I’m addicted to Dots. It’s betaworks‘ new game. 389. That’s my high score. No power-ups. I’m pretty proud of it. The game consumes my time. I no longer browse reddit during my “private times”; I play Dots.
Dots is simple. It’s elegant. The game has restored my faith in mobile game development. But more importantly, it’s fucking addicting. I can’t put it down.
Dots a simple game: just connect adjoining dots of the same color to clear them from the board. You have 60 seconds. Clearing dots by making squares is the way to high scores. Use your dots to buy power-ups. That’s it. That’s Dots.
Like Angry Birds and Temple Run before it, Dots demonstrates that a simple game with replay value is the key to a successful mobile game. I always want to play just *one* more game. And since the game only lasts 60 seconds, I’m assured that I won’t waste that much time. I might not best my high score, but I’ll give it another go.
Dots is simple. That’s important. The first time the game loads, the user has to connect two dots to advance to the next screen. Instructions are not presented. Just two dots. After poking the two dots, users will naturally drag a line between them. And from there, they’re hooked.
When the app launched Jordan called Dots the most beautiful mobile game she’d ever seen. I won’t argue with that statement. The game is lovely. The betaworks title is also very popular and downloaded over 1 million times within its first week.
Dots is the epitome of a good game. The barrier to entry is set very low, but yet the replay value is very high. This is the golden formula that few games have achieved.
Pacman and Tetris are classic examples. Both were massive hits because it didn’t take any skill to get hooked. Just gobble up the dots or line up the blocks. It’s that easy with Dots. My 3 year daughter gets a kick out of connecting just a couple of dots. My 6-year-old got 114 his first time.
Even Bejeweled, the hit game turned bloatware, is a great example. How many of us wasted weeks of our lives playing that game on a PDA or a feature phone?
More recently Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds proved that smartphones can be a legitimate platform for casual games. Even now, years after their release, they’re still widely popular titles. Why? Because like Dots they’re easy to play and crazy addictive.
Sadly my love of Dots won’t last. There will come a day where I’ll move it from my home screen to a folder where it will live out its time on my device next to Words With Friends, Letterpress, Angry Birds Star Wars, and Temple Run OZ. That’s just how these things work.
Eventually I’ll grow tired of connecting dots and listening to the game’s satisfying pings. And then, probably a year from now as I mindlessly clear up space on my iPhone, I’ll delete Dots, not even pausing for a second to reminisce about our time together. But right now, I’m living in the moment, hiding in the bathroom, ignoring the needs of my children and the yells from my wife while I try to best my high score. Just one more round.
There are a lot of free avenues for creating buzz and getting people interested in your product, with social media. The key is in tapping into social media tactfully. You don’t want potential customers thinking you’re invading their social space with unwanted and unsolicited advertisement. So, how can your promote your business with social media without being too invasive?
Wrapping your message in a palatable wrapper is difficult, but it pays off big. Look at K-Mart’s Ship My Pants campaign. The ad’s been seen over 17 million times, and it’s because they used humor to educate their audience on their business’s newest features.
Formstack was kind enough to send us a few ideas for how you can get your message out there in a palatable and interesting way. Check it out:
- Link a “Pinterest”-ing picture to your product. Don’t think of Pinterest as just a resource for crafters and engaged people. Pinterest can be a powerful tool for your small business, if used appropriately. Create a pin-able photo showcasing your product or a way someone can utilize your product to fulfil a personal need. Do you sell handmade jewelry? Snap a professional photo of a model wearing your gems and pin your photo from your product form or company website. Every time someone clicks on the pinned photo, they will automatically be directed to your website.
- Extra, extra – Tweet all about it! Twitter’s user base is growing every day. If you seek out the right niches, Twitter could be a powerful platform for marketing your product. Utilize the Formstack Twitter integration, and your Twitter account will post a Tweet every time someone purchases one of your products. Research relevant hashtags for your industry, and include those in your automated Tweets to maximize their exposure. You can also promote your product by adding social share buttons on your product form, which users can Tweet out from their personal accounts.
- YouTube … or you don’t. YouTube isn’t just for cover singers and cat videos. Creating a YouTube video for your product is a solid way to increase awareness of your product or brand. Let’s say your company sells a wood adhesive. Film a how-to video using the adhesive to create a cool project, like a wooden lantern. Post it on YouTube using previously researched title keywords and tags, and link to your product form in the description. Anyone clicking on the video to learn how to create the project will see your link, and this could lead to some new customers.
- If they “Like” it, then you shoulda put a link on it. Like Pinterest, Facebook has the ability to grab a user’s attention with a funny or interesting photo. Have you entered the world of memes yet? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just Google “Bad Luck Brian.” A well-crafted meme based on your product or industry is easily liked and shareable. In addition, if you include a link to your website or product form in your initial upload, that information will go anywhere that meme is shared! I can haz sales?!
For more on social media marketing, check out our archives.
Let us know in the comments about your cost effective advertising methods!
The post 4 FREE Ways To Promote Your Business With Social Media appeared first on Small Business Technology.
“Gangnam Style” was the first video to hit 1 billion views on YouTube, a milestone it reached last December. Though arguably less catchy, Psy’s followup video “Gentleman,” a unique blend of pounding beats and fart jokes rumored to be an elaborate commercial for Candy Crush Saga, is now also breaking records on YouTube. The video-sharing site announced that “Gentleman” has set the record for the most views ever in a single day with over 38 million hits on April 14 alone, making it one of the biggest online music video launches ever. To put the figures in perspective, “Gentleman” was seen 100 million times in less than 4 days worldwide, a milestone that took “Gangnam Style” nearly two months to achieve.
“Gentleman” also breaks the previous single-day record set by the now infamous KONY 2012 video in March 2012. The documentary, produced by Invisible Children, hit 31 million views on March 7, 2012.
According to YouTube, “Gentleman” became April’s top rising search on the site almost immediately after it launched, with global results peaking on April 14. It also debuted at number one on YouTube’s music chart, bumping “Gangnam Style” down to second place.
“Gangnam Style” made its YouTube debut on July 15 and knocked Justin Bieber’s “Baby” off of top place in November–a place “Baby” had held since its debut in February 2010. If “Gentleman” keeps going at its current pace, it represents another windfall for Psy. Google’s chief business officer Nikesh Arora revealed on the company’s fourth quarter earnings call that “Gangnam Style” had generated $8 million in revenue on YouTube alone, or an average of 0.65 cents every time someone plays the video. Since the creator of a YouTube video keeps about half of the money, that means Psy and his record company probably earned about $4 million from “Gangnam Style” alone.
Security firm Lookout has detailed a clever new bit of Android Malware lurking in the Google Play store. The good news: unless you’re downloading questionable Russian clone apps, you’re probably not affected. The bad news: that hasn’t kept it from being downloaded a few million times.
The new malware, fittingly dubbed “BadNews”, has been spotted tucked into 32 different apps from 4 separate developer accounts. Since Google Play only gives download numbers as huge ranges, no one can say exactly how many devices this has affected. With the lowball estimates, it’s around two million. On the high end, it’s as many as nine million. In reality, it’s somewhere in between the two.
As the BadNews bug appears to have been distributed as an ad framework for developers to use, it’s unclear how many of the infected apps were built primarily for malicious reasons. It’s quite possible that some of the apps were built by well-meaning developers who just made a bad decision on an ad provider.
While Google has been making an effort to crackdown on malware with things like Bouncer (which constantly scans the Play store’s apps for telltale signs of malware), it’s a never-ending (and very much uphill) battle. BadNews snuck into the store by posing as an ad network, only firing off the nasty bits of code by way of remote signal once it had found its way onto a bunch of devices.
So, what makes BadNews bad news? It does at least two things you’d probably rather your phone didn’t do:
- Fakes alerts encouraging you to download other infected apps, as well as things like AlphaSMS, which hijacks your phone and silently signs it up for premium SMS services
- Sends your phone number and unique device i.d (the IMEI) back to the malware’s mothership
LookOut has the full list of known affected apps, with over half of them targeted at Russian users. The most popular, by far, is “Savage Knife”, a game meant to simulate 5 Finger Fillet — or, as it’s better known, “that dumb game where you try not to cut off your finger”. By the time it was pulled from the store yesterday, it had somewhere between one and five million installs.
Following LookOut’s report, Google has pulled all 32 known-infected apps for the store.
Malware? On Android?!
Preposterous. Wait, no. That’s not the word I’m looking for.
Editor’s Note: David Lieb is co-founder and CEO of Bump, creators of the popular app that lets people share contact information, photos, and other content by bumping their phones together. Bump has been downloaded more than 130 million times.
It’s been hard to ignore the massive shift in the last decade toward simple products. The minimalist design aesthetic pioneered by Dieter Rams in the 1960s on alarm clocks and toasters was popularized by Apple and Google in the 2000s on iPods and search boxes. Soon after, Web 2.0 took over, yielding big buttons, less text, more images, and happier users. Startup accelerators and design gurus popped up proselytizing “simplicity!” and the rapid growth of mobile in the last five years has created an almost strict requirement for simple products that work on our new small screens and increasingly small attention spans. Some of the most popular products today (Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram) all have simplicity of design and experience at their core.
This Ain’t Is Your Grandma’s Internet
So why did this happen, and why mostly in the last 10 years? Some say that good design simply lags behind technology and that design has finally caught up. Others point to the evolution of our devices and our environments — definitely a major factor.
But I believe the high-order bit is even more straightforward: It’s only been in the last 10 years that technology products have reached the mass market. The market size of the entire broadband Internet in 2000 was 50 million people; today it is 2 billion people; in a few short years with the shift to mobile it will be more than 5 billion people. This mass market is comprised mostly of people who sit in the middle of the tech-adopter bell curve, and since they aren’t product designers, computer programmers, and tech bloggers, they require an even higher degree of simplicity.
“Simple” Isn’t What You Think
But “simplicity” comes in many flavors. We can make products simpler by optimizing along a number of vectors:
- minimize number of steps in the flow
- minimize time required
- minimize number of features
- minimize elements on each page
But the most important, and often most overlooked, is Cognitive Simplicity. This is an idea that slowly emerged as my company, Bump, tried to understand exactly why Bump is so popular, especially in the non-tech crowd. We believe product builders should first and foremost minimize the Cognitive Overhead of their products, even though it often comes at the cost of simplicity in other areas.
There isn’t yet much written about cognitive overhead in our field. The best definition on the web comes from a web designer and engineer in Chicago named David Demaree:
Cognitive Overhead — “how many logical connections or jumps your brain has to make in order to understand or contextualize the thing you’re looking at.”
Minimizing cognitive overhead is imperative when designing for the mass market. Why? Because most people haven’t developed the pattern matching machinery in their brains to quickly convert what they see in your product (app design, messaging, what they heard from friends, etc.) into meaning and purpose. We, the product builders, take our ability to cut through cognitive overhead for granted; our mental circuits for our products’ patterns are well practiced.
This is especially pronounced for mass market mobile products. Normal people already have to use more of their mental horsepower to cut through cognitive overhead. Now imagine the added burden of having to do that while on a crowded bus, or in line at Starbucks, or while opening your app for the first time while eating dinner with a friend and texting another. This isn’t 1999 when your users were sitting in their quiet bedrooms checking out your website on a large monitor while waiting for their Napster downloads to finish; they are out in the real world being bombarded with distractions.
My, What Big Cognitive Overhead You Have
To illustrate the difference between generic simplicity and cognitive simplicity, let’s look at a couple products that, on the surface, might be regarded as being simple to use, but rank in my book as some of the most cognitively complex products of late.
QR Codes – Designed to check the simplicity boxes of speed, ubiquity, and small number of steps, QR codes really dropped the ball on cognitive overhead. “So it’s a barcode? No? It’s a website? Ok. But I open websites with my web browser, not my camera. So I take a picture of it? No, I take a picture of it with an app? Which app?”
iCloud / PhotoStream – When we heard Steve Jobs preach the utopian future where all of our photos and data would be seamlessly synchronized among all our devices, we smelled the Apple simplicity we’d all grown to love. But in practice, iCloud is rife with cognitive overhead — it only backs up your most recent photos, it works on certain select apps but not others, you have to create an icloud.com email account for it to sync your mail and notes but not everything else. Oh, and it works on new iPhone and iPads and Macs running OS X v10.7.4 or later, but not your PC or Android tablet. Try explaining that to your mother.
Cognitive Simplicity Winners
So which products really nail cognitive simplicity? Here are a couple examples:
Shazam — An app that magically hears what song is playing and tells you what it is? Seems pretty complex, and what’s happening under the covers actually is. But Shazam does a phenomenal job keeping the user’s cognitive burden low. They force people to press a button to “start listening,” show real-time feedback that shows the app is hearing the sounds, and it buzzes when a result is found. Shazam could have made the flow faster or fewer taps, but it would come at the cost of cognitive simplicity.
Nintendo Wii — In most ways, the Wii was far more complicated than its game console peers in 2006. It used accelerometers and IR blasters and detectors that required setup and calibration, and it was a departure from the mental model most people had for video games. But the payoff was a system with low cognitive overhead — you swing the controller to the left, and the little avatar on screen swings his racquet to the left. And voila, toddlers and grandparents alike suddenly became gamers.
Could Go Either Way?
Finally, a couple of my personal favorite daily-use products that could be argued either way. What do you think?
Dropbox — I love Dropbox. All of my stuff is in my Dropbox; Dropbox is on all my devices; so all my stuff is on all my devices. Pretty cognitively simple. But there are certainly some potential cognitive hurdles, or, perhaps better put, cognitive activation energy required before reaching the low cognitive overhead state. Is Dropbox a folder on your desktop or a cloud-storage website? Oh and it’s a program to install on my computer, too? When do things get backed up? Did it work?
Facebook — Facebook started out with very low cognitive overhead — it was a digital version of the paper Facebooks that already commanded high engagement and retention of college kids. Question: Has Facebook’s cognitive overhead increased or decreased as it has expanded to the mass market? What cognitive hurdles have arisen recently that weren’t present in the past? Should this worry Facebook?
How To make Cognitively Simple Products
Make people work more, not less.
Put your user in the middle of your flow. Make them press an extra button, make them provide some inputs, let them be part of the service-providing, rather than a bystander to it. If they are part of the flow, they have a better vantage point to see what’s going on. Automation is great, but it’s a layer of cognitive complexity that should be used carefully. (Bump puts the user in the middle of the flow quite physically. While there were other ways to build a scalable solution without the physical bump, it’s very effective for helping people internalize exactly what’s going on.)
Give people real-time feedback.
If your user has to wonder, “So, did it work?” you’ve failed. Walk people through using your product like a magician leads the audience through an illusion. Point out the steps along the way, or whatever magic your product is providing could be lost to the user.
Slow down your product.
We’ve all heard stories of Google’s relentless quest for search-result speed, but sometimes you need to let your user understand and appreciate what your service is doing for them. Studies have shown that intentionally slowing down results on travel search websites can actually increase perceived user value — people realize and appreciate that the service is doing a lot of work searching all the different travel options on their behalf.
How To Know If You’ve Succeeded
Test on the young, old … and drunk.
The very young and the very old are even more sensitive to cognitive overhead, as their brains aren’t accustomed to the sort of logical leaps our products sometimes require. Grandparents and children make great cognitive overhead detectors.
When you can’t find old or young people, drunk people are a good approximation. In fact, while building Bump 3.0, we took teams of designers and engineers to bars in San Francisco and Palo Alto and watched people use Bump, tweaking the product to accommodate.
Ask your users/customers to repeat what your product does and how it works.
Let people use your product, and then ask them to tell you what it does. They’ll think you are crazy for not knowing already, but what you hear can point to cognitive hurdles you’ve missed. One technique that scales that we use at Bump is to show a one question survey to a small fraction of users inside the app right after they are done bumping, asking “What is Bump for?” or “How do you use Bump?” The answers help us eliminate cognitive hurdles that remain.
There’s never been a time when cognitive simplicity matters more. As the mobile wave continues over the next five years, the world will see arguably the most rapid deployment of any new technology in our history. Products that are truly mass market will need to simultaneously target the Silicon Valley early adopter and the kid riding on the back of a motor scooter in Thailand. Which products will win, and which will lose? My money is on those that focus on cognitive simplicity.