Friday, 25 September 2009

Seedcamp ... and, remind me, what is it that I do again?

Another successful Seedcamp week, and I think it's fair to say that the participating teams and the mentors all got a lot out of it. As well as mentoring, I've been feeling some of the nerves from the other side as one of the companies I'm involved with, Plug in SEO, was a finalist. Although we didn't win, the team is very much buoyed up by the experience and advice, not to mention the brilliant contacts made during the week. And congratulations to the winners!

One thing I've come to realise recently is that my fingers have been in a few different pies since leaving Last.fm, sometimes in a fairly off-piste way, and "brand Liz" is confusing. A good friend told me I need to work on my elevator pitch, and she's right. And it's also clear that Product Management is not well understood - some folks think it's a posh term for project management, and in the last week I was surprised to hear someone (not at Seedcamp I hasten to add!) talking about needing a Sales team because he wants to learn more about what his users want. So my next mission - some rebranding and information about the value that Product Management can supply to a team, and the kind of PM tasks that can successfully be outsourced on a project or contract basis.

There, I've written it down in public - now I'll have to do it!

Meanwhile if anyone (especially freelance PM folks) have advice on meaningfully encapsulating what you do, do let me know.
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Thursday, 10 September 2009

Bookmarkers - a comparison of the sign-up process

Every site and it's dog now has some sort of "share this" link (AddThis is one easy solution) where you can use a variety of tools to bookmark and share with your friends and the rest of the world.

But if you're not already a member, signing up for those bookmark managing services can vary from the straightforward to the painful. Here's a quick comparison of Digg, Delicious and StumbleUpon, but the same kind of comments could apply to any website where users create accounts, not just bookmarkers. (Have you thought about your sign-up process recently?)

Digg
We get off to a pretty good start with Digg.
  • The option to use existing Facebook account details means you can avoid creating yet another log in. Lovely - one fewer password to remember. This is becoming easier and easier to do (I'm adding it to the to-do list for Tank Top) - for example here's what UserVoice have done with a solution from RPX.
  • The Digg sign-up form is pretty nice. A few words of help appear by each field as you focus into them - it's obvious they are there, without being distracting. If you enter something that's incorrect, it's checked dynamically and you get a pink error box straight away. No need to hit that "I agree" button until you've got everything right.
  • There's not a lot of reason to get something wrong in this form when you submit it, but suppose you do? Even if you got the Captcha right, you'll have to enter a new one this time. Captchas are a necessary evil for checking we're real people not spambots, but they're annoying - if I filled in a Captcha correctly on a form a few seconds ago, there's no need to make me do it again, is there?
  • Interesting that the birthdate is required "for legal reasons". StumbleUpon also insist on it, but not Delicious. My guess is that this is something to do with not showing (user-generated) adult content to minors, but you'd think the same rules would apply to all three, no?
Delicious
Straightforward enough sign-up form but it's not a delighter.

  • There's a nice button you can use to check if the user name you want is available before you press the register button. Would be even better to automatically check it dynamically.
  • Most people start at the top and work down the page, so the rules for password length are easy to miss until after you've already filled in both password fields. Again a dynamic check would be nice here, especially as it could stop you entering something invalid for a second time.
  • Like Digg, if I get the Captcha right, but something else is wrong, couldn't it remember that I was human a moment ago and probably still am now?
The next step offers me some slightly mysterious options to import bookmarks - but doesn't tell me where they're coming from or why I might want to do it.

I skip that step and get a much friendlier looking screen. Who wants to bet this was done by a different designer?
StumbleUpon
StumbleUpon lets you write a review of what you're bookmarking as the first step before you create an account. Once you've invested in the review, you're probably more likely to bother with the sign-up process, though it does leave a little bit of a sour taste in the mouth that it's not quite as straightforward to submit your review as you initially believed.

Once there, the sign-up form's nice. Best bit - fill in the Captcha once and it disappears!

The only thing that's a bit confusing here is "You wrote the review below". Filling in any text for the review is optional on the previous page - the bit that's compulsory is the URL to which you're giving the thumbs-up. If I hadn't written any text you'd see a pair of empty double quotes instead of "Here's a little review I wrote". Where's the URL or some other information about the site I'm submitting?
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Removing friction from every step of the sign-up process can make a massive difference to user conversions. Just writing about these three sites has given me food for thought for some of the products I'm involved with.

If you'd like to talk to me about independent analysis / heuristic evaluation of the user journey on one of your products, please feel free to get in touch.