Posts tagged "opportunities-2006"

Opportunities 2006 – Usefulness

2006 is going to be a year where the creators of web technology have the opportunity to make their services better in terms of integration, usability, and usefulness.

Ken Yarmosh, Looking towards 2006

I recently saw a man walking through the airport while on his cell. He had a hands-free device, where the microphone was located on the wire that plugs into the phone. As a result, he had to hold the wire near to his mouth, so that the mic could actually pick up what he was saying. With all the other items he was awkwardly carrying, he could have used that hand. After all, that was the point of the hands-free device.

It’s funny how often technology does not do what it’s designed to do. It is supposed to make our lives easier or more efficient. It is supposed to be useful.

When it comes to the Web and the Internet, we find ourselves using software to manage software. It’s the reason services like Plaxo and ClearContext exist – to help manage e-mail and contacts.

But compare that to Gmail. An incredibly useful application in and of itself – no third party plugins required. It solves a problem; effectively managing the craziness that is an e-mail inbox.

Just take a look back at 2005 to see that usefulness was what helped so many services flourish. Flickr provided a way to effectively manage and share photos online. Del.icio.us powered an effective means to access and share bookmarks online. Skype facilitated a simple and effective means to talk via the Internet.

Companies would do best to build products and services that meet needs – that solve everyday problems people encounter with their digital lives. They can be niche based or appeal to a larger audience. They must, however, have a compelling value proposition.

Integration is going to play a big part in making the Web more useful in 2006. But there are other opportunities too – Search 2.0 is just one example. What types of useful opportunities do you see this year?

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Opportunities 2006 – Usability

2006 is going to be a year where the creators of web technology have the opportunity to make their services better in terms of integration, usability, and usefulness.

Ken Yarmosh, Looking towards 2006

UsabilityWeb products and services must be dead simple to use

Have you ever tried to show a non-blogosphere, non-techy person how to subscribe to an RSS feed? It’s quite a challenge, especially if they are still struggling with their e-mail inbox. And of course, it requires a preliminary conversation about what RSS is and why they should use it. Despite its name, RSS is not simple.

Mozilla Firefox, Flock, Opera, and Apple’s Safari already have native RSS support. What that means is that users have the ability to subscribe to a feed inside their browser. There is no need to copy and paste the RSS feed URL into their RSS reader. No need to first get a bookmarklet to do a quick subscribe to the feed. No need to find and select the other piece of software – the aggregator – in order to consume the RSS feed. Native support of RSS pushes the technology towards simplicity and greater usability.

If a web product or service requires a conversation prior to its use, chances are it wasn’t designed with the user in mind. Frederico Oliveira, a design expert, puts it as follows:

Usability, user experience and information architecture need to be present from the start of development and design.

Fred highlights an important idea too – usability relates to both development and design. Most companies seem to think about usability only in terms of design. This leads to extensive “how to” sections, describing in detail how to use their service. My experience has shown me that if people can’t just “get it”, they are not going to use the service. First impressions are everything and if you turn someone off right away, the likelihood of a second chance is slim to none (seems Mike Arrington would agree).

Focusing on usability does not implicitly require a complete overhaul of a service. For example, yesterday I wrote about rolling your own Firefox Search Engine with Rollyo. This “new” service actually already existed but in a different form. Previously, users could go to their tools section once signed-in and add a Searchroll to the Firefox Toolbar. Now, however, Rollyo has streamlined the process by: 1) Not requiring a user to create an account. 2) Removing the “Searchroll” Rollyo jargon in place of the more widely known “Firefox Search Engine” terminology. 3) Automatically adding the engine to the Firefox Toolbar at the end of the process. 4) Wrapping all of that into its own page.

When it comes to usability, companies really need to have their target user base in mind “from the start of development and design.” They need to make their products and services dead simple to use. As I reflected on 2005, I noted that “adoption is tied to intuitiveness and knowledge.” There is no better way to develop an intuitive service than to focus on usability.

Stay tuned for the next opportunity – usefulness.

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Opportunities 2006 – Integration

2006 is going to be a year where the creators of web technology have the opportunity to make their services better in terms of integration, usability, and usefulness.

Ken Yarmosh, Looking towards 2006

IntegrationWeb 2.0 services must be seamless

Yahoo! has the opportunity to be the poster child of an integrated Web 2.0 world in 2006. Start with the next version of Yahoo! Mail (not yet available to the public), complete with an integrated feed reader. Then consider two key 2005 acquisitions – social bookmarking kingpin del.icio.us and photo sharing Flickr, their Yahoo! 360 initiative, and the industry leading Yahoo! Groups – it doesn’t take too much to see that Yahoo! has the opportunity to seamlessly tie together some very popular services for their users.

Yahoo! is quickly pushing towards integration. Take a look at Scott Gatz’s presentation, where he details how RSS has been integrated across their network of products. Indeed, syndication will be the key to their success in this arena.

Yahoo! 360 already allows users to share their photos from Flickr and also provides a way to keep track of Yahoo! Group memberships. But to get to the next level, imagine some tweaks including a handful of sidebar modules that sync via RSS to the 360 user’s Yahoo! Inbox, to feed subscriptions from Yahoo! Mail, and to bookmarks from a del.icio.us account. Incorporating any of this content is available from the single sign-on.

Without the transparency of an integrated RSS reader or blogging as ‘just another part’ of the Yahoo! 360 homepage, it’s much more difficult to bring these technologies to the average user. They are just not simple enough for people to grasp on their own. Not only must users learn about new concepts, they must then find and select the technology they need (e.g., RSS reader or blogging platform). Average Internet users don’t even know where to begin to find these services – and without integration, they won’t care.

Flickr and del.icio.us succeeded with a critical mass of early adopters and tech savvy individuals. Yahoo! has the resources and opportunity to make these services flourish outside these communities. Web 2.0 services have appeared on the radar and demanded attention because of the excellence of their vertical service offering. To achieve widespread adoption, however, providers must bring these technologies to their users; they must integrate them into favorite online hang-outs. That means that the big dogs – Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft – have an advantage because of their huge user base, as well as their flourishing sites and services.

From this perspective, sites like MySpace have the opportunity to become even more powerful. Don Dodge notes that MySpace is number one in page views over GYM – mainly because of “communication and connecting”. In my reflections on 2005, I observed that MySpace’s success is due in part to intuitiveness – it’s a place for friends. If other services offerings can continue to be integrated seamlessly, MySpace may become the banner of next generation online communication. Consider the addition of a VoIP like service or enabling a way for those outside MySpace to send messages inside the system. Already, I have younger family members who have no e-mail address because they use MySpace as they only way to communicate with friends.

Without making new web technologies simple, seamless, and integrated, they cannot succeed outside the technical community. 27% of MyYahoo! users are unaware they consume RSS feeds – that’s a good thing. 2006 will bring the opportunity to do more of the same.

Stay tuned for the next opportunity – usability.

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Looking towards 2006

2006 will not be a year of massive Web 2.0 adoption
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my countless non-geek interactions this year is that we are far from reaching mainstream penetration of Web 2.0 technologies (blogs, RSS, tagging, social bookmarks, wikis, podcasts, etc.). Web 2.0 services are too disconnected, unintuitive, and often are impractical.

2006 will be a year of opportunity
2006 is going to be a year where the creators of web technology have the opportunity to make their services better in terms of integration, usability, and usefulness. In particular, developers of Web 2.0 services who begin to embrace these opportunities in 2006 are going to be the winners of 2007.

I’ll exame each of these opportunities in subsequent posts.