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The Design Management Institute conducts four professional education conferences each year for senior management in the various design disciplines, strategic planning and marketing, who are interested in staying current on design issues, trends and best practices. This week’s conference was held in Chatham on Cape Cod. It was a pleasure for me to be invited to give a talk about The Future of the Internet. The Chatham Bars Inn was a beautiful place to spend a day. I arrived on Tuesday evening in time for the DMI annual clam bake and not only got to enjoy some great clams and lobster but more importantly got to meet Earl Powell, DMI’s president, and many of the conference attendees. It was a friendly and very interesting group of people.
The attendees were from a range of companies including Proctor and Gamble, Microsoft, IBM, Kodak, Motorola, and numerous well known design consulting firms from around the world. Design is one of the really important disciplines that is always behind the scenes of great companies and great products. I am referring of course not just to web design but the design of products and services. One person I met lead the design and naming of XM Radio, one of my favorite products. Late in the morning after my speech, Earl organized a chat session where a dozen or so attendees and I pulled our chairs into a circle and talked about Internet trends and issues. There were many good questions. I would say the consensus was that while high quality design of web sites is important, the most important thing is a function web sites. The days of dancing bears and flashing banners on web sites are gone. Customers have very high expectations. They are busy and a web site that wastes their time becomes history in a hurry. A site that saves them time, is intuitive and easy to use, is highly functional, and offers an integrated access to the business processes of the company — a site that does there things — will earn great loyalty and repeat business.
At lunch on Wednesday, we had a far reaching discussion at our table about how instant messaging has changed the way people work and especially how teenagers (and younger) are so adept at using the latest technology. One of the most engaging and interesting people at the table was a woman seventy seven years old. She is a person that years ago we would have called a “senior”. This is hardly an appropriate term for many ThirdAgers today. Ethel’s business card was complete with URL and email but also had a list of the products and their features on the back of the card. This was one very savvy business person. She said that her recent long distance bill was zero as she extolled the virtues of email for staying in touch with her family. I was inspired Ethel’s vibrancy and aggressiveness — asking myself if I would be lucky enough to be like her twenty years from now when I am 77.
One other treat of this conference was the chance to ride on a Segway. They describe it as the “evolution in mobility”, a way to “cover more ground, be more productive, and move more intelligently”. According to their web site, the Disney Cruise Line is the first to offer guests the ability to use a Segway onboard. My ride was a bit unstable but I could see how with just a little practice it could become quite easy and intuitive. I can see how this product will be successful, especially in retirement communities in Florida.