A Call to Action – The MEX Conference Manifesto


MEX is a very different style of conference and this is our manifesto. It is a ‘call to action’ for the industry to wake up to the importance of user experience. We’d love to hear your views and invite you to post them to the blog.

In May 2007, the leading minds in mobile telecoms will come together for two days in London to debate and publish their response to this 10 point blueprint. If you’d like to be a part of MEX, now is the time to talk to us about speaking, sponsorship and attendance. Visit http://www.pmn.co.uk/mex/ for further information or email Marek Pawlowski (marekpawlowski@pmn.co.uk). You can also download a PDF of the manifesto here.

– 1 –

Understanding users and delivering exceptional customer service is just as important a part of the mobile experience as the latest technology and the size of the marketing budget. It can be the key differentiator for a business. We think too much time and money is invested in getting products to market quickly rather than getting products to market effectively.

– 2 –

Tearing down the walled garden will enhance the mobile content experience and release value for the industry. The objective should be a free market for content and applications, based on open standards and accessible to all. We think the current fragmentation of formats and channels to market is holding back growth.

– 3 –

Mobile advertising can enhance the user experience if it is relevant and contextual. It can become a tool which benefits rather than distracts the customer. We think it will fail if it interrupts the flow of action on mobile devices and tries to replicate traditional advertising models.

– 4 –

Handsets, applications and services should be more aware of the user’s physical environment and adapt to provide the most appropriate interface for sound and visual conditions. We think multi-modal interfaces should be supported on many more mobile devices and can dramatically improve the user experience.

– 5 –

User experience performance must be measured if it is to be improved. It must be constantly tracked through quantitative and qualitative methods. We think organisations throughout the value chain are failing to recognise the importance of understanding customers because quantifying the return on investment is too difficult.

– 6 –

The world is gaining embedded intelligence. The mobile industry faces a fundamental user experience challenge to make handsets as effective as communicating with the environment as they are with other humans. We think the connection of millions of machines to wireless communication networks represents the most significant generational change since the introduction of packet data.

– 7 –

The objective is to provide the best mobile experience for each individual. Developing chipsets, software platforms, handsets and services which make it cost-effective to provide this level of personalisation will delight users and drive profits for the industry. We think the industry can grow its margins if it finds a way to build personalisation into every level of the value chain.

– 8 –

Mobile devices are the natural choice for interacting with communities. Sharing experiences through your mobile device should be as simple as making a voice call. We think the success of user-generated content, social networking and community interaction through mobile devices will depend on enhancing rather than replicating the desktop experience.

– 9 –

The mobile experience is limited to voice and text by in-efficient search and discovery mechanisms. We think any service should be accessible from the standby screen and it should be as simple as dialling a number.

– 10 –

Service pricing is often misaligned with the realities of customer spending patterns. It is one of the defining factors of the mobile user experience and can play a role in determining everything from device choice to ongoing usage of mobile applications. We think the industry needs to become smarter and more dynamic in its approach to pricing and wake-up to the reality of fighting for wallet share.

If you’d like to be a part of MEX, now is the time to talk to us about speaking, sponsorship and attendance. Visit http://www.pmn.co.uk/mex/ for further information or email Marek Pawlowski (marekpawlowski@pmn.co.uk). You can also download a PDF of the manifesto here.


26 Comments

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  1. 3
    Marek Pawlowski

    We’re looking at opportunities to take MEX into new markets and India and China are both strong possibilitis.

    Please note we provide published reports summarising the presentations and discussions at every MEX conference to enable those who are unable to attend in person to benefit from the events. You can buy these at:

    http://www.pmn.co.uk/mex/report.shtml

    We also offer an on-site version of MEX for companies who want to explore the benefits of mobile user experience at their own offices. This comprises a customised programme based around our 10 point manifesto with case studies and workshops for the company’s management team. Please contact me at marekpawlowski@pmn.co.uk for further details.

  2. 5
    Thomas Husson

    I totally agree with this manifesto. I participated to the conference in 2005 and if things have improved, the mobile industry is far from having removed the user-experience barrier. Looking at mobile TV or mobile music developments, it sounds like the benefits are not that user-centric and a bit oversold (claiming there are today long tail opportunities on a screen is far from a reality when it is already difficult to merchandize the Top 10-30 songs).

    Thomas Husson (JUPITER RESEARCH)

  3. 7
    Jeudy

    Development of mobile use and services is definitely a matter of providing what customer needs, at a reasonable price, and with the quality their are used to with Internet.
    To reach that target, global open minded initiatives are mandatory, to show the way. This manifesto seems to be one of it, let’s move forward!

  4. 8
    Katie

    Absolutely spot on! My personal favourites are 2, 7, and 8. This is a great work and I applaud that it is bold, creative, collaborative and will make for a great conference.

  5. 10
    Karim Varela

    1. In an ideal tech industry, we would rather have our products get to market more effectively rather than more quickly, but we can’t overlook the fact that the mobile industry has the potential to be the biggest booming industry ever. There’s no way that we can monitor the speed that products come into the market, especially as the airwaves are opened up in the United States. Consumers want tomorrow’s technology in their phones now; this includes software and hardware. Yes, the key to making it in this industry is giving the consumer exactly what they want and making it easy to use, but we cannot diminish the importance of time to market.

    3. There is no way that mobile advertising will fail. It’s just too easy. We can already stream ads to apps and ads are already appearing within mobile games. I think that in 5 years your phone’s web browser will be just as polluted with ads as your computer’s.

    4. I’d like to see this taken a step further and not only take into account the user’s physical environment, but also their location. Once more carriers unlock the GPS on the phones, we are in for a slew of new personalization features. It will be very fun.

  6. 11
    Marek Pawlowski

    Picking up on your comments Karim, I agree with you that time-to-market is an important consideration, but I also think there is a danger that rushing certain types of service into commercial launch before they’re truly useable can cause a wave of negative publicity. Customers talk to each other and a disparaging remark from a friend is a sure-fire way to stop other users from trying a service. The result is an overall slower adoption curve, even if the initial product hits the market more quickly. First generation WAP is the classic example of this.

    With regards to mobile advertising, you say: ‘I think that in 5 years your phone’s web browser will be just as polluted…’ and there is ‘no way’ it will fail. I would argue that if we reach a point where people feel their phone’s are ‘polluted’ by advertising, the industry will have failed. There is an opportunity to make mobile advertising a valuable addition to the user experience – if we as an industry fail to seize that opportunity, we will fail to realise the full revenue potential.

  7. 13
    zunguri

    Interesting and somewhat naive list.

    While I don’t disagree with #1, I cannot find a significant number of examples with compelling arguments to have delayed technology introduction.

    As an open-source proponent I have to agree with #2 as well but what you refer as fragmentation is merely the artifact of competition.

    Predictions of the failure of mobile advertising are as unconvincing as the revenue projections of ad model proponents. Do not underestimate the power of parsimony and the degree to which the consumer will tolerate intrusion…(up until that time when alternate delivery models begin a “race to the bottom? in ad revenues.)

    Regarding #4, I would assert that devices ARE becoming more environmentally aware with adaptive sound and lighting modes. Keep in mind that consistency and predictability are highly valued by the consumer and acceptance of new approaches varies widely by demographic. My conclusion is that devices better fitting different user classes are required; one size does NOT fit all.

    5: I would say “excessively discount? rather than “failing to recognize?. The organizations in volved are not stupid; they merely see the expense of trying to cover the field with more appropriate devices and decide to wait for someone else to be the loss leader. Again varying widely by demographic this is an area easier to track than to draw conclusions from.

    The current embedded intelligence (and inherent networking capabilities) only foreshadows a much greater mesh communications revolution ahead. Adding the environmental awareness of position and sensing (image, sound, etc.) hint at a much more profound impact on human life, some positive and some eerily negative. (Don’t think about this too much while watching 24 on your phone.)

    7: YES! Mass customization might be the phrase you are looking for.

    I’m sure my opinion on 8 differs from most. Beginning with blogs and quickly followed by myspace and youtube I find surprisingly little interesting or valuable content and far more self-importance and ego indulgence. I do agree that the majority of this dreck is coming from our increasingly function-packed devices.

    9: Sorry, this is dated. Both the end-user customization and multimedia interface technologies are well represented in devices introduced in 2006.

    The service pricing point was the most amusing. Let me disabuse you of the notion that service providers have an interest in providing service plans well suited to end-user desires. This portion of the food chain still runs on ARPU and will continue to do so even as competitive technologies begin to hammer profits. The smarter and more dynamic pricing can be seen on the horizon…looking in the direction of WiMax. While it won’t be a new “sliced bread? it will shake up the cellcos/telcos enough to bring about your vision.

  8. 16
    David Harper

    IMHO thinking differently about part of #8 is critical:

    We think the success of user-generated content, social networking and community interaction through mobile devices will depend on enhancing rather than replicating the desktop experience.”

    The mobile world is overflowing with wonderful ways to publish text, photos, video – location-based, user-generated data of all types – from a mobile device to a Web site or community.

    This content creation during daily, moble activites can certainly enhance and suppliment the desktop experience.

    When it comes to the mobile consumption of content and access to community I beg to differ with the notion that enhancement rather than replicating the desktop experience should be the focus – especially in something as important as a manefesto.

    This approach (enhancement not replication) relects the thinking of broadband users whose primary access to the internet are computers NOT mobile devices.

    And while I don’t think replication is what anyone should strive for (as mobile services should take advantage of and reflect mobile capabilities and needs etc.) placing the focus on enhancement ONLY falls short.

    Mobile access to the Internet has surpassed desktop access and for tens (hundreds?) of millions their mobile phone is their primary pipeline onto the Internet, to the knowledge and services it contains, and to each other. For these people their entire “connected? world is what they can publish AND consume directly on their phone. Mobile devices are not only the natural choice for interacting with communities it is their ONLY choice. As such people who are primary mobile need equal access to content and communties. A broadband users expectation or desire for enhancement of Internet services fall short for mobile users and perhaps even hold them down to the status of second-class citizens of the Internet.

    I suggest we strive to connect everyone to all the great content, thoughts, and services bouncing around the Internet (albiet in a mobile optimized and device appropriate manner).

    By providing a greater number of people with full(er) mobile services (rather then enhanced desktop ancillary services), you provide opportunity for an even greater number of people to benefit.

  9. 18
    Marek Pawlowski

    Following up on David Harper’s reply about enhancement versus replication, I wanted to clarify what was meant by the manifesto point. We see enhancement as meaning a service which delivers all the best parts of the existing desktop experience but in a way that is optimised the unique characteristics of the mobile environment. We are not suggesting the mobile version of social networking services should be seen as an adjunct.

    For instance, simply adding the ability to send text messages to your blog page or access a WAP version of MySpace is insufficient. When thinking about mobile, social networking services need to consider how unique features – such as integrated access to a digital camera, location awareness and the ability to make voice calls could be used to enhance their mobile offerings.

    As a more general point, I think it is worth noting the difference between users who have internet-enabled mobile handsets and those who actually use that capability. While there are probably several hundred million handsets in active use which could access web content in one way or another, the number of people who do that or can expect an experience that qualifies as even basically useable is still very small. It will take much more than shipping handsets with WAP browsers to get the disconnected in the developing world online!

  10. 19
    David Harper

    Thanks Marek for the clarification.

    Re: “While there are probably several hundred million handsets in active use which could access web content in one way or another, the number of people who do that or can expect an experience that qualifies as even basically useable is still very small. It will take much more than shipping handsets with WAP browsers to get the disconnected in the developing world online!”

    Perhaps I’m biased in my thinking but I suggest you would be surprised by how active this space already is. At winksite.com for example we have 250K people a month in over 150 counties accessing rss feeds, reading creative commons licensed books, engaging in forums, chat rooms and polls.

    ..and the action is not primarily on high-end phones with XHTML browsers We’re experiencing 10’s of millions of mobile screen views via low-end, WAP phones with web access.

    For many of these individuals (especially those in the developing world) the mobile internet is their primary onramp to the Internet.

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