Category Archives: UX

Yahoo Storytelling with Kathy Savitt, CMO @Growthbeat

I attended a talk at the GrowthBeat conference on Tuesday on my way in to work. There were actually two talks on Storytelling that i wanted to see, but after attending the first with Kathy Savitt (Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Media at Yahoo), i opted out of the second.

Kathy Savitt, CMO Yahoo, Inc

Kathy Savitt, CMO Yahoo, Inc. at the GrowthBeat conference

Storytelling in UX is a critical part of the designers job, and i was hoping, since these talks were titled “Storytelling”, there would be some good takeaways. Unfortunately, not so much.

What i was able to take away was this: Yahoo is doing a large marketing push in 8 Geo’s (i’m not sure if cities or states). I can see one in SF if you look almost anywhere you are walking. It’s these deep Purple posters on the kiosks and some billboards, with the new Yahoo! logo on them. Some are targeted to create brand awareness that Yahoo! is taking on a mobile first approach and still relevant. Kathy Savitt said that Yahoo’s goal over all is to show the world they are more mobile, and to “guide users to link information to other users”. With their 1B monthly users, they are trying to get them to interact, as opposed to just use Yahoo in silos.

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She moved on to discuss a TV show Yahoo! invested in called Community. They showed a reel which showed the shows characters talking about Honda brand items (such as cars, motorcycles and lawn mowers). There was a ton of talk about Honda products, and a character that was so sold on Honda, he couldn’t stop thinking about it, and buying it. Probably the most gross display of crapvertising i’ve ever seen. Maybe they are trying to get into the Netflix/HB/Showtime original game, but… it’ll never sell.

Lastly, she asked the audience if they were using Yahoo’s new offering, live chat. No one raised their hand (about 300 people). She said she uses it with her kids all day, and they are able to send IM’s and silent videos with it. I guess everyone is trying to get in the SMS game, but with Yahoo IM being around 15-20 years, and functional with millions of active users, i could not figure out why they were coming up with yet another offering.

My takeaway, unfortunately was not about ways that Yahoo’s head of  marketing tells stories. There was an example in the Community show to some degree, but… all in all, this was just a reminder of how many of these once relevant “dot com” giants are lagging or why they failed. Sadly, Yahoo! has no visible spark left on the creative side, at least from a C-Level perspective, that i could see. 

UX Books / Reading List

I get a fair amount of requests from budding UX designers for best or favorite UX books. I dont like to overload them, so basically i do a walk through of a blueprint / spec’d wireframe set via Skype, hangouts or in-person, then the following reading list as a solid, easy to digest introduction.

The #1 read is: The Elements of User Experience. Jesse James Garret leads the Adaptive Path team here in SF, and he’s the man. This book talks about the structure of sites from the bottom up, then priority, structure and strategy. Its the Bible.

#2-3 include Designing the Obvious. This was my fav book from 2008/9 followed by Designing the Moment. The original versions were mainly web focused as opposed to mobile, but the approaches he suggests to trim down the design (get rid of the nice to have features, and how to talk the team into doing it and why, at least initially) was a game changer for me. I think the 2nd edition incorporates mobile.  Also check out his articles on that page. Good stuff.

#4 Don’t Make Me Think. I cant say enough good about this book. Its the first time i realized through a great visual statement the author make about street signs in Los Angeles. You can read the next cross street name a mile away the signs are so clear (Sepulveda or Venice). And you always know right where you are as it should be on a website, “I’m on the corner of hardware and chainsaws”. About x Careers. Something like that… There was no ambiguity, and due to this book, i am a diligent proponent of very clear “street signs” on the web.

#5-8 include: Mobile First, Responsive Web Design, Content Strategy for Mobile and Design is a Job (my fav of the abookapart lot which talks about how to be an effective consultant, which we ALL are at ALL times be it FTE or contractor).