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RefME and the principle of One Click

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It is common knowledge that sales of compact digital cameras have fallen in recent years.  A fascinating graphic on PetaPixel shows clearly how digital cameras first replaced the analogue camera market, but then in turn have seen sales falling since around 2009 – by some accounts falling by two thirds between 2009 and 2014. Most likely this was caused by the dramatic rise of the smartphone during the same period. Why did Smartphones eat into the market for digital compact cameras?

 

You can’t, of course, be certain about this, but one idea is that the smartphone achieves the user’s goal in fewer clicks, sometimes in as little as a single click.

To explain: I use a digital compact to take photos on holiday. To get those photos to a recipient I have first to upload the images held on the camera battery to my PC; then edit them down to a reasonable pixel size for Web use; and only then can I import them to Twitter, or Instagram, or whatever. That’s a cumbersome exercise!

In contrast, using a smartphone I take a photo using the phone camera, then email it to myself, or easier still, take the photo from within the application, as happens with Instagram. The difference of a few clicks is dramatic.

 

The reduction in clicks is paralleled in many different Web innovations. Areas seemingly untouched by the Web are open to transformation once a new entrant arrives on the market completing the user journey with fewer clicks.  Often the transformative power of the Web is because of users’ increasing impatience with user journeys that are just too many clicks. All those years ago, Don’t Make Me Think made this point very clear: we don’t want to work out how a website works. We just want it to work, fast. If it doesn’t, we lose interest.

 

Take RefME, for example. RefME,launched in 2014, is presented as a citation tool. Any student writing a paper has to find their sources, make a note of the citation, and assemble a bibliography. Of course, various apps have sprung up to manage this process, both free (Zotero, Mendeley) and paid (EndNote, RefWorks, among many). But RefME achieves a lot with fewer clicks. Using the RefME app it can scan the barcode of a book and convert it direct to a citation in a standard format. One click on any web page (such as a Wikipedia entry) can create another citation. None of this functionality it unique, but to bring it all together to complete the task is impressive. It’s moving towards one click per citation, which is time-saving indeed.

 

In fact, it’s so good, that you start to look at other processes where you can reduce the process to fewer clicks. What about book reviews, for example? A newspaper includes book reviews so you can buy the book, or make a note to buy it later. Why isn’t there a single-click process for any book review in the media that enables you to “buy this book”, “cite this book”, or “remember for the future”?  Amazon has probably already created (or is working on) such a utility already.