Looking Back at Year in Review Product Sites

With the new year upon ourselves it makes sense to make predictions for 2014. Unfortunately this post isn’t going to talk about possible tech turns for this year. What I did want to note is how 2013 ended with a couple tech companies and how they presented the info to anyone that would listen. Over the past month I started keeping an eye on what things were in common from company to company and what was different. This is by no means an exhaustive list but does display data in an informative way that is unique to each tech company.

I started by looking at Pocket, a service that allows users to save online articles for future use. Typically I’ll save something from the desktop by using their chrome extension while on mobile saving mainly from Twitter. The second product I looked at was Google They have collected enough data that it gives a decent overview of what most users on the internet were interested in getting more info about. While I don’t use Tumblr that much I thought it was a good contrast to Google in terms of not what people are searching for but what people wanted to talk about. Spotify is my go to music app for both listening on the go and when I’m at work. Looking to Twitter was a no brainer as I’m pretty much using and looking at their data every day on the hour.

Some positive themes that became apparent had to do with making things easier such as
• Made their service even more enjoyable within context of their product
• Easy to discover new content
• Easy to discover new features
• Balanced bite size amounts of data while making it easy to dive deeper

Some not so positive themes that could be fixed
• Difficult transition from desktop to mobile (phone and tablet etc) with the data
• Overwhelmed people with their info
• Their actual product wasn’t used to display their top content
• Forcing the user to click a lot for little reward in terms of content

The most saved and shared content across Pocket, from all categories.

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Of the examples I looked at, I couldn’t think of a better way than what Pocket did to display their top content in context to their service. They had well defined categories and displayed the content in a digestable manner that rewarded the user to explore further. As a user hovered over a headline they made it easy to add it to their own Pocket for future reading. Even better they made it easy to select all articles within a category by adding a “Save All to Pocket” button. I can not overstate how great this is in terms of saving a user time but also respect the user by giving them more options than just a select all or just select one.

Digging deeper from just displaying categories they also ranked sites. Very quickly it showed what the Pocket community was reading most. Even better if a person didn’t see their favorite site they could drop in a url and Pocket would automatically display the top results if they were in the top 1000 publishers. By clicking Find a Site it would open a search field. Biggest surprises was seeing FT.com articles while nothing came up for Pando.com. By checking out Pocket’s best of the best I saved a ton of new articles that I wouldn’t have been able to discover based on their internal data which made the experience even better.

Google Zeitgeist 2013

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Google has a lot of data, more so than any one person could probably make info of. Understanding those issue Google broke out their info a flexible way but creating a lot of topics with just enough info that it wasn’t overwhelming. What I appreciated was that everything was essentially a list they included enough images for each topic to make easy to scan. Along with scanning they also made it easy to expand any topic that was of interest. They balanced giving enough of an overview while making it easy to dive deeper. Along with diving deeper they displayed ways of finding new info that an average non power user might find helpful the next time they search.

Tumblr Year in Review 2013

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I liked all the different categories of content that Tumblr displayed. What I didn’t like was that it took 2 or more clicks from the home screen to see anything, and if I didn’t see anything quickly I had to take a lot of clicks to get back. In terms of raw content Tumblr probably had more interesting things than google but it took quite a long time to discover anything. It would have been nice to do something like Google in terms of displaying some of the content from each topic as a window into a more in depth look.

Spotify Year in Review 2013

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I didn’t find Spotify’s data as helpful as it could have been because the UI hindered my ability to find things quickly. Between all the scrolling, clicking and having the website jump to their native product made the experience not so great. Even bigger of a disappointment when I could see data on my own habits they didn’t even make that part interactive. Hopefully next year they could consider creating an internal app that works inside their product first and port it to the web afterwards.

2013 Year on Twitter

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There’s a ton of info that Twitter could show from the past year and I have to give them credit in terms of using their own product to display the info. The biggest thing that hindered me from finding what Twitter thought were the best tweets was the limited window for scrolling inside a section. If I scrolled too much outside of the window I was focused on it would move the entire page down. Almost every time I used the site I had to scroll back to the top of a category to continue.

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