Loyalty – is there an app for that?

mobile design,product ideas | Monday, August 23rd, 2010

This morning I was cleaning out my purse and had a great idea for a new mobile app. I’m sure it’s already been done, but here goes.

The dominant retailer tactic these days is loyalty cards. Things are cheaper if you have one, and usually they don’t cost anything, so it’s silly not to sign up. Problem is, you never have it with you when you go back to that store. So they have to look it up by your phone number, which more often than not isn’t in the database, etc … so ultimately, checking out takes twice as long just so you can save a couple bucks.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could take a picture of all my loyalty cards with my phone, store them in an image database, and use that instead of the actual card when I go to check out? The main screen would be a list of retailers, with the option to sort by most recently used or A-Z. Then at checkout, I would just retrieve the image of the card, and scan it through the cashier’s barcode reader (assuming this is actually possible). [update: yes, it is.]

The business case is pretty obvious – offer customers an incentive to register the app (additional coupons, etc.) and sell contact information to retailers. This would keep the UI ad-free and uncluttered — very important, since saving time at checkout is the whole point.

So far, so good.

Update: I checked around, and of course it exists! Several, in fact.


Billed as “The #1 Android and iPhone Mobile Loyalty Card Application”.


Lots of recent news coverage. In addition to storing all the consumer’s card data, merchants can offer coupons directly to registered consumers.

Verizon just invested 400K in this one.



Get excited!

silliness | Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Via 43Folders, this made my day. Thank you Merlin!

Get excited!

My favorite spaghetti sauce? Don’t ask me …

how we think,ia/uxd methods | Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

I just came across this 2004 TED talk in which Malcolm Gladwell explains why we should NOT ask customers what they want.

In the case of spaghetti sauce, at least, we cannot always explain what we want. Especially when asked about our preferences, we are more likely to list what is currently known and popular than ask for something that hasn’t yet been done or isn’t widely available (even if that is what we would prefer).

How do you like your spaghetti sauce? Thin, spicy, chunky, traditional …

The point of the talk is variability — one product cannot meet the needs of all users. In the food industry that revelation ultimately led to the 500 kinds of sauce we now face at the supermarket. (See Barry Schwartz‘s talk for more on choice overload.)

Gladwell’s talk was a good reminder to me to stray away from open-ended questions when conducting user research. A question like “What kind of features do you want in this system?” is only going to yield a list of features that are already well-established, even bad ones.

Zombie movies = economic barometer

info visualization,silliness | Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Just saw this today via Information Design Watch. Apparently there’s a correlation between the nastiness of the eco-political environment around us and the production of zombie movies.

zombie movies

One can imagine the studios are already hard at work for next year!

Flow charting the bailout

ia/uxd methods,info visualization | Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Great design doesn’t make it less depressing, unfortunately.

Continued… see the whole scary story on Mint.com.

Mapping the political landscape

info visualization | Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Maps depicting the current standings in Electoral College votes for the presidency are in every newspaper. We are accustomed to viewing the political landscape in state-sized chunks, since that’s how the final votes are tallied.

The New York Times, in my opinion a leader in data visualization (both interactive and print), offers a nicely designed map that allows you to drill down by state into the details of whether the state is blue, red, or in between.

This state-by-state comparison, however, does little to show the real diversity underlying the single color applied to that state’s terrain. My home state of New Mexico, for example, may be blue-ish in the the above map, but it’s a state composed of very different voting communities (compare Santa Fe or Los Alamos to the rest of the state’s ranching communities and disadvantaged rural towns).

The Christian Science Monitor’s political map breaks out of the state-by-state mold and takes a look at just this sort of diversity. Patchwork Nation presents the nation’s voters in the context of their communities: Monied Burbs, Service Worker Centers, Military Bastions, Tractory Country, etc.

Focusing on the characteristics of each county in a state paints a much more detailed — and more complicated — picture of the American political landscape. Clearly it’s not quite so simple as red, blue, or in-between.

Lightbox fatigue

ia/uxd methods,interactions & patterns,user-topia | Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Jacob Nielsen just proclaimed the lightbox the “interaction design technique of the year“:

In UI terms, a lightbox draws the user’s attention to a dialog box, error message, or other design element in the middle of the screen by dimming the rest of the screen.

Yes, the lightbox has some benefits. It shows you an Important Message within the context of the page you were just looking at. It doesn’t get blocked by popup killers. And it looks super-cool, especially when used as a slideshow.

But lightboxes are starting to crop up everywhere. In my Yahoo mail (I hope the developer got paid a lot for that), in half the applications I interact with, even in my own website (OK, I put it there, but that was 2 years ago when it was very cool and cutting edge).

Is anyone else starting to suffer from lightbox fatigue?

Where are the women in open-source?

big picture ideas | Monday, July 28th, 2008

Great presentation about the perceived lack of women in open-source development.

(I love that she mentions ravelry.com, my favorite web community, as an example of a site built on open-source software!)

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