Prezi – Rich User Experiences

Web 2.0 signals a major change in the software market – we are moving to a platform where users can create and disseminate content using powerful, desktop-replacement applications on the web. Rich User Experiences is a design pattern that Web 2.0 exploits to deliver desktop like applications, powered by JavaScript, XML, AJAX, SOAP and REST technologies. These web apps provide the same features as their desktop counterparts, but have the added advantage of being connected and available anywhere there is an Internet connection. Multiple and lengthy installations are a thing of the past, and data is liberated and can be shared with friends and colleagues.

There are a lot of examples for Web 2.0 applications which make use of engaging interaction to provide a rich experience – sites like Microsoft Photosynth, certain advanced features of YouTube like Leanback and the Queue, and tailored experiences for mobile version of apps (like Google Search with their Instant Preview on mobile). These products and systems all have specific goals and offer a tailored solution to a specific consumer need, while also making use of strategies for rich user experience.

One very unique application in the domain of rich user experience online software is Prezi. Prezi is, as you may guess, a presentation program. This may make it sound like Microsoft PowerPoint, but this product is nothing like the presentation programs we are use to on the desktop. Prezi is a zooming presenter – there is no concept of pages or slides. Everything is on one large canvas that can have text, headings, images and video embedded, and then “paths” (the navigation structure) placed over top to control the presentation flow. This means there has been a lot of effort to tailor the presentation development process to match the goals of the system and also the capabilities of the web.

A screenshot of the Prezi edit interface.

Prezi is a very unique example of tailoring an existing desktop application and adapting it to suit the patterns employed by Web 2.0. The Prezi system is available across platforms – any desktop or notebook via any modern web browser and also on Apple’s iPad, and includes similar tools to a desktop presentation app – minus some more advanced features such as transitions and build-ins. This in itself seems like Prezi just hasn’t bothered implementing these features because they are unimportant or are technically impossible. On the contrary, Prezi is simply focusing the core components required to get innovative and exciting presentation software onto the web. This is an important factor, as the simplicity in designed creates a focus on a compelling workflow. This differentiation is critical to focus the use on Prezi’s core competency – engaging and highly visual presentations. This reduction and condensation of tool set also simplifies the use process – users can learn quickly. All controls are highly visual and designed to be natural to use. The only confusing part of Prezi is letting go of preconceptions of what a presentation is, and this means the user needs to consider if they can work with such a radically different presentation paradigm.

Looking at the parts that Prezi doesn’t do so well at, the main issue is deep personalisation. While tools are easy to get to, there is no “shortcut” system where the most frequent tools are made easier to access. There is no setting to automatically remember a user’s preferred security/Prezi visibility setting. These issues are easily fixed, and aren’t critical, but would add to the entire experience. Overall though, Prezi integrates the best practice for the Rick User Experience Web 2.0 pattern.

As part of my personal commitment to practicing what I preach, I created a basic Prezi about this weeks content. It is embedded below.


Prezi will give me a new way to communicate ideas with an audience. How could you use Prezi?


Ray, B. (2011). Google squeezesthumbnails into mobile search. Retrieved April 1, 2011 from

Stewart, A. (2007). User Experience, Rich Internet Applications and the Future of Software. Retrieved April 1, 2011 from

TweetMeme – Data is the Intel Inside

In O’Reilly’s core design patterns for Web 2.0, one of the most important is Data is the Next Intel Inside. This pattern for experience design places a focus on control over data rather than control over the code, framework, software or hardware. There is strategic advantage to owning and controlling data, as it can provide new opportunities heretofore unseen on any computing platform. Data comes in all forms, and what can or should be done with the data depends on strategy. ZDNet suggests potential strategies, including creating difficult to recreate data, making data open or charging for access to data. Another example is by innovating around data, such as Google’s vision for using their data stores to produce more relevant results and new ways to query.

Twitter is an absolutely explosive product, with over 140 million tweets sent daily (about 1 billion per week). This certainly indicates a massive number of users generating a lot data and often white noise. This often makes it hard to find good, relevant content on Twitter (for example, as I write this, two of the topic trending in Australia are #drunkestievergot and #throwagrenade; it’s the epitome of relevance and importance). There is an overwhelming amount of data, and people are getting lost while trying to find good, relevant content (the use of Twitter in recent uprisings and during natural disasters aside). Even Xerox’s PARC research facility realises there is an issue of identifying relevant people and content on the service. This is where tools like TweetMeme come in – an application that sorts through the data to deliver useful information (specifically news) to users.

TweetMeme Homepage
TweetMeme aggregates news links from Twitter.

TweetMeme is a standalone product which filters through the millions of tweets sent daily for relevant news stories, stored in tweets as links to these news stories. Depending on the number of times a link appears across all tweets in a given time frame, it gets posted in the ratings, and the top links or stories are displayed Digg-style on TweetMeme as a collective news feed. As more users post, retweet or comment, the higher up the rankings it moves. Links and stories are categorised based on content, generate such Genres as Technology, Sport, World & Business plus Gaming, Comedy and Lifestyle (to name most of them).

TweetMeme can aggregate so much data from Twitter because of the very foundations of Twitter. The service is geared to display an account’s tweets publicly by default. The fact that so users enrich links with hashtags, reviews, comments and experiences provides enough extra information for TweetMeme to be able to classify the tweets into the same category and then determine the recency of the story. TweetMeme functionality is further facilitated by:

  • The fact that Twitter’s data is easily searched and can be addressed and located by applications external to Twitter,
  • Twitter is an open platform that is open to innovation and does not protect tweets and data from reuse,
  • Twitter users are generally taciturn in their approach to reuse of their data –  people enjoy novel reuse of their data,
  • The barrier to entry for both Twitter and TweetMeme is low (TweetMeme actually uses Twitter’s OAuth service for login), encouraging data to be placed in the system by users,
  • Data is reused – users can retweet from within TweetMeme, creating new content in Twitter and boosting the value of existing content both within Twitter and within TweetMeme,
  • Data is enriched – TweetMeme allows a user to post a comment to a news story – as a new tweet. This enriches the entire data ecosystem, as TweetMeme handles more data and has clearer insight into data, and returns the data back to Twitter as a bonus,
  • The service is incredibly open – third-party websites can embed the TweetMeme re-tweet functionality natively in their site or service, increasing network effects.

The short YouTube video below explains how the retweeting and platform openess works on TweetMeme.

The result is that TweetMeme can innovatively use user created data and present it in a completely different format. The only real issue for TweetMeme is that the data is so open that the barrier for entry for a competitor service is incredibly low (Digg already integrates sharing via Twitter, so they clearly have the knowledge to implement changes to their new ranking algorithms should they choose to implement similar functionality). This means that innovation is a constant pressure – TweetMeme needs to keep ahead of the game to be successful in the long term.

TweetMeme will change the way I collect and see news; what will it do for you?