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  • feedwordpress 04:48:45 on 2014/08/04 Permalink
    Tags: automark, , , , car dealers, dealers, , forms, leads, , , security, , tranparency   

    Transparency in Contact Forms Desperately Needed on Websites 


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    Privacy Transparency

    Just about anyone who has been on the internet in the past couple of decades has fallen victim to the unfortunate fraud of contact form ambiguity. You fill out a form in order to get some information or to be contacted by someone, only to receive the wrong information or to be contacted by the wrong (or even multiple) people. It has gotten to the point that contact forms in general often leave a negative taste in web surfers’ mouths.

    Moreover, they rarely have the right information even in the forms themselves. It’s common to be filling out a form and not have all of the information necessary to know if you’re filling out the right form or not. This is not only a pain, but it can be dangerous as well. Between privacy issues and the need for transparency, collecting information on the internet has gained a bad but deserved rap.

    One company than we explored that seemed to have the contact form concept down is Automark. They have taken the art of building proper contact forms on dealership websites and filled them with both accuracy and abundance of data. On most dealer websites, you can click on nearly any form and get the same results every time. It’s as if they have the same form with different names to try to compel people to fill them out, though they have little intention of answering that you really want answered. It’s not the dealers’ fault. In the vast majority of cases, it’s the website provider that uses generic forms with different calls to action in order to generate more leads at any cost.

    Lease Form

    With Automark, the forms and calls to action are clear and useful. In the example above, you see a lease request form that is extremely relevant and transparent. The data requested is pertinent to getting more information to the interested party and it does not extend beyond the need to learn more about leasing. People who fill out the form have a reasonable expectation that they’ll get information about leases and the dealer has all of the information they need in order to get them that information. What’s more important is that the dealer doesn’t have to. The form is tied into the data that is necessary to generate the information the customer wants. In essence, it’s a set-it-and-forget-it contact form that makes the customer happy and supplies the dealer (and only the dealer) with the customer’s information in order to help them further if necessary.

    As the world grows more accustomed to foul data-collection practices and the need for transparency, it’s good to see companies like Automark step up to make it better.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:50:40 on 2014/03/23 Permalink
    Tags: Data Science, Future   

    Creativity Versus the Quants: Does Data Stifle or Amplify Innovation? 


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    This weekend’s New York Times Op-Ed “Creativity vs the Quants” deeply resonated with me this Sunday morning. Journalist Timothy Eagan’s piece appears largely a response to the quantification of society, namely, Nate Silver’s latest project: data journalism [[FiveThirtyEight]] — which is uses fancy modern data analysis methods to figure out what’s going to happen and better understand what happened. In other words, who cares about human analysis, because the data story will tell you the real story.

    Eagan’s Op-Ed was clearly sparked by Silver, but led him to a much larger question that I think we all need to be thinking about as it [data] is going to seriously alter our society going forward. There’s a lot of optimization and insights that can be gleaned from all of this information we are tracking, but at some point we may rely too much on this information — as it becomes “safe” — and lose the opportunity to take grand leaps to innovate.

    A former journalist, and a co-creative, I share Eagan’s fear, and the spirit that inspired these opening grafs:

    Here’s how John Lennon wrote “Nowhere Man,” as he recalled it in an interview that ran just before he was murdered in 1980: After working five hours trying to craft a song, he had nothing to show for it. “Then, ‘Nowhere Man’ came, words and music, the whole damn thing as I lay down.”

    Here’s how Steve Jobs came up with the groundbreaking font selection when Apple designed the Mac: He had taken a class in the lost art of calligraphy and found it “beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture.” Ten years later, it paid off when Apple ushered in a typeface renaissance.

    And here’s how Oscar Wilde defined his profession: “A writer is someone who has taught his mind to misbehave.”

    He goes on to discuss Common Core Standards curriculums, “teaching to the test,” and how our education system now is focused on teaching towards a standard quant-based definition of intelligence versus allowing unique intellect to prosper.

    But perhaps because creativity remains so unquantifiable, it’s still getting shortchanged by educators, new journalistic ventures, Hollywood and the company that aspires to be the earth’s largest retailer, Amazon.com.

    From a personal angle, I find this all fascinating as my life has taken an unpredictable turn (even for the data scientists, I’d bet) in that data has become a key part of my life. It may be that it’s becoming increasingly a key part of everyone’s lives, but for a person who planned to spend her life as an artist or designer, a true creative where numbers were only relevant in terms of dollars and hours spent and earned, today, numbers — data — are the center of my world.

    It all started when I got my break as a technology journalist in 2005, in the age when social was just starting to take off and there was a clear transition in the industry from reporting quality to number of shares, largely dependent on speed of coverage and scooping your competition. But when I really fell into the world of quantification professionally was when I began my career at Badgeville, the leading gamification platform.

    At its core, gamification is really all about data, it’s about tracking gobs of user behavior and figuring out what design elements motivate that behavior, then automating it using a technology. The “game” part makes it sound a bit fluffy at first glance but it’s really quite sophisticated stuff, so much so that I found myself really excited about this new world of personally-beneficial and actionable data insights.

    My new job, which I’ll write a whole post about soon, is at a very exciting company that is even more so about leveraging data to help businesses thrive. I needed to adjust my thinking — as a creative — to embrace data, not as something that stifles creativity, but instead as a helpful tool to provide creativity valuable guidance. Sure, there will always be time to step back and go against the data-grain, so to speak, but largely in business, in marketing especially, we are just wasting time with guesswork. So there is a place for data, there’s a huge place for data in our lives and whether we like it our not our lives will continue to get more and more quantified.

    But data takes information that exists to come up with an answer or series of answers based on a pre-programmed algorithm. It doesn’t understand the musicality of language, or how the natural eye processes the white space on a page. Perhaps one day data analysis will become so advanced that it will, like the robots in the movie Her or Battlestar Galactica, mimic our own thought and creative abilities, but we are far off from this, and until machines can meld data with creativity we are hurting ourselves by putting too much value on data alone. We have to leverage the data and there is tons of value to gain from it, but we can’t be all data all the time. Innovation will suffer.

    What data can do — what the best use of data is — is automating at larger scale what today takes ridiculous hours of manual time for tiny wins and optimizing such inefficiencies — to free us and our brainpower up to actually spend our waking hours on creating, innovating, and problem solving.

    The big question is can we find the right balance so we can still encourage and nurture what we do best as humankind — think for ourselves and to create – the new – “the unpredictable.” Nate Silver, can you predict that for me?

     

     
  • feedwordpress 10:26:45 on 2014/03/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , ,   

    Tips for Creating Pinnable Content 


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    Pinterest Random

    Most marketers are aware that Pinterest can take a website from unknown to super successful with a single pin. However, up until now, finding the secret formula for content that will take off and go viral has been largely based on experiment. Marketers have been scrambling to find a way to reach the largest market possible using Pinterest as the medium.

    While there’s no surefire method for finding Pinterest success, using the right combination of content, images and infographics seems to key. Follow the tips below to create pinnable content that meets or exceeds your expectations for the network while reaching the largest audience possible.

     

    Content

    Content marketing is important. It’s a way to increase search rankings and to be shared across multiple networks and social media platforms. It’s no different on Pinterest. But, just like old content cannot be relied upon to drive new traffic to a website, it can’t be relied upon to gain attention on Pinterest. If a site is not regularly updated, there’s nothing new to share on the network. This puts any company looking to maximize reach on Pinterest at a disadvantage.

    Whether your brand creates and sells a single product or an entire line of retail goods or services, new content is a necessity. If a pin is not a success the first time, it can’t be relied upon over and over again. Instead, new content should be produced on an ongoing basis and regularly pinned to your brand’s account. Using searchable keywords and images that speak to the content that has been created are a must. Think of information that matters to your target market; what are they searching for? What questions do they ask? What news stories pertain to their interests? Use these as inspiration for content creation.

    Think about lists and actionable ideas that Pinterest users may be interested in, like this list by CopyBlogger. In most cases, those who use Pinterest on a regular basis are looking for projects and recipes—you can provide these easily.

     

    Images

    Many Pinterest users have entire boards of images: images that speak to them, images that are dynamic, images that are humorous and so on. Visually appealing pieces of information attract users on all social networks, Pinterest operates in the same way, maybe even more so. This is also a great way to supplement content creation. Snapping a photo takes a few seconds and can have a huge impact in driving website traffic.

    An image can come from a cell phone or digital camera, a novice or a professional. Just make sure it’s clear and in jpeg form for optimal Pinterest viewing.

    Think of images that speak to your target audience. 12 Keys, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, did this with their Pinterest image campaign that used controversial images of children with drinks and drugs and the caption “They Are More Like You Than You Think.” These images sparked just enough controversy to encourage pinning while speaking to viewers in a way that content alone could not. For marketers, Pinterest images are a necessity.

    Kids Pinterest

    Infographics

    Long live the infographic! This is just as true on Pinterest as any other social network. Infographics provide an easy way to break down complex pieces of information or statistics in a way that speaks to the visual side of the viewer’s brain. Because of this, these dynamic pieces of information are more easily shared than traditional content, especially on a site that operates on simplicity and visual appeal.

    To create an infographic that is likely to be shared on Pinterest, think of something that your target audience could be instructed on, or a recent study that shares data and statistics that that audience would find interesting. Think of how you could break it down in a single image or “videographic” format. Use various font sizes and colors to make certain details stand out more than others depending on interest level.

    An infographic entitled “The Cost of Providing Drugs to the World,” by Clarity Way does this in a memorable way. By comparing the cost of creating and consuming prescription drugs with their effectiveness and popularity based upon a recent FDA news item, the center broke down an otherwise forgettable piece of information into something that speaks to their target market while leaving a long term impression. This is exactly what an infographic should do; pieces like this are most likely to go viral on Pinterest.

    In some ways, finding success on Pinterest is still somewhat hit or miss for marketers. But, because of the potential for posts to go viral, it should be a part of any strategic marketing campaign. Marketers looking to create pinnable content should focus on blog posts, images and infographics. It only takes one sharable piece of information to make an impact; don’t neglect this possibility.

     
  • feedwordpress 01:05:20 on 2014/03/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , chat, digital markting, , lead generation, , , , website chat   

    Website Chat Should Shoot for Quality First, Quantity Second 


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    Tearing Down the Wall

    There’s a disturbing trend I’m seeing in the automotive industry when I visit websites. Perhaps it’s been like this for a while and I simply took my eye off the chat ball. When I see chat windows that instantly prompt for the customer’s contact information, it makes me cry a little inside.

    This isn’t what chat is supposed to be about. I’d love to have that debate with anyone. Chat is an alternative means of instant information. In other words, it’s more akin to phone calls than to anything else. If you believe in having a barrier of entry for your customers to chat, then you should have your receptionist answer the phone with, “Thank you for calling XYZ Motors. Can I have your name, phone number, and email address, please? No? Okay, thank you for calling.”

    Click.

    I totally understand how this came about. Chat companies were pressured to generate leads and that became the only goal. If you, as a car dealer, believe this, then I would contend that you’ve either been misled or you’ve lost touch with what chat should really do. There are two parts: lead generation AND customer service. Some people call the dealership to find out when the parts department closes. You don’t need their contact information in order to tell them a time over the phone just as you should not require their contact information to give them the time over chat.

    Whether you believe it or not, here’s a fact that common sense should tell you: you’re making some of your website visitors unhappy by creating a barrier to inquiry. Some people (more than we all want to admit) will never give their contact information before coming in. Unless your leads have a 100% appointment ratio, a 100% show ratio, and your lead volume is at 90% of your total traffic to the dealership itself, this fact should be clear. Despite what the up-log says, your customers are not driving by randomly. They went online. They’ve probably been to your website.

    With that understanding, why would a dealership want to put a bad taste in their customers’ mouths before they even decide to come by the dealership?

    Serve your customers the information they want online without prejudice. Don’t force them to fill out a lead form first. A skilled operator should be trained to work with people during chat, determine if they’re a valid prospect, and gather the information the dealership wants DURING the chat process, not before. Will volume decrease? Maybe. Maybe not. I am no expert but I would imagine that the people who come into chat that wouldn’t have entered because of the lead information wall will be more likely to leave their information as their questions are being answered.

    You don’t just want leads. You want good leads. You want great leads. Chat should be the best of both worlds, combining the dialogue potential of the phone with the information gathering of a lead form. If you make them fill out the form ahead of time, you’re pushing away many who want to have a dialogue first. This is a big mistake.

    Some would say, “If they’re serious, they’ll fill out the form, first.” BS. There are plenty of serious buyers who want information but who have had bad experiences when they fill out lead forms. There’s a reason lead form submissions are on the decline. People have been burnt in the past. Get them into a conversation first, then pursue the lead when appropriate. That’s the right way to handle it.

    To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “Mr. Chat Provider – tear down this wall.”

     
  • feedwordpress 19:20:07 on 2013/12/25 Permalink
    Tags: Product Musings,   

    Product Musings: Pinterest Places Review 


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    As many of you know, I’m an avid pinner and have been a fan of Pinterest for a while. I’m also excited to follow the growth of the company from a product perspective, as the company transitions from one of wedding boards to a global visual search leader.

    One of the most interesting (and useful) updates recently has been the addition of Pinterest Places, which enables pinners to tag their pins with locations and create maps of their boards. This is extremely useful as a user (i.e., speaking of weddings, I’m now mapping all the venues I’m considering for my own event that I’ve already pinned) and surely equally useful for Pinterest gathering valuable crowdsourced metadata on the web’s most shared images. It reminds me a bit of a startup I used to work for as community manager and content writer — Diddit.com (RIP) — which offered lists of places to go and things to do, where you could check off all of the activities you’ve completed in a sort of virtual bucket list. This is a similar concept, except it focuses on visual content from the web versus copy and user reviews, and so far doesn’t have any way to mark what you’ve done or want to do.

    That said, while Places is a quality feature all around conceptually, the experience leaves a great deal of room for improvement. It’s surprisingly poor given how solid Pinterest usually is on UX design, but I assume they decided to release a quick version of the feature and will be iterating as it gets traction based on user data. Given I fancy moonlighting as a product & UX consultant, here is my review of the feature along with recommendations for improvement.

    Screen Shot 2013-12-25 at 10.48.58 AM

    Places Product & UX Improvement Suggestions

    1. Mapping is a challenge and not all that intuitive. When you finally figure out how to turn the map settings on (you have to click edit board to do this on each board you want to turn into a Place Board), you are presented with your pins and the option to click “map this pin” for each individual item. However, once you click map this pin, things get tricky. Instead of automatically filling the search box with the pin name or suggesting what you are likely searching for based on the details in the pin and other user’s content, it leaves you with a generic search box:
      Screen Shot 2013-12-25 at 11.06.45 AMWhat makes this user experience worse is that the box that pops up doesn’t display the content related to the pin. I had to toggle back and forth between my pin a few times to recall the spelling of the location that was written in the description.When I finally searched for the item, that’s when things got ugly. The search functionality isn’t buggy per se, but it doesn’t work like one would expect. Instead, the search functionality attempts to guess the region you are searching and, based on my experience so far, doesn’t find what you’re looking for (even though it’s likely in their database.) Speaking of their database — it’s powered by Foursquare — so it has fairly good address information on places people would want to check in (such as wedding venues and tourist spots), but it also has other places people check in mixed in and messing up the search, like “B’s private residence.”

      Actually finding the right item takes too much time while it should ideally be a seamless experience based on mapping UX best practices and intuitive design. I understand why they have yet to enable users to enter addresses for their pins, but it would be helpful to enable manual input to find the right item in the database or add it if it’s missing.Screen Shot 2013-12-25 at 11.09.36 AM

      When you attempt to add your second pin location, this is when things get really wonky. The map will zoom in close to the pins you’ve added so far, but you’ll likely find that what you want to pin is slightly out of range from the map view. Pinterest search will automatically return only items that are in the map area displayed by default now. Getting back to the full map view is a doozy:

      Screen Shot 2013-12-25 at 11.30.58 AMIf you think you can click “Current Map View” because it’s pink and looks like a Pinterest link, you’re wrong. That’s not a link. If you click Choose City you get a prompt asking “What City are You Searching In?” which is useful only if you know the city where the item is located. The best way to find the location of the item is to select “Search Around the World” — but to get back to that option, you first need to put some text in the “Choose a City” search box. Only then will you see the option to search around the world. If you click this, I find more often than not the item you are looking for appears at the top of the list.

    2. The initial mapping UI for the user is frustrating to use and doesn’t make an adequate use of screen real estate. I understand most of UX design these days is leaning towards being ideal on a tablet versus computer display (and I’m atypical in that I use my computer and do not own a tablet), I find the amount of space used for the map versus the pins to provide a disservice to the point of Pinterest – the pins. In certain cases, having a large map makes sense (such as Conde Nast Traveler’s Top 100 Hotels in the World list) because it shows a global map that requires the full space.
    3. The feature is not designed for the likely scenario of a board having multiple pins from the same location. It would be ideal for the map to offer the user the opportunity to pin the item to a location previously pinned from the list. I’m not sure how much of a corner case this is (my wedding list has multiple pins of each venue) but it would make my experience mapping my board much easier.

    What do you think about Pinterest Places? Have you used the feature yet? Do you have any additional suggestions for improving it that I haven’t thought of yet?

     
  • feedwordpress 19:45:13 on 2013/12/23 Permalink
    Tags: Infographic, , Research   

    The Rise of the Millennials Infographic 


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    This infographic I created for Badgeville (along with our talented designer Lily Alvarez) was fun to put together as I was able to spend time researching my generation. Millennials are a complicated bunch, as numerous surveys and statistics prove, being less than loyal to their companies in terms of tenure, and more loyal to brands who focus on winning them over. Check it out below!

    Rise of the Millennials Infographic by Badgeville, The Gamification Platform

     
  • feedwordpress 04:41:05 on 2013/12/23 Permalink
    Tags: ,   

    8 Creative Holiday 2013 Pinterest Campaigns 


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    With over 70 million global users, Pinterest remains high on the campaign wish list for marketers everywhere. The visual social network is shining bright this holiday season, with online marketers seeing high ROI from their investments in the Pinverse. In fact, over the Black Friday shopping season, shoppers referred from Facebook were found to have an average order of $52.10, Pinterest referees had a much higher average order value of $92.51.

    While some marketers are dipping their toes in the Pinterest water for the 2013 holiday marketing, others have gone all in. Here are 8 of the most creative and successful campaigns we’ve seen so far this year:

    1. Target’s “My Kind of Holiday” campaign is geared towards digitally connected, time-pressured moms in “the most digitally enabled campaign” in their history, according to Target CMO Jeff Jones. Since mid-November, Pinterest has been the home to Target’s Best.Party.Ever with celebrity event planner David Stark. The designer is creating over 500 custom pinboards for fans as part of the campaign. Target is also testing an e-commerce storefront “The Awesome Shop” powered entirely by Pinterest just in time for the holiday season.

     

    topshop pinterest campaign2. Topshop, popular UK-based retailer with stores around the globe, knows its fashionable shoppers love to pin. The innovative company has partnered with Pinterest for its 2013 holiday #DearTopshop campaign. The creative collaboration creates an interactive gift guide to help customers find just the right present or outfit for their holiday festivities. Not only is Topshop pulling the Pinterest experience into their website for the season, the retailer has also added giant touch screens to its Flagship London and New York stores, where customers can pin while in-store shopping.

    3. Anthropologie, with nearly a half-million Pinterest followers, is already renowned for their fashionably editorial take on pinning. This season, the company has inspired hundreds of pins by showcasing creative ways to wrap holiday gifts on the board It’s a Wrap and festive decorations on Deck the Home. By focusing on creating relevant, editorial content with visual appeal, some items on these holiday boards have been pinned over 1000 times.

    4. Gap’s “Pin to Win” campaign is focused on encouraging brand loyalists to pin their holiday wish lists for a chance to win a $50 gift card. The contest provided a set of clothing and accessories that shoppers could easily pin from the company’s Facebook app.

    5. Ziploc marketers know that despite having world-class products, bags and containers alone lack pin-appeal. Marketing creativity at its best is showcased in the Ziploc campaign “It’s the Most Pin-able Time of the Year.” By providing useful holiday-themed content, like this entire “Eat, Drink and Be Merry” board of recipes, the company takes advantage of Pinterest’s cooking and DIY-centric following.

    6. Lowe’s, like Ziploc, is a perfect fit for Pinterest when smart marketers take on their seasonal digital campaigns. The home improvement giant is no stranger to pinning, with over 2000 pins, and this holiday is no exception. Starting with a Black Friday campaign, with an entire board dedicated to previewing their deals, to boards like Holiday Ready Home to showcase crafty holiday decorations, the social-savvy brand is a star amongst the Pinterest community.

    7. Urban Outfitters is a brand seemingly built for Pinterest. Its First Look Holiday 2013 board has nearly 80,000 followers and hundreds of repins. The company also shared a number of holiday-themed boards such as Get Gifted and Trim Every Tree.

    8. Tiffany & Co. stays true to their brand with the board A Tiffany Holiday. With beautiful jewelry, the marketing team could just post images of their products and call it a day, but they go one step further by sharing phrases about couples in love against Tiffany blue, with hundreds of shares, the extra Pinterest creativity goes a long way.

     
  • feedwordpress 08:00:58 on 2013/09/18 Permalink
    Tags: General Fodder   

    Marketing is the New Black: A New Direction for This Blog 


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    Being at the forefront of gamification in my work at Badgeville, I’m in a – perhaps unique way – following the nexus of numerous business trends…

    • Marketers are struggling with customer loyalty because of what I like to call “Digitally-Induced Exponential ADD.” Brand loyalty is dead. Options are in. What to do?
    • Business Managers are struggling to motivate and retain this whole generation of entitled, disenchanted millennials. And just wait for the next generation that is currently being raised with iPads over pacifiers.
    • Companies are investing billions of dollars into technology that claims to fix all of their problems but, due to not allocating proper resources to properly manage these tools, only makes things worse.

    What do all of these challenges have in common? Businesses today are largely stuck in their old, “safe” ways of management. There is buzz floating around about the CMO gaining power over the CIO, or the two roles potentially merging into a Chief Digital Officer at some point. CIOs are typically responsible for corporate technology assets and knowledge management, yet most avoid the benefits of marketing strategy to reach their goals (such as technology adoption, employee retention, and corporate compliance.) CMOs without the ability to think like a CIO (i.e. truly understand their technology investments and how to properly resource teams for their success) are stuck. Yikes.

    black

    I’ve been waiting for the right time to come back to blogging here. I had been writing a few app reviews around user experience design — which I’ll continue doing on occasion — but I wanted to wait until I had something to say about the bigger picture. What do business leaders need to know about consumer applications that can be applied to their objectives? What design strategies should be copied within the enterprise, and which should be left behind? The Chief Digital Officer’s job will be to understand the fast-changing landscape of digital trends and determine how to get the most benefit from these trends across their internal and external audiences.

    In short, I’ve changed the title of this blog, cliche as it is, to “Marketing is the New Black.” This is because businesses that aren’t using marketing strategies and humanized, contextual user experience design across their internal and external apps are going to suffer. It’s exciting to write about this because it touches every aspect of business. The trends are clear, the answers aren’t. I’ll try my best to provide valuable insights into what businesses are doing well, highlights of analyst reports and relevant articles, and the standard design reviews within the context of what business leaders should know. Thank you for reading! Comments are welcome.

     

     
  • feedwordpress 05:50:50 on 2012/12/19 Permalink
    Tags: , Music Discovery   

    The New Myspace Needs a UI Facelift to Succeed 


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    I started this blog as a place to post reviews on new technology, and revisions by old technology in attempts to make them new again. It’s been a while since I’ve written a post here, as I’ve been busy with my day job — but the “pre-pre launch” of the new, new, newEST MySpace has me inspired.

    A long time ago, I was a huge Myspace fan. It was miles ahead of Friendster and LiveJournal, providing a place to connect with a lot of friends, share photos, and meet new people around interests. Then, as we all know, the site became riddled with animated GIFs for backgrounds, very little serious conversation (unless you count setting up your next hookup “serious conversation”) and Facebook took advantage of lowering IQ of the overall MySpace population with its introduction of a clean, simple, and less in-your-face hookup planning UI.

    Myspace never figured out how to compete with Facebook. In the midst of all of this, it was purchased by News Corporation, and it appeared it might be revamped and saved, but the site’s loyal users were adamant about the sanctity of their blinking, clashing, boobs everywhere web 2.0 hangout. The years went by and Myspace’s glow of adolescent decollage faded, its musicians kept profiles but found better places to share their music, and traffic dropped off. In November 2012, Myspace was ranked 233rd by total web traffic. Not terrible, but certainly not the site that once held the promise to grow to the most-visited site on the Internet. In 2011, News Corporation sold Myspace for $35M (down from that $580M that they paid for it a few years earlier), to the advertising network Specific Media and Justin Timberlake. It isn’t surprising that the company now wants to return to its music discovery roots.

    What Should We Do With Our Punk Kid That Can’t Get a Job?

    Ok, so naturally a site that still has a sizable amount of traffic, but is losing users by the day, is going to do something substantial to turn its business around. For Myspace, that either meant attempting to copy Facebook (and setting itself up for lawsuits for infringing on all their social networking patents), or doing something different. So Myspace execs decided the one area they could get right that Facebook isn’t all over is mobile. They redesigned the site once again, this time – supposedly – to be ideally set up for tablet users. To be fair, I haven’t tried the site on a tablet yet (I don’t actually own one.) But the web experience leaves much to be desired.

    Myspace also wants to be a media discovery site, bringing it back to its original roots as a place to fan musicians and learn about new artists. It appears to be trading in a more traditional social network style design with a user experience where you can “add people or media” you like to your “library.”

    The initial browsing experience left me rather confused. Only my experience as a loyal user of both Spotify and Twitter gave me some foundation for what this site is trying to do. They want to be Spotify – a music discovery service – but bigger, to compete against Spotify and the other music discovery apps. And with video discovery. And editorial content that is really challenging to browse on a computer.

    What is Myspace’s secret sauce?

    While at first glance, it looks like they’re banking on exclusive content and celebrities, it appears the big opportunity for Myspace is getting social media discovery and sharing right, while focusing equally on the web experience and the mobile experience. The way the site looks right now (at least on the web), I wouldn’t put my money on a lot of success, but that could change. There is definitely room for music and media discovery, especially as the smartphone and tablet market continue to grow.

    The concept here, which takes a while to figure out, is that every person is a curator of content. They are betting on status as a way to encourage people to share, without any real gamification features enabled to highlight contributions. It isn’t clear how one can gain followers here, instead the experience is really about the musicians/creatives and their fanbase. Still, everyday users such as myself can post status updates (how could the site even call itself social without a status update box?) But they aren’t looking for any old “what are you doing” or “what’s happening” status update – they are looking for media-centric posts to help curate the content and provide valuable data that I’m betting will be used later for recommendations and eventually for targeted advertising. Like Facebook, you can add a photo and location with your status update, but you can also easily add a song. How often do you want to share a song with your status update?

    And I…..eeeeeee…. I …. will always love you

    Great, I can share a song with my status post. That may lure musically inclined types to Myspace, but not enough to lure them away from Facebook.

    What’s interesting is that Myspace appears to be going after a mix of hipsters and the younger generations who have shunned Facebook. The people who are not interested in sharing their latest personal status updates, or seeing the 2000000th picture of their classmate’s baby. And they assume these people have the attention spans for a Twitter-like experience but want it to have more pictures and look really nice on their tablets. (OMG it has HORIZONTAL SCROLLING on the web and it can go on forever and ever and ever and ever… just keep scrolling down for it to scroll left… gah this is making me dizzy.)

    So, in short, new Myspace is what I’ve been saying Spotify should be for a long time, with a terrible UI for web. If I wasn’t already using Spotify, I may be drawn to the fact that, for now at least, I can access a giant library of music for free (I’m guessing they will have to start charging at some point.) But the UI for web is uncomfortable to say the least. I’m sure they’d argue that their new audience is going to come from mobile and no one uses the web anymore (I mean, come on, I should just be grateful they didn’t design the entire site to process only via the chip that the cool kids have implanted in their brains) but to gain mass adoption, the web user experience needs some help. Also, they could learn a thing or two from Spotify and how their app enables users to sort music, versus add to a generic library. Granted, I’ve been invited to the pre- pre- launch, so who knows what is up those Myspacers’ sleeves.

    What you really have here is a company that is trying to build the world’s largest social/crowdsourced recommendation engine for media… curated by editorial staff (see below) and everyday people who share similar taste in music, videos, and other content. There is a need for a company to get this right, so Myspace has a shot. It just is trying too hard to be cool, and in the process has made the site really hard to use.

    Even on sign up, the experience is confusing. Most people who sign up are going to not be musicians or artists. Most people are going to be fans. So, ideally, you’d make being a fan seem less uncool in the UI. You’d basically check that off for everyone because even artists are fans. Then you’d provide an option to be a content creator as well. Unless the site is no longer for the fans, which I think defeats the point of a media discovery application.

    But hey, at least they have music and videos for old ladies like myself in their database…

     

     
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