Taps and LinkedIn, do they have good UX?

Yeah it looks pretty. But is it easy to work out how to turn it off?

In my job, I travel around the world a lot, and I’ve found a huge variety in the design of various things that are pretty uniform throughout NZ (e.g., taps, light switches, toilets, showers). The difficulty I often have in turning on a tap overseas comes to mind when I think about User Experience (UX), as many foreign taps have a bad UX for someone from NZ. The same is true for websites, and a successful international social-media driven website must have UX which transcends national boundaries- what makes sense to a New Zealander must make sense to an Indian.

LinkedIn is a business-orientated social networking website which keeps you in touch with your professional contacts, and provides a profile that can be searched for networking and recruitment purposes. It’s a worldwide success with over 50 million users (50 percent of whom are from outside the States), and they released a new design at the end of last year after analyzing how people use the site. I don’t use LinkedIn often but I think it has a pretty good UX, because even with my limited experience of the site I can easily work out where things are/how they work. I’ve put some examples below.

The style suits the professional audience- the public profile page is clean and uncluttered, which is important for a professional image.

The Profile looks professional.

Because this is a business-orientated website, I think it’s important to know exactly how your information appears to people. LinkedIn understand this, and make it easy to find the link to your public profile.

It’s also easy to find your friends (or ‘contacts’ in LinkedIn). It’s not social networking without friends, and LinkedIn makes it easy to find them in several different places (some circled below). I find it freakishly accurate in suggesting people you may know, too!

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Viral Phenomenon: Lookin’ Like a Fool With Your Bra Status

A Scottish spinster becomes an Internet sensation. Pants on the Ground is a trending topic on Twitter. We now know You Must Always Blow on the Pie (I like the South Park version). Things going viral on the Internet are now a fact of life (isn’t it funny to think the first video was uploaded to YouTube just 5 years ago?) but how do these viral things catch our collective attention?

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell says there are three things needed in order to go viral. These are 1) the Law of the Few- three specific types of rare people who share things (the Connector, who has a huge network of acquaintances, the Maven, who knows lots of stuff and wants to share it, and the Salesman, who can persuade people to propel an idea), 2) the Stickiness Factor- you need content which is memorable, and 3) the Power of Context- other helpful environmental factors.

Take the bra colour Facebook status updates, the Internet meme that that went viral at the beginning of January ’10. Women received a message from friends saying they should update their status with their bra colour supposedly in honour of breast cancer awareness. What’s interesting about this one is that no one knows where it started- not even Facebook– but it went truly global in a couple of days.

Employing Gladwell’s Law of the Few, one well-connected person could have written this message- which she then messaged to all her many her female friends, who messaged it to their female friends, and so on. The idea was Sticky- slightly risqué (when you’re in on it), and within the Context of Facebook, it could spread easily (and fast!).

And my status? Black. Heehee.

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Marketers are never far behind new communication technologies- using them to sell you their stuff. So it is with Social Media, and some campaigns are better than others.

One campaign that has divided opinion as to its effectiveness is the Skittles campaign. Go to the Skittles website, enter your birthdate, and a Skittles homepage doesn’t open up- instead, a portal opens up above the Skittles Facebook fanpage (which currently has 3.5 million fans). Click on Chatter, and you’re directed to a twitter feed of Skittles-mentioning tweets, and click on Videos, and you’re directed to the Skittles YouTube channel. When launched in March 2009, Skittles increased their website traffic by 1332% in one day, and apparently caused Twitter to go down temporarily.

After the launch of the campaign, many commentators thought Skittles had failed with of this type of social media campaign because of the loss of control over the Skittles brand message, and I agree with them. Originally, the portal opened above a twitter search stream that was quickly filled with tweets that were profane, vulgar, or just plain irrelevant as people realised their tweets could be seen by everyone. Things have calmed down since, the tweets are now much more benign. There I am:

I also think Skittles have kind of missed the point of Social Media. With the twitter search stream they haven’t really entered into a conversation with their customers, they’re just repeating what they said. Even their Facebook fanpage doesn’t have much Skittles generated content on it, and look at their terms and conditions: “All of the stuff that fans post on the wall are of their own doing and does not reflect the opinion of Skittles, the Rainbow…” Right then.

Most importantly, are people talking about Skittles because of this new campaign (and eating more Skittles)? Or are they just talking about the campaign itself?

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