A Weblog of Artem Dudarev

Data Liberation SaaS Design Pattern

Google Data Liberation Logo
Google Data Liberation Front logo. Source: Wikipedia.

This post is a copy of my entry for Grammarly contest, where they asked to suggest any feature for any software as a service (SaaS) application. In the proposal I described a hypothetical feature for Bing Maps to easily navigate to other mapping services. It was selected amongst ten other runner-ups. As a prize, I received Grammarly subscription for a year. I do use it occasionally and find rather useful.

Feature proposal

This is a spec for a feature in Bing Maps for the contest announced at DOU.

Yandex search engine has a killer feature – at the bottom of every page, it links to related searches by competitors, Google and Bing. Consider searching for Grammarly. At the very bottom of the page, you see a line:

Поискать <<grammarly>> в других поисковых системах: Google Bing

This open-mindedness adds a lot of value for Yandex users. Check out for yourself that there are a few differences in first ten results from all three search engines. Such a feature is for power users. These are just type of users that could potentially become die hard fans of the service. Existence of this feature gives them more excuses to use this particular service and not others, because they know that they could very easily check other similar services too.

A general pattern “See in similar service” may be considered. Implement a feature that allows your users to take data from your service and use it in others. There are some parallels with The Data Liberation Front initiative from Google. Many reasons may be named for a SaaS team to follow initiatives like that, the most important is arguably to develop trust in its users. Also, features like this give power user good opportunity to evangelize the service to simple users, which is very important in our age of social media.

To be specific, we describe a spec for a feature to allow users of a web map service to navigate to the same view from other map providers. This may be a payed service to monitor positions of vehicles fleet. To have a common ground, we consider Bing Maps: http://www.bing.com/maps/

1. Implement in Preferences a possibility to activate feature “See in other web maps”.

When a user clicks Preferences in top right corner, she goes to account settings. In addition to General, Web, News that are there now, there is an option for Maps on sidebar. Checkbox allows to select an option “See in other web maps” (not selected by default).

2. Implement a menu option to follow links to other map providers.

It should be similar to Share and placed closely to it. Its behavior, when clicked, is also similar. A pop up with links appears, a user may follow the links that open in new tabs.

This approach seems intuitively the most suitable for me in this case at the moment, but surely other user interfaces could be considered and tested by users of the service:

2a. A menu with down pointing triangle next to a figure of a man allows to select a map provider to jump to from a drop-down menu.

2b. When a user makes right mouse click there is a new menu item that allows to select an option to see the current view from another map provider.

I am developing a Chrome extension Mapjumper which interface is similar to 2a described above:

http://dudarev.github.com/mapjumper/

Hopefully, this pattern could be useful for Grammarly too. Your service is rather unique, yet, you probably still could make it much easier for your users, for instance, to look up definitions from other online dictionaries. Or, further following Google’s DLF, constantly add more services from which text could be imported (Google/Microsoft Docs, blogs, tweets and so on).

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