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.

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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

Facebook shows Focus

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

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

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

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

Focus on Applications

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

1 and 2

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

3 and 4

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

05 tabs

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

06 tabs plus open

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

07 boxes tab

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

08 contextual application dropdown from within 

09 inline popup app settings

The rest of the time the following is accessible…

10 app dropdown from homepage

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

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

11 all app settings

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

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

12 app open - causes

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

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

Focus on Facebook

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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