Business case for Cloud Computing in small-market e-Commerce

One night, I was about to go to bed, and realised that I forgot something – opened my laptop, went to and got immediately distracted by the following video on the landing page:

What an amazing and simple idea! During the video, I already consciously decided that I’m going to buy 2 pieces of the kit – assuming that they are not over $60. By the end of the video, I was prepared to spend about $150 on two fishes. The video has been posted only 4 hours ago and they already got a million hits – wow … Quickly clicked on their web page to go fishing …

And then came the bummer …


I visited back half an hour later, then next morning and then gave it up. How much money would it have costed them to dynamically scale up (let me answer it – roughly $500 a month with Azure) – and how much money they lost from people like me? Assuming that one from every hundred of the visitors would have bought one and couldn’t, that’s about a MILLION DOLLARS in 4 hours … That’s a 2,000 x ROI – even in 2011 it stacks up nicely in the Financial sector … 🙂

Now, this is my #1 business case when speaking to ISVs about e-Commerce and Azure. If you’ve got a better one, please let me know!


Centre of gravity – Design Challenge?

I have dropped my £700 Nikon D90 camera over the weekend. I have had the camera bag on my shoulders in its bag – and I didn’t close the bag. I ran after my son, the bag has flip over and the camera fell out of it, to the ground. Lens shattered, camera survived, only cca. £150 damage. I then looked at the situation and found 2 problems:

1. I was totally crazy to run with an open bag, with a £700 camera in it …

2. The camera bag was designed in a way that its centre of gravity is positioned towards the centre of the bag, so it does roll and flip around – by design. Look at the two pictures below where I hold the bag with the camera inside:

camera 1 camera 2

Would you consider this as a design problem? Perhaps in the usability area? Or even earlier, in the Interaction Design work stream?

Lack of usability testing

Waitrose … I take the box of (fresh) croissant and try to scan* it – it doesn’t scan. The barcode is at the edge of the box. Trying it from different directions, pulling the packaging, but it’s not stretching, it doesn’t want to scan, because the barcode itself is not on a flat surface. Then, an idea comes, I start up my thumb, pushing the edge of the box into a sort-of-flat shape, and Bang! It does scan! Which FAIL category would you classify this into? Looking at the design process, Usability Testing would have caught this …


scanner* For those who are not familiar with Waitrose in the UK or Superquinn in Ireland … In these (slightly more expensive) shops, you get your own scanner to scan your shopping as you go and you give the scanner to the shop assistant at a special checkout area to pay your bill.

Knowledge in the head vs in the world

Donald Norman writes and speaks about the importance to recognise whether it’s best to use something that’s well known or whether it’s best to teach new practices to people every time they use a product. Now, look at this parking machine from Hastings, UK:

Parking machine

Once you dropped in all the change from your pocket, guess, which button has to be pushed to get your ticket? Nooo, it’s the red one! And it’s your fault if you pushed the black one and won the jackpot, just to feed the machine again – because it says so in the instruction manual! If I’m looking at the buttons from a bit closer, what I’m puzzled about is that is it normal that a “return” button is more worn than the “get my ticket” button? Or is it only me being evil + not reading instructions?

Lack of big picture or new experiment?

Look at this tasty product in Tesco … At the front of the packaging, it says “See reverse for cooking instructions and nutrition“. I then turn it around just to see that there’s nothing in the back:

Sweetcorn front  Sweetcorn back

Well, what’s the problem? Someone in the factory must have forgot to put that sticker on … No, my dear Reader, the problem is somewhere else … You can find the instructions in the back of the sticker from the front, once you opened the package. Is this caused by the Sticker Designer Team not seeing the “big picture” of how the sticker will be placed on the product packaging, or the Product Design team experimenting a new way of displaying (or hiding) instructions? Up to the Reader …