Great UX- Groupon Unsubscribe

I was a little annoyed at Groupon for sending me daily emails with offers not relevant to me. So I clicked the ‘Unsubscribe’ link. What happened next was very unexpected and a lot of fun!

First, I was taken to this page where it showed me that I was unsubscribed (no confirmation page with “Are you sure you want to unsubscribe?”). Second, the page said “We’re sorry to see you go! How sorry? Well, we want to introduce you to Derrick- he’s the guy who thought you’d enjoy getting Groupon emails.” A video loop showed a guy sitting in an empty office. Under the video is a button called Punish Derrick. Now I was already subscribed, but I was curious to see what happens, so I clicked the button (don’t judge me).

The moment I clicked the button, the video showed a guy walk up to Derrick and ‘punished’ him (in Monty Python styled comic humor). However, it doesn’t end here.

This text shows up above the video- “That was pretty mean… I hope you’re happy. Want to make it up to Derrick?“. And a button called Resubscribe. I don’t think people will resubscribe because of feeling guilty, but +1 to Groupon for making a mundane thing like unsubscribing fun!

Thoughts on Poker (The Economist)

Here are a few thoughts on the game of poker I collected on a special feature on Economist.com


Perhaps the clearest argument in favour of poker being skill- rather than chance-dependent comes from Mr Sklansky, and it has to do with losing rather than winning. Imagine trying intentionally to lose at a game of pure chance, like roulette or baccarat. It would be impossible. At the beginning of a deal or a roll you have to bet on something. You can no more deliberately play badly than you can deliberately play well. The same is not true for poker, which offers multiple opportunities to make sure you lose. Still, America’s Congress seems unconvinced.

Jennifer Shahade, who twice won the American Women’s Chess Championship and is now a semi-professional poker player, thinks that chess and poker rely on similar skills—a sort of calculating game-savviness—and that chess players are likely to succeed at poker because “they focus on finding the right moves, rather than having fun or how their ego feels.”

It is this missing information that makes poker so complex. Unlike checkers or chess, at which machines have also had notable success, poker is a game of incomplete information. You do not know what cards your opponent holds; information is revealed as the game progresses. A good player’s tactics will involve deception such as bluffing and slow-playing, both of which create more complexities.

Clemens France, saw similarities between gambling and faith: both expressed a need for reassurance, order and salvation.

Hardware Irrelevant for Amazon?

When Jeff Bezos announced the new Kindles yesterday, he said the devices are irrelevant and will only be a vehicle for services in the near future.

Amazon’s strong point has never been its hardware. They’ve met with mild global success with Kindles. On the other hand, AWS is making them tons of money, so Bezos would want to focus on services.

Bezos also underestimates the power of the client. Internet has a long way to go before becoming a basic human need like electricity.

Amazon’s services are only popular in US. They have little experience/presence in global e-commerce. If they ever plan to venture out of the US, how will they make its $79/yr Prime membership work in other countries (two-day free shipping for 15M items)?

Bezos himself said that it takes five to seven years for a new business to either break even or become profitable. And its year five of the Kindle.Its difficult to know if being the loss-leader has actually worked for Amazon or not. In future, I guess they will focus more on digital services (no warehousing and inventory costs) than physical goods for the global market.

Here’s a great article on Amazon’s strong and weak points.

iPhone: 5 Years On

“Can I order 4000 lattes to go please…. just kidding. Wrong number, thank you.. bye bye!”
– Steve Jobs to girl at Starbucks (iPhone’s first public crank call)

Jokes aside, I think the iPhone introduction in January 2007 (pic above) is the greatest product introduction ever. On June 29 2007, the iPhone started to reach the hands of the consumer. 5 years on, what innovations did iPhone bring with it?

1 Phone industry opened up for innovation by making phones carrier-free. All mobile projects that I was part of pre-iPhone was for tiny screens with crappy displays. But more than that, getting new apps and installing apps was almost impossible for the average user.

2 Successful business model for developing and selling mobile apps. Most people had never heard of Apps, or of an Appstore. Even desktop apps were called programs. Now everyone in the mobile space has an appstore, and has spread into in the desktop industry too. The SDK for a mobile phone was unheard of as well.

3 Full blown internet on a phone for the first time. I remember checking RSS feeds from a Blackberry Pearl a few months before the iPhone was announced. It wasn’t cool. I would not want to remember that experience now.

4 A great Maps experience on a phone. At the 2007 Macworld keynote, when Maps demo was shown, the entire hall went ‘woah!’. It was smooth, fast, slick and running on a mobile device for the first time.

5 Multi-touch gestures have became second nature. You’ve got to hear the reaction of the Macworld crowd when Jobs first scrolled through the songs list with his finger; and after a few minutes when he pinched a picture to zoom in. Remember, no one had ever seen these actions done before on a mobile device.

6 Changed mobile gaming and gaming industry forever. Graphics capabilites mirroring gaming consoles, combined with gyroscope, accelrometer on the device. Third party accessories make games on phones a great experience.

7 The beginning of the end for Adobe Flash on mobile devices. Adobe thought the iPhone ignoring Flash will not affect the global usage of Flash.

8 Every smartphone now looks like an iClone. And soon, with falling costs of screens and batteries, every phone will look like that too.

New Adverts

Lately, I have noticed these new kind of ads that websites like Twitter and Fast Company show. They do not look like the generic Google text ads that most of the sites show today. They have found a clever solution to make users look and click on ads by blending them with the site’s content.

Update: these ads now have a term associated with them- native advertising. The founder of techmeme was one of the firsts to implement these .

A Twitter ad comes in the form of a promoted tweet with the same visual format as a normal tweet.

Fast Company shows ads in the right panel in the list of articles. The ad looks exactly like an article with a little grey ‘ADVERTISEMENT’ text under it.

I can count on one finger; times I have clicked on a Google ad- from the Google site or a website serving the ad. Simply because they are not relevant to me. The new type of ads are more carefully thought about and I think these ads will work better than the plain text ones. Time will tell..

Surface Demo

Another great demo by Microsoft today, showing off their renewed tablet effort.

I played with a 10″ Windows 8 tablet in 2010. (someone at work got it for being a longtime MS developer at their conference) Personally, it felt too tall to carry around. And reading in portrait mode feels weird. The ‘loudest’ feature however was- the fan! Put your ears to the vent (yes, there were laptop sized vents in the tablet) and you could hear a powerboat running full steam ahead. I hope that was an early prototype and was not the Surface tablet that was shown today.

The presentation (clean slides, lots of white space, no bullet points), stage (minimal geometric furniture), product ad (our new computing device is like a rock star) felt very Apple-sque. I have never seen Microsoft focus so much on hardware. Talking about materials, innards.. almost an Ive-league performance.

I would love to use the keyboard cover. If it works the way its shown, I am officially pissed off that Apple did not come up with this cover before them.

Important information about the tablet wasn’t announced- No pricing, availability and most importantly for me- battery life. I can’t imagine using a mobile device with a leash attached to it.

With MS brining their own tablet hardware to the market, do Dell, HP, Toshiba, Lenovo and other hardware guys need to feel threatened? The tech blogs think so, but I don’t. I think there’s enough room in the tablet market for everyone to do well. OEMs should treat Surface as a benchmark for hw design and strive to do better. MS will still makes tonnes of money from licensing Windows8.

Which makes me think- if OEMs are pissed, will they turn to Android? Paying $0 for licensing fee is an attractive alternative.

Here are some cool pics of Surface on the Microsoft website

Beware of the Browser

I was given a fresh reminder of what a ‘web browser’ does behind the scenes.

I stopped using Chrome a long time ago, even after I turned off all data sharing options. I like Firefox but its a bit sluggish when a lot of tabs are open.

I tried to install Yahoo Axis, but it seems its not a browser, but an add-on/extension.

 

‘Save’ us from itself!

My staple diet of Windows has made me compulsively save my work all the time. But according to Alan Cooper, managing disks and files is not a user goal. If a UI interaction is based on limitations of technology, then users have to learn a new behavior which might be counter-productive. Saving a file has no real-world metaphors and new users find it difficult to adapt themselves to this industry-wide standard.

So when I heard about the auto-save feature in latest software update for Apple devices last year, it sounded really exciting. Since then, I have been using Keynote on the iPad and have quickly got used to not saving any of my work. I didn’t miss saving my work. It didn’t ask me to save when I closed the file, and the file was there when I reopened it. (Another adapted behavior that are slowly fading away from Apple devices is not needing scrollbars).

The productivity app that I use the most at work is Powerpoint, and I wanted to find if it has auto-save. Turns out- it does!- well, sort of. But this auto save feature is hidden, complex and explained poorly.
This I think is the fundamental difference between the philosophies of the two companies. Alan Cooper describes this as implementation model vs. user model. In short, an interface should follow user goals, not the software engineer code.

Auto-save in Windows Office 2010

*The first-time user have to setup auto-save
1 File > Options
2 Save > Checkboxes (change default values)

*While working on a file, on closing the file you have to
1 Save dialog > always Choose Don’t Save

*When you want to open the file you didn’t save
2 Recent > Reset Unsaved Presentations
1.1 Crash the file

Auto-save in iOS

*The first-time user have to setup auto-save
Nothing to setup

*While working on a file, on closing the file you have to
Do nothing

*When you want to open the file you didn’t save
Files can be accessed in the Finder

PikPok Usability

It’s a fun read that gives you a small sense of why PikPok is able to churn out solid game after solid game.

“During frantic moments in Monsters Ate My Condo we wanted players to be making game decisions and creating strategies, not thinking about how to control the game or making accidental input mistakes. Input should be learned quickly and then feel natural.”
http://pikpok.com/news/insidepikpok-usability/

Update: The article has been removed from the PikPok website but here is a reference to the article with some more insights: http://toucharcade.com/2012/04/04/pikpok-explains-how-it-does-usability-testing/