The Product Guy: Superfine in 09

Snowman&Bell The Product Guy had another superfine year in 2009, sharing and exploring products, their experiences, and many innovative startups and the founders behind them, while getting to meet and speak with many of The Product Guy’s steadily growing readership.

And, as 2009 comes to a close, as I did last year, let’s take a brief look at the top posts that made this year on The Product Guy so totally superfine….

 

#9 Quick-UX Credibility from Likexo to Etsy

Quick-UX Credibility is a measure of the starting point, the foundation of a product’s Credibility. A look at the popular (and not so popular) examples of web product Credibility online.

image

#8 World’s Best Programmer is… [w/ Respect]

The World’s Best Programmer wants respect.

And, respect is just one of those conditions prevalent within the environment of the World’s Best Programmer. In this last post in the series The Product Guy reveals just who exactly is World’s Best Programmer, and where/how they thrive!!

image

#7 Converted by an Android. A short story of Gmail, in parts.

Part 1 in a series exploring the eventual adoption of Gmail in one’s daily life, by one once thoroughly addicted to, dependent on, the primarily client-based solution of Microsoft’s Outlook, what brought about this conversion, why it took so long, and what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption.

image 

#6 jQuery Plugin: It’s CuteTime!

Many online social products, and more continue to, avoid a formal timestamp format… 2009-10-10 23:14:17 and Thu, October 29, 2004 12:14:19 PM … opting for more user friendly, "warm and fuzzy," human-readable styles… 9 days ago and 5 years ago.

As a result, the time has come for the jQuery CuteTime plugin. CuteTime goes beyond similar tools and lets you easily: convert timestamps to ‘cuter’ language-styled forms (e.g. yesterday, 2 hours ago, last year, in the future!), customize the time scales and output formatting, and dynamically update the displayed CuteTime(s) upon request and/or automatically.

image 

#5 The Future: Gmail, Social Media, and You

Over the past many weeks I have explored, elaborated, and exhausted the extent of the then existent exercising of resistance. Now, with such resistance eroded, drawn out through my conversion by an Android, an exploration into the Future of Gmail and the ‘Should Do’ … Readability, Simplify, Organize, Integration and Consistency.

image 

 

#4 Google: True Colors Shine Through

In answering the question of Desirability, "Do I want it?" the sub-category of Color Scheme plays an important role. Google Search is an outstanding example of a Good Color Scheme demonstrating alignment of both colors and messaging. Learn from it.

image

#3 Stardoll: Lost and Naked

When you look at a web page, the various elements of the page can often be seen coalescing into distinguishable regions and groups. Intentionally structured, or otherwise, these groups that constitute the page Layout play an important role in the web product’s Desirability. Stardoll is a great example of a web product with Poor Sequential Flow.

image 

#2 ThreeDots: The jQuery Ellipsis Plugin

Many online products employ ellipses within their products to improve various aspects of the User Experience, such as: allowing for easy summary scanning of page content, and fitting more diversity of content into a smaller space.

As a result, the time has come for the jQuery ThreeDots plugin. ThreeDots goes beyond similar tools and lets you easily and smartly truncate text for when: text is too long, text doesn’t fit within the available space, you want to employ highly configurable and flexible ellipses within your web product.

image 

#1 Quick-UX. Quick Heuristics for User eXperience.

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX), consisting of the core components of Usability (‘Can I use it?’), Usefulness (‘Should I use it?’), and Desirability (‘Do I want to use it?’). 

Quick-UX provides a sure-fire, rapid way to obtain concrete and comparable means by which to assess a single product or compare its strengths and weaknesses to other products.

Growing in popularity by leaps and bounds since its original posting in 2008, this posting has earned prime placement amongst other, more recent, articles that made this year, 2009, SUPERFINE.

image

 

theproductgroup_logo_200909_thumb75
balsamiq_logo2_thumb26

This year also saw the launch of The Product Group (sponsored by Balsamiq Studios) in NYC as an opportunity for Product People of all sorts and levels of experience to meet, interact, and network, in a laid-back, conversational environment.  I am certain 2010 will bring many more exciting gatherings, discoveries, and opportunities; and for those reasons, this too, also helped make 2009 for both Product People and The Product Guy, superfine!

Group_Pic_1_20091001 DSC05663 DSC05662 DSC05661

Happy Holidays!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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From Early Release to Ambient Streams in a Sea of Modular Innovation

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

01_early-release

On Starting Up…

http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/11416/Releasing-Early-Is-Not-Always-Good-Heresy.aspx
Getting your product to your customers early is a bad thing. Or is it?

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.inspiredm.com/2009/12/20/design-real-estate/
Understanding the value of your product’s onscreen real-estate.

02_onscreen
03_ambient-streams

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/12/20/ambient-streams-realtime/
The flowing, ambient streams of Modular Innovation.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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ThreeDots: The jQuery Ellipsis Plugin

jquery-logo-256Sometimes the text …

… is too long …
… won’t fit within the number of rows you have available.

Sometimes all you need is … ThreeDots! (a jQuery plugin)

For example —

This: When restricted to 2 lines by ThreeDots, can become:
There was once a brown fox
that liked to eat chocolate
pudding.
There was once a brown fox
that liked to eat …
There was once a brown fox
that liked to eat chocolate
pudding.
There was once a brown fox
that liked to (click for more)

… and most any other permutation you desire.

To Ellipsize

There are many scenarios in the display of online text where shortened, truncated representations are best used. For these scenarios, many products opt for the implementation of ellipses.

el·lip·sis (ĭ-lĭpsĭs)

n., pl., -ses (-sēz).

  1. The omission of a word or phrase necessary for a complete syntactical construction but not necessary for understanding.
  2. An example of such omission.
    • A mark or series of marks ( . . . or * * * , for example) used in writing or printing to indicate an omission, especially of letters or words.

[Latin ellīpsis, from Greek elleipsis, from elleipein, to fall short. See ellipse.]
from <http://www.answers.com/topic/ellipsis>

Many online products employ ellipses within their products to improve various aspects of the User Experience, such as:

allowing for easy summary scanning of page content, and
fitting more diversity of content into a smaller space.

Most often people truncate the text by character count, on both the client- and server-sides, which does not take into account the variable dimensions of the text being truncated. There are also a few CSS hacks out there, albeit with future standardized support currently being called into question, and custom, per-browser efforts required for successful implementation.

I too, on so many projects, have encountered the challenge of wanting to limit text to only a few lines or make sure that, no matter what, the text always fits within the space provided. People, myself included, on similar product feature missions have been forced to make compromises of design and experience, without the existence of a simple script/tool to carry out the task, to accommodate the time constraints and complexity of coding the ideal solution.

So, finally, I sat down, put the time in, and created the ThreeDots jQuery plugin for…

… when text is too long…
… when text doesn’t fit within the available space …
… when you want to employ highly configurable and flexible ellipses within your web product…

… so that never again, would I, or anyone else have to compromise their vision where that vision bumps up against the need for the smart implementation of ellipses in your web product.

Usage

ThreeDots is a customizable jQuery plugin for the smart truncation of text. It shortens identified text to fit specified dimensions and appends the desired ellipsis style if/when truncation occurs.

Sample 1:

<div class='text_here'>
	<span class='ellipsis_text'>
		TEXT
	</span>
</div>
$('.text_here').ThreeDots();  // USE DEFAULTS
$('.text_here2').ThreeDots({ max_rows:3 });

Sample 2:

<div class='text_here'>
	<span class='ellipsis_text'>
		TEXT
	</span>
</div>
threedots_object = $('.text_here').ThreeDots();
threedots_object.update();

Sample 3:

<div class='text here'>
	<span class='something'>
		TEXT
	</span>
</div>
threedots_object2 = $('.text_here').ThreeDots( {text_span_class: 'something'} );
threedots_object2.update( {text_span_class: 'something'} );

As a Method

When initialized, the ThreeDots plugin creates and assigns the full set of identified text to each container element, class=’text_here’, as a publicly accessible attribute, ‘threedots’. The method implementation supports chaining and returns the jQuery object.

<div class='text_here' threedots='original text'>
	<span class='ellipsis_text>
		original text
	</span>
</div>

Note, to implement the text that you wish to ellipsize, it must be wrapped in a span assigned either the default class ‘ellipsis_text’ or other custom class of your preference — customizable via the options/settings.

If the text becomes truncated to fit within the constrained space as defined by the container element that holds the ‘ellipsis_text’ span, then an additional span is appended within the container object, and after the ‘ellipsis_text’ span.

<div class='text_here' threedots='original text'>
	<span class='ellipsis_text>
		original text
	</span>
	<span class'threedots_ellipsis'>
		...
	</span>
</div>

The span class of ‘threedots_ellipsis’ can also be customized via the options/settings and have it’s own CSS/jQuery styles/actions/etc. applied to it as desired. Put another way, the ellipsis is NOT constrained to ‘…’, but can be any text or HTML you desire.

If any of the specified settings are invalid or the ‘ellipsis_text’ span is missing, ThreeDots will abort its processing and the initial text will be left untouched.

IMPORTANT: The horizontal constraints placed upon each row are controlled by the container object. The container object is the object specified in the primary selector.

$('container_object').ThreeDots();

When using ThreeDots, the following additional methods can be used…

ThreeDots.update()

Refreshes the text within the target object inline with the options provided. Note that the current implementation of options/settings are destructive. This means that whenever settings are specified, they are merged with the DEFAULT settings and applied to the current object(s), and destroy/override any previously specified options/settings.

var obj = $('.text_here').ThreeDots();	// uses DEFAULT: max_rows = 2
obj.update({max_rows:3});				// update the text with max_rows = 3

Settings

By default, the three dots ellipsis (““) is used, as shown in the prior examples, and limits text to a maximum of 2 lines. These and many other characteristics are fully customizable, and fully itemized and explained below.

To change these settings, they can either be accessed directly…

$.fn.ThreeDots.settings.max_rows = 4;

… or at the time of initialization or update …

// configuring the initial settings to use
var obj3 = $('.text_here').ThreeDots({ max_rows: 4 });

// changing the applied settings via an update call to the same text region(s)
obj3.ThreeDots.update({ max_rows: 2 });

The default settings data structure is…

$.fn.ThreeDots.settings = {
	valid_delimiters:         [' ', ',', '.'],			// what defines the bounds of a word to you?
	ellipsis_string:         '...',
	max_rows:                        2,
	text_span_class:        'ellipsis_text',
	e_span_class:                'threedots_ellipsis',
	whole_word:                        true,
	allow_dangle:                false,
	alt_text_e:                 false,					// if true, mouse over of ellipsis displays the full text
	alt_text_t:                 false					// if true & if ellipsis displayed, mouse over of text displays the full text
};

The parameters are defined (and all can be overridden) thus…

valid_delimiters

  • a character array of special characters upon which the text string may be broken up
  • defines what characters can be used to express the bounds of a word
  • all elements in this array must be 1 character in length
  • any delimiter less than or greater than 1 character will be ignored
  • if valid_delimiters contains no valid content, then nothing will be processed

ellipsis_string

  • defines what to display at the tail end of the text provided if the text becomes truncated to fit within the space defined by the container object
  • ellipsis_string can be text or HTML (e.g. ‘<a href=’url’>click for more</a>’)

max_rows

  • specifies the upper limit for the number of rows that the object’s text can use
  • if the displayed text is determined to use less than max_rows, then no operations will be performed upon the provided text and no ellipsis displayed
  • max_rows must be greater than 0 (ZERO)

text_span_class

  • by default ThreeDots will look within the specified object(s) for a span of the class ‘ellipsis_text’
  • if the class specified by text_span_class is not found within the selected objects, then no actions will be taken against the incompletely defined objects
  • if a different class name is desired for stylistic or programmatic reasons, a new, valid string can be specified

e_span_class

  • if an ellipsis_string is displayed at the tail end of the selected object’s text due to truncation of that text, then it will be displayed wrapped within a span associated with the class defined by e_span_class and immediately following the text_span_class‘ span
  • just like text_span_class, a different, valid class name can be specified

whole_word

  • when ThreeDots is fitting the provided text to the max_rows within the container object, this boolean setting defines whether or not the last word can be truncated to maximize the fit of the text within max_rows
  • if true, then don’t truncate any words and the ellipsis can ONLY be placed after the last whole word that fits within the provided space

e.g.

one time a duck flew
a frog shaped kite

…could become…

one time a duck flew
a (click for more)

  • if false, then maximize the text within the provided space, allowing the PARTIAL display of words before the ellipsis

e.g.

(continuing from the prior example)

one time a duck flew
a fr (click for more)

allow_dangle

  • a dangling ellipsis is an ellipsis that typically occurs due to words that are longer than a single row of text, resulting, upon text truncation, in the ellipsis being displayed on a row all by itself

e.g.

one time a duck flew floopydoopydoppydoodoodoodoo

… could become with allow_dangle:true …

one time a duck flew

  • if allow_dangle is set to false, whole_words is overridden ONLY in the circumstances where a dangling ellipsis occurs and the displayed text is adjusted to minimize the occurrence of such dangling of the ellipsis

e.g.

(continuing from the prior example)

one time a duck flew
floopydoopydoppyd…

alt_text_e

  • alt_text_e is a shortcut to enabling the user of the product that made use of ThreeDots to see the full text, prior to truncation, on mouse-over of the ellipsis
  • if the value is set to true, then the ellipsis span’s title property is set to the full, original text (pre-truncation) allowing the text to be seen by mousing over the ellipsis, if present
  • if the value is set to false, then the title value is left unaffected
  • this feature can be used in place of, or in conjunction with, additional styles or desired behaviors associated with mouse interactions of the selected object(s)
  • alt_text_e usage is not required to define your own custom interactions

alt_text_t

  • alt_text_t is a shortcut to enabling the user of the product that made use of ThreeDots to see the full text, prior to truncation, on mouse-over of the ellipsized text
  • if the value is set to true AND the ellipsis is displayed, then the text span’s title property is set to the full, original text (pre-truncation) and the text can be seen by mousing over the truncated text, if the ellipsis is present
  • if the value is set to false, then the title value is left unaffected
  • this feature can be used in place of, or in conjunction with, additional styles or desired behaviors associated with mouse interactions of the selected object(s)
  • alt_text_t usage is not required to define your own custom interactions

Get It

You can download ThreeDots, dual licensed under GPL and MIT, from…

jQuery Repository
http://plugins.jquery.com/project/ThreeDots

Git
Public Clone URL: git://github.com/theproductguy/ThreeDots.git
GitHub: http://github.com/theproductguy/ThreeDots

Zip
http://plugins.jquery.com/files/jQuery.ThreeDots_source-bundle_1.0.3_20091030.zip

Demo

http://theproductguy.com/threedots/threedots.demo.html

Status updates can be found here, jQuery ThreeDots.
If you find this useful, or have any questions, ideas, or issues, leave a comment.

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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From Action Inducing Websites to Mainstream Modular Innovation

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

01_sean-ellis

On Starting Up…

http://venturehacks.com/articles/sean-ellis-interview
Some simple advice on bringing your product to market.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://webdesignledger.com/inspiration/30-website-navigations-that-make-you-wanna-click-it
A showcase of action inducing websites.

02_clickable
03_echo-jskit

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/12/15/js-kit-echo
The increased participation the mainstream in Modular Innovation via such products as the newly rebranded Echo.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Future: Gmail, Social Media, and You

The Future: Gmail, Social Media, and You

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb35555It’s been many weeks since my conversion has been wholly complete, many months since it became my primary means of email communication, when I was converted by an Android, and years since I first started using…. Gmail.

Over the past many weeks I have explored, elaborated, and exhausted the exercising of my resistance. Now, with such resistance both worn down and overcome, drawn out through my conversion by an Android, let’s explore what improvements remain undone, those of the ‘Should Do’ variety that would directly facilitate the conversions of many, many more to the ways of Gmail.

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Should Do

00_gmail-all Perhaps the greatest challenge to Gmail is Information Overload and the ability to zero in on both what is desired and what is most important.

  • Gmail can often feel like a very, very long list of information with few visual cues assisting in the efficient user parsing of the data. Many things can be done to assist in this readability challenge.
    • Support grouping of emails / discussion threads, by tags, from, to, substrings, age, size, frequency of receipt as well as frequency of reply (or even average delay before reply to), etc.
    • The introduction of the concepts of hierarchy would allow users to zoom in on what is important, becoming less dependent on knowing the precise search, becoming less likely to miss the ever critical email buried in a long list or discussion thread. Beyond the custom coloring of tags (a labs feature) tags should be able to be grouped as well as support hierarchical concepts, sub-tags. This would allow for a bridging of the folder and tag paradigms within the Gmail experience. Of course, having the choice to use tags, tag groups, and sub-tags and their groups, together with folders would provide for even more flexibility of these means of thinking and empower the users to choose the paths best suited for them. Most importantly, these concepts, when implemented, should facilitate finding information without knowing the exact details incumbent to initiate a search, i.e. browsing, possessing the characteristic of easy historical reference of read and unread content within an organizational superstructure that can cut through the overwhelming list of lists experience of today’s Gmail.
    • Sorting and filters, dynamic, inline, and customizable, as well as saved filter rules, another concept that Outlook implemented very well by way of their Search Folders (the name itself almost necessitates a Google equivalent), would also help cut through the clutter.
    • Provide the option to display either the total number (read + unread) or total unread tagged items alongside the tags. In turn, this would provide the ability to immediately archive communications, while maintaining a visual cue of their existence. In this approach, tags could function as more than mere labels, but become more action oriented keeping track of such things as to-do items or other rapidly evolving and critical communication (that would benefit from being separated from the clutter of the Inbox).
  • Discussion threads for tracking communication evidently work well for some people. For others, the thread is a sure fire way to misplace an important subset of the conversation.
    • Enable the ability to disable threads altogether, establish new threads and sub-threads, remove components / emails / sub-threads from a thread.
    • Allow for archiving of selective portions of a discussion thread.
    • Permit discussion threads that consist of multiple modes of communication; a single discussion thread could consist of Google Talk, Twitter, and Email communications centered around a single topic.

Google has many products that have official, open API’s and hooks for cross-product integration; lacking in the case of Gmail . Open source and APIs play very google_apisimportant roles at Google. They …

  • accelerate idea creation — inspire and build upon,
  • leverage the power of the community — improving and extending the product through community ideas, learning and need discovery,
  • facilitate testing (and bug fixing) on greater scale,
  • increase the stickiness of Google products,
  • .. among many other value-added benefits.

And, greater attention to Integration and Consistency within Gmail would also greatly benefit its current and potential users by…

  • Enabling better cross-linking between Google products (e.g. between Google Calendar and Gmail) as well as amongst external properties (e.g. Gmail and OneNote). For example, including the Gmail live discussion thread from which the Google Calendar event was created would be a step in the right direction. In addition, Gmail and Google Docs could be more tightly integrated, with document revisions coordinated and displayed and accessible, alongside the messages within the discussion thread making use of the underlying document(s). Even integrating, to various degrees, with Google Analytics can provide greater understanding of effective communications, best times to reach out to people, best ways to get desired responses, etc.
  • Creating an open Gmail Labs, or Gmail App Store, for third party development of plugins and enhancements for Gmail.
  • Increasing openness, modularity and portability of Gmail and its parts by establishing an Open Development Platform to provide for the rapid evolution of the features and ideas of Gmail; leverage the strategy that has proven so successful in other Google products.
  • Blending the social media stream, from Picasa, YouTube, Facebook, and Orkut to micro-blogging, blog posts, and comments, building upon the current integration of Google Talk and Google Voice to further become the centralized, single place for all an individuals web communication.
  • Supplying a framework for the robust flexibility and customization of the UX and UI. For example, let users create their own buttons, button containers, and both custom and common actions.
  • Integrating more easily and seamlessly with the OS. Microsoft Windows allows the user to right-click ‘send to mail recipient’ on files.’ When Gmail is the primary email client of choice, performing such action should direct the straight to a newly composing Gmail message.
  • Experience and information management should be consistent from one Google product to another, most especially products like Gmail (tag-based organization) and Google Calendar (calendar-based organization) and Google Docs (folder-based organization).

Now

htc-hero-pictures-15 Now that I have switched to Gmail from Outlook, I couldn’t be happier that I was so coaxed into this long resisted position. But, the conversion could have been better facilitated, and more can be done to accelerate others still resisting. I only hope that this journey, together shared, was more than fun, but also illustrative and educational for those that use, may some day use, or are in positions of power and influence to improve the web-based email / communication platform, Gmail.

First converted to a fan of Android, the platform, then converted to a fan of Gmail, too. I resisted the Android, and succumbed. I, for much longer, both longed for and resisted the conversion to Gmail. Through all of this, despite the long path already journeyed, there remain many more steps to walk, specific steps that those overseers of Gmail can take to further enlighten the experience of ones as of now converted as well as those yet to be.

Remember & Share

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Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn 
The Product Guy

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From the Fallacy of Consumer Choice to Modular Innovation Champions at LeWeb

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

01_social-media-roi

On Starting Up…

http://semphonic.blogs.com/semangel/2009/12/measuring-social-media-roi-redux.html
Measuring social media ROI.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.theaccidentalpm.com/feature/stop-giving-your-customers-too-many-choices-%E2%80%93-they-don%E2%80%99t-want-them
The fallacy of providing consumer choice.

02_too-much-choice
03_leweb-modular-innovation

On Modular Innovation…

http://eu.techcrunch.com/2009/12/10/leweb-startup-competition-finalists-cloudsplit-stribe-tigerlily/
The Startup Modular Innovations that swept this year’s top prizes at LeWeb.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Product Group, From December Festivities to an Exciting New Year! (Thanks for Coming!)

theproductgroup_logo_200909_thumb7
balsamiq_logo2_thumb2

A big thank you to everyone who made it to our third meet-up of The Product Group, as well as to our sponsor, Balsamiq Studios! We all had a blast discussing Product People-oriented topics and enjoying Wonderful food.

 group-of-tpgroup-photos

Over the 2+ hours we discussed…

Product Positioning: from the ‘what’ to the ‘when’ and ‘why’

Event Planning Product: brainstorming solutions to the chicken-or-egg problem of a real-world startup product with the founder

Credibility Online: establishing, maintaining, and the importance of

The Product Group meet-ups are an opportunity for Product People (managers, strategies, marketers, etc.) to come together to meet, interact, and network in a roundtable setting. It’s awesome to meet fellow Product People in a laid-back, conversational gathering like this one and I am looking forward to seeing everyone, new and familiar, at our next meet-up …

Thursday, January 7th @ 7PM
@ Wonderful @ 172 8th Avenue (bet. 18th and 19th St)
NYC

If you would like to attend our next meet-up, RSVP today or visit our group webpage to learn about Holiday Drinks with the Product Group on December 17th at…

http://meetup.com/TheProductGroup

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

P.S. If you or an organization you represent would be interested in sponsoring an upcoming gathering of The Product Group please contact me.

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You and the Future of Gmail

gmail_logo_stylized_thumb3555htc-hero-pictures-15 Recently our journey began. From the humble origins of Outlook to the portable synchronicity of the Windows Mobile platform, I did travel, did evolve, as needs, desires, and demands of communication and productivity so evolved and changed. Through the darkness of masked potential so emerged new and exciting opportunities.

what brought about this conversion, (1) (2)
why it took so long, and (3) (4) (5) (6) (7)
what should be done to encourage greater Gmail adoption. (8) (9)

Over the past many weeks I have explored, elaborated, and exhausted the extent of the then existent exercising of resistance. Now, with such resistance eroded, drawn out through my conversion by an Android, let’s explore what improvements remain undone, those of the ‘Should Do’ variety that would directly facilitate the conversions of many, many more to the ways of Gmail.

Should Do

Seemingly, the most obvious steps that could be taken in easing the path to conversion for the average Gmail user are those that would directly both Encourage and Assist in the change.

  • Provide tools that can synchronize email, to-do, and calendar with other client-based and web-based solutions; allowing for the parallel use of communication platforms.
  • Automate the complete or partial porting of existing email organizing and sorting rules to Gmail from platforms like Hotmail, Automate, and Outlook.

00_gmail-all

Gmail takes a very unique approach to t he email paradigm, from tags to discussion threads. Such uniqueness can take some time to adapt to, while also being very intimidating to both the experienced and novice web user. Gmail would benefit from helping users gradually gain comfort, be in control of the transition from one way of thinking about email to another, by addressing the needs for Familiarity and Usability.

  • Allow for multiple paradigms to co-exist. Let the user decide which parts of the current Gmail UX they want right now and what aspects they want to keep in their ‘old,’ more familiar ways. Maybe tags are too much for a user to absorb in conjunction with discussion threads. For example…
    • let the user optionally use a folder hierarchy if, and until, they want to toggle over to the tag model, and/or
    • allow for different signatures per email account; signatures with pictures, links, etc.
  • Allow for the gradual transition to the Google perceived ideal of email and online communication, as well as the non-committal experimentation with all and/or parts of this newer email pattern.
  • With the incorporation of the very commonly found preview pane, the ability to scan through communications and discussion threads can be seriously accelerated.
  • Permit email reminders and the capability to schedule emails to be sent in the future.
  • Gmail and the other Google communication and time management tools should ease the performance of multiple simultaneous tasks, composing multiple emails, scanning another, planning an event, browsing contacts, without having to open quite so many additional browser windows.

01_outlook-instant With Google’s integral strategic goal to ‘make the web faster,’ one place they can most certainly focus on is the Speed of Gmail. Using Google search for the web is the fast way to find something online. The problem with that, of course, is that the user of Google Search does not differentiate between searching for something on the web and something in their email box when both seem to possess the same goals — "find what I want." Further raising the need for speedy email searching, especially for those converting from Microsoft Outlook, is Outlook’s Instant Search, a near real-time search of all one’s indexed email. It’s super fast. So when switching over to Gmail or even experimenting with it in prelude to a possible conversion, to experience performance slower than that of Outlook as well as the average Google web search, for an application so very central to a productive day, it isn’t surprising to see some continue their resistance.

  • Beyond accelerating the speed of displaying search results, Gmail would greatly benefit from a form of Instant Search, as would its users’ productivity.
  • Initial loading of Gmail, as well as individual page loading, should be greatly reduced. With long page loads, Gmail often regresses to a website feel, away from the target application experience desired by all. One such approach can be to always start in an ‘Instant Offline Mode’ and then update and populate the content; at least in this way, users won’t be delayed in getting into their email and finding what they want. Only the updating of the content would be slowed — much more inline with current application behavior expectations.

Now

First converted to a fan of Android, the platform, then converted to a fan of Gmail, too, I resisted the Android, but eventually succumbed. I, for much longer, both longed for and resisted the conversion to Gmail. Through all of this, despite the long path already journeyed, there remain many more steps to walk, specific steps that those overseers of Gmail can take to further enlighten the experience of ones as of now converted as well as those yet to be.

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Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss out on the exciting conclusion to this series exploring the challenges facing Gmail and the most important of what should be done next, and other exciting product explorations and in-depth looks at the people and strategies behind them.

Enjoy & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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From Favoring Software Patents to Nokia’s Visions of Modular Innovation

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

01_software-patents

On Starting Up…

http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2009/11/in-defense-of-software-patents-1.html
Arguing in favor of software patents.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.usabilitypost.com/2009/11/29/google-waves-clever-way-of-saving-scrollbar-space/
Just how clever is Google Wave’s scrollbar?

02_scrolls_at_google
03_nokia

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/nokia/6671518/Nokia-focuses-on-the-future.html
The smart ecosystems of Modular Innovation envisioned by Nokia.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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