The Screenius Blog
How user interface and user experience can save us from data overload
Talk given at Silicon Valley New Tech Meetup (thanks be to Joe, Nisha, and Vincent, who made a guest appearance after wandering around the world for some time).
Normally, here in Silicon Valley a graph that is up and to the right is a happy graph, a graph of good tidings – sales, customer growth, etc. But it can also be a graph of horror – population growth, global warming, or other data plots leading to the end of civilization as we know it. This graph here is a graph of terror. This is Cisco’s prediction (and they should know) of data growth over the public Internet – they have looked at the bits flowing through their equipment on a global scale, noted the rate of change, and plotted the trends out. An exponential rise in information overload is headed our way in the next 4 years. Most of this flood is going to be video – 90% of the zetabyte per month data expected in 2015 will be video bits. If you did nothing but watch video every second straight for 5 years, you would be able to watch the amount of video that will be coursing every second over IP in 2015.
What’s scary is that we humans are not expecting an exponential improvement in our ability to absorb information in the next 4 years. Nor is anyone predicting an exponential increase in the hours of the day nor an exponential improvement in search technology in the next 4 years. So how are we going to cope? Three approaches offer hope:
We are naturally social creatures – language probably was invented when one ape wanted to tell another ape what to do (‘I’m only trying to help here’). So any technology that lets us leverage the wisdom of others is a good thing.
It’s not that personalization is a bad idea – it is a great idea and essential if we are to survive the coming information tsunami. But this first generation of ‘personalization’ has been implemented in a mostly evil way – it has been implemented as personal data collection so the data can be packaged and resold to third parties, and not built for the primary benefit of the customer. This anti-consumer behavior will not stand. The marketplace has proven unforgiving to anti-consumer behavior once a consumer-friendly alternative arises. The future demands personalization that is designed to service the consumer, not the advertiser.
Our portals to video content today suffer from sheer ugliness. The jumping off point for products on the market today is a static page (Web) or a table grid (TV) filled with text, whereas video is inherently visual and dynamic – perpetual visual motion. Also, there is tremendous groupthink going on, where companies spend most of their time looking over their shoulder at their nearest competitor and copying features from one another rather than thinking in fresh ways. You can see patterns in this groupthink by examining the food chain for video discovery competitors.
Big fish, the size of an Amazon or a Google, have optimized for fast browser load times, all else be damned – white pages, lots of text, blue links, and small thumbnails scattered throughout thousands of pages to search through.
Up-and-coming but not insignificant players like Netflix or Walmart.com, share a similar look: less text than the bigger fish, DVD cover thumbnails arranged in endless grids, stars instead of a description, their logo/brand color featured prominently, etc.
Smaller still, recently funded start-ups (Plizy, Boxee, Deja, ShowYou shown here) have also copied one another: black replaces whitespace, thumbnails are larger and smushed together in an endless mosaic, filmstrip, or page layout.
And then there’s Screenius:
As you can see, we don’t look like anyone else. Our interface is unique – no one is copying us (yet) and we didn’t copy anyone else. On the one hand, this is just a testament as to how insignificant we are in today’s food chain – we are just 3 guys bootstrapping our way to first product. But we believe, that in the face of infinite content, the simplest choice will be the best for consumers – left or right, A or B.
Our UI is automated A/B testing. Rather than present 50% of the population with one option and the other half with another, we present 100% of our customers with only 2 options at a time. Depending on what action they take (or don’t take), provides data we use to adjust weights in our personalization engine for that customer. The interface is dynamic, visual, and basic.
And it is just the start. Screenius delivers a novel approach to video discovery, one that scales gracefully to infinite data, personalizes to every single individual, and leverages the wisdom of others in a fun way. Please download our current iPad app, send us feedback, and stay tuned – amazing things are in the works.
Yesterday (10/21/11) was spent attending the small but intense and high quality conference for tablet developers – Launch ‘Pad – organized by Jason Calcanis @Jason and his worthy team. The official Launch blog is at http://www.launch.is/ but wanted to share some select notes in the hope they are useful for other tablet developers.
- The “iPad is the TV of this generation.”
- The iPad and the Kindle Fire are the only implementations that have answered the question, ‘why should I buy a tablet.’ [Ryan Blovk, GDGT]
- ‘Don’t expect a high resolution iPad screen anytime soon.’ [Ryan Blovk, GDGT]
- The tablet is an unforgiving platform – it is a completely aspirational device and customer expectations are high so no compromises are tolerated. [Phil Libin, Evernote]
- The consensus seemed to be that building native apps was the way to go, and that building 1 great app on 1 platform was also the way to start. [Trey Ratcliff, Stuck on Earth]
- There was disagreement on whether it is best to make the product perfect before launch [Kirin Bellubbi, 955 Dreams] or to try a soft launch and learn from users [others].
- Touch cannot be sprinkled onto an app but it has to be core and deep to the interaction model to work well. You have to make it touch-rich.
- Haptics can create a deeper emotional bond between user and app [Christophe Ramstein, Immersion], but so far, only non-iOS tablets support haptics.
- 30% of iPads are shared.
- $50-$300 CPM’s are being seen right now on tablets, depending on how interactive the ad is.
- Mary Meeker’s latest slides were cited: http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/02/365-days-10-million-3-rounds-2-companies-all-with-5-magic-slides/
- OnSwipe is a WordPress plug-in that optimizes display of websites for touch tablets.
- Apple looks at usage to set your rank in the Store — so if people are heavily engaged in your app (time used) it can rank above an app with more downloads.
- Bing’s new iPad app completely rethinks search to make it touch/visual heavy, to minimize typing, and make it highly personalized and social. One new Bing iPad feature is that you can lasso a term you see on the screen to initiate a search.
- Phil Libin [Evernote] reported spending 10% development overhead to localize their product but they generate more than 50% of their business from international, so well worth it. Poodle is an open source framework for localization; or you can start with Google/Bing, use Mechanical Turk to clean up more, then open-source to maintain.
- Trey Ratcliffe: “life is about collecting beautiful and awesome experiences.” His Stuckincustoms.com is a popular site for travel photography and his Stuckonearth app is coming soon.
- There are 600K restaurants in the US and only 20K of them have an online/digital reservation system. [Kara Nortman, UrbanSpoon]
- The shallow experience for user should be “interesting” and the deep experience should be “profound.”
- http://www.appannie.com/ for stats and charts on sales trends.
Imaginative — integration of dance (no feet), video technology, music. Kudos to Samsung and their ad agency.