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The ‘Wow factor’ and a products success:

All products need a “Wow factor” to grab the attention of the target audience. Usability comes at a later stage, but the wow factor is what gets the user to try the product. It might be a new look, a new use or a new feature. What is important about the wow factor is that it should be completely ‘new’ to the user, nothing similar to any other product.

Designers often think that if you build the product, the users will come automagically and often surprised when their product is not successful. In most design processes, the product evangelist is brought in at the final stage, who promotes the product and develops evangelistic customer base. Evangelists are needed during the design phase to put in killer features and test their “wow factor”. Currently, the features the alpha users like are become more important to the success of the product. Some of the alpha users, if impressed, may turn into a free evangelist for the product. Advertising, as we know is very important for the product to get known in the targeted community. But users with the ability to communicate with friends are getting more control over the fate of a product than ever before.

Bad movies are not getting their guaranteed first week earnings because word travels fast. The Hulk, Charlie’s Angels failed to achieve expected earnings in the first week because of cellphone messaging!!! The matrix revolutions is now being released simultaneously all over the world. 6 a.m. in Los Angeles, 9 a.m. in New York, 2 p.m. in London, 5 p.m. in Moscow, 7:30pm Bombay and 11 p.m. in Tokyo. Cell phones, weblogs, IM, email, online groups, review sites help the words travel fast. You can’t stop people from talking like Google Adsense is trying to do, but you can certainly give good things to the user to talk about.

Products need the ‘wow factor’ which gets them on a weblog post or makes the user recommend it to friends. Skype got into lots of blog posts and had one killer feature “better voice quality”, which got 60,000 downloads in the first week. The need to evangelize skype to use it, also helped the products success. Also, blogs like Unbound spiral kept the meme alive and kept pumping new information about the product.

The first step to many persuasive techniques is to get the users attention. But, the promise made should also be satisfied after grabbing the attention. After all, it’s the worth of the product that ultimately matters to the user. Lokilabs also talks about the Surprise Explain Reward principle and showing the user that Cost of learning + Risks = Benefits.

On similar lines, BBC has Don Norman’s interview where he talks about ‘The Wow factor’, personalization and social interactions.

Neat color scheme selector:

A neat color scheme selector. You just select one color and a type of scheme, the app comes up with all the colors in the scheme. The wheel categorizes colors into into warm/cold, by brightness and by contrast. It also has other features like, color blindness emulation. Via TheOtherBlog.

Central Developer chat questions and answers:

Mike Chambers and ‘clinburn’ hosted a feedback session to see how the developers feel about central. Clintburn asked a few questions (the questions and my answers are below) and Mike answered a few questions. But there’s no new information. The central SDK is on schedule and will be released this week. I missed the chat, but the first blog/site on Central, by David Bisset posted the log of the session. Below are the questions and my late answers.

How would you explain Central to your Mom in 3 words?
Personal application browser.
To my mom: You can tell it to do stuff rather than the other way round.
May be ad campaign with “Regain control with central”? 🙂

How would you give a short explanation to developers?
Application environment with clientside data control

What is the Killer app for central?
Any app that automates user action. Personal agents in various fields.

What problems does it solve for you as a developer?
I don’t have to worry about business logic which is taken care of at the server, collecting money and developer tools are taken care of by macromedia. The client gets access to different polished data streams. So, I only have to worry about the presenting it to the user and providing a good experience. Better controll than in HTML, no headaches of client side application installation. Once downloaded, the app stays infront of the user.

What end user problems does it solve?
Can setup rules to automate routine stuff and inform only when needed. Can interact with downloaded data. No security problems.

What do you think of Blasting?
Intelligent copy/paste. Developers just take-in and output standards based data and the user will be able to connect apps intelligently.

Feel free to give your answers to the questions here.

Warning about PDFs through CSS:

Rob Adams, a grad student at CMU, has a nice blog with good commentry and thoughts on usability/UI design. His recent post lists various methods to warn users of PDF’s and points to Andy Edmonds, who writes about using CSS for warning the user. Well, I use flash paper for my stuff and ask the user to contact me for the pdf version. So I don’t have the problem!!!:)

Yahoo, Google and RSS:

There is one thing google news dosn’t do, rss. Well maybe google wanted to email news alerts, but my inbox is already full of spam. Yahoo News on the other hand gives out rss. Jeremy Zawodny created “Yahoo! News Search RSS URL Generator” While Yahoo is busy implimenting RSS, Google is busy buying more hosted blogging tools. The recent most is Xanga, created by Biz Stone. On another note, there is an interview with Google’s ceo Eric Schmidt over at CNet. He says the search interface will be left alone and the focus is on personalized search results. Thats what microsoft is interested in too.

Client side smarts and Central:

JD points to, which lets you share “personalized listening experience by creating Smart Playlists based on features like My Rating, Last Played, Keywords, Total Play Count and share.” As data on the client side gets richer, the user can setup rules automate routine processes. Central has the ‘set alerts’ feature, which along with smart rules in the preferences can help automate routine tasks. A glimpse into this is provided in the screenshot in the central movie finder alerts. goes a step ahead and provides a nice way to share these rules. Looking ahead, if the smart rules for shopping applications are shared, for example in digital camara shopping, buyers not familiar with camara specs can also find the best camara that fits them. The simple table or the data grid with various meta-data collected can be used to produce interesting results using rule based sorting of columns. If the rules were set by navigation instead, it would be even easier for the user. Instead of going to a seperate window to set the rules, the user interacts with the application to get a result and clicks on a set alert button. The process that the user follows can be setup as a rule, but it may not be suitable in all scenarios. Macros in many applications have tried the same strategy but did not have significant success due to User interface complexity. Another post on Loki labs points to research work which makes rule setting in excell better by enabling test cases when the rule is set.

Risk free merchandize: offers to manage every aspect of selling your merchandize, including online store, merchandize manufacturing and printing and customer service. All you have to do is think of a nice idea or put your brand on a T-shirt and set your margin. No risk for anyone, if your idea sells, makes money!!!

Some internet & blog statistics:

Richer people spend more time on the internet.

Perseus says, More than half the blogs created are abandoned.
Those who enjoy writing long posts stick with blogs longer.
Active blogs are updated, on average, once a fortnight.
Most blogs are created by people under 30.
Blogs surveyed: TypePad, Pitas, BlogSpot, Diaryland, Xanga, LiveJournal, Blog-City and Weblogger. Via Emergic. I wonder if, “richer people have more blogs” statement is true.

Indentify by typing style:

“Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed software that is able to identify computer users – with high accuracy – by their individual, distinct typing styles.” Via Jeffrey Heer. I wonder if indentification can be done by individual writing styles.

UI metaphors in Central:

Metaphors are very important for software user interfaces. Real world metaphors make learning fast and help users to get the finest details by banking on what the user has already learnt in real life. Metaphors also help designers by giving initial constraints to start the design with. All current OS’s implement the desktop metaphor, where we interact with files and folders. We use tools in applications to work on objects stored in files. As in the real world, learning an application and tools took time and wasn’t easy for one time users. Then came the web with the travel metaphor. The user needed to know only how to click on a link to go from one page to another. The travel metaphor was easy to use but is not as powerful as the desktop metaphor. Now comes central, where the application is divided into panes and each pane has various UI widgets. The house metaphor fits central UI perfectly. Rooms in a house are divided according to the tasks that are performed in them. Each room has its own fixtures like windows, cupboards, tables etc and also has a set of switches which perform various actions specific to that room. The panes in central have widgets like a data grid, zoom pane, search field, etc. The panes also have buttons for adding favorites, printing, adding alerts etc. You may ask, Now all this is fine but how does the console fit in this house metaphor? Well, it’s like a cell phone which shows a webcam view of each room. 🙂 More info on user interfaces and metaphors is in this paper which lists their benifits and some critisism.

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