Archive for the ‘theme’ tag
Some people are blessed with great musical talent. Youtuber jasonlyleblack is blessed with the ability to play the Super Mario Bros. theme on piano backwards. Ah yes, his parents must be so glad they payed for all those piano lessons. Via.
Assuming all goes well and we didn't just jinx ourselves, GamesBeat is launching its official podcast this coming Monday, August 13!
We're calling the show BYOT: Bring Your Own Topic.
Every other week, we're going to have three new guests on, and each will bring his or her own gaming-related topic (revolving around a special theme) for the group to discuss. In between conversations, we'll be grilling our friends with tough questions in our dreaded 4 Hit Points trivia game. Can they survive? Let's just say it was really ugly for our first show….
(If this podcast format sounds familiar, yes, BYOT is the second coming of the old Mobcast by Bitmob.com. By popular demand, and thanks to our sponsor Playhaven, we're able to bring it back under a new name.)
In BYOT #1, the GamesBeat staff will argue about the good and crappy of 2012 (so far). We'll follow up that episode with "The comedians of the gaming industry" and, after that, a trip down a pixelated and possibly fuzzy memory lane in an all-retro show.
Make sure you tune in on Monday, because we plan on bribing listeners with fabulous prizes (including i7 Core Processors from Intel, free games, and more). Follow GamesBeat on Facebook or Twitter to get announcements on when new BYOTs go live. And special thanks to Todd Windsor, who won our contest to come up with a new name for this podcast!
iPad: OS X Pad is a new theme that can make your iPad look and operate like an actual Mac. If you prefer traditional desktop paradigms to those of iOS, all you need is the Dreamboard app and a few minutes to install. More »
This is a personal request from your user, a rallying cry from a compatriot. I personally love WordPress. I make my living from it. The average user, though, couldn’t care less about it. They just want to run their business, tell their family history, organize their church, share their photos or live their life online with a minimum of impedance. In its evolution from simple blogging tool to CMS, framework and software ecosystem, WordPress is losing its way. It needs us to help bring it back and cultivate simple genius.
My agency married WordPress in 2007. We’d been dating for a number of years but were still seeing others: some serious flirtation with Joomla, a blind date with Drupal, a summer romance with CMSMS, even a steady five-year stint with a custom CMS that we lovingly named Rocinante (after Don Quixote’s loyal steed). We tied the knot with WordPress for one single reason: about six to nine months after most of our projects, we would get the fateful call. “The only person who really understands how to use the website you built just left the company, and we need someone to train us!” It was almost inevitable, except on WordPress. No one ever called for help after a WordPress project except to share their excitement and book the next project. They just figured it out. It was easy and obvious and beautiful. Our clients loved it, and that was something you could grow a business on.
Then, WordPress started to grow up. New features like the menu manager, theme editor and sidebar widgets made WordPress more robust but more complicated. The ecosystem of plugins exploded. WordPress plugins are harder to use than they should be. Ask your users. We did. It was quite illuminating and a hint embarrassing. We decided to act on Tom Ewe’s call to arms and lead by example:
“I find it astonishing that WordPress developers haven’t worked harder to create usability guidelines for plugin development. Even experienced WordPress users are often left guessing as to where they should go to work with a new plugin.
One of the key drivers of WordPress’ success has been plugins, and yet they are not actually that easy to use. They appear as being stapled onto WordPress, as opposed to integrating seamlessly. Surely there should be some common usability rules when it comes to plugin development?”
— Tom Ewe
We Lack Conventions, And This Is Why It’s A Problem
Three weeks ago, we brought on Joyce to our customer team at Modern Tribe. She’s smart, she has a real power-user’s/light themer’s grasp of WordPress, and she had never used our free WordPress.org-hosted plugin, The Events Calendar, nor any other of our add-ons. She came back after looking them over and said, “This is far harder to set up than it should be.” I asked her whether she had read the new user primer or the set-up instructions. “No, I didn’t. I bet most of your users don’t either.” I had to admit that Joyce was probably right. Rather than try to list all of the things that she thought might or might not work, she pointed me to Steve Krug’s SxSW talk “Rocket Surgery Made Easy.” I couldn’t turn it off. I’ll boil it down to a few paragraphs for you, but if you develop a plugin or theme or have a product business, this is a must hear.
Krug argues that hiring usability experts is unnecessary (heck, let’s be honest: most of us don’t do it anyway). The real value of a usability test is in getting together (ideally with sushi) and observing the experience, not hearing an expert’s interpretation. Within 15 minutes of watching the first user try to use our plugin, a handful of long-running arguments were resolved and some incredibly simple hurdles were exposed. I’ll walk you through the process that we followed for a remote usability test of The Events Calendar.
Our Remote Usability Test: Step-By-Step
- Total time invested: 6 hours
- Set-up: 1 hour
- Testing: 3.25 hours
- Notes: 0:45 minutes
- Team review: 1 hour
- Find three participants. We had enough users and visitors that a blog post generated about 15 willing offers. We gave away a free copy of The Events Calendar Pro in exchange for participation. Make sure that the criteria for participation are explicit. Krug insists that you really don’t need more than three users, and that turned out to be spot on. By the third user, we were accurately guessing where they would fail. Schedule the test to last about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the tasks, and give yourself time in between to clean up your notes and deal with other details.
- Think of some process or features you want to explore. We were curious to see how first-time users experience our core Events plugin. With that in mind, we made a series of nine steps that we knew were pretty common for setting up the calendar. Make sure to write them out, and give goal-based instructions, not actual steps. Think, “Create a new event,” rather than “Click the new events menu to make an event.”
- Set up a domain with WordPress and your plugin or theme on it. If you are testing a plugin, decide whether the problem or feature set that you defined in step 2 is best served by a fairly vanilla build (for example, 2011 theme + minimal plugins + no content) or by a more real-world build (perhaps use your demo content if you have one or a user’s website backup). Configure the whole website precisely for the first step. Run through it once entirely to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything obvious.
- Back up the database of the website so that you can restore between tests.
- Grab a copy of Join.me or your favorite screen-sharing or VoIP tool (such as GoToMeeting or Adobe Connect). We found that Skype just wasn’t stable enough to carry us through the screen-sharing portion of our test run. Join.me functioned amazingly well, except for an issue with voice echo caused by laptop sound cards during one test. The fact that it was free was appealing. Make sure that both screen-sharing and voice are available in whatever set-up you choose and can be recorded together. We used ScreenFlow to record the test so that it could be reviewed later.
- Do a quick test run with someone on your team (or your mom), and make sure that the kinks are worked out.
- Get the whole team ready and present. Do whatever you can to get people to participate. Everyone on our team who participated was blown away by the experience. Buy them fancy snacks or digital beer. Fire up a chat session if your team is remote (one that the test participant is not privy to) so that your team can chat freely. If you are co-located, make sure the team is not in the room where the test is taking place. Twelve people hovering over someone’s shoulder will unnerve even the most confident person.
- The introduction and set-up are key. Krug has a great script that we just followed. The first key: explain to the participant that the plugin is being tested, not them. There is no wrong or stupid choice. If something is hard or confusing, it’s our fault and we apologize. Secondly, encourage the participant to speak out loud and share their thoughts; i.e. provide a guided monologue. Give them a copy of the steps (paste them into the chat session or email them beforehand), and read them through together once.
- Read a step. Watch. Shut up (bite tongue). The goal is to watch them as if you weren’t there, so don’t help them. This can get crazy awkward, but observing the various choices they make in trying to accomplish a goal becomes very informative. Consistently ask questions to get them to speak out loud, such as “What are you thinking?” and “What did you expect?”
Observing user 2 figure out where to add events to her menu. (Large version)
- Have the moderator and the people observing take notes on what they see, and discuss together.
- Once all of the steps were completed, we asked a bunch of probing questions. We were surprised by how much two users employed the admin bar, so we asked more about that. We were curious why no one clicked the tutorials, despite having the answer in the title. And on and on.
Usability has to do with more than what’s in a plugin’s admin settings. We probed why none of the users took advantage of the tutorials. It turned out that a blog loop has no useful organization, so we made a quick page to group the posts by topic. (Large version)
- Time to pay the participant in money, karma or free goods and get ready for the next test. Reset the website’s database.
- Take some time to condense your notes. Ask everyone who observed to pick the three most important things that can quickly be fixed based on the test. The goal is not to do a redesign; we are looking for quick course corrections. Then we test again in a new cycle.
Notes were broken down into observations, user recommendation and bugs. (Large version)
Findings From Our Tests
A number of our major debates were instantly answered. For example, we had had a prolonged disagreement about the placement of the menu item for the plugin’s settings. The majority of the development team felt that it belonged in WordPress’ main “Settings” tab because that is a de facto standard. A minority of developers and all of the community team thought that putting it in the submenu for the Events custom post type would be more intuitive.
Both sides had great arguments. For the test, we put it in the WordPress settings, and then we watched three users in a row fail to find it there in a reasonable timeframe. One found it from the top admin toolbar (we put it there, too), one eventually looked in WordPress’ “Settings,” and one gave up despite looking right at it three times. Standards are great, but we all had to admit that functionality has to supersede a poor standard. We explored putting it in both places, but ultimately we decided to move it to the Events menu for now due to technical limitations.
We also saw how hard a time users had finding the events calendar on the front end of the website, despite it being in five locations. By seeing where people looked for it, we came up with a game plan that took five minutes to implement, and we hope it will make it a whole lot more intuitive.
The usability test was so valuable that Paul, one of the developers, asked if we could do it every month. Usability testing has, without a doubt, provided the best feedback we have ever gotten on our product, it cost very little, and it has now been added to the monthly production schedule. We will be testing these updates next week to see if they truly did improve the experience.
I’m continually amazed by a community’s ability to reach the same conclusion at the same time. Last week, Dave Martin posted for the first time to the core UX team’s blog:
I’m just getting my feet wet, and quite honestly haven’t a clue where to get started, so I thought I’d set up a quick user test (I’m a big fan of user testing). I set up a temporary WP install, and ran a user from usertesting.com through a couple scenarios.
Check out the video. It almost hurts to watch her struggle. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to see the core team paying attention as well and engaging quickly. It is a great start.
Call For WordPress Human Interface Guidelines
The average website has over five plugins installed (according to PressTrends) and often a theme options panel. For a great experience to continue throughout the website as people actually experience it, we need to establish strong standards for the rest of the community to follow.
I am calling all WordPress plugin developers and themers. You don’t need to guess what your users might want or how they will experience your product. Just watch them. We know it: if we focus on usability, stability and then value, we can make products that users will line up for.
To the core WordPress team and the community at large: Let’s get together and create WordPress human interface guidelines for those who contribute by providing plugins and themes for the world to use. Apple gave us a rock and upon it built a foundation that few can deny. Google finally got around to it with Ice Cream Sandwich, and I expect to see drastic improvement in the wild west that is the Android application landscape. Help us help WordPress.
In the words of Matt Mullenweg when he saw Dave’s first post:
Thank you very much for this, I think more frequent and more transparent testing will allow us to make much better informed product and UX decisions. If we do this right we should see the videos get better and better (shorter and less confusion) from release to release.
Code is poetry. So should be your user’s experience.
© Shane Pearlman for Smashing Magazine, 2012.
Here’s a question for you: How much does customer experience factor into your marketing strategy?
If customer experience (CX) is a new concept for you as a marketer, think of it as the overall experience a customer has with a partciular business, from their discovery and awareness of the brand, all the way through their interaction, purchase, use, and even advocacy of that brand. In today’s wired world, chances are good that the relationship you have with your customers is going to include one or more digital channels — your website, landing pages, email communications, mobile interactions, social media participation, etc. Read the rest of this entry »
Did you just have your mouse over the buy button on a zebra print jumpsuit? Oh no, honey, social shopping app Poshmark opened a new feature just for you today. The company is letting users create showrooms out of their favorite fashion items to help give style-newbies a little direction.
“We’re just focused on growing now because the basics … are solved,” said Manish Chandra, chief executive of Poshmark, in an interview with VentureBeat. “And now it’s just growing. July was an exponential month.”
Poshmark is an iOS application that lets people buy and sell fashion items during “Posh parties.” Think of it as a tech-y Tupperware party, where Poshmark takes a cut of all the merchandise sold. The parties are centered around a theme such as “summer colors,” or “Diane von Furstenberg,” and are hosted by one person. Anyone can add items for sale that fit the theme, however, but you need to RSVP to the party first.
Showrooms are an attempt to help party hosts “curate” the best pieces submitted to their party, while also building a brand for themselves. Just like on Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, people with the most interesting content develop a following. Chandra said one user, Tracy, who goes by the name of “McNubbin” has dedicated fans (over 36,000) who snatch up anything she puts on her Poshmark account. It’s this kind of person Poshmark wants as a curator, plucking other users’ items from the crowd, making them easier to find (and buy).
“I think almost every day I’m wearing something from Poshmark. I got these pants from Poshmark,” said Tracy “McNubbin” at a Poshmark host party in San Francisco.
Showrooms topics will also include a “What’s New” room for recently added pieces and ones for specific designer labels.
According to Chandra, 15 to 20 percent of Poshmark’s users come back every day, 40-50 use the app every week. An average Poshmark user spends “over 25 minutes a day” on the app. In comparison, Facebook users spend on average 13 minutes a day, or six hours and 33 minutes a month.
We all know how addicting news feed stalking is.
What makes the Posh party experience more interesting than a sale on Etsy or eBay is the social aspect. People are able to comment on items and ask about fit or quality. Because of the activity in these parties, and the Facebook-esque commenting system, people often respond in real-time. There is also a liking system, which reminds me of Pinterest. In a very Pinterest way, when you like something, it is saved for you to revisit when you’re making purchase decisions.
Chandra explained that the problem Poshmark has with its current Posh party model is the long stream of products. In just two months the company has seen a blast of activity, with items posted rocketing from 50 a party to 15,000. That’s a long stream of shirts to sift through. The showrooms, which separate out the best items, provide a much needed break.
“I see a 100,000 listing party before the end of the year,” said Chandra. “We’re starting to see $40 to $50 million run rates for uploads.”
Chandra expects Poshmark will have a run rate of around $500 million by the end of 2012.
But the hosts aren’t done when the Posh party is over. Chandra is now starting to hold real-life parties around the country. You won’t be able to bring your clothes to sell at these parties. Instead, Chandra will introduce a local Poshmark hot shots (we saw McNubbin at the San Francisco event — she doesn’t look anything like a McNubbin) who will say a few words while a dedicated Poshmark party runs on the app during the event.
One user video chatting with Chandra at the San Francisco kick off party explained that she and her friends sit around with wine and actually pass the phones to each other to get friends’ opinions. Another user who attended the party said around Christmastime she and her friends will call each other out in the comments section of an item using “@handle,” similar to Twitter. That signals to the friend that she wants that item for her Christmas present so they can buy it on the spot.
Hey, at least she’s not getting what’s in that picture on the right.
Showrooms are only the first in a line of changes we will see from Poshmark in the coming months. Expect to see a Web version out soon, but don’t come with cash. Chandra wants to keep the buying aspect completely mobile for now. You will be able to cruise through people’s items on a bigger screen, but the company will have to figure out a seamless way to find an item on the PC and then find it again on the mobile app.
An Android app as well as better search functions are also in the works.
That’s the theme of my guest post today on Carol Roth‘s blog: There Is No Audience for 50 Shades of Grey Marketing.
The land of grey is where commodities dwell. It’s where businesses walk in circles, broadcasting noise into the void with the hope that a clear echo will return. Healthy business development begins by coming out into the sunshine and leaving all those indefinite shades of grey behind… (read the entire post)
Related – my recent guest post on Marketing Profs Daily Fix blog: How to Fight Fog and Overcome Clarity Deficit Disorder.
Often, our marketing resembles a storefront with a streaky window and a jumbled display. It’s too much effort to try to understand what’s being offered. It’s not your customer’s job to figure you out. It’s YOUR job to cut through all the fog in less than half a minute with vivid, memorable language…(read the entire post)
Is your business hard to spot in the fog? Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy!
Recent posts on Connection Agent:
Nike isn't an official Olympic sponsor, but it's been running a whole campaign anyway around the London Games under the theme "Find your greatness." Among the numerous TV spots from Wieden + Kennedy, one truly stands out—the one with Nathan Sorrell jogging. (It's now over half a million views and counting on YouTube.) At 5-foot-3 and 200 pounds, the London, Ohio, native is, well, fat. In the spot, he's shown running toward the camera down a country road at dawn—an arresting and unsettling image of physical struggle and, according to Nike, everyday greatness. Nathan is not identified by name in the spot, and so plenty of people have wondered who he is. Well, a local Ohio paper tracked him down for an interview. It turns out Nathan is not actually an early-dawn runner. In fact, he threw up in a ditch during the shoot. In an editorial, the paper heralds Nathan as an inspiration, though it seems he was the one most inspired by the shoot. Nathan and his mother Monica have vowed to help each other lose weight through good old-fashioned diet and exercise. If they succeed, Nike will return for another taping. How great is that? Check out a bunch of other spots from the series after the jump.
Don’t get me wrong, any question about blogging is a good question, but there is one in particular that should take top priority.
That is, “How can I keep the readers coming?”
Some would argue that it is page design or social media marketing that drives more readers to blogs. Truth is, these things do attract people to sites, but the question at hand is not about finding readers, it is about keeping them.
There are numerous ways to ensure that readers will continue to follow your blog (and even share your posts via social media), and this is what makes answering this question so difficult. So many different answers to this one simple, yet very pertinent, question can leave you feeling overwhelmed. However, there are a few tried and true tips that should work for all blog niches, whether it is about parenting, student life, travel, business, health or whatever.
- Write for your readers: Give them what they want. This doesn’t mean you should make things up, only that you should stay aware of the reason why your readers came to the blog in the first place. Followers choose blogs because the initial post interested them; it spoke to them, maybe even mirrored their feelings or their life. Generally, you should find a theme and stick with it, and keep this theme in the back of your mind every time you sit down to write. Unless you have a compelling life story that needs to be shared, avoid writing in diary style (with the pronoun “I” in every sentence). Incorporate your readers into every post in some way.
- Only share valuable information: Having said that, make sure that every post contains some useful information. It can be anything, so long as your readers can walk away from it just a little bit wiser.
- Start a community dialogue: Give your followers the opportunity to discuss your posts through comments and guest posts, and don’t forget to respond to all comments and messages. If a follower has a good point or information to add, share this with everyone else in another post and attribute it.
- Post with a consistent schedule: This can be easier said than done, because so many bloggers also have full-time jobs. However, you should try to pick certain days to share posts and stick to that schedule. By doing this, you are giving your readers an idea of when they should expect your next post. People like consistency, and they especially like schedules. Imagine trying to keep up with your favorite TV shows if they didn’t air at a set date and time.
- Inform your readers of a hiatus: If you plan on taking a vacation from blogging, don’t forget to tell your readers. This is one of the most common reasons people stop following blogs; missteps in posting schedules or MIA bloggers. Even if you plan to only take two weeks off, let them know. And if you are supposed to post on, let’s say, Tuesday but can’t seem to come up with any content, look for a guest article to share or just simply tell your readers you have writer’s block and to sit tight until further notice.
I’m also available for blog startup, content writing and consultation services.
Visit my other blog, Highly Favored for Christian inspiration and church newsletter tips.
Become a Better Blogger
Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.
Search Engine Roundtable Stories:
- Google’s Cutts Explains Untrusted Link Notifications
On July 20th, Google sent out a batch of new link notifications that scared the webmaster community. Google then informed us we can relax about those notifications because they are ignored links that don’t specifically hurt your site.
Still, there was a lot of confusion…
- Google Touts Their Olympics Results
Google’s home page has a unique logo each day for a different Olympics pushing searchers to their Olympics results. Google’s head of search…
- SEOs Eagerly Waiting A Penguin Refresh
It has now been over 9 weeks since we had a Penguin refresh and SEOs and webmasters are getting antsy.
They want to know when the next Penguin refresh will be. Typically Google pushes out Panda and possible Penguin updates every 3-6 weeks but it has been over 9 weeks now…
- A Keyword Competitive Tool Based On Links & Anchors
This morning Majestic SEO launched a new tool to measure the competitive nature of a keyword or keyword phrase.
The tool looks at the number of sites using that anchor text across the web as well as the title of the pages…
- Google Maps Tries To Find Your Current Location
Google added a new feature to detect your current location on your desktop computer.
I tried it this morning and it was smart enough to tell me I am in the state of New York…
- iPhone Wallpaper For Google Panda Victims
I was playing around with some wallpapers for my iPhone yesterday and I stumbled on a Panda theme that looks like an SEO designed it. There are a ton of angry Pandas in this theme ready to pounce on
Other Great Search Forum Threads:
- Google Failed To Delete UK’s Street View Personal Data, and Now ‘In Breach’ Of UK Data Privacy, WebmasterWorld
- Google+ With 110,7 Million Visitors Worldwide In June …, Morten Myrstad – Google+
- Cheer on your team by changing your profile picture to the flag of your choice, WebmasterWorld
- Google launches fiberoptic internet – 1 gigabit, DigitalPoint Forums
- Questions to Ask at Google-Fiber Announcement, Hacker News