Sharing Images on Twitter

So at work, we had this awesome product rollout on Sunday called Bracket Challenge– it’s basically the NCAA Tournament, but for the hockey playoffs.

I pushed real hard for social sharing after the fan finishes their bracket. One of the challenges we came across was how do we get images in tweets to show up as an “image card” on twitter?

Screen Shot 2014-04-13 at 9.34.34 PMFacebook allows you to do this really easily with their JS SDK by attaching a picture to the Feed Dialogue. On Twitter, pictures only show up as media in statuses when the images are pic.twitter URLs– in other words, when the image is uploaded to twitter. You can’t just tweet a URL of a photo in the tweet because then it just shows up as a tweet link.

THE HACK: you can tweet somebody else’s media!

So for this project, I set up a fake twitter account and uploaded all the images we wanted to allow fans to share to the fake account, copied the pic.twitter links and included them in the status text that will be shared in the twitter pop up.

The result is others sharing these images, which looks really cool…


Note that you should still make your fake twitter account readable as the pic.twitter links deeplink to the original tweet. Alternatively, you could just post this with a public twitter account.

Pay To Quit

This is spectacular…

The second program is called Pay to Quit. It was invented by the clever people at Zappos, and the Amazon fulfillment centers have been iterating on it. Pay to Quit is pretty simple. Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000. The headline on the offer is “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” We hope they don’t take the offer; we want them to stay. Why do we make this offer? The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want. In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.

- Jeff Bezos’ 2014 Amazon shareholder letter

10 Reasons Not To Use Infinite Scroll

Spectacular quick list from Bizzabo chief product officer Boaz Katz:

Endless scrolling emerged from social sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn in order to skip the need to click when moving between pages (pagination). If you are considering using infinite scrolling for your website here are 10 reasons why not to use it:

1. Users will lose the page length orientation – the browser scrollbar become useless.
2. There’s no ability to jump to the end of the list.
3. Your users will not be able to get back to the same in-page position in 1 click.
4. There’s no visible footer until your users come to the end of the list/content.
5. Slow Experience – You are using a lot of browser memory as the page scrolls down.
6. If you switch away from the page by following a link there’s no way of getting back to where you left off.
7. Lack of sense of completion- no closure for users.
8. There’s no SEO opportunities for content located below the first scroll.
9. You lose the ability to bookmark a dedicated point of interest.
10. Distraction – The fear of missing out on data or other options will deter your users from completing an action.

Find My iPhone

20140311-133053.jpgThose of you who know me know that I tend to lose things. Last night, my friends and I we’re waxing our skis and snowboards– trading coats just for fun. I was in the middle of packing, then went to go to bed about an hour later but couldn’t find my phone.

I wasted 10 minutes searching the same places I thought I had been. That’s when I whipped out Find My iPhone on another device, and hit the Play Sound button. Immediately I heard it in my friend PV’s coat and snagged it.

Find my phone can help you locate your phone inside and outside the house. Try it!

Fred Wilson: The Next 10

Every once in a while, you come across a video on youtube that you just can’t stop watching. This is a spectacular talk where Fred Wilson talks about “The Next 10 Years”. I encourage everyone to watch it, at least the first 20 minutes or so. He identifies three key “megatrends”;

1. Networks not Hierarchies
Twitter has replaced the Newspaper, Youtube has made us all creators, and Soundcloud is a way to bypass record labels in music.

2. Unbundling
Look out cable providers and TV networks! We’ve already sort of seen this even in local stores– people aren’t looking to go to a Diner anymore, they want a food store focused on one specialty, or they want to go to Soul Cycle or Flywheel as opposed to the spin at their gym. Fred points out this is in the process of getting fixed for banking, and needs to next be fixed for education.

3. Being connected, all the time
This translates into services like Uber, Halo, where each user being a “node on a network” is the backbone of a product. Another example is payments– companies like Venmo, Paypal, Coinbase, they’re drastically changing how we transact financially.

Follow Fred’s blog.

The NHL: A New Challenge and Chapter

As of Thursday, November 8th, I am no longer employed by ESPN. This is my first change in employment since September 4th, 2007. To put those last 73 months in perspective, the original iPhone had just come out when I started.

I have now moved onto the National Hockey League. As Director of Product Development, I’m going to be responsible for the web, mobile and connected devices, including at least 15 apps, and the user experience on new connected devices like XBOX and PS4. The NHL is a great organization with an extremely dedicated fan base. The audience at scale exists, and fans consume NHL properties daily for scores, live video, highlights and news.

My final project at ESPN, the inbox in the SportsCenter app, is something I’m extremely proud of, and it was something that was difficult to leave behind. At the end of the day, I rest easy knowing that the notifications product has a very large backlog and is in the hands of a few great developers.

Life is all about opportunity– the first step is identifying it, and the second step is executing on it. This was the right time for me to make a career move– to gain better perspective on all platforms of product. I’m at the NHL to build the best digital fan experience in sports, hope you enjoy the ride.

Useful Tutorial for Graphing Weekends

weekends I tried to write “super useful tutorial” but the title was too long… whenever you want to breakout data by time in excel, I’ve always found it to be a huge headache. This blog breaks it down step by step in near perfect fashion. Quick tip though, when you get to the final three steps, like the chart bars, axis and changing shade colors, change the chart type at the top of excel after clicking the line and double click the other two to pull up those other options.

The United Airlines App

The United Airlines app is quite clearly a cry for Product help. If I were Tim Cook, I wouldn’t let my employees fly United!

I hate to be so critical about a company I actually like, but the product they have put out on both iOS and Android screams “old company that has no idea how to staff a digital organization”. United has a great opportunity here. They are trying to serve two audiences; the traveler and the tracker. United has a very good chance of getting download penetration because checking-in and traveling with the app is probably twice as easy as dealing with print outs these days. They aren’t threatened by third party tracking apps because they don’t serve the purpose of the traveler, only the tracker. Owning all the data here is also a critical advantage as it will allow United to deeper personalize the mobile experience in the future. Hat tip to Nick Vivion who presented some solid survey data on the landscape of Airline mobile experiences.

OK before I even get started… this app looks like an iPhone app from 2009.

1. The Navigation is Horrid
Navigation is probably the most important part of a mobile app, and certainly the first thing that should get figured out during R&D. When we built the SportsCenter app at ESPN, we spent weeks thinking through navigation, and at the end of each day my brain actually hurt. It’s clear that there was very little thought put into navigation and the conversation revolved around “supporting the business side”.

Navigation, woofNote the six buttons in the first screenshot– these are static buttons that do not ever change or reflect where the user is in the app. What is worse is that 31% of the available screen is dedicated to this static navigation. 8% of the screen shows the user’s name and how many account miles they have accrued. How often do you really need that information? To see it every time I open the app? Come on, that’s comedy– I know my own name.

What’s even worse is that this navigation style leads to a one dimensional experience.  What if the user is standing in the security line, currently checking-in, and also looking to book another flight? The user can only perform one function at a time! Boo-urns! Twitter is a great example of an app that allows the user to do multiple things in different tabs of the app.

2. Reservations
In the stomach of the app, we got View Mobile Boarding Pass, Reservations, Push Notifications, and United Club Passes. First, why is my mobile boarding pass separated from my reservations? My current trip is one of my reservations– it shouldn’t be broken out, it’s clear which itinerary is called out with the green capital letters above (ha). I also think this should be labeled Trip instead of reservation, as it isn’t as if a user can just cancel or change the “reservation” without incurring a hefty $200 fee.  For 99% of people, these are Trips.

The push notifications section has good intentions as timeliness in air travel is everything. However, users don’t want to enable push notifications in one section of an app anymore. The days of a “preference center” are over. Notifications should be configured upon startup, and contextually throughout the app experience. I would like to see more notifications sprinkled into the check-in flow. Some options could be:

  • check-in now available
  • time to depart for the airport
  • flight about to begin boarding (5 min warning)
  • last call
  • delay update
  • message when lost luggage has been found and leaves for delivery
  • message to complete a survey at the end of the travel experience

Most of this, United already does via e-mail and could be easily spread to Notifications.  The business side is well represented here with the ability to purchase a United Club pass before boarding.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the main screen is the fact that the user isn’t aware of what time their current flight departs or arrives. Naturally, there is going to be some information that will live on the second screen, (which I will later reference as the flight detail screen), but time of departure has got to be displayed at quick glance.

3. My Reservation
Forgive my crappy Photoshop skillzSo the user either wants to see more flight detail, or they’re ready to board.  Dig one level deeper to the poorly designed flight detail screen.

When viewed on an iPhone 5, only the first four lines of the details are above the fold. Notice that more than 50% of the screen is dedicated to the QR code, which by the way, may already have been shipped into the Passbook app.

Now the app is back to fundamental navigation problems. There’s a refresh button at the top next to the back button.  Aside from my browser, I honestly can’t remember the last app I used that had a refresh button.  There’s also a home button in the top right and a Main Menu button at the bottom. Given that the user is only one page deep in the app having three buttons that take the user to the main menu is extreme overkill.

Now there’s pertinent information here that wasn’t available on the previous screen; the boarding group, QR code, seat information, the departure and arrival times, and other general flight information.  This screen serves its purpose decently;  however United has buried some incredible functionality here! If the user taps on the Flight Status text, which does’nt look like a button, it will take them to all sorts of really good detail about the flight.  The user can view the seat map, upgrade list, standby list, and in-flight amenities. Most of that information doesn’t belong under the guise of Flight Status, but should be available on the flight detail screen!

I would love to see the weather at my destination, along with a live countdown to my departure time.

4. One Moment Please
Comedy, Insanity, Pick your wordThere’s no question– United isn’t loading their data efficiently. Any personalized data about a user takes anywhere between 5-10 seconds to load on a 4+ bar LTE connection. That is comedy. Another cardinal sin here is the hijacking of the app. Any time data needs to load, the user essentially has a dead screen. This should never ever happen in an app, it’s a horrendous experience. The user spends more time looking at the screen to the right than he does actually using the app for what it’s intended to do.

5. Book a Flight
63% of people surveyed reported never having booked a flight on their mobile device. That statistic is bound to improve if the user has better tools. Today the screen serves its basic purpose, but it could do so much more.

United needs to add a user search history– and remember my last segment searches, not just my recently searched or used airports. Many times I come back and search NYC->DEN, or I will frequently be searching a few different itineraries, and all of that goes in the toilet when I exit and re-enter the Untied app. Do a side by side comparison of booking on the Kayak mobile app and booking on the United app– look at the detail that Kayak put into their calendar selector. There’s progress to make here.

6. Get Social
There’s absolutely zero social integration in this app. What a bummer! If there is one thing that all of my foursquare friends do, it’s check-in (and usually brag) at airports. Partner, and make that experience seamless and include stats.  Heck, there are so many food options in ORD; what if it showed the user where they checked-in at last time they were there– maybe they liked the food.

7. I Should Note
I didn’t include the screens where United allows the user to purchase seat upgrades or standby on an earlier flight. As I stated earlier, the business side is well represented here, but the UX is very much lacking. The app does a great job up-selling Seat Upgrades, Flight Changes and United Club passes, but the baseline of functionality is lacking.

61% of the app’s ratings are three stars or less, 34% of which have been one star reviews. There’s a reason that 48% of users responded “Usability” when a survey asked “what specifically are you dissatisfied with”. When you look at apps like this, it’s easy to see why. This app lacks fundamental thought process on navigation, user experience, and design.

It’s clear to me that somebody in this organization is trying to straddle the Product+Project Manager roles, or the Product Manager+Marketer roles.  At large organizations, employees can get stretched thin with the best of intentions, but it leads to products that don’t delight users– worse, they actually hurt the brand and image.

The user experience should be extremely well thought out, and the mission of the app should be to provide the user with a seamless, first class travel experience.