Friday, July 14, 2006

Consumers view of service description

Something happened today that made me think of how we normally approach the task of describing a service. For about 12 or 13 years I had "non-conformist" hair, it went from short, to phenomenally long before settling down about 8 years ago to what I liked to think of as the "cool surfer" look. So when people described me one of the first phrases used was normally "ginger bloke with long hair".

Time takes its toll on all of us and as it began to look a bit "Bobby Charlton" I elected to get it cut.

Now here comes the shock. What is the objective of the look (discoverable interface) I elected to put forwards of the world? Its to attract women, there is a bit of confidence in thyself thing (but I've never been accused of being the introverted shy retiring type) but lets face it the main objective is so women notice you and want to go out with you.

It turns out I was engaging in the worst sort of interface design (WILI - Well I like it), the interface description I'd chosen was far from being the best option from the perspective of the consumers who I wanted to use the interface. As soon as I got the haircut the decision was unanimously positive. To be honest though that washed over me as just one of those things.

Then today as I came through Schipol Airport the woman behind the passport counter takes my passport and goes "you've changed a lot", followed as she handed back my passport with "much better now, much better". When people in passport control comment then you know you got it spectacularly wrong.

Now I was clearly spectacularly lucky that when I met my wife in Paris she was able to look past this second rate interface description to see the capabilities beneath. This however made me think about how we think about defining interfaces for our services.

One of the elements the Reference Model talks about is that a service must be discoverable, otherwise its pointless and not really a service. Today's events made me realise that this simple concept actually has a profound impact if you think about it logically, it means that the primary goal of a service description is not to describe the capabilities it represents, but to make its self easy to discover so it can then describe its capabilities to potential consumers. So when you design you interfaces make them look attractive to potential consumers because that gives you a greater chance of being able to describe what the service actually provides.

Now there would be a specialist consultancy gig : Service Interface Marketing :)

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Anonymous said...

This is the primary reason that some open source projects suceed and some fail. Look at Rails: wildely popular because (IMHO) it looks attractive, both in its documentation but also, most importantly, in its APIs. SM.

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