Richard Sedley’s Tumblelog where ideas come to develop or die.

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May 14
Mar 16

The Customer Odyssey: Semantic and Episodic Memory


The online decision making process is a strange beast.

Sometimes I’m pretty spontaneous and buy stuff straight away after a single website visit (a single customer journey). Sometimes I prevaricate, make selections online, change my mind and leave, come back, add to basket, get distracted, check out another website, check my bank account, leave the website, a week later return and then finally buy something completely different from the high street store of the original company I was visiting the website of (a customer odyssey*).

Microsoft’s new Engagement Mapping is meant to capture this kind of ‘odyssey’ behaviour so that the ad-man can attribute value to the different sources that have influenced the final conversion. But what really influences a customer in the longer, more drawn out purchasing process?

Just because someone has seen something doesn’t mean that it has been an influence. And even if it was an influence which bit did the influencing? Or, more importantly when considering the customer odyssey, which influential bits are remembered? There is no point influencing someone if they neither act on immediately nor remember for later that influence. (Indeed this could be the definition of uninfluential.)

The science of psychology understands two different types of memory.

  1. Episodic Memory. The memory for ephemeral details, the individual features or the unique particulars of an experience.
  2. Semantic Memory. The memory of meaning. Memory that preserves only the gist, the general significance of remembered experiences. 

Which of these is most important when it comes to remembering the important stuff during a customer odyssey? They are probably both important in different way which leaves me with the big questions.

What can we do to help our customers with their semantic and episodic memories? How can we ensure that our potential customers take away the gist of our value proposition alongside enough specifics and details that they remember the virtues of our product or service? 

* I was introduced to the term ‘Customer Odyssey’ by Matthew Tod 

Richard Sedley

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Jan 01

Is your website from Venus or Mars?

The old maxim that ‘men are from Mars and women from Venus’ has been explored in relation to the build of websites before i.e. How Men and Women View Images Differently but it occurred to me the other week to conduct my own highly scientific experiment to see if I could gain an insight into the difference between the sexes that I might find useful when building and refining a website.

The experiment

I was driving my family to visit a relative we only see occasionally. As I drove my wife Josie would be providing the much-needed directions, and I had printed out two different types of directions.

  1. a series of maps printed from the web showing both the whole journey in a single high-level map and a number of more detailed maps showing the route.
  2. a set of specific instructions describing the names of the roads, the distances required and the turnings need i.e. ‘after a 100 metres turn third left at the mini-roundabout. 

Which would you have chosen to use?

I’d have chosen the first type of directions. The series of maps allowing me to understand which direction I needed to travel in and giving me a spatial grasp of the relationship between where I was coming from and where I was going to.

Josie chose the second type of directions, the series of instructions.*

Scientific rigor?

Now to ensure the scientific rigor and validity of this experiment I’ve since asked a number of my close friends, both male and female which, if only allowed to chose one type of directions, they would be most likely to select. With just one exception all the men plumbed for the maps and all the women the directions.

Perhaps these results are not that surprising as it has long been known that there are subtle differences between way the sexes process language, information, emotion and cognition etc. But it got me wondering when websites are being designed how often are these differences taken into account?

One for the blokes?

Should we provide graphical maps on websites for those who prefer to understand the world spatially? There is often great emphasis placed on the simplicity and ease of navigation but do we provide a sufficient overview of the entire site to allow that navigation to be contextualised?

One of the gals?

And for those that prefer to follow a series of directions, how often do you see a set of instructions available for download on how to buy something on a website?

If they were available on a website would you use a graphical map or a set of instructions?

* Just for the record we arrived at our destination in super fast time and with not a single mistake

Richard Sedley

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Oct 07

The beauty of connectedness

A number of different circumstances have recently come together to make me realise the beauty in feeling connected.

I’ve re-established connections with a lot of old friends in the last few years through various social networking sites but I’m talking about a different type of connectedness. There is something very satisfying about having everything together and working well.

I’ve just updated my broadband connection to allow me to now have a wireless connection on all three floors of my house. The provider’s support service in India were wonderful and patiently helped me connect all four different computers in the house; two Macs and two different flavours of Windows.

On each machine I was then able to link my feed readers to share the same feeds through NewsGator and FeedDemon. Each machine was linked up to my cinema screen monitors perfectly. My email system has at last been able to send and my smartphone now syncs with everything but the bath….

….somehow I now feel more complete. All I have really done is remove the barriers to me seamlessly doing what I want to do online; wherever I want to do it, whenever I want to do it. Who’d have thought that the power of ‘connectedness’ would be so beautiful?


Physicality and the poetry of online

Don Norman has recently been emphasising the importance of the physical and its return to prominence, through devices like the Wii. Physicality of a different but obviously connected sort has been playing on my mind for quite a time. How do we capture taste, touch and texture in the digital environment?

Clearly these things are physically impossible on a simple web page or an RSS feed. But that never stopped novelists or musician striving in other mediums that seemingly didn’t lend themselves to the physical. In many ways the more abstract one is forced to be in creating these things, because of a lack of practical concreteness, the more effective and emotionally resonant something can become.

Poetry is perhaps the best example of a seemingly simple medium that can carry the heaviest weight of texture and tone.

    They unswaddled the wet fern of her hair
     And made an exhibition of its coil,
     Let the air at her leathery beauty.
     Pash of tallow, perishable treasure:
     Her broken nose is dark as a turf clod,
     Her eyeholes blank as pools in the old workings.
         (Excerpt from Strange Fruit by Seamus Heaney)

As the web changes and becomes a more fluid experience - moving from the old pageview-to-pageview approach, to a richer more dynamic set of interactions - surely there is the opportunity for the evocation of physical experiences. Perhaps we might even find a little poetry and emotional connectedness in even the harshest, commercially driven websites.

Now that would be a ‘user experience’.

Sep 01

A time for disengagement?

There are times in the hectic world of digital media when I crave disengagement and I strive for something more poetic. My career and day-to-day work can seem like a frantic scramble to realise the potential of my activities before I need to move on to the next thing. As a result I often find little space to pause for contemplation and reverie.

As a student studying Fine Art the activity of painting was a mechanism to allow my imagination time to wander. Today I achieve this through the paintings of Andrzej Jackowski. Jackowski has a new exhibition opening at the Purdy Hicks Gallery on the 12 September 2007.

Andrzej’s paintings don’t reveal themselves easily; they take concentration, time and above all ‘headspace’. These are some of his most powerful and intimate works for quite while and harsh, backlit computer screens are not really the best medium through which to engage with them so I recommend seeing them ‘in the flesh’ if you can.

Sisters with Albums, oil on canvas, 70 x 60 cm

Sanatorium II, oil on canvas, 44 x 52 cm

city-and-rat.jpg City and Rat, oil on canvas, 40 x 50 cm

You can view more of Andrzej Jackowski’s work at www.jackowski.co.uk

Richard Sedley

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Aug 30

Death of a comrade

This morning Dave Hallsworth died aged 78. My thoughts are with his wife Elsie and their family.

It is eighteen years since I first met Dave. Easily the oldest member of the political group I travelled with, his enthusiasm and passion belied a man half his age. I’m sure there were many words used to describe him during his lifetime by friend and foe. Here are a few that I will use to remember him now he’s gone; irascible, warm-hearted, thick-skinned, and unswervingly loyal.

[Update: Mick Hume’s obituary can be found on the Spiked website]

Aug 10

Tony Wilson RIP

Tony Wilson died today. I met the guy a couple of times, on the second occasion he was chairing a panel I was speaking on, at an arts event in Manchester. I can’t recall exactly what the theme was but I do remember thinking he was a complete tosser.

He was arrogant, didn’t let anyone else get their opinons across and made me look stupid by cutting me off and not allowing me to explain my arguements properly. All of which he did with great skill and panache, and the audience loved him.

So it seems strange that I should want to write a blog post about him. However he played an important part in my teenage years on two fronts by co-founding Factory Records.

Firstly the music of Factory provided the soundtrack to my teenage angst. Secondly the aesthetics of the label inspired me towards my eventual career path. Wilson probably only had a limited input into the music compared to someone like producer Martin Hannett, while it was Peter Saville that was responsible for the album covers and posters.

Yet I can’t help but feel the thing that attracted me most to both the music and the aesthetic was the mystique that surrounded the label, a mystique that Wilson was largely responsible for. Each album, single, poster or band had a value but gained its unique status by being part of the Factory collective and by having its own FACT number.

Anthony Wilson taught me the importance of creating an aura around a project and made me recognise the value of building a body of work that can be greater than the sum of its parts. Anthony Wilson (1950-2007), rest in peace.

Richard Sedley

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