Rethinking the 3rd Place

I had a conversation with my supervisor (Rob Banks, Deputy Director of Operations at the library) a couple days ago, and thought it was worth sharing with y’all.

We were talking about our impending website redesign (yes, we’re at it again). I had sent him a rough draft of my redesign plan, and we were talking through it. He had been reading my book on digital experiences, and that had fired off some really cool thoughts about the concept of 3rd place for him… here’s what he said that made us start thinking:

“It’s not 3rd place – it’s The Place:”

  • Typically, Rob has maybe 6 windows open on his computer while at work – email,   a couple of work documents he’s working on, TweetDeck (ok – does YOUR deputy director have TweetDeck open constantly? Just sayin), and a couple of websites – usually including Facebook.
  • He’s doing several things at the same time … but Facebook is always on, and he’s always connected to his Facebook friends.
  • When he’s not at work, Rob has a Blackberry with a Facebook app – so Facebook is always on there, too. He can connect to Facebook whenever he wants to, no matter where he is.
  • Rob can still be in his physical “3rd place” and (important point) STILL BE CONNECTED to Facebook and his friends.
  • And that’s the idea that needs to be translated over to our library’s digital branch.

Our library websites/digital branches will probably never be a real 3rd place to people – and that’s ok. Instead of working towards that, let’s work harder to make this now-old phrase, “be where the patrons are,” a bit more seamless.

good bookRob can be in his 3rd place – but he is also constantly connected to friends/colleagues/family in Facebook at the same time. Facebook, in a way, has transcended the 3rd place to be “The Place.” It’s always on, always available to him, when he wants to be there.

Our library websites/digital branches can be like this, too! So… still developing, but this is definitely going in the redesign plan.

Thoughts? How are you “always there, always on” when patrons want to reach you?

Photo by javaturtle

Experience Economy Goes by Many Names

Experience is called many thingsJoseph Pine and James Gilmore noticed this thing they called the Experience Economy. They think we’ve moved beyond purchasing mere goods and services – now, we can purchase “experiences” (hence, the experience Economy). In their newest book, they blend the idea of experience with something they call Authenticity.

But Experience or the Experience Economy isn’t the only thing this notion is called – this post will introduce you to some other similar terms.

For example, when I read their book, I didn’t see much in the way of website experience. Certainly, the underlying ideas were there, but no concrete examples were given (it was written in 1999, so I’ll give them a break). That bugged me enough to write my own book about it, and I called the website version of it the Digital Experience.

Rohit Bhargava, who writes the Influential Marketing Blog, comes from a customer engagement and marketing/PR background. In his book Personality Not Included: Why Companies Lose Their Authenticity and How Great Brands Get it Back, he calls it personality. Here’s a quote from the introduction that explains what personality is:

“The theory of Personality Not Included is that personality is the answer. Personality is the key element behind your brand and what it stands for, and the story that your products tell to your customers. Every element of your business, from your interactions with your customers to the packaging of your product is an element of your brand personality, and these are the elements that inspire delight or indifference among your customers. In short, personality matters.”

I heard Jane McGonigal speak last year at SXSWi 2008. She presented on gaming and alternate realities … and called it happiness. Here are some notes I took from her presentation:

Question – are you in the happiness business? Our primary product soon will be happiness… Happiness is the new capital

Four key principles of happiness:

  1. satisfying work to do
  2. experience of being good at something
  3. time spent with people we like
  4. chance to be a part of something bigger

McGonigal’s description of happiness sounds VERY similar to Pine & Gilmore’s description of experience and Bhargava’s description of a company with personality.

Ever heard of Touch Points? It’s sort of like usability … but doesn’t focus primarily on how the thing works. Instead, it focuses on the experience customers have during their interactions with the product or service or website.

Ok, one more. A few years back when Kathy Sierra was still blogging, many of her blog posts focused on this same concept – but she called it enchantment and kicking ass.

See what’s going on?

It’s not quite usability (but lives there). It’s not quite marketing (but it lives there). It’s not quite design (but it lives there too). It’s not quite customer service (yep – lives there). Not quite library 2.0 (even lives there).

There’s a convergence in many different fields right now – gaming, marketing, PR, web design, customer service, etc. – that all have, as their utmost goal, providing the customer with a positive experience … an authentic experience … happiness … attracting them with personality … enchanting them … helping them “kick patootie.” (ok, my wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap upbringing just kicked in – sorry ).

Question – how are you working to enchant your users? Not just meet their information needs … but delight them? Are you providing a positive experience, and if so – how?

David Lee King’s Digital Experience: Interview in TK Magazine

I Was Featured in TK MagazineI recently gave a book-related interview for a local-to-Topeka magazine, TK Magazine. People actually read it! I’ve had a number of people stop me and say they saw “my article” – that’s sorta cool. Here’s the interview:

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In the March/April 2008 issue of TK, we introduced you to the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library’s new “Digital Branch” – a library branch that exists entirely on the Web, enabling you to check out books, pick out movies and music, and just about anything you else you want to do at the main library (except you can do it all in your PJs!).

The whiz behind the development of the library’s website [aside – LOTS of very smart people built our website – definitely not just me!] is David Lee King. He has just published his first book, “Designing the Digital Experience,” which aims to help you create a website that offers such a positive digital experience that your visitors will not only return, but will share links to your site with all their friends, family and co-workers.

TK: What is “experience design?”

DK: Experience design is the practice of designing, well, lots of things – products, services, events, and environments – but with the customer’s experience fully in mind. A good example of experience design in action is a visit to two restaurants, McDonalds and Hard Rock Cafe. At McDonald’s, you get a sandwich, and the normal fast-food experience – rather bland (some would argue, just like the sandwich).

But when you visit the Hard Rock Cafe, the “experience” you have while at the restaurant is geared toward a theme – that of rock music. Everything, including the food and drink you order, the decor of the place, t-shirts you can buy, even the background music playing, is themed to provide you with a “rock and roll” experience that you can’t help but notice.

Hard Rock Cafe has designed an experience around rock and roll – only part of the total experience involves the actual food.

TK: How does that relate to my website?

DK: Websites are rapidly changing from electronic brochures about an organization or business to an actual destination, where real-life, real-time transactions take place. Take my bank, for instance. At my bank’s website, I can balance my checkbook, pay bills, and transfer money. I can do actual, real-world things at the website.

Organizations are starting to improve the experience their customers have while at the site in order to better serve their customers.

TK: What will our readers learn from your book?

DK: My book will quickly get you up-to-speed about what digital experience design is, and different approaches to take with your website in regards to digital experience. I also provide ideas to help jump-start your thinking about what your customers experience while at your website, and ways to help improve those experiences.

* original article online at TK Magazine, used by permission

** Photo by Bryan Nelson

Podcast about Designing the Digital Experience

Sarah Long, Director of the North Suburban Library System, interviewed me a couple weeks ago about my book, Designing the Digital Experience: How to Use Experience Design Tools & Techniques to Build Websites Customers Love on her Longshots podcast series (part of the Library Beat blog).

Give it a listen!