From Usability

A vision on wearable technology by Intel and PSFK

This week we’ve seen a lot of new technology being launched at CES. I’m interested in wearable technology. Wearing technology is making it really personal. It also has to be very useful in terms of technology and user interaction. We’re very critical in what we’re dragging along.

Intel is launching a ‘Make it Wearable‘ competition for the best ideas for wearable technology.

PSFK released a report about the near future of wearables.

I just paid 0.00662 Bitcoins for a cup of coffee. Are Bitcoins the future of money?

This week I paid my first coffee with Bitcoins at the Border Sessions festival using a BitMyMoney counter.

I’m not sure if Bitcoins are “the future of money”, I’m pretty sure they aren’t the only future and that there is a need for digital money with the freedom that we know from coins and paper money.

Bitcoin is a system that can perfectly co-exist with current systems out there. Although it can use some user experience enhancements. It is still quite difficult to understand and you pay with long strings you can’t understand, complex applications and QR-codes. Bitcoins could use a bit of Square Register to make it really work.

De dubbele winst van een technologie gedreven bedrijf

Gisterenavond was ik bij Online Tuesday met als thema ‘connected cars’. Niek van Leeuwen verantwoordelijk voor Uber in Nederland gaf een presentatie over de taxidienst voor privéchauffeurs.

Uber is een marktplaats en brengt op een handige manier vraag en aanbod bij elkaar. Eén van de interessante onderwerpen uit zijn presentatie was een onderdeel met de titel Uber Heatmaps. Doordat Uber niet zozeer een taxibedrijf is, maar een technologiegedreven bedrijf is innoveren ze snel, juist op de technologie.

De marktplaats functioneert, maar inmiddels beschikken ze over voorspellende algoritmes die vraag en aanbod goed op elkaar afstemmen en geven ze chauffeurs inzicht in deze data door middel van heatmaps. Chauffeurs zien waar op welk moment de meeste vraag zich voordoet.

Uber heeft op deze manier niet alleen qua communicatie (het boeken is eenvoudig) een streepje voor op de “oude” taxibedrijven. De dienstverlening en het aanbod naar de chauffeurs zal door de onderliggende data ook beter worden dan bij bedrijven die dit niet hebben.

De dubbele winst van een technologie gedreven bedrijf.

About Long Tails, Distributing Gadgets and Statistics

The Long Tail

The Long Tail

Beyond links
Our information culture is changing into a networked culture. Distributing is changing how we publish from the traditional one-to-many into many-to-many.

For example. If I make a picture of people ice skating and publish it on Flickr. Than Flickr is a traditional one-to-many distribution system. Everyone can be a publisher.

I’m also re-publishing this same picture on my blog, because this is what we can do with data, a duplicate is the original. And beacuse Friendfeed checks my Flickr account, the picture will also appear on my friendfeed page.

Out of control
This makes three places to view this photograph. My blog, friendfeed and my Flickr page. Those platforms have some similar visitors, but most are different. These platforms, Flickr and friendfeed have also full article RSS feeds or API’s that are being aggregated and republished. There is no control about what happens after we publish something.

We like things to have one place. We are used to physical objects that can only be in one place at the same time. This is how we order and structure information. This is how we control the amount of information. This is structure, instead of chaos.

The emerging web with API’s, feeds and social networks is chaos, its networked. The more instances or copies are distributed the more people you reach.

To be a successful publisher on todays web you need to work distributed. Work with websites and integrate with communities instead of creating them. A gadget is one way of doing this.

Voting gadget
The Eclectro election for the best dance record of 2008 is finished. This election took place in a gadget. Over the past weeks we had 68.049 votes and 184 placed gadgets on blogs and social profiles.

The gadgets versus the amount of votes show a power law / long tail. Only a few websites collect the majority of the votes. The web is a networked environment, but not all nodes are equal. In this case the tail of the graph should have been four times as long to make up the amount of votes generated by the hoster of the gadget, the Eclectro website.

It’s difficult to spread gadgets. We had a continues flow of spreading, but there was no self-reinforcing effect. The tail did generate part of the votes, and reached a new audience.

In an ideal situation you want the nodes in a network to be more equal, a better distribution.

The actual amount of votes versus websites
Full tail
See the full graph:

Pageviews and votes
In the image you see stats of every time the gadget was loaded or a vote was made versus all the websites that published the gadget.
Full tail
See the full graph:

Votes a day
votes a day

The winner: Ane Brun – Headphone Silence (Henrik Schwarz remix)

Dutch press release

The underestimated value of marching backwards into the future

For an interaction designer not using the potential of a medium is horrible. There is this new medium with new a paradigm, new possibilities and you are using it the same way as the old medium. Let’s call it a transition period. McLuhan called it marching backwards into the future.

The value of the transition
For a designer there is nothing to gain in the transition period. It’s pretty frustrating to design the same old things on a new platform. We love using the new challenges a new medium gives us. And early adopters love designs and applications made for new media too.

And despite this there is incredible value in the transition. All thanks to the mental model. People are used in using something. And especially with digital media they have a mental model that tells them where they can find whatever they want. This is important when there is a new medium. They don’t understand the new medium, yet. But they do know how to navigate through your information as long it is structured the way it was on the old medium. And a large group of users will like it. See it as a beacon.


From paper to web
The newspaper where I work has this online image (pdf) based version. That looks exactly like the printed version, only online. From a web design perspective the interaction design is horrible. But it works for most users, since they have the mental model of the paper version. They know where to find what they are looking for. And this makes it easy to produce, and valuable for a large group of customers.

From television to web to iPhone
Dutch teletext is a very popular news service on television. TheY transported it to the web into an interface that doesn’t really make sense for the medium. And it was also transported to widgets and the iPhone. Creating a large group of very satisfied users.

From web to iPhone
The popular Dutch newswebsite is transporting the news website to the mobile sphere. Their readers except a similar experience on the iPhone as on the website.

From books to the Kindle
The Amazon Kindle and other eReader-devices are bringing the experience of reading books to the digital world. With a strong focus on recreating the same reading experience on this new device. In first instance they are neglecting (in communicating) the possibilities of these new devices that range from using hypernarrative structures, non-linear storytelling to importing the friends from your social network as characters in a book.

Why transporting the mental model to a new medium?
You slowly convert the mass from one medium to the other. It is often cheap to do and you will create a very popular service. It also gives you extra time and freedom to make something that is tailored to the medium. You earn some extra money and you are still connected with your users on the new medium.

Just some thoughts
How long can you stretch this? And would it for example make sense to convert the newspaper (paper version) to a pdf and make it viewable on your iPhone? Most readers will have the mental model of the paper version in mind and reading and browsing pdf-files on the iPhone gives a pretty good user experience.

Does it also work the other way around? For example the news website started on the web, can they transport the mental model used on the website to paper as well?

Do you have examples of successful companies that transported their content from one medium to another without altering the interface or way it works too much?

How distributes your favorite MP3s, to you, for free Recommendation Podcasts
Recently the website had a redesign. With video and images more prominent presented they made the website look more visual appealing to first time visitors. More focus on music and a little less focus on people.

Personalized Podcast
I’m not sure if the personalized podcast page was already available on the website before the redesign. I have never seen it before. What is great about this option is that you can subscribe to a stream of free MP3s that will be automatically delivered to your computer through the podcast-distribution-model (xml with enclosures).

A Long Tail with free things and high quality service delivers you the music you might like based on your personal profile, and it delivers the files for free. The music delivered might be from your favorite artists or from artists you have never heard of. This is how you are able to get to know new music that is very likely to be interesting to you.

For artists the group their music is send to is a smaller group, but this group is more likely to like or love the music, and thus distributing free content this way is more cost effective.

For me this podcast is an example how you can add more value to the content through smart distribution. You discover something new, and there is less noise in discovering it.

Mujuice, electronic music from Russia
In my recommended downloads there are a few tracks by Mujuice. I don’t know Mujuice, but if I like the tracks (I probably do, since it is a recommendation) I might search for more, buy MP3s or visit their next, or first performance in the Netherlands.

For the band there probably isn’t any direct business or value, there is only the start of something new by giving something away for free, a new connection or customer relation. And as you might know, all you need are a thousand true fans.

Relevancy? The first experience sucks

What your friends are reading (LinkedIn)
At the Next Web conference there was an overall urge for relevancy. You noticed it in presentations and startups. Unfortunately there weren’t many speakers that had exiting answers. In his presentation Robert Scoble made clear that for most new web applications ‘The first experience sucks‘.

This is inherent to how these new web applications work. The webservices that are doing something new are often ‘connected‘ applications. Websites and widgets connect information and people resulting in a new collections and new relevancy. This relevancy will only show itself when using the service for a while. Which is – of course – difficult to explain to a user when he or she signs up.

This is a user experience problem, but not one we will not find a solution for. The friendfinder button in most new web services enables you to import your Gmail contacts or another social network. Most applications are doing something similar to a service that already exists, with the open web (API’s and feeds) technology should be able to suggest a personal social profile before you start.

When information gets fragmented
What’s more interesting about this is what this search for relevancy really means. The web was always used similar to previous media. We made pages and domains on the web. Information was reserved for one place and relevancy was made by the website editor. This can be a news website or a blog.

Now the web is evolving in something that goes beyond what we are used to. Everything gets fragmented, distributed and aggregated. Information (text, photos and video) transfer from one online place to another. Information gets distributed and duplicated. The collection made by the creator is getting less relevant.

The distributed future of this blog post
For example this blog post is distributed through RSS and it will be picked up by a dozen of spam blog that will all duplicate the entire text and distribute it again. All these blogs are indexed over and over by aggregators like Google or any other. This blog post is written in the context of my blog, but most people will probably read it in another context. Specialized companies trace discussions about brands on the web and redistribute relevant articles. Social networks are crawling the web to show articles that are personal relevant to your profile (LinkedIn).

Data is made to be duplicated
The incredible amount of fragmented information is what makes the web interesting. New social recommendation tools, networks, online friends, aggregators, feeds and widgets are breaking the web apart. This is what makes the web really exiting and work like a network.

This is difficult to understand and use by publishers, copyright lawyers and designers but more relevant for the user. The reader doesn’t care what blog or website presents a good article or where they read it, as long as they can read it. The most important value is the relevancy of the presenter, this can be a system or your friend.

My first iPhone (news)website


Last night I made my first iPhone website. The iPhone has a full Safari browser, but you can also use some iPhone specific styling to make a website better accessible on an iPhone. Today we connected the stylesheet to the EN database making the EN newssite available on the iPhone platform.

Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

I have said it before, but I really think that the future of information is in databases, meta information and API’s (public or not). Making this website was done really fast (20 minutes CSS & 20 minutes coding by a programmer) because all the information was easily accessible.

If you want to make an iPhone website make sure to check the User Interface Library for Safari development on the iPhone. For mobile phones we also made

Reinventing the News Website ( is a new project where we are experimenting with new media, users, technology and journalism. This project is an open project where the public process plays an extremely valuable part in designing and shaping the news website.

The online news industry really changed over the last years. I think we’re at a point where every self respecting news organization takes the web as a serious medium that requires a different approach then previous media (newspaper, television, radio).

Some see these new possibilities as a threat and try to protect what they have. Which is I think the worst possible strategy (looking backwards into the future). Others see chances, new competitors, new technology, new journalism, new markets and new ideas.

I love a quote I heard in an interview with someone at the Washington Post. He said his ambition is to be the new CNN. With new media and technology this ambition is realistic. A company like the Washington Post (newspaper) can see CNN (television) as its competitor.

Google / AP
Google can be a news service. Why wouldn’t they? They have the database of intentions, Google knows what people are searching for and they can – like any other company – subscribe to press services. The value of press agency news is devaluating in a way that it often ends up in duplicate copies with a different lay-out. Try to search for an AP article headline. I’m sure you will find a dozen versions of it, all exactly the same.

Online news is moving to something where added value counts. What can you add to the news (omnipresent). Is it a personal or political view? Is it the selection you make? Is it a community? Are it your reporters or journalists? What is your added value?

In technology communities, collaboration tools and social networks are redefining most services and institutions. Why shouldn’t services and technology like this redefine how we consume news?

This is what is about. We want to experiment with everything around news from a practical point of view, let’s make things.

Wisdom of Crowds
The Wisdom of Crowds believes a group is smarter than the individual. The Wisdom of a crowd can be very valuable for news. In the public opinion the idea of a wiki collides with news. I think a wiki-based system can work for news if you make sure the process is transparent and everyone can join the discussion.

Sure you will have to deal with vandalism, this a technical problem to solve. A reader doesn’t have to be an expert on everything, the valuable wisdom of an individual can be something he has read or seen somewhere else. The Wisdom of a crowd is about all the knowledge, not just the expert knowledge. The biggest challenge is get the knowledge and use it as a contribution.

Traditional media floats on the wisdom of a few wise people who create value by the choices they make. Social media uses the wisdom of your network en wiki media taps into the wisdom of a crowd. All have advantages and disadvantages.

The design
For the design of this new website we also experiment. The most important object is the database, we designed the database from a view that almost everything is possible with the data. We store a lot of information that might be valuable in the future. This allows us to experiment freely with the design and think up new features. The database is the most valuable asset of a news organization.

The newsriver navigation
Newsriver concept
The newsriver is a principle that regards news as a continues flow of information, where you can hook in whenever you want (An RSS feed). For the first version of EN we are experimenting with this idea in the navigation. I don’t know if this is it, it’s different from the navigation we are used to. article newsriver concept

What we can do?
Almost everything. We can make mash-ups, feeds, aggregated pages (screenshot draft design below). Hook in to social networks, extend the wiki functionality, and more. Technically everything is possible.

What does the news site of the future look like? Join the debate and discussion here or in Dutch at

Draft theme page

Is the traditional weblog lay-out still sufficient?

Eclectro Column Design sketch

There is an interesting discussion going on about what’s the most effective design for a blog homepage. Is it a single page design or a homepage with excerpts? Blogs are moving to excerpts and there are some good reasons for this.

For example let’s take the statistics of the Eclectro website. Those are interesting because last month we changed the lay-out from a single page design into a magazine-style design with only excerpts on the frontpage.

The Eclectro weblog – a Dutch weblog about electronic music – started in July last year, it is written by volunteers and reaches around 15.000 visitors a month generating over 40.000 pageviews a month.

Why re-design
The reason for the Eclectro re-design came from the content. The high speed of new articles made some other (valuable articles) drop of the frontpage too fast. There was no visual difference between short posts, sometimes only containing news and the special posts containing unique content or special reviews.

This could all be solved by creating a magazine-like template for the frontpage, and so we did. The downside, you have to make an extra click on the homepage before you can read the article. And maybe there would be some resistance by the readers.

The effect is very good, not only are we able to show more posts on the homepage we can also show more headlines and excerpts in the first screen (before the scroll). Dropping the single-page website had actually has no negative effect at all and we haven’t got complaints about the change of homepage style.

Here are some statistics * of the Eclectro homepage (with 9,401 views in december and 8,373 in november; total visitor number (15.000) for the entire site is roughly the same for these 2 months)

(* thanks to Inge):

9,401 Pageviews on the homepage
Previous: 8,373 (+12.28%)
– good: with a similar total amount of visitors, the number of homepage visitors is higher than last month, which means that more people see all our content.

00:01:49 Time on Page
Previous: 00:02:14 (-18.62% )
– the lower number makes sense, since the real messages are on another page.

29.48% Bounce Rate
Previous: 42.02% (-29.85%)
– excellent! apparently, people stick longer and are better teased to click further and not leave at once.

25.05% % Exit
Previous: 33.49% (-25.21%)
– again, excellent! less people leaving, more people clicking through.

Connection Speed Eclectro / Netherlands
The image shows the average used connection speed of visitors on the Eclectro website over the past half year. High speed connections are mainstream.

Screen Resolution Eclectro / Netherlands
The image shows the average used screen resolution used by visitors on the Eclectro website over the past half year. Average screen width is growing, although the height isn’t. Widescreen is very popular.

What does it mean?
The average viewer of the eclectro website has a pretty good connection and a reasonable screen width. A blog template was designed with scrolling in mind, one long page with the ten most recent posts on the homepage. Around the same time this single-page blog-design got popular we did see RSS become very popular as well. The design of a feed is often similar to a blog.

RSS is chronological the way the original blog design is. The magazine style is more based on the content itself. Making a selection in what is the best content. RSS is more valuable for the real heavy user of a website, is there something new I haven’t read? A magazine design is more useful for the average website visitor. The guy or girl who types the url a few times a week to see what’s new and more important what’s interesting enough to read.

Are RSS, widgets, Netvibes, iGoogle and e-mailsubscription accepted so broadly by heavy internet users that we can drop the single-page design? What do you think, and what do your statistics tell you (please share). Should all blogs with more than two posts a day seriously consider a design with only excerpts on the frontpage? Or is the single-page not dead at all?