User Experience at the FT Digital Conference 2012

User Experience at the FT Digital Conference 2012

Last week,I had the opportunity to attend the FT Digital 2012 conference. My talented friend Gioia was one of the event organizers. Here are my notes from the event.

Main themes

1. How to profit from the rise of social data?

Social data (data collected by smartphone, social networks and blogs) are used to create better experience and refine solutions rather than generating new ideas.

Chad Hurley of Delicious describes the use of social data as refinement tools, not as a tool that can drive innovation. Google agrees with the idea that user experience is a key tool rather than the data; this reminds us of their motto: ‘focus on the user and the rest will follow’.

Personalization, relevance and transparency are key concepts for social data. Collect relevant and transparent data that help personalize services.

Several questions arose during this conference. How do you make sense of the data? Do companies who acquire more data win? No, companies need help in understanding their data instead of obtaining a large amount of data. For instance, Adobe is hiring several web analysts that use users feedback to improve Adobe’s products.

2. How to deliver value in a multiplatform world?

How to make content available in multiplatform and multi-device? What are the strategies companies are using at the moment?

Most companies mentioned the importance of focusing on user experience rather than on the platform. Disney said that users’s behaviours are important; their behaviours need to be observed and services need to change to accommodate users’ needs.

The trend for mobile platform is growing. Sky said that 60% of its market is now on mobilealthough the use of tablets is growing too.

Few companies mentioned to be platform agnostic such as Disney and BBC. BBC prefers to invest in HTML5; they initially develop for browsers and then change it slightly according to devices.

Companies are aware of the differences among devices, for instance how mobile is more suitable for personal interaction on the go, and how tablets are used for social interactions and family shopping (Ebay). BBC said ‘ we develop an experience relevant to the platform but converge is key’.

Developing for a specific platform is too expensive. What if a new platform or device comes into the market? For instance, Kindle Fire is a booming platform in USA (…

It’s also about strategy.  An interesting example is NY Time and Boston Globe, who use different strategies although they are part of a parent company . NYTime develops apps for each product, whereas Boston Globe uses HTML 5 to fulfill the needs of different products.

3. How to make money?

Another problem for the companies is the fragmentation of the market.

Wikipedia introduced the important for giving free and good content to attract consumers, but howis this strategy feasible for other companies?

An emerging way to charge users is micropayment, the app store model –a good example of model that follows the needs of users and allows users to buy items when they want at affordableprices. It’s interesting to note that the introduction of Spotify has increased the number of songs legally sold online rather than support piracy.

4. What about other Medias?


One of the main concerns of the music industry is piracy. The proposed way to solve this issue is by following consumers’ habits; they can provide affordable and accessible music and create the content in ways that appeal to users. They can support the user to pay by impulse (the app model of micropayment) and provide a multiplicity of payment options. Technology has been driving innovation in the last 12 months. Mobile is also an important emerging trend for the music industry.


Reading behaviors are changing. People are now using readers and tablets more frequently instead of physical books. Tablets are appropriate for casual readers; e-readers are suitable forbookworms. For example, on the KOBO platform, there are people that read more than 30 books a month. However, although e-readers are popular they are not replacing physical books. People that own e-readers are still buying paperbased books.


People are watching TV online – this provides a big quantity of data for companies in the TV industry so that they can provide a personalized service. Most companies of the TV industry are now investing on digital channels.  At the FT’s Digital Media Conference, Channel 4 reveled a new hybrid TV channel which will be shaped by online social media – 4Seven.

How can you search for TV programs? It might be interesting to have TV search engine tools that allow viewers to find suitable TV programs online.

Social media creates a deeper engagement to TV programs, but the number of people that use social media is still a fraction of the people that watch TV shows.

5. Voices from successful companies

Various companies such as Walt Disney and Dreamworks who attended this conference sharedtheir success stories. Walt Disney described that user experience is a key tool; they want to be where the consumer is and deliver high quality contents. DreamWorks mentioned how to keep a culture of innovation alive. Their secrets are to provide security and a culture that allow failure. They hire a good mix of right and left-brains from artists to scientists. They usually hire graduates and want their animators to have acting skills.

David Jones from Havas delivered an interesting speech. David works for a consulting company. He wrote books such as ‘Who cares win’. He believes that social media will make businesses more responsible because people’s ‘actions are visible to anyone within social media. According to his book, the rules of social media are transparency, authenticity, and speed. Regarding the consulting world; he mentioned the need to be patient with clients who cannot invest in big projects due to the recession.

 6. More thoughts

In general, I heard the world ‘cannibalisation’ frequently during the conference. Does this mean that companies are scared?

User experience was also mentioned many times – the importance of understanding users and learning their behaviours, are key competitive advantages and a way for companies to survive in this competitive market.

Companies are actually aware of current changes in the market due to technology, although they need help in understanding how to make the most of this phenomenon.


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