I’ve previously written about dark patterns because, on their face, they represent an ethical problem in technology. Just because you can make it difficult for a customer to close a pop-up, for example, doesn’t mean you should. And, as we know now, technologists do not take an oath to behave ethically (quite the opposite with the proliferation of the ethos “move fast and break shit”) and the government has neglected to regulate.
Over the summer, I was complaining to a colleague about my love/hate relationship with fitness trackers. I fell in love with the Fitbit for a few years but I found their trackers didn't really last. That's something I'm less inclined to be okay with given how much more I pay attention now to where my waste goes. And, the other factor important for me is a tracker that fits nicely under my boxing gloves — something that sometimes wrist-based trackers aren't always great at.
On the surface, I was excited so naturally I ordered it immediately. The price point ($199.99) made it not so expensive that it seemed unattainable but definitely pricey enough so that I had some expectations about it being moderately good going in. After using it for a couple of months now, I can walk you through the good, the bad and my closing thoughts on whether it's a good buy or not. Continue reading "A Fitness Tracker for Lightweights: the Motiv Ring"
When I'm not writing this blog, I spend a lot of my time at work. For a living, I manage digital products, specifically web applications, for a well-known and respected brand. And, if I'm being honest, I've been using and making for the web for the better part of half of my existence on this earth! All of this is to say, I know a thing or two when it comes to what works, and what doesn't.
I'd like to share a story about an experience that didn't work so well for me and how I'd recommend fixing it.
Ever since I moved, I've been thinking about switching up my gym routine. The other day, I was scrolling through Instagram (as one does) and saw something about Rise By We. Based on the post, it looked like they had a boxing or kickboxing program which I'd be really into since I've been doing Muay Thai for years now. Intrigued and because they mentioned something about a free intro class, I clicked on the link from my phone to arrive at RiseByWe.com.
The homepage set an odd tone. The "Refer a Friend" button is more prominent than I'd expect — it blocks the marketing copy that someone went to great efforts to write. Meanwhile, that copy is changing at an interval (in the screenshot below, the blue words are constantly changing so as I'm trying to make sense of what's behind that button, it goes away.
I can get around this, it's just some marketing, but I'm curious — where is this place? In essence, realistically, does this gym work with my getting to work/home routines? I decide to check out the navigation menu (the delectably named "hamburger" menu for all you insiders) to see where it's located. Continue reading "An Exercise in Frustration Online"
I was scrolling through Twitter today when a Tweet by someone I don't follow about a topic I'm privileged not to be intimately familiar with happened to catch my eye:
So you know all those emoji and punctuation marks in your Twitter names get read aloud by screen readers, right? If it takes me longer to hear your Twitter name than to read your tweet? I scroll right on by. Please remember this when adding lots of emoji to things. Thanks.
I say I'm privileged because, while I joke about being blind because I've been wearing glasses since 2nd grade, I'm not actually impaired. I've never had to experience this wild and wonderful thing we call the internet without the gift of sight. And, throughout my career as a web developer, accessibility was often an after-thought.
It's been a few months now since I took the plunge and purchased the new iPhone. No, not the one everyone is obsessing over with the face recognition tech but the other one — the iPhone 8. Since some are on the fence, here's my take.
I wrote this piece on Medium first about my work as a Product Manager:
Last week, colleague walked over to my desk to ask me about the product I just started working on. And by started to work on, I mean I inherited this product in part because there was some significant “clean-up” needed and rumor has it that I’m good with fixer-uppers. His question to me was, “How about we just start over?” In short, stating that he’d almost rather walk away from this dumpster-fire mess than somehow try to put out the embers and make something of the leftover half-burned pieces of fresh garbage. Well, this isn’t exactly what he meant but that’s probably how I felt when I heard the question and realized the hole I now needed to climb out of.
Seriously, how great is it to be a television fan? What used to be relegated to HBO and Showtime (and sometimes Starz) has now been extended to all methods of consumption. There are great long-running shows that first aired on cable like the dramatic Mad Men and the often ridiculous It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Then there have been amazing shows on Netflix like the addictive House of Cards and the adorable Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. And don't get me started on all the programming on network television! Shows like Flash and New Girl come to mind immediately, but there are many others.
And, on top of all the great programming that has been developed, we have more ways to watch than ever. Netflix and chill is a thing because pretty much everyone has Netflix. And since a lot of people have Amazon Prime membership, Amazon Prime Video is also a thing (it doesn't hurt that they have the entire HBO back catalog — now I can watch Six Feet Under and The Wire!). Finally, there's also Hulu which amazingly has carved out a niche for itself with original series content as well.
With so much great stuff to watch, it's often hard to find the time. What can make it even harder is if you are part of a couple that co-watches. My husband and I typically try to watch shows together because we enjoy talking about them when we aren't watching them, but also because it's another way to spend time together. And you know that co-watching is a real cultural phenomenon when even the New York Times devoted some space to it, touching on how it impacts real relationships.
And, while I fully acknowledge this is a total first-world problem, co-watching can be really challenging! My husband, Anthony, and I want to watch things together but sometimes I'm at Muay Thai class late or he's off covering a soccer game. The reality is that because we are two fiercely independent people, our schedules don't always line up. We don't always watch the same things, but when we do, it can be something that we literally need to schedule on our calendars to ensure we can watch together.
But, this can put a strain on a relationship and cause a partner to stray — and watch TV shows without their partner (instead of patiently waiting for a co-watching opportunity). I've often said that Anthony has "cheated on me" with a particular program that we wanted to co-watch. Like most things in this day and age, thankfully, there's an app for that!
Right now the temperature is starting to warm up in New York. However, it's inevitable: winter will be here again before we know it.
And every winter, I'm freezing to death because at some point in time I wore the wrong shoes. Like that time I was going to Philadelphia and needed a headphone splitter so my husband and I could co-watch a movie on the bus ride down. I spent the better part of an hour searching for one while the snow came down around me. All I found was that my boots had sprung a leak and that apparently the only place to buy dry socks in TriBeCa is at the Equinox where you will spend too much money for them (do rich people not need socks?!).
Inc Magazine published an amazing piece by Jen Alsever in 2014 outlining how companies should market tech to women. In short: Houston, we have a pink problem!
I have no idea where this came from but there appears to be some prevailing logic among marketers (perhaps mostly the male decision makers? I digress…) that women will buy something as long as the item in question is pink. Perhaps the worst (and simultaneously best!) example of this is when BIC, the company that creates writing implements, decided to create "BIC for Her." The marketing for this pen — which, by the way, was just like their other pens except pink on the outside — seemed to imply that women had been waiting eons and FINALLY the good folks at BIC created a pen for the ladies! Needless to say, Amazon reviewers have had a field day with this.
Today I discovered that KOSS, a brand that creates affordable headphones that I happen to really like, has a rather unfortunate filtering criteria on their shopping website.
Within the "earbuds" category, KOSS' filtering criteria tells me that in the "For Women" category there is only one option. Who on earth decided that of the 20 earbuds listed on their shop, only one pair was appropriate for women? And furthermore, who decided that the "FitBuds" (which come in colors like Coral and Mint!) are exclusively for women? Do men not enjoy colorful earbuds? And, while I can acknowledge that maybe some women have smaller ears, surely having small ears / ear canals is not a problem exclusively faced by women. That said, I own earbuds from KOSS; the ones I own are not in the "For Women" category which begs the question: why even have a "For Women" category at all? How about filtering criteria based on scale (large buds / medium buds / small buds)? Or filtering criteria based on color (colorful / printed design / black)?
Not only is the KOSS approach lazy but it's also insulting and demeaning to women. While brands probably do not intend for this to be the result, they are making assumptions about a market they are trying to reach. These assumptions are simply validating that they know very little about the market they are aiming for and have done very little to educate themselves. And I say it is lazy because, per Alsever's second point in the Inc article, "women" is pretty broad as far as being a segment you are looking to target.
In the past, I came down on the Coach handbag company for this but it seems like their website has evolved! Their marketing used to infer that their beautiful leather totes and briefcases were only of interest to men. Their web shopping experience used to put all of these bags under the "Men" heading. Now, I'm happy to say that under "Women" they have a "Business Bag" category which includes many of the fine leather bags that are gender neutral. They also have a "For Everyone" header which is nice to see for gender identities that aren't so black and white.
In short, I've reached out to KOSS on their Twitter account to implore them to fix their filtering. Given that I do really enjoy using their products, I hope they will consider making some efforts to avoid pink-washing their marketing.
I don't think I've written here explicitly about Zipcar but, if I did, you'd think it was a paid advertisement. I can't say enough good things about them and I'm a huge advocate for car sharing (though, if someone invented teleporting, I'd have to switch my stance…). I get regular email communications from them and fairly recently, they sent over a discount code for a hotel booking through an iPhone app called "Hotel Tonight."
Perhaps I'm atypical or maybe this is how I fit into the millennial sterotype, but I don't always book hotels. On at least a couple of occasions, I've gone with the AirBnB-type rental in lieu of a hotel and have been very happy. Additionally, when I do book hotels, I don't have a ton of brand affinity. Generally, I try to stay at nicer hotels but tend to find better deals at boutique hotels so I don't necessarily have Hilton points or anything like that I'm trying to rack up.
That said, Anthony and I were planning for a very abbreviated trip to Boston for my birthday and we were in the market for a hotel room. I had briefly looked at the AirBnB market and the pickings were pretty slim. On a whim, I decided to download the Hotel Tonight app. I think what immediately impressed me about this app is how streamlined it was to use. Many apps push you to create an account before you even start using the app. I typically dislike this approach because it's really a cheap way to gain users — you can say you have 1 million users but if most of them signed up once and then didn't continue to use your app later, what value was it to have those folks signed up?
I wanted to use my promo code so, prior to booking, I went to the tab that looks like one for profile information and loaded in all my pertinent information, including the promo code. Once the code is loaded into your account, it will be applied to your reservation at checkout. You don't have to do anything extra to apply it which is nice.
Additionally, another point to note is that you don't have a "hamburger" menu here that hides a whole bunch of options you couldn't figure out how to fit into your app. The options presented make it clear what Hotel Tonight is trying to do: get you to book with their hotel partners AND refer friends to Hotel Tonight to drive their download/membership/engagement numbers higher. Also, the error conditions — when you dont have wireless or cell signal, for example — are really well done.
One of the really neat things about this app is that you can track hotel prices for a given location over a certain period of time in which you want to book and Hotel Tonight will notify you if the prices have gone down. This was actually very helpful to me as I thought I had missed out on a deal but the next day received a notication that the prices were lower and, sure enough, the original hotel I wanted to book was available again.
The absolute best part of this app, however, is the integration with Apple Pay. Paying for your hotel is incredibly easy. After hitting the "Book Now" button on a listing, there is nothing left for you to enter. Because I've already entered all my information, the only thing left to do is pay. From the confirmation screen, I can see the dates I'm signing up for and the full price I'll be charged. Simply authenticating with my thumbprint is the last step and confirms that I am authorized to make this purchase.
In what has lately been a very busy time for me, I've found that apps that make my life easier have truly been vital. Hotel Tonight will definitely fall into that category and I wouldn't hesitate to use it again in the future. Competitors such as Expedia, for example, often do too much or try too hard to sell add ons/gimmicks rather than focusing on the right customer experience to make the act of booking travel less of an ordeal.