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Dan Rubin's SuperfluousBanter

Design, random musings, and the Web. Since 1977


Research: Product Interaction

Design and Marketing

One of the things that keeps me very busy at the moment is writ­ing my thesis,
being a manda­to­ry part of get­ting my master’s of sci­ence degree. I have
a back­ground in Eco­nom­ics but con­vinced the fac­ul­ty that design is an economic
enti­ty of impor­tance, espe­cial­ly relat­ed to high tech­nol­o­gy, mar­ket­ing and branding.
The task was not easy, design is tra­di­tion­al­ly, with­in the aca­d­e­m­ic field of
Eco­nom­ics and Busi­ness, not looked upon as being a strate­gic ele­ment. Naturally
I begged to dif­fer. Any­way, I was blessed with a super­vis­ing pro­fes­sor that
“gets it.” He’s not a design­er but a mar­ket­ing guru, yet he
talks about Apple and Tar­get and the way they used design to dif­fer­en­ti­ate their
offer­ing from com­peti­tors. When­ev­er I have a dis­cus­sion with him he reminds
me of the fact that design mat­ters, now more than ever.

Product Interaction

Many prod­ucts, from books to mobile phones, can be pur­chased online. However,
with prod­uct com­plex­i­ty and price increas­ing the odds of online pur­chas­ing diminish.
It may cur­rent­ly not be pos­si­ble to make the expe­ri­ence of buy­ing a product
online entire­ly com­pa­ra­ble to buy­ing an item at the mall or at a down­town shop,
but present tech­nolo­gies and inter­ac­tive media allow for stun­ning possibilities.
Nonethe­less, cus­tomers still pre­fer to shop for cer­tain items in a physical
envi­ron­ment, yet inno­va­tions in design, busi­ness and tech­nol­o­gy sug­gest these
con­di­tions are slow­ly shifting.

Online Product Interaction

Prod­uct inter­ac­tion com­bines many spe­cif­ic aca­d­e­m­ic fields, even so this thesis
will be restrict­ed to research­ing the rela­tion of cus­tomer expe­ri­ence (mar­ket­ing),
inter­ac­tion design (human-com­put­er inter­ac­tion) and usabil­i­ty (user research)
from a busi­ness point of view. This the­sis will in addi­tion attempt to assess
the cur­rent state of tech­nol­o­gy as it relates to prod­ucts and web site assimilation,
includ­ing the rate of imple­men­ta­tion and adop­tion of giv­en tech­nolo­gies. But
what exact­ly con­sti­tutes online prod­uct inter­ac­tion? How is it inte­grat­ed in
the prod­uct strat­e­gy, and how is cus­tomer expe­ri­ence addressed? Exam­ples of
online prod­uct inter­ac­tion can be found on sev­er­al web sites and do not merely
involve high tech­nol­o­gy prod­ucts. Online com­merce is here to stay, but is online
prod­uct inter­ac­tion more dream than real­i­ty? How sig­nif­i­cant is the impact on
both sell­er and buy­er? Can tech­nol­o­gy and design pro­vide com­pa­nies with the
means to improve the online shop­ping experience?

Asking For Your Help

I would be inter­est­ed to hear some gen­er­al feed­back, but more impor­tant­ly I
would like to gath­er dif­fer­ent exam­ples of online prod­uct inter­ac­tion. Do you
have any good exam­ples? One of the exam­ples I men­tioned above is NIKE
. Not sur­pris­ing­ly most inter­ac­tive prod­uct dis­plays use Flash, Quicktime,
Java or sim­i­lar tech­nolo­gies. What do you think about these ele­ments of interaction?

This item was posted by dhilhorst on Thursday, June 17th, 2004.


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12 comments on “Research: Product Interaction”

  1. Posted by dru on Thursday, June 17th, 2004.

    Cool The­sis. I can’t remem­ber the name of the major com­pa­ny but does­n’t some­one have an online fit­ting store (LL Bean?)?

  2. Posted by dave on Thursday, June 17th, 2004.

    Yeah, that is a cool the­sis. Just curi­ous, does your the­sis include the con­cept of cus­tomers “free rid­ing” ser­vice qual­i­ty from retail and the price main­tance tech­niques of high end sup­pli­ers to pre­vent this? I was just curi­ous, because that goes hand in hand with online prod­uct inter­ac­tion and is a fas­ci­nat­ing concept.

    Landsend.com is a good exam­ple, with its vir­tu­al mod­el sys­tem. I am not sure of any oth­er real good prod­uct inter­ac­tion sites. It is a very inter­est­ing the­sis and good luck!

  3. Posted by Didier Hilhorst on Thursday, June 17th, 2004.

    dave — At first I thought I under­stood your ques­tion, but after reread­ing it I’m not sure what or how I should answer. Would you care to elab­o­rate? I’m famil­iar with the con­cept of “free rid­ing” and I get the gist of your point, but I’m a bit lost as to the rela­tion to “price main­tance tech­niques of high end suppliers.”

  4. Posted by Nick Finck on Thursday, June 17th, 2004.

    In 2002 I gave a pre­sen­ta­tion that cov­ered a a ver­i­ty of things, but one in spe­cif­ic that I used as an exam­ple was a ser­vice called My Vir­tu­al Mod­el which was used at stores like Lane Bryant and Lands End, etc. Basi­cal­ly the user is giv­en the abil­i­ty to cre­ate a mod­el that rep­re­sents their fig­ure and then they can take the stores prod­uct and see how they fit. It was done in Flash and prob­a­bly some kind of back­end script­ing. Heres the slide from that pre­sen­ta­tion: Where we are going.

  5. Posted by els on Thursday, June 17th, 2004.

    Cool! I’m glad you found a pro­fes­sor who let you do this. 

    Here’s an exam­ple for you. It is a fur­ni­ture com­pa­ny here in the Boston area. Not top of the line, but they have this sur­pris­ing fea­ture where you can try out dif­fer­ent plans for fur­nish­ing your house:


  6. Posted by Joel on Thursday, June 17th, 2004.

    Very inter­est­ing the­sis. For an inter­est­ing exam­ple of hybrid prod­uct inter­ac­tion, see http://www.pinggolf.com/flash/webfit.html. You are required to make cer­tain mea­sure­ments, input the data, and are giv­en a sum­ma­ry sheet that is designed to get a club­fit­ter start­ed in the right direc­tion. So while you can­not pur­chase the clubs based on your own mea­sure­ments, it reduces the time involved in inter­act­ing with the club­fit­ter. Some­body stud­ied queu­ing the­o­ry at Ping. 

    Good luck.

  7. Posted by Didier Hilhorst on Thursday, June 17th, 2004.

    Inter­est­ing stuff here. Thanks Nick, Els and Joel. The exam­ple of Jor­dans Fur­ni­ture made me think of anoth­er exam­ple that real­ly pushed the inter­ac­tion ele­ment: Col­or Smart found on the Behr.com web­site. Amaz­ing stuff

    Keep those ideas and exam­ples com­ing. This is very inspi­ra­tional, not to men­tion use­ful. Also, please include your thoughts about the exam­ple. If you think it’s any good, bad or the things you think they fail mis­er­ably at (usabil­i­ty.)

  8. Posted by Nakijo on Friday, June 18th, 2004.

    I’ve always loved the fact that I can exam­ine all the mods etc and make the choic­es required to pur­chase a Viper or Ram online (actu­al­ly you can do it for all Dodge mod­els, and I think Chrysler and Jeep as well). The site takes you through the whole process, right down to request­ing quotes from dif­fer­ent local deal­ers depen­dent on their inven­to­ries. You can also begin arrange­ments for finance through the site

    The site is slow, ugly and lacks a DOCTYPE, acces­si­bil­i­ty con­sid­er­a­tions etc, but all of those things are fair­ly com­mon to Web­sphere sites (from those I’ve seen). I don’t know how many peo­ple use it to the fullest extent, but I can see that peo­ple would at least pick the mods they want then get their per­son­alised print­out. I’ll nev­er be able to afford one, but it is nice to dream

    Hold­en used to have a much bet­ter one which allowed you to manip­u­late the vehi­cles by chang­ing the wheels, the view­ing angle, colours, trim, body kit, mods etc but that seems to be lim­it­ed to a mem­ber­ship option since their last redesign because I can’t find it any­more. They have some lame “Con­fig­u­ra­tor” instead that does­n’t even come close to com­par­ing, but the orig­i­nal was very sim­il­iar to the NikeID site in terms of ease-of-use and qual­i­ty. Speak­ing of which, I love it and I want my shoes. But as usu­al such things are lim­it­ed to the US

    I think that would be an impor­tant strat­e­gy for online sales via inter­ac­tion. The main con­sumers that I see ini­tial­ly are the geeks. Tech­f­reaks and web­heads are com­fort­able online, so they are far more like­ly to pur­chase; espe­cial­ly through the kind of gim­micky sys­tems that cur­rent­ly exist. As the sys­tems improve, of course, such behav­iour may become more main­stream, but offer­ing inter­na­tion­al ser­vice strikes me as impor­tant from the start. After all, I know that I’ll nev­er go back to that Nike site (unless for con­cep­tu­al stuff relat­ing to my work), because it is no use to me direct­ly (being an Aussie)

  9. Posted by Dave on Friday, June 18th, 2004.

    I’m famil­iar with the con­cept of “free rid­ing” and I get the gist of your point, but I’m a bit lost as to the rela­tion to “price main­tance tech­niques of high end suppliers.” ”

    -Sor­ry if i was not clear. Basi­cal­ly if free rid­ing became an epe­dem­ic ser­vice retail­ers would go out of busi­ness and high end sup­pli­ers would have less pos­si­ble cus­tomers expere­inc­ing the sup­pe­ri­or­i­ty of their prod­ucts first hand. Thus high end sup­pli­ers con­trol this by allow­ing only small amounts of their prod­ucts to be sold online which ups the demand and the price respec­tive­ly. Hope I cleared it up! Good luck on the project!

  10. Posted by Didier Hilhorst on Friday, June 18th, 2004.

    Dave — Ah, I get your point now. Although that’s cer­tain­ly an inter­est­ing top­ic I don’t think I’ll include it as such in this the­sis. I might elab­o­rate on why online prod­uct inter­ac­tion is not yet ful­ly deployed and why com­pa­nies pre­fer a mul­ti­chan­nel retail­ing approach (includ­ing the rea­son you men­tion.) But prob­a­bly just briefly.

  11. Posted by Rob Cameron on Friday, June 18th, 2004.

    This app just blew me away:


    It’s prob­a­bly THE best exam­ple I’ve seen of tran­si­tion­ing users from print to the web.

    I don’t know if this is relat­ed to your the­sis, but see­ing this for the first time was one of those moments where all I could do was sit back and stare in amazement.

  12. Posted by Tobias on Saturday, June 19th, 2004.

    Two online ‘fit­ting sys­tems’ that I can remember:

    Wrench­Science — http://www.wrenchscience.com/ — have an exten­sive sys­tem to ensure a good fit on dif­fer­ent kinds of bicycles.

    NetSmok­ing — http://www.netsmoking.dk/ — lets you order a smok­ing with acces­sories. (In dan­ish, but you should be able to get the idea.)

    No flash or ani­ma­tions. Just step by step measurements.

    But this is real­ly way bet­ter that just order­ing eg. a pair of pants in ‘Large’ and hope they will fit.