Test-driving Motorola's Moto X customization tool

Motorola is giving customers the tools to design their own version of the Moto X, and hopefully the means by which it will differentiate itself.

Motorola will soon give consumers the ability to personalize their own smartphones. It is a bold move to reshape the oldest brand name in the smartphone business. Android dominates the market in total volume and technical innovation, but lags in physical design.

Motorola previewed its consumer web portal “Moto Maker” yesterday that consumers will use to design and purchase Moto X smartphones, joining brand icon Nike in giving consumers the means of self expression intended to enrich brand recognition.

No doubt, the Moto X will be recognized by smartphone enthusiasts because of the wide variety of noticeably different colors. With more than 200 unique color combinations, the Moto X will be a conversation starter. If the rainbow-hued Moto X reaches high-market penetration, as intended by Motorola, it will enlarge brand awareness as observant consumers will come to associate color diversity and personalization with Motorola.

To benchmark Moto Maker I first went to the NikeID website and designed a pair of soccer shoes. Nike has led the move to consumer mass customization, opening its first NikeID personalization portal in 2009.

Nike built a simple and smooth user experience (UX) that steps first-time consumer designers through choosing options with a click and moving from choice to choice with a “next” and “previous” button. Each personalization selection was reflected on the onscreen shoe sample until the design was complete. It was simple to use the “prev” button or a progress status bar to navigate sequentially or randomly to change a color choice to experiment with the visual effects.

Using similar design principles, the Moto Maker UX was as good as or better than that of NikeID. Improving on the NikeID’s four-week shipment times, Motorola has organized its supply chain to deliver the Moto X to extend the personalization experience with four-day delivery.

Selection of each personalization choice with one click is reflected in the onscreen rendering of the Moto X. Navigation backwards and forwards sequentially or randomly between personalization choices is straight-forward and responsive. The two portals would be ranked almost equally, except Moto Maker has better animation. Moto Maker automatically changes the orientation of the onscreen rendering of the Moto X to improve the consumer’s perspective of the most recent choice. Moto Maker also has a more flexible rotate tool.

I tested a few other personalization portals, but none offered as good a UX or comparable response times to the Moto Maker or NikeID sites. Most companies really don’t have an option to build a modest personalization portal. If a company is to lure consumers into a personal dialog, the consumer UX needs to be effortless, and the initial experience needs to be continuous, intuitive and rewarding.

Motorola has made a bold move investing in Moto Maker and its supply chain logistics. Its designers and web developers have achieved the first step in Motorola’s plan by creating a positive Moto Maker experience. In the coming months, forward-looking indicators of Motorola’s success will be increasing recognition by consumers that a colorful smartphone is the mark of the Motorola brand.

It’s becoming more challenging to differentiate high-end Android smartphones based on specifications, and almost impossible to get a midrange Android smartphone noticed using any gimmick other than a low price. Investing in Moto Maker is a break from the Android manufacturer arms race of engineering higher-performance specifications and touting a feature glut of proprietary apps.

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