Sparrow Gets Google’d

The Sparrow blog:

We’re excited to announce that Sparrow has been acquired by Google!

We care a lot about how people communicate, and we did our best to provide you with the most intuitive and pleasurable mailing experience.

Why does that last sentence sound like they failed at it or are giving up?

We’d like to extend a special thanks to all of our users who have supported us, advised us, given us priceless feedback and allowed us to build a better mail application. While we’ll be working on new things at Google, we will continue to make Sparrow available and provide support for our users.

We had an amazing ride and can’t thank you enough.

Translation: We won’t be adding any features to the app, so you can forget about bottom-posting or any other feature requests. Might not even be pushing bug fixes.

EJECT!! EJECT!!

If you are looking for a new mail client, I can recommend and use Postbox. Made by part of the original Thunderbird team, has support for Gravatars, does bottom-posting with selective quotes, does cool things with Gmail, has a great Inbox Zero flow.

I can only hope they do an iOS email client as well someday.

Advertisements

Gmail’s Permanent Failure: Only Humans Can Build Software For Humans

It’s telling that even within the Gmail team, there is a basic, fundamental, deep-seeded inability to put things together in a contextually graceful way that makes sense to actual (non-Googler) users—in other words, to deliver a great user experience.

[…]

Understanding how users want to navigate around the application, which tasks to show as buttons versus which to hide in menus, which features should be left out completely, and so on . . . those seemingly minor decisions are often the difference between good software and great software, and the reason great product managers and interaction designers are always in demand.

This is very true. I didn’t understand how true until I began working with these things a few years ago. It’s fascinating to watch how hard my colleagues work every day to provide and continually improve excellent user experiences.

You should read the whole thing. (via TechCrunch.)

Use Google Reader? Make Subscribing Easier.

Recently, I switched back to using Google Reader from a short experiment with Feverº. As part of the switch back, I decided I would wipe my list of subs and start over to make sure I was prioritizing and categorizing appropriately.

In doing so, I stumbled across this post on the Google Reader blog from back in 2005. It contains a small bookmarklet labeled “Show all feeds” that I now use all the time as it simplifies the process of subscribing to feeds from just about any site, as long as they are announcing their feeds.

Just drag the bookmarklet up to your bookmarks bar on whatever browser you prefer to use. When you visit a site you’d like to add to your subscriptions list, click it. You’ll see something like this:

Then, click on the link that corresponds to the feed you’d like to add. It will open in Google Reader, where you can click the little Subscribe button.

Google Books: I’m excited to announce …

Google Books:

I’m excited to announce that starting today, Google Books will offer free downloads of these and more than one million more public domain books in an additional format, EPUB. By adding support for EPUB downloads, we’re hoping to make these books more accessible by helping people around the world to find and read them in more places.

Go download some books. EPUB is a great format.

Twitter, Like Google, Is All About the Search

Well, actually, Google is all about the advertising, but that’s another article.

From the Twitter blog:

We went back to the original sketch and made everything far more awesome. Currently, a small subset of Twitter users are trying this new search feature in the sidebar of their Twitter home page. When you do a search, you don’t go to another page, the relevant tweets instantly show up where you’d expect them to—right on your home page where tweets love to be.

Take a look at the whole article. It’s awesome to see the design process boiled down to a simple sketch on a legal pad. Sometimes, the best ideas have very simple beginnings.

User Reviews as Purchase Influencers

The Economist put up a great article last week on the effectiveness of user reviews on Web site product conversions:

Amazon was a pioneer in this regard: it has allowed customers to post reviews of books and other products for many years. Initially, publishers and authors were worried that allowing negative reviews would hurt sales. Online retailers have generally been reluctant to allow users to leave comments, says John McAteer, Google’s retail industry director, who runs shopping.google.com, the internet giant’s comparison-shopping site. But a handful of bad reviews, it seems, are worth having. “No one trusts all positive reviews,” he says. So a small proportion of negative comments—“just enough to acknowledge that the product couldn’t be perfect”—can actually make an item more attractive to prospective buyers.

Well, of course the general fear is that people will jump out on things that they don’t like, and say all kinds of mean things about them. That’s what the Internet is for—and in customer service, you always hear a lot more from people who don’t like something than you hear from people who do like something. I can tell you from personal experience that both I and my wife have purchased items on account of negative reviews, because learning that it wasn’t what someone else wanted told me that it was exactly what I wanted.

And the volume of reviews means a bunch, too:

The sheer volume of reviews makes far more difference, according to Google’s analysis of clicks and sales referrals. “Single digits didn’t seem to move the needle at all,” says Mr McAteer. “It wasn’t enough to get people comfortable with making that purchase decision.” But after about 20 reviews of a product are posted, “We start to see more reviews—it starts to accelerate,” says Sam Decker, the chief marketing officer of Bazaarvoice, a firm that powers review systems for online retailers.

His company’s research shows that visitors are more reluctant to buy until a product attracts a reasonable number of reviews and picks up momentum. In a test with Kingston, a maker of computer memory, Bazaarvoice collected reviews of Kingston products from the firm’s website and syndicated them to the website of Office Depot, a retailer. As a result there were more than ten reviews per product, compared with one or two for competitors’ offerings. The result was a “drastically” higher conversion rate, which extended even to other Kingston products that lacked the additional reviews.

You see this to a lesser degree (which is also in the article) on blog comments, which start slowly and can pick up massive amounts of steam when a critical mass of people choose to throw their voice into the debate. As the numbers grow, the number of contact points into the conversation increases.

Positive reviews are also motivated by the idea of social capital—that is, people will want to review things favorably and say nice things about them because it puts their name out there and lends them some sense of expertise within the community that cares about the reviews. It gives them a good feeling, and in essence gives them a way to directly compliment the work and the author/creator. Keep in mind also that people tend to buy things that interest them, and you have an interesting social system where the normal outcome is going to be a positive review (unless you’ve hoodwinked them into thinking a product is something it’s not, in which case you deserve the negative reviews).

Giving voice to a community—however large or small—and giving them the power of feedback is a powerful thing. It can even empower them to help you sell something.

What do you think? Have you ever had a purchase decided for you by user reviews or comments? How often do you consult those types of resources when shopping online? Are you disappointed or wanting for more information when reviews aren’t there or there aren’t enough of them?

Mysteries that May Never Be Solved

For some reason, in the past 24 hours or so, I’ve had more search hits on the term “confirmation@apple.com” or “confirmation@apple.com email” than I’ve seen for any search result that’s ever hit this site in the months I’ve been tracking.

Could one of the people hitting this site based on that search leave a comment and clue me in on why all these searches are hitting my site? What are you looking for? Was it triggered by anything—a blog post or news story or something?

In other news, my site is the number two search result for “confirmation@apple.com”…