Bit.ly -Beyond just Link shortening-Usability on for a toss!

On March 29th, Bit.Ly came up with an update and redesign of its link shortening service which in turn for many of its users de-emphasized the core features of the Product.

Bit.ly was used to be about copy and pasting a link and now you need to go a few extra step to reach out to your small short and sweet URL.

For me Bit.ly has always been the “tool you cannot live without”, even when the thing you use has a built in shortener like Hootsuite…

I am wondering the mindset behind this, and when faced with irks and complaints from majority of its users this is what its CEO has to say, ”

“It’s the response from the vocal minority who are quick to complain about any change.”…Ouch!

This hurts…and yes I am part of this vocal minority…had it been an add-on, an additional feature by keeping the core feature alive, I would have been ga-ga over this but this…a no-brainer…

You should listen to your users even the nagging ones…some of my best ideas have come from whining, nagging users..

When the entire core feature of product was to shorten the url in one click…why would you take that away…and for other features like bookmarking why wouldn’t I go to Delicious or some other site…

For now I refer http://goo.gl/ as an alternative for https://bitly.com/

P.S: As of this writing we do now have a special URL which says “Just want to shorten a link?”, and hence retains the main core feature…somehow common sense prevailed…

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Google Drive Launched Today – Review

Highly anticipated…thought to be a game changer…Google Drive…is launched today!

You can try Google Drive now at drive.google.com.

GoogleDrive

The app is now available for download and I did install it, it created a folder on my computer that acts as shared synced folder for me. All of my Google Docs appeared as “icons” in the folder.

Though from ‘Usage’ perspective..yes Google Drive is +1, but from usability perspective ‘iDislike’.

I personally review any new products under three categories:

Usability, Usability, and Usability. Nothing beyond this, nothing less than this! And exactly this is where GoogleDrive fails!

1. Poor installation flow

This is not at all what I expected form Google. Just doesn’t fit the bill! And this is exactly where Dropbox scores way above. The entire procedure with GoogleDrive is just not seamless.

2. UI : Pretty novice – Not the Google We know off!

Does not look like English has been given importance in GDrive. The sentences just not make you feel at ease! Another thing was the placement of labels and check boxes…its just that it does not make sense…may be because Google doesn’t have expertise in making a desktop app!

3. Enable Offline view : Takes you to Google products page -> What to do from there?

This was massive issue : You click on Enable Offline View, and you eventually end up on Google Products page 😦

4. Win 7 got hanged…while it started Syncing docs!

After installation, during the Sync…the system just stopped responding, there was no communication from GoogleDrive as to what was happening with my system…no status on whether sync was over or not!

Now these are the points from Usability perspective. On the functionality side it is definitely a +1

You can have free accounts of 5GB space and can upgrade to 25GB for $2.49 a month. One hundred gigabytes of storage can be acquired for $4.99 a month, and 1TB will set you back $49.99 monthly. Upgrading to a paid account will also boost the available storage space on your GMail account to 25GB.

Here is the Comparison of popular Cloud storage providers- Courtesy- TechCrunch

And as a bonus: Click here

Posted by Nicholas Behrens, Software Engineer (Courtesy http://gmailblog.blogspot.in/2012/04/gmail-now-with-10-gb-of-storage-and.html)Today, we’re happy to announce that we’re increasing everyone’s free storage in Gmail from 7.5 GB to 10 GB (and counting) to celebrate today’s launch of Google Drive. The increase will take effect over the next 24 hours. We hope you all enjoy the little bump!
In all a perfect a good attempt from Google, but a lot needs to be thought through!

Amazon to open India Online Store this month!

Amazon is going to launch the online retailer store in India this month and reports claim that the online store can be opened by next week.Amazon is going to sell their own products in India and they have also joined hands with HCL and can sell HCL’s Android based tablets in India.

Amazon is surely going to launch the Amazon Kindle Fire and other versions of Kindle in India too.Amazon’s online store in India can give a tough competition to Indian originated online stores like Flipkart. This is sure to make some serious changes in te way people purchase books and read them. With Amazon coming in India, people who are an avid reader should likely to go with Amazon Kindle, which may end up in a new wave of reading habits in India!

BrandYourSelf – You decide how you appear on Google!

What results do you get when you search for your name in Google?

At which page do you appear.

Which of your social profile comes on the first page of Google?

Ever thought of controlling this. Wouldn’t it be easy, if you had one easy way to handle all these results, the way people see you, google you…we found a solution, and solution is : http://brandyourself.com/

When people Google your name, make sure they find positive, relevant results.

This seems to be a very nice concept, and though I personally have applied for private beta, let’s see how soon I get access to this. I am eager to lay my hands on this. This seems to have a massive potential, I see it grow traction for Brands, and marketing too. A bit too early, but never-then else, a great idea!

If you want to have access to private beta, please try here:

http://brandyourself.com/

We will keep you posted with further results.

Sortable.com – a search engine that finds the right product based on your criteria!

Skip the Research and Let Sortable.com Find the Product That’s Right for You

Name:Sortable

Quick Pitch: Sortable is a search engine that finds the right product or service for you based on your personal criteria.

Genius Idea: Lets users skip the research and easily find what they are looking for all on one site without having to search Google.

Searching the Internet to find the exact product or service you want is too often frustrating, overwhelming and time-consuming. But a new startup company now makes it possible to find exactly what you’re looking for all on one page – Sortable.com

Sortable is a search engine that quickly sorts through the products you’re interested in and discovers the one most suitable for you. Rather than clicking through hundreds of search results on Google or other search engines, Sortable helps users find the exact products they’re looking for based on their personal criteria, all in one place.

“Sortable helps you understand the real differences among the products you’re looking for,” Chris Reid, co-founder of Sortable, told Mashable. “Users tell us what’s important to them and based on the information, we point out all the best features about the products and services that they’re most interested in.”

Users can use Sortable to search for recommendations on products from five categories – TVs, phones, tablets, cameras, laptops. Once you choose a category, select the features in the personalized bar that are most important to you and Sortable will score the products based on your personal criteria.

For example, if you are looking for a pocket-size, waterproof camera with a gps system, all you have to do is check off these features in the top bar and Sortable will instantly sort the products for you based on your preferences.

After you review the list of recommended products, select your top two choices and Sortable will compare the products’ core differences to help you figure out the best one to buy and where to buy it.

Skip the Research and Let Sortable.com Find the Product That’s Right for You

So far, Sortable has provided 41 million recommendations to up to

English: The three biggest web search engines

Image via Wikipedia

four million site visitors before it officially launched on Monday. Although users can currently only search for electronic items, Sortable plans to add additional categories such as movies, books, vacation spots, restaurants, etc., in the near future.

Image courtesy of Sortable, Sortable

Facebook Emails – Necessary evil?

Facebook is doing exceptionally well, with things going well, there is always a tendency to make it better, but all that should be done at the cost of making sure that 1), there is a definite need for the change, and 2) you actually have taken all the pros and cons in to account. Talking about the idea of having Facebook email:

Is It That Big of a Deal?
With so many free mail services to choose from already–do we really need a Facebook account?  Besides, doesn’t Facebook already have a message platform?  According to a Facebook blog post,“Messages is not email. There are no subject lines, no cc, no bcc, and you can send a message by hitting the Enter key.”  But the bigger question is, are people missing the email feature?  If there is no need or want–why create?

Many are predicting this email service will be just a big bullseye for spam.  Inside Facebook reports, “The first part of a users’ email address is their vanity URL address or http://www.facebook.com/name. Because those URLs are crawlable, that means bots will easily be able to find millions of email addresses to spam.”

Other critics are saying this is Facebook’s

Facebook-Email

answer to Google Wave, which didn’t get much traction.  “So far the early reactions to this new messaging system appear to be “meh” and “what’s the point of a facebook.com email address?” Some early adopters are finding it similar to Google Wave and that is not good news for Facebook,” reports  Boston.com.

Gmail Vs. Fmail?
For now Google isn’t going to be nervous of their new email competitor.  For one the Facebook email platform is too new, and second with their privacy record, Facebook might need a few updates before it could even be considered in the same realm as Gmail.  Tell us your impression of Facebook’s jump into email in the comments below.

 

Facebook has devised an interesting and people-centric approach to fighting spam. By giving out @facebook.com email addresses to all users, the company could have opened up potentially disastrous issues with spam. The first part of a users’ email address is their vanity URL address or http://www.facebook.com/name. Because those URLs are crawlable, that means bots will easily be able to find millions of email addresses to spam. However, Facebook is confronting this by using the social graph — only people who are a user’s friends or friends of friends can e-mail them. If a person not connected to a user e-mails them, it will go to the ‘Other’ part of the inbox. If they find those messages important, they can move them from that folder into the main part of the inbox. From then on, they’ll get all emails from that person immediately.

Google Doc on Android!

The Google Docs app for Android provides quick access to your documents and collections stored online with Google. Within the app you can view, create, edit, upload, and share files or take pictures with your Android device camera and directly import them.

Images uploaded from the gallery or camera can be scanned with optical character recognition to extract text and save it to a document. Users of Android Honeycomb can enjoy an optimized version of the app for larger screens.

The Interface

The interface of the Google Docs app is clean and straight forward and not too different from the web interface. A visual overview can be found under > Settings > Quick hints.

android google docs

When you click the little arrow button on the far right of a document, you can preview the respective document and view its details.

google docs for android

Clicking the button will open a little sidebar with document properties, including date last viewed, date last modified, owner, and a list of people who can edit the document. In this view you can also  add collaborators (people or groups), send or share the document, or rename the document. Via the settings button in the top right, you can open or delete the document.

If you want to send, rename, delete, or open a file with an alternative app, press it for a couple of seconds to trigger the menu shown in the screenshot below.

google docs for android

Creating Documents

The Google Doc apps supports creating new documents, spreadsheets, or documents from a photo or the gallery.

google docs on android

When you create a > Document from gallery or photo, the image you choose from the gallery or take with your device camera, can be uploaded as individual file, converted to a Google Docs document and embedded into a new document, or sent to web clipboard, so that you can paste it into a desired location.

google docs on android

When you choose the > Convert file go Google Docs document, the respective photo will be converted to text using optical character recognition (OCR). In theory, OCR is a fantastic feature, but in reality it doesn’t work very well, even with clearly printed text. However, if you experiment with the camera conditions (light, position, size of text), you might be able to get it to work for you. It also is rather unfortunate that the app can not display the source image, which is inserted on top of the recognized text, although it is very well able to display images.

google docs on android

Editing Documents

Editing documents within the app is possible, but it is fairly difficult. Edits can only be done line by line. Finding the right spot can be a bit of a challenge, typically resulting in short flickers of the document and a jumpy keyboard. Moreover, Google Docs does not allow you to zoom in, but forces you to work with the available text size. It must be said though that once the right line or paragraph has been highlighted, moving the cursor to a desired position works very well, unlike in some other apps.

Homescreen Widget

Google Docs comes with a simple homescreen widget. It unites four functions: opening Google Docs, viewing starred files, taking a photo and uploading it, and creating a new document.

In Honeycomb, you can add the widget by pressing an available spot on your homescreen for a few seconds or tapping the + icon in the top right, which opens the widgets gallery. The app is listed as Docs. You can drag and drop it to your desired homescreen.

android google docs

Verdict

The Google Docs app is great for accessing and reading your Google documents. However, I would not recommend to create and edit documents with it. Overall, I find the app very useful and hope that Google will continue to develop and improve it.

Asana – Task Management App

Here we have some of the very best products available in market:

http://asana.com/about

Asana :

Founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Asana is the shared task list for your team, where you can plan, organize & stay in sync on everything.

My personal wish-list for Asana includes a mobile app; a sub-sub-task list, and an integration with Google calendar.

This scores 10 on 10 in the department of Usability. Excellent step-by-step way to register, and get verified email. Easy to understand video tour, which is not more than 2 minutes, makes perfect sense.

 

This is one of the very best Task management app I have seen so far. Hope get this for Mobile (Android, iOS etc.) and integration with Google Calendar, as I mentioned earlier. Till then cheers! Leave your feedback.

InstantMeeting iPhone and InstantMeeting Enterprise – A trend setter in the world of Conference Call

A lot has happened in the world of communication since we last posted talked about Plantronics InstantMeeting. This time Plantronics updated its InstantMeeting app to allow iPhone users and enterprise users to connect to conference calls on their calendar with one tap, much like Android and BlackBerry users have been doing for almost a year.

Apart from quite a few useful features, one of the best that impress me upon a lot, is of a reminder, and that too a customized reminder. Picture this, you are in mid of lot of chaos, your product is supposed to go live, you are running around various blocks to get your work done, streamlined and you just forget that you do have an important status meeting with your CEO…Ooopsss, sound familiar! Well yes, for most of us this and many other such scenarios have been quite a daily routine. This is where InstantMeeting helps you, with what they call it as “Reminder”. InstantMeeting app reminds you with the meeting subject along with an option to “Call” instantaneously.

On the PC world of this appp, you get to call through Skype, Microsoft Office, and Lync. Gunjan Bhow, VP and general manager of New Ventures at Plantronics, says the goal is to ensure employees with VoIP clients and softphones can still take advantage of cheaper rates instead of going directly to their mobile phones and racking up big charges while traveling.

Android

InstantMeeting on iPhone                    InstantMeeting on Android

 

BlackBerry

InstantMeeting BlackBerry

Related Article: http://gigaom.com/collaboration/apps-that-help-you-work-like-an-executive/

Shopping Cart Abandonment – Part II

In the first series of this article here, we found out 10 reasons as to why people abandon the shopping cart. Let's see those reasons in detail.

Why do people abandon shopping carts?

There are many reasons behind cart abandonment, but I feel that the majority of people do so for one of four major reasons, with other issues sprouting from those.

Comparison shopping

It’s not unusual for consumers to go right through the buying process to the checkout stage to get a true indication of what their purchase will cost including tax and shipping. They may repeat this process on many sites before making a purchase.

Confusion

This is a major issue. Consumers may be confused at how the process works, about added costs such as shipping or distracted by other elements on the pages.

Impatience

Too many checkout pages, shopping cart pages that load slowly, sites that require registration before purchase or requests for too much non-purchase related information can send potential customers scurrying away.

Fear

The consumer is about to hand over their credit card details to a complete stranger, and if they have any degree of common sense, they’ll be wary. Anything that seems a little out of the ordinary or order forms that ask for too much personal information may scare them away.

Minimizing shopping cart abandonment

Before putting any of these suggestions into action; you first need to think about the type of clients you cater to.

For example, the “me” generation wants everything now, skimming over information; whereas older shoppers may take the time to read everything on the cart pages and expect to be assured that it’s safe to do business with you.

Shopping cart software

If your cart software is more than a couple of years old, chances are it’s missing a lot of the features that are standard these days that shoppers expect. Like any online technology, carts have come a long way. For example, some shopping carts allow you to grab the email contact details of the customer early on in the checkout process, which then allows you to follow up with the person should he/she abandon the cart.

If your shopping cart is a bit dated, perhaps it’s time to update your current software, or move over to a new product.

Security – SSL

From time to time, I still see carts order forms requesting credit card details without a secure connection. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a crucial element of any ecommerce transaction and is indicated by a https:// address and associated lock icons in browsers.

Also tell your clients about the security measures you have in place, either via a scrolling text box on checkout pages so that it doesn’t take up too much space, or a page dedicated to ecommerce security that is easily accessible from any page on your site.

Security warnings and errors

It’s really important to test your cart and checkout process in Firefox *and* Internet Explorer as they handle security issues differently. On a secure page, i.e. one beginning with https://, Internet Explorer is far more fussier. If one of the elements on the page such as an image isn’t referenced via a https: address; Internet Explorer will throw up an ominous message stating that one or more elements are not secure. Even if it’s just an image that’s causing the problem, it’s enough to scare off wary customers and they are very likely to abandon the shopping cart. Firefox on the other hand just ignores such issues. So if you’re a Firefox users, your site may be experiencing this problem and you wouldn’t be aware of it.

Third party verification seals

Big and small, well known and unknown retailers experience the same issues of jittery shoppers, which contributes to increased shopping cart abandonment rates. It’s been demonstrated that display of a third party verification seal can greatly increase retention and conversion rates.

Request for information

The checkout process might seem like an excellent place to gather demographics through survey-type questions, but it may scare some shoppers away. A “where did you hear about us” question is probably fine, but use a drop-down selection of answers to keep things moving along.

Clear, friendly navigation

Nothing irks me more in a checkout session than a cart that doesn’t allow me to back track to any stage of the process. If your shopping cart checkout process is multi-page, place links to each section top and bottom of the pages. It’s also good practice in a multi-page process to give clients a progress indicator.

Images of products, linking to information.

It doesn’t hurt to have a thumbnail of the product the client is purchasing in the checkout pages; but make it bandwidth friendly. The image should link to a new window with summary information about the product. The use of images can help maintain orientation and ensure the client the product they want is the one they are ordering.

Live help

Consider implementing live chat software. A live help feature on your cart pages may encourage clients who are confused to ask for assistance, thus helping you to close more sales.

Of course, never dive in and offer to assist someone during a checkout process; you may scare them away. Let the client initiate the chat.

Phone assistance and ordering

This is particularly helpful with big ticket items. No matter how simple your cart is, some folks just won’t get it. No matter what you do to show you’re a legit business, some still won’t trust. This is where offering a phone number for ordering can help and VoIP (Voice Over IP) allows you to set up phone ordering numbers around the world at minimal cost.

Friendly error handling

It’s very frustrating to complete a cart session, all the way through to submitting the order form, only to be told “you moron, your postcode is invalid!” OK, it’s an exaggeration, but developers aren’t known for using subtlety in error messages :).

Ensure the software you are using has friendly, descriptive error messages and that when an error is detected, that the client does not have to start the ordering process all over again. They should be able to fix the error and pick up from where they left off.

Distractions

A cart is not the place to have banners for other sites :). Other distractions such as flashing, whirring, spinning or buzzing elements should be terminated with extreme prejudice, unless they directly relate to the purchase – such as an error message or upsell/cross-sell offer.

Live Chat Software

– Boosts sales, a great marketing tool –
– Helps to reassure your visitors –
– Makes ecommerce more “human” –
– Track visitors on your site in real time –

Added costs

As early as possible in the ordering process, the client should be made aware of *all* costs. Slipping an added fee in at the last moment or having low product prices then a whopping shipping charge is not clever; it’s just bad business. Aside from the sticker shock it will induce, it also smells of trickery the customer may wonder what other nasty surprises may be in store when doing business with you.

Keep it simple

Anything and everything in your cart process should be as simple as possible. If it’s not absolutely necessary to the purchase or doesn’t provide the client with important information that *they* need, turf it.

Currency conversion

It’s important to remember that the US dollar is not the only currency in the world. While it has pretty much global acceptance, converting currency can be a mathematical nightmare for some. Even if you can only accept US funds via your payment gateway arrangements, at least provide a currency converter feature to save your non-US clients the effort of making the calculation.

Transparency and reassurance

So many online businesses try to hide who they are – their about pages do nothing but say “we’re the best”. This does nothing to assuage the fears of online shoppers. A person may be halfway through the checkout process and think “hrm, who are these guys anyway?”. There should be a link to a contact and about/company profile page easily accessible from the cart and the profile page should be more than just puffery – it needs to contain solid information about your company focused on reassuring your visitors.

Get others to test your cart

Once we are familiar with our own software, it’s very hard to be objective as to how easy it is for a first time visitor to use, as we become “store blind”. Enlist the help of colleagues, staff, friends and family – ask them to test your cart and to be brutally honest. Analytics software can also help indicate a common point where consumers are abandoning their purchases.

Like most ecommerce merchants, you’ve put in a lot of blood, sweat, tears and cash in building and promoting your site – I hope some of these tips help you in boosting your profits!

In third article of this series we will see the entire concept in a beautiful infographic.