Is Uncubed Edge any good?
by Randy Gingeleski
11 minutes to read
A review of Uncubed Edge. Is it any good? Worth the monthly fee?
In an earlier post I mentioned that I’d signed up for Uncubed Edge, which at that time I grouped into the same realm as Treehouse and Code School. However, after going through the content, it’s really not in that same group. [
Treehouse vs. Code School vs. Uncubed Edge
Is Uncubed Edge any good? Worth the $19/month?
While I’ve enjoyed the content so far, I’m hesitant to say it’s worth $19/month for new users. If there’s one 30-minute lecture released each week, that’s just 2 hours of new content per month. The worth of that seems closer to the $5/month rate I was grandfathered at. If you asked me if Treehouse is any good and worth the money, I would tell you it’s good and worth $25/month. At $50/month they give you a lot of conference content, probably also worth it, though I’ve only been a silver member. As Uncubed Edge grows, it could get to the point of being worth the new member price.
(Image credit - twentydollarbill.info)
What’s in each “class”?
Here are my notes from the early courses if you’re curious as to what they actually entail. This could help you forge a purchasing decision. Though if you do sign up, I recommend still watching these in their entirety. Here I’m really just skimming. Note that they’re also brief - each class/lecture being an average of 30 minutes altogether. [
Building a Large Audience (with Contently)
- Data-driven content creation
- Original research
- A/B testing (split testing)
Data-driven content creation
- Google Analytics - wasn’t possible to see whether the user was scrolling, highlighting, whether they had YouTube open in another tab…
- Get a user to spend at least 3 engaged minutes with your content, there’s an over 50% likelihood of them coming back in the next week.
- Built their own analytics product (Contently Insights) which essentially measures how engaged users are with the content.
- For example, there’s a running aggregate timer for each user. Time each individual user spends on each story - what they care about.
- You can write things that get a lot of people but don’t hold their attention and build a relationship. (Reach vs. building an audience)
(from Contently Insights)
- Insights proved better than Google Analytics when it came to measuring growth, audience building, future success pieces.
- Sometimes an in-house solution for metrics can be best.
- Getting more data-focused about content on the publication helped build an audience quickly.
- They were writing interesting things, but not introducing “really new” content to the Internet.
- With original research, you’re producing content people will quote and recite.
- By introducing the research Contently also became applicable to journalists. Then journalists are pointing to you.
- “There’s going to be research.” Then captured emails - if you wanted to get the research report, had to submit your email.
- Siphoned off audience from all the places writing about them.
- Email is still the most important tool you have as a publisher. It’s a relationship you own, and it’s the spark that starts the fire of sharing.
- Here’s one of their studies on disparity between “sponsored content” on social media and organic content:
- That was just introducing new research on the back of old research. Proved extremely popular.
- If you think a piece will go really big, it may not be worth collecting emails. What you get may not be what you truly want.
- OKCupid’s Trends blog - not targeting online daters, but reporters who’ll write about their stuff…
- Everyone reads that -> OKCupid publicity
- When people write about you, they inevitably mention what you do.
- By doing research yourself, you’re providing something genuinely new to the Internet. You’re making the news.
A/B T testing (Split testing)
- Contently conducts heat map testing (i.e. Inspectlet).
- Split tests headlines - ultimately finding a permanent one.
Example of split testing headlines
- You can “feel” like something’s a good post or good headline, but without data it’s negligible.
- Businesses like Huffington Post were built on split-testing.
- As a result, The Onion writes 25 headlines for each story to figure out which one’s the best.
- Upworthy is the fastest growing media company in the world and does the same thing, with about a dozen options.
- Testing email subject lines is easy with Mail Chimp. Allows you to send out to just 10% of audience, for example, then gauge results.
- Headlines, email subject (via open rate or click rate), images - split test everything you can.
- Often A/B test results will surprise you. A gut feeling isn’t nearly as powerful as data being tracked progressively.
- You always want to be using your content resources in the most efficient way possible.
](/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Contently-Twitter-Ad-Split-Testing-Screenshot1.jpg)Closing When you add everything together - getting more out of your Twitter ads because of split testing, achieving a 2% better open rate - you’re building a better retained audience. It’s how Contently grew its readership from 20K dedicated readers to 100s of thousands. (Contently Strategist)
Also they apparently use SumoMe.
MetaSQL (with Gilt)
- Was using Aqua Data Studio, loaded with U.S. Census information, for demo.
- MetaSQL can be applied to any SQL server.
- Instead of writing SQL to get min, max, and average of all columns you can write SQL to write that SQL. (Meta)
- Here’s a MetaSQL snippet and the 10 lines of SQL it outputs:
- Writing that by itself, statement by statement, would have been long and tedious.
Iterations to improve
- In MetaSQL, with every iteration you can make it better and better.
- Once done you can use it on any table, any number of attributes, anything.
- Becomes universal procedure other people can reuse without knowing how it’s done.
- If you replace a specific table name with a universal operator, MetaSQL will go ahead and do the work on all tables in the database.
- You can make your MetaSQL “smarter” much like you would make SQL smarter - “if column is ____, don’t treat data as numeric”, etc.
- The next person using your MetaSQL would just put their table name in, and they have an immediate insight without the legwork.
Letting MetaSQL do the work
- Expanding on this whole idea - say you try to sell 1000s of products, some didn’t sell.
- Now you want to go through all product to find out why. (Univariate analysis)
- Manually you would have to go through maybe 100s of attributes - i.e. “what’s the average price of products that sold vs. unsold?”
- Then you might say “oh that didn’t differ enough”, then compare the next attribute, over and over for days or months.
- Generate MetaSQL that writes SQL to go through every attribute, compare in matrix one group vs another, and single out where there are differences that are statistically significant.
- This all falls under “lazy” programming principles - don’t repeat yourself, save time, work efficiently.
- With MetaSQL you can write something to do your SQL writing, the time-consuming and tedious.
Transitioning to a Responsive, Adaptive Site (with Gilt)
Taught by and credit to - Greg Mazurek Journey from a legacy site to responsive site. Migrating Desktop to Mobile
- There was a mobile version of the Gilt site (“m.gilt.com”) from when mobile browsing was primarily just Blackberry.
- Next there was a client app built on BackboneJS. A lot better but mobile was still being considered an afterthought.
- Slowly, and then very quickly, that client app couldn’t keep up with the new features on the core website.
- The core website, obviously, started with the intention of maximizing user experience on the desktop.
- So Gilt took a transitive period of time to shift the core website into a universal web experience across devices.
Responsive and adaptive design at Gilt
- Responsive = changes in the width of the viewport
- Adaptive = changes in the features available to you
- Overall you want to maximize user experience regardless of the user’s device.
- When the user lands on your site, you need to maximize experience for that viewport. (Responsive)
- No one just sits there, changing the width of their viewport back and forth all day.
- Maybe an iPhone 5 has different touch gestures than an early Samsung Galaxy - must be considered. (Adaptive)
- As a desktop experience is transitioned to responsive, the code becomes more complex. There’s no way around that.
- Take care to craft maintainable code, something an engineer walking in off the street could work on.
- When Gilt receive a user agent, they send it into one of 3 “buckets” - minimal, intermediate, or full.
- Full experience is everything - like desktop. Minimal might be on a low-bandwidth network or older browser - capabilities pared down.
- For Gilt it’s important to know which devices customers are most using, then emphasizing on making a beautiful experience for those.
- Gilt has Handlebars references to the minimal target experiences (from the above image).
- Through those references you can write DOM features for when the device meets certain levels of target experience.
- It’s important that devices don’t take any DOM or payload they don’t need. That’s why this is done the server-side.
- On low-bandwidth networks, Gilt frequently excludes all tracking. Tracking code can be heavy and degrade from user experience.
- Obviously that doesn’t help the marketing department but it does help the members.
- Target experience gets appended to the window object.
- This allows for client-side visual manipulation, while the Handlebars was dealing server-side.
Applying to the carousel
- On a desktop Gilt product page you have a lot more capabilities. You can zoom and quickly click through a product image carousel.
- On an iPhone, you can swipe through images via touch. Giving a similar experience to desktop but things had to be coded differently.
- This is an example of target experience use over “hope one size fits all” approach.
Responsive design and LOSA
- Media queries are great building blocks, but only great if they’re used consistently.
- LOSA = lots of small applications
- Instead of focusing on monoliths, Gilt decided to focus on services.
- LOSA at Gilt means most of the pages you see are largely driven by individual apps.
- The Product Details page can be deployed independent from the Product Listing page, for instance.
- This promotes autonomy in terms of teams and features.
- This minimizes the chance of “side effects” when releasing code.
CSS and RespondJS
- Gilt has tens of thousands of lines of CSS. How do you organize that?
- Originally media queries were written underneath the code they were superseding. Fine if you have a small amount of code.
JS Bin example
- But this becomes confusing once the code grows, things are really amped up, there are a lot of breakpoints… unwieldy.
- Then Gilt came across RespondJS (polyfill) - where to put media queries in CSS was no longer a dilemma, especially with old IE support.
- If someone came in to make a change on the old jumbled CSS, maybe they wouldn’t think about all the references of everything going on.
- The idea is to minimize opportunities for human error.
- In-line media queries > separate blocks
Pictures and images
- Images are heavy, especially for mobile, and can be problematic if not handled well.
- Gilt uses large images which creates a dilemma - they want beauty but at a small cost. (Resource cost)
- Their handling has images being passed down as they’re needed, and at particular break points for different sizes.
- They use PictureFill. You don’t want to send a huge image to a small device - that’s an unnecessarily big payload to scale down.
Testing and QA
- User agent emulation in Chrome and other browsers is really useful, obviously something that couldn’t have been done 10 years ago.
- Have to be aware, though, that if you’re emulating a user agent in Chrome you’re still on the Chrome browser.
- Gilt uses Genymotion and other tools to simulate different browsers / OS.
- Want to make sure changes you make in one area won’t adversely affect others.
- Throttle test different connection speeds with something like Charles - what if someone’s on the highway in a remote area?
- Gilt transition started technical, then focused on QA and bringing design into the picture.