Unfortunately, this is so true. Creativity is often squashed by a "design by committee" mentality. Video makes a good point at the expense of Microsoft.
HTML or AJAX?
Interesting piece covering this relatively new conundrum. When to use RIA (Rich Internet Application ) technology?
“Simple enough for HTML means that the UI has modest interactivity requirements. However, if any of the following features improves your UI, you should consider RIA technology:
“Today, a product is no longer just a product—it is a set of often personalized and interconnected interactions that define a total brand experience.
By understanding how people interact with their world, we can create products and services that reflect this experience and better meet the needs and demands of your customers.”~Harry West, Design Continuum
Like Flickr? Try Mappr.
Mappr is a neat little app that pulls photos from Flickr and displays them visually according to a Map of North America. You can broaden the number of photos you see and control the size. It's all wrapped up together in a nice pageless interface. Worth playing around with.
Need a reason to visit Chicago? Here’s two.
The Illinois Institute of Technology is hosting a two day conference, titled Strategy 06. Here is the description:
“The Institute of Design Strategy Conference is an international executive forum addressing how businesses can use design to explore emerging opportunities, solve complex problems, and achieve lasting strategic advantage.”
It’s the third year that the IIT has hosted this type of conference, and it’s one of the few venues where attendees from diverse fields such as Product Design, Interaction Design, Brand Strategy, and Business have an opportunity to mix it up in-between a variety of solid presentations. At Last year's Design Strategy event, I facilitated a lunch round-table where a group of attendees discussed this topic: Are Interaction Design and Industrial Design not-so-distant relatives? The informal and interactive round-tables are another reason why this event is so special. The two day format is fantastic, as is the venue (Chicago's MCA) and it’s one of the rare forums where you’ll have attendees ranging from firms like Frog Design and IDEO to IBM and Motorola.
The event will also feature Bruce Nussbaum from Businessweek (view video). Bruce has become one of the most effective design/innovation Evangelists to bridge the creative and business worlds. His presentations are always insightful and forward thinking. This year's event takes place in May—if you are in town, I highly recommend attending.
Almost As Addictive As "Googling"
Google continues it's quest for world domination by either innovating—or knowing when to acquire someone else who is. The recently announced addition of Measure Map serves as proof. Developed by Adaptive Path, Measure Map is a neat little app which allows you to track performance to your blog and measure it in all sorts of ways. On a personal note, I met one of the team members who is finishing up at the Illinois Institute of Design in Chicago. My guess is that he's got a bright future ahead of him. It will be fun to see where this effort ends up.
A Site That's As Cool As The Product
This Nike site has been around for a while—but it's a nice example of demonstrating how a site could and should be as cool as the product it is marketing. In this case, it's an athletic shoe that is so lightweight, so fitted—that the experience is similar to running barefoot.
From the beginning, the site accomplishes this with a direct tie to the campaign—but then as you interact with it at a deeper level, it rewards you with gobs of "behind-the-scenes" content including videos and interactive nuggets that get into the science and design of the shoe. In short, it's an innovative product and what Nike is doing is inviting consumers to view "under the hood" and experience how a product like this comes to life.
Seth Godin is known for many things—but his true gift is articulating thoughts in a clear and simplistic way. That's why Flipping the Funnel Download flippingfunnelPRO.pdf —is such a rewarding read. Seth does a really nice job of capturing the strength of transforming consumers into active participants that can do a better job of marketing any product or service than most professionals. The trick? Get them engaged. Seth Writes:
What if we flip the funnel and turn it into a megaphone?
What if you could figure out how to use the Internet to empower the people who like you, who respect you, who have a vested interest in your success? I call this group of people—your friends and prospects and customers who are willing to do this—your fan club.—"Turn strangers into friends. Turn friends into customers. And then... do the most important job: Turn your customers into salespeople."
Seth goes on to use interactive social networks such as Flickr, Squidoo, and blogging in general to illustrate his point. So, he's essentially jumping on to the Word Of Mouth (WOM) bandwagon—which is nothing new. But he tells a story about it that is pure Godin.
The Marriot Experience. Online.
Experience is becoming one of those words that serves as a catch-all for for anything that pushes execution past mediocrity. However, there's "Experience" and then there's an "Experience". So what's the difference? Simply put, an "Experience" earns the label only when it exceeds an individual's expectations at both the rational and emotional levels. In the case of products and any area where interactivity is involved, an Experience can be achieved when it displays exceedingly high marks in the areas of usefulness, usability, and desirability. Need an example? See Experience Marriot. Nuff Said.
Shopping For Innovation
Interesting article that covers some relatively new thinking that the business world is embracing. Companies are actively seeking out agencies and firms of all sizes skilled in creativity, design and innovation. So what does this all mean? If you are on the agency or consultancy side, and have a body or work that's both innovative and strategically creative—then it's good news for you. However, it also means that clients are wising up to what innovation really is—and what to look for in a partner. So if you don't practice what you preach—you just might lose a potential client.
"Design can be brought in as a service, but it's important to remember that it's a creative service. Designers are smart and talented people who typically do "think out of the box" (a phrase more derided inside the design community than outside, yet still requested in more initial meetings than you can imagine). So although your desired outcome may be very specific, the designer's process to delivering your outcome will inevitably involve challenging its very foundations. Here's an illustration:
Q: How many designers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Does it have to be a light bulb?
In real terms, this can be the difference between asking a designer to create a new vase, versus asking for a new way to display flowers in the home. The first problem statement already converges on a solution--perhaps prematurely. The second opens up new design opportunities, new target markets, and ultimately potential new revenue streams."
Jacob The Purist
In October of 2005, "Usability Guru" Jacob Nielson updated useit.com with The Top Ten Web Mistakes of 2005. In it, he has this to say about the use of Flash:
"Flash should not be used to jazz up a page. If your content is boring, rewrite text to make it more compelling and hire a professional photographer to shoot better photos. Don't make your pages move. It doesn't increase users' attention, it drives them away; most people equate animated content with useless content. Using Flash for navigation is almost as bad. People prefer predictable navigation and static menus."
Clearly Mr. Nielson is widely respected for his views, but I take issue with this one. In recent years, there has been so much intelligent use of Flash that is reflective of the maturation of the medium. Here's an example of Flash navigation that contradicts the generalized statement that Flash for navigation is bad.
Sure, Jacob has a valid point that Flash can be misused—and there are certainly examples of that to back up the claim, however as we move into Web 2.0—Flash, Ajax, Flex and other technologies are increasingly being used in intelligent and compelling ways. Not sure what sites Jacob has been looking at these days—but he needs to dig a little deeper.
There's a new breed of "commerce" sites out there (more like shopping experiences that mimic the real world). Kobalt Shop is one of them. It's in the same genre as Shop Composition. Essentially, what these sites do is elevate online shopping closer to what people experience offline. There is a de-emphasis of page-by-page interactions (imagine if your checkout clerk paused several times for 2-3 seconds during your checkout). Fluidity and a natural flow replace unnatural page loads. Stay tuned, there will be more examples of this coming soon to a browser near you.
Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together
I've been a fan of this collaborative effort for some time. If you have not checked out Housingmaps—you should. It's a great example of merging two great experiences into one. The map engine powered by Google is delicious by itself, but then you get the benefit of directly linking into Craigslist's Data—photos and all. Yum. Makes me want to put my place on the market.
The Future Amazon Shopping Experience?
Lazlo Systems has teamed up with Amazon to prototype this music browsing/shopping experience. It's worth playing around with—combines drag-n-drop functionality with a "pageless" interface reminicent of the TJ Maxx shopping cart combined with a dash of the Xbox "blades" design. It will be interesting to see if this eventually takes off. The interface better mimics a true browsing experience. The search feature works great and your always one click away from managing your cart or other features without ever losing your place.
It's like going down to the local Best Buy, getting in line and having someone save your place while you add more items. The prototype can bee seen here.