UICraft: Why Facebook’s New ‘Stickers’ is Stupid Yet ‘Sticky’

Following Path’s step, Facebook recently introduced a sticker feature in their messaging experience. Stickers are a glorified version of ’emojis’ which user can send to their friend while chatting to express emotions. It usually comes with a package of different expressions/emotions. All Facebook’s current stickers are free to download, but the ‘Free’ tag could very quickly become ‘$0.99’ like most Path stickers do.

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Image via: phandroid.com

Stickers are no new creation by Facebook at all. A bunch of Asian messaging apps and services have already embraced it for some time. This whole ‘cuteness’ thing might seem silly, yet before you shout ‘stupid and cheesy!’, let’s not forget all the ‘stupid’ videos that got millions visits on YouTube. There is something behind all these ‘stupid yet popular’ fads. Most of them share one treats: They play very well to your emotion. And emotion, my friend, is usually our weakness. That is what’s behind all these impulse purchasing, all these ‘my brain tries to say no but my body screams YES’ moments, all those ‘this is so stupid but I just can’t stop laughing’ videos.

This is also why some  apps are successful in creating attractive experience. Enter ‘Clear‘, the highly successful to-do app with flat and simple visual but powerful physics and interactions. By swiping the item right, user can mark complete the task. Swiping left is delete the task, pinch open to add an item and pinch close to fold the current task list. It might sound simple, yet it’s physics is so great that when you are doing all these simple operations, you feel like you are manipulate a real object, you are throwing the completed task away like throwing your empty can of Coke to the dump. It relates to your feelings and emotions.

I still remember when the first time Apple released iPhone and introduced multi-touch, people are instantly amazed by the interactions without rationally knows why. Like Steve Jobs once put it in his keynote when demonstrating a multi-touch feature :” I can play this all day!’. As human-beings, we are sophisticated, we use our brains, we developed science. But most of the times, we aren’t that smarter when it comes to our emotion. We fall in love, get hurt, heal through it, and do it again. That just how emotion works. It is sticky and always comes back. No wonder after Path first announced their Stickers and In-app shop, they said the first week it brings in more money than all the money the company has ever earned before. No wonder Facebook is following suit.

Facebook News Feed Design Upgrade: Making Ads Count

Facebook recently released their new design of the ‘News Feed’. From the announcement, even though they didn’t mention a word about ads, I still smelt it. All of the design changes in a large part are to make Ads count. Here’s why:

1. Bigger photo = Bigger canvas for Ads

The new design comes with bigger photos and albums to offer a more engaging and immersive experience. While user contents become more immersive and prominent, so do embedded ads. (Facebook already embedded ads into user Timeline)

Bigger canvas means a LOT for advertisers in that it blurs the lines of a banner and a real ad page. Facebook should be able to charge a higher CPM rate if it proves to be more efficient.

2. Less clutter leads to more focus, on both user content and ads.

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Facebook’s current news feed feels cluttered. It easily triggers the ‘cognitive overload‘ issue and a lot of the users just back away from it, or totally ignore the blob of ads on the right side of the page. With the design changes, there are less contents in one page, but they will get more attention and focus. Coupled with more compelling photos, even boring ads that no one wanted to station their eyeballs before will get some love with the new design now. Less really is more.

3. Better content curating can also mean better ads targeting.

Another big part of the design is better curating. Facebook promised to offer the best ‘personalized newspaper’. Every ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ you make on Facebook will all being monitored and analysed to further ‘fine tune’ content to your taste. Your timeline will then become more relevant and personalized. This all sounds fantastic on the surface, but wait! Ads will become more relevant and personalized too! This is not necessarily a bad thing though. With better targeted ads (and hopefully higher CPM rate), Facebook could actually afford to not bombarding ads to their user, and offer less intrusive experience. 

Summary

Overall, I think designers in Facebook deserve some applause. They make the layout more streamlined, promoting ads without downgrading experience, and finally being consistent with their mobile experience. Like I pointed out in my another blog, done right, it could be a win-win to everybody. 

New Vision from Marissa Mayer of Yahoo

New Vision from Marissa Mayer of Yahoo

“We think about how do we take the Internet and order it for you,” Mayer said. Yahoo intends to be “a feed of information that is ordered, the Web is ordered for you and is also on your mobile phone.”… “There is a way that you can introduce advertising such that it’s not intrusive, it actually adds value to the end user, and it actually enhances the experience,” Mayer said. “And that’s what we need to work on.”

As I mentioned in my earlier post:

‘So to sum it up, if social network companies focuses more on knowing their users better , then providing valuable suggestions and helping user reduce the noise level, it will be a win-win to everybody. Users will have a higher quality of information flow, get ideas and suggestions that relevant to their needs and taste. Social network companies will make better use of their ‘raw social data’ and get more engaging subscribers (that willing to share more about themselves). And even advertises will have an easier time targeting their audience because of the better profiling from social networks.’

I believe Yahoo’s new CEO gets it, and better even she has the power to make it happen. It’s refreshing to see someone with an unique perspective, yet it’s always easier said than done, so it all boils down to how well Yahoo can executes its witty strategy. We’ll keep watching.

 

Facebook’s Road to Close?

Facebook’s Road to Close?

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Their business philosophy seems to be undergone subtle changes in Facebook headquarter. The ban on Voxer felt like last week, today they also banned Twitter’s new video sharing app Vine from accessing their ‘Fiend Friends’ feature again. Some say it’s kid’s fight between Twitter and Facebook. I think it’s might be deeper than that. Facebook is facing huge pressure after IPO on their financial performance and using every opportunity possible to monetize. I smell desperation from their recent moves. More importantly, they used to be pretty ‘open’ and foster a bigger social app/service industry based on their social graphs, allowing smaller social service and apps to grow the pie. Now they seems to not willing to do it, at least not without solid benefits. Who will be the next victim? Will they even go so far as charging money for it? Either way it’s a ‘Unlike’ for smaller companies and they might choose to ‘Unfriend’ Facebook platform. Will Facebook become a walled garden?

Situation is still developing. I’ll keep watching and report anything interesting back.

 

Win-Win Solution to Advertisement Fatigue in Information Age

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Image courtesy of iStockphoto/OtmarW

I’ve always been observing the tech industry for new trends, and lately I think I noticed something on the social network and search area. The challenges we are facing as a professional in this crazy informational age is how to deal with the ever increasing overwhelming data and information surround us all the time. Most of us, especially those working in IT industry, has a sickness I would call it ‘Information Fatigue’. Everyday, we have 10 blogs to visit, 100 emails to reply, 1000 tweets to read, thousands updates on Facebook to catch up to. The information ‘density’ within each piece is not helping also. Tweets that have shortened links or pictures, emails with all the 10 pages back and forth reply history, website with so many ads and distractions crammed together. Our limited focus and energy becomes so pale before this waterfall of information. It’s like we’re fed with unlimited food, junk or good, dessert or ramen, steak or salad, day in and day out. We can never get real healthy this way, only more obsess, mentally. The information flows through our brain everyday is out of control.

Eventually, we’ll need to totally rethink how we generate information, distribute information and filter information. In this regard, our social network and social media industry really need to wake up on this. We all know the feeling when we check our Facebook and found out all the mundane day-to-day details of our ‘remotely remembered’ high school classmates. And worse even when we found out that thirty minutes have already passed. What a waste of life and energy! But that happens all the time, from Facebook to Twitter, from Instagram to Youtube. Nothing has been done to improve this so far. Imagine if Facebook can learn my taste when it comes to updates, I can ‘Like’ a friend’s updates, which will increase his updates ranking so it will appear more on my wall in the future. Or I can ‘Ignore’ it, so I will never see those kind of little details anymore. The social network should do a smarter job to learn my taste, and offer more relevant information to me, while filter out the noise. By reducing the noise level of Facebook, it will actually increase its appealing to most people. I’ve talked to a lot of my friends and colleagues on why they seldom get on their Facebook, and the No.1 answer is :’It’s full of crap in their, all the updates of my friends that I don’t care, not something I’m interested or enjoy reading. It’s a waste of time.’ This is a dangerous signal to Facebook, cause less engaged subscriber means less quality information on Facebook, will could cause even less people using it, a destructive downward spiral.

Take Twitter as another example, a standard tweeter user will tweet several tweets everyday, retweets some of his likes, and favorites some others. But Twitter has no system whatsoever to learn what I like and dislike, what will get me excited and retweet, etc. Put it in a simpler way, Twitter don’t know me. It’s like an information feeding machine, without any effort to filter out the noise and promote something according to me taste. In a word, these social media/social networks care too much about running ads and promoting goods, but care much less about profiling and learning its subscriber, which in turn making it harder for them to do targeted ads (ironically).

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Image via FastCompany

There are some that does a better job. The popular personalized magazine app ‘Zite‘ is a good example. It has become my main information consuming place lately. What Zite does differently is it starts off by letting you choose some topics and key words that represent your interest. Then it will go out and fetch the news, blogs, articles, tweets that you might interest and present them to you. While you’re reading, you can choose to ‘vote up’ or ‘vote down’, which will increase or decrease the chance next time these kinds of information appear. Basically they profile you, and gets better overtime. The result is amazingly good. Instead of reading my tweets every 5 minutes, or check my Google Reader, I just fire up Zite once or twice per day and read all the relevant information and I’d be happy. They can still do better though. For example, they can remember when is your last time used Zite and when you launch it, it will present you all the worth reading articles from last time you read to now, so you know you won’t miss anything. (Now they always present you the most up-to-date content. )

Some may argue that due to the social ‘intrust’ between users and social networks companies, users are not willing to share their interest and let their private info been exposed much. Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. What the user really hates is not been profiled. What really make user mad is these company grabbing all the user’s private data, but instead of providing valuable suggestions and filtered information, they sold those information to advertisers. If these social media and social networks companies care more about user’s information and give user more value on meaningful suggestions and better quality information flow, I believe users are willing to tell them more about themselves. They would even pay for it, as long as they see value in it.

So to sum it up, if social network companies focuses more on knowing their users better , then providing valuable suggestions and helping user reduce the noise level, it will be a win-win to everybody. Users will have a higher quality of information flow, get ideas and suggestions that relevant to their needs and taste. Social network companies will make better use of their ‘raw social data’ and get more engaging subscribers (that willing to share more about themselves). And even advertises will have an easier time targeting their audience because of the better profiling from social networks. The advertisement fatigue is a desperation on both the advertiser’s side and consumer’s side. Advertiser is desperate because they don’t know who are interested, so they have to bombard the public with ads. The user’s desperation is they know what they want, but no one wants to listen and they’ll have to suffer all these irrelevant commercials. All these can be easily solved by a bit more caring and data mining technology. Come on Facebooks and Twitters, do something!