It is one thing to believe something, and an entirely different animal to put that belief into an articulate argument for that belief. This quote by Vignelli explains the true issues of trusting focus groups and market testing.
"I don’t believe in market research. I don’t believe in marketing the way it’s done in America. The American way of marketing is to answer to the wants of the customer instead of answering to the needs of the customer. The purpose of marketing should be to find needs — not to find wants.
People do not know what they want. They barely know what they need, but they definitely do not know what they want. They’re conditioned by the limited imagination of what is possible. … Most of the time, focus groups are built on the pressure of ignorance." via BrainPickings
Whenever someone asks me to do a focus group, I usually begin with asking that person what they want the focus group to answer. It is usually quite easy to guess the normal responses. Especially if the product or service is entirely new.
It's not that the focus group isn't observant or brilliant, they quite often are. The problem stems from them not having enough time with the product or service to really give us the important information. And sadly we can't observe a tester for weeks.
Don't confused with testing for quality assurance purposes, I've never seen a project without a few rough corners left, and that sort of testing is essential.
As I've written about before I love Twitter, the service, but I'm not very impressed by Twitter the company. Twitter wants to change that, Twitters claims they have changed. This time things will be different. The problem is that Twitter seems to have become even less likeable. A few days ago Twitter launched Digits, a service completely unrelated to their core product. Possibly because they don't like the whole micro-blogging thing. Digits is a service to help people log in without emails or passwords (in detail over on the Verge).
The interesting part, to me, is how Twitter deals with developers.
Twitter now wants to reach out to developers, to tell us they've changed, by inviting us to a conference about what sounds like dev tools:
As a peace offering, Twitter on Wednesday is expected to announce a suite of tools that aim to make it easier for programmers to build apps, according to people familiar with the matter. - WSJ
But Twitter already burned developers severely a few years ago by closing down APIs. They burned developers so much that Marco Arment just wrote a scathing blog post arguing that we can't trust them. And I think he's right.
Responding to Marcos comments a Kevin Weil ("vice president of product for revenue") tells the Verge:
He (Weil) named a few companies that have made millions of dollars developing on Twitter’s platform, including TweetDeck, Hootsuite, and the social-media monitoring company Radian6, which sold to Salesforce for $340 million. The changes in 2012 were intended only to ensure Twitter had control over its core service, he says. "Our API was so open that we allowed people to compete with us, and so there were changes we had to make."
Wait. What is Weil saying here? That Twitter as a platform should only be available to companies who don't make money? Or just the companies Twitter would like to make money? Or is Twitter NOT a platform at all, but a closed service that has an API just to taunt developers?
None of the services mentioned compete with Twitter as a platform or service. One could argue they had competitive UIs though. But shouldn't all that traffic made it easy for Twitter to monetize? Perhaps sell higher volumes of API access? It's hard to understand just what Weil intends to say with this strange answer. My only possible takeaway is that Twitter prefers its partners to not actually succeed.
I think this proves Marco's point wonderfully. Twitter doesn't want developers. Twitter is not a platform. And they want those meddling coder kids to stay off their lawn.
Gave a talk today at WordCamp Norrköping on how to build web apps using WordPress, JetPacks REST API and BackBone.js. A short presentation on the why and how to use BackBone.js and WordPress to build interactive web, apps or otherwise. My slides are available below and you can find the demo app on GitHub.
Medium.com is quickly shaping up to a great reading and writing experience. A recent surprise feature is their story/collection/user embeds which let you bring medium with you anywhere. JesperBylund
Odd to see what is basically an iFrame experience from such a design focused company. One can only conclude that they see some great experience behind this. Can't wait to find out what it could be.
A week ago Mark Zuckerberg was on stage talking about the future of Facebook and unveiling Facebook Graph Search. Since then thousands upon thousands of articles have been written on the subject, so why write another one? Every single piece I've read, seem to either misunderstand, or not care about what makes Graph Search different. So here I go, trying to explain what Graph Search really is.
What it isn't
The first thing Graph Search is not, is finished. The beta available to people know is basically a really smart search for content you can already find on Facebook. Not very different from the old search, though it looks a lot nicer and is easier to use. No need to update your settings or anything. People might find older pictures of you more easily, but it's already very easy.
In the future though, Graph Search will expand to with more information. Every Like outside from sites other than Facebook as well as the pictures and comments from Instagram. This is the real treasure of Graph Search, and we've yet to see it.
The second, perhaps more important thing, that Graph Search is not, is web search. This has confused a lot of people. Possibly because of the name, Graph Search. Sounds a lot like Google Search. So what is the difference?
Let's say I make a search for "cats that look like hitler", as one does. On Google, which is a keyword search designed to give you an answer, I'll get tons and tons of hits. Cat's with moustaches everywhere. But on Facebook Graph Search, I'll find nothing. Nothing.
In fact, Graph Search will realize that this is not a search it was designed for and bring up Bing instead. Which returns whatever Microsoft thinks is right. Which has nothing to do with Graph Search. So why did Graph Search disregard my question about Cats?
What it is
Facebook Graph Search is designed to return related things. Think of it like a Thesaurus to Google Dictionary. You can search for what your friends have done, thought, took pictures of etc. But it has to be in relation to something else to matter:
Friends near Berlin with cats that look like hitler
Might actually return a few pictures. Facebook is building a search for really massive amounts of data. So massive, that we only remember them as sort of related stuff: "Remember that place we where at about a year ago? With the monkey? What song was playing?"
Facebook will return an answer to that while Google is still figuring out whether you meant an Orangutan or a Gorilla. So why are so many people confused?
When you do a Graph Search today most of the information it can bring up is photos and if people are friends or have worked together. In a word, it's limited. Which has made a lot of reporters and bloggers believe that it is just another keyword search.
The reason it's so limited is that Facebook is still adding the Open Graph and Instagram to its search. Instagram you know, is a photo sharing service, no different from Facebook photos except that most photos have location data. Open Graph is more exciting, Open Graph is all those Like buttons you've clicked on sites other than Facebook. When the information is in, you'll probably be able to make searches like:
Article I got from Sara that I liked
And actually get the answer you're looking for. This is very different from what Google is doing. In fact, it's very different from anything else on the market.
When is it coming and Who's this for?
I have no idea when these features will be added in. It seems like Facebook is a long way out before Graph Search finally done. Maybe it will never be done, like Google products, it might stay in beta for years while Facebook engineers keep tuning it. It doesn't really matter though, as Facebook evolves, so will Graph Search.
An interesting point to make is that this beta really is for everyone. It's not a technical beta. It's more of a social one. If Facebook had released all this information through search the tech journalists would have all went crazy for privacy. Even in its limited form today, most articles I've seen are about how scary Facebook search is. No mention of the fact that nothing has changed, it's just the pictures you're already sharing showing up.
I believe this beta is here to make people comfortable with the idea of having a powerful search tool on Facebook before they open the floodgates of the Open Graph. Because that is where the new information is. Information that people might have forgotten about or buried in a slew of updates over the years.
Friends that liked articles about George W Bush winning the election? ...oops...
What Facebook Graph Search really is, is the Siri for information on Facebook. It won't compete with Google directly. But it will serve you information about people that you can't find anywhere else. If anyone is still confused, think about is like this: Graph Search is a Thesaurus, Google is a Dictionary.
The first day of SIME, the European tech/startup conference, was a vivid circus of great speakers with great production values. This time in Stockholm. Sime is a special sort of conference because it is focused on marketing entrepreneurship and creating a forum for entrepreneurs and investors. While similar conferences might slog through technical details while zombie hordes of coffee ingesting listeners try to stay awake, SIME is more about showmanship. Almost every session is 20 minutes or less, even for the big players, and our host, Ola Ahlvarsson, is always on stage pushing things along.
The first day was a back to back parade of speakers from the tech business, talking about where we are and where we're going as a business. The message was unanimous: > The customer is already mobile. Where is your business? - Facebook, Microsoft, Google, etc
It's an important lesson that really can't be repeated enough. I Sweden, around 40 percent of all Internet connections are through a mobile network. Some are computers but most are other sorts of devices. Around the world there is s landslide increase in mobile use, smartphones are almost half the world market of phones, there are over 100 million tablets sold, and everyone is expecting information to be ubiquitous. But companies are holding out.
Companies everywhere are waiting for others to lead, they hope to see hard numbers on why they should move to mobile before they take the plunge. There are of course a lot of really bad agencies out there, simply not able to deliver responsive web, but for the most part statistics are holding us back.
While the large players show us statistics on mobile usage. Companies have become affected by tracking blindness and can't act before the users are mobile on their sites. The problem of course, is a classic chicken and egg problem. If the site doesn't work on mobile, customers will just use other sites, and since the companies can't see mobile usage increasing they won't rebuild their sites.
SIME is all focused on pushing the message of where tech is to everyone, making sure that the users, developers and companies are all looking in the same direction. And I hope that this years focus on mobile hit the spot. Because I really don't want to be tied to my laptop.
Tracking is the basis for everything online these days. We track what content gets the most clicks to make sure we create better content. We track the ads we run to make sure our ads are targeted to the right people and that they convert well. We use tracking in all aspects of our lives to make better decisions and take the right action. But it's not working, is it. No matter how long you stare at those numbers they don't give you a golden bullet. So what's wrong with this theory? Everything.
While tracking makes our decisions gradually better, tracking does not make any new connections. Do you think RedBull is tracking any direct ROI on sponsoring Felix Baumgartner's record breaking sky dive from the edge of space? No. But I think few people would argue that they didn't get more than their share of media coverage. Very few marketing schemes get that kind of eye-ball-action, but the important thing is that tracking would never lead you to invest in such a venture.
Neither would tracking lead you to think that a generous return policy could generate profits. Yet every single report tell us that it does.
In the 50's a young designer made a nondescript electronics company a house hold name by creating memorable and user friendly designs for their products. The company was Braun, and the designer was Dieter Rams. Rams, who've since been credited as an inspiration for designers behind cars and even Apple, didn't do it by tracking.
There is nothing wrong with tracking. In fact, without tracking it's extremely hard to reach a goal, once it's set. But tracking is quite probably holding you back. If tracking is the basis for your strategy, you're probably not seeing the full market. That light at the end of the tunnel might turn out to be a train.
Strategy is taking the broad view of a business and aiming your organization. Tactics are how we get there. Tactics make great use of tracking and statistics. Strategy does not. Depending on strategy will keep you constantly running to catch up with the world, because the numbers can only really show you what used to happen. And only in a very specific situation at that. It's harder to argue without numbers. Which is why most people eventually stop trying. Next time you are in a meeting and someone offers a contrary view of a situation you might want to think about it a few minutes. Don't throw out your innovation because of the result of a skewed question asked by bored data miners.
Ye Old Way
I'm starting to think all PR education begins with the creed "keep the customer as far away from the company as possible" since most companies I contact have elaborate systems in place to "streamline" the communication out of existence.
Enter a new marketplace: The social web. Suddenly recommendations are worth double their weight in gold, but companies are still struggling keeping up. They start Facebook pages with no idea of what to do there. They start Twitter accounts that only tells tweeps to call customer service.
The new way
But then there are the other companies. Companies that have embraced the tribal culture online and depend upon customer interaction for their business. They are no less motivated by profit than the other sort of company, but their strategy makes them a very different sort of animal.
Yesterday I downloaded an app to my iPhone. The app was supposed to show me my Google Analytics numbers quickly and beautifully. I was thrilled I finally found an app that looked like I might use it. But it didn't work. I couldn't log in.
I immediately browsed over to the company's site and looked for any information of the problem. When I couldn't find any I emailed them a question, expecting to never hear from them again.
Within ten minutes I had a response.
Someone from the company read my message and sent me a quick response. Short, to the point. Solving my problem. Apparently the guys and gals at Google had changed the API and while the app had been updated the new version wasn't in the AppStore just yet.
They even offered to buy me coffee while I waited:
Sorry about that. It sucks. We can buy you a coffee while waiting for the new version ( we'll PayPal you the money for Starbucks if you want).
Since it was late at night in Sweden I declined. But I was also a surprised and happy customer, not only had they solved my problem (or at least, explained what the problem was and had fixed it), but they had given me relevant information, a schedule, and a coffee!
When was the last time a bank or a telephone company did that?
Because of this short communication, not only am I inclined to tell people about my experience. I'm also more inclined to recommend the product. The cost of this interaction for the company is negligible but the worth of a happy customer advocating the product is huge.
The take away
Invest in communication. Realize that all interactions with the customers are chances to turn them from faceless consumers to happy ambassadors of your company. Keep them close. Keep them communicating with you. The costs might be high, but compared to losing those customers to the competitor this should be a no-brainer. If you're in a huge corporation, try finding customers who became ambassadors and use them as arguments that the model does work.
The revolution started with the iPhone.
With the launch of their breakthrough device they didn't intend for developers to be making Apps. Apple instead believed that developers would make web apps using HTML5 and save the web app as an icon of their phone. Surprisingly open by Apple's standards the strategy soon changed to native apps because web apps simply didn't feel quick enough.
Web technology is getting better
However, as HTML5 becomes a standard on PCs everywhere web apps are approaching the same sophistication as native applications. The hardest step now is for developers to take the plunge and create these great new interfaces and not get stuck in the old way of thinking and just pushing out another blog.
One of my favorite designers, Dustin Curtis, is leading the way with this new UI element on his site; the Kudos button.
It looks great. It's fun to use and it's a really simple way to add some life to a site. It doesn't work on touch interfaces for obvious reasons. Sadly Dustin hasn't made the code available yet, but most programmers could probably copy the concept. It's that easy. We just have to make sure we starting thinking less about static web and more about user interaction.
Whenever likeminded creative people try to innovate trends emerge. Ideas give birth to ideas. As ideas keep combining in the heads of creative people everywhere some ideas become more sticky than others. I’ll document some of the trends in user experience design I predict will become the norm in 2012. You can find my first post on the subject here. Another example from a 2011 app is the amazing full screen representation in Wren.
White space apps
When I first saw Wren I was amazed. It was focused and minimalist. Therefore I was shocked to see the full-screen button in the top right corner of the app, "Wouldn't that completely wreck the experience" was my knee-jerk reaction. Then I tried it and another trend was obvious, apps that scale without bloating their feature sets, or White space apps.
Why are White space apps different? Mobile.
The mobile revolution has some interaction and UI designers scratching their heads or pulling their hair trying to fit all the usual information. The current computing paradigm has relied on massive amounts of text and information tags for a long long time. Even programs that have really tried to rid themselves of rarely used functions or unnecessary amounts of help information have sometimes been stuck in contextual help hell due to the modus operandi of desktop interface design.
No more. Mobile has rid us of all these things. And some designers are provocative enough to realize that less really is more and simply scale their apps without adding more information or complexity.
Is this good or bad?
Only time will tell. But the dominance of mobile design today tells us a lot about what people like. I think it is less about the iPhone being a must-have product and a lot more about really smart and beautiful apps that are just complex piles of engineering on other platforms.
Simple is better. And using white space to focus the users attention on a sparingly chosen set of functions beautifully designed makes this clear. I believe these minimal products will in the future continue to trump the feature behemoths of yesteryear.
Whenever likeminded creative people try to innovate trends emerge. Ideas give birth to ideas. As ideas keep combining in the heads of creative people everywhere some ideas become more sticky than others. I'll document some of the trends in user experience design I predict will become the norm in 2012. An example trend from previous years is the scroll down to refresh design. Created by Loren Brichter for his famous Tweetie iphone app it has since become the standard for refreshing feeds and lists in apps everywhere.
Example from mobile webKit build
Related function Panels
You've seen them already. Open your Facebook app and look at the button in the top left corner. Tapping the button or swiping the interface from left to right opens the menu:
This background panel is always there. Neatly integrated in iOS navigation panel.
The iOS navigation panel? At the top of all iOS apps with many views is a bar that usually has two buttons on it. This bar is called the navigation bar in the iOS SDK and intended to be used like this:
- the left side button steps you back in the app. Just like the back button in your browser.
- the right side button steps you forward. Showing the next step or function in the app.
Why is this different from a menu
Is this good or bad
Quality was what set the good craftsmen apart form the bad ones. It was why some brands became more revered than others. The illusive idea is why Apple sells so well, why some artists are better than others. But what the hell is quality? Does it change from artist to artist? Does it mean something different for cars than for software? No. I don't think so. I think there's a common feature for all types of good quality.
Using Cognitive Psychology to reveal quality
In academic circles scholars of cognitive psychology have been debating and hacking the human perception for a very long time. One of my favorite tidbits of knowledge from my student days is that negatives are worth twice as much as positives. That means if I give you $100 and then take it back, you'll feel as if you've lost more money than you felt you gained in at first. Put another way: if you spend $50 and earn $100 dollars you'll feel you made about even. Losing something is negative, and is therefore twice as important to you perception.
This gives us valuable clue to Quality. Let's see how far that can bring us.
If negative values, and negative experiences, create stronger reactions in users we should look at minimizing these as much as possible. If we get close to no negative values we'll have a really solid product experience regardless of the products positive values.
For example, if you create an app where every action gives clear feedback it will feel great. Even if the UX design isn't all that great from the start.
Getting the values right
But wait, let's back up a bit. What is a negative value? And what is a positive value? We're talking about products here! What is a negative in a web app?
Happily, another branch of cognitive psychology has dealt with what value is. This is the theory: there is no "real" value. Only subjective, or perceived, value. That is to say: water to a man dying of thirst has a lot of value, while water to a man at a cocktail bar in NY is worth very little. This sounds really basic right? But if all value is relative to experience that also means that we determine reasonable prices from prices around us. We distinguish beauty not by their own beauty but by how much less beautiful the other people around us are. Dan Ariely has some great examples of this in his book Predictably Irrational.
The good part starts 12 minutes in.
So all value is interpreted relative to similar experiences by each individual. How does that help us? That means every experience is valued compared to other, similar, experiences.
Well if people experience negative values much stronger than positive ones, we need to focus harder on making our apps perform at least as well as other apps the users are using instead of trying to one-up our competitors. This will make out UX more positive than focusing on making the positive experiences better. Most Human Computer Interaction studies are actually based on this. They're often studies to define how consistency works. And consistency is exactly what I'm talking about here. But not internal consistency, while that to is extremely important, but experience consistance for the user. No matter what that use might look like, spanning over machines, apps, platforms and use cases.
A principle of quality, a rule of thumb that works for all products and services, is not making something really well. It's minimizing the negative impact of shortcomings.
So how do we use this principle?
- Don't show the user experiences that aren't finished. Release early release often as much as you want, but don't release half baked.
- Polish one feature instead of making two features.
- Make sure other apps aren't making your experience feel broken by creating an experience gap that will feel negative for example the pull-down-to-refresh UI of iPhone apps.
- Look at the platform. Look at the most popular uses. Look at the environment it will be used in. Then try to be consistent.
- Make your marketing consistant with your experience, or you might end up making your product feel worse than it is
The perfect example of not understanding quality is the Nokia N97, enjoy!
Another great example of achieving quality, not by adding features, but by managing your negatives is the iPhone and iPad operating system. Just compare these transition effects from iOS to the Android counter parts:
I recently was asked to check out Quora again. This time from a UX standpoint. I found a lot of strange design decisions and an almost crazy implementation of "Gamification" so I thought I had to share it:
What does this do? Quora is a mess of questions. That's a good thing. But it's also a mess of features. There is no real overview to how the service is supposed to be used nor how the features fit together to create a whole. It feel like a mess of somewhat related features that have been randomly added to a wiki.
User feedback loops
All services and products intended to be used more than once work because their is a loop in user interaction. After we've done what we came for we're back at the start and can do it again.
Feedback loops is a way to look at how feedback is introduced in the loop to keep users going forward and using the product. Quora does this really strangely.
There are two ways to understand what happens in a loop, one is to look at emotional impact or internal steps in the process from the point of view of the user. This is called the intrinsic loop. The other is to look at the service's constructed steps from the point of the user. This is called the extrinsic loop.
The value in looking at both of these is to see where they meet and reinforce each other. So how does the intrinsic loop look?
answer questions -> gain social proof in form of replies, votes and followers -> answer ranks higher on lists of answers -> return
This loop works well. Interacting with the site gives you a sense of communicating with other users. Though notifications are bad and it's hard to really understand what is happening, there is a definite sense of activity spawned from other users interacting with your content.
So how does the extrinsic feedback loop look?
Add information (unidentified) -> earn points -> use points to request answers -> no return
Basically it adds points but not to obvious steps in the loop. In fact, Quora only seems to add points for adding information. But Quora doesn't tell us why, how much or for what we earn these points.
This is an extrinsic loop set up to give users rewards for interacting that doesn't reward user for interacting. What went wrong here? Quora is giving out points for interacting with Quora, but not with other users.
The problem is humans don't think of services as independent entities and don't expect to interact with services, humans expect to interact through services. Another problem is that these rewards aren't reinforcing the intrinsic loop but instead starts rewarding an entirely different behavior. And last but not least, there is no clear end or way to start again from when you receive rewards. Rewards are doled out in the middle of the intrinsic feedback loop.
Gamification or What Bumblebees feel about Bicycles
Points. Just add points and it's a game. Just add points and the weird statistical exercise has miraculously turned into "fun"! Right? No. That's not how it works, you can read all about how to add the fun here. But Quora doesn't care about that, you get points for adding content but aren't told when or how much. There doesn't seem to be a differentiation between how you add content, you simply receive an arbitrary amount of points.
There's only one way to use points. You can pay others to answer questions. That's it. You can't even compare your points to another users.
Quora is awesome. What makes it awesome is the high level of interest from other users. The problem is, Quora does little of anything to enhance this. More often it gets in the way.
The service quickly became famous for supplying answers from high level CEOs and business savvy high performers. Sadly though, it took me hours to find any such answer. It took me hours just to find some interesting questions.
The random points thrown in just increases perception of randomness. Quora is a great idea, close to a good product. Over designed and under thought. It's confusing as hell and weird to use. But if you're lucky you can at least get some answers. Just don't expect the question to be the same one you had in mind from the start...
Some time ago Facebook launched it's cross platform messaging app: Facebook Messenger; the mobile stand alone app that fully integrates Facebook messaging with your cell phone. Sounds awesome right? Sadly, it's badly broken. I recently tweeted a designer at Facebook to ask why the UX of the app is so bad, in turn he asked me to describe what's wrong so they can fix it. So are you listening Facebook? Great. Here's what's wrong with the iOS version:
Starting the app Takes time. A lot of time. Why? There is no large graphics in use. Why does it start slower than some third party messaging or twitter apps? Short messaging on mobile devices is supposed to be fast. Loading the app for over a full second is bad user experience.
If I'd have to guess what's wrong I'd say Facebook Messenger is loading the entire message database at startup when all the user really needs is something like the last 5 messages.
Loading and responsiveness So the app is now loaded. Let's start messaging! No? Unresponsive?! But why? Why is there a second load time?
This second load becomes even weirder when I start the app from a notification. The app should be loading the message I was notified about but instead it seems to load for several full seconds. Even on WiFi.
If I'd have to guess what's wrong I'd say you're syncing ALL the messaging data with the server...
Don't, do, that. Ever.
Always smart load, download only the essential information to start using the app. Then download the rest in the background while the user is happily messaging away. This is critical on mobile devices.
Feedback If even Apple, that clearly doesn't get social at all, get's the importance of user feedback in short messaging. And the Facebook web interface clearly shows when the other party is writing something to you... Why do you not show this information in the Messenger app? If someone starts typing, send that information. Show an indication of this in the app.
And please, don't make my phone vibrate with every new messages when the thread is open on the screen.
Notifications Notifications on iOS are a bit strange. They don't sync between iPhone and iPad and the app can't receive any data from the notification. So some odd behavior is simply inescapable. However, most of the odd behavior with notifications from Facebook's Messenger app have nothing to do with that.
The main problem is that notifications aren't consistent between mobile app and web. As a matter of fact I haven't even been able to understand what triggers mobile notifications. In my tests some messenges have triggered notifications on both web and mobile while other, identical tests, have triggered only one of them. Once I even received a mobile notification while typing a response in that very thread on the web.
Notifications are hard. Really hard. But a few simple basics should at least get you of out this mess:
- If the thread open on web and the page is active (focused some time the last minute or so) - don't send a notification at all.
- If the thread not open and the page is not active - send a notification.
- If the thread minimized in the web browser but the page is active - send only a web notification.
Do I realize that these features are more complex than I have described them here? Yes. But they're not very complex for a product team such as the one behind Facebook.
Do I realize that Facebook usually releases features and then iterates on them to improve the user experience? Yes. But this is a web strategy. A mobile app is often, like in this case, just a good interface on top of a web service. If the interface is bad, the service is bad. Iterate all you want on the service. But "release early, release often" is not a viable strategy for a mobile interface.
So why am I taking time to
complain write all this? Because Facebook Messages, and Facebook Messenger, is a great product. It will help me organize my communication even better and have faster communications with my friends. No longer will discussions be spread through WhatsApp, iMessages, SMS, Email etc etc.
And the reason I can't do that today is the Facebook Messenger interface. With
god damn enourmous amounts of some luck this post might help Facebook create a really good Messenger app faster. Fingers crossed. Also, I'm available for hire.
Update: Ben from the Facebook Messenger team replies with some information about the upcoming version 1.5 of the app. Early the next morning I had it and started using it. And I must say it's a big improvement. I'll write a follow up shortly about this new version.
Orginially posted on the official SIME blog SIME is a Swedish Conference on web, tech and startups. Where great speakers entertain for two days and investors and entrepreneurs mingle over coffee and champagne.
SIME 2011 was a flurry of great speaker on a wide area of subjects. While the set theme for SIME was "Passion Wins" another theme running through the conference was going mobile. Gamification was subtly introduced to the SIME audience in a panel on Gamification and marketing. Possibly to set the stage for a larger presence next year.
But what exactly is Gamification and how does it tie in with SIME 2011? Gamification is the process of using game mechanics in non-game products and services. I am not talking about 3D characters or scoring points here however. Games have matured in relative obscurity thought the years to become one of the worlds largest entertainment forms, aimed mostly at adults. The foundations ofwhat makes a good game are similar and equally complex as what makes a great brand. The psychology or rewards have been used in training and products over the years, but only games have really delved deep and explored the territory. Pacing and storytelling in a product where there is no story is also only really explored in the games industry. Science and design based on concepts like these are migrating from games into "normal" products.
This is Gamification. And oddly, ties in excellently to SIMEs central theme.
The Passion of Gamification Passion Wins. That theme was presented by Ola in his welcoming speech and it was central to almost all the talks at SIME. From presentations from promising startups, among them iZettle - the mobile payment solution, to using brain scans for better marketing there was not a presenter on stage that lacked passion. But how do we reach passion in our users or customers? While every panel spoke of the importance to engage users and inspire passion there was only one that talked about how thats done.
Panel on Gamificiation A panel consisting of Elísabet Grétarsdóttir, Eve Online, Johan Sjöberg, founder Starstable, and Robin Teigland, Stockholm School of Economics, joined Ola on stage to discuss the most popular buzzword of the day.
The panel wasn't that impressed with the term Gamification for starters. Elisabet described it as working with motivation in marketing to engage the audience, hopefully getting them to participate. Johan joined in saying that the term might be a misnomer, that the term Playification might be more appropriate. Since the focus is on engagement but not at all games.
"we are playful creatures" - Elísabet Grétarsdóttir, SIME 2011
The panel was in agreement that playfulness was important for humans, adding fun to anything should be possible. The panel highlighted experiments with gamification in education and Elisabet even made a pitch to add creative interaction in the fashion industry.
If we are playful creatures, play should be a great way to engage our users. Right?
Going mobile with gamification As I mentioned earlier another trend runnings through the entire conference was going mobile. Google spoke of being a mobile first company, Ericsson spoke about communicating in a world where every device is interconnected. But what does this have to do with gamification?
Throughout SIME we heard speakers talk about new paradigms and the web/app divide. Essentially mobile web is taking over and has a different set or boundaries than the desktop web. So how to we make sure our mobile interfaces are good enough and engaging users? You know where I'm going with this aren't you?
Mobile interfaces is a perfect place to start adding the fun.
Summing up gamification at SIME 2011 The passion at SIME was amazing. The energy was great. The game we played at the conference, bad. Basically we're all looking into how to engage and interact with people through digital mediums. The only industry that has really done it is the games industry. Moving their knowledge to the rest of the web is gamification. Elisabet doesn't think it's through external motivation. Ola thinks it might have something to do with horses.
The only thing we know is: however it's done, it's going mobile.
UPDATE: Added a short explanation of what SIME is, thanks to @kenneth_aa for making me realize it was needed.
Twitter, the micro blogging service, has taken the world by storm. While there are only a few hundred million users compared to Facebook's massive near Billion, the service has become the place to share real time updates and is often used to gauge peoples reactions by news and analytic firms because the platform is open. But Twitter is about to face it's doom While Google struggle to reproduce the viral effect of micro blogging services Facebook's grab for the real time feed was hampered by the need to privacy. Twitter has already gained wide acceptance and was never intended for private information in the first place. But a series of ominous events are slowly hollowing out the foundations of Twitter.
Twitter is being killed by... Twitter has never been the most stable of tech startups. The service used to be plagued by downtime which became so frequent the Fail Whale error page became as famous as the service. The company itself is also changing management again, and again. Not a great trend this early in a one product company. The lack of leadership is clear to see.
Twitter UX Twitter (the company) is constantly changing and evolving it's product. Which is a great way to organically fit the needs of their users. But Twitter (the company) is doing this in a somewhat odd way. It started when Retweeting (passing on another users tweet as a sign of encouragement while marking it with their name and RT) was made a part of the product, after it's wide adoption by users, Twitter (the company) decided to implement it differently than the usual Retweets. This lead to better statistics, but also a fractured UX as apps now had to implement both ways to RT because users didn't like the new one. Eventually Twitter (the company) incorporated the old style Retweets but called the function Quote Tweet instead. And the problems were just getting started.
Twitter app insanity Twitter apps were almost a category on their own in the beginning of the Appstore. Twitter has become so important to mobile phone manufacturers they always showcase a twitter app with their new flagship phones. But Twitter wanted to control the experience, like Apple. Maybe a good idea. But really bad execution. They bought Atebits, the developers behind the most popular Twitter apps for iOS and Mac. Have you ever pulled down a list to refresh? Atebits invented that. So why was this a problem? Sounds great, right?
After being purchased by Twitter (the company), the newly renamed Twitter for Mac and Twitter for iPhone started being updated less frequently... Let me make that clear, having the developer of the apps work closer with the Twitter development team made them update the apps less often.
Then shit really hit the fan. Twitter (the company) redesigned all their interfaces to be similar across platforms. Starting with a roll out on iPad, then web then the rest, Twitter (the company) streamlined their interface development.. in theory. What really happened? The interfaces now looked the same, but they didn't work the same. In fact, certain features only exist on certain platforms even though the interfaces look the same. Which makes it really hard as a user to remember what you can do where.
Later on the developers behind Atebits have left Twitter (the company), possibly in raging despair. And Twitter (the service) is fracturing into a mess. Not just between interfaces but functions as well. For example with the roll out of the activity tab you can follow some of the things people are doing through Twitter, following, unfollowing, making lists and so on. These features, which btw totally contradict the extreme simplicity of the core product, are weirdly integrated into the web interface as the afterthought they are. And it's only available on the web.
Summery Twitter (the company) is destroying Twitter (the services) with some sort of odd design-by-committee culture. No matter if you like or dislike these new features, the case is clear that teams behind Twitter (the service) definitely aren't working towards the same goal.
This is sad. Because I love Twitter (the service). And I don't like that it's being killed by Twitter (the company). Please RT this if you agree.
Apparently the sentiment is echoed by people leaving Twitter (the company).
In December 2011 Twitter updated their entire line of interfaces. The design changes were clearly aimed at making Twitter a lot more interesting for new users.
Twitter divided itself into different parts, seemingly with different uses:
Sounds great right? What could possibly be the problem!
Twitter didn't actually change. And Twitter (the service) does not actually have these different areas of interest. So any user checking them out will quickly get confounded. What is the difference between "Home" and "Me"? I have no idea. But to make this obvious, Twitter (the company) has removed Me and Tweet from the web interface which basically means they have these left: Home (My feed), Connect (replies, RTs and follows) and Discover (search damnit, it's just search!).
To make things
better worse, the UI is even more fragmented. Twitter no longer has updated clients for iPad and Mac. Apparently the job previously done by one single guy is just to much for an organization of 300 or so.
But it get's even
better worse. The UI of the web and iPhone version, while both being updated simultaneously for this new paradigm, still do not follow the same UI standards and are structured differently. Don't ask about Android. Twitter (the company) must really, really, hate Android.
Anyone want to build a Twitter killer, possibly built upon the API of Twitter to simplify the transfer of users? I'm available right now.
The last day at SIME, Sweden's largest digital/web conference in Stockholm, a panel of guests took to the stage to have a panel discussion about gamification. Gamification is the latest and greatest buzz word in a long line of hype from digital marketing companies. But gamification is different because unlike social media and the like the Gamification concept is loaned from the hugely profitable games industry.
At SIME this year the panel consisted of representatives from World of Horses Online, CCP games and an associate professor from the Stockholm School of Economics. The topic was gamification and was simply introduced as the concept of using mechanics and design from the games industry to market products and services in non entertainment industries.
Elisabet, from CCP games, really gave a show with clear and consice ideas about gamification. She started off by describing the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. An extrinsic motivator, which are mostly used in gamification today, are external rewards given to the player for achieving certain tasks. Such as points to shoot a bird accurately or a badge to check in at a location An intrinsic motivator is an internal reward the player experiences because he/she achieves something in the context of the game. Internal rewards are feelings based on. Social recognition or completing a challenge.
One of her most memorable quotes was saying she'd like to Gamify the games industry by moving from extrinsic to intrinsic motivators.
Another one was a sharp critique to enforced seriousness while stating a point about humans being playful creatures:
why can we hug at a soccer game but not in the board room?
Elisabet also rocked the end of the panel by giving an example of how she would revolutionize boutique shopping by gamifying a H&M shop into a "minecraft retail experience" to, in her own words, "create a platform for creativity and self expression".
The audience and the panel alike seemed almost shocked by the simple truths laid out by Elisabet on gamification. I bet that if she has any say, gamification will be less of a buzz word and more of a business strategy from now on. One can only hope.
PS I'm writing this on an iPad balanced on my knee while I'm eating so if this post is in shambles, please check back in an hour or so and I'll try to polish the turd.
Update 1 Robin from the Stockholm School of Economics mailed me an update, apparently I got both her school and her title wrong.. Sorry Robin, keep up the great work!
Second day of SIME 2011 coming up and today, finally, we'll get into the nitty and gritty of gamification with a talk from CCP's Elísabet Grétarsdóttiroi, global strategist for marketing. Hopefully this will be awesome. I'll be live tweeting the event all day and half the night and writing about what she and the other speakers had to say as soon as possible.
So visit again soon for updates.
update CCP link works now! Sorry about that.