Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Art of Adding a New Feature

Social media and network services (like myVidster) typically follow the same core concept.  Bringing people together with similar interests and/or relations to communicate and exchange information.  What sets each service apart is its implementation of features and tools.  The features you decide to develop and how you integrate them into your web service is how you set yourself apart from the competition.

Some take the 'easy' route and attempt to copy (or clone) an entire web service.  This method only works if your service is targeting an audience that the other service cannot reach or support.  An example would be to clone Facebook for a country that has blocked the Facebook domain.

I would like to break down my though process on a simple feature I recently launch called the share button.  Share buttons have been around for a while and popular sites like Twitter and Facebook uses them.  While it may be easier to copy this feature from Facebook or Twitter, it would not be a good 'fit' for myVidster.  Let's take a deeper look into this.

External vs Internal
Most share buttons are designed to be placed on external websites to drive traffic to your website.  The myVidster share button is an internal button that user's use to share video bookmarks with other users.  This increases user interaction at the expense of losing potential traffic from external websites.  In the future I might push out an external share button for webmasters, but I felt that focusing on user interaction was of higher importance.

User Interface (UI)
Lets say user A wants to share a video bookmark with user B; how is this accomplished?  UI is what makes or breaks a new feature.  Will the share button be a button or link?  Where do I place the button?  Do I send the user to another page or present a popup display when they click the button?  I decided to replace the shuffle button with the share button and present a popup display when clicked.  The shuffle button was rarely used and was redundant due to the shuffle wall feature that I released over a month ago.  This also keeps the UI clean.  That was the easy part; how does user B get notified that user A has shared a video?  This question tabled the share feature for months.  One idea I had was to add the shared videos to the users subscriptions or to create a new page exclusively for shared videos.  I did not like either idea and it was not until I started working on user notifications where the it all fell together.  Video sharing would be an notification activity!  Grouping video sharing into notifications just made sense.  The user does not have to navigate to a new page and it felt more intuitive.

Final Test User Engagement
Since the launch of the share button, its usage has been increasing every day!  If the usage rate slows down or goes negative then you need to reevaluate and determine if it needs to be change to help encourage its usage or to scrape the feature completely.  Some webmaster have an issue with dropping features.  Maybe its ego and dropping a feature is admitting that you have devople something that no one wants to use.  Remember "less is more" and the best sites are the ones that offer features that the user wants and not the features that the webmaster wants.

No comments: