We talk a lot about screens these days, so much so that for me to type the word “table” without appending a “t” onto the end has become somewhat of a difficult task. That said, there’s much talk about how it’s important to converse with customers across the multiplying number of screens we interact with daily, but little thought given to what the experiences on each screen, each surface really are.
In a meeting this week, friend and associate Joe Chernov at Eloqua, we got to talking analogies and trying to decipher what the proper metaphor for each would be for each screen that we interact with. I posited that it won’t be long before computing becomes so pervasive that we’ll be merely looking for a flat surface upon which to consume content, collaborate or compute. A colleague in the room said, “so, we’re really talking about tables as the analogy. There are conference room tables, desks, side tables and coffee tables.” It’s a great analogy and gets to the root of the issue not what we’re using be it iPad, Galaxy Nexus or Microsoft Surface, but what w’re trying to accomplish.
My counter to this is that we’re more likely to create a successful analogy thinking about chairs. We have our office task chair where we do most of our work as spend most of our midday time, often positioned squarely in front of our desktop monitor or laptop computer. We’re there to consume, collaborate and compute and create. It’s our most functional “seat” but one where we spend a finite amount of time and that restricts us from other associated but decidedly non-computing tasks. When we’re out and about, we may occasion upon a stool whether at the lunch counter of our favorite diner, a stool at our best after-work bar or coffee shop. We’re at these venues to do other things – namely unwind and socialize either with or outside of out work cohort but we want to connect, keep an eye on information and tasks and take care of the less involved of the latter. When we come home, it’s our favorite comfortable chair or recliner where we unwind. As we wrap things up, we may want to control more directly some of the content we’re consuming – evidenced by the X% of Americans use a tablet while in front of the TV – while having a moderately productive workspace that’s not as all-consuming as that focused task chair, after all, we’re doing other things but not quite on the run.
Whichever analogy you choose – and Joe’s continued to think up still more based on the same discussion – the imperative is that computing has become mobile first as the better part of our day is spent away from that task chair, even for the information worker and traditional “desk” worker. We all want to remain connected and productive outside of the task chair and desk scenario and, in most cases, by choice. So a strategy to provide content, access, and tools built for our various modes of consumption should be as fundamental as providing seating in a furnished space. Alas, we’re a ways away from this now, but those who choose to provide only one “seat” for their guests are likely to being viewed like a standing-room-only venue: whether an employer or a brand, nobody is going to want to stick around too long