FitnessBuddy – Great App, Can Be Even Better

Some of us here at the office use FitnessBuddy for our workouts.  Great way to get some guidance when you hit the gym.  The app helps you choose a workout plan, shows you how to do each exercise (in a highly visual animated gif-like style), and more.  They recently released a new version with lots of changes, including:

  • Some kind of audio guidance feature (wasn’t immediately understandable to us)
  • More step-by-step tracking for a workout (“do this workout” button
  • Slightly updated user interface: buttons, icons, typefaces.

Overall, there are some improvements, but we think there is room for a lot more.

 

For example, here’s the screen you see after tapping a particular workout.  We think there’s too much unformatted text here (if we recall correctly, there was less text in the previous version).  Text fills almost the entirety of the screen (iPhone 5), and most folks simply don’t read (old, but good information).  Further, the text is likely only useful to first or second-time users.  Repeat users (like us) have to swipe down to proceed.First thought would be to cut-back on the text, if possible.  Next thought would be to format it in such a way that it’s scannable (using bullets, paragraphs, boldness, etc.).  Another thought would be to hide most of the text and intuitively enable the user to reveal more, if they’re interested.

 

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In the following screen, we see a list of exercises that comprise the workout.  We find the images to be especially valuable here, and we’re not sure why they’re so small.  They could be significantly increased in size (probably 30% or so without even changing the app design), which we think would be a big improvement in the user experience (again, most folks don’t read and the images convey most of the information, at a glance, especially if the users, like us, have done the same workout many times before).

 

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Lastly, here we’ve tapped on the “Barbell Bench Press” exercise, and we’re shown how to do it.  Great.  We’re also presented with a whole bunch of icons, which aren’t especially clear.  What do they do?

The top-right icon, for instance, shows an actual video of how to do the exercise.  It’s a really useful feature! And one of us used the app for one year before we knew it existed (we tapped the icon by mistake one day).

FitnessBuddy may want to consider:

  • Removing / consolidating some of the features
  • Re-organizing the features visually on the screen in such a way that what they do becomes more apparent.  Grouping them logically, for example.  Introducing a global menu system, for example.
  • Improving the icons / adding labels.

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Overall, we find the app very useful.  We think the company can significantly improve the user experience, accelerate new user adoption, and increase engagement with some additional investment in user interface design.

Quick Tip: Increase Your Email Response Rates

Sending an e-mail to a prospective customer, partner, or investor?  Trying to get them to schedule a meeting or phone call with you?

Our advice: put your request, up top, in the form of a specific question.

Journalists have a related idea called the “Inverted Pyramid.” MBA’s know it as the “Minto Pyramid Principle” (you can skip the book, this is the central idea).

So, something like this:

Hi John,

Would you be available for a brief phone call on Thursday (5/16) at 11AM or 3PM PT?

Sed sodales, est eget sodales euismod, quam dui gravida elit, a faucibus tellus nunc dignissim ipsum. Aliquam pulvinar cursus pellentesque. Curabitur aliquet tincidunt tortor, eu suscipit ipsum dignissim sit amet.

Proin luctus libero quis lorem feugiat id consectetur libero porta. Aliquam ac leo convallis erat gravida eleifend. Proin sed lorem ipsum, ac sodales sapien. Donec iaculis, nunc non dignissim porttitor, sapien massa dapibus tellus, eu suscipit ligula nisi sit amet magna. Fusce erat leo, vestibulum quis interdum sit amet, dignissim quis ligula. Nulla aliquam tincidunt diam, quis sollicitudin dui varius non. 

Praesent interdum massa nec nunc scelerisque tempor. Donec malesuada tellus nec risus dictum sollicitudin. Integer at mauris ipsum, eu malesuada odio. 

All the best,

Mike

You get the idea. Your goal is to elicit a response. How?

  • Making sure your request is actually seen by putting it up top, with all of the other info and details below
  • Challenging the recipient by proposing something very specific (encouraging them to think about it your request in a concrete way)
  • Framing your request in the form of a question (which naturally begs for a response).

Jakob Nielsen has written up many more useful and related tricks.

Modern, “Clean” and Simple Tools You May Want to Check Out

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We love Freshbooks.  We use it send client invoices, track expenses, and more. Years ago we tried QuickBooks Online, assuming that a cloud-version of the super-popular small-biz accounting software had to be the best. WOW, we were wrong. It was (and, we hear, still is) a UI abomination – really really confusing, overly-complicated, and just not much fun to use. Freshbooks is where it’s at. Plus, they’re one of us: a fast-growing startup with an enviable “sticky” recurring-revenue model (who really wants to switch accounting software!?).
Sending e-mail campaigns for marketing purposes? Tried MailChimp? You really ought to take a look at Campaign Monitor. We’ve used MailChimp several times over the years. Folks rave about it. We’ve tried to get into it, but we just don’t get it. Inconsistent user-interface, super-complicated template editing, dozens of ways to do the same thing. The chimp branding is fun and cute, but we find it difficult to work with. On the other hand, Campaign Monitor is clean, consistent, and very straightforward.

We haven’t tried it yet, but lots of people are raving about ZenPayroll. Our experience with payroll products is that they’re generally awful – resembling old-school online banking systems. We’re really rooting for these guys and hope that they can finally help modernize this space.

Venture Voice – Great Podcast on Startups and Entrepreneurship

 

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Have some time in the car, on a plane, on a train? Check out VentureVoice – a really great (but sadly, discontinued) free podcast on startups and entrepreneurship.

From 2005 to 2009, our friend Greg Galant interviewed 60 really smart and interesting startup founders and investors. It’s full of insightful anecdotes and war stories. We’ve listened to them all – our favorites are probably:

Great “101 Entrepeneur” Event Last Night in Agoura Hills!

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Last night we sponsored an event local to our Westlake Village office.

Thank you to all who attended. Turnout was great. Lots of smart interesting folks building companies (tech and otherwise) in LA, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties.

Special thanks to Gerhard Apfelthaler (soon to be Dean of School of Management at CLU) and Brandon Highland for your contributions and spreading the word.
We love to see the community come together. Like many of you, we plan on planting deep roots in this area, expect to start many companies here in the coming years, and we really believe that developing rich personal relationships with others will benefit us all.

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Human Faces Can Increase Conversion Rates

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Are you using faces of smiling happy people in your apps and landing pages?  You should think about it. They’ve been proven to increase conversion rates in a few ways.
  • In the Netflix example, above, you can see a happy family staring in the direction of the sign up form. Nextflix has been using this since at least October 2007 (per an old presentation of ours). Folks tend to look where other people are looking.
  • This phenomenon was further proven in this study (baby example above).  You can see the eye-tracking results when the baby was facing forward and when the baby was facing the text.
  • 37 Signals (popular app company) did some pretty extensive testing of human faces. They A/B tested a whole bunch of different faces, and, for their product offering, the guy above was the winning landing page (probably because he’s relatable to the target audience).

“Drip” Marketing Tools to Check Out


Everyone sends their users a “Welcome” email.  You might be using Sendgrid or Mailgun for your transactional emails (Welcome, Forgot Password, etc.).  And you’re probably using MailChimp,Constant Contact, or some other similar tool for your marketing emails (newsletters, new product announcements, etc.).

 

You might want to think about going wild with your transactional emails. There has been a boom in tools that let you:
  • Define a bunch of events (Upon Signup, Three days after signup, After user does task X, after user touches feature Y, etc.)
  • Send out very personalized emails when those events occur.
Some tools you might want to check out include:
Patrick McKenzie put together some really great info on the topic.

 
The bottom line: emails work.  It’s still one of the most powerful channels out there (like it or not).

 

Welcome Yossi!

Reflecting Back

March 9 2011 with the ChowNow Team

March 9 2011 with the ChowNow Team

We started Iteration Group back in March of 2011 with our first client, ChowNow. I was “in between gigs,” kicking around ideas for my next startup, when I met the ChowNow founders. They were two non-technical guys, extremely bright, and a bit over their heads building an online ordering system for restaurants, from scratch. It just so happened that I knew the online ordering space very well – months earlier I had explored a way to scale online ordering to the tens-of-thousands of restaurants in the U.S. and beyond. Well, we hit it off, Iteration Group helped ChowNow for many months until they gained a solid footing, raised additional capital, hired a terrific technology team, and were on their way.

Like that, Iteration Group kind of happened by “accident.” Over time, several more startup founders and company executives came to us asking if we could help them nail their product vision and distill their rough product ideas into concrete product designs.

Since that time, I’ve been looking for a counterpart here at Iteration Group that could run the shop “day to day.” I needed someone who, like me, has a deep passion and interest in software design, human-computer interaction, usability engineering, and all things user-experience. Also, this person needed to have a wide range of experience – managing multiple teams of folks, working on startups, working on large enterprise projects, and more.

 

Welcome Yossi!

I’m really proud to announce that Yossi Langer has joined Iteration Group as Principal. Yossi will be directing all of the work we do for our clients (in fact, he’s already started).

Yossi himself

Yossi himself

complementing my almost complete startup focus). We’ve opened up a new office in Santa Monica to be closer to our clients and prospective team members.

Yossi is a world-class expert and leader in the field. He’s held various product-development related roles at Viacom, Fotolog, AOL, and American Express. He will be cultivating our staff, work

ing shoulder-to-shoulder with our clients, and ensuring that our research, wireframing, designing, building, and other activities are of the highest possible quality.

I met Yossi almost one year ago at a UX Happy Hour event, put on by my friend (and longtime designer) Kai Gradert. We immediately hit it off, stayed in touch, and started collaborating on a few side projects. Right away, it was clear that Yossi had the perspective, experience, passion, and attention-to-detail that we were looking for.

Looking Ahead
Today we enter a new phase. We’ve tremendously increased the breadth and depth of our capabilities. We’ve already, for example, started doing more extensive research than we’ve ever done (user interviews, task analysis, etc) under Yossi’s direction. We’ve got more big-company, big-data, and enterprise experience (complementing my almost complete startup focus). We’ve opened up a new office in Santa Monica to be closer to our clients and prospective team members.

We’re extremely excited about the road ahead and we have big plans to further integrate ourselves within the LA Tech Community (and beyond) to help folks build great products.

The Press Release

Iteration Group Appoints Yossi Langer as Principal to Meet Customer Demand
Boutique Product-Development Consulting Firm Iteration Group
Expands Management Team to Build on Leadership Position

 

SANTA MONICA, CA – March 26, 2013 – Iteration Group today announced seasoned media and technology executive Yossi Langer as Principal, expanding its management in support of the company’s growth. Langer brings an extensive career of product design, product development, and user interface design experience to his role, where he will oversee mobile, web, and other interactive software projects for Iteration Group customers.

Previously, Yossi was at Viacom Media Networks, where he was responsible for search, content recommendations, and machine learning initiatives for over 100 digital properties. While there he founded the ground-breaking Lean Testing Lab.

Yarone Goren, Founder and CEO, Iteration Group, said: “Yossi is a world-class expert and leader in user experience design, usability, and human factors. He will work side-by-side with our customers to conceive, design, and develop innovative mobile and web products.”

Yossi has led product development at early-stage companies and established enterprises including AOL and America Express. He was Co-President and Chief Product Officer of Fotolog, an online social network with 30 million members worldwide, where he managed day-to-day operations, long term strategy and increased membership by 33%.

At AOL, Yossi ran mobile content strategy for AOL’s Europe, Canada, and Latin America offices. At American Express he led product development and editorial strategy as Online Editor of Travel + Leisure magazine.

Yossi Langer said: “I am thrilled to join the talented and innovative Iteration Group team. There is a tremendous need for expert product development services in southern California. This need is evidenced by the growing investment in technology projects, the proliferation of software into all industries, and the increase in non-technical startup founders and business leaders. Iteration Group fills this gap, enabling its customers to design, build, and deliver beautiful and functional products.”

More information:

ABOUT ITERATION GROUP

Iteration Group is a boutique product-development consulting firm with offices in with offices in Los Angeles and New York City. The company works side-by-side with startup founders and business leaders to help them nail their product vision, distill their rough product ideas into concrete product designs, create wireframes, create final designs, build prototypes, and more.

Iteration Group is privately held and is headed by Yarone Goren, a passionate expert in software product design and co-founder of multiple venture-backed startups, including Academy123 (acquired by Discovery Communications) and Zumbox. Longtime technology and media executive Yossi Langer directs all work as Principal.

Since its launch in 2011, Iteration Group has designed mobile, web-based, and desktop software products for social networking, productivity, online ordering, online marketing, ecommerce, and other applications.

For more information, please email info@iterationgroup.com or visit www.iterationgroup.com.

Media contact: Ashley Moje +1 818 851 1080 Skype: almoje42 ashley@iterationgroup.com

Video 4 of 4: Strategies for Early Stage Companies to Be Successful at Trade Shows & Conferences

I was recently invited by the team at Docstoc to participate in their “expert” video series, meant to help small business owners, entrepreneurs, and individuals. This is part 4 of 4.



In this last video, I bring up ways for startups to be effective at trade shows:

  • Don’t get a booth.  Expensive: space, booth itself, manning it, etc.
  • Find out who will be there; identify those who you’d like to meet
  • Craft a persuasive e-mail asking to meet briefly.  Make it personal.
  • Private room, Coffee shop

Video 3 of 4: Difference of Business Development Responsibilities During the Early Stages of a Startup

I was recently invited by the team at Docstoc to participate in their “expert” video series, meant to help small business owners, entrepreneurs, and individuals. This is part 3 of 4.



Here I talk about the difference in biz dev responsibilities during the beta stage and growth stage of a startup:

  • In the early stages, it’s the responsibly of the founders.  Sell the vision to prospective customers.  Refine the product as necessary.  Get the first few deals done yourself.  Figure out how to sell the product into what markets.  You’re the passionate visionary – you’re the heart and soul of the company.  You can’t possibly expect an outsider to be able to jump in and start selling.  And if you can’t sell it yourself, don’t bother hiring.
  • In the later stages, bring in folks into biz dev and tell them exactly what to do.  Here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, here’s what to say, here’s what not to say – all informed by the other deals you’ve already done.  The general sales process will be in place, the legal documents will be in place, the rollout plans in place, etc.