Last week, Google dramatically changed its core search user interface with Google Instant. As I discuss in my weekly column at GigaOM Pro, feed-based UIs can deliver great user experiences when properly enhanced. They feel “modern” to web and mobile audiences, in contrast to static blocks of content. Many — if not all — information streams do benefit from being current, and there’s a natural tendency for a user to re-visit them frequently and engage with them in a social fashion.
For companies that offer information or communications services and are looking to implement feeds as UIs, here are a few additional features to offer to users, to add value to raw, time-based feeds:
- Aggregation. This isn’t new, but Twitter clients like TweetDeck and Seesmic allow users to pull in multiple feeds from micro-blogging tools or status updates, and to post to multiple destinations. Box, meanwhile, gathers information from Salesforce.com and NetSuite into its feed. Seesmic just re-implemented its desktop client to accommodate plug-ins for other feeds or functions, e.g., local information from Foursquare, and is also building out a marketplace for such plug-ins. There’s opportunity in promoting and pre-packaging collections of feeds to give users different views of information.
- Filtering. Facebook prioritizes the default view of its news feed via the user’s prior behavior and the network activity around items, among other things in its algorithmic secret sauce. Trending topics is a popular device for exposing users to information that might come from outside their network. Ceding active control of filtering, sorting and searching to the user is also powerful: That’s what made TweetDeck the choice of Twitter power users.
- Other utilities. Third-party Twitter clients have succeeded by adding usefulness and efficiency to Twitter’s feeds. Twitter’s search was ineffective, and it didn’t originally integrate URL-shortening. In the spirit of Tufte, I’d suggest there’s opportunity in offering features that better present quantitative and qualitative information atop feeds. Color-coding or bolding feed items based on popularity or importance would be simple, but there’s probably something like TheBrain that would illustrate relationships between items better than a threaded conversation does.
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