Tag Archives: ux

Like quickly – timing is everything

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In my previous write-up I spoke of the long tail of taste, how it affects our public persona and how we use it to quickly gauge who is worthy of our social graces. I sited the long tail as one of the premises for conjuring up Just Liked. Today I would like to turn to premise number two, which I believe is no less important.

Couple of weeks ago my wife and I happened to vacation in Prague. When we arrived at the hotel, we were cordially ushered in, pampered and treated in the most courteous manner possible. The service was impeccable. What was my first urge? Well, to recommend the hotel, of course.

I just started using Google Nexus One as my phone the week prior, and I already loaded it with all the location-based services goodness. I popped open FourSquare but ICON Hotel and Lounge was not in the database. Every imaginable venue in and around the building was, but not the hotel where we stayed.

I then did the same for Google Maps just to verify that I was not going insane. The hotel was there, but there didn’t seem an easy way to recommend it. At least neither app offered an immediate way to channel the superb experience I was having into a recommendation that my friends could use. It seems now that I should have been a little more patient and used Google Maps to search for the hotel and attack the problem from that angle, but that’s not the point.

Now, the point:

If you can’t attend to the urge to share or record a fleeting emotion in a 10-30 second interval, then it’s gone forever.

It's ticking...

It’s like pre-history. If you can’t write it down, it’s lost for the future generations. And these good feelings come and go very quickly. The memory of the positive experience stays with you, but the urge to share it with others fades. The memory alone does not provide enough motivation to return to the task, and you move on to something else.

I know what you are thinking:

How the hell are all the reviews on Yelp and similar sites generated?

Or if you are a bit more subtle in your delivery:

Pardon me, how the hell are all the reviews on Yelp and similar sites generated?

I don’t know. I guess the people who write reviews are somehow special. I think there is the “recommender” type, one who incessantly pores over every aspect of their existence to review and recommend every relevant bit. I am also sometimes struck by the length of these reviews. Some of these are treatises, not reviews. I suspect that few Yelpers recommend a lot of things, and a lot of Yelpers recommend a couple of things, but there is a huge gap in between.  There are few prolific reviewers and many who rely on the few for advice.

One possible reason for the gap is that there is no instant, like anything, anywhere type of service. People feel good about a service or a product or whatever else a lot more than what is already captured by the existing review sites. Why not capture more?

That’s what we are trying to do.

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Thinking about user experience is exhilirating

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After 3+ years of doing technical marketing for an embedded software B2B product I am only now realizing how much I’ve missed all things connected to consumers, user interfaces and user experience.

Thinking about all the great things we can do with our JustLiked app gets me really excited about the future, so is learning JQuery and Django and brushing up on HTML. But that’s just the boring part of learning, the really cool part is putting our humble assumptions in front of real people and iterating like mad. Alas, I know have the opportunity to do so.

The whole lean startup movement (which I’ve been thinking a lot about lately), its product and customer development cycles, its learn and iterate fast mantra are a natural fit for web/mobile/consumer apps where we don’t ship boxes, manufacture anything or have complicated IP licensing terms for legal to review over the course of 2 months. I know the grass is always greener on the other side, I am just hopeful that everyone on the other side appreciates how good they have it there. I do too now.

To say that consumer play is an entirely different ballgame from B2B is to say nothing at all. It’s two different universes, and I am about to find out how well I fare in this new one.

What do IRC, Twitter and a sense of bewilderment have in common?

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My first run in with IRC happened about 10 years ago. I was taking CS3210 class (now defunct) at Georgia Tech where we had to learn about OS internals by finding our way around the Linux kernel. We tried out all of our little kernel hacks on a Compaq iPaq device to which we had root access. Those were some fun projects, and at one point I found myself on an IRC channel dedicated to helping Linux newbies playing with iPaq’s.

Twitter feed circa 1740 (or IRC chat capture, I couldn't quite tell)

I don’t really remember what I was looking for or what brought me there, but what stayed with me was the memory of utter bewilderment and incomprehensibility of this mode of communication. I understood IM; I understood older, 90’s style chatrooms, and I was for all intents and purposes a technically inclined person, a kernel hacker even.

IRC to me was something arcane. This feeling was reinforced by bizarre server messages, cryptic lingo, strange interfaces, and routine and nonchalant rudeness heaped onto newbies. The more I think about it the more negative a user experience I am able to recall. Now here we are in 2010, and I have this conversation with a friend, who is a Twitter virgin, explaining what Twitter is all about (Conversation was shortened and paraphrased, identities of those involved protected.):

me: these are microblogs. every message is like an SMS, just 140 characters long. i.e. there are a lot of small messages on different subjects.

friend: clearly i don’t get it :)

me: here is an example: http://twitter.com/ibagrak i know it’s complicated :)

friend: it looks like random ravings, crazy talk

me: thanks :) context is everything. people are exchanging messages, and without context it’s really hard to understand.

friend: is there no better place where messages like this can be exchanged? i mean, this is completely out in the open, right?

me: yes, exactly

friend: it seems people who tweet do so either out of loneliness or sheer boredom. i can’t see any other reason.

<end scene>

So there you have it…

I think the two experiences have more than enough in common. Despite the fact that Twitter and IRC are two applications designed for two ends of technically savvy spectrum, I would argue that neither one offers an optimal experience for its audience and new users especially. Yes, both are immensely popular, but as long as the latter conversation takes place how could anyone argue about Twitter entering mainstream?

I don’t want to knock Twitter (or IRC). Not all apps are designed for Normals. In fact, great apps can deliver great value without being designed for Normals, and I think Twitter is a living proof that. But I also think there are simple things that Twitter and IRC could do, really minor cosmetic stuff in view of everything else that’s been done, that could vastly improve user experience.

But the point is even if Twitters of this world choose not to budge, it doesn’t matter. It only matters that we choose to do it right in our application.