Taguser experience

UX Lx: User experience in Lisbon

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uxlxA brief announcement for the user experience experts out there: UXLx is a unique three-day User Experience event set in sunny Lisbon, Portugal on May 12-14 2010. This year’s speakers will include Steve Krug, Jared Spool, Peter Merholz, Luke Wroblewski, Dan Saffer, Donna Spencer, Dana Chisnell, Brian Fling and Bill Scott. It’s really quite an impressive line-up, particularly for a European event.

Organizer Bruno Figueiredo kindly offered to give my readers a discount, and I’ll gladly pass that on. If you enter the discount code “GMN2010”, you’ll get 10% off your ticket (in addition to other discounts like the early bird).

I’m not primarily a user experience guy, but even I’m really tempted to go. And I’m not just saying this because there’s still ice on the streets in Berlin…

Creating your online experience: Don’t be the capsule hotel

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When you’re creating the online experience for your organization, brand or even yourself, keep this simple advice in mind: Don’t be the capsule hotel, be the dinner party. It may sounds somewhat strange, but when I stumbled upon these two images I couldn’t help using them to illustrate this point: A shared online experience is always better than a solitary one.

Don’t be the capsule hotel, where people are isolated and by themselves. They may be technologically advanced and offer cool features, but they offer a solitary experience:

Luxury Capsule by Flickr user madrigation Image: Luxury Capsule by Flickr user madrigation

Be the dinner party. Everybody’s chatting away happily, and your friends are invited too:

Friday Night Dinner Party by Flickr user Angelo Image: Friday Night Dinner Party by Flickr user Angelo

Even if it’s more crowded and maybe not as perfect as the capsule hotel experience, it’s more fun, more interesting, more social. You’d prefer sharing dinner with friends to a night in the capsule hotel anytime, wouldn’t you? Well, the same goes for online communities. Take all steps necessary to make sure you offer the most social, shared experience possible. It starts with simple, small steps: Let your guests talk to each other by enabling comments, and make it easy to get in touch by opening up contact channels. See what works for you and what doesn’t, but please, say goodbye to the idea of having a controlled user experience if that means cutting out social aspects.

Facebook Beacon is Serious Breach of Trust

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Facebook recently introduced Facebook Beacon, a new technique for businesses and website operators to “enable your customers to share the actions they take on your website with their Facebook friends.”

Beacon can be installed by simply adding a few lines of code:

Simply determine which user actions you would like publish to Facebook (…) Facebook Beacon actions include purchasing a product, signing up for a service, adding an item to a wish list, and more. When a user performs the action, they will be alerted that your website is sending a story to their profile and have a chance to opt out.

And that’s the problem right there: Why would a user have to opt out of broadcasting his activities? If I like to share what I’m doing right now, there are many ways to do so, like Twitter. (On Twitter you’re even prompted to just answer the one question: “What are you doing?”)

I do not want any website to be able to send my activities to Facebook, or any other service. And I’m not alone here.

As Forrster’s Charelene Li points out, she got blindsided by Facebook Beacon while instead she should be in control of the information in her Facebook account. She rightfully criticizes the lack of transparency Beacon brings for users.

Nate Weiner shares her concerns and is also annoyed:

I want Facebook to sit still and let me check out how many of my friends enjoy the movie Sleepover and look at pictures of people I didn’t like in High School. I don’t need Facebook extrapolating data about me as I go about my business on the web.

(By the way, this is what should be called Digital Rights Management: User being able to manager their own digital lifes.)

While I understand that Facebook needs to find ever more effective ways of advertising, this one clearly sides with their ad customers (which is good), but against their users (which is bad, bad, bad). Google Adsense was a win/win. But Beacon…? In Kathy Sierra’s words: How is Facbeook helping us users kick ass?

Beacon is crossing the line to too much integration, if there is such a thing, or rather: It’s the wrong kind of integration. Folks will start feeling alienated and annoyed, and in my eyes Beacon will seriously backfire.

Luckily, this is Teh Interwebs, and someone already came up with a solution. Feel free to check out Nate Weiner’s Beacon Blocker.