Marketing Strategy and Innovation Blog

A Great Example of Lazy (Soft) Registration

Imagine you go to a store to buy some new jeans. As you are checking out, the cashier tells you that you must provide your name, email, and passcode to purchase the items you’ve selected. You’d probably exclaim some choice words and storm out of the store, vowing never to return. Well, many websites continue to insist that their users register before completing a crucial action like paying for things you want to buy.

User information is valuable, but insisting that they provide it is pretty crazy and tyrannical. One way to mitigate this dichotomy is the idea of lazy registration. This poorly-named interaction paradigm essentially pseudo-registers users with some basic unique identifier – usually their email address – and then asks (not insists) that they complete their registration in the future by providing a password and other basic information.

90 Percent of Everything has a great video demonstration of lazy registration and its correct implementation.

The Palm Pre User Experience

The iPhone started a paradigm shift in mobile that led to a deluge of touch-screen devices, which differ only slightly in feature sets and overall experience. Marek Pawlowski of MEX writes a very detailed account how Palm went back to its ideological roots and to the blackboard to design a unique mobile device–the Pre. In some aspects, the Pre seems to make improvements on common features such as the ergonomics of the QWERTY keyboard:

The curvature of the handset improves the balance when typing, combating the “top heavy” feeling users complain of with standard QWERTY monoblocs like the Blackberry Bold and Nokia E71.

However, beyond some tweaks to existing models, there are three features that are truly revolutionary. The first is Palm’s dedication to web connectivity as the heart of the device:

Indeed, as the name suggests, webOS has been designed with web connectivity at the very heart of the platform… Users can add contacts from a wide range of sources, either by desktop synchronisation or from web services such as Facebook, and Palm’s webOS will intelligently combine them to ensure duplicate contacts are avoided.

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Digitial Camera User Interfaces

With all the talk of mobile phones and touch screen interfaces, it was nice to come across a fairly complete look at existing camera interfaces, which typically do not get much coverage. Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan, not only gives a great “visual tour” of the top players in camera devices: Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Casio, Olympus and Fujifilm, but also a nice round-up on what the various makers are doing right and wrong.

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FedEx Courier Device

This post about FedEx courier devices was just brilliant. I’ve often wondered about these onerous-looking contraptions, and how much training they must require. The mere look of them is not very enticing. Joe Pemberton’s recount of this encounter is a story to which we can all relate. How many times have we heard people gripe about the devices they have to use to do their job?

Eye-Tracking Studies at Google

Two user experience researchers share on the Google Blog how their team conducted eye-tracking studies on the interface of Universal Search to gain insight into optimal information design. They write in their post:

Our User Experience Research team has found that people evaluate the search results page so quickly that they make most of their decisions unconsciously…. Of course, eye-tracking does not really tell us what they are thinking, but it gives us a good idea of which parts of the page they are thinking about.

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Privacy and Security Concerns of Online Applications

As seemingly everyone is moving toward working online, security concerns are being thrown to the wayside with troubling consequences. A recent occurrence at a hot start-up made me seriously think twice about how safe our online data is from malicious eyes.

One of the main themes of Web 2.0 is the large-scale migration to the ‘cloud’. Many work-related tasks such as email, word processing, day planning, and idea sharing are being done online rather than on the desktop or across the desk. Hordes of users and technologists sing unmitigated praises of online applications and collaboration services. I too love the ability to quickly and easily collaborate on an online documents with my co-workers or clients.

We are so focused on the benefits of working online that we often forget the serious drawbacks which include access and data security. The chief drawback for me is the fact that my data is sometimes only one login screen or checkbox away from being seen by anyone, including those that would use the information in egregious ways. In some cases, my data is even more exposed than that.

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More Evidence that Speed Is Key to User Experience

A while back, Marissa Mayer of Google shared some very compelling research results at a Web 2.0 conference. In essence, she stated that an additional delay of 0.5 seconds to page-load time caused a 20% drop in traffic. Naturally, the first question that came to mind is whether this was an isolated case, or if others were finding such large repercussions for similarly small interaction delays. Greg Linden, writes a very compelling account, on his blog Geeking with Greg, where he remarks that the findings that Marissa shared mirror his own research experience at Amazon:

[We] had a similar experience at Amazon.com. In A/B tests, we tried delaying the page in increments of 100 milliseconds and found that even very small delays would result in substantial and costly drops in revenue.

Reading that two mammoth websites like Google and Amazon experienced very large drops in traffic and revenue due to fraction-of-a-second load delays underscores the importance of promptness in the user experience. It is a facet that is very often overlooked and eclipsed by sexier interaction paradigms. However, cool and flashy interactions are often load-intensive and can really slow down functionality and interactivity. Even with internet connectivity becoming faster by the day, much attention should be paid to the effect of user experience designs on load speeds.

A Simple Product Line the Secret to Apple’s Success?

In these tough economic times, one reads of disappointing earnings and layoffs almost every day. Certainly, consumer electronics companies are not unaffected, and major players like Microsoft and Sony are seeing sales plummet and are cutting staff. However, there is one among them that is doing exceptionally well given the market conditions–Apple.

Matt Burns over at CrunchGear wonders in a recent post whether the secret for Apple’s success isn’t its simple product line. Matt notes in his post that Apple’s product line consists of “[one] cellphone, four iPods, three notebooks, and three desktop computers.” It’s certainly a fair question, and similar claims have been made by various academics including Professor Barry Schwartz who authored a brilliant book, on the topic of too much choice, titled The Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More. (You can watch Professor Schwartz’s talk based on his book on Google Video.)

Matt also draws some comparisons with other consumer electronics heavy-weights like Motorola, which “[has] 27 cell phones available….” At the same time Apple’s singular iPhone has sold 88% more units this year than last. He also points out that “Garmin makes 82 GPS units that can be mounted in a car or carried in your hand. 82!?! … If Apple made a GPS, there would be two models available – maybe only one.”

I can certainly relate to the overbearing amount of choices in GPS units. I’ve been in the market for a GPS unit, but I still haven’t bought one because I am unwilling to invest the time and effort to wade through the innumerable choices. The point is that, if a customer is somewhat motivated to buy something, but has to decipher an overbearing amount of choices, they will not do it because the perceived reward is not worth the effort. This translates to foregone sales. Matt notes that

Consumers hate choices. They say they love them, but have you ever stood in front of a wall of plasmas and LCDs with a random person? … They get overwhelmed by the amount of options, but Apple has made it easy by producing top-notch products that are easily available.

It is difficult to agree with the assertion that Apple’s success is based on a simple product line; Apple also makes great products in many people’s views. However, I can personally attest that one of the easiest shopping experiences I’ve had was buying my MacBook Pro. The choice was fast and easy, and although I did not get a fully personalized computer, I got one that was more than sufficient for my needs.

I think this observation begs a bigger question: Are we giving too much fanfare to personalization and choice? A recent Economist article, The Long Tail (January 5, 2009), points out that

[One] American telecoms company, offering a wide range of packages for different consumer groups, was reckoned to have 377m different possible combinations of its services, many of which, of course, were never requested.

Is the paradigm of more choice really the most effective product model?

Modern Mobile Phones Frustrate Most Users

The BBC reports on a study conducted by Mformation, which reveals that of 4,000 people interviewed in the UK and US, 61% claim that “setting up a new handset is as challenging as moving bank accounts.”

The report reveals other details of the complexity users face, such as using various applications, browsing the web, reading email, and sending picture messages. Results include:

“Of those questioned, 95% said they would be more likely to use new features if the initial set-up were easier.”

“Some 61% of those questioned said they stopped using an application if they could not get it working straight away.”

“Having icons for all a phone’s available services at hand was better than burying them in a sub-menu …”

via: Experientia

YouTube Spreads to More Consumer Electronics

YouTube announced yesterday yet another way to access its videos on a TV: through the Sony Playstaion 3 (PS3) and Nintendo Wii. The service is now in beta but there are many other devices that can access complete versions today. YouTube has made several deals with set-top box manufacturers and TV manufacturers, releasing its first TV application on AppleTV in June 2007. Other devices that now boast this service are:

YouTube seems to really be living up to their goal to “accelerate an industry evolution towards open television access to Web video.” The list above proves the openness of the team to collaborate with all types of consumer devices to extend its reach and accessibility.

Furthermore, the iterations I have seen of the various UI’s are very consistent with what people are familiar with from its traditional web implementation. Search is key, but the browse experience is still preserved around those familiar categories such as most popular and most viewed. Below are various snapshots of the YouTube interface across several of these devices:

YouTube on the iPhone
YouTube on the iPhone

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