Office Depot Gets Creative with Promotion Info

Sometimes, good customer experience can be as easy as tearing off a magazine.

At this downtown store of Office Depot, the pages of weekly promotion magazine are pasted separately onto this black board.

It looks clean and open, and customers don’t have to flip through the pages by themselves anymore. A smart idea!


Propose Related Items: Identify User Needs for Ecommerce

Smart sales assistants know when and how to introduce “related” products to customers, so that customers can happily buy more. For example, if a customer tries on a pair of boots, an experienced sales assistant might suggest a pair of slim jeans that go perfectly with the boots. If the sales assistant suggests other pants or jeans that don’t match the boots at all, it won’t work.

More and more e-commerce websites are trying to do the same thing.

For example, the other day, I bought a stylus for iPad online. The next day, I received emails from the e-commerce website introducing “other products you might be interested in”. What’s on top of that list? The same style of stylus as the one I just bought, but in different colors.

I can understand that those are of course in the same product group, but I don’t need different colors of stylus unless I am collecting. Besides, I already knew there are different colors when making purchase decisions, so the information sent to me seemed redundant.

In order to make the “related products” really functional, a sound information architecture of the e-commerce websites is vital.

UX/IA professionals should not only have solid knowledge such as taxonomy and content strategy, but also a good understanding of customer buying habits. Such knowledge can be gained through observing in real life, talking with sales people at retail stores, and last but not least, reading books on retailing and sales can also be helpful.

The Right Distance on Smart Phones

Smart phones connected with Wifi/3G make it easier than ever
to share photos onto the web. Just take it, and tap with the fingertip to

However, some interaction designs are not as thoughtful as users expect
them to be…

For example, in this photo as below, the “delete” and “upload” buttons are placed next to each other.

If the finger tip is about the same size as this earphone plug, the possibility of making mistakes is very high. If the user tries to delete but taps the “upload” by mistake, the photo will be uploaded immediately onto the online album. If the user taps on “delete”, the conversation box shows to make sure. Obviously, it is much easier and faster to share than to delete.

Is “share” more important than “delete”? Out of 10 photos we take (especially of
ourselves), how many of them do we want to keep and share, and how many of them do we delete immediately?

When it comes to taking photos on smart phones, the function to “delete” is as important as “share”, if not more important. In other words, don’t let the users lose control over their gadgets.

A “smart phone” isn’t just easy – it is thoughtful.

The Computer Class: The Fun of Discovering Information

The senior patrons in Seattle Public Library are learning basic computer skills in the computer class taught in Chinese language. They have learned about the computer, word processing, and how to search for information on the web. There are three details that I found most interesting.

“Airline information.”

We used “weather” as a key word example, but the patrons asked about “airline information”. It was a little surprising. We tried to show them how to use the search tools on the website of airline companies. They were good, but most of them in the US don’t provide instructions in Chinese language. It should not be lots of work load to translate the information, but maybe the airlines just haven’t realized such needs from the senior foreign users with limited English and computer skills.

Music fans

The patrons got really excited when they found that they could listen to Chinese songs online. When the song “Tian Mimi (Sweet)” by Lijun Deng was played, the classroom was immediately filled with joy. They went on to search for the songs they love, or loved. There are patrons from HongKong, Taiwan, and the mainland, and they each looked for the songs in their regions. Interestingly, most of the pop music from HongKong and Taiwan were also very popular in China Mainland, so it turned out the songs they chose were well known to all. Music has no boundaries.

Taking Notes

Some patrons enjoy taking notes. They took notes from the printed materials handed out to them. Sometimes I felt that it was not necessary to take notes word by word, simply copying from the materials they have, but I wouldn’t try to disturb them, because they each has their own learning habits. Maybe taking notes helps them memorize, or be focused? Or it could be a habit they have always used. Respect the senior’s wise.

The computer class at the Spl has provided a great way of gaining knowledge and information for the senior foreign patrons!

Chinese Fashion Waiting for International Recognition

While China is known as an origin of manufacturing fashion products, people in Chinese fashion industry never lose confidence in their own brands.

“It’s not that we don’t have first class manufacturing techniques. It’s not that we can’t afford genius designers. The key problem is, at the moment, Chinese culture is not highly valued in the world stage.” said Mr. Wu, chair of a large Chinese fashion groups, after his visit to a fashion fair in Milan, Italy in 1997.

In March, 2010, he made another speech at a fashion forum in China, “Now our country is stronger. Our culture will be gradually recognized by the world. As a result, our design and fashion products will be gradually accepted, and our adds-on value will show.”

For over 20 years, Mr. Wu and his group have had the dream of building an international fashion brand with Chinese cultural characteristics. In each of their retail stores, they would display two delicate china plates. The culture can also be found in the design. For example, they would use Chinese lucky knots as buttons, or embroider tiny red dragons on the shirts.  

At the end of the speech, Mr. Wu explains the concept of his brands to his audience, “We shouldn’t say that ‘Chinese’ means ‘traditional’. You’ll have to smartly put the elements of your culture into an international context.”

Beyond Negotiation

Recently, I found a book The Chinese Negotiator: How to succeed in the world’s largest market, by the author of The Japanese Negotiator. The book talks about lots of strategies, with a chapter about the Thirty-Six Stratagems used in ancient wars in China. 

While it is interesting to read these strategies, it is also necessary to understand that most of these ancient strategies have become set phrases with negative meanings in modern China.

In my years working in business in China, I participated many international negotiations. I have seen some difficult situations during negotiations as well. In my view, the most important strategy, if we must have one, is simply two words, “mutual benefits”.

Most of the tough moments happened when the negotiators forgot these two words. Cooperation without mutual benefits won’t last long. Mutual benefits requires efforts from both parties, and it is very important to pay attention to what the Chinese partner ask for, as it might be vital to the success in Chinese market.

Therefore, the concern better be how to build win-win cooperation, rather than how to win in the negotiation.

What does Windows Live Space Migration Mean to Chinese Users?

Recently, many of the Windows Live Space blog users in China mainland are upset by the notice of migration to WordPress.

Around Sep.29th, the users received a notice saying “The deadline is March, 2011, but you should move to WordPress immediately. …From Jan. 2011, you will be unable to add new posts, and March will be the last chance for you to access your account information.”

Like a stone thrown into a peaceful lake, this news shocked many Chinese users. For many of them, the Windows Live Space has been an important part of their life for a long time.

One of my friends has kept her Space blog for over five years, which records her five years of life after graduation from university, including memories of her relationships, career, marriage, and the birth of her first child. It records her happiness, sorrows, and valuable moments of herself, her family, and her baby. More importantly, her blog is opened only to a group of friends, who share with her all these memories. Her blog receives an average of 50 comments for each new entry, and such interaction among the friends is what makes the Space a cozy and private place.

Now, she has to move. She is worried that errors might occur during the migration and cause data loss or privacy issues.

She is also thinking about which new place to go. WordPress, strong as it is, remains a strange name for many Chinese users.

On Oct.7, Windows Live Space sent to its users another notice, “To provide better service, we will cooperate with WordPress in most part of the world. However, in China mainland, we are looking for local service partners. Before formal notice is announced, you can still use Windows Live Space as usual. Thank you for the 6 years with us. We remain your loyal friend.”

During the week between the two notices, what was happening?

Some of the Chinese users have already moved, still others are waiting or hesitating. Some users complain that when they try to move to WordPress, some web pages can’t be opened. Some users say that when they try to move to Sina, it seems all the posts are been censored and those private entries become open to all. Some users showed their disappointment towards Windows Live Space by asking, “Does it mean that Space force us to move??”, and “Regret I chose it 6 years ago.”

Meanwhile, the local companies begin to compete for this huge market. In China, although QQ has a large market share, numerous working young people prefer MSN to QQ, and Windows Live Space to QQ blog. Why? It really depends, but some people feel MSN and QQ represent distinct user groups.

QQ may not be the most competitive candidate, but it is very proactive in this matter.

Early on Oct. 3rd, QQ announced its new tools that can help users move their blogs from Windows Live Space to QQ blog. If users search “Windows Live Space moving” in Chinese language on Google, QQ’s notice of solution appears first on the top.

It is said that Windows Live Space might choose Sina as its partner, but its PR department said it is not decided yet.

(I personally feel very sorry that Windows Live Space decides to close its service in China. It must be a tough decision for the company because it is giving up so many loyal users.)