Lars Damgaard
strategic user experience designer
October 2nd 2013

Book recommendation: why we fail by Victor Lombardi

I just read a really good book about experience design. It’s called Why we fail and it’s written by Victor Lombardi. As the title says, the book asks the question of why some experience designs fails while others succeed.

Why we fail

A question like that could be answered in many ways and on many levels, but Victor balances empirical case studies with analysis in a clever and inspiring way.

Consequently, Why we fail is full of interesting case studies, all of which are relevant, well described and highly relevant for anyone who does experience design for a living.

While reading the book, you get to learn from the failures of BMW, Google Wave, Symbian, Wesabe, The Zune Media Player, Pownce, Classmates.com, Paxo and Final Cut Pro. In the end, it’s all neatly wrapped up in a operational recommendations: how to avoid failure in experience design, though it’s more of a methodology than simple answers.

As it says on the product page:

Just as pilots and doctors improve by studying crash reports and postmortems, experience designers can improve by learning how customer experience failures cause products to fail in the marketplace. Rather than proselytizing a particular approach to design, Why We Fail holistically explores what teams actually built, why the products failed, and how we can learn from the past to avoid failure ourselves.

Why We Fail will help you:

1. Understand the key mistakes other teams have made so you don’t repeat them

2. Turn unavoidable failures into building blocks to be successful

3. Create a team environment where failures are controlled and valuable

Personal highlights from the book

I will not try to summarize the book, but because I used Readmill to read it, I can show you a couple of my highlights here:


Ultimately, design is about creating something that works for people, and we can use a methodical process for discovering if that something did indeed work.


Twitter also grew simply by letting customers in. The company began with a short internal testing period to develop the service followed by a completely public launch that allowed anyone to join. A similar example is Google+, which launched in 2011 after a restricted public beta period of just a few weeks before opening up to everyone. Pownce’s months-long invitation-only period was simply too long and constricted its audience.


Focus on what really matters: making customers happy with your product as quickly as you can, and helping them as much as you can after that. If you do those better than anyone else out there you’ll win.


It doesn’t matter how many times I have to click, as long as each click is a mindless, unambiguous choice.

Thanks for reading.

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