From Modular Innovation Security to Touchy-Feely Design

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

01_mint_branding

On Starting Up…

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-10457870-36.html
On the meaningful minting of the ‘best’ startup.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://ajaxian.com/archives/feeling-touchy
Touchy-Feely web designs and developments in the mobile world.

02_aggregation_security
03_touchy_feely

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/are_aggregation_services_security_risks.php
Security challenges facing Modular Innovation.

 

What are you reading this weekend?

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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brainmates Interview with The Product Guy

image Two weeks ago I was interviewed by Janey Wong over at brainmates for their brainrants blog. We touched on some really good Product Management topics in which I think you would be interested.

So, here it is, reblogged straight from Australia…


By day (and most nights) Jeremy is a zealous, hard-working Product Management Consultant in New York City. His work primarily supports start-ups and new businesses launch awesome products but on the side he is an avid Product Management blogger, and once a month he organizes and facilitates The Product Group Meetup. We’ve had the pleasure of digging deeper into his world of Product Management.

whole-head---LSJeremy, what attracted you to specialising in Product Management?

The main reason I got involved with product management, and the reason why I remain in the field, are one and the same. Namely, I enjoy the challenge of bringing together the key pieces and people needed for successfully guiding the development of a product by focusing everyone on the common goal and seeing ideas coalesce.

Tell us about being a Product Management consultant.

A strong product management consultant plays the key role in creating and educating. Coming in as a consultant brings with it some advantages, such as a less emotional, larger picture perspective that can be leveraged in honing the optimal direction for the products and teams. I often spend a good deal of time as a product and project coordinator – facilitating communication, and clarifying ownership and overall responsibility roles. Most important, when I work with a client, is to not only keep everyone focused on the ultimate goal – a successful product, but also to leave them with the tools necessary to continue on the path long after our engagement has ended. Both consulting and full-time Product Management positions have their different rewards. As a Product Management consultant I get to work with a very diverse set of products, people, and organizations solving rewarding product management challenges. In a full-time role, you get to be in the product process for the long-haul crafting, shaping, and adapting the product, experience and strategies as conditions evolve.

What challenges do you face as a Product Management consultant?

The role of a product management consultant brings with it many challenges. First of all, it is imperative that, as an outsider, you have the skills for leading without the need for explicit authority. You need to be able to demonstrate your authority and expertise through the exercise of your leadership and product management (technology, strategy, analytics, user experience, business) skills, not by steamrolling over anyone. In some cases, you are in the center of disagreements between stakeholders, so you also need to be skilled in managing relationships and handling conflict without destroying the integrity of the team — I strive to leave the organization not just with a killer product, but also with a team cohesion stronger for having worked with me.

The second greatest challenge is simply staying up to speed on the latest in “products.” I work across a broad array of verticals with greatly varying needs and skill sets required to accomplish the tasks. I spend almost half of all my time studying, meeting with interesting people across all sorts of industries, following blogs, and absorbing just as much information as I can, from technology and design to venture capital and business development — and everything in between.

What qualities do you think make an excellent Product Manager?

An excellent Product Manager is going to have…

  1. Strong technical skills coupled with business savvy,
  2. The ability to quickly establish credibility and lead with no authority,
  3. Communication skills (e.g. be able to speak different ‘languages’) that allow for the effective exchange of ideas between all organization groups (sales, marketing, technology, engineering) and personality types that come with them, this also includes writing skills and the creation of clear and concise PRD’s, etc.
  4. An eye for details – in this, I find Product Managers with an established UX background to be particularly strong
  5. Analytical mind, with a sound ROI-focus, and
  6. Love of all products & their consumers.

Continuing from that last bullet point, an excellent Product Manager is one who is unable to look at a product without thinking about how he/she would improve it or what that business model is or could be, or the people, ideas, and materials that when into that product to bring it to where it is today.

In your opinion, what does the future of Product Management look like? Do you see any trends?

I do see many promising trends in Product Management. Chief among them I find is the increased appreciation of analytics and innovating along those lines; including integrating with real-time social media to make better, more pro-active decisions that feed greater product and consumer insight.

Many organizations have a growing appreciation for collaboration and product and consumer relationships. They are focusing more Product Management efforts and seeking greater innovation along those lines. This is a topic I often discuss on The Product Guy; I am seeing the Product Manager as key facilitator in moving their products along this route to the next big evolutionary wave of Modular Innovation.

There are increasing numbers of startups employing Product Managers with roles increasingly visible and important. It is becoming more common for a Product Manager to be part of the founding team, or amongst the first few hires. I hope that the trends I see continue to persist and accelerate – and that I may be able to facilitate the broader integration of good Product Management within all flavors of organization.

Jeremy, thanks for giving us your insight on being a Product Management Consultant and the delicate but significant role it has in every organization. As a heads up to our readers, Jeremy will be a guest blogger for an exciting new series of articles on Modular Innovation. We look forward to hearing more from him on this topic.

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From Debating Stack Overflow to Re-designing Janko

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

01_stackoverflow

On Starting Up…

http://37signals.com/svn/posts/2159-all-the-wrong-reasons-for-stack-overflows-vc-chase
Questioning the value-add of venture capital, from 37Signals to Stack Overflow.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.jankoatwarpspeed.com/post/2010/02/16/redesigning-jankoatwarpspeed.aspx
The agile processes behind the re-design of Janko.

02_janko
03_twitter-glue

On Modular Innovation…

http://opengardensblog.futuretext.com/archives/2010/02/is_twittter_the.html
Twitter… Is it the glue of Modular Innovation?

 

What are you reading this weekend?

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Facebook PDQ

image_thumb2544A company can have the best product around, but if the pages are too sluggish, if the product suffers recurring outages, if the user-product interaction is varied and inconsistent, the product’s overall Usability can, and does, suffer.

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX). Among the various components that define a product’s Usability, as well as Quick-UX‘s, are Accessibility, Consistency, Recognition, Navigation, and Page Load Time.

In answering the question of Usability, "Can I use it?" the sub-category of Page Load plays an instrumental role. Page Load, often obfuscated or connected with other perceived causes of a product’s dissatisfaction, ultimately, either positively or negatively, presents an unquestionable influence on a product’s overall Usability.

Example: Prompt Load Time (value = 1.0)

When I recently twittered my followers asking for their opinion of a web product that best exemplified a Prompt Load Time, some of the most common responses were…

WordPress and
Basecamp.

But, the product that received the most votes was Facebook.

00_facebook-homepage

Facebook is not only a good example of a product with a Quick-UX Usability Page Load Time variable value of 1.0, Prompt Load Time, but also a wonderful example of improvement along the same lines.

Amazingly, as recently as January 2008, Facebook was seen as one of the slowest, most inaccessible social networking products.

01_facebook-techcrunchies

Now, Facebook, is one of the promptest, fastest web products, with 350 million active users, 50% of which log on every day, with the average user spending 55 minutes interacting with the product.

Whatever part of the product with which the user chooses to interact, the end result is always and consistently the same… quick reaction and responsiveness – from visiting and interacting with one’s Inbox…

02_facebook-inbox

… to participating in conversations in the News Feed.

03_facebook-newsfeed

Should Do

With all the positive efforts being taken, some ‘flourishes’ of the user interface continue to inject a sluggishness into an overall snappy Page Load Time and user experience that would best be redesigned or redeveloped inline with the rest of the product’s established Page Load Time expectations. An example of such an interface event, with sluggishness caused by either the method of display, and/or of content retrieval, is the user action of adding a friend.

04_facebook-addfriend

If a recent interview with an anonymous Facebook employee is accurate, Facebook can be viewed as being very much on the right track to further improvement of their already Prompt Load Time.

On the continued optimization of downloaded file size and its client-side performance…

"…actually found out it increased the number of page views by 77%, essentially because we were reducing 77% of the page load, and therefore it was loading faster, and thus generating more clicks. We not only reduced our bandwidth, and how much we have to pay for our Internet, but we made the site faster and increased the clicks-per-minute, which is what we’re truly interested in."

On the optimization of server responsiveness…

"…this guy right now is single-handedly rewriting, essentially, the entire site. Our site is coded, I’d say, 90% in PHP. All the front end — everything you see — is generated via a language called PHP. He is creating HPHP, Hyper-PHP, which means he’s literally rewriting the entire language.

"We’re going to reduce our CPU usage on our servers by 80%, so practically, users will just see this as a faster site. Pages will load in one fifth of the time that they used to."

Next…

Over the course of this series we explored many real-world examples of Page Load Time values…

Poor Load Time (value 0) [Twitter, Twine]
Delayed Load Time (value 0.5) [Conversation Pieces]
Prompt Load Time (value 1) [Facebook]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of exploration of Quick-UX, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall User Experience of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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From the Buzz of Modular Innovation to Success in Redesign

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

01_fundraising-tips

On Starting Up…

http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/11791/9-Quick-Tips-Learned-While-Raising-33-Million-In-Venture-Capital.aspx
Quick and useful tips on raising venture capital.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://sixrevisions.com/web_design/the-three-golden-rules-of-site-redesigns/
Finding success in site redesign.

02_redesign
03_google-buzz

On Modular Innovation…

http://blog.programmableweb.com/2010/02/09/google-wastes-no-time-in-launching-google-buzz-api/
Modular Innovation’s disruptive capabilities demonstrated via Google Buzz.

 

What are you reading this weekend?

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Product Group, Needs & Wants & March More & Thanks All Around!

theproductgroup_logo_200909_thumb752
balsamiq_logo2_thumb263
RymaLogo-HighRes-257_thumb[5]

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

DSC06097

Over the 2+ hours we discussed…

Identifying Your Core: understanding who your users are and distinguishing what they need vs. what they want

Requirements Management: from challenges to software and solutions

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, March 4th @ 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 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 or hosting an upcoming gathering of The Product Group please contact me.

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Slow Paced Conversation Pieces

image_thumb254A company can have the best product around, but if the pages are too sluggish, if the product suffers recurring outages, if the user-product interaction is varied and inconsistent, the product’s overall Usability can, and does, suffer.

Quick-UX provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s User Experience (UX). Among the various components that define a product’s Usability, as well as Quick-UX‘s, are Accessibility, Consistency, Recognition, Navigation, and Page Load Time.

In answering the question of Usability, "Can I use it?" the sub-category of Page Load plays an instrumental role. Page Load, often obfuscated or connected with other perceived causes of a product’s dissatisfaction, ultimately, either positively or negatively, presents an unquestionable influence on a product’s overall Usability.

Example: Delayed Load Time (value = 0.5)

Conversation Pieces is a web product that provides an online venue from which indie designers can sell their creations. This product has also earned a Quick-UX Page Load Time variable value of 0.5, Delayed Load Time.

00_conversationpieces-homep

According to a report that Akamai released in 2009…

40% of consumers abandon the site after 3 seconds of load time

23% of consumers stop shopping due to long page loading time

These are 2 concerns that Conversation Pieces would be well served to pay attention to.

01_conversationpieces-homep

Store, Set Up

Bandwidth utilization resulting from the speed of the product’s server(s) plays a critical role in the understanding, and consumer’s perception, of a product’s Page Load Time. However, Page Load Time, the Quick-UX variable, is a quantification of the perceived time it takes to load the page, content, or complete an action. If the product’s page downloads everything in 100ms, but does not show anything to the user for 5, 10, or more seconds, then the page has a Page Load Time problem.

As far as bandwidth utilization is concerned, going beyond the basic hardware of the servers…

unoptimized images
Resizing the used images, reducing the number of colors used, and selecting the proper compression algorithms (GIF, PNG, JPG), can have a tremendous impact on the final file size delivered to the consumer.

uncompressed files
Using products like YUI Compressor or Google Compile on files containing the likes of JavaScript and CSS can remove whitespace and restructure your underlying code to be compact and small in file size.

no HTTP compression
Compressing HTTP requests and responses are very common on many servers and typically demonstrate as much as a 70% reduction in response size, a.k.a. the files the consumer is receiving via their browser. note: depending on your server setup there may be CPU overhead

uncombined files
The more file requests that are made, the more overhead that is involved in the process, and the slower the Page Load Time. Various methods can be used to reduce the files, from using sprites to combine many images into one, to concatenating CSS and JavaScript files.

… all use up unnecessary bandwidth, resulting in superfluous seconds wasted in Page Load Time. Some more best practices to optimizing Page Load Time can be found at http://developer.yahoo.com/performance/rules.html .

Minding the Store

The Conversation Pieces product exhibits occasional, inconsistent delays, everywhere from the initial home page load to the display of various purchasable content .

02_conversationpieces-produ

These delays are most likely caused by the way the Flash and the caching of images has been coded. The resulting experience created is a very real concern in the product’s Usability, with the consumer sometimes waiting, sometimes instantly getting what was requested, with no apparent pattern to the behavior.

Such inconsistency of Page Load Time does more than wreak havoc within the online shopping experience. Beyond the impact on the product’s Usability, there is enough inconsistency present to assuredly have an impact on the actual pocketbook of the company; resulting from consumers leaving to go elsewhere, to a more stable, more consistently usable website.

Should Do

Perceived page load time is the ‘real’ Page Load Time as far as the consumer is concerned. With that in mind, specific steps can be taken to improve the Page Load Time of the Conversation Pieces product.

  • Focus the product on providing content in manners empowering the rapid actions and decisions of its consumers.
  • Whether sticking with a full Flash web product, or not, further optimize the dynamically loaded images and perform smarter caching and, especially, preloading of content with better user feedback as to what is actually going on, e.g. image X of Y loaded, W% loaded, Q time remaining.
  • A good deal of what can be accomplished in Flash can be done in a much more lightweight and prompt fashion via the latest techniques of HTML and JavaScript. With the availability of very powerful JavaScript libraries (MooTools, YUI, jQuery, …) companies are hard pressed nowadays to justify the absolute requirement of Flash over that of HTML.

Next…

Over the next several weeks I will be providing real-world examples of Page Load Time values…

Poor Load Time (value 0) [Twitter, Twine]
Delayed Load Time (value 0.5) [Conversation Pieces]
Prompt Load Time (value 1) [Facebook]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Usability and Page Load Time of Quick-UX, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall User Experience of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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From Removing Features to Meebo Modular Innovation

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

01_remove-features

On Starting Up…

http://ignorethecode.net/blog/2010/02/02/removing-features/
Show your product who is boss… remove those features!

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.everydayux.com/2010/02/03/from-sketch-to-comp-an-exploration-of-the-wireframe-process/
Going from idea to implementation in 1 minute and 30 seconds.

02_idea2
03_meebo2

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.techcrunch.com/2010/02/01/meebo-chat-bar-engagement/
Evolving Modular Innovation at Meebo increasing user engagement.

 

What are you reading this weekend?

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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jQuery Plugin: CuteTime, C’est Magnifique! (v 1.1) [UPDATE]

jquery-logo-256I am very pleased to announce the latest major update to the CuteTime jQuery plugin.

CuteTime provides the ability to 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
  • update automatically and/or manually the displayed CuteTime(s).
Un-Cute Cute
2010-1-27 23:14:17 a few days ago
Thu, October 29, 2004 12:14:19 PM 5 years ago

Since CuteTime was released last year, there continues to be a flood of excellent feedback from many of you consisting of suggestions, bug reports (less of these), and feature requests (more of these). Much of that feedback has coalesced into this latest major release.

imageAs you may already have been able to tell, this latest update was, in part, inspired by the French language. Perhaps one of the greatest drivers, to whom I am grateful, of a central new feature within this release has been Bruno Morency, through whose guidance and linguistic support I was able to design a more robust, universal CuteTime for all languages and grammatical styles.

In addition to the inclusion of French CuteTime translations within the translations.txt file, this release, version 1.1, features…

  • ISO8601 date timestamp compliance
  • insertions using the %CT% pattern of computed numbers within the CuteTime cuteness
  • support for all foreign language characters and HTML
  • Spanish CuteTime translations, courtesy of Alex Hernandez
  • richer demos and test
  • improved settings flexibility of the CuteTime function
  • documentation updates (corrections and clarifications)

French, et al

Originally, CuteTime was developed with a less than universal syntactic centricity. Basically, CuteTime originally could handle the cuteness of presenting…

“a few seconds ago”
“last month”

…as well as prepend values resulting in…

” hours ago” becoming “4 hours ago”
” seconds ago” becoming “18 seconds ago”.

Now, in addition to supporting the prepending of the computed CuteTime,

  • the calculation can be inserted within the cuteness string, and
  • both formatted HTML styling and proper character accenting applied,

…resulting in the additional support for…

“il y a %CT% minutes” becoming “il y a 4 minutes”
“l\’année dernière” becoming “l’année dernière”
“<span style=’color: red; font-weight: bold’>in the future<span>” becomingin the future

ISO8601

image Formatting of timestamps is the bane of many a developer. Especially onerous is the handling of “standard” time formatting by the front-end developer. The JavaScript Date Object() supports the IETF standard, defined in RFC 822 Section 5, at least in FireFox, with most backend systems providing and storing (or at least converting to) dates in ISO8601 form.

Now, when converting a normal time into a CuteTime it can be either formatted in a manner compatible with the JavaScript Date() Object …

Thu Oct 15 2009 22:11:19 GMT-0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
Oct 15 2009 22:11:19

… or ISO8601 …

2009-11-24T19:20:30+01:00
2009-11
2009-11-24T13:15:30Z

Implementation

CuteTime is a customizable jQuery plugin that automatically converts timestamps to formats much cuter. It also has the ability to manually and/or automatically update timestamps on a controlled interval.

  • If used by Selector, it replaces the text of the provided object with a CuteTime.
  • If used as a function, it returns a string containing a CuteTime version of the provided timestamp.
$('.timestamp').cuteTime();
$('.timestamp').cuteTime({ /* OPTIONS * / });

cutetime_object = $('.timestamp').cuteTime();
cutetime_object.update_cuteness();

$.cuteTime('2009/10/12 22:11:19');
$.cuteTime({ /* OPTIONS * / }, '2009/10/12 22:11:19'); // [NEW!]

For more details about the latest CuteTime improvements and their implementation, visit http://tpgblog.com/CuteTime

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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