31st August 2015

The sharing economy isn't just for startups

It's been just over a month since we moved into our new offices, and even though we've only been in The Priory for a short while, it's starting to feel a lot like home.

To mark this new chapter for Each&Other, we want to keep in contact, and share with you, each month, some of the most insightful articles, thought-pieces, and designs that our strategists and designers have been discussing.

We'll share with you our own take on the service and digital economies – where we think they're headed, and how you can stay ahead of the emerging trends.

How the sharing economy is coming of age

When will the Sharing Economy simply become another part of The Economy? Probably pretty soon. Since 2011 regulators, tax men, and legislators have struggled to figure out what the likes of Uber, Hailo, and AirBnb actually are. And as difficult a task as that is, they have had even more trouble figuring out how to classify the people who work for them – neither employees nor contractors these workers cannot be adequately defined by existing employment or tax laws.

San Francisco, perhaps more than any other city is working to figure this out. Last year it became one of the first the first to collect tax from the sharing economy, by charging a 14% occupancy tax on users of Airbnb.

In July, San Fran's courts were asked to rule on whether Lyft and Uber drivers were contractors or employees, to which one judge commented "the jury in this case will be handed a square peg and asked to choose between two round holes." While more recently, France's Minister for the Economy, Finance and Industry – following widespread protests protests by Taxi drivers – said the country's Taxi-regulation laws need to be updated.

But the growing sharing economy also provides opportunities for established industries. The insurers that design home insurance packages for Airbnb hosts, and car insurances products for Uber drivers will steal ahead of their competitors. And banks that design savings accounts and pension plans for those who make their living from the sharing economy will equally reap rewards.

Read more about the maturing sharing economy.

With analytics, it's not what you measure, but who you measure

How many users does your site receive each month? Whatever the number, chances are it’s wrong. Even in 2015 it’s not possible to accurately measure websites’ traffic; and not being able to accurately measure sites’ audiences is not just a problem for site owners, but also for advertisers.

As the number crunchers behind fivethirtyeight.com point out,

“In an age when we assume our phones and laptops are tracking our every move, taking an actual head count of how many people go to a website is still almost impossible.”

The problem, or at least one of them, is that the systems designed to measure website traffic were designed 20 years ago, for the world of Netscape, dial-up, and PCs. These days, your customers jump between mobiles, tablets, and (in ever decreasing numbers) laptops. So getting any accurate measure of an individual’s behaviour online is increasingly difficult.

But there are ways around this for savvy analytics users. When analysing your data focus on behaviours (where did users come from, what pages did they land on, and on what pages did they leave?), and separate these by device – do mobile users behave differently to desktop or table users?

Read more about the trouble with analytics

The designer who beat obsolescence

“Design,” said Jobs, “is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” When Jobs said this he owed a debt of gratitude to the great Dieter Rams, the Chief Design Officer at Braun. If you don't know him by name, you'll know Rams by his work. Over the past 60 years his designs have not only become iconic, but they are classics.

At the centre of Rams’ success as a designer are his Ten Principles of Good Design, which explain that design needn’t be intrusive or flashy. As Rams says, “Good design makes a product understandable.”

Rams may have been designing before the terms UX and Service Design had been coined, yet his products have outlasted, and outclassed, others' because of his singular focus on designing for the user. And what was true for Rams in the 1960s is true for businesses today.

See how Dieter Rams designed for the customer