Sunday, February 17, 2008

Good User Experience Design Lives In The Little Things: Jott Account Creation


I came across this service called Jott. I thought it would be useful for quickly jotting down ideas for blog entries and other things I want to note quickly. Having two small children has definitely impacted my ability to remember things in some strange way. How Jott works is you call a toll-free number and speak for up to 30 seconds. Jott then transcribes the recording into a text message and keeps the recording for you to retrieve whenever you want. Seems ideal for someone with sporadic, partial memory loss like myself.

I haven't used it enough to say if it is good or bad, but the user interface design for account creation and setup was really good. Watch the video to see the small checkmarks that appeared for validation. It almost was fun making them appear. These small visual cues were a part of the entire account creation process that not only made everything easy, but enjoyable. The graphics were pretty and the feedback was good. They let me know what step I was at along the way, which included having to call an 800 number. All of these tiny user interface details could never have been part of a business requirements document. There is something else that needs to be part of a product lifecycle to make sure these small, enjoyable things are consistently part of the output.

I'm looking forward to using this and seeing if Jott keeps garnering such good user experience feedback from me.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Online Advertising Is Still Full of Evildoers


Just when you thought Google tamed the savage banner ad into something usable and possibly helpful, comes...Evildoer advertising!

They knowingly use visual cues that news organizations use to make it seem like you are reading content from the website you trust. Doesn't this break your trust with the news organization that let's these people advertise? Shouldn't news orgs have some sort of guidelines to what their advertisers can put on their web pages that bans this type of deceiving ad?

  1. "Breaking News" header
    Red "Breaking News" background color with the actual words, "Breaking News" as the header. As if you will read some really important news here!
  2. Misleading Story Title
    They use fake content that seems real – The Fed cut the rate a half point 2 weeks prior and might again in a few weeks, but this is NOT today's news. This makes it seem like yet another story on the page to read. They even use the same larger font and color most news orgs use.
  3. Video Icon
    The advertiser uses the same video icon that news orgs use to make it seem like you are getting special video content here. They even use viral video content to catch your eye. Feh.
  4. In-Context Links
    This is the most evil part of the ad. If you are winnowing through the website looking for interesting articles, you might just click here thinking you will get a real news article. It's the most evil because you are trusting the news website and could possibly give up personal info on subsequent links. They are absolutely tracking you and who knows what else. Evil!

I've seen this done in magazines, but this is much, much worse done online. With my magazine, I can't go from being misled to giving away financial information within a couple clicks. I'd much rather see a House committee hearing on this than one on who is injecting 'roids in their rear. Deceiving online advertising obviously isn't as attractive as that and Truck Nutz to capture the attentions of our government.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nuts On Trucks?

I'm driving to work after lunch the other day, and there they were...Dangling in front of me...Testicles hanging from the trailer hitch of pickup truck.

The website that sells these scrotal ornaments have them in red, chrome, orange, pink, flesh, black, fireball, gold, silver, blue, green, white...You get the picture. Here is part of the description from a website that sells them:

These are probably the most popular type of truck nut on the market today. They have veins and wrinkles, and one nut hangs just a little lower. They're made of solid polypropylene and weigh about a pound. The color is all the way through on this item, so it won't scratch off.

Color won't scratch off! Innovation! This means that prior versions of these phony plums had negative customer feedback travel back to the bogus-ball-making labs for improvements. I would really hate that if my truck nuts lost their fleshy luster. People might not think they were real and ruin my truck-nutting experience. What would happen if I dangled purple pygmy nads from my laptop at Starbucks? Are there any other types of human anatomy going into rubbery production soon? Hood-jugz?

It's all fun and games until the government hears their voting constituents chirping about these evil doers. Forget the primaries. It turns out there are senators across the land right now trying to ban these rubber man-berries. It's nuts.

Facebook Wants My Passport To Post Music

Here's is the background that led to this story: I was writing an email to someone I knew in college. I wanted to share some of the music I have recorded with them, so I thought of my options. Email, Divshare, MySpace...Facebook? Facebook Pages has a music player built into them, so I thought that this would be a good choice. Ready to take action...

I created the Facebook Page for myself, and then quickly hit a wall when I went in to upload my music. I was asked to verify that I "formally represent"...me? Facebook wanted me to upload an image of my passport, drivers license or school ID. Who would digitize something this critical to their identity and then readily give it away online to anyone, let alone a social networking website? There is an enormous arrogance swelling here. No thanks, Facebook.

I've been very wary of Facebook's handling of our private data, as have many in the blogosphere and beyond. Last November, Facebook's Beacon ad service made headlines on just that topic. Facebook installed user-interaction-sniffing cookies that worked even when users were logged out of Facebook. This led to the awful stories that circulated about Facebook letting friends know of the presents you bought for them. Bad User Experience factor of 99, Creep factor of 11. Debutante CEO Mark Zuckerberg took responsibility for Beacon transgressions and apologized a few months ago, but am I now ready to surrender my Passport information to his company? Strange notions of user experience going on here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Crowdsourcing Kills Adobe Stock Photos


Adobe is closing its doors to Stock Photos, less than three years after it first opened them. Adobe Stock Photos was an aggregator for stock photo houses such as Comstock and Photodisc. They are trying to gracefully remove the application from its installed base of CS3 users by providing email notification, online FAQs, and a countdown to its doomsday. Here are some of the more colorful answers from Adobe on the demise of Stock Photos:

So, what do you do now? Conclude your business with Adobe Stock Photos.

Will Adobe Stock Photos appear in any form in the next version of Adobe Creative Suite? It is Adobe's corporate policy not to comment on future product strategy.

Why is the service being discontinued? Adobe has decided to concentrate its efforts in other areas.

Hmmmm...No mention of pricing here. Clearly that is a core reason for this. With images costing between $150 - $500 each, I can see why they weren't successful. Wired had an article about how crowdsourcing was killing off professional photography prices last year:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.06/crowds.html

Read more official (non)answers as to why Adobe is closing shop:
http://www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/stockphotos/faq/

The King of Search Is...The Better User Experience


There is an article by Eve Tahmincioglu on MSNBC.com that discusses why Google won't be dethroned by Microsoft, Yahoo or a Microhoo hybrid. The quotes in the article come from Carnegie Mellon, Motley Fool and the Tuck School of Business. They talk about the U.S. Justice Department and the European Community. They discuss says how much sense the deal makes to technology analysts and share valuation and blah blah blah. At the same time, Google is chirping like Apple once did about the proposed takeover. They say they fear an end to openness and innovation if the deal goes through in an ABCNews.com article.

When it comes to who the King of Search is and will be, you don't need all this deep thinking and possible litigation. It's all about the User Experience. Nobody thought you could build a better search engine when Yahoo was king. How did founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin get news organizations to talk about them in the same business language as Microsoft and Yahoo? How did they get people to make Google their home page? It's fast to load, it works as we expect it to. It does what we want and we are happy when we use Google. We told our friends about Google. It's that simple. Who is the next King of Anything? The answer is in who will create the next great user experience that we pass around once again.

Look at MySpace. Not so long after Rupert Murdoch paid $580 million for the social networking community comes Facebook. How did that happen? People get bored. It can't be a single good user experience; it has to be repeated good user experience for people to stay with you. Who will be the next Facebook? Cash in now, Zuckerberg, or keep delivering things that we like.