notes on interaction design

February 01, 2012

Is RockMelt Ready for Business Users?

I’ve been looking for a way to access all of Busse Design’s social media accounts in one application and I stumbled upon RockMelt’s latest update. At first glance, this web browser seemed to address my needs: It is deeply integrated with Facebook, and provides access to Twitter and news feeds right from the browser’s chrome. However, after using it for a bit, it became clear that while it offers some features that can be useful to business users, this application was not designed with their needs in mind.

RockMelt was built on Google’s Chromium project, so the experience is a lot like Google Chrome’s, with some added features. The top portion of the browser shows your Facebook profile picture and Friend Requests, Messages, and Notifications icons, right next to the browser tabs.  Right beneath that, there’s a button to post a status to Facebook and Twitter simultaneously. Simultaneous posting makes life so much easier and more efficient!

Facebook status icons and compose message dialog

They’ve modified Google’s Omnibox (the all-in-one browser bar with search) into a “Social Omnibox.”  That means that if the search term you type in is a Facebook friend, their profile picture appears with the option to view their profile, message them, or post on their wall. These features are useful if you have a dedicated individual Facebook account that you use for business.

Social Omnibox

The right side of the browser makes it easy to chat with online Facebook friends. Just click on their picture, and you can instantly chat with them. I doubt business users would use this feature much, and it’s easy to hide from the “View” menu. I promptly turned this off.

The left edge, or “App Edge” is much more interesting in that you can view your Facebook account, Twitter account, and access “Apps” which are really feeds from News sites. This is is a great way to peruse news headlines with previews, and you can decide to click through to the article to read it, opt to read it later, or share it. The App Edge is a great way to stay on top of news, even if just reading the headlines. (Note that Social Reading is on by default, so if you are not comfortable with your social network seeing what you’re reading, you’ll want to turn this off.)

App Edge with News Feed shown

Another great feature for the business user is RockMelt’s Quiet Mode (Quite Mode button). This hides the App Edge and the chat left edge, which is perfect for focusing, or if you’re screen sharing and you don’t want your colleagues or clients to see all of your feeds.

RockMelt does present some major drawbacks for business users. The largest one is that this does not integrate with or provide a feed into Google+ or LinkedIn. The main reason I was looking for an application like this was to have easy access to all of our social network feeds. RockMelt only addresses two of them: Facebook and Twitter. And even with those two, there are issues. It’s not possible to sign in as your Facebook business page and make posts, RockMelt is only set up for individuals. Moreover, I wasn’t able to sign into more than one Twitter account at a time. So you’re out of luck if you use multiple Twitter accounts (luckily, we do not).

RockMelt does a great job of integrating Facebook individual accounts into the browser and provides easy access to news, but it falls short in providing easy access to multiple business social media accounts. It’s not quite ready for a business user. In fact at present, 60% of RockMelt users are under 25 years old. I’ll use this browser for another week before I figure out if it will become my default browser, or if I’ll go back to good old fashioned Chrome.

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