Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market

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Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 12/2/12 9:45 AM
Hi, 

we just launched our MVP for www.dialective.com, a web site for searching, creating and sharing interactive diagrams like these ones.

We think of it like a multi sided market. We'll have diagram creators, diagram consumers and advertisers (the paying customers). 

We target diagram creators who are bloggers or web masters and want to put a diagram on their blog or web site to communicate information more efficiently than with just plain text. 

Our pre-MVP interviews with bloggers revealed that they are aware of the problem that internet readers don't tolerate plain text as much as printed magazine readers, and that they like the idea of using diagrams as a possible way of engaging them. 

Our MVP just focuses on diagram creators, because without them there is no product. With our MVP, users can basically create a diagram and embed it in their web page or blog. 

Our Value Hypothesis is that they are going to create diagrams because:

1) They look well on their blogs
2) They are interactive
3) They are easy to create and embed or share
4) They pack and structure information efficiently, reducing the scrolling down
5) They can have pictures and rich text

We are measuring user behaviour using different metrics to validate all this. 

What do you think of our strategy? Is it lean enough? How could we make it better?

Usually MVPs should not care much about design. Do you think that in our case this is different because having beautifully-designed diagrams on their blogs or web pages is one of the reasons that may motivate diagram creators?

What do you think of our landing page?

Any other feedback is more than welcome!

Thanks!

Miguel
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market John Sechrest 12/2/12 10:02 AM
Hello Miguel,

I went to your diagram example page, and I went to your web page. 

I was not clear why the links did not do anything, then I saw that the changes were happening at the bottom of the page, so you had to scroll down to see it. That is a significant barrier to adoption, you are probably designing the site on big screens. I suggest looking at them on laptops. 

Secondly, I am not understanding that makes the diagrams interactive. They just look like diagrams. So perhaps there is a technology barrier again, where something is moving, but just not for my set up. 

I am not currently seeing what you are adding value to that is beyond what people do with create.ly or visio or omnigraffle 

To that end, perhaps it would be good to make a short list of people who you think would find value in the product and see if they get it from what you have. Not abstract people of "bloggers who.... " but more direct. "Mike" who is a blogger, sits down with you and uses the site and you see him want to buy it.

For me, I was not able to get there. Mostly because of technical barriers with how the site worked. 




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RE: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market alan little 12/2/12 10:32 AM

Miguel,

You’re going to be perceived as having competitors in this field, so I’d ask what your USP is. Are you catering specifically to bloggers, and if so, what makes your product superior to others in that market? On your landing page, while I realize it’s a proto, there was no clear statement of benefit to the potential user, like “create great diagrams that enhance site stickiness and engage readers” and so on.

In short, what’s unique and compelling and why is it the best solution for your customer base?

Alan Little

 

From: lean-star...@googlegroups.com [mailto:lean-star...@googlegroups.com] On Behalf Of Miguel de Vega
Sent: Sunday, December 02, 2012 10:46 AM
To: lean-star...@googlegroups.com
Subject: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market

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Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Ted M. Young 12/2/12 10:40 AM
Hi Miguel,

I visited your page and honestly didn't know what to do. I didn't at all get the value of what the site is offering. I made sure not to read the rest of your email before visiting so I wouldn't be biased. Now that I see your value hypothesis, I might buy into that, but the site doesn't work for me:

* I don't see any examples, e.g., a "screenshot" of a web site that uses such diagrams
* No affordance for what I should do (do I click on something? if so, what? not obvious to me.)
* The page feels very "busy" and "flat", in that nothing stands out (related to lack of affordance above), so I'm not sure where to direct my attention
  * Too many different fonts, sizes, and colors used

Perhaps some in-person user testing (to see their reactions and attempts first-hand) would help bring out the values that you're trying to test?

Regards,
;ted
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Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market William Pietri 12/2/12 11:11 AM

Hi! In the past I have hired a designer to make pretty diagrams for talks, so your service definitely interests me. Some quick background:

As a blogger, I have used diagrams in the past for communication. Some I made, some I borrowed from elsewhere on the web. When I've been looking purely to increase visual interest, I've mainly used Creative Commons photos to decorate posts. Communication and decoration are pretty distinct use cases for me. Some posts are here:

http://agilefocus.com/author/william/

It seems like you have some additional hypotheses that are worth validating. E.g.:

  • There is a substantial group of bloggers who a) haven't invested time in learning an existing diagramming tool but are willing to learn one, or b) people who have learned one find your tool so much better they are willing to switch.
  • Bloggers in your target audience are willing to allow your ads on their site.
  • You will be able to generate enough ad traffic to sustain your business.

The third one strikes me as especially risky. Most ad-driven businesses have a conflict of interest at their heart, and ad rates have been declining for years. I was recently talking with some of the founders from an ad-driven business I helped start, and they said they'd never do another one unless market conditions drastically improve.

I think your value hypotheses are a great start, but that's dangerously close to a feature list. When thinking about value, always try to get at the why, not the what. E.g., "Interactivity increases X" where X is something bloggers care about. E.g., clarity of communication, reader engagement, retention of material, time on site, return visits, positive comments, ad revenue.

I agree that MVPs generally shouldn't care much about design, but that's a generalization of the principle that MVPs should focus on what's most important to the target customers. In this case, you believe that bloggers want to make their blogs look better. So I think there's a tension between "I want a beautiful blog" and "these diagrams are not beautiful" that you must resolve by talking to your potential customers.

In exploring that, I'd also encourage you to look at questions of advertising and your branding of diagrams. I'm probably fussier than most, but I'd never let somebody else run ads on my blog, and I'm very put off by the "Powered by Dialective" logo. Both work against my purposes in using diagrams: clearer communication and more visual appeal.

Overall, I think it's great you're getting something out early for feedback, and think you're definitely getting the spirit of the Lean Startup approach.

One thing to consider is a concierge approach. The way I worked with a visual designer in the past was to sketch diagrams on paper and send pictures. I'd get back a finished diagram I could put in my slides or blog post. That's not scalable as an ad-driven service, but you could do something similar for now as a way of discovering what sort of diagrams people want.

William
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Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 12/10/12 1:47 AM
Hi John, 

Thank you very much for your feedback, it's really helpful!

The links are too far away from the diagram, I didn't see that one coming, thanks for pointing that out. From now on I'll test the landing page on laptops as well!

With "interactive" diagrams we mean that you can click on the boxes. The boxes are information containers. They conceal info the user might be (or not) interested in. This information is only shown when the user shows interest and clicks on a box. Thanks to this interactive behaviour you can pack quite a lot of information in a diagram and avoid having a large page with scrolling down. Plus, the user only reads what she's interested in. In our mind, boxes are equivalent to the headlines of a newspaper, and the contents of the boxes are like the news contents. Examples of the kind of information the boxes may contain are given in this diagram.

We are concerned since our data shows that only 38% of the diagram viewers actually click on a box. I wonder how we could tell users that boxes are clickable without actually writing an explicit message somewhere saying "click me". We are thinking about running a short animation when the diagram is loaded that shows what would happen if you ran the mouse over all the diagram boxes, just to show that the diagram is not like a static image. Do you think this is a good idea?

Miguel
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 12/10/12 2:18 AM
Hello Alan, 

I have our landing page right in front of me and you are right, it's not clear what our USP is. It is interactivity. Our diagrams are not like static images. They can be clicked and explored by the viewer, and their boxes may contain information in a variety of formats, like what this diagram shows. Interactive diagrams also allow packing a lot of information in a reduced space and reduces the need for scrolling down. 

We'll definitely change our landing page, thanks for the insight!

The product is intended for bloggers and web site owners, as well as anyone who is willing to make a diagram and tweet it or post it on facebook. But the MVP targets only bloggers because we think that in general they are more willing to try new things than web site owners. 

Miguel
Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 12/10/12 2:29 AM
Hi Ted, 

Thanks a lot for giving us your feedback!

It was a good idea to take a look at the site before reading my whole email. It is clear to us now that we have to rethink our landing page. The message is not clear, and as you say, it's so full of colours and fonts that it's not clear what we want our users to do, which is to login and test how easy (this is part of the value hypothesis) it is for them to create a new diagram. 

We'll try to simplify the visual appearance of the page and focus on the 1 or 2 messages that we really want to deliver as well as on the 1 user action that we want to trigger. A screenshot or link to a page with a diagram would definitely help as well. And we really have to watch real users navigate through our site, you're right. 

Regards, 

Miguel
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 12/10/12 3:50 AM
Hi William,

First of all, let me thank you for your extensive and insightful feedback! As a blogger you belong to the main customer segment we are targeting and that makes your feedback twice as valuable :)

We've thought about your comment on the risk of having a purely ad-driven business and we share your concerns. The way we see it, we have the following possibilities:

1) share ad benefits with bloggers. This is close to what Youtube does with its partners. 
2) use a fee-based business model. Bloggers can either create diagrams for free, but with limited storage and with the "Powered by Dialective" logo, OR they pay a small subscription fee and have more storage (perhaps unlimited) and white-label diagrams. This is close to what Prezi does. 

As a blogger, and forgetting about the specific details of each deal, what sounds better to you?

It's true what you mention about our value hypotheses. They are focused on the what, not the why and I confess I think about them as features, not reasons why bloggers should use our product. We'll have to work on that.

Most of the bloggers we've talked to think diagrams should look nicer. Of course, they are right, and we'll make our diagrams look better. But we'll also try to stress our USP, which is interactivity. Our diagrams are not like static images, their boxes can be clicked on to show information in a variety of formats: http://www.dialective.com/#!v;id=QGvgA8JRcYkL 

We see diagrams as an efficient tool to structure information and make it more appealing and "consumable" to the viewer. So, we'll test whether bloggers care about this. May we ask you what you think about "interactive" diagrams?

I like the concierge approach, I didn't know the term but I guess we've used it already. Our radial diagrams (like the one in the link above) came as a request from one of our customers. In fact, from a customer who payed us money to let him embed our product in his web page and let his users create diagrams directly from his domain.

Miguel
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market William Pietri 12/10/12 9:00 AM
On 12/10/2012 01:47 AM, Miguel de Vega wrote:
> We are thinking about running a short animation when the diagram is
> loaded that shows what would happen if you ran the mouse over all the
> diagram boxes, just to show that the diagram is not like a static
> image. Do you think this is a good idea?

You should certainly experiment at some point (I'd try a more subtle
visual effect to show they're an active element), but you should also
consider that 38% might be perfectly fine. Live tests on users reading
articles they are interested in will tell you. People skim a lot on the
web, and the whole point of clickability is to hide things people might
not care about.

As an aside, I'd make boxes without extra content just sit there on
rollover. Right now it's easy to get the idea that the boxes don't do
anything when you click on them if you happen to click first on a box
that doesn't have associated content.

William
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market John Sechrest 12/10/12 9:18 AM
One way to show that there is something clickable is to have it twinkle in some way.

Certainly mouse overs would help.

As well as some bit of text in the corner directing people to point at the diagram.

This is something you can spend a lot of time doing A/B Testing on. 
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Francis Norton 12/11/12 3:27 AM
One obvious visual affordance (to get you started - I'm sure you can do better!) would be a little "+" sign in the top left corner - but as another comment points out, only for boxes which actually have content to display!
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 12/11/12 6:14 AM
That could work Francis, and it shouldn't take us too much time to develop, thanks! 



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Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market William Pietri 12/13/12 12:47 PM
Hi, Miguel!

Regarding your question about which model I'd prefer: Having worked on ad-supported online businesses on and off since 1996, I think 90% of the people who talk about their startups as ad-supported are just fooling themselves. This turns up a lot at the Lean Startup Machine events. Many people avoid thinking about business models, and one way to do that is to say, "We'll run ads!" And then they go back to dreaming about the product. Having seen ad-supported businesses up close, I know it's very challenging. See, e.g.: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2012/12/mba-mondays-revenue-models-advertising.html

Which is by way of explaining that a revenue share option is something I'd be very skeptical of. Ad rates are falling below $0.001 per view. I know how many views my blog posts get. And I know that the whole point of ads is to distract people from what I want them to understand to whatever profits the advertiser. It's not worth making my viewer experience worse for less money than I could get by looking in my couch cushions. Personally, I'd much rather pay you money; I like supporting good tools.

However, my experience also makes me a terrible example customer, so I wouldn't generalize too much from what I say here.

I understand you want your USP to be interactivity, but have you proven that yet? It takes 3 things to make a USP:

  1. A specific benefit
  2. That your competition does not have
  3. That is so strong that lots of new customers will switch for it.

[Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unique_selling_proposition#Definition]


When I look at your product, I want you to be the quickest and easiest way to beautiful diagrams for my blog. Interactivity strikes me as something that might be nice, but I don't really care much about it. Unless you have discovered an audience who loves it, then it's just a feature, not a USP.

I really like that you found somebody that was excited to pay you money. That's a great sign!

Good luck!

William
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 12/14/12 3:40 AM
Hi William, 

Thanks for your great email and the links!

You are right, it's time to confront ad rate numbers and figure out if they make sense for us. I don't think they do: $10.000 for about every 10M impressions is just not enough to pay the bills. So, the quest for a more realistic business model has just begun!

By the way, the mid- to long-term process we are following is the "from weeks to months" process I described here: hightechstartups.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-startup-road-to-success.html . I don't know if you'll agree with it. According to it, we'll focus most of our efforts now on validating our value hypothesis and then we'll move on to validate the business model. The reason for this specific sequence is that if we start making money before proving our product useful to our customers, we'll be perceived by them as spam or something similar. 

What you'd like to see as our USP ("the quickest and easiest way to create beautiful diagrams for my blog") strikes me as something more fundamental than "interactive diagrams" because when a blogger looks for a diagram the adjectives that will probably come to her/his mind will be along the lines of "easy", "quick" and "beautiful", but certainly not something like "interactive". We have to create a new need in order for users to start demanding "interactive" diagrams. In a sense (and we perceive it like this), we are in a new market here. Creating that need will certainly take a lot of time, so it seems more reasonable to start giving our users what they need now, and at the same time educate them about what we think are the benefits of having interactive diagrams. 

Thanks for making us think about all these things!

Miguel
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market William Pietri 12/15/12 9:15 AM
Great points, Miguel; I'm glad to see you folks making progress.

Regarding the path of value -> viability -> growth that you describe in the blog post, I'm not sure it can be approached in such a linear fashion.

One thing that concerns me is that you can't measure customer value without knowing who your customers are, and that changes with the business model. In all ad-supported businesses, the advertiser is the customer, and the viewer is the product. Even if you're looking for people who will pay you for your tool, there are different markets. As you mentioned earlier, you've discovered that your customer might not be bloggers, but people who want to enable others to create diagrams.

Another concern is that one of the clearest proofs of value is what value people will give you in exchange. Revenue can be a misleading vanity metric, but it's generally a good sign that you're making something that people really benefit from.

And a third is that if your business isn't viable, there's really no point in making a product. WebVan, that classic dot-bomb, built a very impressive product. But they burned a billion dollars of investor money doing so because they delayed viability until later.

Personally, I see the LS approach as more of an iterative, risk-driven approach focusing not just on the product, but the business as well. Even though I'm a developer by background, these days I try to avoid building anything unless a) questions about our ability to build it are the biggest risk, or b) testing the biggest risk forces me to build something.

I think you're wise to start out focusing on giving people what they think they want, rather than what you think they need. You can only educate people if they listen to you and trust you. That's much easier if they are happy customers of your existing product.

William
Re: [lsc] Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 12/17/12 3:24 AM
Very interesting thoughts William. I see your point; the viability hypothesis is in fact deeply intertwined with the value hypothesis. You can't separate product from customer segments because then you'll miss the product-market fit. Working with both simultaneously is precisely the point of the LS approach. 

Hmm, I'll rephrase that post, including the diagram. One thing is to read a couple of books about startups but another completely different thing is to change the way you think about them. It is only talking to people like you that I'm beginning to grasp all the implications.

One thing that I haven't read about is how to actually conclude that we are doing better or worse than before taking into account the measured data. Do you have any experience on that? 

I'm doing it like I mention on this post (hightechstartups.blogspot.com/2012/06/scientific-approach-to-measuring.html), that is, using statistical hypothesis testing. Forgetting about the specific mathematical details the point is to acknowledge the fact that we are measuring non deterministic stuff and so we should use statistical models to draw the conclusions concerning the startup's progress. 

Well, I'm just curious about that. 

Regards, 

Miguel
Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Oscar Marquina 12/25/12 11:34 PM
Great Job so far Miguel,

I believe that you are asking for two types of advice, one in regards to your product and one in regards to the lean methodology.

I'll start with the methodology, at one point you asked "is it lean enough"   this is not the best question to ask and can derail you if you are not careful. they point of the MVP is to help you answer questions in regards to your product and business model.  don't focus if it is lean enough, as long as you keep going through the experimentation and discovery process you will get better and better through each interaction. personally I think you did a great job at creating the experiment. tho I'm curious at what metrics are you using to evaluate this MVP.

The second input that you asked for was in regards to your product. it looks neat and interesting, as a blogger I would be interested on something like this. it all depends on how user friendly it is.  I read thru your value proposition, and If i can narrow it down as a user I would say that i"m interested on anythign that
1. helps me communicate better with my reader
2. it user friendly.

what has been the response so far? what is your next step?

Keep up the good work,
Oscar

P.S:  I come from the "traditional lean world"  I been applying lean principles in manufacturing, I can honestly tell you this is just the beginning, keep learning and keep improving
Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Todd Rizzardi 1/2/13 9:53 AM
Miguel, I just came across this site and it reminded me of this post. check it out.
http://lovelycharts.com/
Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Todd Rizzardi 1/2/13 9:56 AM
Actually. there's a few I found on this article. . http://mashable.com/2010/07/15/wireframing-tools/
Re: [lsc] Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 1/9/13 9:24 AM
Hi Oscar, 

Thanks for your comments and encouraging words, and sorry for the delay in getting back to you!

The main metrics we are using to evaluate our MVP are the following: 

  • Sign in rate (Value Hypothesis): # of new registered users / # landing page loads for a given period of time
  • Diagram creation rate (Value Hypothesis): # of new diagrams / # new users for a given period of time
  • Diagram viewing rate (Value Hypothesis): average # of diagrams viewed per day
  • Embedded distribution rate (Growth Hypothesis): # of embedded diagrams viewed / # diagrams viewed for a given period of time, because we want to grow through embedded diagrams.
Your expectations for Dialective are very important for us, thanks!

The response so far from bloggers could be summarized along the lines of "we love the idea but the product is not mature enough". More specifically, people expect really beautiful diagrams, which is something we intentionally left out of the MVP. 

Our next steps are to make diagrams significantly more beautiful, and to make the process of creating a diagram quicker and even more user friendly (one of your points).

Regarding your other point on communicating better with your readers, what do you think about our diagrams being interactive? (I mean that if you click on a box it reveals more detailed information). This is meant to avoid overloading readers with information in the first place and letting them take control on which information to consume and when. 

Best regards, 

Miguel






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Re: [lsc] Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 1/13/13 1:03 AM
Thanks Todd, we'll surely check them out!


On Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 5:53 PM, Todd Rizzardi <to...@speedtocontact.com> wrote:
Miguel, I just came across this site and it reminded me of this post. check it out.
http://lovelycharts.com/

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Re: [lsc] Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 1/14/13 1:32 AM
Thanks Todd, we didn't know a few of them but it's crucial to know ALL of our competitors to be sure that our USP is a valid one.


On Wed, Jan 2, 2013 at 5:56 PM, Todd Rizzardi <to...@speedtocontact.com> wrote:
Actually. there's a few I found on this article. . http://mashable.com/2010/07/15/wireframing-tools/

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Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Mathew Pasqual 1/18/13 8:25 PM
Hi Miguel,
How is this different than an info graph?
Is this an interactive info graph? That might be a little different than the other ones I have seen
visual.ly
Re: [lsc] Re: Looking for MVP feedback for product on new market Miguel de Vega 1/20/13 3:14 AM
Hi Mathew, 

Interactivity is definitely a difference. It may look like a superficial one but it has deep implications. Thanks to it:

1) you can pack a lot of information in a reduced space (i.e., the diagram) and forget about long pages with scrolling down
2) you don't overload users with information, you just show them a short headline for each diagram box
3) you can structure and organize all kinds of information formats inside a diagram box, like text, images, video, presentations, ... (http://www.dialective.com/#!v;id=QGvgA8JRcYkL
4) you let your readers decide WHEN they want to get more information and WHICH information they want to get by giving them the power to click on  the diagram boxes.

All these should help readers feel less overloaded with information, which is how I sometimes feel when presented with an info graph like this onehttp://visual.ly/house-democrats-health-plan-flow-chart . This being said, from the design perspective info graphs like visual.ly are great and we've got a lot to learn from them. 





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