Archive for November, 2010

November 30, 2010

Google Result Previews

I always enjoy a bit of usability testing, and Binary Bonsai does not disappoint. His interaction disaster area for Google result previews illustrates the shortcomings of Google’s new search feature in a pleasingly entertaining yet brief video.

I’ll cite his description of the search feature first, as he expresses it better than I:

Google recently introduced a preview layer to their search results, which allows the user to not only preview the page before going to it, but also see the actual string highlighted on that page. A nice idea, wrapped in horrible interaction design.

Enjoy the video, Google Result Preview from Binary Bonsai!

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November 28, 2010

eReader Growth

Via Google Retail Blog, October 2010

Original version

Google eReader Growth

Original version of e-Reader market growth and milestones

My annotated version

Growth chart for eReader-type eBook

Annotated eReader growth chart

The x-axis is time, in monthly increments. The y-axis was not identified. The two footers denoted by labels ONE and TWO in red should be clearly visible if the image is clicked on and viewed full-size.

This is well after the fact, so to speak.The chart legend date is October 2010, the Google Retail Blogger blog post date was October 2010, the post date here is March 2012. Remember, this is for entertainment and curiosity purposes only… Sssssh!

Sssssh! means “hush” or “on the down low” or “sub rosa”. I have not provided a trackback to the Google Retail blog post for obvious reasons.

November 28, 2010

Going Social with Hotpot

Hotpot is a location-based service (LBS) with a social element. Yes, the rollout is being done with care and deliberation, but it seems that Google is finally going social!

Introducing Hotpot

Hotpot Logo

Google Hotpot is a new location-based service

Hotpot offers Google account holders the opportunity to give 1 – 5 star ratings and prose recommendations to businesses, presumably local, often smaller businesses.

Google can only access data that the user chooses to disclose, usually from other social networking services. The primary emphasis of Hotpot is dining establishments, although other business types seem to be included too. These are linked to the physical location of the business, as denoted on Google Maps.

Sociable

Hotpot is “social” because users are encouraged to invite friends and contacts to take part in Hotpot. Of course, contacts with Gmail accounts can be invited very easily. I’m working on my Gmail friend invitations now. I’m not certain whether it is possible to take part without a Gmail account.

Hotpot users may use Hotpot with Google Maps for Mobile, or directly on the web. I tried Hotpot from the web. It worked very well. I was using Google’s Chrome browser, which probably helped my user experience. I have not tried Hotpot from any other browser.

Google is promoting Place listings for businesses at the same time as Hotpot. I’ve seen more than a few service screens e.g. for Gmail account login, with promotional images for Places and Hotpot. The product introduction page implies that Hotpot is a feature of Places, not Maps, as the heading is Google Places with Hotpot.

Hotpot appears to be a full-fledged Google product, unlike Google Tags. There is already an official Google Hotpot Blog for users to keep up with the latest news. There are similar user support issues, specifically a lack of Google representatives, which is common for many (free) Google products. I observed this in the Google Help Forums the day after Hotpot debuted.

Potential branding confusion?

Hotpot is an extremely cute idea. The giant red Google map marker is very endearing. However, I already foresee branding complications. I did a very casual scan of the Twitter-verse, and noted that at least half of the uniformly enthusiastic tweets were incorrectly referring to the new product as “HotSpot” instead of Hotpot. The Official Google Canada Twitter account was one of them.

Google Hotpot

Google Hotpot Blog

I actually prefer Google’s brand name choice of Hotpot. Yet it would probably be more semantically intuitive to name it “HotSpot” given the linkage with physical location. The food-related tie-in of Hotpot, is logical. Yet “HotSpot” is a stronger complement for Places on Google Maps. Perhaps Google has a compelling promotion which will overcome this issue. At such an early stage of the product’s introduction, it is too soon to decide whether this will be of any importance.

UPDATE

November 29, 2010: TechCrunch just published an article a few minutes ago. According to TechCrunch, this is how Google explains the Hotpot name:

It’s about community!

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November 22, 2010

AdSense Mailer

Google sends a personal identification number (PIN) by physical mail to all AdSense account holders upon becoming eligible to receive payments.  Eligibility is based on achieving a threshold earnings level, set at $10.00 for U.S. AdSense accounts. Thresholds and currencies for other countries are listed on the Google AdSense Payment Threshold information page.

AdSense accounts cannot take receipt of their earnings without this PIN.

This is a scaled image of the PIN mailer used by AdSense. The postcard-type mailer is sent via standard post to the account holder’s address of record with Google.

Postcard

Postal Mailer Used to Send AdSense PIN

The dimensions are given as 6.0 inches wide and 4.5 inches in height when mailed.  When opened, the total height doubles to 9.0 inches.  Additional details can be found on the Google AdSense PIN Process Help page.

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November 18, 2010

Yahoo Announces Clues Product and Updates Privacy Policy

Yahoo announced a new search product yesterday, Yahoo! Clues.

Yahoo search engine enhancement

Yahoo! Clues Beta

It offers new features such as trend tracking options. Clues is available as a beta release, and has similar functionality to features offered by Google’s search engine since 2008.

While on the main page for Clues, I noted that the link for the Yahoo! Privacy Policy was highlighted in red and prefixed with an Updated label. I looked further, and was very favorably impressed with Yahoo’s cleaner page design, in comparison to many of Google’s policy and help pages. Somehow I always end up clicking link after link to find what I need on Google help pages. Unfortunately, I usually get distracted along the way!

In contrast, most Yahoo information pages, including the Privacy Policy, are very readable, with most content accessible from a single screen. While Yahoo’s data collection practices might not be substantively different from Google’s (although I am not certain, as I have not perused Yahoo’s policy in enough detail), Yahoo’s page layouts are much easier to negotiate. This makes the underlying content seem more honest, less like there is something hidden, although there is no reason to assume that is Google’s intent.

The other reason for a revised privacy policy is Yahoo’s integration with Microsoft Bing, for both “regular” and sponsored search.  The privacy policy page has details about what information is shared with Microsoft when using the combined Yahoo-Bing search engine.

The policy page provides instructions for opting out of content served advertising. There are also instructions and a link if you want to remove your webpage or sites from appearing as a search result.

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