StumbleUpon has just launched a new app for iOS, which brings some features to the StumbleUpon experience still absent from the desktop and Android versions. But that's not to say they won't be coming.
"We made the app a lot more fun," StumbleUpon's new VP, Product, Cody Simms, tells WebProNews.
The app brings some new user identity-related features to the table, as well as a faster way of stumbling and some new recommendation elements.
Let's start with the homepage. It now consists of "Content For You," "Trending" content, "Interest" and "Activity" (as well as "StumbleDNA," but more on that later).
Content For You is essentially the basic StumbleUpon experience that you're used to - content based on your interests. Trending is new, and allows you to stumble through content that is trending throughout the StumbleUpon universe. This should put the most popular content literally front and center on StumbleUpon (it's the center section on the homepage). The Activity feature is content that people you know or who are "like minded" to you have liked. Specifically, it includes two things: content people you follow have liked and content from "Experts". Experts are determined by how much content they have shared in a particular subject area that has resonated with the larger StumbleUpon community.
The Interest feature lets you select from a list of your preferred topics (as well as the usual photos, videos, news, and "following"). It's essentially the previous homepage experience rolled up into the smallest box on the screen in the bottom corner.
Disappointingly absent is the Explore Box StumbleUpon introduced last year, which added a nice search-like feature to the service, enabling you to easily stumble through content related to nearly any topic you happen to find yourself interested in, in the moment. In my opinion, this is one of the best features StumbleUpon has ever added, and I would not be happy to see it go away from the greater StumbleUpon experience. Luckily, it seems that will not be the case.
Simms tells us, "The Explore Box will be available in a future release. It's still an important feature for our community."
Last year, StumbleUpon also introduced channels. For example, you can follow the WebProNews channel, and stumble specifically through our stuff, and perhaps get more from us in your content mix. Channels are not highlighted in the new app, but may be more in a future update.
"You can see the Channels you follow on your profile, but this version of the app does not include the ability to see and opt into new Channels," Simms explains. "In the future you will be able to manage Channels through the mobile app. Content from Channels you already subscribe to will be included in your Stumble stream on the app."
This does not replace the swipe-to-Stumble feature that was already a part of the mobile StumbleUpon experience. It simply adds another layer over top of it.
It's one of those things you just have to use yourself to appreciate. It really does save a lot of time in the content discovery process, and I doubt we'll see many complaints from users who will no longer have to sit and wait just to see what a page is even about.
Simms tells us that since he's been using the app, he finds himself wanting to use similar functionality in other unrelated apps, such as email. "That's when I knew we were onto something," he says.
What That Means For Content Providers
Unfortunately, this feature may come with a negative side effect for content providers, who could face a decrease in StumbleUpon referrals as Stumble-happy users quickly browse through previews, sidestepping the actual pages. This seemingly makes the title and visuals of your content more important than ever for StumbleUpon success. You'll need to give users some reason to stop and actually let your page load as they're quickly breezing through previews. Granted, these things have pretty much always been major factors in the success of a piece of content on StumbleUpon, but perhaps they are even more so now.
As far as what image StumbleUpon displays in the preview, Sims says, "We use an algorithm to determine the best image/thumbnail to display. If there isn't a quality image we generate a screenshot of the page. Content providers have no control of this."
You better make them all good.
StumbleUpon has shown time and time again that it can be a major driver of traffic to websites. While there is still plenty of potential for that, I have to wonder how much this feature will affect it, especially if it makes its way throughout the rest of StumbleUpon's offerings.
"The page needs to fully load for it to count as a page view (and the page starts to load the instant the Slide appears)," Simms says. "We believe that Slide helps ensure users have intent to view the page they clicked on and could potentially result in higher engagement."
This is definitely a valid point, as some have questioned the quality of StumbleUpon referrals in the past, given the semi-randomness of content (I say "semi" because content is targeted based on users' interests, sometimes more specifically than others, depending on what exactly the user is stumbling through).
You can still thumb up/down content based on the preview, without having to wait for the actual page to load. It's worth noting that occasionally, you may have to wait for the preview itself to load.
One of the new focuses for StumbleUpon is user identity, and the cornerstone of this is a new feature called StumbleDNA. Every user has their own StumbleDNA based on the content they like. The thinking is that this can help users find other users to gravitate towards, based on the StumbleDNA they carry. Find someone whose StumbleDNA is similar to yours? Why not be friends?
StumbleUpon has always been social to some extent, but for many users (myself included), these features have likely taken a backseat to personal discovery. This seems to be a way for StumbleUpon to thrust the social elements a bit more into the forefront and encourage interaction among users.
StumbleDNA is represented by a colored bar. Your personal StumbleDNA can be seen across the top of the page on the homepage and throughout the StumbleUpon experience (you can see it in the first image above). It's basically a spectrum-like graphic. Colors represent categories of interest.
"We took our 500+ interests and rolled them into 12 master interest categories," says Simms. "The design team then picked colors for the 12 categories that were bright and bold and some of the colors were loosely linked to the interest category (ex. green and ecommerce). The placement of the interests/colors is consistent in order across every individuals' StumbleDNA so people can compare themselves against others."
"It's important to note that this is just the beginning of our work on identity and StumbleDNA," he adds. "This feature and other features that help bring identity into the StumbleUpon experience will evolve across future mobile and desktop releases."
"In the future, we plan to include a dedicated page outlining interest colors and how they relate to StumbleDNA," he notes. "For now, you can go to filter interests (in the top right hand nav bar) and see colors that correspond to each Interest."
Location-Based Stumbling On The Horizon?
The app now utilizes location information (if you let it). When you first open the new app, it asks to user your location data. Don't expect that to translate into more local content, however. At least not just yet.
"Location is important but is not currently something we factor into recommendations other than international geography," Simms tells us. It's more about device specific recommendations, he says, adding, "Geo location is a great use case for us in the future."
This could certainly present some new opportunities for local businesses. Users might also like to see StumbleUpon launch an actual feature that lets you tap into location - perhaps a "Stumble Nearby" feature, similar to Google+'s "Nearby" feature (but likely more interesting).
While, all of these new features are iOS only (both iPad and iPhone), StumbleUpon will incorporate, at least some of them into the desktop and Android versions eventually. Simms wouldn't share any timeframe details on that, but this does appear to be the direction the greater StumbleUpon is headed in. They just wanted to start with iOS and capitalize on all of the current enthusiasm of the iPhone 5 and iOS 6.
Here, you can see the app in action: