Island Economics and UX

“Island Economics” has three stages:

1- Import inexpensive materials

2- Raise the value of those materials

3- Export at a high price

Island economics is my new UX mantra.  When a client wants to improve their website or build a mobile app, there is a reason.  Perhaps the conversion rate is lacking or usability is a concern.  At that point, taking a client means importing their materials when they are at a low point…or if “low point” is too harsh, then at least a point at which the goals are far from being achieved…

The next step is to increase the value.  Here the formula is more clear: research, regenerate, re-do, remake, refresh.  Increasing the value could come from something cliche like moving a button to a better location based on A/B testing or determining a better information architecture system.  There are lots of finer points here, but the bottom line is that this is the nitty gritty of UX work.

Finally, the initial project is exported at a higher price, meaning it has become something much better and now it can achieve the initially stated goals with ease.  Additionally, if there were certain metrics included in the initial goals, they can be tested and shown to be higher.

I stumbled on this idea of island economics while listening to an audiobok of the history of Nintendo.  The Nintendo corporation, and Japan in general, had a long history of taking mode technology and re-inventing it as game-playing devices with fantastic games, and then exporting these games to the United States.  Although I currently work more on web and mobile, video games should be a mainstay setting for UX work.  The entire point of video games is to provide a specific experience.  Without going in to too much detail about the book (Jeff Ryan’s How Nintendo Conquered America), I will just say that Nintendo’s corporate structure as well as Japan’s island economics provide an interesting look at ways to consider user experience projects.

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