Sunday, 20 July 2014

On Unsubscribe and UX

Recently I have been doing some spring cleaning and unsubscribe from various newsletters that I've collected over the past year. One thing that has struck me is the very different user experiences that you get from such a simple task. So I thought I'd quickly run through the good, the bad and the ugly ...

London Gatwick airport's page says a simple "your request has been processed", what does this mean? how are my expectations being managed? (they aren't). Which newsletter was this again? Oops, how do I sign back up I didn't mean to click on that! This page looks particularly lazy, possibly not even a web page with any formatting. What makes this worse is that it is from a third party mail list management service ... it doesn't look like the whole user journey is considered equally.

Next up was Sweatshop with the confusing "been taken into account" ... 5 days later I was still receiving emails. That is a minor irritation but it creates a lack of trust, so you know I don't want more emails but will you take it into account and still send me some?! This is another email list management service, shouldn't they be a bit smarter about it? (at least they do have an HTML page with some formatting in this case)

Kobo's page was quite plain although with their branding and managing expectations - I know that I am now unsubscribed from marketing and also that I may still get some transactional emails.

A slightly older subscription I had was to be in the audience for BBC shows, they promptly process the unsubscribe within their site and give you a little teaser to hook you back in by showing you what you are missing.

The Brighton Fringe festival and Proud Ballrooms both use the same system, with the same formatting. Plus points for the optional setting of how many more emails to get before the stop emailing you. I'd say a big negative is the white label feel, coming from a branded email the experience is hardly seamless.

Ticketmaster's unsubscribe link takes you to a completely branded page as though you were on their site searching for tickets. Again it sets the expectation of when you'll be taken off the list and apologises in case you are already scheduled for a mail shot.

Unique so far in my email list clean up was the local karting track. They take you to their site and default the email options to no, but giving you the chance to add an option in. The interesting bit was the opportunity to supply social media details to be contacted by instead.

To sum up - the good sites unsubscribe you without fuss, set your expectations AND still provide a touch point with the brand in question - you might have clicked on the link by mistake on the train or you might see something that piques your interest and makes you sign back up to a different newsletter. 

The poor sites give vague messages on sites that are little better than placeholders. And you still get emails. And then another one.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

BRIEFING: ThoughtWorks' QTB on Big Data

Some notes from this quarter's technology briefing from Thoughtworks. This session's topic was "Big Data". I was pleased that the topic was chosen as I am interest in Big Data and travel, especially how it can be used by my clients and to enhance the product that I work on.

Caitlin McDonald from twitter has also created a Storify story from tweets during the event (with the added bonus is that I am in the background to someone's photo)


The main speaker was David Elliman with Ashok Subramanian - David has also written a blog post called The Big in Big Data Misses the Point that presents some of the content covered or see the full presentation in English or German. The session started y looking at the origin of "information explosion" and how in the 1940s people were starting to get worried about the miles of shelf space would be needed by 2000 to store all the books produced. This was contrasted with the explosion of multimedia information produced now, for example pictures from camera phones or the daily output from the large hadron collider.

Next basic architecture such as MapReduce was explained along with what makes "Big Data" - variety, volume and velocity - but also that it's what you have in your data, you don't always need a large data set. Sampling is important!

Another point was that the relationship is that velocity and volume is inversely proportional, low volume allows more real time analysis towards batch processing with very large volumes. Sorting data takes around 80% of the time - understanding data and sorting models is key, don't expect to get a data dump and have instant insight as there is no one answer or model, it requires data scientist to understand question and go through models.

Process described to get successful insight was:

  1. Start small
  2. Start with "?"
  3. Iteratively follow the value
Next some implementations of the Lamda architecture were described and tools discussed, finishing off with a talk about data lakes and their similarity to enterprise data warehousing - i.e. not very like big data. The quote of the day came in this session:

"Master data management is the enemy of innovation"
Overall a good session highlighting the importance of good analytics in getting insight from data. Having read their big data blog I was surprised by this as they prefer the term Big Data Analytics.


Shoreditch village hall is quite a nice venue, a little bit of a pain from Brighton and the room layout made mingling a bit harder. The sound was had a bit of feedback at the start but soon settled down. The food was great, a very tasty cheese burger (non-cheese and non-meat burgers were also available).

Sunday, 6 July 2014

SUMMIT: SITA's Air Transport IT Summit 2014

It's been a couple of weeks now but I thought I'd share some thoughts from this year's SITA Air Transport IT Summit 2014.

From my personal perspective the interesting bits were around mobile and passenger communications. From the SITA survey results it looks like everything going self-service, with kiosks due to make a resurgence as a more intelligent touch point than the current check-in and boarding pass generators.

A key target for investment over the next 3 years is predicted to be baggage services, which was good to hear since that's what we'd thought at 15below towers in creating our customer conference presentations. Given the infrastructure changes over the past few years I'm quite excited about how the passenger experience can be improved in this area - having had to wait 16hours for my bag to turn up with minimal contact or updates I would certainly appreciate that!

After baggage, disruption management will be next, which does surprise me a bit having worked in this area for over 9 years ... what's taking these airlines so long! Those surveyed said they would move to preventative communications, but this needs good BI to get take-up going from 40% airlines now to 90% in 2017. 

Mobile will play critical role but channel choice depends on the step of journey the interaction happens (and not to mention customer preference!). Kiosks still have major role to play, increasingly adding info source, self serve recovery and the preventative communications.

It was pointed out that the sales of reservations systems was a key link between inventory/passenger relationship and managing complexity. I would add to this that third party integration specialists can help too.

Mobile is still mainly used for selling tickets and a third of airlines also provide flight related services. Adding more mobile services is seen as a top driver for mobile take up, followed by improving usability and then increasing awareness. Personalisation via preferences and real-time personalisation via mobile very low implementation today.  Plans to get take-up personalisation up to current ticket sales levels by 2017, again bit surprised by lag of personilsation in the industry having worked on integrations that provide that for so long.

The "Passenger experience" IATA video on YouTube was played and showed the passenger journey making a lot of use of apps and notifications to deliver automation, e.g. Boarding pass delivered without any obvious manual intervention. The point was also raised "what is check-in for anyway? can we achieve the same aims with less process (i.e. overhead)?"

That only covers the morning session, but plenty of food for thought there in how to improve the passenger experience. See more at the summit's download center.

Further developing an onboarding process for a green field product

This is  part of a series  about my side project  Bashfully , which aims to give graduates and other new entrants to careers a seasoned prof...