Your Google Alphabet

Google announced their new Instant Search today and showed how typing in a single letter now instantly provides results for a suggested phrase (for example, “w” brings up “weather” results). These suggested phrases are based on your search history. So I wondered, what phrase does Google suggest to me for every letter?

Type each letter of the alphabet into Google, and you can get your Google Alphabet. Here is my Google Alphabet:

amazon, best buy, craigslist, dictionary, ebay, facebook, gmail, hotmail, ikea, jet blue, kohls, lowes, mapquest, netflix, orbitz, pandora, quotes, rei, sears, target, usps, verizon, weather, xbox, yahoo, zillow

What is your Google Alphabet? Add it in the comments.

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Better Bathroom for Better Business

In his latest book The Small Big Things, Tom Peters advocates making sure your business has great bathrooms. Did you know In-n-Out executives first inspect the bathroom (before the kitchen) when visiting a store?

Many soap dispensers I see have a small pool of soapy water on the counter underneath.

Here’s a solution from airplane bathrooms: make sure the soap dispenser hangs over the basin and not the counter. Soap drippings will wash away in the basin, and the counter will stay clear on it’s own.

Re-design: Costco Checkout

Even though we don’t buy that many things in bulk, my wife and I love Costco. The one part that stinks is checking out.

Checkout at Costco is like sitting in a traffic jam, especially on Saturday morning. Costco employees try to check people out quickly, but most people have large carts filled with a lot of items.

Recently, I realized our local grocery stores and libraries have electronic self-checkout, but Costco does not. In fact, the local library is only self-checkout now.

The library, in fact, uses RFID instead of barcode scanners. With RFID, each book has a small, embedded sensor. Instead of scanning each book, you simply stack all your books on top of the checkout stand, and the computer immediately recognizes all the books you have.

Imagine a Costco with RFID. Instead of having to lift each of your items onto the conveyor belt (and then have the cashier put them back into your cart), you simply push your full cart past a sensor, and the computer tallies the items and recognizes the new RFID member card (included in your $50 annual membership) in your pocket. You pay the cashier and take your cart out to the car.

RFID technology is a little too expensive to put a sensor on every individual can of soda and pack of gum, but RFID has been used for years to track large palettes of product as they’re shipped on ships, trains, and trucks.

Since Costco deals mostly in bulk items (large cases of soda instead of six-packs), perhaps the economics of RFID can work for them.

Scrabble Misses the Boat…Again

Hasbro, the makers of Scrabble, one of the most beloved board games of the last century has missed the boat twice on social gaming online.

First, they sued and killed Scrabulous, which let you play Scrabble with your Facebook friends. Now, Words with Friends lets you (and John Mayer) play a Scrabble-like game with friends and relatives across the world on your iPhone.

Board games help bring people together. With the Internet, you no longer have to be in the same room as your friends and relatives to play. What are the folks at Hasbro doing? How many other classic games can be brought onto new platforms like Facebook and iPhone?

Google’s Data-driven Redesign

Old and New: Google tested the shade of its logo and whether to use a drop-shadow.

Earlier this month, Google made a dramatic change to the design of their search results pages.

Design is always an iterative process with multiple prototypes and revisions. Usually, selecting which prototypes to use is done by an expert designer. But at Google, the users decided.

In a blog post detailing the re-design, Google explained that Google designers came up with different options, and then they tried each out to see which was the best. In the past, Google has tested small things like what shade of blue to use for link color. (If you’d like to run similar experiments on your site, you can use Google’s free Website Optimizer tool.)

In this case, the “best” meant which design produced the fastest click-throughs. Faster click-throughs mean (1) people are finding what they’re looking for faster and (2) Google can display more search results and AdWords to a person in a day.

This is the design model for the future. Human creativity creates prototypes, which are then rigorously tested in an iterative process using randomized experiments to arrive at the optimal solution.

Two things that make Google’s process successful: randomized experiments over statistically-significant numbers of users and a clear definition of “success” that is the same for the business and the users.

Your Office Chair is Killing You (Business Week)

Business Week has an article about the latest research that shows that sitting in a chair (any chair) for hours each day is harmful to your health.

Excerpts from Business Week’s "Your Office Chair is Killing You":

Hamilton, like many sitting researchers, doesn’t own an office chair… The data back him up. Older people who move around have half the mortality rate of their peers… The best sitting alternative is perching—a half-standing position at barstool height that keeps weight on the legs and leaves the S-curve intact. Chair alternatives include the Swopper, a hybrid stool seat and the funky, high HAG Capisco chair. Standing desks and chaise lounges are good options. Ball chairs, which bounce your spine into a C-shape, are not.

Get a Professional Website for Under $25

Creating a professional presence online has never been easier or more affordable. For naterosenberg.com, I first tried custom-building my site and leasing a webserver, but I’ve learned that in this case, simple is better.

With my own domain name and WordPress, I have a professionally-designed site that is search-engine optimized, can handle as much traffic as I can get, comes with comment spam filters, and many more powerful features without any of the hassle of server or code maintenance. Plus, with Google Apps, I have a professional naterosenberg.com email address that has great spam filtering and works on any device.

You can spend a lot of money on a website designer, servers, and email systems, but for most people, the following steps are sufficient.

Create a professional website and email address for under $25 per year.

  1. $10.69/yr. Buy your company domain (mybusiness.com) at GoDaddy.com.
  2. $0 Create a free website on WordPress and choose from one of their many professionally-designed themes. Create some pages (About, Contact) and write a few blog posts.
  3. $10/yr Move your WordPress site to your domain.
  4. $0 Sign-up for Google Apps Standard Edition to have professional @mybusiness.com email addresses. An advanced email system with great spam filters, Google works with any web browser, Outlook, iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.