Tuesday, October 28, 2008

UrbanBaby.com + CNET: Someone Didn't Tell Them That Not Knowing Your Customers Can Suck

Clive Thompson of Wired Magazine wrote an article in this month's issue called, "Social Networks and the Wrath of Moms". He tells the story of how UrbanBaby.com's purchasers CNET unleashed a "redesign" and subsequently jettisoned a large portion of their user base. Didn't they read about Guba last year? The redesign carelessly dispensed with features that their addicted users adored. Making matters worse for CNET is that two of these unhappy users were web developers. They re-created the old user experience they and many other UrbanBaby fanatics loved on a new website, YouBeMom.com. How long did it take for them to launch their competing online product? 7 days. 

This story is not just a testament to how incredibly fast online products can be developed and deployed, but also to how little companies pay attention to their customers. Why bother paying for an online product as CNET did and not bother to learn what the customers they inherited care about? They should have had that data before embarking on any features update, let alone an entire redesign. 

More and more people will have the ability to launch a product without needing a corporation behind them. Companies that don't know who their customers are and what their customers value will find it hard to compete in this new world. Focus solely on the technology of a product at your peril. 

By the way, read the comments section on the "About YouBeMom" page to see the debate on the ethics of duplicating someone else's product. Betty in NJ asks the question of feeling guilty over stealing the brand from UrbanBaby. In between all the nasty responses was an insightful reply from Another marketing voice who says:

They trademarked the brand and unfortunately did not continue to deliver on the brand promise, which in turn opened up an opportunity for a competitor to come in and do it better.

I have to agree. Brand Promise = Repeatedly Delivered Good User Experience. 

Read the complete WIRED article here: 

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pop Culture Reference: Wassup Guys Return

Back at the turn of the century (Yes, this one), it was impossible to traverse an office of cubicles without hearing someone greet a co-worker with wassssssssuuuuuuup. This line came from "The Wassup Guys" who were a group of friends that made a Budweiser commercial. They became a pop culture phenomenona, who were Parodied repeatedly over the years.

These same childhood friends got back together to create a sequel this week. It shows where they are now. Times aren't as simple as they were back in 2000, and the re-use of their pop-culture. I would also like to see a sequel to Budweiser's own parody of the yuppies exclaiming, "What are you doing?". Where are they now?

Utilizing pop culture in design can be just as powerful. Enjoy:

Direct link to video on YouTube:

Here is a link to their official website if you want to take a walk down memory lane:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WIRED: Don't Blog Anymore -- Wait...What Was That?!?

Paul Boutin has written an article for WIRED.com branding blogging as passe. Yes, if you are reading this, you are not hip. Clearly I am much less hip for writing it. In his article, he points out all the new tools we have online to share our thoughts instead of blogging. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are his new recommended tools of choice. 

While I agree with Paul that blogging has evolved and lost its innocence, I have to disagree with his conclusions. Facebook is a completely different experience to me, as is YouTube and Twitter. They are all tools we can use in our online arsenal of sharing ourselves. I like how they all interact together, as opposed of just choosing one. I like uploading videos to YouTube (or YouTube-wannabes) and embedding them on my blog or my website or on Facebook. I can't see micro-blogging on Twitter replacing blogging with entries like, "End of the first day back at work. Curious." But I do see them adding to create a fuller experience of how we share our insight on the web. 

Here is the entire WIRED article:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Yahoo's Home Page Redesign Process and User Feedback

The New York Times has a great article on the process Yahoo is using to redesign their home page. In it, they interview Tapan Bhat who is leading this effort. The NY Times labels the design effort "stealth innovation" because it is done in steps to assuage the push back from addicted users.

My focus on this article and effort is how Yahoo is dealing with loyal users of a mature web product. It seems as if they have put the user feedback at the end of the lifecycle process with a component to deal with unexpected things. In other words, they expected push back, so they moved ahead with their strategic design changes knowing they would have to modify them. It's sort of like the user taking a nasty medicine in small doses, but in the end they will feel a lot better.

Read the entire article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/19/business/19ping.html

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Innovation: Google Strives To Makes the World's Information Useful...And Less Embarrassing

If you have a Gmail account, you should take the time to go through the Labs section of "Settings" area. They have oodles of little add-ons that you can enable to make your Gmail-ing experience a better one. One of them, however, is a bit odd. "Mail Goggles" is for those who may be drunk-typing late at night. Pat O’Brien may want to enable this feature. 

What interested me most about these add-on settings is that they are the result of a culture of innovation at Google. Could you imagine trying to get "Mail Goggles" approved to be developed in your organization? We need more of this, especially during the tough times we are or about to face in this economy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The New York Daily News - If They Had a Website in 1973

The New York Daily News did something interesting. They took their current website design and populated it with stories as if it was 1973. The stories on this anachronistic edition span the entire year of 1973 instead of just today's date. It's fun to scan through the main categories as if it was then again and there was a such thing called the internet. There was Watergate, OJ ran for 2,000 yards, McCain was released from the Hanoi Hilton, the Twin Towers were unveiled and we had an oil crisis. Serpico made its debut, the Knicks won the NBA championship and Billy Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs. 

The Daily News also created a special version of their style sheet to make the pages look old and tattered. Of course, there were 2008 advertising banners all over the place, but this was still a fun experience. 

Here is a link: http://www.nydailynews.com/1973/homepage/

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Pareidolia Rules: My Car Has a Mean Face

I just read about this study with findings that show people prefer cars that look masculine and angry. Inferring human facial traits actually skewed the results of people's preferences. I'd have to agree…I'd love to have the mean-looking Alfa Romeo 159 pictured above. 

Can we apply this to user experience design? Everyone has heard the phrase, "That's a mean looking car" but have you ever called a website, "mean-looking"? I've heard clean and polished, but not mean or angry. I may have to try and design one soon. 

Read more about the angry-faced car study:

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Facebook Managing Change As If They Didn’t Have Addicted Users

Every web company out there wants to be at the same point on the customer adoption curve as Facebook is. Facebook has moved from stalled adoption, past rapid adoption to addicted users. Recently, there has been backlash from millions of those addicted users from their latest redesign. 

There is a lot of debate about the Facebook redesign online. Check out IXDA's discussion. My observation is not on the interface level, but on the overall approach Facebook took on this redesign. On the surface, they chose a rationale method and seemed very inclusive of their users. They prepared them in advance and asked for feedback along the way. It seems to me that where they may have missed a beat was they treated this redesign as if they weren't so far along in the customer adoption curve. 

During the stalled phase of customer adoption you can make major changes to a product without much fear. There is an abundance of care you must use when your user base expands beyond nine figures. So where did Facebook go wrong? It seems as if they elicited feedback, but didn't properly filter the correct themes from it. Also, they could have gone into this redesign without the inclusion of this feedback in the product lifecycle. Who knows, but clearly they missed something here. 

It's important to remember that whenever you have addicted users you will always have people that resist change. They will have negative feedback from them even if it is in their best interest to change. You can't stand still in business in general, but it's even more important to innovate online. This is the fine line Facebook needs to walk in order to stay on top. Don't be afraid to innovate, but truly understand your customers and be prepared for including findings when you do. 

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Food of New Jersey, Flickr-style

I found this great group pool on Flickr, which has 11 members who post nothing by images of food taken in New Jersey. While there are a lot of images of fast food that you could take anywhere on the planet, there are a lot of NJ-centric images here. Jersey tomatoes, italian (fried) hot dogs, diner food and more. Enjoy!