My 2008 Apple Wishlist: User Profiles

I’m compiling a wishlist for Apple for their 2008 efforts, as mentioned in my previous posts. It’s not comprehensive, strategic, or anything else… just things I think would make their products even better for users like me. User Profiles

Before anyone goes and says there are currently user profiles on, I’d ask you to find them within 5 clicks, or at any point in any of your online experiences. One does exist… if you dive deep into the message board system. (Here’s my hidden profile, for example.)

Screenshot of current profile

Current profile.

Why do I care? Last I checked, Apple fans are rabid; they love to argue about how superior OS X is to Vista, and how Mac users are smarter than Windows users. Apple runs commercials, in fact, about how much hipper, smarter, and creative Mac users are. Why not give them a means to show off their smarts and Apple’s wares? “Show and prove,” as we kids here say on the streets.

Particularly, I’m thinking of an profile page… not a .Mac profile page. (We want more evangelistas, not less.) Tied to any Apple ID, the profile would let users add a tad more info than their name and homepage. I’d even recommend, at the very least, the following:

  • My own avatar
    Some folks like to be known by their face, some a Spider-man logo, some an old ‘missing startup drive’ icon, rather than just a fixed palette of Apple-approved and Apple-supplied Mac icons. If you don’t want to be in the business of storing icons/photos/avatars, might I recommend Gravatars?

    My avatar

    This is the avatar I use on virtually every site except Apple’s.

  • Visual representation of my current setup
    Macs are sexy computers. I’ve never been less excited about a Mac than looking at the current “Computer Model” info laid out in 11-point text on the current profile. At the least, provide the thumbnail images for the spectrum of machines and software I could have. (Hate to tell you, but I’ve still got an old Mac SE that I’d like to show off.) At best, let me upload/link to my photos of my setup.
  • My Apps
    New Macs are great out of the box, particularly when including iLife. (You know what would make them better? A new version of HyperCard.) However, it seems unlikely that all us Mac users don’t add other software to the machine. And this software setup is invaluable to other users, particularly if the profile is of that of a well-known content creator (whether an artist, movie director, Simpsons writer, etc.). If a user could flag the software they use, a simple list could spur sales in the Apple Store and/or downloads in the Downloads section. Again, if you don’t mind me further suggesting, check out I Use This to see folks dedicated to helping people find what software other folks are using.
  • Support Activity
    You currently have it… thanks! Might be nice to visually separate Questions from Posts, although this is already a somewhat confusing distinction.
  • Community Ranking
    Mac users love to show off how much they know about their Macs. Currently, highly active users on Apple’s support site are shown with a “Status level” listed in text with tiny blue boxes. What’s the highest level? Is Level 5 good or bad? (I didn’t see a key/legend.) And might there be a clearer, more visually attractive means of representing achievement?
  • Non-database presentation
    The current profile page looks like a dump… a database dump. Do users really need an “Avatar” and “Name” labels in front of rather obvious content? Consider treating user profiles with a similar design caliber as software profiles. Yes, all the data may sit in a database, but as a user, I don’t need to be reminded of that fact. There are countless other profiles available for reference to see what’s working everywhere else on the Web.
  • Inherent affiliate linking
    I currently make a bit of money from iTunes affiliate links, and I’m pretty sure that 95-plus percent of iTunes users do not. For those who do (and rabidly work to promote our sites/pages as we’ll earn money), why not allow the ability to insert my affiliate code once (during profile setup) to apply across my entire profile? Again, it’s a small but vocal and viral audience; help those that will then want to help you.
  • iTunes integration
    The iPod has transfixed the world’s population. You own the digital music space. Why not make it a bit more social a space? First, integrate profiles within iTunes. Currently, contributing users (providing ratings, reviews, and iMixes) are treated tangentially by iTunes. Instead, display these new rich user profiles, which can then in turn feature:
    1. Recent Listening and iLike have made their businesses on the back of iTunes’ Recently Played data feed. Seems pretty simple for y’all to easily include it here… with links to sample/buy the appropriate in tracks in iTunes.

      While you’re at it, can you open up the Apple TV to allow a similar feed for Recently Watched? I’ve wanted this from my TiVo for years. I like knowing how I spend/waste my time, and how my memory of what my favorite shows are match against what I really spend my time watching.

    2. Widget integration
      Your current My iTunes widgets offer a taste of a user’s iTunes activity beyond listening. Why not get more of your widgets auto-installed by including them on profile pages as soon as a user enables the functionality (with due notification, of course)?
    3. Lists
      iTunes’ iMixesicon functionality appears to still be popular… no surprise. People love to compile Top 10 lists, and particularly for music. By including the iMixes a user creates, a viewer has a better sense of each user’s personality.
  • My First Mac
    I would be surprised if any Apple user can’t remember their first experience with their own Mac. Again, we’re a vocal bunch, and we like to share their experiences and knowledge. Why not facilitate a means for users to enter their first experience? Could make for some interesting case studies (should you ever be running short), and it also would allow long-time users to show off their history in the Mac/Apple field.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that few folks run around spelunking for user profiles to read. But when they do encounter them (as they’re spawned in different places around your site and products… and could be in many more places), Apple has an opportunity to show the diversity and excitement their products embody. A resource like that can reduce customer support costs (as I can now find a real person with a similar setup as my own), aid in content discovery (find out what your friends are listening to and/or what software they’re using), and drive sales (if I can get paid to promote Apple products, I will be driving folks to “my” Apple Store).

(Ed. note: This is one of a several part series, already including .Mac and Customer Lifecycle coverage. Stay tuned tomorrow for iPhone/iPod/iTunes and January 2nd for Address Book.)


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