Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Power of Open Principles

Over the last several days, I have been seeking input on my approach to redesigning the Insignia website. I am basing our approach to the redesign on one core belief – that the employees and consumers of Insignia care deeply about the success of the brand and will lend their unique talents and perspective for the betterment of the brand. The events of the last couple of days have only solidified that view.

First of all, thank you to everyone who contacted me, publicly or privately, and offered me their perspective and support. In total, the number was small, but the impact was more far reaching than you can imagine. I encourage you to stay connected with the dialogue as I believe this is only the beginning. We are on a long journey.

Second, I’d like to thank Hanson, Inc., our digital agency, who took a huge leap with us today. I took the liberty of putting Hanson in front of people they had never met before and who's sole job was to provide input, critique and ask tough questions. They performed admirably. Embracing Open Principles is hard because first you have to make yourself vulnerable. This takes courage and trust. I think we have both now!

So, here’s what I’ve learned over the last three days:

  • There are a lot of people who care about Insignia and our work on the website. They mostly came from unexpected places.
  • Our vision is aggressive but necessary. Personally, I think this gets the most people excited while also making the most people nervous. With such an aggressive agenda, I become concerned with meeting expectations.
  • Our culture will allow great things to happen. I'm convinced that this could not happen at most large companies.
  • There is much to be done. I was impressed with the diversity of views. I was also impressed by the demand for a consumer electronics brand that would embrace the values of the community.
  • The core issue, from a branding perspective down to technical implementation, is how transparent we make the relationship between Insignia and Best Buy. If we want to be transparent and authentic, which I think you have to be online, I don’t think we should try to hide this relationship.
  • Based on the answer to the above question, what customer benefits are delivered on the Insignia site vs. Best Buy? For example, if Insignia is clearly a Best Buy brand, would we offer comparison shopping on the Insignia site or leave that to Best Buy and focus more on community and customer support at Insignia?

Given all of these learnings, here’s what I’d like your perspective on today. If Insignia is a brand that listens to its customers and openly embraces its community utilizing Open Principles, what is the best way for Insignia to signal that to its customers through its website?

That’s all for now. Thank you again and I look forward to continuing the journey.


Mike Osswald said...

Clint - thanks for suggesting this process - it was a great session. For those who are following along, here's a deeper aspect that was interesting to us as a digital agency: We talk about people not often being able to express exactly what they like, but definitely knowing what they DON'T like when they see it. Which in this sense means if you have a high-level vision session and then say "what do you think?/what would you do?" you don't often get very specific feedback, in my opinion. They might easily object to something, but not give you good suggestions. So, I was curious going into it: could highly visual comps that almost look done get people engaging quickly on specific changes and issues where lightweight wireframes or talking points would yield little actionable insight?

In the session, we first shared the long-term vision (macro), followed by preliminary comps that were largely meant to reflect "Phase One doables" (micro). It was great therefore to see those who attended immediately inject their own sense of "vision" tactically and specifically into the design - "add the community focus right there, where's the strong brand messaging, I think you need to push farther with the design, I get that this is phase one, but I want this on the detail page at launch and here's why..."

By taking the chance and showing detailed comps (which we didn't expect to be perfect but usually wouldn't open up to such a wide audience) immediately after sharing the vision, I believe it certainly allowed the participants to quickly see what they didn't like, BUT MORESO what they thought would make the vision come to life for them (what they would like), something you might not get if you came back weeks later with designs to match the vision, or just used talking points or simple wireframes.

My suggestion: If you're thinking of inviting in a broader team to share vision for a project, give them some strong manifestations of that vision to react to right away and you'll get better feedback.

Hope to see some comments from others who have insight...

- Mike
(Mike Osswald, Director of Interactive Strategy at Hanson)

Betsy Gamrat said...


Update the Insignia logo to Best Buy colors. Use the tag image, with the insignia logo, recolored blue and yellow, and some text similiar to "Best Buy Exclusive" in smaller print under "Insignia".

Put stickers on Insignia products in Best Buy inviting people to the site.

Choose an interaction system and run it under a branded subdomain. This provides order and a centralized place for people to contribute and collaborate. Organize the interaction in categories such as Marketing, Design, Technology, far-future opportunities, and new ideas (things that don't fit). Identify areas that can evolve concurrently.

As the system is emerging, allow the users to see different ideas. X-Cart has a nice way to do this - where you can see the site with different skins.

Provide a very simple rating system that allows people to easily vote. Authentication by email address should be sufficient, that will reduce duplicate voting without requiring registration or complex identification mechanisms.