Customer Acquisition

This post summarizes the discussion at the Jan 3rd, 2013 meetup of Jeremy Horn‘s Product Group.

Topics discussed: Customer Acquisition, general Product Management
Featured Product: Weight Watchers

Andres Glusman awarded “Product Person of the Year 2012”

  • Change brought to Meetup.com:
  • Change the Attitude to failure – “we don’t know the truth” about this new problem, failure is the most likely outcome.
  • Experiments to determine if you are close to what is required.
  • Eg – thoroughly test a core flow. Mock-ups  usability tests, prototypes – 4 tests per week. 600 per year.. Use results to guide development.
  • Meetup uses RSVPs as a key metric for measuring success.
  • Meetup “builds for everyone” – This is exceedingly hard.
  • Key demographic they are getting traction in at this point – moms.”Most meetups happen in living rooms, not boardrooms”

 

Customer Acquisition strategies

  • Offer useful Tools, resources and webinars – some free.
  • Getting and converting leads – Capture and analyze related data – Best day, and month etc…
  • In this particular instance this analysis was conducted by a custom app. Salesforce implementation did not succeed in this regard.
  • Gamifying the site – game company. Still analyzing impact.
  • Frank Robinson, Eric Ries & Fred Wilson. – Product Management thought leaders
  • Triggers and alerts, and notifications to make social.
  • Start off with small Small samples for different channels. Invest in what works.
  • Highest driver was being in blogs (not necessarily Techcrunch)
  • Find out influences are and get them to tweet, and blog etc.. YouTube influencers work.
  • Klout works for some companies for determining influencers
  • Email works for some companies for customer acquisition.
  • Quality of acquisitions important i.e. engagement of acquired customers.
  • Being on top of app store huge boost.
  • Enterprise sales – mock ups get feedback. use Beta release and Usage numbers to gauge participation and course correct.

 

Good reading:

  1. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others – by Dan pink. Book on the nature of sales today.
  2. Predictable Revenue – by Aaron Ross & Marylou Tyler. Book on enterprise sales through Salesforce.

 

Google Glass – my take

Google Glass

For sometime now, I have been of the opinion that some of the next big advances in computing will be in wearable computing, particularly some kind of device aiding augmented reality. So when Google Glass was announced I was excited. Kudos to Google for pursuing something truly innovate and making it happen. The product is under development and there is a developer edition for sale for people so inclined. I imagine one of the problems the Glass team will be dealing with is the UX issue of the user having to focus separately on the display of the device whenever they want to consume some information from it (see 1:03 in the video below).

There seems to be technology out there that can tackle this issue as claimed by Innovega. They claim to be able to allow users to focus on objects in two different planes simultaneously. Such capability would be needed for true “terminator” vision where information is super-imposed on your view of the world without you having to focus on anything special. In any case, Google says Glass is in the “skunkworks pre-alpha” phase .. they may well solve the problem in the coming months.

Update 01/04/2013: Google Engineer, Babak Parviz, in an interview has revealed that Goggle will not be prioritizing the Augmented Reality (information overlaid over the physical landscape) possibility in Glass. Not immediately at least.

The state aim is to “allow people to connect to others with images and video” for “pictorial communications” and to “allow people to access information very, very quickly.”. Interesting!

what could have been with YM

I was thinking about social networks and, of course, the five hundred pound gorilla in the room is Facebook. But it was not always that way. No, I’m not talking about MySpace or Friendster. My first friend’s list was on Yahoo Messenger. There were also other relevant players like AOL and MSN messenger and some of what I’m writing is probably true of them as well.

YMYahoo Messenger was and is an amazingly polished product. Everything works like it should, everybody was on it, even the smileys were great. Everything that you see in a Facebook or G+ today can easily be imagined being build around YM. I wonder why they didn’t go that route. Even if they didn’t have Google’s allure, they already had a user base who had arranged their connections on a neat list.

IMHO, YM could have could have grown into a significant social network. Well, that’s an opinion from an outside perspective. I’m sure the team at Yahoo were working under constraints that they know best.

what’s different about html 5 ?

Html 5 is quite a large step in the evolution of the html standard. Support has been provided for features that figure in most modern web applications.

The guide by Mark Pilgrim is excellent. This is a summary of what I learnt from there.

HTML5 is fully backward compliant to HTML4 , meaning a browser which supports  html5 will continue to support your html4 content.

New features:

Canvas
A canvas is a rectangle in your page where you can use JavaScript to draw anything you want. HTML5 defines a set of functions (“the canvas API”) for drawing shapes, defining paths, creating gradients, and applying transformations.
Video
HTML5 defines a new element called <video> for embedding video in your web pages. Embedding video used to be impossible without third-party plugins such as Apple QuickTime or Adobe Flash.
Local Storage
HTML5 storage provides a way for web sites to store information on your computer and retrieve it later. The concept is similar to cookies, but it’s designed for larger quantities of information.
Web workers

Web Workers provide a standard way for browsers to run JavaScript in the background. With web workers, you can spawn multiple “threads” that all run at the same time, more or less.

Offline Web Applications

Offline web applications start out as online web applications. The first time you visit an offline-enabled web site, the web server tells your browser which files it needs in order to work offline. These files can be anything — HTML, JavaScript, images, even videos. Once your browser downloads all the necessary files, you can revisit the web site even if you’re not connected to the Internet. Your browser will notice that you’re offline and use the files it has already downloaded. When you get back online, any changes you’ve made can be uploaded to the remote web server.

Geolocation

Geolocation is the art of figuring out where you are in the world and (optionally) sharing that information with people you trust.

New Input Types
New Input Types in forms

  1. <input type=”search”> for search boxes
  2. <input type=”number”> for spinboxes
  3. <input type=”range”> for sliders
  4. <input type=”color”> for color pickers
  5. <input type=”tel”> for telephone numbers
  6. <input type=”url”> for web addresses
  7. <input type=”email”> for email addresses
  8. <input type=”date”> for calendar date pickers
  9. <input type=”month”> for months
  10. <input type=”week”> for weeks
  11. <input type=”time”> for timestamps
  12. <input type=”datetime”> for precise, absolute date+time stamps
  13. <input type=”datetime-local”> for local dates and times
Microdata
Microdata is a standardized way to provide additional semantics in your web pages. For example, you can use microdata to mark up an “About Me” page. Browsers, browser extensions, and search engines can convert your HTML5microdata markup into a vCard, a standard format for sharing contact information. You can also define your own microdata vocabularies.

Lastly, Minor tweaks like placeholder text and form autofocus.

Flash: the (very) basics

I was getting my head around the various formats and products in the Flash Ecosystem.

fla: The typical file format you use to save a project when using adobe flash. This file contains the components of the flash elements that are displayed.

swf: This is a compressed format that is generated from an fla file. An fla file is compiled into an swf and then displayed to the user. To edit the file you would have to edit the fla file. swf stands for Small Web Format.

swc: This is an archive format. These files contain swf files and a catalog.xml along with un-complied files like property files and assets like css. This is usually used to share resources and functionality. You can use a swc from a team member or the internet in your project to use elements in that archive.

Adobe Flash: is the IDE used in projects where scripting is not the main focus.

Flex is also an IDE used to work on ActionScript intensive projects.

Device awareness I

Retina Display 大勝~

Image by Kent-Chen via Flickr

With the myriad of devices out in the wild today, ensuring your work is seen as you intended it to be is quite a challenge. Here’s a basic toolkit you would need to start addressing this problem.

1) User Agent Switcher – Testing tool. Firefox add-on. To hit your application with requests like they were coming from the devices you want to design for.

2) WURFL api – mechanism to detect and dynamically modify your UI according to the requesting device.

User Agent Switcher

First off, you will need a means to simulate requests as if they were coming from all the devices you want to consider. The Firefox plugin User Agent Switcher is an indispensable tool for the same. After you have installed the plugin, you will notice that you can simulate the iphone and a handful of other devices. You will want a more complete list of devices to simulate. A google search should reveal several such downloadable lists. I found this one adequate. Download this xml and import it as shown below (click on the pictures to see them better):

step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Step 4

Now, just select the device that you want to simulate and browse as usual. The requests from this browser will now be formed as if coming from the device it is emulating. Below is a screenshot of me selecting a kindle version for emulation.

using the emulator

I wrote a small html page that spits out the request headers so I can see my new addon in action. The code for that page is here (do a right click and view source). Below is a screenshot of my Firefox impersonating an iPhone :)

emulating an iPhone

My next post will be ablout the WURFL api that allows you to dynamically adapt to the device requesting your page. Over and out.

lean UX

I had the chance to attend a talk on Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf yesterday. Jeff spoke articulately about how shaving the fluff off of the design process brings back the focus on user experience rather than the production of deliverables.

Jeff’s slide deck

My notes

There were some interesting take-aways for someone some one hoping learning more about the design process.

1) Get away from the drawing board/napkin/computer as soon as you can. Make the idea public (in the org) with cheap prototypes and seek feedback early.

2) What makes a good portfolio that showcases design input? – getting rid of deliverables led to the question, what do you show case if you produce no deliverables? Which brings us back to that evergreen question – “what constitutes a good portfolio?”.  “Illustrate process” and “illustrate thinking” were the answers in Jeff’s book. Makes sense and adds up well with the fact that you may not be able to put in a lot of your best work anyways because of NDAs. Your interviewer would not like see you showcasing their assets in a future interview.

UX and design resources

I have been looking to beef up my Usability and Design experience of late. I have found several organizations in the New York area that seem to host events and have projects running that can use volunteers. Of course, this from the websites these organizations have on offer.  Some of them are:

http://www.upassoc.org/ (usability)

http://iainstitute.org/ (information architecture)

http://www.ixda.org/ (ux)

This page was particularly helpful in finding some amazing people to talk to for guidance. Luckily some of them could make time to exchange emails with me. The information they gave was quite useful in terms of:

1) The kind of concepts to familiarize myself with to be able to contribute to the design of products:

  • Research Methods – comes with experience. try volunteering/ pro-bono.
  • Best Practices – comes with experience. try volunteering/ pro-bono.
  • Psychological principles – classes in cog. psyc, statistics, perception, info processing
  • Technical skills – html, css, flash .. general web dev and design skills

2) relevant part time classes that can help. For instance website usability and information architecture. I found these in the continuing ed departments of sva and nyu.