The only web services that don’t change are the dead ones

Some of you have asked, “How do we decide on making changes on Scoop.it?” We felt that this is an interesting opportunity to share the answer openly.

First, let me start by saying that it’s a process that has evolved to become much more complex now that millions are using Scoop.it every week. In the beginning, we were able to let our vision and intiution guide us, but now we have a responsibility to you, the Scoop.it community, who have decided to use this service as your content curation hub on a daily basis.

Sometimes decisions are easy: when you asked for curated newsletter capability on our feedback forum, it was just a matter of planning this together with the right resources and partner. It can take some time (bear with us…) but the decisions are simple. Sometimes,  it’s a question of vision: we have strong values and a vision for what we feel content curation and the interest graph should stand for, and that of course. continues to guide us just like we recently experimented by launching Read.it.

At the UX (user experience) level though, this can be more difficult: not so much for the inspiration and the big ideas but for the little details that can have a big impact. Should this button be at the top or the bottom? Left or right? Should we give users one main option and a bunch of secondary ones or should we highlight the three that are the used most often? Did we make that feature visible enough? Or is it too prominently displayed and annoying? A lot of these questions don’t have good or bad answers you can easily guess: you have to try out to find out.

To deal with that, we’ve increasingly been relying on performing A/B tests of our user interface. A method for optimizing Web sites that has been extensively used by Google ever since its beginnings, A/B Testing means that instead of making the change for all of you, we will first implement it for a randomly selected group of Scoopiteers and measure the results of this B group vs the majority of people unaffected by the change (group A). By comparing results we can see whether the change is having the desired impact before rolling it out to everyone (as a matter of fact, we even take this further by comparing not just A vs B but by also segmenting users according to how long they’ve been using Scoop.it).

Sometimes we’re disappointed: a change that seemed to make sense ends up having no impact or even sometimes a negative one. Sometimes results are spectacular.

A recent example is the way we’ve tested the position of the sharing buttons on the scoop pages. Again, this might seem a trivial issue but we feel that we owe you the best platform for your content curation and that means making sure your scoops can be easily reshared and amplified by your visitors. So for us, finding if we could increase the number of visitors who share your content when they land on your scoop pages was an important question. If we do, it means more visibility for you, and of course it also helps us grow.

Until recently, here’s how the scoop page was structured and here’s how it is now following a conclusive test.

The historical reason for grouping all sharing options behind a common “Share” button was because we wanted to give you a choice to share on various platforms: we have several different options. The change we tested consisted of isolating the three main networks that generate referral traffic to Scoop.it pages (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and isolate them as first level options, grouping the other ones behind a “+” sign. Our rationale was that other sharing options are now behind a discrete + button, the whole concept of sharing is well communicated by the Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn buttons (hence no need for a button that says “Share”) and visitors who are likely to share the scoop will primarily use one of these 3 networks.

Results: 273% increase in sharing actions by page impression. Yes, close to 4x more chances that visitors will share your scoops!

This might look trivial (especially after we got the results…) but some examples are not. When we introduced the insight feature back in December, we felt strongly about it as we feel content curation is a means of expression and giving an opinion on curated content is an important way to add value to your audience. But we wanted to understand whether this will come at a cost by making the whole publishing process more complex, especially for new users. So here’s a test we’ve done:

On the left you can see the current Scoop.it window while on the right you can see a simpler version where we’ve removed the insight and that we tested with new users of Scoop.it. Less is more, right? So we’d expect this simpler version to perform better, shouldn’t we? As it turns out, both windows are performing identically in the sense that the number of users who end up publishing a scoop is the same whether they’re in the A or the B group.

You might have observed some other changes we made as a result of similar conclusive tests such as the format of the “New Post” button, the direct access to curated topics in the margin of the dashboard, etc… The only web services that stop changing are the dead ones so we plan to continue to do tests like these for small iterations of our UX while we also keep executing on our vision to bring you the best platform we can build. One thing, though, it is critical to us that, while we look at data, crunch numbers and derive percentages, we don’t want to be blinded by the analytics and stop listening to your feedback. So please, don’t refrain from sending us remarks, critiques or encouragements: as much as we can A/B test, we will never replace human interactions and community feedback. And in addition, we also wanted to open it up to your ideas: if there are design changes you feel are needed to help the whole Scoop.it community grow faster, please tell us in the comments.

About Guillaume Decugis

Co-Founder & CEO of Scoopit. Entrepreneur (Musiwave, Goojet). Skier. Gamer. Blogging without blogging here: http://scoop.it/u/gdecugis
  • http://thatgrrl.ca/ Laura Brown

    Take heart about changes. If no one mentions them they either like the change or just didn’t notice it – which means they liked it enough not to complain about it. Either way, things are good.

  • http://twitter.com/nickcicero Nick Cicero

    Congrats, this is a really thoughtful article…nice to hear what’s in your head. I would love to see Livefyre on this site… ;) but still a great post.

    I would like more clarity on why I’m being served suggested items in the Suggested Content section.

    • http://scoop.it Guillaume Decugis

      Thanks Nick! Well noted for Livefyre^^

      Suggestions come from a proprietary algorithm we refine constantly based on data like click-through rates, accepted suggestions, etc… This algorithm crawls various platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Google News, etc… and look for content matching the keywords you’ve defined for your topic that also meets the magic criteria we’ve defined (can’t tell you all the details as it’s kind of our secret sauce ;-) but also like I said, it’s something we constantly fine tune). You can also of course have a lot of impact on the relevancy of these suggestions not only by fine tuning the keywords themselves but also by adding your own sources like RSS feeds, OPML files, twitter lists, etc… (Just go in the Manage Sources menu).

      • http://twitter.com/nickcicero Nick Cicero

        So I have created a board designed to curate content around the work we do at SocialFresh.com, yet each time I log in, I feel as though the content I’m being served is not really useful to me. Any tips on how I can add better signals to my suggested content?

        • http://twitter.com/theclairbyrd Clair Byrd

          Hey Nick! Sorry to hear you are having a little trouble with the suggestion engine. Have you managed the sources referring you content yet? I’d be happy to walk you through it or help in any way I can. Email me: clair@scoop.it.

          • http://twitter.com/nickcicero Nick Cicero

            Definitely, thanks for your help!

    • http://thatgrrl.ca/ Laura Brown

      I’m not at all fond of LiveFyre, Disqus or any other comment service. Having to login to leave a comment is really aggravating when the login doesn’t work.

      • http://twitter.com/nickcicero Nick Cicero

        @thatgrrl:disqus thanks for your reply…I feel your pain there, I hate when logins don’t work. Happy to hear your hate is mutual to all 3rd party commenting systems though ;)

  • http://reikihelp.com/blog Pamir | Reiki Help Blog

    Change is the only constant. In life. And apparently in world of Web 2.0 services. The changes made to date have all been pretty positive. Let me just say that I was a super early adopter of Scoop.It, I mean really early. I’ve one topic which has robust stats, and overall I love curating with your service.

    Right now I’m very, very frustrated with the ongoing (weeks now) testing of the Suggested Content panel’s default slide out upon page load of my topic. I’ve communicated with Ally via email about how extremely bothersome this is, and posted on the feedback forum topic about this.

    Whatever you’re going to do with this, please do it soon. And PLEASE make it so that topic owners can set a preference NOT to have it slide out unless clicked. It’s IN THE WAY. It covers half the page and feels like a giant imposition.

    If the decision is made to keep it on auto slide-out, I’ll seriously consider deleting my topic and never use Scoop.It again. It’s that bothersome.

    I’ve a single topic that’s not mainstream. So I actually DO curate my posts. I’m better connected to quality sources than any algorithm can ever find for me. This is additional feedback about this feature. Personally I’ve never found any source through it that made it to my topic. EVEN if I used Suggested Content, the default slide-out is still a MAJOR annoyance for me.

    I hope you’re going to give us the option to choose what happens when we visit our own topic(s)!

    There’s helpful change and there’s just messing with things too much. Twitter, Facebook and all web services have been guilty of this…

    • http://scoop.it Guillaume Decugis

      Hi Pamir – Thanks for the feedback and exactly the type of things we want to know, hence the post and explanations. On this particular point, the test started on April 4 and we’ll be making a decision soon.

      • http://reikihelp.com/blog Pamir | Reiki Help Blog

        Well, apparently not that soon! This intrusive slide-out is still there by default. I have to say the fact that it wasn’t announced was less than cool. I and I’m sure others thought it was a bug. I wasted a bunch of time on support tickets before finding out it was a test. And now it’s there like a giant wall, taking the joy out of going to my topic. It has literally prevented me from curating. I just can’t believe you need to test it this long, and won’t simply make it a user preference!

        • http://scoop.it Guillaume Decugis

          So we made the decision and it’s been launched today. New behavior is to memorize the state the suggestion panel was in on the topic and simply take it from the last state. So if you think it’s intrusive, you just have to close it and you won’t see it pop up the next time.

          • http://reikihelp.com/blog Pamir | Reiki Help Blog

            That works!