notes during my talk which you can find here: Failing Fast & Learning Along the Way Notes.

During the presentation I asked a series of questions around how often and how close everyone gets to their end customer. Unfortunately not enough, but there was enough discussion at the end to show that everyone wants to learn from their customers in meaningful ways – we just need to find ways to break down these barriers to do so.

It’s neither expensive or slow to learn something from your customers – so start learning today!


Early on as a Designer I had the privilege to work with some big brands, like: Verizon, Mission Foods, Nokia, and Sabre. Most of my projects were rooted in web applications. Which I loved, and was more than happy to work on as a UX Designer. But some designers took other paths, working on e-commerce sites, or perhaps lead generation. What has been hard to find recently is someone who’s done both. I know I didn’t know e-commerce to the degree I needed to when starting at GameStop – but learned quickly – luckily I’ve had some good teachers over the last couple of years.

Now talking about channels, bounce rate, A/B testing, conversion, SEM/SEO in the norm. And as I loved designing applications, I find equal interest in what makes people shop and (hopefully) eventually buy.

I recently gave this short presentation to a group of designers – a 101 on getting your interface to sell:

I came across an article from earlier in the year “The UX Community Needs to Start Paying Attention to Android” – and that got me thinking. WIth both Android and Windows Phone, I don’t dislike them on principle – I’m just happy with my iPhone. But neither really have an iPod Touch like version that’s cheap enough for me to play around with, while keeping my iPhone as my primary device.

Even with Google’s Android operating system running on 75% of the smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2012 – Android has a usage problem. People are buying them as basic phones because the carriers are giving them away, but even with current low usage, I do agree that as Designers we should be aware of all platforms, and be able to design for them equally. And as passionate, curious individuals, we might learn something new.

Over the holidays I came across this:


A HTC One V, running Android ICS (which is currently the #2 Android OS by usage). It’s locked to Virgin Mobile for cell service, but unlocked as a wi-fi device. And there is no mandatory connection to cell service needed. Just switch it over to Airplane Mode, turn on the wi-fi and GPS, and you’re good to go!

So for $69 (Amazon deal-of-the-day at the time), I got a Android based iPod Touch, that I can play with online and off (as long as there is wi-fi around) – and I’ve been playing with it. I’m trying to replace my iPhone while at home, and I have to say it does a good job. Most of the apps I regularly use are available (I think I’m only missing Byline for RSS, and of course FaceTime), the OS is fast enough, and there are some interesting design details that I would like to see on my iPhone.

  • This is a great way to get-to-know a device, and learn its advantages and quirks.
  • And as a father of mobile device loving kids, this could also be a great replacement for an iPod Touch, at a fraction of the cost, and if it lasts – it could one day be a pay-as-you-go phone for your kiddo.
  • It also makes a great kiddo-camera – with easy ways to upload your photos straight from the camera.

So as pay-as-you go devices get down to second device level prices, now’s the time to take the plunge, and try to see if you can replace your device for part of your day. Do it for the love of Design.

Here are some current pay-as-you go deals to get you into a different Mobile OS:

$100 HTC One V (4.0 ICS)

$199 Nokia Lumia 710 (Windows Phone)

$70 LG Optimus Slider (2.3 Gingerbread)

$100 LG Optimus Elite (2.3 Gingerbread)

$169 Samsung Exhibit II (2.3 Gingerbread)

$99 Samsung Illusion (2.3 Gingerbread)

Answering the question  “Would they use it?” before you build it

How can you determine if something is worth building? Recently at the Warm Gun Conference Instagram founder Mike Krieger talked about what they called “The Wizard Of Oz Techniques For Social Prototyping” – what I’ve heard called “404 Testing” – where he said:

Krieger says him and Systrom tested an early version of a feature which would notify you when friends joined the service. Instead of building it out, they manually sent people notifications “like a human bot” saying ‘your friend has joined.’ It turned out not to be useful. “We wrote zero lines of Python, so we had zero lines to throw away.”

What could be a better way to find out if something was truly valuable to your customers – then to fake it. There are a couple stories, one dating back to early computing days when a company wanted to see if they could get admins to use voice dictation software. At the time, this was a very expensive project, with huge technology hurdles. Before starting to invest in this project, they decided to run a test. They installed a “working” prototype into an office, only it wasn’t real. While the admins talked, someone was listening and typing back what they said.

After some testing they found that the admins didn’t like the product, that it was taking away from their tasks, and they preferred other methods for input. This would have been a multi-million dollar project, that most likely would have flopped. They spent almost nothing to find out this product had very little value to their target market.

I’ve thought about how this could work for smaller feature sets – and then came across this:

Coming soon

It’s from a new travel site called: http://www.mrarlo.com/

While at first you could be thinking “lame, why not just add a under construction gif to the page?” – but if they’re tracking the clicks for this – they’ll quickly determine what % of visitors would be interested in the feature, and is it worth the investment to build out.

When asking customers if they would like feature A or B, they’ll usually say “how about both?” – to them features are free. They don’t know the development that goes into something as seemly simple as “neighborhood” for instance.

404 testing is a great method for finding value, from a single feature to an entire product. Remember, development is expensive and will keep you from delivering features your customers really want.

Tomorrow I will be speaking at the Dallas Digital Summit in the User Experience & Design track @ 4:10.

I’ll be speaking about Lean UX (and related topics) – dubbed: Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Move Fast: My UX journey to move faster. I’ll post my slides right after the talk (because you know I’ll be editing them until I’m on stage 😉

The tickets are currently sold out, but if you’re there be sure to say hello! And if you’re not, you can follow along #DDSum12.