The Best Products of 2017
- 12 mins read
Published on Monday 18th December 2017
Digital products are an increasingly significant part of our lives, and we at Graphite spend a lot of time thinking about what makes them a useful and valuable part of our lives. Here’s our 2017 list of top products.
Bulb is a 100% green energy provider that has been taking a customer centric approach with affordable tariffs. They actually managed to make green energy cheaper. The great thing about Bulb is that they’ve put lots of effort in making people trust them. Energy providers aren't the most trusted industry with many tariffs options and often are hard to leave.
Blub customer journeys are dead simple, for example, to switch all you need to do is register an account with an email and password and they will handle everything else, you literally have nothing to do after that. Their app is simple and focused what you need without any pushy marketing.
To tackle the industry trust issue, they took the approach of “Show don’t tell”. Instead of spending loads of money on advertising, trying to convince people that they are the real deal, they are letting users do the job by offering £50 to who ever refer a friend to them as well as £50 for your mate.
This is great because you trust your friends and family and because of the reward people are working hard at converting others (A lot of us have switched to bulb at Graphite!). They even increase the rewards when the company reach key milestones.
Finally All their comms are to the point and limited to few emails and I love their little animations that accompanies the emails.
Lyric App by Honeywell
Earlier this year I needed to purchase a new wireless thermostat for my new flat. After some research and advice from an electrician friend, I chose a model from Honeywell which comes with their app Lyric.
I discovered I started to monitor it throughout the day, and it soon became quite addictive. The app has kind of gamified the way I can save money and keep my house warm. The UX is fairly easy to understand at first use, and really revolves around the main screen which features temperatures, scheduling and the main on/off selections.
One of the selling points is its ‘geofencing’ feature. You can set your desired location radius around your home, to enable your heating to come on before you reach your front door. In the same manner it will turn off when you exit your area saving energy. There is an alternative setting to this, which is your standard ‘set your schedule’ mode, which can be done anytime on the app.
Other features include - family access, programmable, able to stay notified of any leaks and always know what's going on at home. The update already works perfectly with the iPhone X’s face ID to log in, and you can ask Siri to make adjustments and turn off or on.
Although some might see purchasing this product as excessive or fad-following, it has done well in making something mundane become quite interesting. Plus, you can log on to check a family member or housemate haven’t turned the heating on during a working day.
Spotify OOH Ads 2017
In the summer, Spotify had surpassed 140 million active users, 60 million of which have subscribed. Spotify is a product which offers multiple ways to personalise and enrich your music streaming experience. It also features mindful user interactions and smart user experience throughout; but they have been nailing this for a little while now. What interested me the most is their recently released user-centric global out-of-home ads *breathe*
Crunching user data and using it for advertising is something they’ve done before in their “Weird 2016” advertising. They’re revisiting this data-driven tactic with an appropriate new theme; helping users through the upcoming year with witty resolutions. “2018 Goals” is a reaction to the events of an overwhelmingly crazy year the world has experienced together - from those who have been dragged through political happenings to people who have suffered from dreaded mid-week hangovers, they’ve got an ad for everyone.
The tone of voice and the ability to reflect whilst looking forward might help to make our collective experiences feel a little less traumatic & help to bring people together, just as music does.
I particularly like the statements from Spotify CMO Seth Farman in an interview with Ad Week (http://www.adweek.com/creativity/how-spotify-makes-its-data-driven-outdoor-ads-and-why-they-work-so-well/)
"The ads work so well because music is such an emotional experience, and data about our listening habits, on the macro level, taps into our collective mood. Music has always had the role of bringing people together, of being a common language, of transcending everything from who you are to where you live to your points of view–on everything from culture to politics to music itself. But we can all agree that it is a deep and meaningful part of our individual lives and our collective experience. That’s really what we want to reinforce.”
Sonos App Update
Sonos has been around for a few years now, but the collaboration and app updates have improved with time. I’m a bit late to the party, but I’m enjoying using this in and around the home with the ‘Rooms’ function and voice commands.
Sonos speakers now work with Alexa and soon, Siri and Google Assistant. In 2018, it will work with Google Assistant and Apple's Siri using AirPlay 2, as well.
Sonos is making its platform a lot more open next year recently revealing “works with Sonos”, which is a certification program for third parties to integrate their hardware or software with the Sonos platform. That means apps, hardware, and even smart home devices will be able to more closely integrate with Sonos’ hardware.
The only negatives I’ve experienced with Sonos are unreliability in office use (trouble with getting past company firewalls on the wifi etc), and as far as I know they haven’t updated the Sonos desktop app since the old UI styling and usability. They might be phasing the desktop version out as most people will be using their phone or tablet around the home.
Medium isn’t particularly a 2017 product but this year they stood out for 2 reasons. First they were the voice of many women in tech that needed to blow the whistle. Although Medium can be full of “Toughs leaders wannabe” and “me too” articles, they are also the voice of the unheard in our industry, and this is what Medium is supposed to be about and represent in this year of "fake news".
Secondly they went through a branding refresh and created a pay for account giving users access to exclusive stories. Against all odd it hasn’t killed the platform but instead brought more professional writers and seem to have injected even more energy into the platform.
They’ve also broke the rules by moving away from the now conventional “like” button. They introduce a new piece of UI that I think is really tight to the Medium experience. The clap. For each story you can clap as much as you want. I like it because clapping can show support, excitement, commitment or appreciation. Those are the feeling I go through when reading articles on Medium. It also makes people less precious about showing appreciation and everyone can also really show a lot of it.
More over this little piece of UI delight is also used by Medium to measure how much to pay writers. Medium seemed, so far, to have managed to create a product that generates revenue without relying on advertising while keeping their integrity. A rarity in our current landscape.
ASOS - Doing the basics really, really well
As a lover of clothes but a pretty impatient shopper, online shopping ticks all the boxes for me. With such a wide ranging audience, the user experience of online shopping has to be up there with some of the best - because drop offs means a lost customer and no sale. So the big companies have spent massive amounts of time (and money) testing and designing their products to be the best they can be.
When I need (want) new clothes, it’s normally a mad rush at the last minute. In my opinion, it’s the simple things that matter and doing these really well makes a difference. That’s where ASOS comes in.
Delightful touches - not only do ASOS make it super quick to log in by remembering your username and password but they make the most of the opening screen with a video playing in the background showcasing their popular products.
Visual cues - a simple menu showing new products is made that little bit easier to glance through by using an image next to each item.
Smart search - before I’ve even typed into the search bar, ASOS remembers what my recent searches were incase I want to look up that item again. When I do start typing, I’m hit with smart suggestions and the amount of items under that particular result.
The BEST product pages - simple and clear, ASOS keep their product pages uncluttered only giving you the options you really need. But where they really enhance the experience is with the photography - it’s stylish, different and goes above and beyond the norm. This makes the app stand out for me and shows that ASOS really care about quality and detail.
Moment - manage your phone usage
I’ve always had a sense that I used my phone too much. Not WAY too much, but maybe just a bit more than I’d like.
Moment is an iOS app that tracks how much you use your phone each day. You can set a daily limit, get notifications, and even take a 14-day course to rethink your relationship with your phone. The most important feature, though, is the One Big Number - how much you’ve used your phone today.
Honestly, when I started using the app I was shocked. I’ve actually reduced my daily phone usage by almost 40% since installing it, and it’s encouraged me to be more deliberate about removing apps and unfollowing people that weren’t adding value to my life.
Refind - manage your reading
A lot of what I do on my phone is reading - Twitter, Medium, Pocket, Feedly, Kindle, etc… I’m always saving things to read later, but I’ve noticed this year the amount of information has really got overwhelming and I don’t have a good system for prioritising the things that are most relevant.
Refind is a website and app intended to “tackle the relevance problem”. The app opens on the ‘Discover’ tab, where it leverages what people are saving across the network to suggest 50 articles that seem most relevant to you. But for me, the most important feature is how it handles your reading list in a way that prevents it becoming overwhelming.
It sounds simple, but when you first save an article to read later it puts in the ’Soon’ list, and if you haven’t read it in 2 weeks it gets moved to ‘Someday’. So you always have a manageable up to date reading list, and if you ever catch up, you can easily see the rest. You can also earn Relevance Coins from signing up https://refind.com/heylukegibs... and inviting others - so you jump on the cryptocurrency bandwagon with minimum effort.
Franz - manage your messaging
There are a lot of different ways you can send a message to someone now. For work I have to be available on Slack, HipChat, and Google Hangouts. Some clients and suppliers also use Skype, WhatsApp, or have their own Slack group. Then there’s the odd thing that comes via Facebook Messenger.
Franz is an open source desktop app that combines your messaging accounts in to one app, which reduces both the screen space taken up by messaging apps and the brain space taken up by switching between them and getting an unending stream of notification popups.
Instead of having several windows open on multiple screens, I have everything all in one app where I can centrally control notification settings and even just close it if I want to focus. I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, but I’m finding it a LOT easier to focus.