Application Performance Model

The following is a model to determine the optimal response rate of an application. It is optimal and therefore difficult with today’s technology. However, the answer of “instantaneous” is not correct in most circumstances.

I + T + D = P
Input + Thinking + Delight = Optimal Performance

I = Input. This ranges on a scale of -1 to 5. The best case scenario of input is when the system knows what the user wants BEFORE the user asks for it. This would be given a -1 beat of time. An example of this is Google Now. It monitors my email, apps and Google searches and creates cards that match my interests. So far, it is eerily accurate and I perceive it to be a service, not a creepy stalker machine. Performance is delightful. They are there before I even ask.

If the user needs to give input it is important to make that process as simple as possible. Amazon Echo or “OK, Google” is a good example of using voice input. Voice is not always appropriate, especially in a work environment. Plus, there are horrible versions of voice input like Siri. Siri is obviously deaf with a learning disability. Poor Siri. The key is to minimize the complexity and difficulty of the input. Voice input would be given a 1 rating, while something very complicated would be given a 5 rating. Detailed instructions are sometimes required.

T = Thinking. Specifically, how hard is the task perceived to be by the human? It doesn’t matter if the computer thinks it’s hard or easy. It’s up to the human to decide. This is given a rating of 0-3.  0 is when the user considers the task trivial for the system, such as addition on a digital calculator. 3 is given for maximum difficulty. An example of something with this difficulty would be starting a nuclear reactor. A computer could start instantaneously, but the user would consider that strange.

One example of this effect that I experienced as a designer, is a Marketo Smart Campaign. There was a button to launch the campaign and it worked instantly. People thought it must be broken. Nothing so complicated/powerful could possibly be instantaneous.  Therefore, I added in a 3 second launching sequence. People were much more satisfied and trusted the system. A little countdown goes a long way. Imagine launching a rocket without a countdown. It’s very unsatisfactory.

Another example is when you ask a system for the best restaurant in the area. Coming back instantly makes me believe it didn’t think hard about the question.  Give me a beep-boop-beep sound and THEN give the answer. It’s rude when a system acts like it knows everything. This is a contrarian point of view considering Google has proven that fast results are good. I think that this will change as computers and artificial intelligence collide. When the computer seems more human, we will expect more human reactions. I’m not saying delay for a long time.  Something simple and quick.

D = Delight. This is an automatic 0.5 rating. Just because it can be done instantly, doesn’t mean that it is optimal performance. It is unnerving when a computer reacts too quickly. Take the calculator UI on the Android phone. It has subtle animations using Google Material Design standards. These animations slow the experience, but users perceive it as quick and natural. Menus should not appear instantly, they should take 200-500ms to appear. Results should not blink on, they should grow on. Navigation should not be a blink of the eye, there should be a natural, quick transition.

There are people out there who hate these kinds of transitions. These people are monsters and should be made to live in the Australian outback. Well, maybe not that extreme, but they should be ignored. They are not the majority. Despite their loud voices, the reality is that these transitions help your brand, help sell the product and help people feel comfortable with the system. Of course, one can go too far with these transitions. Remember: natural and quick. If one of those people is your CEO, you may have to put an option in the settings to disable transitions. (Booooo!)

P = Optimal Performance. Taken all together, a systems optimal performance is when you minimize input complexity, have appropriate perceived thinking time and add in delight. Notice, I don’t give any time to the system actually doing hard word like looking up a very difficult query. This is an engineering problem and optimal means fast.

When you add up the numbers, you will result in a number between -0.5 and 8.5. These are not seconds per se. This formula is more of a guideline than science. It’s not Planks Constant. It requires thought and skill to find the right balance. Sometimes 1 second seems fast and sometimes it seems slow. It all depends on the input and the perceived complexity.

You may be realizing at this point that math isn’t my forte. Still, I think this model of performance will help move in the right direction.

For Goodness Sake

Someone once told me that you should be happy doing nice things for people, for its own sake. You should never do something nice with the expectation of getting something good in return. In other words, if you save someone’s life by pushing them out of the way of a truck, don’t expect them to say, “Thank you.”  This sounds really good in theory.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice, there is a difference.

In practice, I think its more complicated. There are some people for whom  “do good for goodness sake” is true. (I am a little skeptical actually) For others and myself, I feel badly when you give and don’t get gratitude in return. Everyone has experienced a situation where you do something nice and then the other person doesn’t say thank you. For the most part, I don’t think people want karma in equal value, but I think its commonly expected for the receiver to be somewhat grateful. One expects a degree of “credit” for the good thing done.

So what happens when someone doesn’t feel appreciated for their positive contribution? Do they continue to do good for that person? What about doing good in general?  Does the absence of a “thank you” make someone less likely to give the next time? I wish I had access to statistics from charities. Do thank you notes have an effect on repeat contributions?

What about children? I know from experience that giving them things I wished for as a kid has no bearing on their appreciation of the gifts. They become accustomed to the level of things given. Is this something that sticks with us as adults?

No one is perfect, no one is a saint. In fact, we are all pretty flawed in our own unique ways. We all give and we all get in varying degrees. I try to help people whenever I can. However, I am self-aware enough to know that I am not doing it just for goodness sake. Very few people can look in the mirror and say “bad person”, yet we have plenty of bad behavior out there.

Being honest with myself is part of my world view, my philosophy. It actually would be better for me if I just looked the other way. Ignorance is bliss, right? But I can’t. I am a bad person. I do good things for people and I expect gratitude in return. I want credit for good karma. I shouldn’t, but I do. A “nice” person would do good without any strings attached. When I don’t get gratitude, I act poorly and burn the bridge with that person. Bad behavior, but at least I am honest.

Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone and call me a jerk.

The Future of Email

I have been emailing for around 25 years. It was the original killer app of the internet. Quick communication with immediate delivery. It has had a tremendous run, but I am starting to see signs of its demise. Here is a brief timeline of my email experience:

  1. Compuserve – You emailed people based on their ID. Like 23524556@compuserve.com. It was inhuman and lame. However, it was still better than sending snail mail.
  2. AOL – My cousin and I shared an account which was one of the first 1000 subscribers with the handle freeness@aol.com. It was a stupid name, but it was ours and it wasn’t a number. Humanity!
  3. Panix – My first raw ISP. Just a dial-up number an a flat email address. I don’t even remember my username. I used it for playing online text games called MUDs.
  4. University of Buffalo mail – it was this crazy text client called Pine. Kind of horrible.
  5. Lotus Notes – Mostly for business. It was actually a little hard to use. I used this while interning at Epic Records.
  6. Microsoft Exchange/Outlook – I actually installed this myself and had the server in my office. It was an awesome revelation that I could make things like email work myself.
  7. Hotmail – Web based mail – boy this got alot of spam. However, I didn’t need a server or a client. In the cloud! Woo hoo!
  8. GMail – Never delete anything??? Free storage – Wow. Ads? Who cares? I still use this service with a new UI called Google Inbox.

Ok, at this point, things have been really strong for email with no change in the underlying basics of TO, FROM and Subject.  But then things started to change. Here are the incremental disruptions:

  1. Instant Messenger. I have used AOL, Yahoo, MSN and Google. Many emails are eliminated with this quick communication platform.
  2. Facebook. The wall was is like a small group email list. Fewer Happy Birthday emails and more posts on walls.
  3. Twitter. (@glenlipka) No more Subjects and only 140 characters. It was public, but it displaced group mailing lists. Global chat!
  4. SMS Texting. Why email when you can text? Subject lines are unnecessary and conversations are the right way to talk.
  5. Google Hangouts. Mobile or web, this provided a rich way to collaborate either through conversational text or full audio/video.
  6. Slack. I no longer email internally at work. We use slack for everything within the company. It’s a better experience than email and the information is easier to index.
  7. LinkedIn Messages. Professional private chat. It’s not the right tool for long communication, but it’s great for simple introductions.

The one area where email is still king is in-depth cross-company communication. There is no tool like Slack that includes everyone.

Marketing automation tools still live and die by email. Even though landing pages, forms, events and data still are crucial, email is the king. We still get an enormous amount of spam each day from hundreds of companies using marketing automation.

I think this last frontier is ripe for improvement. At Engagio, I am working on making it easier for a company to communicate with its accounts.

There is no UX lesson here other than the practice of looking back and creating a map of how we got here. People should reflect more often. Wisdom comes from understanding the whole journey, not just the point in time.

Marketo Summit 2016

My first summit was in 2010. It was a simple affair, more like a meetup. There were about 120 people total all fitting in one room. It was fun and familial. I remember we had a thing called Marketo Idol where users would describe the coolest thing they did with a Smart Campaign. Alexandre Pelletier won. This week Alexandre was there as CEO of a Marketo consultancy. There were lots of blasts from the past including the first Marketo user Jodi Florence (who now works for Marketo) and a slew of Marketo Alumni. We even handed our Alumnus buttons to people to show their pride.

Since 2010, there have been a total of 6 summits. Each one has been bigger than the last. This time, it was roughly the same size as last year, but the venue was much bigger. It was the first non-California event of the 6; this one in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand hotel.

The MGM is enormous. The hallways go for eternity. It was so long, it created an illusion where you though the hallway disappeared into the horizon.

There were also a ton of hidden areas, like VIP lofts. That place is a little city unto itself.

The Keynote from Phil was OK. I didn’t hear anything earth-shattering. To be fair, it’s hard to earth-shatter every 12 months. There was a woman talking about climbing a mountain. At first, I thought she was a marketer and I couldn’t figure out how she was going to tie the mountain into marketing. Then I realized she was an inspirational speaker. (Ooops)

There was a guy from the Portland Trailblazers. As a Warriors fan, I had to boo him. (Sorry) He was kinda boring, so I don’t even mind.

Finally, the big man, Will Smith came on stage. He sang a song and got everyone on their feet. Great performance.

Then Sanjay (CMO from Marketo) did an interview. There were several tidbits from Will Smith that resonated with me.

  1. Focus on helping people (providing value) and you will make money.
  2. You can’t understand your audience unless you sit with them.
  3. Things move in waves, look for the next wave when the first is declining.
  4. Be where things are interesting and hot.

He is a super natural and nice guy. This was demonstrated in an impossible turn of events…here is the story:

Everstring is a company in Silicon Valley. They booked DJ Jazzy Jeff to be the entertainment for their pool party at Summit. A month later, Marketo announces that Will Smith is the keynote speaker. At Everstring, they wondered, “Do you think he will come to the party to be with Jeff??”

Well, miracles do happen. He not only showed up, he performed for about an hour. He took a jillion selfies with people and shook everyone’s hands. He focused all the attention on Jazzy Jeff. It was the nicest thing I have ever heard a celebrity do. (Not including charity).

That’s DJ Jazzy Jeff, Will Smith and Me

That coincidence and party were “next level”. I couldn’t believe it. I thought the party was the highlight of the entire summit.

Engagio did spectacularly at the event. We are only a dozen people, but I think we presented ourselves much bigger than our size. We had water bottles that were one of the most popular giveaways. (Everyone was thirsty and loved the infused water.)

If we had 1000 more bottles, we still would have run out. The booth looked great, the demos were solid. We had great position in the hall, right where people entered the room. Everything went off without a hitch. “Account Based Everything” resonated as well as our other messaging.

Overall, it was a successful trip. However, I found it super weird to be there. It’s like going to a dinner party at your ex-spouses house. You feel like you just don’t belong there. It felt awkward the entire time for me.

I saw many of my old colleagues. Some were gracious and some didn’t even shake my hand. Some were awkward right back to me. To be fair, I am “not normal”, so I know it’s hard with me.

I wonder if this will be my last summit. Marketo has been such a big part of my life for the last decade. Who knows what the future will bring? I just hope it’s filled with more good than bad.

Oh, there was a mermaid and merman too.

The merman kept hearing the exact same joke, over and over and over.

merman

Bad UX: Signing into Google Analytics

Something has gone horribly awry at Google Analytics. You click on the Sign In button and get this menu:

WTF? I can’t find the damn thing I want. What is all this shit? Here are the flaws:

  1. Skimming text doesn’t work.
    Every single item has the word Google in it. Is that needed? I came to the fucking Google Analytics site. Do I really need reminding it’s Google? No.  Looking at the other words I see the word “Analytics” in THREE different choices. WTF! What’s the difference between Google Analytics and Google Analytics Premium? What the heck is a 360 Suite? Why are they all here? What the heck is tag manager? Why is it in my face? Lastly, all of them start with Google except the middle one, Adometry by Google. Why does that one break the pattern? Why do they insist on breaking my brain?
  2. No icons
    With all these choices, icons could help me differentiate. But not, some graphics design asshole said, “No, icons will disturb my fung shui.” I hate you. Give me some personality, some color, something to help me see the difference. You suck.
  3. It doesn’t know who I am.
    I’m already logged into Google. Just realize who I am and just give me the one goddamn thing I look at every day. Log me in automatically and give me the option of finding other properties. GMail has this figured out. Close the window and open it back up, now I am logged out. Booo!
  4. The menu is 90% not clickable.
  5. Put your mouse a tiny bit under one of the choices and it doesn’t work. Is that really good UX? No, bastards! Make the whole line clickable. Be nice!

Ugh, this menu pisses me off. It’s such a simple thing and they have made every error imaginable. Boo, hiss, rubbish!

Movie Review: Whiplash

My son and I watched the movie Whiplash last night. He is a drummer and guitarist, so he was interested in this movie. (He loves Rush, but appreciates Jazz and Buddy Rich).

My definition of great art is when the piece evokes thought and/or emotion in the audience. Whether it is writing, music, paintings, sculpture, performance or just a good story, the goal is engage and provoke thought and emotion. A sad story can be just as powerful as a happy one. Art does not require neat tidy endings with answers to all of the questions. What is Mona Lisa smiling at?? Knowing the artists intention would actually diminish the artistic quality because it might discourage thought. The best art is interpreted differently by different people.

Whiplash is high art, in my opinion. It evoked emotion and thought every step of the way. To be clear, not very much happened in the plot. It seems (in hindsight) that there were very few scenes. However, I was left feeling raw and troubled with questions and ideas racing through my mind such as:

  1. Do “great musicians” require life turmoil to become great?
  2. What is the right amount to “push” a kid?
  3. Is the teacher a monster or a genius or both?
  4. I hate Jazz, but this is cool. Is this Jazz?
  5. What will the kid be like when he is older?
  6. How did the father feel after the ending?
  7. Did his father finally appreciate what made the kid special?
  8. What about the other kids, the no-so-special ones?

Whiplash is a great movie that will leave you feeling troubled and alive. The budget was just 3 million dollars. I hope more movies can be made with this level of artistic thought. Strongly recommend.

Wrist Progress Update

Im starting to get annoyed that this is taking so long. The therapist says this is normal and I’m doing well, but I just want to play tennis unencumbered. It’s not just the flexibility, it’s also the strength. My wrist, fingers and forearm are still a bit weak. Here is the updated flexibility.

The backward flexibility topped off at 70 because it’s still swollen and I can’t push it past a certain point. I told them that they should provide charts like this for all patients. It gives them a clear understanding of how things are going.

The UX of therapy: Give visual feedback. Have to think more about that.