History of the Remote Control

Fascinating evolution from just a few buttons 60 years ago to nearly a hundred as told by Slate. I sure hope we as an industry are quickly headed back down to a lot less plus maybe a Siri-like microphone. 

History of the Remote Control Fascinating evolution from just a few buttons 60 years ago to nearly a hundred as told by Slate. I sure hope we as an industry are quickly headed back down to a lot less plus maybe a Siri-like microphone. 

Why Design Matters – P&G

I recently was invited to speak at P&G headquarters in Ohio on “Why Design Matters”. It was a leadership summit of their Global Business Services division which supports all the brands and employees worldwide. For me it was a great chance to reflect on what aspects I see as critical to design and what can get in the way.

View more presentations from Preston Smalley on Slideshare.

I recently was invited to speak at P&G headquarters in Ohio on “Why Design Matters”. It was a leadership summit of their Global Business Services division which supports all the brands and employees worldwide. For me it was a great chance to reflect on what aspects I see as critical to design and what can […]

Interesting Product: Dropbox

I’ve decided to try periodically sharing interesting products I come across here. First up, Dropbox…

What is it: Dropbox is a service that syncs your files online and across your computers. It keeps copies of files synced across my Mac and PC as well as making them available in the cloud which I can access via the web or my iPhone. See their 2 minute overview video (great prod. marketing example)

Why I like its design:
Dropbox-WinI like that I can use the standard file system built into the OS on my Mac and PC without worrying about how it’s getting synced or stored—in other words the primary way I interact with Dropbox is actually not thru their UI at all. No matter where I open the file, I know it’s always the latest version—but I don’t have to wait on the sometimes slow speeds of working directly off the cloud since it’s synced locally. They have designed their product to fit my workflow rather than ask of me that I change my workflow to fit their product—true user-centered design.

They have added a subtle addition to the OS iconography which shows if the file is properly synced with my other computers and the cloud. This helps reinforce to me that the service is working and that my files are safe and synced. This UI also enables me to go back in time and view older versions of the file (their website even features a DeLorean for us Back to the Future fans) when I need to.

Finally, their iPhone app enables me to access read-only versions of my files wherever I’m at. Here they’ve smartly optimized for storage keeping all the files in the cloud. However they have offered an easy wait to tag a handful of files I’d like to keep locally on my iPhone.

I’ve decided to try periodically sharing interesting products I come across here. First up, Dropbox… What is it: Dropbox is a service that syncs your files online and across your computers. It keeps copies of files synced across my Mac and PC as well as making them available in the cloud which I can access […]

Should we take off our black turtlenecks and give up “ownership” ofinteraction design in order to take it mainstream?

Shailesh Shilwant and I submitted a discussion topic to the Interaction 2010 conference yesterday on a something that’s near and dear to our hearts: Product Discovery as a transparent and facilitated process. I encourage you to comment on our proposal and offer your suggestions.

ABSTRACT:

As we evolve interaction design as a field, one approach we should consider is to open up the facilitation and ownership to people that don’t have the word “design” on their business card (e.g. product managers, development leads). We’ve recently tried a number of techniques that does just this at eBay and would like to discuss with you the following topics:

  • Giving up “ownership” of design (how to do it, pros and cons)
  • Impacts this shift has on the role within the company and our field
  • How language and terminology can help or hinder you
  • How to build on initial successes and institutionalize the methodology

In this discussion you’ll hear real world examples from companies such as Facebook, Intuit, Yahoo! and eBay. We hope to create some healthy debate so come with your strong point of views to share.

IxD10 Topic Submission

Shailesh Shilwant and I submitted a discussion topic to the Interaction 2010 conference yesterday on a something that’s near and dear to our hearts: Product Discovery as a transparent and facilitated process. I encourage you to comment on our proposal and offer your suggestions. ABSTRACT: As we evolve interaction design as a field, one approach […]

What’s on my iPhone

As a product design guy, I try out a lot of iPhone apps however the list of apps I actually use everyday is quite small. To keep things interesting I’ll skip built-in apps like Mail, Phone, and Calendar to focus on 3rd Party apps (especially appropriate as most expect Apple to hit the 1 billion downloaded milestone today).

  1. Facebook App – I find the user experience better than the web version as it seems to get at the essence of enabling me to keep up with what’s going on in my friends lives. It avoids all apps, advertising, and modes that plague the web version.
    What’s missing:
    Enabling me to phone my friends, sync with my phone contacts, and the ability to leverage my location to find my friends. 5/11 Update: All there now.
  2. New York Times App – First, I’m a NYT junkie and I love that I can get my fix while on the go. They’ve done a great job extending the NYT brand into the app and formating the stories for the form factor.
    What’s missing: After several updates it’s still far too unstable. With OS 3.0 I hope they enable the day’s stories to be pushed down to my phone everyday at 5AM—it’s charging and on wi-fi, why not? Finally, I’d like to be able to tweet stories directly from the app.
  3. Mint.com App – As we all tighten out belts, I find it extraordinarily useful to have the pulse of my balance sheet and cash flow on a regular basis. As a mobile extension of the web service, it does a good job summarizing where my money’s coming and going as well as showing me “alerts” when irregular events occur such as a large purchase.
    What’s missing: I’d like to be able to dig into changes in my 401K (chart of how it’s trending, which holdings are up/down), be able to re-categorize transactions, and “predict” my cash flow out a couple months based on past data and budgets. 5/11 Update: Many added.
    12/09 Update: The latest app adds re categorization.
  4. eBay App – I’m glad that with the 1.2 version of the app we’ve finally got a stable version of the buyer experience. I can check on items I’m watching, bid or buy items, as well as do quick price check searches.
    What’s missing:
    Disclosure: the design for this app is on my team so you’ll have to settle for… “stay tuned” 🙂 5/11 Update: While I’m no longer at eBay, the addition of mobile selling and RedLaser is great!
  5. Google App – Enables me to search the web and my contacts quickly—even allowing voice search.
    What’s missing: It needs to search more things on my phone, especially my email. I’d also like the app to expand on results from certain sources (e.g. wikipedia entries) similar to Yahoo Search Monkey so that I don’t have to goto the page. Safari browsing should be built into the app so that it doesn’t need to be separately launched.
  6. Dropbox App (added 02/10) – Syncs my files across both my Mac and PC as well as making them available in the cloud which I can access via the web or thru this iPhone app. Now no matter where I am I can access my key files.
    What’s missing: Search 5/11 Update: Now added.
  7. Twitter App (added 05/11) – Follow the latest news from influencers in my industry. I also use the search feature to stay up-to-date on what people are saying about Plaxo and jump in on the conversation.
    What’s missing: Ability to integrate with my bit.ly account and rank the “search” feature by the influence level of the tweeter.
  8. HipChat App (added 05/11) — An instant messaging client based in the cloud used at Plaxo. It allows you to stay in touch with your co-workers easily and quickly. I receive a push alert any time a message is sent to me.
    What’s missing: I’d like to be able to look back further in time and be signed in on both my phone and my desktop client.
  9. Skyfire App (added 05/11) – A better web browser (than Safari) for your phone. About 70% of the time I have a page not work in Safari it works here.
    What’s missing: Ability to make it the default browser for the phone (Apple’s problem) and making it work with more websites.
  10. Plaxo App (added 05/11) – Okay, I’m biased. But seriously it syncs your contacts over-the-air with the Plaxo cloud which in my case is connected to my Mac, Gmail, and my iPad.
    What’s missing: You’ll just have to wait and see… 🙂

What apps would I like to put on my home page but just aren’t available?

LinkedIn App – The current 1.0 app misses the point and tries to copy Facebook with a news feed approach. What I want is an app that replaces my built-in Contacts app with rich information about everyone I talk with everyday (role, history of previous calls/sms/emails, names for their spouse and kids). When I’m networking with new people, I want to be able to exchange business cards wirelessly (leverage OS 3.0 bonjour). I should be able to look up LinkedIn profiles using just a name and phone number. Finally, I’d like the app to remind me to follow up with key contacts I want to stay in touch with when it’s been too long.
12/09 Update: The 3.0 version of this app shows the LinkedIn Product team is commited to building a solid app. They added the biz card exchange feature and many key features from the website.

Skype App – The current 1.0 app is helpful (especially when traveling to make cheap VoIP calls) but is held back by two key limitations: lack of push events and VoIP only over WiFi. Time will tell if the carriers dial-back on the 3G limitation, but OS 3.0 will enable the Skype app to tell me if someone’s sending me an IM or trying to call me—a huge breakthru.
05/11 Update: Adding VoIP was a big win and I’m now a fan.

TomTom App – My TomTom 300 device is dear friend of mine and navigated me all over Italy. That said, I would part with it if TomTom could provide me with Turn-by-Turn voice directions, rerouting, and offline maps (thus enabling it work anywhere with GPS). It looks like OS 3.0 will enable this now it’s just up to TomTom to come thru with their long rumored app. I’d pay $75 for this one and would sell my device on eBay.
05/11 Update: Love the app and use it EVERYDAY. While it’s pricey ($50 + $20 for traffic) it gets me home 10-15 minutes faster than I would otherwise by finding the best route “right now” based on traffic.

PowerPoint App with Dongle – This one’s simple, I’d like to be able to connect my phone to an LCD projector via a dongle and project a presentation. Why bring a powerful laptop when a simple device like my phone can do the job. This doesn’t have to be built by Microsoft and perhaps the Slideshare or Air Sharing folks might come out with it first—or better yet a micro-projector that does it all.

Fitbit App – I’m on the waiting list for the first fitbit exercise/sleep device now due out early this summer. What would make this experience one better is if I could track what I eat directly on my phone without having to remember later when I get to my computer. It also could show me a summary of key stats (like Mint) which would be interesting to check-in with daily (e.g. how did I sleep last night?).
12/09 Update: I got my FitBit in Nov and after 2 weeks returned it. It didn’t offer much analysis and the sleep tracking feature was not very accurate. Good idea but mediocre execution.

What apps do you use everyday? What apps do you think are missing?

As a product design guy, I try out a lot of iPhone apps however the list of apps I actually use everyday is quite small. To keep things interesting I’ll skip built-in apps like Mail, Phone, and Calendar to focus on 3rd Party apps (especially appropriate as most expect Apple to hit the 1 billion […]

What’s on my iPhone

As a product design guy, I try out a lot of iPhone apps however the list of apps I actually use everyday is quite small. To keep things interesting I’ll skip built-in apps like Mail, Phone, and Calendar to focus on 3rd Party apps (especially appropriate as most expect Apple to hit the 1 billion downloaded milestone today).

  1. Facebook App – I find the user experience better than the web version as it seems to get at the essence of enabling me to keep up with what’s going on in my friends lives. It avoids all apps, advertising, and modes that plague the web version.
    What’s missing:
    Enabling me to phone my friends, sync with my phone contacts, and the ability to leverage my location to find my friends. 5/11 Update: All there now.
  2. New York Times App – First, I’m a NYT junkie and I love that I can get my fix while on the go. They’ve done a great job extending the NYT brand into the app and formating the stories for the form factor.
    What’s missing: After several updates it’s still far too unstable. With OS 3.0 I hope they enable the day’s stories to be pushed down to my phone everyday at 5AM–it’s charging and on wi-fi, why not? Finally, I’d like to be able to tweet stories directly from the app.
  3. Mint.com App – As we all tighten out belts, I find it extraordinarily useful to have the pulse of my balance sheet and cash flow on a regular basis. As a mobile extension of the web service, it does a good job summarizing where my money’s coming and going as well as showing me “alerts” when irregular events occur such as a large purchase.
    What’s missing: I’d like to be able to dig into changes in my 401K (chart of how it’s trending, which holdings are up/down), be able to re-categorize transactions, and “predict” my cash flow out a couple months based on past data and budgets. 5/11 Update: Many added.
    12/09 Update: The latest app adds re categorization.
  4. eBay App – I’m glad that with the 1.2 version of the app we’ve finally got a stable version of the buyer experience. I can check on items I’m watching, bid or buy items, as well as do quick price check searches.
    What’s missing:
    Disclosure: the design for this app is on my team so you’ll have to settle for… “stay tuned” 🙂 5/11 Update: While I’m no longer at eBay, the addition of mobile selling and RedLaser is great!
  5. Google App – Enables me to search the web and my contacts quickly–even allowing voice search.
    What’s missing: It needs to search more things on my phone, especially my email. I’d also like the app to expand on results from certain sources (e.g. wikipedia entries) similar to Yahoo Search Monkey so that I don’t have to goto the page. Safari browsing should be built into the app so that it doesn’t need to be separately launched.
  6. Dropbox App (added 02/10) – Syncs my files across both my Mac and PC as well as making them available in the cloud which I can access via the web or thru this iPhone app. Now no matter where I am I can access my key files.
    What’s missing: Search 5/11 Update: Now added.
  7. Twitter App (added 05/11) – Follow the latest news from influencers in my industry. I also use the search feature to stay up-to-date on what people are saying about Plaxo and jump in on the conversation.
    What’s missing: Ability to integrate with my bit.ly account and rank the “search” feature by the influence level of the tweeter.
  8. HipChat App (added 05/11) — An instant messaging client based in the cloud used at Plaxo. It allows you to stay in touch with your co-workers easily and quickly. I receive a push alert any time a message is sent to me.
    What’s missing: I’d like to be able to look back further in time and be signed in on both my phone and my desktop client.
  9. Skyfire App (added 05/11) – A better web browser (than Safari) for your phone. About 70% of the time I have a page not work in Safari it works here.
    What’s missing: Ability to make it the default browser for the phone (Apple’s problem) and making it work with more websites.
  10. Plaxo App (added 05/11) – Okay, I’m biased. But seriously it syncs your contacts over-the-air with the Plaxo cloud which in my case is connected to my Mac, Gmail, and my iPad.
    What’s missing: You’ll just have to wait and see… 🙂

What apps would I like to put on my home page but just aren’t available?

LinkedIn App – The current 1.0 app misses the point and tries to copy Facebook with a news feed approach. What I want is an app that replaces my built-in Contacts app with rich information about everyone I talk with everyday (role, history of previous calls/sms/emails, names for their spouse and kids). When I’m networking with new people, I want to be able to exchange business cards wirelessly (leverage OS 3.0 bonjour). I should be able to look up LinkedIn profiles using just a name and phone number. Finally, I’d like the app to remind me to follow up with key contacts I want to stay in touch with when it’s been too long.
12/09 Update: The 3.0 version of this app shows the LinkedIn Product team is commited to building a solid app. They added the biz card exchange feature and many key features from the website.

Skype App – The current 1.0 app is helpful (especially when traveling to make cheap VoIP calls) but is held back by two key limitations: lack of push events and VoIP only over WiFi. Time will tell if the carriers dial-back on the 3G limitation, but OS 3.0 will enable the Skype app to tell me if someone’s sending me an IM or trying to call me–a huge breakthru.
05/11 Update: Adding VoIP was a big win and I’m now a fan.

TomTom App – My TomTom 300 device is dear friend of mine and navigated me all over Italy. That said, I would part with it if TomTom could provide me with Turn-by-Turn voice directions, rerouting, and offline maps (thus enabling it work anywhere with GPS). It looks like OS 3.0 will enable this now it’s just up to TomTom to come thru with their long rumored app. I’d pay $75 for this one and would sell my device on eBay.
05/11 Update: Love the app and use it EVERYDAY. While it’s pricey ($50 + $20 for traffic) it gets me home 10-15 minutes faster than I would otherwise by finding the best route “right now” based on traffic.

PowerPoint App with Dongle – This one’s simple, I’d like to be able to connect my phone to an LCD projector via a dongle and project a presentation. Why bring a powerful laptop when a simple device like my phone can do the job. This doesn’t have to be built by Microsoft and perhaps the Slideshare or Air Sharing folks might come out with it first–or better yet a micro-projector that does it all.

Fitbit App – I’m on the waiting list for the first fitbit exercise/sleep device now due out early this summer. What would make this experience one better is if I could track what I eat directly on my phone without having to remember later when I get to my computer. It also could show me a summary of key stats (like Mint) which would be interesting to check-in with daily (e.g. how did I sleep last night?).
12/09 Update: I got my FitBit in Nov and after 2 weeks returned it. It didn’t offer much analysis and the sleep tracking feature was not very accurate. Good idea but mediocre execution.

What apps do you use everyday? What apps do you think are missing?

Preston Smalley discusses his most used iPhone apps: Facebook, NY Times, Mint, eBay and Google as well as the ones he wishes existed or were better: LinkedIn, Tom Tom, Skype, PowerPoint, and Fitbit.

Thoughts on Product Planning and Innovation

I’ve discussed with a few people recently different models for product planning and strategy which reminded me of a paper I put together last fall in my design innovation class. I’ll post the PDF here now and hope to make it a more formal blog post soon.

PDF: Leading Innovation Strategy and Process in Firms (1MB)

I’ve discussed with a few people recently different models for product planning and strategy which reminded me of a paper I put together last fall in my design innovation class. I’ll post the PDF here now and hope to make it a more formal blog post soon. PDF: Leading Innovation Strategy and Process in Firms […]

THE book on form design

Congratulations to Luke Wroblewski on the release of his new book!

Luke has become the foremost expert on form design in the design industry and has now put together all his thoughts in an easy to use book. He provides the good, the bad, and the ugly of form design with many modern examples. Finally, Luke provides straight forward advice to designers and product managers on how to approach form design with your customers in mind.

This is a must read book for anyone making forms online…

Web Forms Cover

Web Forms: Filling in the Blanks

Luke Wroblewski’s book will provide everything you wanted to know and more about designing effective and engaging Web forms that optimize these key customer interactions. Rosenfeld Media, 2008. Read More >

Congratulations to Luke Wroblewski on the release of his new book! Luke has become the foremost expert on form design in the design industry and has now put together all his thoughts in an easy to use book. He provides the good, the bad, and the ugly of form design with many modern examples. Finally, […]

New Interactions Magazine

On my flight to the Interaction Design Association’s first conference in Savannah, GA I found it fitting to flip thru the revised Interactions Magazine. Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko, the new editors of the magazine, did a bang up job bringing in an assortment of new contributors which I found quite refreshing.

Notably I really enjoyed Aza Raskin’s perspective on the formation of Humanized’s Enso product. As Jon Raskin’s son (original Mac team), he’s the first person I know who is a second generation interaction designer—very cool. As for Enso, I installed it today and found it to be pretty useful. For those that haven’t tried it, Enso layers a smart command-line interface onto your Mac or PC allowing you to access programs, files, windows, or websites in an instant. Perhaps my favorite feature is that they put Caps Lock to good use (instead of randomly causing you to YELL in emails).

Will a smart command-line interface take off? Well in my mind it already has with the proliferation of Google (e.g. many people navigate to their favorite websites by searching for them vs. clicking a bookmark). The big issue Enso will need to overcome is the recall problem, however with a powerful suggestion feature they’re well on their way to solving that too. Now that Mozilla has acquired Humanized, it seems that Mozilla is slowing pulling together all the pieces for a more effective operating system that just happens to run on top of MacOS or Windows. It should be interesting to see what comes next…

On my flight to the Interaction Design Association’s first conference in Savannah, GA I found it fitting to flip thru the revised Interactions Magazine. Richard Anderson and Jon Kolko, the new editors of the magazine, did a bang up job bringing in an assortment of new contributors which I found quite refreshing. Notably I really […]

Email as an Input Method

I’ve noticed a number of services are popping up that use email as an input method in very creative ways.

Here are a few examples:

Tripit (Travel site aimed at organizing your itineraries)

  • Users can forward any confirmation email (e.g. from an airline, hotel, rental car company, or travel site) to a unique email address at tripit.com
  • The service then parses the email for any relevant information (e.g. flight arrival and departure times) and posts it to your online account.
  • The end result is a consolidated and normalized itinerary for your trip which you can share with your friends.

Highrise (37signals tool for managing customer relationships)

  • Forward an email from a customer to your special email address at Highrise and it parse it for name, email, phone, company, and anything else it can from the signature/vCard.
  • If the customer is already a contact then Highrise adds it to your log of comments on the customer along with a helpful little date stamp.
  • You can even BCC this email when you write to the customer so that the correspondence is added to your log.

Flickr (Photo sharing website)

  • Email photo attachments to your special email address at Flickr and it gets added to your account.
  • Your subject line is used for the photo title and if you add “tags: ####, ####” anywhere in the email it will get parsed and added to your photo.

All of three of these do a good job of integrating into your life and not causing extra work on your part. As interaction designers if we’re not currently thinking of this as an input method we should.

I’ve noticed a number of services are popping up that use email as an input method in very creative ways. Here are a few examples: Tripit (Travel site aimed at organizing your itineraries) Users can forward any confirmation email (e.g. from an airline, hotel, rental car company, or travel site) to a unique email address […]