Jakob Nielsen Approves Grouvia’s Breadcrumbs (But There’s More To It Than That)

Ok so it’s not the most exciting headline you’re likely to come across today, but it’s pretty exciting for me. For two reasons.

The underlying story is that I had a disagreement with my designer, Brenda, about how to deal with a disconnect we were creating when we allowed the user to click on a link on their home page and get “transported” to a page several levels down. I had a concern that the user would feel disoriented by that and be unsure how to get back. (Remember from many posts ago I swore I would never let this happen and I keep my promises.) After some debate about what breadcrumbs actually represent (I lost that argument), we could not come to agreement about whether to display them. In addition, if we put them here, we now have to put them everywhere, which means it changes every single page. So, we tabled the discussion as it was getting too heated.

Later, I started poking around Jakob Nielsen’s web site looking for inspiration to brainstorm other solutions. On a whim, I emailed him about my issue (his email link is right on the site) and a day later he responded, telling me to use the breadcrumbs and providing a solid reason why.

So exciting thing number one is that he basically solved my problem. Given that he is THE expert in web usability, and it was clear that he “got” my issue, it was easy for me to go with his advice. It didn’t hurt that he vetted my side of the argument ;-).

Exciting thing number two is the more far-reaching, forehead-slapping conclusion that these people are accessible. We are not alone. The experts are out there and they’re willing to help us! David Meerman Scott commented on my blog about buyer personas several weeks ago and gave me a very useful tip. Guy Kawasaki responded to an email from my marketing parter about another topic, the same day. Jakob Nielsen responded to my email and helped me solve a critical problem. It’s amazing, and it’s comforting, and it makes my confidence in these people soar.

I want to be one of them. I am learning other things from them besides how to come up with a buyer persona and whether to include breadcrumbs on my site. I’m learning how to brand yourself, how to help people, and how to use your knowledge and experience and fan base to improve the web experience for all.

It is enlightening. It is humbling. And I am grateful.

* * *


Into the Fire

Well, things are definitely heating up on the Grouvia landscape.

I sit here wolfing down tofu curry from Wegmans (delish!) and hoping I can get in a good after-dinner walk with my dog. She really loves our nightly walks and I hate to disappoint her.

I can barely remember what all I did this week, it was a hurricane of activity.

Ok, I finally hired a marketer/copywriter, whom I so-far ADORE. His name is Karl Schmieder and I think I’m pretty lucky to get him. His web site and blog are here: http://www.messaginglab.com/. He gets what grouvia is all about and so far is super-easy to work with and knows all the stuff I don’t know about marketing and advertising that is going to be so crucial to the launch of this product.

I also finished all my mockups to hand over to the IA/designer. I have a colleague working with me to complete these, and she will also work on the functional specs. She is AWESOME and she’s doing me a huge favor by working with me on this. I’m so lucky to have her assistance, I don’t even know how I’d do it without her help.

Ya know, I think sometimes people must think I have a money tree in my backyard or something. Of *course* I’m going to ask for as much as I can get for as little cost as possible. Why would someone be surprised about that? That’s the way bootstrapping works. It’s called “negotiation” — hello???

Well at any rate… it was a stressful but productive week, and I got a lot of little details ironed out. There are a lot still left to tackle, but not as many as there were last week :-).

Oh one other thing, Karl wants me to change blogs. It’s a good idea. I need to move this blog to another domain, and convert this one into one that’s friendlier and more useful to Grouvia’s target audience. Yeah, he’s right. And I appreciate the way he thinks. It was a problem I didn’t know how to resolve. Now I do. Just like that.

And the survey says…

I am a little behind on this post because I decided to extend the survey for a couple of days to get more responses… which we did!

People never cease to surprise me, and the results of this survey are no exception. The demo that we put together for the respondents to review before answering the survey question was, I thought, pretty well laid-out and the core purpose of the site was clearly described. But still, some people really just didn’t get it at all. Chalk it up to people scanning instead of reading and making a leap before they absorb the details (“Oh, I see, it’s just another social networking site/portal/cms/whatever.”) Of course, everyone’s opinion is important, but if they don’t understand what we’re trying to do, should their answers be counted in the results? My instinct tells me they should be filtered out. Someone who says we should include a stock ticker clearly doesn’t see the purpose of the site, and so their opinion about whether we should also include a personal blog becomes irrelevant.

The process of removing the results of those people is manual and subjective and time consuming. Needless to say I haven’t done it yet, so for now I’ll just tell you about the demographics and some of the more poignant comments that were made:

Total respondents 45 – not including incompletes

(All percentages rounded to the nearest whole value)

pretty evenly split @ 51% female and 49% male

Age group
18-29 7%
30-44 33%
45-59 44%
60+ 16%
(kinda reflects real life wouldn’t you agree?)

Employment Status
Employed full time 42%
Self employed 27%
Retired 11%
Other (unemployed, student, or part time) 20%

Calendar and Event Comments
The most common comment was that people want to see the calendar function integrated with Outlook or Google calendar. We didn’t even have that on the list, but since so many people mentioned it, I think we’ll have to do it.

One person wants to show the grouvia calendar as a pod on his/her iGoogle page. Yeah, great idea. Love it. How many people will use it though? Maybe we’ll do that one in the 2.0 version.

Another biggie was that people want to be notified of new events and updates via SMS to their PDA/SmartPhone. That one was already on the feature list (although only 55% of respondents gave that a high priority), but the people who did want it felt strongly enough to mention it in the comments as well. I’m pretty sure we’ll do that one. It’s easy to do anyway.

Post agendas and upload other relevant files specific to an event. Ok, we’ll do that too.

Miscellaneous Comments of Interest
“This could almost be like a match.com for groups.” Cool, I didn’t think of that.

Two people wanted to be able to “introduce” people to each other. “Jim, this is my husband’s friend Shawn. Shawn used to be married to the Mayor of Sheboygan, and she now runs the upscale shoe boutique on Main Street. Shawn, Jim is the ….” Something like that anyway. I get it. Not sure how to do that, but it would be fun to try.

Integration with other social networking tools. Yeah, I know we will have to do this, but not for 1.0.

Customize my home page by dragging pods around like iGoogle. Yeah, absolutely.

Sprinkle the advertisements around in the content instead of putting them all in the right hand column. Hmmmm, that’s kind of intriguing. Will people like that or hate it? Can it be done tastefully?

* * *

So I have lots of slicing and dicing to get to. See y’all in a few days.

Revolutionary Ideas That Change the World

Last night, oh somewhere about 2:30 am (see my previous post on Productive Insomnia), I was thinking about a frustrating experience I had yesterday and I came up with a crazy idea.

The frustration came from trying to create a hard return inside a cell in OpenOffice Calc. Of course I tried the Excel keystroke sequence [Alt+Enter], substituting every modifier key available on the Mac keyboard for the Alt key. Then I tried the whole series again. Then I went to the help and typed in “carriage return”, then “hard return”, then just “return” and then a slew of other synonyms that I thought might be what the help was looking for. Goose eggs. After 10 minutes or so of struggling I finally went and did a google search and found the answer on a message board somewhere within seconds.

So what’s my crazy idea you ask?

What if… my computer could *sense* my frustration by tracking what I was doing. The computer knows what keys I’m pressing, it knows what fields I’m typing words into, and it knows what words I’m typing. The fact that I was also cursing under my breath is not relevant to the computer. So, if my computer could tell I was struggling, through some intelligent “frustration sensing” software, it could pop up a window on my screen that said “Are you having a problem?” and then walk me through a quick solution.

Yeah, I know, it’s pretty far-fetched. BUT, I read an article in Inc magazine recently that talked about truly successful companies that revolutionize their industry and change the human experience forever (think Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Wendy Kopp, etc). I think my software idea would fit that bill of revolutionary ideas.

So, could one of you go out and develop this software? I don’t have time right now, but I’ll be waiting in line to be your first customer.

Survey, Week Two

This is Week Two of the creation of the first Grouvia feature survey. I had originally hoped to get the invitation out this week but that was overly optimistic. The actual process of creating the survey is kind of fun and interesting, and it’s not even that hard, but doing this along with the 20 other things I’m trying to do at the same time is quite a challenge. Well… enough whining.

I read that the best day to send someone a survey and have the best chance of a response is Tuesday through Thursday, and avoid the beginning and the end of the week. So I’m going to target next Tuesday afternoon.

I’ve chosen SurveyMonkey.com for my platform. I had also looked into QuestionPro and LimeSurvey, both of which were either lacking in features or had too complicated a billing structure. SurveyMonkey is simple, but has enough features that, if you’re creative, you can pretty much do everything you need to. The one area where it’s completely lacking is the ability to add a multimedia presentation for the user to watch prior to answering the questions. So to get around this I put the demo on my own web site and will send a link to THAT in the invitation to participate. When the user gets to the end of the demo, there will be an automatic redirect to the survey. I still have to test this out to make sure it will work right, but I think it’s a good solution.

In an effort to keep the survey as short as possible, and since the demo takes up part of the time people will spend on this, we had to really cut the number of questions to a bare minimum. In hindsight I think it worked out for the best, because it is forcing us to focus on the list of features, which is the critical piece of information we need now. I also have to make sure we collect at least a minimum set of demographic information so we can use that to explain differences in the results.

This first survey will go out to a collection of family and friends. I will also post an invitation on my LinkedIn and FaceBook pages and groups. SurveyMonkey lets you define different “collectors” with which to distribute your invitations. Hopefully this will mean I can tell in the results how many respondents I got from each of my invitation methods.

Talking of getting participants. An interesting “best practice” I’ve seen several times is to make sure you don’t use spam tactics to invite people to participate. Along with that is the admonition that your participants must always Opt-In. Now of COURSE I would never do any kind of spam marketing, but it brings up the question… How DO you get people to participate in your survey? If you can’t buy or rent a mailing list, and people need to opt-in before you can invite them, where does one get people to participate? It seems like a Catch-22. I suppose I could advertise… Anyway, I’ll deal with that issue when I do my NEXT survey.

Hopefully next week I’ll have some results to share with you.

Productive insomnia

I have chronic insomnia.  At least once or twice a week I wake up after a few hours and can’t get back to sleep.  I often see two or more hours go by before I finally drift off again.
The thing is, I used to fight it.  But when your mind is going full speed it is almost impossible to quiet it down.  Most experts agree that you should not just lay there, you should get up and do something, or at least sit up and read.  But for me, the thought of turning on a light at 3 am is not appealing at all.  I prefer to lay in the dark with my eyes closed.  And think.

I discovered that I was able to make this work for me.  In an attempt to tire myself out, I began giving my brain something difficult to work on.  Maybe it was a problem I had at work that day, or the thought of a daunting large project coming up.  Maybe I had a fight with my husband, or had come up with a new idea that I hadn’t had time to flesh out.  Whatever it was, I latched onto it and said to myself, ok since you’re not going to sleep, let’s think about something worthwhile.  And bam!  I started solving problems, coming up with strategies for dealing with difficult situations, and working out concept maps in my head.

Usually I can remember most of what I came up with, or at least enough of it to have something to work with the next day.  Of course not every thought you have in the middle of the night when you’re sleep deprived is rational or usable, but one bad idea can lead to a good one when you think about it enough.  I also have a set of index cards and a pencil sitting on my nightstand.  If I have something really juicy and I think I might be in danger of not remember it in the morning, I grab a card and write it down (yes, in the dark).  Just a few words or phrases to jog my memory.

Then, if I can, I try to sleep a little later in the morning to make up for it.