Transcript: Navicons, Loop, and WhatsApp

by Tim Wright

This is the transcript to The Dirt episode: “Navicons, Loop, and WhatsApp

Mark: On a scale of one to ten, one being innocuous and ten being
horrifically malodorous, my BO lands at like a three.

Tim: Hello and welcome to The Dirt. I am Tim Wright and today I am here
with Mark Grambau and only Mark Grambau.

Mark: Hello, Tim Wright, and only Tim Wright.

Tim: Hello, Mark Grambau. How are you?

Mark: I am charming. How are you?

Tim: We just had a stellar show.

Mark: We did.

Tim: And this is the chaff of that show.

Mark: Yeah, that first show was so good that Steve just passed out.

Tim: Yeah, Steve just had to go for the day. There’s been some happenings
again this week in the news, without fail there’s always something to talk
about.

Mark: There is, the world keeps on turning.

Tim: The interesting thing that I saw, I think it came through Hacker News
or Designer News, somebody AB tested the hamburger icon, the navicon, the
three bars that we all use for small screen and mobile. Everybody uses it
now but no one has actually looked at it because it looks like a menu to
us, we just think that everyone is going to see like, “Oh, this looks like
a menu to everybody,” and that’s not the case.

Mark: Well, yeah, it’s the thing that sort picked up as a design trend
amongst UX and UI designer crowd, Illuminati, maybe three years ago or so,
four years ago or so, and just sort of got adopted.

Tim: Yeah, just everyone used it.

Mark: Yeah, Facebook was using it I think early, I think they may have been
one of the first large implementations of it. And everyone is like, “All
right, sure, that’s a menu,” and then went for it and there’s been
surprisingly little testing on, “Does the average user who is not living
and breathing UX, UI design patterns, do they actually get this?”

Tim: Yeah, it’s interesting that there were four variations, I think there
were four variations, of the hamburger icon that got AB tested. There was
just the icon which are the three bars, there were the icon with the word
“menu” next to it, there was the word “menu” with a border around it, and
then the word “menu” with nothing. And they tested all of them and the one
that tested the best was the word “menu” with a border around it, which
makes sense, it looks like a button, it is a button, and it says “menu.”

Mark: Yeah.

Tim: What kind of surprised me was that the word “menu” with no stroke did
the test the worst.

Mark: Yeah.

Tim: But maybe it was because it was mashed against the logo.

Mark: It very well may be. I think we would be remissed and Steve will be
mad at us if we don’t bring up his point which is that people need
affordances, people need at least some level of indication that something
is clickable, whether it is an arrow next to it, it’s an underline stroke
to make it feel like a link, it’s a button outline. It doesn’t have to be a
physical “skeuomorphicesque” treatment but you need some manner of
affordance and people didn’t seem to understand that just purely the word
“menu” was clickable.

Tim: Yeah, I will say that the version that they used here was just grey
text.

Mark: Yeah.

Tim: Even if it was blue with an underline maybe it would have been better,
maybe tested better. And obviously not going to run the AB tests or we
would have done it already.

Mark: Right, but in this particular case they’re using a fairly grey UI and
the top bar has the word “menu” then it has the logo of the website which
is in a color because they want to have their branding out there in a nice
bright blue, then they also have a grey search magnifying glass icon.

Tim: We’ll put this in the show notes for you to look at.

Mark: Yeah, and so you can imagine the failure is, as you said, partially
because it’s all grey. But because they’re putting so much emphasis on
their branding that anything else that’s up there falls back, but the
problem the other things that are up there probably more interactive and
more important, functionally anyway, for the user than the logo. So,
There’s some needs pushing against each other and not always in a user-
centric way.

Tim: Yeah, I thought this was super interesting because we actually did
have a small internal discussion when we did our site. And we were going to
do just the hamburger and leave it alone on the, well I guess it’s
everything.

Mark: Is it?

Tim: I don’t know, I forget what our site looks like.

Mark: Yeah, you only spent like a year on it.

Tim: I think it’s all the time it’s up there. And Jonathan actually brought
up that we should probably at least put the word “menu” next to it, and we
did it and I have no idea if it’s working because we didn’t test it.

Mark: People appear to be going to other pages other than the home page.

Tim: It’s interesting because we don’t think about this stuff. We think
about it as a design pattern and often times we don’t revisit it.

Mark: Yeah.

Tim: And we should, we should constantly revisit it. I used to do this
stuff all the time. A few years ago I did a redesign of the date picker and
I did a form submit, a CAPTCHA, where you just type in the CAPTCHA and the
form submits automatically, stuff like that. And we just kind of don’t do
it anymore and we should, I feel like we should question all of it.

Mark: I agree. I think it’s one of the core, fundamental characteristics of
a strong user experience designer, developer is a sense of empathy and a
willingness to constantly be pushing against your own biases and trying to
elf-identify those biases. And the problem is that we might assume that,
“Oh, hey, a certain percentage of the market now has smartphones or a
certain percentage of the market now has this or that technology and
therefore they’re totally familiar with that design pattern.”

And sure, maybe it’s okay for a certain percentage but just as browser
usage statistics might surprise you that in certain markets that in certain
markets let’s say IE 9 has a bigger representation than in other parts of
the market or what have you, that not everyone learns these design patterns
at the same rate in different markets. There’s value to be had there by
testing all these little things.

Tim: There is. And one of the other design patterns of using a credit card
that we think that Loop is challenging. There have been so many payment
systems that have come out in the past few years, everyone is trying to
solve mobile payments.

Mark: Well it’s sort of a great technology convergence where everyone all
of a sudden has an internet connected device with them that is in some way
able to be authenticated beyond just a signature, which is incredibly
insecure, you could put in a password, you could use some biometric
scanning. And we’re also getting to a point where we’re used to these
micropayments and everything, there’s a lot of pieces coming together. Oh,
and of course NFC and Bluetooth low energy, we have all these bits or
wireless technology.

Tim: NFC was suppose to be the answer to this stuff and it turned out not
to be.

Mark: Yeah, it turns out how many people implement it and NFC has
limitations in terms of the proximity you need to be towards the reader.
And so we’re running into the four where credit card access is huge and
everyone has got a way to want to pay for something and we have all these
new technologies that could potentially change it and make it more secure
but there’s not one silver bullet just yet, we really haven’t seen it.

Tim: Yeah, so the reason that we’re talking about this is that there’s a
new product called Loop that came out recently and it’s for mobile payments
but it uses the current infrastructure as opposed to . . .

Mark: Trying to just rebuild it.

Tim: Yeah, the Starbucks’ app where we need a QR code reader to pay or
something like that or you need to swipe your phone in front of a special
type of fob.

Mark: Yeah, so that the stores, all the markets everywhere wouldn’t need to
buy new hardware to detect a new kind of NFC or Bluetooth or whatnot, this
is meant to work with existing magnetic card readers.

Tim: Yeah, and I think that’s going to help it enter the market, I think
the product itself looks kind of clunky and it’s a little bulky and ugly.
But what it is is an iPhone case right now, they’re going to do Android
later on I think, you can do an iPhone case or you can have a fob.

Mark: Yeah, that plugs in similar to the Square Reader into the headphone
jack.

Tim: But you can take the fob and just pass it in front of the credit card
reader, a normal credit card reader, and uses a magnetic something to
process the payment, so instead of swiping it.

Mark: Yeah, it simulates the magnetic signature of the card and you swipe
it over where the card would have swiped in.

Tim: Yeah, and the guy who founded it was the guy who had a very large hand
in building the original credit card swipe technology.

Mark: Interesting.

Tim: You have this old technology that we don’t want to use but we have to
because it’s so popular and then that happens all the time and whoever
finds a way to use that technology, usually they’ll win.

Mark: Yeah. Meanwhile there’s other start-ups similarly trying to work with
the existing infrastructure. There’s a product called Coin that is what
looks like a credit card, a little bit thicker than your average credit
card, but it has a magnetic stripe on it but it works with a companion app
and it connects with your phone I believe over Bluetooth. And what it does
is it can reprogram its magnetic stripe to a number of cards.

You’d save your cards in your phone, you’d say, “Okay, here’s my credit
card, here’s my debit, here’s my Starbucks’ card, my airline rewards card,”
anything that has a magnetic stripe and I think it holds up to maybe six
cards or so.

Tim: Which is strange because it’s digital and it should hold endless
amounts of cards.

Mark: Right, well maybe it’s a security thing, I don’t know why. But, in
any case, you then determine, “Okay, well, I’m going to use my credit card
now,” and the Coin changes its magnetic pattern to represent that card.

So, we’re seeing a few of these things that are trying to make the existing
technology more secure and fit better into our new mobile lives. This is
also coming at the same time where we’re seeing movement, finally, to move
the United States away from magnetic stripe readers.

Tim: Ever since the Target.

Mark: Yeah, there’s been a number of high-profile security breaches and
saying, “Okay, how can we improve this?” And I understand Visa and
MasterCard I believe are working to take the chip and PIN system that’s
used in credit cards elsewhere in the world and bring it to the United
States. There is a PIN number that you have similar to with a debit card or
bank card in the U.S. but instead of a magnetic stripe some sort of digital
PIN. But it can also be used with a proximity based thing like an NFC.

So much like two-point authentication, you have both the physical object as
well as the part that is immaterial that lives in your brain. And this
technology has been credited around the world in really reducing credit
card fraud. Now the United States, despite having some lower percentage,
I’ll share an article of statistics on this from Ars Technica, having a
smaller proportional percentage of credit card usage around the world has
some disproportionately large percentage of the credit card fraud.

Tim: This is the “redefining the technology” thing and it’s a security
issue so they want to do it. But what was the implementation date? Was it
2018?

Mark: Well I saw Visa and MasterCard talking about something of October
2015, I don’t know if that’s full implementation or that’s just the
beginning of starting to distribute it. And what they would do is they put
the liability for fraud on whoever has the lowest level technology.

So if the bank has yet to send you, Tim, a new card, but the merchant that
you go to has a scanner that can read the new cards, if there’s fraud the
bank is liable because they have failed to send you new technology. If they
send you a new card but the merchant doesn’t have it, then the merchant is
liable if there’s fraud.

Tim: Yeah, and that’s the difference between the people who have power to
change the technology and the people who don’t. The people at Loop do not
so they have to work within the infrastructure.

Mark: Right.

Tim: And I think they’re doing a fantastic job.

Mark: Yeah, and that’s the definition of a disruptive technology, right?
You’re coming in from the bottom, you may not have the access, you may not
have the skill, you may not have the power, but you can rethink the
existing system and play within it and really turn it on its head.

Tim: It’s a design constraint.

Mark: Yeah.

Tim: That we have this technology that we have to fit, we have a problem
and we have the technology that we have to kind of shoehorn almost. Well,
we know you can put stuff in the middle. I think that would be really cool,
I’m probably not going to get it, honestly, because I think mobile payments
suck right now.

Mark: I think they’re just not there yet.

Tim: I don’t like pulling my phone out at Starbucks and just, I know that’s
just a Starbucks thing, but maybe it will gain, and I think it would be
cool. And it will be neat if, I guess, we don’t need credit cards.

Mark: Well I think it’s a bit of an early adopter’s dilemma but more
central than most other early adopter dilemmas because this is how you
purchase things, it’s how you might get your coffee, or your gas, or your
anything else, your groceries, versus something like, “Oh, do I start
buying all the movies I want in HD DVD or Blu-Ray,” back in 2006 and a lot
of people chose a camp and then for two years were buying media and then HD
DVD fizzled out.

And then they’re like, “Oh, well I guess I backed the wrong horse.” And
then of course disks are well on their way out anyway but that’s a lower
impact, right? You’re just talking about your movies, you’re just talking
about your media, it might be a financial impact.

Tim: But this is your money, this is your money you’re talking about and
people just latch onto their money, they have secure mediums to deal with
their spending and they don’t want to because it’s a sensitive issue. It’s
not like just changing over your messaging application.

Mike: Exactly, and there are a number of messaging applications, there’s
been a huge, thriving market of it and we’ve talked a lot about, in the
past, of how companies like WeChat, and Line, and Viber, and WhatsApp have
grown these massive, massive 100,000,000 user markets. And WhatsApp in fact
was just purchased yesterday by Facebook out of nowhere, we did not expect
this, this is after Viber was just recently purchased for a few hundred
million. But WhatsApp was purchased by Facebook for $19,000,000,000.

Tim: Unbelievable. $600,000,000 per engineer.

Mark: Yeah, so the WhatsApp team is made up of I believe it’s at 32 people
so huge amount of money. This is a mix of vested stock and cash. But this
is Facebook’s largest acquisition ever. It’s a seriously large acquisition
for a non-hardware, non-conglomerate, this purely a service and it’s
people.

What I found really interesting, this number sounds crazy but also consider
it against when they purchased Instagram not too long ago. The cost per
user is actually fairly similar, they paid approximately $30 per user for
Instagram if you break down the numbers that way. And WhatsApp, they’re
spending about $42 per user.

Tim: Yeah, I think there’s a difference between the WhatsApp users and the
Instagram users because I have used WhatsApp and I didn’t like it because I
was using it for international texting and if I had to do international
texting I would have kept it but I deleted my account. But they are pulling
revenue out of those people where Instagram wasn’t, that was a user
acquisition.

This one, I don’t know, this one feels different. I know they have a ton of
users and maybe it was a global user, maybe Facebook needs to be more
global, I don’t know.

Mark: I think Facebook, as we’ve talked about before, has gone from being
this big desktop platform to having to live in the mobile world and they’re
realizing they don’t have a platform in the mobile world. And I think we
could start predicting future Facebook acquisitions by looking at how do
people interact in the world, how do you connect to other people, right?
Because that’s what Facebook is, it’s you connected to your friends, to
your family.

All right, we share photos, we tell people where we are, maybe, like a
check-in service like Foursquare, they do that, they do deals, they let you
chat with somebody.

Tim: Who did they buy? They bought Gowalla, didn’t they?

Mark: Yeah, they bought Gowalla years ago. And so there, you can start
tracking, Facebook’s strategy is sort of, “All right, well we need to be
everywhere in the ways that people communicate with each other,” and they
will go for the product company or service that has the big presence in
users and they might maintain that brand. I wouldn’t be surprised if
WhatsApp stays as an existing brand.

As you said about money, they had an interesting business model, WhatsApp,
versus some others where it might be totally free or with advertising or
with sponsored contents like Line does and WeChat. WhatsApp gives you the
first year of use totally free, all messaging is free, and the after that
you’re paying a dollar a year.

And so for someone who’s adding either to talk internationally, or just
having a texting plan which, granted, are going away in favor of these
omnibus plans where you pay one fee for unlimited everything or a data
pool. But still, you’re saving a huge amount of money if you’re a heavy
texter.

And WhatsApp user base is not anything to bat an eye at, they’ve got a
serious number of people that Facebook just acquired. I started a bunch of
Tweets last night as people were sort bringing in statistics.

Tim: I like the hand motions over you head that nobody can see. You guys
are really missing out.

Mark: Yeah, I’m very animated. I have not fact-checked this at all so take
it with a grain of salt but a guy with an icon that looks like a teddy bear
wrote that, “WhatsAPP has twice the number of users as Twitter and three
times its growth.” We’re talking about huge, huge, huge numbers of faces
and people that are now in the Facebook ecosystem.

Tim: It makes sense that they would have more users, to me, though because
not everyone uses Twitter but everybody texts.

Mark: Yeah, messaging is really a fundamental technology of mobile, right?
It’s how do I connect from this person to this person. It’s why we like
mobile phones, because instead of . . .

Tim: As opposed to rotaries.

Mark: As opposed to trying to reach you by the location where I think you
might be.

Tim: Yeah.

Mark: Calling your office, calling your house, I’m just calling you. And so
obviously direct connection is the fundamental piece of mobile.

Tim: Facebook wanted to be the communication hub. I remember they announced
that back when they started doing the Facebook email addresses.

Mark: Yeah. There was a really great article that Ben Thompson wrote just
the day before the acquisition came out about the fundamental purpose of
messaging in mobile. It was really impressive, he wrote it and then within
24 hours this whole deal cam out. I’ll link to that, it’s a really great
article. If you can’t quite wrap your head around $19,000,000,000 . . .

Tim: I cannot.

Mark: Even if the number is gigantic, what we can wrap our hands around is
the sort of fundamental value of messaging. And so I’ll share that article,
it’s a great read.

Tim: Yeah, I kind of hope that Facebook takes these acquisitions and makes
them Facebook. I know Instagram is sitting by itself and WhatsApp might sit
by itself, I kind of want them to make Facebook Messenger WhatsApp, just
pull them together and then make Facebook Images for Instagram or
something. No one is going to run away from Instagram if they just brand it
differently.

Mark: They very well may.

Tim: The hipsters maybe will.

Mark: Well, yeah, look at the public opinion of Google. We all know that
Google gives these great, amazing things for free, they’re the big think
tank, but there is more public perception now that used to be really in the
tech and geek community that, watch out for Google because of the potential
privacy violations and that they’re selling out their users for
advertising. That used to be a really sort of niche thought and as our
understand of privacy in online technology has changed I think that is
becoming a more mainstream idea.

And I think the same thing goes Facebook in a sense of this big brother,
there’s the big thing and there’s a little more value in having this. The
Facebook brand is a double-edged sword, right? It can be both sexy for some
crowd and really unappealing for others and they may find value in keeping
these other services sort of siloed.

Tim: Yeah, well, maybe if Mark Zuckerberg ever responds to one of my
emails, we’ll get him on the show to talk about it.

Mark: Yeah, come on the show, Mark.

Tim: I dare you. Dare issued.

Mark: Yeah, Zuckerberg. Gauntlet thrown.

Tim: We have an event next week, it’s Experience Dev. It’s sold out right
now but I can taunt you with it. It’s going to be really cool, it’s here at
the Fresh Tilled Soil office. Yeah, if you want a ticket we can probably
sneak you in anyways, it’s not a big deal. You can get more information
about that, see the speakers, and get more, brain dump.

Mark: Information.

Tim: Information at FRESHTILLEDSOIL.COM/EXPERIENCE/DEV. As you usual, you
can get us on Twitter, @thedirtshow. And please send us a review even if
it’s just on Twitter, just send us a, “Hey, we like you,” or, “Hey, Steve
looked weird today.”

Mark: Yeah, we like to hear from you. And, Tim, one more thing about
Experience Dev. If you can’t make it but you still want to get a bit of a
taste of it, the other show we recorded today was an interview with Carl
Smith who is going to be our keynote speaker. And he’s a really, really fun
guy, a really exciting person with a lot of great stuff to talk about. And
he gave us a bit of a preview of his talk, so check out the other episode
posted today and you’ll hear a little bit from Carl Smith.

Tim: Cool. Well, I think that’s all we have for today. Thank you for
listening and we will try and do better next time.

Mark: Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

About Fresh Tilled Soil

Fresh Tilled Soil is a Boston-based user interface and experience design firm focused on human centered digital design