Standard Customization. Evaluating Flexibility through Quick-MI.

clip_image001Having 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 pliable and easy to grasp, further enhances the relationships inherent in successful and emerging products. Flexibility, in the abstract, prevents important relationships from breaking. Without Flexibility, a relationship becomes rigid. Rigid, brittle relationships don’t respond well to strain…

control,
self-determination,
change,
etc.

…often failing under the pressures of the people and products involved.

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 among 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.

01_wordpress-exportWordPress proves a good source for demonstrating the variable value for the Customizability of the Quick-MI category of Portability’s variable User Generated Content Exportability, with this product allowing for some customization of the exported content, by way of controlling which authors are included within the resultant output.

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 used 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.

02_ostatus Identi.ca is a micro-blogging service much like Twitter. But, unlike Twitter it is built based on free and open software standards, implementing the OStatus suite of standardized protocols; resulting in a Standardization variable value of 1.

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, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

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Memorable Utility. Evaluating Convenience through Quick-MI.

clip_image001Through increased utility and stateful behavior, products are able to improve the User eXperience (UX) as well as strengthen the bond of the relationship between product-product and user-product. This manner of contribution, to the strength of products’ relationships, is better understood and evaluated via Quick-MI’s category of Convenience — 1 of the 5 components of Quick-MI.

In my ongoing discussion of Quick-MI we have already explored the importance of…

…as essential components for successful Modular Innovations. Quick-MI consists of 5 components, or categories, that bring to light critical variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend. Modular Innovation (MI), along with a product’s User eXperience (UX), combine to become strong indicators of a product’s adoption and success.

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 to which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards, greater degrees of Modular Innovation.

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 Convenience are…

  • Utilizability
  • Memorability

Each variable and category (e.g. Convenience) 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.

Utilizability

Utilizability is at the measure of how useful the product is from various, diverse, points of entry. Utilizability can also be seen as a look at how product and people relationships are maintained and fostered under non-desktop browser situations. It is a look at the diversity of means by which the product may be put to use by the user. Utilizability consists of 3 sub-variables, whose values are summed to constitute the final Utilizability variable value:

  • Offline Utilizability
  • Mobile Utilizability
  • Alternate Utilizability

Offline Utilizability assesses the dependence upon a persistent Internet connection of a given product. Furthermore, Offline Utilizability evaluates the extent to which the capability permeates all facets of the product. Some products make use of another product called Google Gears in order to provide additional functionality to their products; sometimes also including the ability to use all or part of the product Offline. Google Docs, for example, makes use of Google Gears to provide local, portable access regardless of the current state of an Internet connection.

The Offline Utilizability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if no Offline use of the product exists,
  • 0.5 if some of functionality the product can be used Offline, or
  • 1 if all of the functionality of the product is able to be used whether or not there exists an Internet connection.

01_offline-google-calendar Offline Google Calendar possesses a subset of the functionality as its online counterpart, being limited primarily to the display of the calendar information, earning it an Offline Utilizability variable value of 0.5.

Mobile Utilizability evaluates the degree of Utilizability of a product from a mobile product. A mobile product can be anything from cell phone, to PDA, to any other device with handheld-portable intent. A good example of partial Mobile Utilizability is Facebook’s mobile interface. While Facebook does provide an easy-to-use interface to much of its key functionality, the mobile version of Facebook limits the capabilities (e.g. no access to Facebook apps) that are Utilizable from a mobile device.

The Mobile Utilizability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if no Mobile (portable device) use of the product exists,
  • 0.5 if some of functionality the product can be Utilized via a Mobile device, or
  • 1 if all of the functionality of the product is Utilizable via a Mobile device.

02_techmeme Another example can be seen in Techmeme, a product that provides all of its non-mobile functionality to a user’s mobile device, achieving a Mobile Utilizability value of 1.

Alternate Utilizability addresses the “other” of Utilizability. How does a product “help” the user use it – beyond Offline and Mobile Utilizability? For the purposes of quick assessment, Alternate Utilizabilty is limited to assessing the degree of Utilizable data and functionality facilitated via alternate products and services. Through what 3rd-party products (digital or physical), or other online 03_identi_ca services, can the product be Utilized. A new product worth following, Identi.ca, with an Alternate Utilizability variable value of 1, is working on implementing the Alternate Utilizability concept via the OpenMicroblogging protocol — that will eventually allow people to send and receive their Twitter and Identi.ca “tweets” from any Laconi.ca (the ‘guts’ behind Identi.ca) server — completely independent of the current status of the Twitter service.

The Alternate Utilizability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if none of the product’s data is accessible and utilizable from alternate products,
  • 0.5 if some of the product’s data is accessible and utilizable from alternate products, or
  • 1 if all of the product’s data is accessible and utilizable from alternate services and/or products.

Memorability

Most products have some degree of Memorability; typically in the form of Setting Memorability. The more that is remembered, the more Convenient is the interaction as well as the underlying functionality, to use and benefit from, and so too are the relationships that facilitate the retention, reconnectivity, and, of course, memory. Memorability is the saving of conditional information and is represented as the sum of 2 sub-variables:

  • Setting Memorability
  • Stateful Memorability

Setting Memorability evaluates the degree of Memorability of user settings. Not all settings are always remembered. For example, some products may or may not remember a customized color scheme.

  • If none of a product’s Settings are recalled upon a user’s return then the Setting Memorability variable value is 0.
  • If some of a product’s Settings are recalled upon a user’s return then the Setting Memorability variable value is 0.5.
  • If all of a product’s Settings are recalled upon a user’s return then the Setting Memorability variable value is 1.

04_hootsuite People who use Hootsuite are happily familiar with the product’s ability to recollect all of the user’s settings and display configuration upon each successive return, earning it a Settings Memorability variable value of 1.

Stateful Memorability evaluates the degree of Memorability of user state – the portions of the experience which, upon user interaction, indicate a preference or customization, but are not directly settable as a user setting. For example, some products may allow the user to re-arrange the UI, moving some windows around, while minimizing others. Within similar products, the user is manipulating the state of the product, and the degree of Stateful Memorability is seen as to how much, if any, of the window positions and similar customizations are retained upon the user’s later return to the product. Another abstract example: Imagine a user Utilizing a product and getting to step 12 of 45 before having to leave. A form of Stateful Memorability that this product may provide is allowing the user to return later to continue from Step 12 and move beyond it, from the desktop, or even a portable device.

The Stateful Memorability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if no state information is remembered,
  • 0.5 if some state information is remembered, or
  • 1 is all state information is remembered.

05_eyeos Classic EyeOS, a web-based operating system, recalls some of your state information, icon placement, etc., from session to session, resulting in a Stateful Memorability variable value of 0.5.

Conveniently Quick

Success of a product is more than having the most awe inspiring UX. There is a lot more to it. Another component, another dimension of sustained success online is Modular Innovation.

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.

Important to successful relationships is the ease with which one can re-establish and return to those relationships. This Convenience, when present, can strengthen and even encourage the stronger Modular Innovation relationship and bond through well done implementations of utility and retention, Utilizability and Memorability. These conveniences are another key to understanding the trend of Modular Innovation.

Remember, Convenience is just 1 of 5 categories that make up Quick-MI. The other 4 categories are…

Through all 5 categories, combined, 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, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

To Have and Own. Evaluating Portability through Quick-MI.

clip_image001In my ongoing discussion of Quick-MI we have explored the importance of Sharability and Interoperability as essential components for successful Modular Innovations. Quick-MI consists of 5 components, or categories, that bring to light critical variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend. Modular Innovation (MI), along with a product’s User eXperience (UX), combine to be strong indicators of a product’s adoption and success.

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.

The next of the 5 categories that make-up Quick-MI that we will explore is Portability.

Portability, a key component of Quick-MI , is a measure of degree of ownership and control over one’s own content (commonly referred to as User Generated Content and abbreviated as UGC).

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 Portability are…

  • Exportability (UGC & Settings)
  • Importability
  • Editability
  • Controllability

Each variable and category (e.g. Portability) 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.

Exportability

Seen by many as dealing most directly with the actual UGC of all the 5 categories of Quick-MI is Portability. And, readily apparent in bestowing the sense of ownership and control over one’s own content and data is Exportability. The ownership and control derives from the ability to download or transfer your content to your local computer or 3rd party service. As a result, the content can be retained independently and re-used independently of the service through which it originated.

Exportability consists of 2 sub-component variables:

  • UGC Exportability
  • Settings Exportability

UGC Exportability evaluates the degree of Exportability of the UGC created by a user. This can be anything from pictures to blog articles — works created by the user and used with or simply placed upon the studied product.

Settings Exportability evaluates the degree of Exportability of the settings and configurations that directly impact the UGC and resultant User eXperience (UX). For example, the settings can indicate…

  • which of the content is public or private,
  • the color scheme (theme) to use when displaying the information,
  • the user’s friends that are permitted to view each UGC element,
  • and more.

The value of the Exportability variable is the sum of the values of the sub-component variables: UGC Exportability and Settings Exportability.

The UGC Exportability sub-component variable’s value is…

  • 0 if none of the user’s UGC can be transferred or downloaded,
  • 0.5 if some of the user’s UGC can be transferred or downloaded, or
  • 1 if all of the user’s UGC can be transferred or downloaded.

01_wordpressThe Settings Exportability sub-component variable’s value is…

  • 0 if none of the user’s UGC / UX Settings can be transferred or downloaded,
  • 0.5 if some of the user’s UGC /UX Settings can be transferred or downloaded, or
  • 1 if all of the user’s UGC / UX Settings can be transferred or downloaded.

WordPress is a good example of a product with a UGC Exportability value of 1 and Settings Exportability value of 0.

Importability

The logical progression of ability arising from that of Exportability is Importability. Exportability and Importability are logically linked, however, not inextricably so, as one characteristic can exist without the other. It is not uncommon to find a wiki that allows for the exporting of the full contents of the wiki, but provides no capability to import that which was exported. Importability, within Quick-MI, specifically is the ability permitted by a product to import, or re-incorporate, content and/or settings that were previously exported as well as the product’s capability to managed changes within the exported data during the import process.

02_google-merchant-center An example of Importability (value 1.0) is demonstrated by Google Merchant Center. Google Merchant Center allows users to externally edit the content that was stored or generated within the product and then upload and re-combine the edited content with the user’s existing data.

The value of Importability for a product is…

  • 0 if data that was exported from the product cannot be re-imported,
  • 0.5 if only an exact export from the product can be imported back, or
  • 1 if the data that was exported from the product can be edited in the export format and imported back.

Editability

03_flickrEditability is the measure of the degree of dependence the user has upon the product from which the UGC originated, or was modified by, once the UGC has been exported. Without an independent means of editing exported content, the exported content primarily exists as a backup of a user’s data — with limited reusability and flexibility.

  • If none of the exported content can be independently modified, then the Editability value is 0.
  • If some of the exported content can be independently modified, then the Editability value is 0.5.
  • If all of the exported content can be independently modified, then the Editability value is 1.

A simple example of an Editability value of 1.0 would be the ability to independently modify all the content of a Flickr account.

Controllability

Delving into the ‘where’ of Portability is a look at the Controllability of one’s own data, or UGC. Data can be Portable, but…

How close can you get to your data?

How much control can you exert over your UGC?

Can you “touch” it?

Some social networks allow their users to import friend lists directly from 3rd party services, e.g. email or other social networks. The social networks, may also allow the users to easily add, remove, and modify all their friends information. However, the control of the transferred content, for this example, is limited, since neither the social network, nor the origin of the content permitted downloading or other remote storage of the friends data — thereby, limiting the user’s overall control over the content.

This variable should not be confused with the previously discussed Redundancy variable, whose focus is limited to the replication of data or functionality. Controllability relates to the storage and manipulation of the active (in-use) data by the product.

The Controllability variable’s value is…

  • 0 if none of the active data can be stored locally or at some 3rd-party data store,
  • 0.5 if some of the active data can be stored locally or at some 3rd-party data store, or
  • 1 if all of the active data can be stored locally or at some 3rd-party data store.

04_office-liveA good example of a product with a Controllability variable value of 1.0 would be Microsoft Word and its ability to save, load, and modify its UGC both locally, and from Office Live. While Ping.fm facilitates replicating of such UGC as a Tweet, it does not facilitate the any further Control of any of the redundant content post-replication (Controllability variable value of 0).

Swiftly Portable

Success of a product is more than having the most awe inspiring UX. There is a lot more to it. Another component, another dimension of sustained success online is Modular Innovation.

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.

Integral to successful relationships is the inherent sense of control and ownership over one’s own work and contributions. A relationship cannot hold together without the individual’s “ownership,” and resulting control and pride that accompanies. A relationship cannot hold together without Portability, quantified via the Portability score (a summation of the above variable values).

Remember, Portability is just 1 of 5 categories that make up Quick-MI. The other 4 categories are…

Through all 5 categories, combined, 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, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

At and Between. Evaluating Interoperability through Quick-MI.

clip_image001In my earlier discussion, I outlined the importance of Sharability to successful Modular Innovations and Quick-MI. Quick-MI consists of 5 categories that bring to light critical variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend. Modular Innovation (MI), along with a product’s User eXperience (UX), combine to be strong indicators of a product’s adoption and success.

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.

1 of the 5 categories that makes up Quick-MI, is Interoperability. Interoperability is the measure of the degree of integration permitted. It is the means by which information is shared and disparate products can continually exchange information.

Interoperability is about the connection. It is the Interoperable, integrated connection between products that facilitates sharing and exchanging. This includes the ability to make that connection, to establish that relationship; or the hindrance, thereof.

Through the study of Interoperability, a clearer understanding can be formed of the immediate benefits achievable, as well as the quantification of these benefits and capabilities.

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 Interoperability are…

  • Connectivity
  • Redundancy
  • Legality

Each variable and category (e.g. Interoperability) 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.

Connectivity

Perhaps the most obvious variable of Interoperability is Connectivity. Connectivity is the means by which the current product can access and interact with external products and platforms. To exchange information, a connection must be established and methods must exist that enable the relationship to take hold and let flow the content.

02_twitter-homepage The content can be anything, from basic status information to images and friends lists. Connectivity is typically achieved via an API. A well known example is the Twitter API. This API provides a simple, web-based interface that allows people and 3rd-party products to perform actions, like read messages and status updates of the people on Twitter, as well as submit new ‘tweets’ and direct messages — resulting in a Connectivity variable value of 2.0.

Connectivity flows both ways: in and out, read and write. The Connectivity variable value (with a starting value of 0 and maximum value of 3.0) is determined as follows:

  • Add 0.5 if the product can read from, “pull-in,” content from one or more external products, and
  • Add 0.5 if the product can write to, “push-out,” content to one or more external products, and
  • Add 1 if external products can read from, “pull-out,” content from the product, and
  • Add 1 if external products can write to, “push-in,” content to the product.

Redundancy

When integrating with another product, is the user forced to choose exchanging information between either product A or product B? Or can both products be used in parallel?

Redundancy is the ability, provided by the product, whereby external products are leveraged to provide replication of functionality and/or content.

03_pingfm-homepage Building upon the Twitter theme, some services exist to facilitate this very sort of Redundancy. Most notably, Ping.fm comes to mind. Ping.fm does not force integration with one external product over another. Ping.fm allows for simultaneous, parallel integration with multiple similar products; making the user less dependent on any one of these services, in the event of down-time or other failures. Beyond “peace of mind,” Redundancy also provides for means to replicate content and maintain functionality that results from such integrations. For example, when I use Ping.fm (Redundancy value of 1.0), I can simultaneously send a status update to Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk …

  • saving me time,
  • replicating my status updates, and
  • ensuring that I can continue sending updates even if one or more of these products are unavailable.

Redundancy can be found on the user-facing side, like Ping.fm, or just under the surface, e.g. using multiple data clouds to store data. The Redundancy variable is assigned the value of 0 or…

  • 1 if, per touch point, multiple external products can be (or are being) used to replicate functionality and/or content throughout the primary functionality and interaction points of the product (e.g. everything from status updates to pictures to messages to data storage), or
  • 0.5 if, for each touch point, a single external product can be (or is being) used to replicate some of the primary functionality and/or content (e.g. status updates sent to both Twitter and Jaiku)

Legality

Terms of Service and other legal restrictions and requirements have a significant impact on the resultant Interoperability possible, or worthwhile. In some cases, broad capabilities of Interoperability are possible, but only for personal usage. Other exemplary cases, allow for Interoperability, but with an associated monetary cost.

01_yelp-homepage The website, Yelp, provides a range of Interoperability that allows external applications to access restaurant and related data. However, those products making use of Yelp’s Interoperability have the following restrictions / requirements resulting in a Legality variable value of 0.75…

  • Clearly display Yelp branding alongside any obtained content,
  • Product must be non-competitive with Yelp,
  • Cannot locally store any obtained content,
  • And, more.

Legality is a measure of freedom, and allowable range of use and usefulness, of the ability to integrate and be Interoperable. The Legality variable is assigned the value of…

  • 1 if there are absolutely ZERO legal restrictions placed on the Interoperability of the product,
  • 0.75 if commercial use is permitted,
  • 0.5 if only non-commercial use is permitted, or
  • 0 if no Interoperability, via API or other means, is permitted.

Rapidly Closer

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.

A relationship cannot hold together without the “glue,” without Interoperability, quantified via the Interoperability score (summation of the above variable values). Remember, Interoperability is just 1 of 5 categories that make up Quick-MI. The other 4 categories are…

When all 5 categories are combined, 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.

Through the growing presence of Modular Innovation, and the important category of Interoperability, everything is becoming increasingly and rapidly closer.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

Permission and Content. Evaluating Sharability through Quick-MI.

clip_image001The first of the 5 components of Quick-MI, which I will be discussing in greater depth, is Sharability. Sharability is the measure of how much and to what degree information can be shared.

For relationships to work, between products, just like with people, sharing must be present. And to share, to receive, there must be both Permission as well as the more fundamental characteristic of having something to share, having Content.

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 Sharability are…

  • Content
  • Permission

Each variable (e.g. Content, Permission) 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.

Content

Without any Content that can be shared, the ability to share breaks down pretty quickly. The Content that one can share with another can be many things, from that which is personally generated (directly or indirectly), to Content available to a specific group, to part or all of an individual’s settings / customizations.

Further examples of Content can be seen as metadata, text, images, settings, stories, conversations – a blog post, comments within a forum, avatar image, and identification of one’s favorite topics.

Determining the value for the Content variable is done through briefly surveying the product, followed by the assignment of a value…

  • 0 if there is no Content that exists that can be shared, or
  • 1 if some of the Content is found to be sharable, or
  • 2 if all of the Content, personal, group, global, including all user settings, are sharable.

For example, an individual’s Twitter Content can be shared with all or just a few friends, while the majority of one’s settings and preferences remain out of sight to all but the Twitter account’s owner; achieving a Content variable value of 1.

Permission

Some products allow sharing of Content with only registered users. Others allow sharing within parameters based on the type of user or method of access.

The Permission variable value is broadly determined as the sum of affirmative confirmations to the following conditions (with the starting value of 0)…

  • If the Content can be shared with everyone, add 1, and
  • If the Content can be optionally shared with specific groups (e.g. clubs, types of members), add 1, and
  • If the Content can be optionally shared with specific individuals, add 1.

One such exemplary product provides for very fine controls by the account holder of their permission settings, controlling what Content is public and can be seen by all, what content is limited to specific user Lists and Groups, and what content is meant for the individually targeted eyes of a select friend; achieving Facebook a Permission variable value of 3.

Quickly Shared

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.

Sharability, as the summation of both variables of Content and Permission, when combined with the other categories of Quick-MI

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

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

Quick-MI. Quick Heuristics for Modular Innovation.

clip_image001

(Re)Introducing… Quick-MI
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.

Today, Modular Innovation is a prevailing trend that can be described as products and platforms consisting of or facilitating…

  • Relationships (people-people, products-products, people-products)
  • Control of Experience (from creation to storage to interaction)
  • Ownership of Content (personal content from comments to friend lists and more)

Time & Space, UX & MI

Often the initial and continuing success of an online product is solitarily framed in terms of User eXperience (UX). To understand Modular Innovation’s role in a product’s online success is to understand how this trend of relationships (aka Modular Innovation) relates to User eXperience, and can, itself, be quantified for comparison and analysis against other products.

One way to think about the interplay between User eXperience (quantified via Quick-UX) and Modular Innovation (quantified via Quick-MI) is to draw, metaphorically, from physics, namely Space and Time. If User eXperience represents Space, and the variables and characteristics of a product’s UX represent it’s shape and form within that Space, then Modular Innovation aptly would be imputed Time. Like Time, you do not necessarily see or directly interact with the forces (quantifiable categories) of Modular Innovation, but Time, Modular Innovation, is very important if you are, the product is, going to move forward, have an enjoyable experience, and persist into the future.

Quick-MI

Quick-MI is the simplification of the quantification of the Modular Innovations, the products and platforms, which make up the trend of Modular Innovation. The method described below is a great way to build a summary description with quantifiable and comparable metrics, representing the level of Modular Innovation present within a product.

More detailed and extensive heuristics are, of course, possible (I frequently evaluate along many more variables in my studies of Modular Innovation). Quick-MI allows you to dive into a product and quickly extract valuable, representative data points.

The Quick-MI evaluates the degree to which a product successfully addresses the following 5 categories:

Once quantified, the values associated with each of the categories are summed to represent the Modular Innovation Index of a given item (product, platform, etc.).

The characteristics evaluated within each category constitute a minimal representative subset that accurately evaluates the Modular Innovation Index while adhering to the goals of a method that are (1) quantifiable, (2) comparable, and (3) quick.

Some of the questions that are answered within the categories of the Quick-MI are…

Within Sharability

  • Can functionality and content of a product be shared?
  • With whom can it be shared?
  • How much can be shared?

Within Flexibility

  • Which aspects, and to what extent, can I customize the Sharing, Portability, Interoperability, and Convenient parts of the product?
  • Do the methods and formats adhere to commonly accepted standards?

Within Interoperability

  • Can the product interact with external products (and vice versa)?
  • Are there legal restrictions placed on content or other interactions?
  • Does the available interoperability facilitate redundancy and stability?

Within Portability

  • What content, if any, do I own?
  • Can I move my content to other products?
  • Can I control my content without any UX penalties?

Within Convenience

  • From where, and at what times, can I access the product and the content?
  • With what degree of ease can I shift between venues and times?

Not Without UX

Modular Innovation should not be seen as an alternative, isolated, judge of the overall success or failure of a given product, but rather as a central, complementary, influential part of the equation. Together, MI and UX shape the course of the evolution and, ultimately, the eventual success or failure of a product.

Modular Innovation is Relationships

The more relationships, the stronger the relationships, in turn, the stronger and broader can be a product’s acceptance, support, and success. These relationships comprise Modular Innovation. They are the trend. They exist within the products that are themselves Modular Innovations, albeit to varying degrees, as measured via Quick-MI. They are the characteristic elements (described, at a high-level by the Quick-MI categories) that propel a product forward, or a lack thereof, that stalls or otherwise hinders its progress.

The role and presence of relationships within and between people, products and platforms are ever increasing in importance and influence. They represent the next substantial evolution of the internet, beyond simply the data, but, now, to all the spaces in between. This can be seen in the sub-trends, with respect to Modular Innovation as a whole, like those of semantic web and data portability.

These relationships can be quantified, analyzed, built and expanded upon. Once quantified, products are better understood and clearer courses are able to be set for improvement and solidification of the elements within products directly relevant to Modular Innovation, and subsequently relevant to sustained success. And the current methods of Quick-MI, itself evolving and adapting, can be used in observing, from industry trend to individual product, the impact and the role of Modular Innovation on products and related trends.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

Quick-MI. Quick Heuristics for Modular Innovation.

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Introducing… Quick-MI
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.

Today, Modular Innovation is a prevailing trend that can be described as products and platforms consisting of or facilitating…

  • Relationships (people-people, products-products, people-products)
  • Control of Experience (from creation to storage to interaction)
  • Ownership of Content (personal content from comments to friend lists and more)

Time & Space, UX & MI

Often the initial and continuing success of an online product is solitarily framed in terms of User eXperience (UX). To understand Modular Innovation’s role in a product’s online success is to understand how this trend of relationships (aka Modular Innovation) relates to User eXperience, and can, itself, be quantified for comparison and analysis against other products.

One way to think about the interplay between User eXperience (quantified via Quick-UX) and Modular Innovation (quantified via Quick-MI) is to draw, metaphorically, from physics, namely Space and Time. If User eXperience represents Space, and the variables and characteristics of a product’s UX represent it’s shape and form within that Space, then Modular Innovation aptly would be imputed Time. Like Time, you do not necessarily see or directly interact with the forces (quantifiable categories) of Modular Innovation, but Time is very important if you are, the product is, going to move forward, into the future.

Quick-MI

Quick-MI is the simplification of the quantification of the Modular Innovations, the products and platforms, that make up the trend of Modular Innovation. The method I describe below is a great way to build a summary description with quantifiable and comparable metrics, representing the level of Modular Innovation present within a product.

More detailed and extensive heuristics are, of course, possible (I frequently evaluate along many more variables in my studies of Modular Innovation). Quick-MI allows you to dive into a product and quickly extract valuable, representative data points.

The Quick-MI evaluates the degree to which a product successfully addresses the following 5 categories:

Once quantified, the values associated with each of the categories are summed to represent the Modular Innovation Index of a given item (product, platform, etc.).

The characteristics evaluated within each category constitute a minimal representative subset that accurately evaluates the Modular Innovation Index while adhering to the goals of a method that are (1) quantifiable, (2) comparable, and (3) quick.

Some of the questions that are answered within the categories of the Quick-MI are…

Within Sharability

  • Can functionality and content of a product be shared?
  • With whom can I share?
  • How much can be shared?

Within Flexibility

  • What aspects, and to what extent, can I customize the Sharing, Portability, Interoperability, and Convenient parts of the product?
  • Do the methods and formats adhere to commonly accepted standards?

Within Interoperability

  • Can the product interact with external products (and vice versa)?
  • Are there legal restrictions placed on content or other interactions?
  • Does the available interoperability facilitate redundancy and stability?

Within Portability

  • What content, if any, do I own?
  • Can I take it with me?
  • Can I control my content without any UX penalties?

Within Convenience

  • From where, and at what times, can I access the product and the content?
  • With what degree of ease can I shift between venues and times?

Not Without UX

Modular Innovation should not be seen as an alternative, isolated, judge of the overall success or failure of a given product, but rather as a central, complementary, influential part of the equation. Together, MI and UX shape the course of evolution and the eventual success or failure of a product.

Modular Innovation is Relationships

The more relationships, the stronger the relationships, in turn, the stronger and broader can be a product’s acceptance, support, and success. These relationships comprise Modular Innovation. They are the trend. They exist within the products that are themselves Modular Innovations, albeit to varying degrees, as measured via Quick-MI. They are the characteristic elements (described, at a high-level by the Quick-MI categories) that propel a product forward (or a lack thereof, stalls or otherwise hinders its progress).

The role and presence of relationships within and between people, products and platforms are ever increasing in importance and influence. They represent the next substantial evolution of the internet, beyond simply the data, but, now, to all the spaces in between. They can be seen in the sub-trends, or minor trends, with respect to Modular Innovation as a whole, like those of semantic web and data portability.

These relationships can be quantified, analyzed, built and expanded upon. Once quantified, products are better understood, and clearer courses are able to be set for improvement and solidification of the elements within products directly relevant to Modular Innovation, directly (yet, not exclusively) relevant to sustained success. And the current methods of Quick-MI, itself evolving and adapting, can be used in observing, from industry trend to individual product, the impact and the role of Modular Innovation on products and related trends.

Enjoy, Discuss & Share!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

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MSNBC. An online experience.

windows_on_monitor_thumb1(part 4 of 5) Yahoo News, CNN, MSNBC. Each online news organization presents a different spin on the visual and interactive presentation of the news.Website: MSNBC Online
Briefly: MSNBC’s website was found to be the #3 online news website in December 2007. (read more)
00_msnbc_homepage

What’s Enjoyable?

  • The primary and category homepages (e.g. Travel, Health, etc.) have simple, clean, and consistent layouts.
    • They provide a minimalist feeling, making for easy skimming of the content.
    • Within the sub-category sections of the pages the link color, mouse-overs, and gradients provide good contrast for eye-easy reading and highlighting.
p01_msnbc_primary p01_msnbc_travel
  • Customization and its impact on the elements on the page(s) is both obvious and easy to use.
p02_msnbc_customization
  • The category tree allows for the peeling away of the layers of the news-“onion”, gradually displaying more articles within the categories of interest, dynamically and without the need to load (or navigate to) additional web pages.
p03_msnbc_category_tree

What’s Disappointing or Unsatisfying?

  • The colors in the page header and footer make those regions of the page very hard to read and, in turn, use.
c01_msnbc_header
c01_msnbc_footer
  • The advertising displayed can be overly intrusive. For example, the ads right in the middle of the text flow of the news articles are too much (and annoying). Don’t you (MSNBC) already have enough ads on the pages?
c02_msnbc_too_many_ads
  • Customizing the desired order of the sections on the page can be a slow and clumsy process. The placement and behavior (one move up or down at a time) are both contributing factors.
c03_msnbc_customize_layout_A c03_msnbc_customize_layout_B

    Until then, think about & share…

    I’ve now explored, in detail, the top 3 online news experiences, Yahoo News, CNN, and MSNBC. Stay tuned to find out which one (or two?) stand out as the best online user experience.

    Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss out on the conclusion of this series comparing and contrasting the top 3 online news sites (Yahoo News, CNN, and MSNBC) along with my declaration of online news experience champion.

    Tune in to see if you agree with me — or want to argue a different perspective.

    More Information

    Enjoy!

    Jeremy Horn
    The Product Guy

    The News is Improving

    windows_on_monitor(part 1 of 5) Yahoo News, CNN, MSNBC. Each online news organization presents a different spin on the visual and interactive presentation of the news.
    00_yahoo_homepage 00_cnn_homepage 00_msnbc_homepage

    Most everyone has their favorite resource for getting news online. Perhaps it is the content, or the extension of the TV experience with which you are most comfortable, that pulls you in the direction of one particular news site over another. But, what about from the perspective of each online news product’s User eXperience?

    As of December 2007, the top 3 news sites are: Yahoo News, CNN, and MSNBC.

    The Yahoo News, CNN, and MSNBC websites provide their respective users with different online news experience advantages and disadvantages.

    Over the next few weeks, I will explore, discuss, and compare the top 3 online news sites, Yahoo News, CNN, and MSNBC, and share with you which, among these three, I find to be the champion of User eXperience in online news.

    Next, I will be looking at the first of the top 3 news sites, Yahoo News.

    Until then, think about & share…

    What online news experience do you most enjoy?

    Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the User eXperience within the world of news websites as well as other upcoming, insightful posts from The Product Guy.

    More Information

    Enjoy!

    Jeremy Horn
    The Product Guy

    I made it out of clay…

    painter Is every online product starting to look alike? Running low on product experience creativity?

    Some Simple Advice

    Break the mold of the average user experience. Think about the problem you are trying to solve from alternative design perspectives by introducing new methods of interacting with the product.

    <YAWN>

    Most people will design their web application, interface, user experience, in the same old way, every single time. Pencil, paper, Photoshop, pen, storyboard, wire diagram, etc. So boring!

    Make it out of clay!

    A super-simple way to get yourself started on a new thought path is to change how you interact with the product during the design process. For example, change the medium (water color, paper mache…clay) with which you are designing and / or approach the online product from the paradigm of common, handy real-world products, remote control, oven, umbrella, etc. Imagine those products imbued with some or all of the features of the online product you are trying to create. How would those features be manifested in these different forms? How would the different forms the features and interaction with them?

    Come on…Touch it

    Shifting the interaction of you (the product or experience designer) with the product, changing from a computer monitor oriented paradigm, will, by its very nature, cause you to think differently about the problem and, maybe, find some new metaphors that can be applied to the design or interaction of the final product itself.

    To tackle interaction design challenges I have used post-it collages, clay, created 3d working models, charcoal, etc. It helps to keep the creativity flowing when different mediums (other than Photoshop and your browser) are employed to see and truly interact with your interface as well as the user experience you are trying to create.

    Enter the Real World

    Take an existing product, in the “real world”, a CD player, a remote control, and shift the paradigm of your interface to those models. Yes, the end result may not be what you are seeking, but the journey that entails facing the different limitations and constraints imposed by the objects you are using as a guide are an excellent way to keep your mind fresh while you approach the problem from a variety of angles. And, once in a while, such a shift will present a really cool way to present that user experience that you hadn’t thought of before.

    A (Paper) Widget

    On an interaction design challenge I tackled previously, I found myself having to design a very small widget that required a great deal of information conveyance and required an enjoyable consumer experience. The 2 paradigm shifts I introduced that eventually lead to solving the interaction design challenge were…

    Shift 1: I wondered what the tiny module would look like if it popped open like a CD player

    …then I decided that, instead of mocking it up in Photoshop or other digital design tools, I would further introduce a different way of interacting with this widget, by…

    Shift 2: creating a working 3D model… out of paper. (see photo of the model I built to the right)

    Shaping it, crafting it, interacting with it, playing with it, viewing it from different angles and perspectives, having other people poke at it, all of which, in the end, led to a very cool consumer experience that also presented the user with the needed information.

    For Example … Exercise

    Goal:

    • Re-design the opening and closing of a desktop window.

    Consider:

    • What if that window opened and closed like a clamshell phone.
    • What interface elements are on the top, outside of the phone.
    • What elements are presented on the inside of the phone?
    • What similar elements would make sense in the realm of my desktop window that could be made to fit the model?
    • What real-world elements exist that open and close that are very different from a desktop window?

    Solution: Dive in and give it a try. I would love to hear and see what ideas people come up with.

    Keep Exercising

    Now, pick a completely different object that you interact with in the world. Try it out on one of your older (more boring) interfaces. If anyone comes up with anything interesting that they would like to share I would love to see them and post them on the blog.

    Simply Put

    As some parts of the holiday season wind down and others are just beginning, why not make it a New Year’s resolution, the next time you feel like you are stuck in a rut or need to inject new ideas, to break the mold and try making it out of clay!

    Enjoy!

    Jeremy Horn
    The Product Guy