The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (August 29, 2008)

reading_w_TPG_thumb5_thumb2_thumb2_t[2] Every week I read tens of thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

On Starting Up…
http://www.taptaptap.com/blog/****-the-vcs/
John Casasanta’s, of taptaptap, perspective on VC’s

On Design & Product Experience…
http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/applying-turings
On applying the Turing Test to user interfaces.

On Modular Innovation…
http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10026736-2.html
More interaction, more integration, more sharing information – more Modular Innovation being encouraged by products like Ubiquity and IE8’s Web Slices.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Somewhat More Del.icio.us

delicious-logo With the delivery of the Delicious version 2.0, 9 months after everyone received the initial sneak peak, also came the formal changing of the product name from del.icio.us to delicious.com (no more funny period punctuation) — making the domain name easier to remember, type, and use.

And this is the theme that enjoyably permeates all aspects of the Delicious upgrade – improving the usability and desirability of everything Delicious. Delicious has made wonderful use of color, contrast, flow, and balance. All this results in simplifying all aspects of interaction, providing more intuitive control, as well as bringing to light features that many, including myself, never knew existed.

As part of bringing to light these “secret” or lesser used features, Delicious has made a serious effort in raising the level of social interaction and sense of community. Wherever you look and interact, there is always a sense of connectedness to other people, from the new look of the bookmarks…

…to more intuitive access to other people’s tags and notes on your bookmarks…

other-peoples-tags

…and the priority level navigation to people…

navigation

… and their networks…

network

Throughout the new UX, from the tag bar to context-based searching to editing bookmarks, everything is zippier (also with less page loading and more ajax) and the interactions much more enjoyable.

Known for tagging

The improvements don’t introduce much in the way of new features or enhancements to the concepts of tagging — but, as I continue to find out, these improvements have brought to light many features that always existed and makes others easier to notice and use. That is why, as I denote in the title, the long awaited upgrade is tagged with ‘somewhat.’ Delicious has been known for its leadership in the tagging of the Internet. Will this leadership continue? Has the mantel already been wrested by fresher upstarts?

Next week, I will continue with part 2 (of 2) of our discussion of Delicious, this latest product update, and look further at how Delicious 2.0 has taken tagging to the next level.

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring Delicious 2.0 as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (August 22, 2008)

reading_w_TPG_thumb5_thumb2_thumb2_t[1] Every week I read tens of thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

On Starting Up…
http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/08/18/mint-freshens-up-with-a-new-design/
Mint demonstrates the value in a startup sometimes taking a step back and thinking about design and usability.

On Design & Product Experience…
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/08/17/10-futuristic-user-interfaces/
A look at 10 awesome and futuristic user interfaces.

On Modular Innovation…
http://darmano.typepad.com/logic_emotion/2008/08/the-microsite-i.html
Suggestions, within the context of Modular Innovation, for the evolution of the micro-site.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Facebook shows Focus

facebooklogo_thumb2(Part 2 of 2) The new Facebook is coming. Facebook, the product that brought a whole new meaning to information and application overload, is about to release their new Facebook vision, one with focus.

After adjusting to (and it took a few days of frequent interaction) the re-worked and refined Facebook experience, 2 themes stood out above all others, namely…

  • Encouraging greater communications and sharing
  • Discouraging “excessive” application installation and usage

Last week we explored the Focus on Communication. This week we…

Focus on Applications

Right away you can see the first signs of de-emphasis of the applications on the Home page, by way of the movement of the application bookmarks from the left-most column to the right-most column.

1 and 2

On the Profile page, the typical primary residence of the Facebook apps, the applications have been moved to the periphery of the page. Some applications can be placed in the narrow left column (similar to the narrow column in today’s default implementation).

3 and 4

And, more installed applications are accessible via the introduction of the tabbed interface on the new Profile page.

05 tabs

A user’s applications can be installed, renamed and removed from the Tab bar directly from the tab interface. By clicking on the ‘plus,’ the applications that are available for inclusion within the Tab section are listed.

06 tabs plus open

For those that don’t want to lose all of the clutter, wishing to maintain a “backroom” of disorder, and for those applications that can neither go in a Tab or Sidebar there is the Boxes tab (forth from the left).

07 boxes tab

All of the remaining applications are available via the bookmarks section of the contextual Applications drop-down. If you are within an application, the tab allows for the editing of all of the current application’s settings within an inline pop-up.

08 contextual application dropdown from within 

09 inline popup app settings

The rest of the time the following is accessible…

10 app dropdown from homepage

From here you can also access the application configuration section, where you can customize…

  • The Applications, themselves,
  • Bookmarks,
  • Privacy Settings,
  • News Feed and Wall Interaction,
  • Miscellaneous Access (e.g. publish, email, offline capabilities), and
  • 3rd Party Interaction with Facebook.

11 all app settings

The new Facebook experience has put a good deal of effort into aggregating the different Facebook application concepts and corralling them into distinct sections. As a result, the direct and visual aspects of Application interaction are streamlined, with chaos reduced. Where, in the old Facebook, users used 20, 30, or more installed Applications, these refinements are clearly intended to discourage such behaviors, and instead encourage the user to focus on an order of magnitude fewer applications, in the hopes of fostering better (smarter?) Application selections and achieving richer experiences with those selected Applications.

Those few lucky apps that get selected for inclusion within the Tab bar should also expect longer and more frequent interaction resulting from the newly enabled and present focus. The tabbed interface allows individuals to focus on each app, one at a time, isolated from the many other-app distractions. Furthermore, all of the other apps will not just fade, but remain in the background, out of view; muted will be the viral effects felt by those apps that don’t provide true value. Everyone should expect more apps to fade away, and the people of Facebook to congregate around a select few.

12 app open - causes

The new experience increases the difficulty involved in simply browsing one’s installed Applications. Today, all one’s installed Applications can be seen (e.g. current state, latest information) on the Profile page. Now, in the new Facebook, this is one or more degrees removed.

Also, as the chaos of primary interaction with the Applications has been reduced, the opposite can be said for the ability to configure the layout and settings of the apps. Where previously, all of the apps settings and the bookmarks could be configured from a single page, with layout being customizable directly from the Profile page, the pending new Facebook experience has broken all of these touchpoints into multiple and separate pages of configuration. In today’s Facebook, one can configure 90% of the applications, along with their look, feel, and accessibility, from a single web page; in the new Facebook, users have to search for and navigate through many, many more pages.

Focus on Facebook

The new experience, currently in beta testing, but soon to become the default Facebook experience, is cleaner and moves towards a more organized and social vision.

The purpose relating to the increased blurriness of layout and settings customization, becoming much more complex and difficult to manage, escapes me. However, it may, hopefully, be a mere side-effect of the other chaos reducing, refinements. If that is the case, I am certain many will welcome, when, in the near future, Facebook adjusts attention on and brings into focus this important area of user control and empowerment.

The changes, expectantly, have incited groups and petitions both in favor of, and against, the new Facebook. With these and many other changes everyone’s focus will be on Facebook, watching to see if these admirable goals prove successful or merely educational.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (August 15, 2008)

reading_w_TPG_thumb5_thumb2_thumb2_t[2] Every week I read tens of thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

On Starting Up…
http://gigaom.com/2008/08/08/in-a-down-economy-few-angels-fly-away/
On the changing course of Angel Investors.

On Design & Product Experience…
http://www.alistapart.com/articles/deafnessandtheuserexperience
Discussion of how deafness influences web accessibility.

On Modular Innovation…
http://www.milanstankovic.org/opo/ontology.html
Understanding the dimensions of user presence online continues within Modular Innovation by way of OPO.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Facebook says Focus

facebook logo (Part 1 of 2) The new Facebook is coming. Facebook, the product that brought a whole new meaning to information and application overload, is about to release their new Facebook vision, one with focus.

After adjusting to (and it took a few days of frequent interaction) the re-worked and refined Facebook experience, 2 themes stood out above all others, namely..

  • Encouraging greater communications and sharing
  • Discouraging “excessive” application installation and usage

In Part 1 let’s…

Focus on Communicating

The new user experience is evident from the very moment of logging-in. Perhaps the very first thing that all users will now notice, and are driven to notice, is the new action area on their homepage.

1-home-primary-actions

Whenever a user returns to Facebook, they are brought to the homepage and, immediately presented with quick actions for communicating and sharing. This is a concept that is altogether absent from today’s currently available experience.

2-absent

Clicking on any of the options within this new action region jumps the user directly to their Profile page, with the prompt for the desired content automatically displayed. This is direct, quick & easy.

3-update-status

The Profile page, like the Home page, has also been revamped to encourage and facilitate communications and sharing of user generated content (UGC) – from status to links and photos, and more.

4-comment-too

The user’s attention is focused on the main component of the page, the Wall; which has been improved with rapidly applicable filters (all posts, my posts, other people’s posts) and easy to use settings.

5-wall-filter

6-settings

Facebook‘s next generation presents a revived and clear focus on communications. Much of this new functionality reverberates considerably with the capabilities inherent to newer services, most apparently, Twitter and Friendfeed. The new communications emphases will assuredly drive more people to the micro-exchanges of status and the like.

Interestingly, if this implementation had been Facebook‘s original implementation, maybe there would be no Twitter or Friendfeed. But this is not the case. This newer implementation, not yet the default for Facebook, did not come first. Twitter and Facebook (and other similar online products) fulfilled the need, filling the micro-communication and micro-sharing void that was present.

While the improvement in Facebook represents a very positive step forward, a very nice addition, Facebook is now following some well established alternatives. For these improved communications to maximize along the path of user experience, they will need to employ Modular Innovation. It will be a mistake if they choose to take the path of challenging the Twitters and Friendfeeds, instead of embracing them. Everyone will benefit from improved integration and 3rd-party data exchange capabilities. For example, allowing users and products 2-way integration and interaction, permitting the use of either Twitter (or Friendfeed) or Facebook to not just be able to import data, but also export and share data between the products, would provide a seamless online experience for the user, allowing the user to check for updates and post updates from either platform — benefiting both the fans and companies of Facebook and Twitter (and other products) while simultaneously strengthening the product-product and product-user relationships.

In Focus

More and more people, every day, are trying out the new Facebook, especially the new communications experience. Will the new product, the new Facebook, succeed in increasing user communication and interaction or will the result prove to be a blurry jumble of ideas?

Check back next week as we look further into the new Facebook, in the second part of this 2 part series about the new Facebook experience, and explore what these changes mean for the users, as well as everyone else, who use, experience and benefit from Facebook.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (August 8, 2008)

reading_w_TPG_thumb5_thumb2_thumb2_t[2] Every week I read tens of thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

On Starting Up…
http://vanelsas.wordpress.com/2008/08/05/early-adopters-and-silicon-valley-are-the-easy-way-to-failure/
Startup’s “easy way to failure.”

On Design & Product Experience…
http://ajaxian.com/archives/mozilla-creates-the-concept-cars-of-the-web
Very cool look at Aurora, a possible future of the online experience.

On Modular Innovation…
http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/16/27000.html
The next generation of the Internet, called by many, Web 3.0 — better understood and described as Modular Innovation.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Standard Customization. Evaluating Flexibility through Quick-MI.

shellscript Having choices, broad capabilities and feature sets, is definitely a good thing. All of the previously discussed categories of Quick-MI (4 of the 5 categories)…

…represent the critical components that illuminate the key variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend.

Having the Flexibility, and being easy to grasp and pliable, further enhances the relationships inherent to the emerging products’ trend. Flexibility, in the abstract, prevents important relationships from breaking. Without Flexibility, a relationship becomes rigid. Rigid, brittle relationships don’t respond well to strain, often failing under the pressures of the people and products involved:

control,
self-determination,
change,
etc.

As previously described

Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree by which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards greater degrees of, Modular Innovation.

Equally important, and another of the 5 categories that make up Quick-MI, is Flexibility. Flexibility is the measure of both the ease and degree of adaptability and customization permitted by a product.

In abiding with the overarching goals of both Quick-UX and Quick-MI (quick assessment for summary, directional guidance, and quantitative comparison), the variables constituting the minimal representative subset for Flexibility are…

  • Customizability
  • Standardization

Each variable and category (e.g. Flexibility) is assigned a value that can be compared and combined. When all the categories’ values are combined, they form the Modular Innovation Index of a product.

Customizability

Customizability is the measure of degree of plasticity of the other 4 categories of Quick-MI. The overall Customizability of the core components of Quick-MI as represented via a product’s present capabilities is sufficiently important to be represented by independent quantification.

Of each feature set representative of each individual Quick-MI category, Customizability is the evaluation of the proportion of the present capabilities that can be customized and adjusted to desired preferences. An example of Customizability of a data feed can be found in the permitting of the recipient, via an API, to customize the format of the data feed, e.g. choosing between JSON or XML.

The Customizability variable’s value is the sum of evaluated Customizability for each, individual Quick-MI category; thereby, resulting in a maximum value of 4 (a maximum value of 1 per category: Sharability, Interoperability, Portability, and Convenience). Each Customizability value is determined to be…

  • 0 if the Quick-MI category does not allow any Customizability,
  • 0.5 if the capabilities associated with the Quick-MI category are allowed some Customizability and indication of preference, or
  • 1 if the all capabilities associated with the Quick-MI category can be Customized and have preferences indicated.

Standardization

The benefits and value associated with Quick-MI‘s Flexibility category are weakened through the lack of adherence to common practices and standards. The more non-proprietary, standard methods and formats are employed, the more they will be made of use of in the relationships between product-product and people-product. And, in turn, the more resilient will be these relationships.

Some good questions to ask when evaluating the extent of Standardization within a product are…

  • Is there a non-standard API?
  • Is the resultant file in a proprietary file format?
  • Are standard methodologies employed throughout?

The Standardization variable is assigned the value of…

  • 0 if no standard methods or non-proprietary formats are employed within the product,
  • 0.5 if some places within the product make use of commonly accepted practices and formats, or
  • 1 if all of the product’s touch points follow common standards, methodologies and formats.

Fast and Flexible

Quick-MI is all about understanding and measuring the relationships formed and supported between online products, especially those pioneering the next generation of web products via Modular Innovation.

With too much rigidity, an inflexible relationship can strain and even break. Flexibility of the components of Quick-MI and simplification of benefiting from that Flexibility, through adherence to commonly accepted standards, is crucial to forming strong, sustainable products and product relationships.

Altogether, the 5 categories of Quick-MI

Sharability,
Interoperability,
Portability,
Convenience, and
Flexibility,

… constitute a sound, representative, quantitative understanding of a product’s ability to foster and maintain relationships both within and without — yielding an oft missed, yet critical, perspective into the success and sustainability of an online product.

Enjoy It, Try It, Tweak It, Discuss It & Share!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (August 1, 2008)

reading_w_TPG_thumb5_thumb2_thumb2_t[2] Every week I read tens of thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

On Starting Up…
http://bokardo.com/archives/passionates/
Some thoughts from Joshua about what to do with those “passionate” users.

On Design & Product Experience…
http://aiburn.com/article/the_emergence_of_gradient_grunge_design
Great look at the emergence of the Gradient Grunge style.

On Modular Innovation…
http://www.centernetworks.com/how-to-save-the-music-business
Hank and Bill see how Modular Innovation can save the Music Industry.

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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