Sainsbury's Embrace 'Web 2.0' By Encouraging Customer Dialogue

AKQA, Sainsbury's current digital agency, has created a market-leading dialogue area to the supermarket chain's online presence. Put simply, they've opened a 'Your Ideas' forum to "create a community around the brand" according to Andrew McCormick in this week's NMA (29.06.06).

Of course many of us are aware of the predicted explosion in user-generated content and social community sites (as demonstrated by MySpace, Bebo and Playahead) but this is one of the first occurences I've come accross where a major retailer is keen to get their customer base to contribute to content.

Thus far it's pretty basic stuff (and not exactly Web 2.0 since much of the technology has existed since the early days of the web) in that customers are posting recipes and discussing "food related topics". Presumably this means bored people ranting about the Cadbury scandal and showing off their homemade Spotted Dick. The key with this move is that it promotes the chain as being technology aware (especially given their late arrival on the home shopping scene) and a brand that's trusted and talked about by its consumers. The most revolutionary element is of course the opportunity for customers to discuss the relative (de)merits of Sainsbury's. Thier brand manager, Kirstey Elston is quoted as saying: "We're happy for customers to share openly what they think about Sainsbury's".

All this is very laudible but do Sainsbury's need to run these sites themselves? I am a great believer of leaving this type of content on independant sites, amongst the true user-community. then use technology to trawl the web looking for reviews, forums and blogs. That way people will comment in the positive, negative and laissez faire without the natural sense of moderation that using an 'official' forum would give. By using Web Data Mining all this information can be quantified and extracted by insight teams. Of course, doing it all in-house is faster and possibly cheaper but do the views expressed on such official user-communities really reflect the widest range of customer opinion? I'm not convinced.

I like Sainsbury's (although the Waitrose in Sudbury is great, 45 mins away though...) but their online shopping requires a minimum order of £25 and a delivery charge of £6. Often I just want a few bits, ordered mid-week and Tesco can do that. So we use them, until Sainsbury's sort out their pricing for this and until Ocado deliver to my area I'll continue touse Tesco. And that is in spite of the fact that Tesco have let me down with late deliveries and peculiar substitutions on several occassions. (A comparison review of the Customer Experience with online grocers is available here.)


Fitts' Law, Menu Bars & Web Usability

Unearthed an interesting bit of information this week that the menu bar implementation on Mac operating systems is measurably more usable.

This comes about by applying
Fitts' Law (1954), a model of psychomotor movement which predicts that the time required to move to a given object is a function of the target's distance and size. It is particularly useful in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) applications and in the case of the Mac menu bar it identifies that the positioning of the bar on the finite edge (top) of the screen means rapid movement 'North' with the mouse will always mean the user is successful in finding it. By contrast, the windows user bar is only useful in the active window which can be anywhere on the floating screen space, and by implication can be missed unless greater levels of motor accuracy are applied. (Aside: Have Apple forgotten this law in iTunes? a great article by Coda Hale investigates).

I've been trying to think of examples on the web where Fitts' Law could make life easier. It seems to me that applying
Pie Menu systems (see also Pie Menu Central) or nodal navigation could be effective in the place of Linear Menus, however whether this would be offset by the effect of implementing an unfamiliar user interface and the difficulty in having multiple item menus remains to be seen. There is a rumour, by the way, that Windows Vienna will feature a Pie Menu. Evidently, the most obvious application for a web menu is the use of the screen limits - ie. navigation should be either at the extreme left (c.f. Kalbach & Bosenick, 2003) or top of a page to ensure it is more likely to be on a screen-edge limit. However, more subtle applications might be to keep contextual linking prevalent on the site (keep the links close to the content) and ensure target buttons are obvious and large. Common sense, basic stuff maybe but sometimes it's nice to see a bit of tangible scientific research backing it up.

:: Paul M. Fitts (1954). The information capacity of the human motor system in controlling the amplitude of movement. Journal of Experimental Psychology, volume 47, number 6, June 1954, pp. 381-391. (Reprinted in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 121(3):262--269, 1992).

Technorati Tag: Web usability and fitts law


It's over. England Exit FIFA World Cup 2006 on penalties

Put simply it never really worked under Sven. He picked a team of Galacticos but never blended them well enough. We didn't win the early games by playing badly, we won them in the sparse moments of playing well. Let's not forget that although the momentum had built up before the Portugal game that ignores the fact that we were held by a poor Swedish side, that we nearly conceded against Trinidad & Tobago and Ecuador, (scoring in the Trinidad game only because Crouch got a handful) and that Paraguay was a forgettable match ... And, but for the game against Jamaica, we'd had some shocking non-competitive games too (Uruguay, Hungary, Belarus). In the last 5 years can anyone say exactly what Sven had made the England team into? How do they play, what's the most effective formation? what defines their style? For four years we've been drunk on the 5-1 in Munich and assumed that that indicated Sven's mastery, not so, one anomalous result in a managerial tenancy of mediocrity and but for the heroics of Hargreaves, Lennon and the back four you could almost say that, in terms of England's historic tenacity, the pilot light has all but gone out.