The meaning of meaninglessness

No creed or religion or system can explain the loss of innocent life. For many, including myself, this week has been one of those, that is filled with questions that never yield meaningful answers. I truly hope that the incidents in Bangalore and Ahemdabad this week represent an aberration but not a systematic flaw that is just surfacing in India.

No matter what it is, it does not make sense – hopefully it doesn’t degenerate further so that we don’t have to understand the meaning of this meaningless state to explain to our kids. 

 Photo credit goru30 @ flickr

Defining the "Experience"

So, I have been thinking (and working) about defining “experience” in the context of a web site or a web application, you know, like our and define the factors that influence it. More I think about it more deeper it gets in terms of where the experience starts and where it ends. People often think experience as the pure visual experience, while visual experience helps the over all experience, the real experience is not just what you see, but it is the whole thing. So I tried to come up with 5 factors that I think contribute to create a great experience and here is the quick summary:

1. Acceleration Factor

How fast can you get your user from 0-60? The second a user lands on your site, does he/she know what they can do, where to go and what to do and so on? What kind of words/images/anchoring techniques do you need to get them going fast? Clearly, messaging what benefit they get out of your application is the most important thing – and faster you get them to act on the primary task that they need to do better the experience is going to be.

2. Performance Factor

Okay, once the user figures out what to do on your site – then how quickly can they do it? In many cases its not an exaggeration to say that a great experience starts with a very fine tuned database query that runs very fast. So it is super critical to provide that level of performance to keep the user going at the same rate that they got started.

3. Consistency Factor

Once user does something on your site, how can they do more? So, consistency is about providing a way to parlay the experience the user had in one application context to another to move forward and do more things. So creating an environment where there is a consistent way of doing things helps greatly with the experience.

4. Reliability Factor

Reliability is about providing the same level of experience on 1, 2 and 3 over a series of visits and sessions – remember the term “it just works” or IJW? That’s what it is about – how reliably you can deliver the promise that you made in the user’s first visit.

5. Interface Factor

Finally, a good interface coupled with nice visuals improve the overall experience greatly – however, the real secret is in designing the interface bottom-up. Means you need to define the interface with 1, 2, 3 and 4 in mind and then build it ground up. So an interface is not an after thought – it is an integrated piece of the whole experience puzzle.

So, experience is something that one needs to consider very early on and define it as the first step – and also as you imagine great experiences are built from within (like iPhone multi-touch)!

So what do you think? Did I miss any other factors?

Meeting the expectations

Building a product from scratch is hard – and building it in a startup is extra hard (for all the obvious reasons you can think of); having said that one thing that I did learn from working on Virtual Earth at Microsoft and now at Center’d is that if you focus on meeting or exceeding the expectations of your users rest all is taken care of.

So how do you know if you are meeting the expectations of your users? Some times you have to ‘listen’ carefully (through analytics) and some times get it in your email (feedback emails) but some times though, you see the feedback publicly in blog posts, magazine articles and news letters, and we have been having our fair share of that with our “Local Planning” product that we launched a couple of weeks ago.

As Dan pointed out on our official blog we feel fortunate to have so many folks publicly talking about what we do. So thank you Erick, Erin, Michelle, Beverly and Susan, please keep the feedback coming!