Providing a great name for a product that evokes an emotional connection is difficult, yet the way we currently name products is primitive. We've all been there before: sitting in a conference room writing down endless possibilities on a large whiteboard then attempting to narrow down the list. When choosing finalists, however, our own personal biases kick in and we overvalue our name contributions and undervalue the names from others.
At Quirky, we knew that we could improve upon this process. We have an active community of thousands of community members who love talking about our upcoming products. How could we leverage their wisdom to surface the most compelling names for our products?
When we started on this project, there was a simple naming tool that worked much like our whiteboard exercises: individuals would submit names and be given limited votes to select their favorites. As it happens in the real world, most of the community members would use their votes on their own names or to bandwagon upon an already-popular name. This would produce a voting distribution where over 95% of names received five votes or less.
This is a problem, as trademark searches would remove the majority of available options from the list. The odds that a top 10 name would be usable is quite low, leaving a pool of names with no voting data. We needed to find a way to collect voting data on all names in the system and understand how they compared to one another.
If you’ve seen the movie The Social Network, you’ll remember that before Facebook, Mark Zuckerburg built a website called Facemash. It applied a chess ranking algorithm called Elo to photos of students to determine the most attractive students at Harvard with the winners gains points and the loser loses points. Run enough comparisons and you will understand how every object in the system compares to each other.
We applied this thinking to our naming project. We modified the interface to display only two names at once with the statement "Which name is better for this product?"
Clicking on a name would display the results, making the experience feel more like a game than a task.
By providing voting data on every name, the copywriters at Quirky were able to quickly browse through thousands of options and understand the popularity of each choice.
This project was a win-win: