The Brave New World of Prosumer Experience

The long weekend of non-stop rainy weather presented rare opportunity of organizing the thoughts on the new developments in the industry and prepare to my presentations at the upcoming Fourth Farata Symposium ahead of time. Over the course of two days the consolidated theme emerged – these projects I’ll demo at the symposium are going to be about Prosumer eXperience (PX).

Every element of the software I will be showing has to be upgraded from the plain vanilla Flex/BlazeDS/AIR functionality to adjust and match the target audience. The efforts included creation of a brand new sets of controls, mobile devices integration, modifications in communication protocols, PDF/files integration. Everything needs to be consumer-oriented – with touch interface, simple navigation, integration with voice / phone/location services, contacts, etc. And at the same time it should allow repetitive use by an experienced user in the speed of the back-end systems so UI should not stay in a way of productivity. The conventional approach to the user experience fails. Finally, the same application has to be available on all platforms – PCs, Macs, tablets, TVs – to be really accessible by consumers. Its a long journey, and we are not even a half way there.

Let me define thisĀ  “pro” in the term prosumer. The term was coined by futurologist Alvin Toffler in 1980,it’s not commonly used today. Loosely, Toffler’s “proactive consumer” prosumers were consumers who were predicted to each become active to help personally improve or design the goods and services of the marketplace, transforming it and their roles as consumers. Basically it is another term of user driven approach, with user feedback as a main driver for new features/streamlined workflow. Simplicity is the king, and the current level of service desk/community driven software makes the whole process both simple and pragmatic.

The most common usage of the term describes the prosumers as enthusiasts who buy products that fall between professional and consumer grade standards in quality, complexity, or functionality. One of my applications (it’s for insurance salesmen) is specifically targeting 250K-1M people that are in that category. I was amazed to find out how many people in banks, investment companies, etc. fall in this category of users.

Finally, the “producing consumer” prosumer creates goods for their own use and also possibly to sell. Wikipedia states it is uncommon usage. I respectfully disagree. At this stage, we all are producing consumers of Google, Amazon and other services. It would be stupid not to capitalize on users experience in our client’s domain field. My post graduate work was on expert systems. I will be showing how AI built upon rule-based expert system for financial services are affected by facts – statistics and field feedback – to produce the results that actually work.

PX is an upgraded, almost a back-office grade software short of administrative and final approval functions allowing users to achieve more of what they want without training with access to a decision making process of the best in business and with amazingly simple interface. As you decide to go down the rabbit hole, more information used to make decision is exposed allowing you either take different turns or ejecting you into different hole. Think of it as a continuous search based process with context that becomes your product – a kind of a shopping cart. Think of the process of buying a new computer when you start with buying a laptop and end up with a server and tablet or vice versa – it’s based on what you really need.

Prosumers are building their world of information, and these networks (unlike the social ones) can become extremely wide-spread and very sophisticated. While Google+ is aiming @ consolidating facebook, tweeter, meetup and linkedin in a better connected net, its search services or verticals are working across all the users, providing much greater value. Capturing the information and applying similar approach becomes the fashion of the day and a foundation of the new business models.

Anatole Tartakovsky