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Bruce McCarthy is Founder and Chief Product Person at UpUp Labs, where he and his team are at work on Reqqs - the smart roadmap tool for product people.

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Sunday
Dec152013

2013 Product Powers Hall of Fame & Shame

We're now accepting 10-second nominations for the 2013 Product Powers Hall of Fame and Shame.

What is that, you ask? As before, the goal is to assemble the "top product triumphs and gaffes of the past year as nominated by you." So here's what to do in the next 20 seconds:

Take 10 seconds right now and think of the one thing (product, service, website, software, gadget, retailer, whatever) that really works for you, that's so elegant in its design and operation it must be the result of a good feedback loop between the product designers and their intended market. Submit your first thought as a comment below.

Next take 10 more seconds and think of the one thing that really irks you every time you have to use it because the product people clearly did not take the time to think about who would use it, how it would really be used, or try it out on a real-life person before getting it to market.

Even if your loved/loathed product or service isn't new this past year, if you discovered it, fell in love with it, or developed a mutual enmity in 2013, nominate it here.

As in past years, I'll be awarding something fun to whoever who first nominates the winning two products, based on number of nominations (and my own completely arbitrary opinion) -- so don't be slow!

Deadline for submission is Dec 31. Your 10 seconds start now!

Reader Comments (20)

If you need help with ideas, have a look at past winners:

2012 nominations, winners

2008 nominations & winners

2007 nominations, winners

2006 nominations, winners

December 15, 2013 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

For hall of fame - touchless control on the new MotoX and Droid phones from Motorola and google. Voice commands aren't new, but the ability to 'wake up' your phone with voice commands is incredibly useful. I find myself using touchless control all the time in my car - generally for making calls, navigation, and starting audiobooks - not having to physically pick up the phone, wake it up, and push a voice control button makes a big difference

December 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Borchard

Rave: Pocket (www.getpocket.com)
Very simple service. It does what it's supposed to do and nothing more, nothing less. Very simple and polished interface. Works great in all browsers and mobile. Granted, "read me later" services are quite simple in the grand scheme of things, but the understanding of the user problem and execution are well done.

Rant: iOS 7
I don't like the minimalist design. It looks like unfinished wireframes. They changed many navigation paradigms that didn't seem to be broken and now are confusing (i.e. the calendar app). Some of the "core" features are the ones that add animation or other visual components to the screen. Many people turned them off because it's too processor intensive. I understand that products need to evolve, but I feel that it's a step back. And I'm not alone, there are tons of similar articles online. With such steep competition (Android), Apple should be more careful about "disrupting" the market with a new design that doesn't seem to push the industry forward.

December 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Elizalde

Daniel, I'm with you on both of those! I'm using Pocket daily and it's keeping me from the 7 billion tabs of stuff I mean to read later. Simple but very useful! Also, I am having trouble naming anything that was substantially improved in iOS7.

December 16, 2013 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

Hall of Fame: the 2013 Google Nexus 7 (by ASUS). It's just an unbelievable tablet. Unlike the Kindle Fire, it has work-related applications to go with the entertainment-style features. Unlike the iPad Mini, it won't break your bank account. Also, it's fast....faster than any products of its kind.

Hall of Shame: Java update 45. The October 2013 patch had 50 remote-exploit fixes in it. Is that a sign that Java (which Oracle inherited from Sun) is deeply insecure? You bet it is.

December 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Anderson

Hall of Fame: I have to agree with Pocket. I use it almost everyday. Zite is my current favourite - great bed time reading and I don't have to think to hard about finding new sources of information....Zite does this for me! The experiences on both the iPad and iPhone have been thought through very well.


Hall of Shame: Unfortunately I agree with iOS7

December 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Brown

Fame: Fitbit Force. This wearable personal health tracker (wristwatch) tracks most everything you need: activity time, steps, distance, calories and elevation. It also provides data on sleep quality, and the app allows you to track the food (calories) you are eating. Bonus - looks pretty cool doing it! However, it isn’t perfect, for example I like to swim and it isn’t waterproof nor does it track heart rate. That said, it provides a good balance between form and function, and represents one of the best new products in an important and emerging category – personal health tracking to promote wellness.

Shame: Google Mail. I am probably in the minority here, but I really don’t like the user experience of google mail. Most of my issues stem from the way it nests email chains. I can’t for the life of me figure out who has seen what when the same email is sent and received and resent with differing recipients. I never know who is seeing what parts of the correspondence, and worst yet it sometimes merges 2 emails just because they have the same title. What is that all about?

December 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterScott Parlee

FYI, my blog hosting service, Squarespace, experienced a DoS attack on the 19th and 20th that resulted in some comments being lost. If you submitted nominations during that time and you don't see them here, please resubmit -- and list the date you first attempted to post your nomination so you can get proper credit.

Very sorry for the inconvenience, but Squarespace indicates the problem has been resolved and you should be able to post without issue.

December 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

Hall of Shame nomination goes to the Wii U. Half-baked product and launch in late 2012. Although Nintendo is known for building fun, family-friendly systems that might not totally connect with hardcore "gamers," the lack of quality games and expected features makes it a bust. Compared to other systems (not including the new XBox One and PS4 which I haven't yet played), the battery life on the controller is incredibly poor, which is more of a pain than one would expect. Also, unlike other systems, only game media can be used. No DVDs or Blu-rays. Nintendo has to do a better job at reaching a broader market with next generation systems in order to stay relevant.

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlexis

I'm going to take a gamble and PRE-nominate a product for next year's Hall of Fame: Coin.

Early FAQs and reviews on the product convinced me to pre-order and become an early adopter at half price ($50 instead of $100 retail when it launches next summer). If you haven't already heard about it, it's a credit card sized electronic device that allows uses to load credit cards, debit cards, gift cards and membership cards on it for use. From what I can tell, security is well thought out, it's super easy to use (and equally not easy to mess up during a transaction), and it really solves a lot of problems for me personally. I'm notorious for losing my cards and also overloading my wallet to an uncomfortable degree. I can't wait until it arrives.

December 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlexis

I *love* the idea of Coin. I can't carry around (or even remember) all of the affinity and discount cards I have and I would really like to minimize my wallet. I'd prefer to use my phone, but the neat thing about Coin is it eliminates the need for merchants to get new hardware. Still, it seems they have a few hurdles to jump before they make it big: http://money.cnn.com/2013/11/17/technology/innovation/coin-startup-credit-card/.

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBruce McCarthy

Love - Contactually - helps me manage relationships very well. Great interface, some issues but pay $20 per month and happy to do it (P.S., If you do sign up, here is my referral link

Hate - Lotus Notes. One of the joys of leaving was McKinsey was not having to use Lotus Notes

December 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShobhit Chugh

My Hall of Fame vote for this year goes to Google Chromecast. Very easy to use, well-designed, low-cost solution for streaming media from a mobile platform (phone, laptop, tablet) to your TV. At $35, this little gem is a great solution for those not needing all the built-in apps on $99+ products like Apple TV and Roku. The best part IMO is that for things like Netflix, the user can load it up and then use the mobile device for other things instead of having it tied to a mirrored display (like using a direct HDMI cable). Folks no longer have to put out so much money for the aforementioned products or a gaming console like XBox and Playstation.

December 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlexis

Hall of Fame: Venmo

What I appreciate most about this app is how remarkably simple a solution it is to exchanging money between parties. Paying room mates for rent and utilities or splitting a dinner tab is as easy as text messaging. It is certainly not the most impressive product of the year, but has made my life a bit easier for sure.

Runner-up: Codepen.io

Best web based IDE out there. Makes coding fun.

December 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBill MacKay

This is a difficult thing to answer for me, as I've been spending more and more time in the analog world lately, and rarely through the medium of new products. Haven't been thrilled with any software lately, new or updated, still getting by the the usual standbys. If anything, I'm most impressed right now with my early-2008 Mac Pro, which I still find pleasant to use five years and several major OS upgrades later. That's pretty ****ing amazing value for money.

One new product that I have high hopes for: the Lumu I picked up via Kickstarter. It's an attachment for the iPhone that plugs into the headphone jack and turns the "phone" into an incident light meter. I haven't used it enough to judge it thoroughly, but I'm very happy with everything about the experience so far and no aggravations yet.

Well, that does remind me of one new thing I bought this year that I'm quite happy with: my Nikon D7100. A quietly competent mid-range DSLR that does everything I ask of it reasonably well. The files at best are not quite as good as the best from my Foveon cameras, but it's much more consistent and in some ways easier to use, and blows the door off of any Sigma in low light and in auto-focus performance.

Given how much time I spend shooting in low light, particularly in the winter, it's the camera I find myself picking up most of the time. I like that I was able to set up the camera with a dial-selected user-configured setting for sports shooting, which is different in some significant ways from how I normally shoot. Things I don't like: rooting through the menus looking for what should be fairly obvious settings to change, the somewhat inscrutable interface for working with a speedlight, the somewhat under-specified shooting buffer.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Brazile

OK, thought of two other things:

1. Just bought a Mini Cooper. Really like the car. The Navigation and "Mini Connected" interfaces have some decent touches (the joystick interface with a spin knob I might like, still thinking about it) but is a bit clumsy in other ways. Haven't been able to pair with with my phone (probably due to changes in iOS 7) yet, and the interface it gives when the phone is connected via cable is quirky at best and tends to take over the screen whether you want it to or not. The Sync in my Ford Fusion, despite it's Microsoft-derived clunky UI, gets this much better.

2. The interface on this blog could use some help. After I submitted the last comment, it left me on a version of the page with no ability to submit another comment. Reloading got me the initial page again with my first comment typed into the field; I had to click the headline link again to get a new comment form. Oops.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Brazile

Thanks for the feedback, Robert. There have been several issues with blog comments being posted properly over time. I am evaluating a move to a different service, most likely Wordpress. Comments, suggestions, and advice welcome.

December 31, 2013 | Registered CommenterBruce McCarthy

Fame: Chromecast. It's beautiful in that it reduces the complexity of a common task - how do I play content from my device on my television? The setup is easy and it works with almost any WiFi enabled device. Plus Google did a great job thinking through the details. Your device does not stream the content to your television - rather it sends the URL to Chromecast and Chromecast itself will stream the content directly from the web. This provides two major advantages 1) Chromecast will not drain your device's life since Chromecast itself is doing the streaming. 2) If the individual who streamed the video decides to go to bed, or leaves to go to the store, the stream will still continue since once Chromecast has the URL, it is not dependent on the device. If your spouse wants to call it an earlier night, you can still continue watching. Thinking through the jobs-to-be-done in this level of detail is brilliant!

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJW

As a UX consultant, I always keep an eye out for products that are simple, efficient and intuitive, and I trial many products every year. My Hall of Fame and Shame nominees for 2013 are:

Fame: Nutshell takes the scalability of Salesforce and marries it with simplicity of Highrise. Nutshell transcends the user experience with sensible features such as: inline editing for efficient data entry, sensible data visualizations for making informed decisions, and workflow personalization to tailor the software to your business. Bottom line: It’s powerful and simple.

Shame: Windows 8 unfortunately missed a great opportunity to leapfrog Apple by executing its latest product design very poorly. The schizophrenic OS desperately implores people to use its Metro experience, but doesn't have the will power to dump the Desktop experience. Bottom line: It’s confusing and inefficient.

December 31, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Baz

Fame: My vote goes to FitBit Force. Admittedly, the convenience of being able to track steps, distance, calories and sleep quality are not novel but the Simplicity and Reliability is what gets my vote. Additionally, the integration to other Apps (http://www.fitbit.com/apps) was a key win for me!

Shame: Dyson DC 35's power management. I LOVE this cordless vacuum for all its features but the designer's seem to have let an engineering constraint overshadow the experience. It would occur that the on/off button does not have a "turn on and lock" option to save the battery/charge from running out (i.e. only have the motor stay on when doing 'useful' stuff and not idle). While this extends the battery life, IMO the inconvenience of having to PRESS and HOLD the 'on' button throughout the time you're vacuuming was major oversight and overshadows the otherwise 'fantastic' user experience.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMak Joshi

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