Whether we’re getting the latest election news, making sense of the day’s stock market activity or looking for an update on our favorite celebrities, we rely on publishers to inform and entertain us. Online publishers often fund the creation of this content through ads; sometimes they ask you to pay for content directly, by buying a subscription or purchasing a particular article.
Now, you may see a new option: the ability to access some of this content by responding to microsurveys, without having to pull out your wallet or sign in. When a site has implemented this option, you’ll see a prompt that offers you a choice between answering a market research question or completing another action specified by the publisher (such as signing up for an account or purchasing access). All responses are completely anonymous — they aren’t tied to your identity or later used to target ads. The prompts look like this:
Publishers get paid for hosting surveys. A number of publishers, such as the The Texas Tribune, the Star Tribune and Adweek have already started running these microsurveys on their sites.
So what’s the point of these questions? From international brands to local food trucks, every business owner wants to make important decisions with their customers’ feedback in mind. That’s why we’ve created Google Consumer Surveys, a new business-facing product that makes custom market research easy. It enables companies to ask questions (the ones you’ll later see on your screen) and get back quantitative results quickly, accurately and cost-effectively. Companies have already been using it to research everything from online shopping behavior (Lucky Brand Jeans) to gluten-free baking mixes (King Arthur Flour), and to assess brand awareness (Timbuk2) and inform product development (479 Popcorn). Google shares the money these companies spend with our publisher partners.
The idea behind Google Consumer Surveys is to create a model that benefits everyone. You get to keep enjoying your favorite online content, publishers have an additional option for making money from that content, and businesses have a new way of finding out what their customers want.
If you’re a publisher interested in running microsurveys on your site, let us know.
After doubling its users in February, growth slowed dramatically in March down to 1 million new users or 5% growth. It supposedly has investors and others worried. They shouldn’t be. We’ve seen this before and we’ll see it again, and Pinterest will hit its next big user bump by July.
This is part of the cycle that hot startups almost always have to go through to get to the next level. Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr – all of them experienced a burst of growth that could be attributed to the tech-savvy cutting edgers out there who latch onto new sites and determine if they’re addiction-worthy or not. Once that is established (and it will be soon), the next phase can begin: celebrities and big brands.
For Twitter, it was celebrities first. Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears, and others started using Twitter and their fans followed. For sites like Tumblr, it was brands like the Coke and Newsweek that pushed it out to the masses. For Pinterest, it could happen simultaneously.
Since the upstart of Google Plus, it has been increasing its popularity at a very fast rate. Shockingly enough, at a faster rate than Facebook had when it was first started. Google Plus has recently climbed over 170 million users sharing information and ideas with their social circles, all within its first year of operation. Facebook, while it is clearly the most popular social media platform, may not be in the driver’s seat for too long, with Google Plus right on their back.
First, let’s look at the positives of each site. Facebook has top quality privacy settings; you can even make it so that your friends can’t view everything on your page. Privacy settings are a huge factor among social media sites because you never know who is going to try to get in contact with you, whether it is people that you know or that you don’t know. In addition, Facebook is much more business friendly than their competitor Google Plus. A small business can create a fan page with a purpose to build business, and in many cases, it does. People like your Facebook fan page and that travels through their social circles, and in addition to people liking your page you will get more business due to folks wanting to see what the hype is about. Take a local restaurant (a favorite of mine is Tweed’s) for example, if a local person likes your page and has a few out of town friends visit, they won’t need to ask where a good place to go is because they will have seen on Facebook that your place is local favorite.
Google Plus has a couple of useful tools as well. They were the first to institute the video chat tool, which is really convenient for users that conduct business online. Google Plus also has the Circles tool which makes it possible to put different people into different circles, and from there you can decide what content you want which circles to see.
Now, for the negative things regarding these social networking mediums: There is the fact that Facebook constantly make changes that their fans might not necessarily want. Take the timeline for example; it is not a Facebook favorite, yet by May 2012 everyone will have to have one. Another down side to Facebook is that even though they have top notch privacy settings, most of the applications on Facebook can access your personal information, make posts for you and send requests out to people that you might not actually want. For Google Plus, I find a downside with being forced to use your real name, it is personal information that some people might not want out for the whole world to see. In addition, Google Plus has an uncomfortable feel to it.
To compare the two to present date, it is obvious the Facebook is clearly the better social media platform. However, Google Plus is on the rise and with more additions to come Facebook may be in more trouble than they realize.
As Sony continues to get pounced on by gaming aficionados over the poor roll out through improper marketing and bad initial titles, Playstation is moving onward and upward with Mortal Kombat to give it another boost in sales following recent success. To do it, they have turned to arguably the most popular character in the series: Kitana.
The female killer should get some attention for the launch of the game on May 1st. It needs to. Another failure may be enough to send even the most hardcore Playstation portable gaming fans to other platforms.
Make the logo smaller. Photo: Ariel Zambelich/Wired.com
Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen has come under fire for his latest suggestions on building mobile websites. Nielsen’s controversial advice can be distilled down to this nugget: “good mobile user experience requires a different design than what’s needed to satisfy desktop users. Two designs, two sites, and cross-linking to make it all work.”
Among the many negative responses to Nielsen’s latest Alertbox post is that of web developer and mobile specialist Josh Clarke, who calls Nielsen’s questionable advice “180-degrees backward.”
Indeed, much of Nielsen’s advice may seem like a shockingly bad idea not just to developers, but to anyone who uses a mobile device to browse the web.
This isn’t the first time Nielsen has taken a contrarian stand about mobile websites. Last year he suggested that a mobile-first approach to design was wrong because “PCs will remain important,” which is, at best, a false dilemma since a mobile-first design doesn’t mean ignoring the desktop. Just because you’re focused on the future doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the past.
Nielsen’s latest advice has similar false dichotomies. For example much of Nielsen’s advice rests on the premise that a single site cannot serve the wants and needs of both mobile and desktop users. In fact you don’t need to choose between mobile and desktop, the page can adapt and serve the needs of both users. There are plenty of examples of sites that do just that with responsive designs. To be sure there are plenty of websites that claim to be mobile-friendly and obviously aren’t. But that doesn’t mean the solution is to toss out the whole idea of responsive design and go back to separate websites for every device.
In fact what Nielsen considers one of the “main guidelines” for a successful mobile website is something that many people would probably consider the most irritating thing about mobile sites: “If mobile users arrive at your full site’s URL, auto-redirect them to your mobile site” (emphasis in original).
The problem with this advice is that, as Clark puts it, “Nielsen is confusing device context with user intent.” In other words, just because someone visits your site on a small screen doesn’t mean they won’t want access to all the same things they would see on a slightly larger screen. It may be necessary to rearrange elements for smaller screens, but hiding them is a bad idea.
“All that we can really know about mobile users is that they’re on a small screen, and we can’t divine user intent from that,” writes Clark.
Nielsen, however, does just that, divining that — because a user has a small screen — they will want to do less on your site. He suggests you serve up a limited site and then offer a link to the full site “for those (few) users who need special features that are found only on the full site.”
We suggest you don’t do that. You can do better than that.
You can use responsive design patterns to make sure that the same content is always available, but that the experience is tailored to the device at hand. In other words, responsive design means your site works just as well on mobile as it does on the desktop. If it doesn’t that means something is wrong with your site, not the whole approach. Sure, there will be times when a separate mobile site is the right way to go, but those times will likely be few and far between.
Nielsen’s argument is based on copious research and we have no doubt he found plenty of horribly designed websites that completely fail on mobile devices to justify his recommendations. But just because Nielsen is finding a lot of poorly made mobile websites does not, as Clark writes, “mean we should punt on creating great, full-featured mobile experiences.”
A very early version of the “click-to-play” option for plugins is now available in the Firefox nightly channel. Once that’s installed you’ll need to type about:config in your URL bar and then search for and enable the plugins.click_to_play flag. Once that’s done visit a page with Flash content and it won’t load until you click on it.
While HTML5 lessens the need for Flash and other plugins, they’re still a big part of the web today. Even where HTML5 has had great success — like the video tag — it hasn’t yet solved every publisher’s problems and remains incapable of some of the things Flash can do. That means Flash will likely remain a necessary part of the web for at least a few more years. At the same time Flash and other plugins are often responsible for poor performance and security vulnerabilities. So if something is necessary, but can slow down your browser and can be the source of attacks, what do you do?
Another popular solution is the click-to-play approach that Mozilla developers are considering. It’s not a new solution, Chrome offers the option, but so far no web browser has yet made it the default behavior. Savvy users will already know that you don’t need to wait for Firefox to implement this feature to block Flash. If you’d like to prevent Flash from loading until you say so you can do that today with Flashblock (Safari users can try the Click to Flash add-on, Chrome will block plugins out of the box, see the Plugins section in Chrome’s settings).
Visit a webpage with embedded Flash content when Flashblock or similar is installed and you’ll see a static image where the Flash movie would normally be playing. Click the image and then the plugin loads. Because Flashblock blocks even things you don’t realize are Flash, for example banner ads, it can greatly reduce memory use and speed up your browser by preventing those elements from running in the background. Indeed Flashblock and its ilk are like ad-blockers, hard to live without once you’ve become accustomed to them.
Whether or not the click-to-play approach that Mozilla is considering will ever become the default behavior for Firefox remains to be seen. This very early release is rough around the edges and nowhere near ready for prime time, but the goal is to have it be part of — disabled, but part of — Firefox 14.
Google has added tab syncing to the latest beta release of the company’s Chrome web browser. Using the latest Chrome beta you can now access the tabs open on your desktop at home while you’re out and about with your Android phone. The syncing will work with any device that can run Google Chrome.
As with most of Chrome’s syncing features you’ll need to be signed in to your Google account to access the new tab syncing. Once you’re logged into your Google account look for the “Other devices” menu on Chrome’s New Tab page. Click that button and you’ll see a list of every open tab on all the devices signed into that Google account.
While tab syncing is handy if you move between home and work computers, it really shines when going from desktop to mobile. If you’ve got an Android phone with the new Chrome beta installed, you’ll now be able to access any open tab on your desktop machine no matter where you are. The reverse is also very helpful, especially for those times when you encounter a mobile-unfriendly page — just open it later when you get home.
If you don’t want to trust your day-to-day web browsing to a beta release, fear not, the tab syncing features will, barring any unforeseen complications, be part of the next official Chrome release.