This is what Google+ should have and still could become

Picture1

Google+ failed as a social network. They failed to attract loyal content creators, they failed to attract casually addicted participants, and the failed to deliver the tools that would extend and enrich this experience beyond the core site or app.

But this doesn't mean that Google+ failed as a platform. Google+ introduced a number of fantastic tools, that when re-positioned, can build an even stronger (non-social) platform. Their photo tools are incredible. Hangouts have become the video chat tool of choice among the geek elite. The Circles concept was sound. Their card-based design has been extended across Google's entire portfolio with Material Design. And most importantly, Google+ introduced a single sign-on to Google's many properties. Each of these concepts remains strong, despite their combined failure as a social platform.

Google should keep Google+, even if they disregard the brand name. Rather than being about the community, Google+ should be about me.

Google is how I discover and access information about the world around me. Google Now delivers the right information to me, even when I don't search for it. Google+ should be my personal digital dashboard, information and tools. Google+ should show connect with every platform I care about and use this data to make my Google branded experiences even stronger. 

This new platform will be bigger than the "universal" Google that anyone can use. It's my Google. It's Google+.


Innovating the car horn

Air horn
Like a fine wine, my hate for car horns has become more developed with age. The car horn may be one of the most stale and poorly designed communications tools ever built. The same loud signal is used to say I'm annoyedWatch OutThanksHey!Let's Go Islanders and Oh no, we are about to crash. The same disruptively loud signal is used to for one-to-one and one-to-many communications, introducing noise pollution and fueling anger and frustration. This is communications inefficiency at it's worst.

Yesterday, I received an email about a new Kickstarter project. I don't know them, and I don't usually write about Kickstarter projects. MotorMood is not a breakthrough technology. But I believe their concept has merit, and can introduce a new way of communicating and relating with one another on the road. 

MotorMood gives you the ability to say thanks to the cars directly behind you. It's that simple. You let me into your lane, flash them a smile. You turned off your brights, flash a smile. This simple gesture of recognition can change how we relate to another one the road. Today, the only signals my car has are the turn signals, brights, hazard lights and the dreaded one-size fit's all HEY of my car horn. Giving drivers a tool to say thanks and improve their communication with those around them is a great idea.

I don't if the MotorMood will take off. I don't know that this will be how we communicate between drivers in the future. But it's a great step in the right direction. And whether it's through this company or a new feature built into new vehicles, the idea here has merit.

To learn more or fund this project, checkout their Kickstarter page.

 

As a born and bred New Yorker, I hate the car horn. The same signal is used to say I'm annoyedWatch OutThanksHey!Let's Go Islanders and Oh no, we are about to crash. 90% of the time, this loud signal is used to for one-to-one and one-to-many communications. The same signal is used to signal frustration, danger, and greetings. This is communications inefficiency at it's worst.


The Return of the Arcade

Arcade

For sixty years, arcades were as american as the coca cola and pizza stuck to the knobs, buttons and joysticks. As a child of the nineties, there was nothing as exciting as the heavily greased yet insanely sticky Street Fighter arcade in the corner of our local burger joint. I will never forget my best friend's birthday parties of Whitey Fords (an arcade), or community trips to Space Plex where they had Capcom Versus Marvel, Virtua Fighter and when our parents weren't looking, Mortal Combat.

Over the past fifteen years, increasingly capable home consoles, mobile gaming and the affordability of big screens TVs combined to decimate this market. My seven year old doesn't even know what an arcade is.

This is all about to change. Because the fundamental gaming experience is about to take a giant leap forward. 

Ever since Atari, video gaming has been about learning new fine motor skills to manipulate increasingly graphically accurate experiences. The Wii changed the game by introducing gaming in a truly natural interface. The Wii (and by extension, the Xbox Kinect) brought us halfway towards a natural, immersive experience. We waved our hands and moved our bodies, but we didn't feel any haptic friction or feedback. Without this closed feedback loop, it was hard to cross the line between fiction and reality.

Home consoles (and mobile phones) have done an admirable job of bringing us deeper into a flat experience. But it's just that, a flat experience. The cost of setting up an accurate, truly immersive gaming experience would be too steep for most families, and the space required will be too large for most homes (for now). But the experience of a fully immersive, virtual reality environment as an augmentation of our physical space, is intriguing. Consider the video below.

While this experience would likely be too costly for a single family, the economics of the arcade could be a great fit for this experience. The cultural fit of the arcade would reward players and celebrate "watchers" much like the arcades of our youth. Big screen broadcasts for spectators and friends could transform this isolated gaming experience into a return to gaming as the social and societal catalyst it once was.

The arcade of the future may not feature giant boxes and joysticks. In fact, it may look and feel similar to laser tag and conventional sporting events. But I believe the economics, technology and societal factors behind the arcades of yesteryear will return with the rise of immersive VR gaming. It will cost more than a quarter to play. And we will get to be the old people, commenting on how when we were kids, there were these things called "bits" and "pixels".


When the basics become commoditized, invest in your CX

Photography
This weekend, the wonderful Casey Newton over at The Verge posted a comprehensive review of the many, leading photo backup and cloud storage services. Nearly every service listed offers oodles of storage, location tagging and auto-backup from my mobile device. The very basics of photo backup have become commoditized.  

But these photo services were built by engineers to solve a technical issue - limited storage space. What these products lack is an understanding of our human needs - sorting, fixing, viewing and sharing photos.  With cloud storage quotas growing to near-irrational sizes, storage size is no longer a rational differentiator. To stand apart, it's time for a focus on the customer's needs and customer experience. 

A focus on CX would produce a "mom friendly" one-click service. Once you download the app, your photos and videos would automatically backed up to the cloud, and possibly also to your home computer. Photos and videos would be automatically fixed, doing the basics like removing blur, shakes and red eye. Parents will appreciate automated tagging of children (the spec is simple - define the face a few times, and it will be automatically tagged moving forward). De-duping and simple, controlled sharing (with one click sharing to Facebook, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram) would round out the basic feature set. And lastly, this service would allow users to easily send photos to their favorite online photo printing services.

Google+ has many of these features, but it's stuck on Google+. My Mom doesn't even realize she has a Google account and would never understand their sharing or sorting features. Once again, Google+ photos is a great technical solution, but a bit more focus on the CX would make it far more user-friendly. Way back in 2013 I shared my frustrations with the mobile photo backup space. Reading Casey's thorough roundup, most of my frustrations remain.

But there is a ray of hope.

  • Microsoft's new corporate direction shows a strong push towards freemium and cloud based tools. One Drive is a nice solution, and a bit more work would make this a more viable photo back and management solution. Microsoft also seems the most likely to build in deep integrations with leading "sharing" services such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram.
  • Google+ Photos is probably the most capable solution from a big name company, and their recent moves to integrate photos into Google Drive are a step in the right direction. But Google needs to translate their technical tools into a simpler customer experience, building in better third-party sharing integrations, better tagging and lifting their storage quotas a bit to remain viable for more than a couple of years worth of photos.
  • Facebook Photos already allows me to tag my kids, and will automatically back up all the photos on my phone. Their automated photo fix tools are also becoming increasingly capable. Better photo search, tagging and downloading features would round out their app.
  • DropBox's Carousel is nice, but it's still not feature-rich enough for me to consider a real "mom-ready" browsing and management solution.

What would you want to see in a CX-centered photo and video backup and management solution? 


Are you listening to your customers when it matters most?

Listening

Smart marketers appreciate the value of social media. You tune into the latest industry chatter, engage with customers on Twitter and monitor social media for mentions of your brand. Listening to customer conversations about your brand or business yields incredible insights into your customer’s needs and passions. Unfortunately, many marketers are only listening to their customers with half an ear. While they focus on public social media chatter, they often forget to listen to their customers when they are most invested in their business – while they are on the brand’s website.

Listening to customer feedback on your website is easy and incredibly useful. Below are the 7 advantages of direct customer feedback over traditional social media listening.

  1. Customers are More Invested 
    Customers come to your site for a reason; to research a product, complete a purchase etc. These customers have a vested interest in completing their task, and will let you know when something is not as it should be. The feedback you gather from these customers will impact your bottom line.

  2. Real, Meaningful Conversations 
    Your customers want their voices to be heard and acknowledged. Show them you care by inviting their feedback on your site, replying to their feedback messages, and implementing their ideas. Unlike public social media, website feedback is a safe environment that is conducive to meaningful, productive conversations. Freeing your conversations from off-putting color commentary typical of many social media channels allows you to ask provocative questions such as “What could we have done better?” without creating a public relations or social media nightmare.

  3. Customer Responses Are Unbiased
    In social media your customer comments are public statements. In website feedback customers are free to share personal experience with no concern for peer approval. Customers who consider peer approval before sharing feedback are generally (a) less likely to share their feedback and (b) prone to sharing unproductive, negative commentary.

  4. Feedback Is Fresher 
    Customer feedback collected on your site captures the customer’s state of mind, frustrations and ideas while your site experience is fresh in their minds. In contrast, support, social media and sales conversations hours or even days after the customer has left your site are less likely to yield meaningful results. Over time, customers tend to forget the little tweaks that can yield the strongest returns for your business, such as a confusing button, a missing payment option, or an incomplete product description.

  5. Insights Are On-Topic 
    With on-site customer feedback, you can choose the topic of conversation. Your product team can ask customers for feedback on your login process, and your merchandise lead can ask for feedback on your product selection. And best of all, you can target the right customers.

  6. Insights From The Right Audience 
    While it is always helpful to collect feedback across every page on your site, you can target specific audiences on your site with larger invitations for feedback. A targeted, more prominent feedback invitation will deliver the insights you need without disrupting the rest of your customers. For example, you can target new customers on pages with high bounce rates to understand why they are leaving. Or you can target loyal customers to understand why they are loyal to your business. You can even target customers taking a long time at checkout, offering assistance to help them complete their purchase while learning how you can improve your checkout process. By combining the right targeting parameters and the right questions, you can understand any customer journey. These insights would be incredibly difficult to gather through social media listening.

  7. Analytics Become Exponentially Smarter 
    Your analytics tell you what your customers are doing. Customer feedback will tell you why they are doing it. A good customer feedback platform will integrate with your site analytics, making it easy to use your customer feedback to understand and improve any analytics trend.

Getting Started
It has never been easier to impact your bottom line with customer feedback. Contact Kampyle's Success Team to learn just how simple and powerful customer feedback can be. We look forward to speaking with you!

Originally posted on the Kampyle blog.


Gaining user clarity by blurring the lines between marketing, product and UX

ClarityIn the traditional paradigm product defines the core value, marketing sells it and a UX lead designs it. I'm not sure this is the most efficient or effective dynamic.

The focused disciplines of product, marketing and UX were born of a desire for efficiency and a focus on product. But what if we redesigned our teams around the user? 

Great marketing, great product strategy and specs, and great design are all born of the same core insights and the same promise to the user. From the user's perspective the pitch, the product experience and the product value all combine to form the brand or product impression. 

What if we blurred our expectations of our teams, of our team members and of our recruiting prospects? What if we expected marketing to contribute meaningfully to product discussions and turned to UX leads when considering outbound messaging strategy? This wouldn't just about information sharing, but creating an environment that fosters cross-disciplinary thinking and cross-disciplinary leadership.

Our users experience our brands and products as one continuous entity. Why shouldn't we organize our teams around the users they serve?