A conversation with Michael Griffith, VP of User Experience and Executive Creative Director at Bottle Rocket.

Bottle Rocket is an award-winning mobile strategy, design and development company leading brands like NBCUniversal, Coca-Cola, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, PetSmart and Mary Kay through mobile innovation. 

Michael will also be speaking at the Ogilvy Common Health Summit on 24th September in New York. If you are a client-side marketer in the healthcare industry then please request an invite.

An easy one to start with. Bottle Rocket. You’re all about mobile?

Yes, although we like to think we offer a little more that most mobile agencies. Bottle Rocket came from a technology background where many mobile agencies initially focused on advertising.

From day one we were focused on platforms that worked and on integrating systems rather than creating standalone ecosystems. We were playing with hardware integration or IOT before it was IOT.

Another focus early on was media clients like A&E, BET, TNT and TBS to bring a video experience to the mobile device. Back then, it was yet to be seen if consumers would adopt mobile video, especially long form. Now it’s amazing how much long form video is consumed on mobile devices.

You mention the uncertainty around consumer adoption of video but much uncertainty still exists in terms of how consumers use their devices? 

Yes, the way we interact with our devices is changing every day. We believe that experience design will be driven by understanding the consumer’s context of the interaction more than the specific screen they are using.

We’re now entering an age where screens are everywhere whether it be a one-inch screen on your wrist or screens in your car, on your iPad or on TV etc.

When there are screens available at almost any point in the day, it's not about what size the screen is, it is about context.  

The attributes of context are things like time, location and date. If you understand these attributes you can then design experiences based on personal relevance for that one moment.

At Bottle Rocket, we focus on context based design.

We don’t design for a screen initially, we start with designing the data feeds that drive the experience and then try to understand which of these are going to be most relevant given these set of circumstances.

It’s interesting you talking about a future when screens are all around us so that we can effectively assume one is always available. However someone typically owns that entry point. Apple owns the OS for its watch etc. Surely whoever controls this has enormous influence over the customer experience?

Clearly there is value in “owning” the consumers access point, but on the flip side the model is moving towards open systems that developers can build on. The technology providers need the developer community to innovate and drive new use cases for their hardware.

That’s certainly the case for areas such as wearables and other emerging platforms. Your car dashboard is shaping up to be a crucial battleground as a platform. Previous to mobile technology, no one could even imagine that.

I wanted to talk about the Healthcare sector. We’re seeing massive innovation in this sector and mobile is at the heart of it. What do you see happening out there?

Well that’s an interesting question and a big one. Healthcare is a big focus for our business with a dedicated strategy team led by John Canevari our Executive Creative Director based in our New York office.

It is important to stop thinking of the phone as a phone. For the majority of users, the phone aspect of their smartphone is the least used feature. 

From an engineering perspective, we see it as a box of sensors. It can see through the camera, hear through the microphone, sense positioning, motion and direction among other things. This is important for all sectors but especially in healthcare. This makes it a powerful diagnostic tool and the future will see more and more sensors added to the platform.

We also see developments such as the Apple Research Kit as being key. It’s in its early days, but eventually we’ll have the data of millions of people to be used for benchmarking and predicting health outcomes.

You mention “millions of people's data” there. Isn’t there a real concern about privacy when there is so much personal data in circulation.

Privacy and data security has always got to be a concern and as a developer we’re very aware of our responsibility to build secure systems. 

I think there are a few issues here worth mentioning. First, the speed at which technology is moving and making into the hands of the consumers is creating the rules before the regulators can regulate.

It reminds me of the early days of the web when people had serious discussions about copyright laws, but the “movement” made much of the conversations moot. 

The second important aspect about privacy is that when the value exchange is high enough, for example if the app has the capability to improve or possibly save your life, security concerns are minimized for the user.

Services of real value will not face the issue of consumers not giving them their data, which in itself is a self-regulating system.

It strikes me that some of these projects are extremely complex involving different data sets, multiple use cases, different screen sizes and context and much more. How do you manage these projects effectively?

Our software development background has been key. Right from the outset, we took an iterative and lean approach to our product development. We use a lo-fi technics to achieve hi-fi results approach. The process allows us to learn quickly and uncover a unique experience that serves the user.

We work quickly in small, smart groups and iterate frequently, enhancing what works and editing that which does not. We also have a great project management approach utilizing smart people who know what needs to get done and when.

We talked before about how we now live in a multiscreen, multichannel world and that you think data before interface. Are there any other things people should be thinking about.

One of the most interesting areas for me is how visible the customer experience is.

Within applications you have clear visibility of the features, controls, and messaging. When the user is outside of the app, there can still be an experience, but through things like notifications, alerts, widgets, and shortcuts (as shown in last week’s Apple event, using 3D touch).

As we mentioned previously, the context of location, time and other criteria should determine what the interaction is and when it happens.

The end goal is to eliminate interactions that are considered a distraction. It is something we need to remember every time we have a new platform or screen to consider.

Do you have any examples of healthcare projects you’ve worked on that are based on the ideas we’ve discussed today?

We have been working with a large healthcare company on smoking cessation.

In the early iteration, we spent a good amount of time developing a notification strategy based on user interactions and progress reporting. As we iterate the strategy, it is now important to apply greater emphasis on context rather than raw data to create an experience that is personally relevant and welcomed by the user.

In this case, context and understanding of the user allows us to design something that encourages the user to be more reflective of their behaviors to help them modify their behaviors. Currently, it is a work in progress and we’re looking for more ways to iterate and test.

Michael will also be speaking at the Ogilvy Common Health Summit on 24th September in New York. If you are a client-side marketer in the healthcare industry then please request an invite.

Craig Hanna

Published 18 September, 2015 by Craig Hanna

Craig Hanna is a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter.

15 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (0)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.