Start Up Blog

The new usability experts

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 19, 2011

Are not who we expect them to be. It’s not Jakob Nielsen or even Steve Krug. In fact it is Joe Citizen.

Without even realising it, the average web surfer or smart phone addict has become an expert in usability. This doesn’t mean we could ask them what a sight should look like, how it should work or to advice us of any design imperatives. it’s a little different than that. But have no doubt, they are the experts. And their expertise is different. it is more like this – they know what sucks. They will not tolerate a site that sucks for more than a few seconds.

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We have entered an age of mass usability expertise – and this has been driven by social media. As entrepreneurs and aspiring startup geeks we have to remember the training our users are getting. They are being trained on what is ‘best practice’ by the worlds best – brands like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Foursquare. Brands with the greatest UI’s ever seen are training the everyday person on what good looks like. Even if it is occurring at a subconscious level. It is happening.

The impact of this is significant. For me it puts flow first, and features second. The flow of the site and intuitive nature must be put above all other technology and feature desires we have. If we fail with our usability, there wont be a second chance to win back the experts who’ve already decided we don’t cut it.

Instagram is my new twitter

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 12, 2011

Lately I’ve found myself checking my instagram feed more often than my twitter feed. I didn’t realise it at first. But I noticed it only when a few of my twitter friends commented on my lack of tweeting. Clearly I’m still using both, but increasingly instagram is what I give my small doses of available attention to. I remember the time when this happened to facebook, the time when I slowly started coming back to facebook less often, and starting giving my attention to twitter. And it is happening all over again for me.

It really does feel like there are only a few channels I can invest in at one time. Maybe it is Dunbar’s number is at work again?

If I had to understand why this is happening I’d just put it down to noise. When there are a lot of voices shouting at once, it is very difficult to hear what anyone is saying – the conversation is replaced with a hum of city noise, interspersed with the occasional siren or loud car horn. Instagram feels more intimate at the moment. It feels like twitter did when I first got there. I have so few people in my feed I can see everything. A few crew who have organically organised themselves to share some of their life. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, and it feels like I have a greater sense of control that my other feeds. Sure, I have to take a photo of all my thoughts – but most thoughts we have can be augmented with a pic quite easily. In addition, this need for a picture reduces the amount of banal posts I see in my feed.

Increasingly I am convinced of one thing – as soon as ‘everyone’ arrives at a party, it’s time to find somewhere more interesting. And what this means for entrepreneurs, is that if your party is cool enough, people will eventually seek you out.

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My dad’s chevy

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on December 6, 2011

Every now and again a brand crosses the chasm. A brand goes from being a thing, to being an emotional ingredient. These moments are usually personal, they are hard to capture and share. But occasionally it is captured, and it takes us to an entire new understanding of what is possible when we create things with the end user in mind. In this instance, the car was first created with driver in mind. And then, the acquisition was created with a dad in mind.

Another example of great narrative that would not be possible in the limited media of yesteryear. What a beautiful brand story to share – Kudos to all involved.

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The Interest Graph

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on October 31, 2011

Mark Zuckerberg has promoted the idea of the Social Graph for sometime. And it is true that Social Networking has changed the way we use the web. The only problem for me is that sometimes the people in my social life are there not by choice:

Family members

people I work with

Neighbours in my my street

People who drink coffee where I do

People I went to school with

Friends of friends

You get the picture. These people are in my life by geographic default. Whether or not we are interested in the same things is another question. In fact our values and interests may be entirely juxtaposed. This is starting to make me think much more about finding people who are interested in the same things as me. The social space is such a deluge of opinions and data, it is hard to sift through the noise to find what I care about.  I am not necessarily interested in people just because they are in my close geographic space. It needs to be much more. We must share an an interest as well -  we must intersect on the ‘Interests Graph‘, not just the social or geographic one.

In fact, my circle of acquaintances has never changed as quickly in my entire life as it has in the past 3 years. People are coming and going at a rapid pace. Sure, close friends and family are bonded by forces much deeper than digital technology, but we need another layer added to the social graph to make more meaningful connections.

It’s already happened on a business and career level already – coders, entrepreneurs, advertisers, bloggers, lawyers, artists, photographers etc all have connection potential in existing digital forums. But what about the marathon runners, surfers, cyclists, and basket weavers? (Insert personal passion here) They need to be able to find each other too.

I really feel like this is a massive opportunity space for startup entrepreneurs. Connecting interests, socially and geographically to using temporal mobile devices to create deeper meaning. The question for all of us, is how can we do it in the things we are involved in which don’t yet have a commercial context?

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The web is the people

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 23, 2011

The web has changed a lot since the early 1990′s. if we think back to the dominant behaviour in 10 year blocks it tells us a clear story about how the web is being ‘organised around the people’. Which means that the people are certainly not organising themselves around the technology. It sounds obvious, but it’s worth remembering as we embark on any business project.

the 1990′s – the web was all about browsing. Finding places to go. Websites – the WWW era.

the 2000′s – the web was all about search. The Google god, SEO and ensuring we had page 1.

the 2010′s – the web (so far) is becoming more human. Social interaction & guidance. It is segmenting, grouping & geolocating.

And we can see this in the evidence we find in how the web is being trafficked. According Hitwise web traffic to portals is down -21%, traffic for web search is flat and traffic to social forums is 52% up. Just like life, people don’t want to leave their stream if they can help it. We’d rather stay with the ‘life juice’ that our human relationships provide. Another simple example is what is happening to brands in social forums. Most brands have 10 times the the Facebook fans than they have in monthly visits to the home portal. The best example is Coke, which currently has 33.8 million fans versus 270k visits to its home page per month.

I guess one thing has never changed in business, and that is the best place to take our brand, is where the people already are.

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84 years, in 84 days, in 84 tweets

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on August 1, 2011

This start up is 84 years in the making….

Ok – So I’ve happened upon this half way through – but it is still worth sharing here. Angelo an Italian immigrant who is 84 is telling his life story just like the title of this post. It’s just another reason our connected world is making stuff, well better.

A couple of the videos they are posting on Youtube are hilarious. Especially the one Angelo and his wife erupt into a classic italian style argument – below.

If you want to follow it – the twitter stream is here: @angeloin140

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Business trends in 2011

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on July 6, 2011

A great piece from the Cannes Advertising Festival which is a great summary of key trends in business, more than advertising or marketing. Enjoy!

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60 seconds on the web

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on June 16, 2011

The world moves fast. When we we’re unconnected the speed of change went unnoticed. Now that we all have digital footprints, we can track all that happens. This amazing and statistically rich infographic is solid reminder of the world we live in. It’s also very cool that most of these business are startups that aren’t even teenagers yet. I’ve pulled out the numbers and got the pic below.

60 seconds on the web:

  • 12,000+ new ads posted on Craigslist
  • 370,000+ minutes of voice calls on Skype
  • 98,000+ tweets
  • 320+ new twitter accounts
  • 100+ new Linkedin accounts
  • 6,600+ photos uploaded to Flickr
  • 50+ wordpress CMS downloads & 125+ plugins
  • 695,000 facebook status updates, 80,000 wall posts and 510,040 comments
  • 1,700 firefox downloads
  • 694,445 google searches
  • 168 million emails sent (of which 92% is spam)
  • 60+ new blogs & 1500+ new blog posts
  • 70+ new domains are registered
  • 600+ new Youtube videos are uploaded. 25+ hours in duration
  • 150+ questions are asked in Question forums
  • 13,000+ iPhone apps are downloaded
  • 20,000 new posts on Tumblr.
  • I new definition added to Urban Dictionary 
  • 1,600+ reads on Scribd.

And here is what it looks like:

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Good service? Prove it

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on April 3, 2011

Yesterday I went to a well known cafe in Melbourne for breakfast. Yes, it had a amazing the decor of a restored warehouse and exotic free range egg combinations, but that wasn’t what impressed me. It was the way they served their ‘non-customers’.

By the time we where half way through our second java a line had started to build for people waiting for a table, which is pretty rare in a cafe centric city like Melbourne. Up until that time the thriving restaurant still had amazingly quick service. But the service I was most impressed with was the service they gave those who weren’t even customers. People waiting patiently outside were treated to complimentary cafe lattes and flat whites. I’m sure they were surprised and delighted at the good will gesture. The tone of the staff there also told me that they gave them coffee because they were genuinely sorry they couldn’t seat them immediately. They meant it, and it wasn’t a promotional ploy. Something we’d never see from a chains store or large corporate. They’d be more concerned with wooing ‘non-customers’ that rewarding their ‘sure bets’. I say they’ve got it back to front.

The reality of the complimentary coffee is that it sent out a good vibe, and cost very little to do. And the benefits? Well I’m already blogging about it and put it on my twitter stream which goes to many thousands. I’d also say that rewarding those you’ve already got, is a far better investment than investing in those who’ve never helped your business. Something all startups should take note of.

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Car smash marketing – Rebecca Black

Posted in entrepreneurship by Steve Sammartino on March 20, 2011

I’m not about to make any comment on the song Friday, or about Rebecca Black. She seems like a nice enough kid having a crack at the music industry.

It is interesting how anything has a chance in a zero cost media world. Sure, not everything will cut through, but in 1991 Rebecca didn’t stand a chance. She had no where to put her song (Youtube), nowhere to sell it (iTunes) and no one to spread it (Twitter / Facebook ). The invention of all this infrastructure made it possible. The thing that is different about the infrastructure versus 20 years ago is that cost of entry has been removed. Extremely good and bad start in the same place. And occasionally something unusual makes it through – so long as it is extreme in nature. No-one has placed multi-million dollar media bets on selling Rebecca’s song, so the cost of promotion has been reduced to taking 3.48 minutes from our day, or typing 140 characters. It’s like a car smash, we can’t help but slow down and take a look.

The question it makes me wonder, is if there is a valid strategy in being the ‘worst’? And if there is, how do we make sure we qualify? And if we qualify, how do we then transform?

Love or or hate her, right now Rebecca has 100% share of voice.What that turns into is entirely up to her.

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