While on vacation recently, I tried to do business with two different companies from my iPhone. I was trying to add services that I wanted, and that would have translated into a little more revenue for them. Alas, it was not to be. For both products, I was able to successfully navigate all of their sign-up forms until I reached the very last “submit” button.
The. Very. Last. One.
As in . . . the one that equals “buy”.
It just didn’t work. I tapped and tapped, but the phone couldn’t submit the content.
For one company this won’t be a big deal. I’ll have an opportunity to use their service again later. For the other company though, this represents a tiny little loss in profit. I needed their service while I was on vacation. Now that I’m home, I don’t need it anymore, and I haven’t been back to their website. All because the website didn’t support a mobile browser.
Now I understand that when you’re coming from a mobile browser, you shouldn’t necessarily expect the full website experience, and I didn’t. But if the website lets me make it most of the way through a purchase, I expect it to let me complete the purchase. Oh well. Maybe they just didn’t want my business since I was coming from a mobile platform. Funny thing though . . . the company has two mobile apps that I wanted to use after I subscribed to their service. Go figure.
Thinking about cell phones makes me think about both their possibilities and their limitations. The online experience is an increasingly important consideration for cell phone users. Cell phones are becoming more complex and truly reaching the level of handheld PCs. For many users computing is increasingly an online activity, and they expect a natural and seamless convergence point. The problem of course, is that the applications simply aren’t there. The lack of a Flash player come to mind. If you’re running Windows Mobile, you can enjoy some Flash content. But no Flash for iPhone. No Flash for Palm OS. Can you say “No YouTube”? What about Android? Who knows?
The layout and display will obviously vary on mobile devices due to varying screen sizes. I can accept that image resolution will be different since cell phone resolution falls far below desktop resolution. But the current state of mobile devices and online content is such that in many cases you simply can’t view it. I think of radio as a fitting analogy here. Whether it’s a portable radio, car radio, home stereo component, or an online player, you can get the same radio content. Sure the quality will vary according to the quality of the device that you’re listening on, but in each case you can at least get the content. Not so with far too many web sites and web applications.
As user behavior increasingly moves mobile and online, mobile device manufacturers and software developers have to make sure that users can access and work with their content through any website on which it resides and with any of a host of mobile devices. There is certainly room for specialized applications offering advanced features, but full interactivity with all major websites should be a core goal for all software and device manufacturers. It’s no longer a question of just what users want; it’s a matter of what they need.
Lots of people read online reviews. Whether it’s for a movie, a restaurant, or a new gadget, the opinions and experiences of others are often help. The problem with some reviews though, is that they’re simply too long. They go on and on and one, and it’s hard to get to the meat of the review. Sometimes we need the subtleties and the details, but sometimes we just want to know if it was good or bad.
Enter PhrazIt. PhrazIt is a interesting website that let users give reviews in 30 characters or less. That’s right – 30 CHARACTERS – not 30 words. User reviews are displayed as a tag cloud. In typical tag cloud, fashion those reviews getting more votes appear in a larger font. Users can add their own 30-character review or vote for an existing review simply by clicking on a phrase they like.
Many libraries are incorporating both patron reviews and tag clouds in their OPAC displays. I think PhrazIt is an interesting hybrid of these two concepts. I can imagine it being used in a library setting. My initial reaction is that it might work well for “browsing” new books online. It could very well have uses beyond that, but the inherently short nature of the reviews of PhrazIt make me instantly think of browsing. The interface is very intuitive, and once you realize exactly what the site does, it make perfect sense. Check it out for yourself and see what you think.
A few days have passed and the hype is already dying down. Time to face facts. Cuil ain’t no Dark Knight. It generated some early enthusiasm, but it hasn’t really sustained it. I keep going back to the site, but I’m just not all that impressed with Cuil. It simply isn’t finding things that appear in the first few hits of a Google search.
Stephanie has written an interesting post on Cuil over at Dube’s World. In her post she tackles one of the annoyances I’ve had with Cuil. What’s up with those random images? Cuil’s search results display is nice. I like the layout of the brief summary. If the pictures were drawn from the website, I would like those as well. Unfortunately, the pictures usually seem to have no relevance to the website with which Cuil pairs them. What’s up with that? Does anyone know how Cuil matches images to search hits?
I noted a few days ago that Cuil couldn’t even find “iron man”. At least they’ve solved THAT little problem. 😉
So I was finally able to get into Cuil and try a few searches. I have to say that I’m not overly impressed with what I’ve seen so far, but I’m trying to stay open-minded and I’ll keep trying it. I’m not convinced that the search results are as contextually relevant as I need them to be. And on some levels, Cuil simply fails, and fails bigtime.
Here are a couple of sample searches.
Now I realize that Iron Man wasn’t the biggest movie of the summer. It’s not going to give the Dark Knight a run for its money. It was reasonably popular though, and you’d think I would be able to find something. Fan sites? Perhaps an IMDB listing? Or hmmm . . . I don’t know . . . maybe the actual movie site?
This is another strange one.
The University of Mississippi only has several thousand web pages, so it’s no wonder Cuil couldn’t find it, huh? Strangely though, if I capitalize my search terms, Cuil does return hits. I wonder if the Cuil folks realize that most people don’t capitalize things when they’re doing a search? Live and learn.
As I was driving in to work this morning, I head an NPR story about the new search engine, Cuil, and I was ready to give it a try. Created by former Google employees, Cuil hopes to challenges Google’s 60+ % market share dominance in part by indexing more pages than any other search engine provider.
So imagine my surprise when I went to the website and got this:
I like Google. I’ve used it regularly since I first heard about it, and it is my search engine of choice. However, I’m not a zealot. I’m willing to try new search engines to see if they give me better results than my fave. But if you’re going to try to take on Google, you’d better make sure your stuff works on opening day!
An inauspicious start indeed!