Good news for Sun-shaped People:
"The majority of those reaching out to embrace this trend have their
roots in the UI industry rather than industrial design. While
traditional product and graphic design practitioners enter the field
with a foundation based on design history, emphasis on form, method and
process, those in the UI field come from myriad backgrounds such as
software engineering, marketing, and brand strategy. Without a common
heritage and education, these designers are more comfortable working
with disparate client groups and in interdisciplinary teams."
~Niti Bhan, Seismic Shift: Rethinking the Design Industry
"To get more reliability (business approach), you sacrifice validity (design approach). And vice-versa."
— Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Business, Univerity of Toronto
Source: Strategy '07 conference blog
As the quality of digital experience improves; the value of creating passionate users is becoming clear to brands wishing to thrive in the "experience economy". Provide an experience that is useful, usable, desirable, and differentiated and you will create demand for your brand and delight your customers.
But if passionate users (or customers, or consumers) is the "WHAT"—the end result which we aspire to attain, then what about the "HOW" in regards to the role in which design plays in all of this? And I'm not just talking about visual design here. As designers of digital experiences, what are we doing to develop compassion toward the users we are designing for?
Ok, if you are going to get defensive while reading this article, now might be the right time. If you are an Interaction Designer, you probably feel that your whole existence is dedicated to meeting the wants and needs of users. If you are a Visual Designer, you might feel that you possess heightened sensitivities, which allow you to be more "empathetic" while designing for your audience.
Well, if you feel you are doing all you can to be a compassionate designer, then there is no need to continue reading. But if you think you can do more—read on. I have this theory. My theory is that when we feel that we get really good at something. When we begin to consider ourselves "experts", that is when we become "at risk" for losing (or de-emphasizing) our compassion for the customer—the people we design for.
Think about it this way. It happens to Doctors. The people who swear to uphold Hippocratic oaths. The same people who sometimes hold the key to life or death. When a Surgeon gets so good at his or her craft, sometimes compassion takes a back seat to the honorable goal of saving lives. Sometimes bedside manners become compromised in the process of moving on to the next patient. It's not intentional or out of malice—it just happens. All professionals are vulnerable to this. When we get really good at something, we're tempted to think, "I've done this hundreds of times—I know what I'm doing."
We are tempted to think, "This is my area of expertise".
Usability, Interface Design. Visual Design. Motion Design. Copywriting. Marketing. All of the above. Let's be honest with ourselves. How many times have we made a design decision that was in the interest of winning an award rather than winning over the customer? Or how many times have we included a deliverable because it validated our role as opposed to validating the life of a consumer?
We've all done it. Oh, you haven't? Liar.
What exactly does it mean to be a compassionate designer? It means doing things that help us not only understand, but relate to the users we design for. To feel for them. To put ourselves in their shoes, even if our own lives are totally opposite from them. Sound simple? It is. You just have to do it.
Here are some practical ways we can develop compassion for our users:
1. Get out of the office
Put down that design magazine and boxes+arrows article. Go out into the real world. Watch. Listen. Observe.
2. Talk to someone
Talk to the people you are designing for. Chances are you won’t be able to relate to them at first. When you get to this point—then you know you’re doing something right.
3. Eat, sleep, dream curiosity
Be curious. Be very curious. Don’t know how? Find yourself a five-year-old, and hang out with them for a while. Then ask the same questions they do.
4. Do what they do
Are you designing for stay-at-home moms? Take the day off and go to a park. Hover around schools during drop off time. Walk a mile in their shoes. Better yet, just walk with them.
"Blogs are odd resources that sprout up around conferences. They usually take a back seat to the main activities, but they can sometimes provide a good place for more conversation.
In order to get this blog going, we have surveyed the illustrious list of speakers -- and a variety of other favorite creative leaders -- on a simple question: "What role does creativity play in design strategy?"
We present our findings here in this space, and hope that we might all think together about these 3 words: creativity, design, strategy.
— John Maeda + Becky Bermont (MIT Media Lab)"
Let the conversation begin. Oh, and speaking of conversation—I recently found out that Helen Walters from BusinessWeek will be there. Helen did the editing for my BW article titled "It's The Conversation Economy Stupid". Looking forward to meeting Helen and hopefully connecting with some L+E readers as well (I know you're out there...). :-)
Also, see IIT's Institute of Design's blog called D log—it's chock full of visuals.
Leisa over at Disambiguity says "Yes, you should be using personas". I agree. And I would take it one step further. In addition to using personas, shouldn't we take a step back and visualize the "persona ecosystem"? Personas are an effective way to look at users/consumers/customers in a way that goes deeper than marketing demographics. In fact, a persona that is done right shouldn't look much like a marketing segment at all (though it can still contain basic demographic info such as age etc.)
Here's a basic description from Wikipedia:
"Personas or personae are fictitious characters that are created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic that might use a site or product. Personas are given characteristics and are assumed to be in particular environments based on known users’ requirements so that these elements can be taken into consideration when creating scenarios for conceptualizing a site. Cooper (1999) outlined the general characteristics and uses of personas for product design and development.
In the context of software requirements gathering, a user persona is a representation of a real audience group. A persona description includes a user’s context, goals, pain points, and major questions that need answers. Personas are a common tool in Interaction Design (IxD)"
Personas often combine narratives and sometimes scenarios that often go into great detail to paint a plausible profile which looks at a person's motivations, goals, mindset, wants, needs, desires etc. And often times, personas are often cross-channel—taking a holistic look at the entire consumer experience.
What I've been toying with is the idea of showing the persona ecosystem in a simplistic and visual format (shown above). This artifact would not replace a persona—on the contrary it should co-exist with one. Where a persona can go deep, a persona ecosystem can go broad showing what is influencing the individual's behavior as well as what channels and touch points they may use.
Tip of the hat to Julie Fleischer who helped inspire the "Planner-In-Chief" shown in this particular example. Happy to say that Julie is now working with Digitas Chicago.
"We have to recognize that the practice of experience design is miscellaneous.
Unfortunately, standard thought around design work is rooted in a typical, and, I would argue, retrograde, notion of what a practice and/or discipline is. Most organizations are stuck in classic mid-19th to 20th century thinking, borne of a manufacturing economy, where optimization arose when people were as interchangeable as the parts of the machines they built.
21st century work is going to have to be much more synthetic, mixed-up, and uncertain, largely because of the forces that Weinberger points to in his book.
I think it’s a key reason why experience designers have had such a hard time defining their work. It escapes definition.
And you know what, that’s a good sign."
For the past several years, since this whole "Internet thing" has really taken off—we've been told that handing over control in your content, your brand, your PR, etc.—is risky business. Well it is—there are no guarantees. Remember the Chevy Tahoe ads? Give your consumers a blank piece of paper to write on and you don't know what they'll say about you.
But how safe is it to have complete control of your content these days? A couple of stories have come to my attention recently. At first—I thought they were totally unrelated and I planned on writing about them separately. Now I'm not so sure. In my Marketing Profs Webinar, I called out USA Today's re-design as a good experience citing the easy registration and social features as a big plus. Media Post has just published a report which claims that registrations on USA Today are up a whopping 380%.
"USA TODAY'S COMMUNITY-CENTRIC MAKEOVER LAST month appears to be paying off in dividends. Indeed, the site has seen a dramatic 380% increase in registrations since the re-launch, while its unique visitor rates have grown 21% from February, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.
Targeting today's interaction-hungry readers, the Gannett-owned paper last month relaunched its Web site in the guise of a social network laden with video, blogs, dynamic content-sharing and recommendation tools.
As such, the new USAToday.com includes expanded user-profile and social-network capabilities, and public comment and content contribution tools across the site. In March, nearly 40,000 user comments were posted on the site."
Can this be chalked up to ROC (Return On Community)? Well, not really. The re-design offered huge improvements all around including a fast and simple registration process which never takes you off the front page. But I do think that the social features have something to do with it as well. So USA Today hands a little "control" over to their community and it turns out pretty well for them.
What about when we seek to control our content? Is there any risk in this? Traditionally there never was—but consider this recent development. Bruce Nussbaum writes about the fact that he was not allowed to blog snippets from A Beautiful Diversion, a free downloadable PDF organized by GK VanPatter of NextD (a site dedicated to the design community). Bruce writes:
"I was censored by GK and told I could not take the 50 comments off the pdf on his journal. This is what he emailed me: "I believe you have been ill advised in your “Enemies” mission. I don’t agree/share your views and ways, so honestly I have no interest in continuing Beautiful Diversion on your “blog”. We are quite happy with its present distribution. Thousands have already been downloaded from the NextD site."
OK, let this sink in for a moment. First we have to ask ourselves "does GK have the right"? Yes, GK has every right—the document is his doing. And he exercised his right through expressing his wishes via e-mail. Now, let's ask a similar question of Bruce—does he have a right to blog about his feelings of "censorship"? Yes, he does. It's Bruce's blog and he exercised his right to speak his mind. In the spirit of transparency, Bruce asked my opinion on this matter and I advised him that if he had strong feelings about this, that he should make it an even broader issue. Bruce did just that—but he went further and added the details of his interaction with GK. This surprised me, but I guess it shows just how strongly he feels about it.
I have to say that I'm fascinated by the dynamic of these events. On one hand we've got mainstream media outlets such as USAToday and BusinessWeek either designing for their communities—or wanting to distribute it's content. On the other hand, you've got a community member seeking to control the format of his content. No disrespect to GK who I don't know—but I'm not sure what the design community gains by this move. Nussbaum's blog has some quality readership, and to be honest—I'm not confident that the average businessperson would download the sixty page document and read it word for word. In my opinion it wouldn't be a bad idea to get some of that content out to a broader audience in bite-sized nuggets. Is this so bad?
So there you have it. It feels a little like bizarro world to me, but I could be wrong. I'll leave this post with a question put toward the contributors of A Beautiful Diversion. Was GK doing the right thing by asking Bruce not to re-distribute your thoughts on his BusinessWeek blog? The question seems only fair since you are the ones who provided the content in the first place. Would love to hear from you.
Contributors: Sir George Cox, Tony Fry, John Thackara, Elizabeth Pastor, Anne-Marie Willis, Tim Brown, GK VanPatter, Neal Moore, Geoff Crook, George Kembel, Ellen Lupton, Thomas Noller, Mark Breitenberg, Kristian Bengtsson, Gill Wildman, Cameron Tonkinwise, Gunnar Swanson, MP Ranjan, Uday Dandavate, Richard Buchanan, William Tate, Paul J. Nini, Martin Mangold, Peter Schreck, Nate Burgos, Jaime Barrett, Birgit H. Jevnaker, Jean Schneider, Thomas S. Bley, Michelle Siegel, Chris Arnold, Dan Roam, Adam Kallish, Stefan Holmlid, Hans Kaspar Hugentobler, Alun Price, Nicola Morelli, Shelley Evenson, William Tschumy, Zachary Jean Paradis, Brett Patching, Leslie Alfin, Tiiu Poldma, Loretta Staples, Jørgen Rasmussen, Claire Hartten, Michael Erlhoff, Eric Niu, Alex Cheek, David Sless, Christopher Vice.
Here's some interesting Stats I recieved recently via e-mail from Christopher G. Fox of Bain & Company:
Bain & Company asked over 1200 global executives about their attitudes towards top management tools and trends, and much of the data suggest that executives across industries are showing new seriousness about consumer insight:
• Nearly 6 in 10 executives are concerned that their products and services are viewed as commodities, i.e., that their value is easily replaceable by cheaper competitors
• Just over half of executives believe that insufficient consumer insight is hindering their performance
• Customer loyalty is understood to be an issue, but 44% of executives do not believe their company has a clear vision for how to improve it
• So-called "soft" issues matter internally as well. 91% of the respondents felt that culture was as important as strategy for business success
Executive anxieties about losing touch with their customers is driving higher and higher usage of customer tools such as CRM and segmentation. These tools have moved from below average use to second and third place, respectively, in the 10 years since Bain has included them in the survey:
• 84% of executives are now using CRM
• 82% are using segmentation to tailor their marketing programs and offerings to groups of customers who exhibit common patterns of behavior
• New tools are emerging. Use of loyalty management is at 51%, and the use of ethnographic methods to observe customers in the real world is becoming more mainstream, at 35%. But in 2006, each of those tools rank below average in terms of executive satisfaction.
So here's where we landed in response to Bruce Nussbaum's "Enemy of Design" post. The safe choice won out. :) Actually the safe choice was probably the sane choice as much of Bruce's post was meant to be provocative to get us thinking. But a good portion of you agreed with the sentiment. The "other responses" show what some of you typed in. Biggest surprise for me at least was that 5 of you could care less. Too bad as I think there were a lot of important issues raised in Bruce's piece.
Any last thoughts on this before we move on?
A little over a week ago, BusinessWeek's Bruce Nussbaum published a provocative blog post which got the design (and non-design) community talking. Given my earlier post, you know where I stand. But how about you?
Take a moment to select an option from the poll shown in this post. If you don't see a choice that you like, feel free to add a thought to "other". Feed readers can view the poll here.
"design" is inherently about control.”
Allow me to tell a story. This story is fictional, but maybe you’ll find value in it and maybe you wont. Either way, I'll be honored that you read it.
Dick and Jane are professional architects, both are excellent at what they do—though they have very different working styles. One day the Mayor of Chicago invites Dick in Jane to participate in a new park program where each of them will be commissioned to design a children's playground environment and given cart blanche to do whatever they want. The Mayor encourages Dick and Jane to buck traditional convention and come up with something “innovative”. The only requirements are that the playgrounds be kid-friendly, accessible and encourage play, socialization and recreation. In other words a positive and sustainable experience.
Dick and Jane go to work. Each of them designs—yes DESIGNS a playground environment that is unique, useable, differentiated and just plain cool. Though each of their designs are different—both encourage meaningful play, interaction, socialization, and recreation. The Mayor is thrilled as he and his team evaluates the prototyped models of the designs. He approves both of the designs and production/construction begins immediately.
At the opening of both playgrounds, hundreds of city kids swarm the amazing new playgrounds in delight. Both Dick and Jane are invited to the events to see their playground designs come to life.
But both designers have different reactions.
As Dick watches the children test out every object, climbing crawling and investigating he finds himself “wincing” inside as he witnesses children interacting with his creation in ways he didn’t predict and doesn’t really approve. Though he doesn’t want to admit it—it makes him uncomfortable. A little voice inside his head is quietly saying “no, that’s not how it works—please don’t do that.” and “that’s not how it’s meant to be used”. Dick smiles along as he watches the children enjoying themselves while deep down inside, he’s disappointed that his creation was not interacted with “appropriately”. He walks away with mixed feelings.
Halfway across town, Jane is observing the children playing on her playground. She also experiences a similar phenomenon, but reacts to it very differently. The children are sliding down things she didn’t design for that. They’re gathering in areas that were meant to support only small groups. Jane is surprised, but pleasantly at how the children are playing in her environment. She begins to take notes. She’s inspired. She gets ideas about how facets from this design could be used in some of her other projects. Though the outcome is different from what she planned and anticipate—she’s thrilled.
"design" is inherently about control.”
So, is design inherently about control? Maybe to Dick it was. Maybe for him the validation that he’s a good designer is underscored by people interacting in his environment the way he envisioned them to. For Jane, it’s the opposite. She understands that people are unpredictable and she feeds off of the unexpected results. It makes her better at what she does and inspires new ideas and creativity. She thrives on it. Jane would make a good conversation architect.
"design" is inherently about control.”
Are we really so sure that conversations can’t and shouldn’t be “designed”? Does design = control? What would the developers/designers of Twitter say about their application which has evolved into something that goes beyond answering “What are you doing?”. Are they not designers because their application is used in ways that maybe were not predicted? Sure baking soda can be used to keep refrigerators smelling fresh, which was maybe not the original intent—but somebody concieved, invented and created baking soda.
Each and every “2.0” application is architected, designed and developed. Many of these digital experiences facilitate dialogue which manifests itself in different ways. We the people, the users, the consumers, co-creators and mashers then become the "children" who decide how we want to play and socialize. We do what comes natural. But that doesn't mean our playground was never designed in the first place—it was, we just do what children have always done. We play. We investigate and interact with our environments. We improvise and adapt.
"design" is inherently about control.”
I'm not so sure that it is. And if design is about control, then maybe I shouldn't be a designer.
Update: I did a boo-boo and should have uploaded a PDF not PPT. This version of the post includes a more readable version of the deck. "Bip" will still hate it—maybe it's even more evil now that you can read some more of the slides. Ahh well, that's how it goes. :)
"David—good design is good business and you have demonstrated an ability to design conversations"
This is part of a handwritten note I recieved from Valeria Maltoni a while back, which came along with a signed copy of Mavericks at Work. The book and note was a nice gesture. And a source of inspiration.
The Slideshare deck above is a "beta version" of what I've been working on for my upcoming Webinar on Marketing Profs. You'll need to hear the voiceover for the full effect, but here's basically what's on my mind these days—the deck is a true mash up of ideas I've come across as well as what's been in my head:
Marketing has traditionally been about messages
Marketing is increasingly becoming about experiences
These experiences are enhanced by facilitating conversations and promoting community
This converts passive consumers to active participants, seeking relationships
Relationships lead to loyalty, affinity, and an emotional connection.
We need to design conversations.
We need to stop marketing.
We need to become conversation architects.
This is what's on my mind these days. These are themes you'll hear about on the Webinar and at SOBCon. And while I'm on the subject of SOBCon, here is a snippet from the description of my outline which is aimed at bloggers looking to take their blogs to the next level:
Designing Conversations: How “Conversation Architecture” can result in an effective, differentiated blog experience.
"David, will combine his strengths in visual communications and experience design to show you how you can tap these techniques to help differentiate your blog and build a better experience for your community.
Sometimes this all feels like a second job. One that doesn't pay the bills. But being I'd rather be a participant than spectator—so in this context it's worth it. So here's where my head is at. Thoughts welcome as you always make my thinking better."
Everything in beta.
Stop what you're doing and go read this.
Bruce Nussbaum of BusinessWeek has written what I consider to be a near-manifesto which challenges our assumptions of what design is, who designers are—and how this all impacts the business world as we move into the next generation (and yes, it's relevant to brands). The piece is a bold form of communication, and I think comes from the heart. Bruce shares a bit of personal experience in how he is trying to shape his own teams and working process. He's also a little "politically incorrect" calling out Al Gore for his own hefty carbon footprint. And Bruce uses Mink fur coats to illustrate the idea of sustainability—a risky analogy, but when you read it in context, makes perfect sense. Personally for me—this is one of the more refreshing reads I've seen from a mainstream business journalist in a while. He almost sounds like a "blogger". You got a problem with that? :)
Check out the post and do so with an open mind. Let it simmer a bit. Then think about it as you start your day on Monday morning. Below are some choice bits—I added some of my own visuals where it seemed like there was a fit. Enjoy.
"Are Designers The Enemy of Design?
In the name of provocation, let me start by saying that DESIGNERS SUCK. I’m sorry. It’s true. DESIGNERS SUCK. There’s a big backlash against design going on today and it’s because designers suck.
So let me tell you why. Designers suck because they are arrogant. The blogs and websites are full of designers shouting how awful it is that now, thanks to Macs, Web 2.0, even YouTube, EVERYONE is a designer. Core 77 recently ran an article on this backlash and so did we on our Innovation & Design site. Designers are saying that Design is everywhere, done by everyone. So Design is debased, eroded, insulted. The subtext, of course, is that Real design can only be done by great star designers."
"This is simply not true. Design Democracy is the wave of the future."
"But the design of our music experiences, the design of our MySpace pages, the design of our blogs, the design of our clothes, the design of our online community chats, the design of our Class of ’95 brochures, the design of our screens, the design of the designs on our bodies—We are all designing more of our lives. And with more and more tools, we, the masses, want to design anything that touches us on the journey, the big journey through life. People want to participate in the design of their lives. They insist on being part of the conversation about their lives."
"Egos and silos are coming down, participation is expanding, tools are widespread and everyone wants to play. People want to be in the design sandbox so you have to figure out how to get them in and do design with them."
"Today, I kind of coach a team of about 8 people, 6 women in their early 30’s, one guy in his thirties, and a women in her twenties (she’s Canadian and a generation ahead of the 30-something sisters in technology). Our process is totally different from the hierarchical way of writing and editing we had just a few years ago. We all write for both platforms—online and print, and do a little TV on the side. Our job today as journalists is to curate conversations among groups within our audience"
"Business men and women don’t like the term “design.” I think they think it implies drapes or dresses. Even top CEOs who embrace design don’t want to call it that. They want to call it “Innovation.” That has a manly right to it. It’s strong, techie."
"But how do people who’ve spent a lifetime using their left-brain, suddenly shift to using both their left and their right? How do people used to deconstructing old problems into their parts and squeezing answers out of each of them then learn to see problems with fresh eyes and integrate parts of many solutions into one new one."
"Over the past decade, design has evolved to become an articulated, formalized method of solving problems that can be widely used in business—and in civil society. Design’s focus on observing consumer/patient/student—human behavior, it’s emphasis on iteration and speed, its ability to construct, not destruct, its search for new options and opportunities, its ability to connect to powerful emotions, its optimism, made converts out of tough CEOs."
"We design stories with our audience. As John Battelle said recently, the conversation now is the content. It’s not about the finished story but about the ongoing story. It’s the conversation. And since most conversations don’t have a conclusion, they are ongoing. We live a life in beta."
We live life in beta. That's a nice way to summarize the spirit of the essay. You can look at BusinessWeek critically and poke all kinds of holes in what they do if you want. Same with any organization. But I believe Bruce and his staff are genuinely grappling with the changes we're witnessing and trying to make sense of it—even in the context of how it applies to a big mainstream publication like BusinessWeek. They're out there. Looking. Learning. Taking it in. Prior to my mentions in BusinessWeek, it was Jessi Hempel who found me—I didn't find her.
Lastly, another reason that I relate to Bruce's essay is that I think we may be witnessing a gradual but real change in how we create. The ego-driven top down, traditional style of management will continue to be challenged in the years to come. Innovation will continue to come from anywhere—in places we least expect it. Designers may still have the stigma of being stylists—but that won't matter, because at the end of the day good experiences which lead to relationships will rule. Relationships between people and brands and with each other. And that, my friends is by design.
Found this via Russell Davies. It's the road to hell according to graphic design legend Milton Glaser. Visually clever—but a little PC and maybe just a bit too serious. Anyone else want to add to the list?
Here's my vote for #13:
13. Designing a fake blog and working with frustrated copywriters who try desperately to sound "authentic" and "hip".
Update: Check out this story about a little boy named "Eddie". Delightful.
Time to put some principles from Made to Stick into practice. Last year, I posted a visual of The Holy Trinity of Experience Design. I've been wanting to update this for a while. Basically it was inspired by Kevin Mullet's Essence of Rich Internet Applications with my own touches added to it. But it was missing a few things. Namely that the experiences we create need to stand the test of time, adapt and evolve. In other words—be sustainable (See Don Norman's comment on the trinity post). Also, while I like the idea and sound of the word Storytelling, I think what we're really doing is Storyswapping. So, I also made a change there to stress sharing.
But the reason why I reference Made to Stick is because I wanted a simple way to recall this. And since I envisioned it being a diamond vs. the original triangle—ED (Experience Diamond) was conceived.
So, meet Ed. Hope you make his acquaintance. (and hope I can too!)
Today is a great day to ponder how we feel about the color Red. For those of you who love Red—you may be in your glory as every product/greeting you can imagine is sporting the color. For those of you who aren't a big fan of Red, you may be looking forward to tomorrow when it's all over.
Red is a passionate color. Most people have fairly strong feelings about it either way (positive or negative). If you think about it—it makes perfect sense. Aside from being one of the primary color choices—Red can be symbolic of both life or death (blood), power, passion and intensity (fire), or violence (bloodshed).
Red is the color of passion.
Think about the base definition of the word passion. Passion can describe enthusiasm. It can describe violence (crimes of passion). It's an excellent word to describe very strong and intense feelings of some kind.
Passion is the opposite of neutrality
Now here is something interesting. Think about what happens when you take a passionate color like Red and add another color to it? What happens?
For me personally, I feel this:
Red + Black: aggression and power (Darth Maul)
Red + White: romance, and the smell of peppermint (candy canes)
Red + Yellow: Energy, and for some strange reason—Ronald McDonald
How do the color combinations make you feel? How do you feel about Red?
Thoughts about using Red in your brand, product or design should include this:
-Are you trying to make a statement? What is it?
-Are you passionate about something? What?
-If Red represents the heart of your brand—what color represents the soul?
Think about the "Red" global campaign against AIDS—where the color IS the campaign. Think about the power and passion associated with the movement to rid the world of a horrible disease. Bottom line, if Red is the color of passion as opposed to the color of neutrality—know why you are using it.
Oh yeah. And Happy Valentine's day. :)
If you've been loving up your blog but still have a static Website that you've been neglecting if not ignoring completely, here are a few simple ways you can "2.0-fy" your site with a very minor investment in time (updates took me about 45 minutes).
1. Get something up on your homepage that drives traffic to your blog
These days even if a well-designed self promotional site serves it's purpose—it doesn't offer the same degree of conversation and "life" that your blog may be exhibiting. A simple update on your homepage can take only minutes.
2. Update what you've been up to
If you already have a space on your site created for latest news, go ahead and update it. Make sure that the content is relevant to how you've been evolving what you do.
3. Breath life into your static 1.0 site with a widget
Setting up a widget on your site that pulls live content from your blogs takes nothing more than a few short steps and some copy and pasting. It's a no-brainer.
Of course you can totally overhaul your site, refresh stylesheets and integrate in many effective ways—but the purpose of this post is to explore what can be done in a very short amount of time with minimum effort. I was dreading updating my site and haven't touched it in over a year and I don't have the time to re-think what I want to do with it. Making these simple changes better align my site with the blog and I didn't even break a sweat.
When first starting at Digitas, I was part of a small group tasked with coming up with new ways to approach our work. After many sessions—we ended up with a simple set of high-level principals. Uncover, Define, Ideate. Each principal housed a subset of techniques we could apply to an initiative. The techniques could be varied based on how we would approach each problem. In essence it was a toolkit.
However, the group dissolved and we went on with our everyday work. But before we did, I mocked up this little set of cards and recently came across it again. There's something here that's worth re-exploring and having this as an artifact helps reinforce the thought more than scribbled notes, an excel document or a bulleted powerpoint slide ever could.
That's the power of an artifact. Even if you don't take the idea to full execution, it leaves you with something tangible which can inspire future ideas. Maybe it's time to come back to the approach we began outlining here. Even if we don't—it's still nice to have the artifact.
Scott Weisbrod of Experience Planner has compiled a sort of "year-in-review" which highlights significant content from his blog over the past year. It's definitely worth looking at if you are interested in design, user experience, and/or how consumers and brands connect in today's digital age.
Also notice that Scott is tapping his own skill set here as a hybrid organizer of information and storyteller. Scott was able to look back nearly a year and take the complexities of it—then simplify and boil it down into a single cohesive blog post. Wouldn't you like to be able to do that? I would.
Some nice thinking in the same spirit of "Creativity 2.E": (click image to engarge)
"Uday Dandavate, principal of the participatory design agency Sonic Rim, and faculty member of the Danish 180º Academy, just wrote a thought-provoking post on the Anthrodesign Yahoo! Group arguing that it is important for designers to incorporate MacroDesign concepts and top-down thinking in their approach."
"If I follow the evolution of the field of design, I do believe that
we have borrowed concepts and inspiration from a variety of fields
including architecture, psychology, sociology and anthropology. In
continuation of my earlier post on scaling design, I have been
wandering around (intellectually) to search for new inspiration and
concepts that would help me develop my ideas about taking design at a
more strategic and mass scale. I think I have found some direction and
want to share it with you, so that together, we can help define new
directions, ideas, tools and language for what I now propose to call
"There is some learning for us and a great opportunity to take Design to a strategic level, if we study the evolution of these two types of economics. Design Education, in my view should incorporate MacroDesign concepts, especially at graduate level. I do believe that organizations that operate at higher levels such as governments (local and national), International development agencies (such as UNDP, WHO, UNESCO), international consortiums of global corporations and many such macro level organizations would benefit from professionals specializing in using design and innovation as a macro level thinking process."
Read the full post at Putting People First
You know I'm on vacation because I actually pick up a PRINT version of the WSJ at a local coffee shop and start reading it. What caught my attention is that the paper has been re-designed just in time for the new year. The re-design stresses bolder headlines, a brighter look and even a new font created specifically for the WSJ called "Exchange".
The re-design adheres to eight key principals as outlined by Mario R. Garcia, CEO of Garcia Media:
1. Make it easier for readers to navigate the Journal.
2. Create a hierarchy of stories, so readers know the relative importance of news.
3. Maintain the best visual traditions of the Journal.
4. Remember that Journal readers come to read, not to look.
5. Innovate graphically where improvements can be made.
6. Don't skimp on good journalism.
7. Balance long-form stories with secondary readings and quick story summaries.
8. Guide readers to the Online Journal, but don't overdo it.
You'll have to read section G8 in January 2nd's edition for the full descriptions. After reading the piece, I couldn't help but feeling that the WSJ is engaged in a delicate balancing act. On one hand, they want to stay true to their brand by stressing text and long form content. On the other, it seems they are making changes to accomodate reader "scanning". Bolder headlines, a brighter color palette and visuals are all techniques that help people get through content quickly. The emphasis on making the WSJ easier to read reminds me of what we try to do on content heavy Web pages. In short, I think the effort is aimed at both preserving tradition while inderectly acknowledging that the way people absorb content is changing. The WSJ needs to support readers who "submerge" as well as those who "skim". And the reference to gently pointing folks online also underscores the delicate balance between tradition and relevancy.
Anyway, I though the re-design article was interesting. On a totally unrelated note, I've been doing all of my blogging in the past week on nothing but a T-Mobile Sidekick. It's been kind of nice to be away from the laptop, but still be able to produce and share content. I think we'll see an vast increase in mobile blogging once Wi-Fi networks and mobile devices with usable typepads become more pervasive.
"We're clearly at an inflection point. I'm not even a traditional ad-guy and I've been asked to write this, so what does that say? We're all firmly in this together—marketers, designers, clients, agencies, researchers, ethnographers, art directors and writers, all being sniped at, out-thought, and remixed by consumers younger than our own kids. Hard as it is to say, in most cases, they're as good, if not better, at this stuff than we are. Now, together, we must figure out where to go from here."
This made me think of a presentation I gave when first joining Digitas (I've since updated with some of my visuals). It's a high-level overview of the role of design (speaking very broadly here) in the context of the digital agency. So back to the "ad guy" theme...this leaves me with several questions:
1. What does the future ad guy/gal look like?
2. Is he/she a designer of some shape, form or kind?
3. Will the future of advertising even remotely resemble the current status quo?
4. Will we still call it advertising?
Of course all thoughts expressed will help fuel future posts. My, that writers block I briefly suffered from didn't last very long... ;)
From Communication Arts/Design Interact:
"This site supports IBM’s “Innovation That Matters” campaign by serving up business issues that matter most to senior executives.
Diverse and worthwhile content and an interface that makes accessing it a unique and engaging experience equal a site that’s anything but business as usual.
With a strong editorial focus, content is a treasure trove of white papers, studies, videos, audio podcasts and newsletters produced by some of the sharpest minds in business and technology (who users can easily connect with via handy e-mail links). A series of tools enable users to track worldwide business trends that cross reference the content on the site and the international business press and blogosphere."
I like that they included the blogoshphere as part of the trend resources that can be tracked. Kudos to the team. I'm sure they busted their arses on this one.
David Sciascia, creative director
Rebecca Picatoste/Catherine Forsman, interactive strategy/design
Ted Sanders/Ray Vazquez/Francois Balmelle/Peter Balogh, Flash design/development
Charles Truett/Chloe Cooke/Mallory Whitelaw, visual designers
Matt Barthel/Adrienne Matt, content strategy/development
Web site: www-306.ibm.com/innovation
A collection of Apple iPhone concepts from various sources can be found at the Apple iPhone blog
Here are some of my faves:
A little like a "remote" but still pretty cool.
With the upcoming release of Microsoft’s new OS, called Vista (shown above)—Microsoft takes a page out of the Apple, Nike, Target, and even Motorola play book and gets serious about the role of design in the Microsoft brand experience. Will the new OS, transform the way Microsoft is perceived similar to what Motorola experienced with the break through RAZR? Only time will tell.
But, something seems to be in the water at Microsoft. Last week I had lunch with Chris Bernard, a “User Experience Evangelist” with Microsoft. An alumni of Chicago’s own Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chris is working hard at weaving design principals and the role it plays in the entire customer experience into the fabric of Microsoft's culture. It’s a huge company and he will no doubt have his work cut out for him as traditionally, this hasn’t been at the core of Microsoft's strengths. To be fair, Microsoft did tap the power of design heavily with the release of the Xbox. Not only was the game interface totally overhauled, but the unit itself was transformed from a “black box” to a thing of beauty (and power) with the shift to a sleek, organic, white unit which can be stood up or placed on it’s side.
How does Microsoft intend to get here? They are incorporating a design philosophy they call AERO. It goes something like this:
“Ease of use is important but we want to also really improve Efficiency for people using Windows a lot, and make them more productive. We want the product to deliver more than just doing what it is supposed to enable you to do: we want to evoke a positive emotional connection (when people feel better about what they are doing they in general are more productive, make less mistakes, take more pride in their accomplishments etc. which is all goodness, also for business)".
Will the AERO design philosophy work? There are some bits of evidence. As Chris and I chatted, he demonstrated some software design applications Microsoft is rolling out. But as he demonstrated these, I was also paying close attention the the Vista OS that was running on his laptop. Sure, it resembled Apple in some ways—but I couldn’t help but wonder how a PC user would react to the changes. Here’s a couple of highlights:
From what I could tell in my brief encounter with Vista, it looked pretty sweet—definitely a big move for Microsoft, but I have to get my hands on it for the true test. So, will design for the entire customer experience help move Microsoft forward? We’ll have to see. An improved operating system that is “useful, usable, desirable, and feasible” to use Microsoft’s own words is good start. But it’s a start. In my meeting with Chris, I shared with him that the core reason I opted not to purchase the Motorola Q after playing with it. Though I loved the small, stylish smart phone itself—I had difficulty getting past some interface issues related to that particular version of Windows Mobile.
In the end, it just didn’t “feel” right. I think Microsoft is on to something here with their newfound focus on the user experience across all touch points. People make decisions on what “feels” right and design in the context of providing a good experience has a lot to do with that. That said, does Microsoft have what it takes to make their users "feel great"?
Note: visuals in this post are pulled from Microsoft and referenced with permission.
Roger von Oech and I have been having an interesting series of discussions around his Ball of Whacks. I've been watching my 6-year-old play with it for a while now, and each time I look at it—I cant help but wonder how the product would be affected if it came in an array of colors in addition to Red.
Color is one of those fascinating things that's hard to put a finger on. Sometimes people react to color in totally emotional if not irrational ways expressing preferences for colors that fit their personal tastes. Automobiles are a great example of this. You may love that Mini Cooper in Red, but hate it in Green. And someone else may have the opposite reaction. Color is also about mood:
Other times color is used to help convey information, hierarchy and data. Prime examples here would be charts, graphs, information graphics, displays, manuals etc. Here color becomes more about utility, clarity and context.
But color is powerful, no doubt about it. And like any power it can be harnessed, used for good or abused. I still shudder each time I walk into an office that mixes Teal and Magenta with a touch of faux brush patterns thrown in for good measure. Using color should be a deliberate exercise. When we pick colors we are essentially saying things about ourselves and/or attempting to connect with the sensibilities of our audience. When I first designed my personal site, I chose a color pallete that both suited my personality but I also deliberately chose colors that can be found in nature. People tend to respond well to colors rooted in nature because we are hard-wired to appreciate the design of nature.
So back to Roger's Ball of Whacks. I wondered what would happen if I played around with a few colors. Here are some thoughts as to how color can change the dynamics of this product:
1. Like automobiles, you can choose one that fits your personal preference
2. The Ball can become a "room accessory"—something that coordinates with your office or desk ensemble
3. Hand out all color variations at a creative workshop and encourage people to trade pieces, mix colors and end up with a creation that started out as monochromatic and ended up in Technicolor
4. Produce limited edition colors (for collectors)
5. Come up with a line of "kid colors" just for them
You get the idea. Sometimes color changes everything, as long as you know what you want to accomplish with the use of it. So help Roger out will ya? Do any of the colors above speak to you? If not, what color (or colors) would you want your Ball of Whacks to be?
"Yes, indeed. IA as it has lived will soon die. Not because it wasn’t valuable, not because IA’s didn’t do great work, but because the Web is moving on."
So says Joshua Porter of Bokardo.com
Now before you take either side of the debate regarding the role and future of Information Architects (IA's), I would ask this question. Does the term accurately represent what a (insert title here) does? Or if you are an IA, do you feel it does?
The answer probably depends on the type of work you are doing and how you do it.
I began working with IA's back in 1998 when the role consisted mainly of—well, organizing information in a cohesive and usable format in the context of Website design. Since then, the profession, practitioners and certainly the Web have all evolved considerably. From my perspective, one of the most significant changes has been the shift from Websites to interactive experiences which actually have more in common with actual products than they do their ancestral Web counterparts. In short, unless you are working on a traditional site structure, what you do may have more in common with product design than information architecture. Several years ago, I moderated a work session at the IIT Strategy conference where we discussed a related topic.
If you look at the description, you'll notice that I didn't use the title Information Architects even though that's what we called them at agency.com. I referred to the discipline as Interaction Designers (ironically, that's the title we use at Digitas). In my opinion it's a broader term that is more accurate to the direction that IA seems to be gradually moving in.
The difference? The words Interaction + Design. Design used not to denote aesthetic, but as the thinking process of how we interact with something, and the experience we have from it. Yes it's also about usability—but like product design it involves some degree of visual appeal as well—and of course functional. And methods like prototyping, proof of concepts, etc.—all borrowed from product design.
So should the title "Information Architect" go away? Actually, I don't think so. The reality is that there is still "classic IA" work which needs to be done out there and if that's the majority of the service your firm offers—it makes sense to use it (just look at the cover of the book—"Designing Large Scale Web Sites"). However, if the majority of what you do feels more like designing interactive product/experiences, vs. a large scale Website—it might be worth taking a look at.
Joshua makes this final point:
"But the fact is that IA is a theory about the inherent structure of information…the architecture of information…and if we are moving away from that we should call it something else.
Relationship Architecture, perhaps?"
Interesting thought, but I think it gets too specific. Again, if we make this about what accurately describes what you do—it's simple. Do you architect information? Do you design interactions? Or maybe you architect digital experiences? Hmmm, Experience Architect—that has a nice ring to it too. :)
My post from a while back (Creativity 2.E) has been re-published in UX Magazine. If you haven't already had a chance to read it, you can do so there (and it's print friendly!—Thanks guys). Speaking of, UX Magazine has a great collection of articles related to Digital Experience Design. Have a look if you're not already familiar with it.
My second job out of Design School was as a Broadcast Designer for the Fox News Channel located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. This was just over 10 years ago before the channel even launched. I was actually part of the design team that launched the brand new station. It was a pretty amazing experience, though I think it also prompted my move to Chicago as I was fairly burnt out after that action packed year. 24 hour Cable news is an intense environment—and looking at the election coverage, the intensity seems reflected in the broadcast design. Here's a high-level breakdown of some general observations:
Fox had lots of blinking, spinning and fading in and out going on in the lower third of the screen—over by the percentages. It took a while to get used to, and the slowly rotating logo didn't help. On a positve, the type was fairly large and easy to read.
Out of the three, I thought CNN had some interesting techniques. They used a "balance of power" scale which showed which political candidate was closer to winning, and there was also a visual that looked like a mobile phone reception meter which indicated the amount of precincts in. When the bars were full, all precincts were in.
Specifically sticking to broadcast design, I didn't think that one network really blew the others away—actually I think there is room for improvement in general when it comes to presenting information in a broadcast format. Personally, after spending a good portion of my day on the computer screen, I'm ready to give my eyes a rest.
One last observation—again speaking strictly from the broadcast design perspective, after flipping through the channels I started blurring the network identities together. Each began feeling a little similar to the other. It could be partially due to the patriotic color schemes which each one was tapping—but I wonder if any of the three are differentiated enough visually. There's some real opportunity for one of these to break the broadcast mold.
Is this Advertising? Yes. Is it product placement? Maybe. Did Nintendo pay for any of this? (I have no idea—but I'm guessing no?). The Nintendo Wii has what the industry is calling Momentum. Nintendo's managed to create a product that is seems almost designed to generate buzz (in addition to what looks like a great experience).
Wii is everywhere. From videos of real people actually using the Wii, to blogs offering in-depth analysis on the Wii phenomena supports the idea that the product and marketing are closely linked—offer up a product/service worth talking about and guess what? People will talk about you.
PS, the Wii concept is really interesting—if you watch the videos you'll see that users get pretty physically involved—so this may be the one home video game that offers a variety of games which stimulate physical coordination in addition to hand/eye coordination. I'm really curios to see how this does in the market.
As you can probably tell, I'm a fan of Marty Neumeier. Marty's Brand Gap book is a must read in my opinion. His insights into the brand and design worlds are brilliant and incredibly cohesive. He's a master communicator. Next on my to-read list is his latest book titled "Zag".
Check out the simple but effective site used to promote this book. I'm not usually a fan of the "page turn" technique, but in this format it really works. And the direct link to Amazon is effective. Sometimes innovation is plain simple. There's nothing about this that is over-thought. I'm looking forward to the read. Maybe I'll pick it up this weekend.
Here’s something to pin up on your cube or office wall Download 12_values.pdf . The next time you work on a major marketing or interactive initiative—ask yourself this question: “is what I’m doing hitting at least some of the consumer values on this list”? The 12 Consumer Values to Drive Technology-related Product and Service Innovations was created by the Washington, DC-based research and consulting firm Social Technologies. My rationale for putting this into wall-friendly visual is simple: I think agencies run the risk of infatuation with YouTube and the temptation to put all their eggs in one viral video basket. And we have to be careful about not neglecting other areas of marketing innovation.
Take this recent story from AdAge:
“With not a penny of paid media and in less than a month, "Dove Evolution," a 75-second viral film created by Ogilvy & Mather, Toronto, for the Unilever brand has reaped more than 1.7 million views on YouTube and has gotten significant play on TV talk shows "Ellen" and "The View" as well as on "Entertainment Tonight." It's also brought the biggest-ever traffic spike to CampaignForRealBeauty.com, three times more than Dove's Super Bowl ad and resulting publicity last year, according to Alexa.com.”
Now in my opinion, that video was simply amazing. A powerful, compelling story that draws you in and inspires you to share it with others. But what about the experience it links you to? Complete with E-cards and a message board, CampaignForRealBeauty.com is a respectable site—but could it be doing more when you apply the 12 values to it?
My point here is that the gi-normous success of YouTube may tempt the Ad industry to hyper-focus on viral videos as an inexpensive way to generate buzz (and ROI). Nothing wrong with this at all—but we cannot forget that at the end of the day, a video is a passive experience. It can make us laugh, cry and want to share it with others—we just can’t interact with or actively engage with a video. In contrast, you CAN interact with YouTube itself. Imagine if an agency had come up with that idea?
So on that note, here is the full list as conceived by Social Technologies. It’s worth chewing on.
Consumers increasingly want to create, augment, or influence design and content, and share these creations with their peers. Supporting user creativity will be increasingly important to consumer technology, and will become more mainstream in coming decades.
Consumers will increasingly look for products and services that align with their specific personal needs and preferences—whether in the aesthetics of a product or in its functional design. More goods will be created to match individuals’ unique specifications.
Simplicity will have growing value for consumers confronted with information overload, time stress, and technological complexity. Simplicity’s influence is already evident in new, stripped-down devices that offer just a few functions, as well as in minimalist interfaces that conceal breathtaking complexity. The common denominator of all these efforts is that they are human-centered—and thus easy to learn and integrate into busy lives.
As consumers are bombarded with more tasks, choices, and information, and as demographic changes such as aging reshape consumer markets, they are looking to assistive technologies for help. Consumers will seek to bolster and extend their natural abilities—with technologies ranging from pharmaceuticals that enhance mental performance to robot aides for the elderly.
Products and services will need to embrace the principle of appropriateness to ensure that they are suitably designed for users with varying physical needs, resources, cultural characteristics, literacy levels, etc. Appropriateness will aid in the spread of technology products and services to new markets and to diverse user segments.
Already well-established in mature markets, demand for convenience will rise as a technology value for consumers all over the world. Consumers will look for technological products and services that give them what they want and need on demand and that reduce effort and relieve time pressure.
Connectedness gives consumers what they want, when they want it, and will grow exponentially with the expanding global information infrastructure. Consumers will look for products and services that seamlessly integrate with this global network.
Efficiency is the ratio of output to input—or, put simply, the ability to do more with less. It will become more important to technology as consumers search for products and services that let them manage emerging resource uncertainties, rising costs, and other pressures.
Intelligence will be enabled by innovations that increasingly shift information and decision-making burdens from the user to the device or service. The demand for greater intelligence will come in response to factors including complexity, aging, and the desire for personalized experiences.
Protection will be sought by consumers in a world that feels increasingly insecure. Consumers will look for technology-enabled products and services that strengthen their sense of personal security and protect their families, homes, wealth, and privacy.
Consumers will look to technological products and services to maintain and, increasingly, improve their health and wellness. The search for health-enabling solutions will extend beyond traditional health and medical products and services to include more of the things consumers use in their everyday lives, whether at home, work, or play.
Consumers will increasingly look for products and services that embrace sustainability—reducing the “human footprint” on the environment while maintaining quality of life. A variety of technologies offer ways to minimize resource use, waste, and pollution while improving human welfare.
Well, today I got to attend the Forrester “Humanizing The Digital Experience” event. Actually, Margaret—one of my colleagues couldn't make it today, so I went in her place. That’s right, I was the guy with the dark hair, rectangle specs and “Margaret” on my name tag. Yeah, I got a few looks. Well, only in the morning—the kind folks at Forrester reprinted a nametag for me.
The one session today that stood out to me was from Jeff Hicks, President and CEO of Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Jeff had a few interesting things to say, and of course Crispin does wonderful work, but what really encouraged me was that he stressed the strong linkage that advertising needs to have with the product. He cited Burger King as an example where Crispin is doing a lot of messaging on the packaging itself (talk about getting close to the product). I especially liked this line:
“Make the product the advertising”
“We want to embed marketing within the brand”
Of course there was still talk of the big idea leading the way (after anthropological rersearch to inform those ideas), but no mention of big bloated strategies. And this was a nice simple thought as well:
“Some brands have momentum, some don’t. We create momentum for the brands we work with”.
Maybe not the exact words, but pretty close. So as far as marketing and storytelling goes, that’s a nice way to summarize it. And I have to say, I was really impressed with Peter Kim’s performance (that's peter in the pic, over on the right). Peter provided a great set-up and came across really relaxed and professional during the Q+A.
Now, earlier in the morning Harley Manning took the stage and talked “Human Centered Design”. I guess this ends the debate about using the term “user”, “consumer”, or “customer”. We’re designing for humans dammit! :) Actually, I have no problem with the phrase human centric—but I still like using the other labels when appropriate as they help me define design challenges:
Harley was highly energetic and inteligent. He’s immensely engaging and makes a great case for smart interactive design and the benefits of this to business. I have to say that whenever I hear the case for great digital experiences it always makes me think of this whitepaper from Kevin Mullet of Macromedia.—I highly recommend printing it out and giving a read (don't let the 2003 date fool you). It’s a nice synopsis of taking principals from books like The Experience Economy and making them applicable to Digital Experience Design in a practical way. The visual below is from the whitepaper:
Useful, Useable, Desirable—these all came up at the conference (I've referenced Kevin's criteria before as it's a pithy way to capture the key ingredients to a successful experience. I would also add sustainable to it).
And lastly but certainly not leastly I got to have breakfast with two wonderful people and bloggers (they blogged at the official Forrester event blog). Christopher Carfi and Marianne Richmond. Further proof that bloggers are real decent folk (and just plain real). Chris and Marianne were more than happy to share a good chunk of their morning with me over a cup of coffee. They could have been out and about doing the networking thing, but we all just hung out instead. Christopher and Marianne, thank you both for the great conversation and company (Chris, don't forget to say hi to Mom for me).
Well, those are my brief highlights from a brief day. Thanks Margaret, and thanks Forrester for a putting on a good show. Oh , before I forget... one thing that absolutely blew me away. I kind of suspected that Chris and Marianne might have known of me, but I was astonished at how many people in the industry actually follow L+E. So there may be a new dynamic at these kinds of conferences: The hosts (Forrester), The Sponsors, The Attendees, and the Attendee/bloggers all mixing it up both digitally and physically. Maybe you'll be blogging at your next event?
Forrester gets it right at Forrester's Consumer Forum 2006 conference titled "Humanizing The Digital Experience". How?
They are running a blog of the event where notable bloggers such as Christopher Carfi - the author of The Social Customer Manifesto blog and co-founder of Cerado, along with Marianne Richmond the author of the Resonance Partnership Blog have been invited to guest blog the event.
Of course Forrester also has their own employees blogging as well. So why is this significant? Other conferences have done this many times before. I was a guest blogger at the IIT's Strategy '06 conference for example.
The answer is simple. Because it's Forrester. Despite how cutting edge marketing has become, Forrester is still the percieved as "The Source" among millions of office dwellers. The reports, data and studies they produce quickly become "Holy Grail". So, you can bet that when they open up a significant conference like this to bloggers—us corporate office dwellers will take notice.
Here's another anecdotal. I blogged about the last Forrester event I attended, and had a brief but interesting conversation with senior analyst Moira Dorsey before doing so. I think the lightbulb has gone off for Forrester where they figure "our conferences will be blogged anyway—why not invite folks to do so on our turf?"
On a side note, the conference blog is taking shape rapidly. Go and check it out.
I wish I was at this conference as it is right up my alley, but we had
to send some other Digitas folks. However, at least I have the blog to
follow. I'll leave you with this little gem written up by Chris:
2) What is a humanized digital experience?
"An interaction in which the human benefits are more visible than the technology"
- "we feel part o the community"
Three building blocks of a humanized digital experience
- "Useful"...offers value
Good example: VW online car configurator
- "Usable"...provides easy access to value
Good example: Netflix, desktop widgets
- "Desirable"...appeal to emotions
Scott does it again with a great round up of links related to design thinking, experience planning and all things interactive. Check it out.
Great post over at Paradyme which dissects the term User Experience Design and looks at all the related disciplines. There is a lot of heady debate about the differences between these terms and what they mean. Personally, I prefer Digital Experience Design as it simply infers the design of experiences within the digital space vs. the physical world (though similarities in desired skill sets exist).
Kimmy proposes an interesting visual here:
...which implies that there is lots of overlap between disciplines. And she's right—there is. I especially like how the end of the post sums it all up:
"As articulated above, the field of user experience design takes a broad approach to the enhancement of products, combining elements from various fields to create an optimal and well-rounded experience. This wholistic methodology is often more adept at helping to reach a set of goals that encompass passive and active user interactions–goals determined both by users and the business or organization."
And on a related note, I attempted to tackle a similar issue—though through the perspective of the paths some of us take to arrive (and move up to) our current titles or areas of practice within these disciplines:
Experience Planners? Interaction Designers? Information Architects? Creative Directors? Visual Designers? There seems to be a conundrum in the industry related to emerging roles, titles and how they are evolving and intersecting. Especially if—like me, you work in the Interactive Marketing space. In this space, we've been increasingly blending traditional creative skill sets with information architect-type skills. But there is a lot of variation in these backgrounds—what used to be black and white is increasingly becoming Grey. In an attempt to make sense of all this nuance, I've designed a graphic that displays different backgrounds and defines possible pathways as they move up the food chain. Seems like many in the industry are struggling with this type of issue as we build up our "dream teams".
It's good to be thinking about this stuff every once in a while. Also good to remember that at the end of the day, people want to be told good stories, be provided with a great experience and have the opportunity to have their say in the process.
Recently finished getting an MRI for what I think is a herniated disk (hopefully the MRI will pinpoint the problem). It was a terrible experience. Here’s how it went. After signing in, I was led outside of the hospital building to a separate tiny building (if you can call it that) which contained the device. Yup. This was a terrible start. It made me feel like I was being led to something bad. And I was. Once inside the bare bones room, I had to disrobe in an area separated by a curtain which didn’t feel very private. But here is where it gets really craptastic. I’ve never had an MRI before and the operator gave me very little direction other than to stay still. So when I was loaded in the machine—I went in with my eyes wide open.
Guess what happened? I immediately felt like I was being loaded into a tiny coffin. That’s how cramped the space is. I calmly asked to be removed—so I could better prepare myself. I took a deep breath and went in eyes closed which helped a great deal. Next came 25 minutes of enduring the most loud, unpleasant sounds you will ever hear (and remember) along with a constant effort of putting my mind in a happy place, so as to not think about the “coffin” experience that surrounded me. If there are any healthcare organizations reading this blog, here are a few suggestions to make the MRI experience less terrible.
Plan the first impression down to a every last detail.
The small trip from the waiting room to the MRI lab should feel welcoming, bright and cheerful. You shouldn’t feel like you are being led to a bad experience. Colors, artwork, plants, natural lighting and maybe even things like waterfalls can help.
Make the MRI equipment room as pleasant as possible.
Windows would be great if possible. When you walk into the room, it would be wonderful to have some type of reception area—seeing a friendly face first goes a long way. If you could be led to a private room (even a small one) this would also help get things started off right.
Have the operator slowly prepare you.
The initial question should be “is this your first time getting an MRI”? If the answer is yes, the operator should be trained to gingerly walk you through what to expect. Preparation here is key. I wasn’t prepared at all and as a result—was immediately overwhelmed. If the operator simply said “close your eyes and slow your breathing” this would have been a huge help.
Provide “sensory aides”
Standard practice for an MRI is to issue earplugs. Yes, the noises are that loud and unpleasant. Now, here’s where it could get interesting. What about your sense of smell? Studies have shown how smell is a powerful sense which triggers memories (good and bad). And one of the positives that I noticed was that the ventilation system was very good. So what if you could pick a scented MRI experience? What if you could choose from smells like Vanilla, Evergreen, Cinnamon or even Chocolate? I would have picked Vanilla—that’s a soothing smell for me. In addition, why not provide blindfolds that can either be cool or warm to the touch? Some people have preferences for either sensation and find it relaxing. The sensation of a “warm compress” on my face may have helped as well.
My big take away is that it didn’t have to be this bad. I’m guessing that there are MRI centers which are much better equipped. The Philips projection solution mentioned in my previous post seems like a great idea, but based I what I experienced—there are still opportunities to innovate here.
What has T-Mobile done? I recently logged onto their homepage (one of my favorite examples of an effective homepage design) and there’s all this new marketing copy using a font that looks way too close to the dreaded Comic Sans. Is this the product of a focus group? Possibly. Think about how many e-mails you get from the average Joe or Jill who love the Comic Sans (sometimes using multiple colors). It’s just so fun and lighthearted! But is it right for T-Mobile’s brand?
Now obviously a brand is much, much more than design, a logo or any single manifestation. It’s more about how you feel toward it—it’s about the relationship. But right now I’m feeling like T-Mobile has gone out and gotten a bad perm and I want them to change it back! At this moment, I’m not feeling like I want to stick together with them as much as I want to stick it to them. Please lose that Comic Sans-ish font! I loved you just the way you were.
BusinessWeek has a great piece on how the business world is turning to designers to help solve their complex problems through innovation vs. drawn out strategization. In short, more doing—less talking. From the piece here is great comparison between the B-School way and the "D-School" way:
"A B-school class would have started with a focus on market size and used financial analysis to understand it. This D-school class began with consumers and used ethnography, the latest management tool, to learn about them. Business school students would have developed a single new product to sell. The D-schoolers aimed at creating a prototype with possible features that might appeal to consumers. B-school students would have stopped when they completed the first good product idea. The D-schoolers went back again and again to come up with a panoply of possible winners."
In short, the above comparison is showing the difference between the creative process (I'm talking about design here, not the creation of a 30 second TV spot), and a strategic process which isn't engineered to support designing, testing, validating and re-designing. That's not how B-school works (unless they are teaming up with designers).
Prototyping is small tool in the arsenal of a bigger design + business strategy. But it's increasingly becoming relevant even outside the areas of product design. Marketers need to understand the value of this kind of mindset. It's especially relevant within the Social Network which does not work well with a traditional marketing plan. Testing the waters with social media requires a plan that doesn't end (if you can even call that a plan)—similar to prototyping, you design, develop, test and make adjustments, you re-launch and measure—then tweak. It's an iterative process focused on designing a variety of solutions vs. the static nature of a traditional marketing plan.
I worked on a project where we were tasked with innovating the entire online online auto insurance quote process. Rather than talk about all the ways we wanted it to be different, we designed, built and tested a pseudo-working version of it. This is not an area that Marketing strategists have been trained in. You only learn these skills as a designer, whether it's software, Web or other. It's creative problem solving, not strategic analysis. There's a big difference.
Another quote from the article:
"What characterizes the best D-schools and design programs? First, they are multidisciplinary. They combine engineering, business, design, and social sciences. They team-teach using groups of professors and outside professionals. And they teach students who are organized in groups to operate as teams.
Second, they can be found in both D-schools and B-schools, plus the growing number of joint ventures between the two. B-schools are adding design course tracks. Engineering schools are opening innovation centers. Classical design schools are adding business components.
Third, D-school grads are special. Call them hybrids or polymaths, they are people with both extraordinary depth in a field and the breadth of knowledge to apply it. "A lot of companies have multidisciplinary teams -- marketing people, engineers, designers, strategists. But having all those parts embedded in one person's brain -- that really puts you over the edge in terms of being able to innovate," says Colleen Murray, an IIT Institute of Design graduate at innovation strategy firm Jump Associates."
So the magic formula seems to be tight integration between business and design teams. B-schools are integrating some design thinking while D-schools encourage designers to be generalists—not fine artists. Again, a distinction to be made here. The D-schools mentioned in this report do not produce copywriters, illustrators and photographers (this doesn't mean that these skills aren't valuable—they are). However, what these schools are focusing on is the production of critical "design thinkers". Individuals who look at solving complex business problems through strategic and innovative creativity. And it's not just admirable aesthetics or stunning architecture—it could be designing a better water treatment facility or coming up with the next Flickr killer.
Guess the bottom line is that it's a good time to be a designer. And it's a great time to be enrolled in a respectable program (though it should be noted that learning on the job is just as valid, if not more applicable). But if you're on the business (or creative) side and still think design is about pretty pictures or even products—think again.
Well actually it's a good week for B2B sites that I've worked on past and present. BtoB magazine has announced Grainger.com as one of their 10 Great Websites. Here's what they had to say:
"There is no typical Grainger.com customer. Some customers order from the site multiple times each day, while others buy one or two items periodically. This created a challenge for Grainger executives: How could they provide an easy experience for the infrequent buyer but also cater to heavy users with the right amount of product information for the more than 250,000 Grainger.com products?"
Of course to solve these complex issues, my team focused on customer-centric design supported by rigorous testing and iterative releases. Full disclosure, I participated in design iterations from 2000 to 2005, but the site hasn't changed dramatically in the past year (to my knowledge).
The full list:
Bank of America
And in other good B2B news, my team recently collaborated on a new homepage design for Ferguson—a large distributor of plumbing supplies and fixtures.
If you are an Interaction Design geek as I am, you should check out this homepage. It uses sliding panels that contract and expand to reveal and conceal content. And since the primary functionality on the site is a locater—we bubbled up that functionality in a dynamic fashion right off the home page. All the visuals on the page are dynamic as well—they refresh randomly upon load. The design is meant to entice interaction and engage the user with the ultimate goal of getting them into a branch or showroom. Go ahead and click around on anything you can get your hands on.
In my opinion the B2B space is ripe for innovation. Traditionally, consumer brands have blazed the path due to stiff competition and the ever-changing fickle nature of consumers. But the slower pace of B2B seems to be picking up a bit—and sites that offer the best experiences will help lead the charge.
For every Ying, there needs to be a Yang. A while back, Design Observer re-printed, “The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School.” by New York-based architect Michael McDonough. It’s a great read and all too true—sadly schools of any type don’t often prepare us for the real world. But what about the things we DO learn in D-school (Design School)? How are we influenced during this pivotal moment in our lives? And does it carry over into life after D-school? What about values that are instilled in our developing hearts and minds?
I was fortunate enough to attend Pratt for the better part of three and a half years. I received a very unique education which consisted of pioneering the usage of computers in design, cooking fillet mignon in the classroom, welding in workshops, and even posing in the buff for a figure drawing class (I'll explain in face your fears). I learned a great deal about urban living in the middle of some pretty rough neighborhoods (got mugged at gunpoint in my second week). But I also learned how privileged I was to be able to receive this kind of education in one of the greatest cities on the planet.
What I learned in D-school has served me well to this very day. Here are a few highlights. All of the images included in this post were created during my time at Pratt.
What I Learned in D-school:
Work really hard.
Pratt’s Mantra was “Be true to your work, and your work will be true to you”. This phrase has been branded deep inside my soul. And we lived it daily at Pratt—the proof was in the amount of lights on during the night. Everyone stayed up late working on projects because we believed in what we were doing. Same goes for me today. If I believe in the work, there is nothing I won’t do to see it through.
When we pinned up our projects in front of each other in the classrooms—make no mistake, we were competing. We were competing against each other because there was mutual respect for our fellow students. We sharpened each other’s skills this way. If we were going to put something up on that wall, in front of our professors and each other—it had better be good. If it wasn’t, or at least didn’t have the potential to be—we had let ourselves down.
Having your work up on the wall, in front of your peers taught me how to take criticism. Yes, my work was shredded to pieces by professors who studied under the likes of Milton Glaser. Sometimes I took a beating. But I always dusted off and picked myself up. I learned early on how to take criticism and use it to make a better product. D-school taught me how to listen and value the opinions of others and become better for it.
See things differently.
My visual communications professors constantly challenged us to look at things differently. To never be satisfied with our first ideas—they were merely stepping stones to something better. When I facilitate ideation sessions, I remember these lessons. The first ideas can sometimes be really good—but the more ideas build upon each other, the better the chances of ending up with something wonderful.
Embrace new experiences.
I learned how to use computers early on when much of the design world was cutting and pasting away. If I wanted to do something like create an animation—it might mean learning a new program, doing things like creating 3-D models. I didn’t know any of this stuff before coming to Pratt, but I left there with a "learn by doing attitude" which enables me to put myself in the shoes of users—do what they do, and a desire to experience things for myself.
Face your fears.
A group of students who wanted to get better at figure drawing agreed to meet one a week after class to continue drawing. There was only one problem. We didn’t have models. So we modeled for each other. I really didn’t want to get up in front of my fellow students with nothing but my bare assets—however I did want to learn how to draw better. So I got up on that platform—in full view of my classmates. But once I did it, I felt a sense of accomplishment in staring down my fears—and to this day, it takes a lot to rattle me. After all, once you do something like that—even the most demanding work experience seems tame in comparison.
The mask I designed here was created in one evening. But before I started working on it, I had to show a sketch to my professor. The initial sketch didn’t do the actual mask justice—my professor wasn’t very impressed at the idea until he saw the execution. This taught me the value of executing ideas rapidly. Sometimes people need to see, touch and feel to believe.
Having fun is probably THE most important thing I learned in D-school. One of my projects was to design a better “choking victim poster”. So I thought, why can’t a poster about choking be fun? And with a little inspiration from Keith Haring, I did just that. Work doesn’t have to feel like work—I had a lot of fun at Pratt staying up all night working on projects. My roommates and I would wake each other up in the middle of the night if one of us was working, just to get feedback. We had fun with our work and with each other. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously. All things that should ring true in our serious corporate settings (but don't always).
I guess that’s about it. And if you think about it, you really don't need to go to Design School for any of this—but for me, it did the trick. And the funny thing is that if you look at this collection of thoughts and images, you see very little which directly corresponds in a literal fashion with my actual practice in digital experience design (at least not how it’s practiced today). There are no flows, sitemaps or personas. These are skills I had to learn on the job. Marketing, user-centered design, copywriting—these were all developed through real work experience in the field. However I still tap into the core values I leaned at D-school. Maybe what it comes down to was being influenced. But as we know, a little influence goes a long way.
This is one of the dozens of versions of my visuals which have been translated in another language. Found this particular one over at the Russian PR Community's Journal. It validates the theory that people are visual. That we need to be shown as well as told. I can't tell you how many languages I've seen my visuals translated in. French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Hebrew, Italian... it's pretty cool.
And it begs the following question. Are we over-doing it with bullets and copy alone in the hopes of rapidly articulating ideas? Think about the presentations that we do. The amount of text-laden slides. Is there a more visual way to tell the story in addition to text alone? If the visuals on this site can be taken and translated into virtually any language—then think about the potential of leveraging visuals in our own presentations targeted at native audiences.
For Best Experience:
1. Click button to listen to blogcast audio
2. Download creative_mind.pdf
3. Follow along with audio
Narration around the inspiration and thinking that resulted in the visual.
"Daddy, daddy! Look what I did!"
That's awesome Max! ...I replied as any parent would. We were looking at one of Max's assignments in kindergarten. It was matching and coloring shapes. Typical stuff, I thought as my five-year-old skipped away. But I looked at the paper a little longer. I couldn't help but notice the teacher's comment.
"Try staying in the lines."
Now, I understand that kids need to learn how to color in the lines. It teaches them basic coordination and concentration. But what does it teach them about themselves? What does it teach them about skills that might serve them well one day in the real world?
Couldn't there be an assignment in addition to coloring shapes that maybe included handing them blank sheets of paper and asking them to invent and name a shape that no one has ever heard of before? Maybe some kid would come up with a Sqoval, or a Tri-square, or even an Octocircle. Who knows? The point is that we do need to be taught to do things like coloring shapes at a young age, but shouldn't we also be taught how to invent, create and look at problems from a totally different perspective?
The Picasso Tree
One morning on my way to work, I hurried to my car while balancing the usual assortment of my laptop bag, coffee and a granola bar. Just as I was about to pull out, I noticed the tree in our side yard. Max and I had put one of these "tree faces" on it—a set of eyes, nose and mouth that makes your tree look like something out of Lord of the Rings.
But what caught my eye, was that all the features were mixed up. The tree looked like Picasso had come by during the night and did some of his best work on it. I knew immediately what had happened. So I went back in to ask Max what the story was and he simply replied:
"it looks better that way".
And of course he was right. It does look better this way. So needless to say, we kept it as is and are the only house on the block to have a "Picasso Tree"—and an original one no less. In fact, I think the company who makes these should consider marketing a special line like this. You can "create your own Picasso Tree", with it's own unique placement of facial features. YOU can be the artist.
That's what coloring outside the lines will do. It can take a good idea, and build upon it. Make into something better, unique, or as someone once said—a “purple cow” :). Of course this is something that school can’t always teach us. But look at the world around us. What if someone told Steve Jobs to “stay in the lines”, or what if Thomas Edison never tried coloring outside of a line, just to see what would happen? What about that person at Motorola who thought the world was ready for a unusually thin and stylish phone? What if that individual just “stayed in the lines”?
Coloring outside of your own personal lines doesn’t mean taking a trip on the bohemian express—but it does mean looking at something differently. I can imagine little Max taking a step back and looking at his creation. Sure, the Tree face was cool before, in that Lord of the Rings kind of way. But now, it’s both cool AND differentiated. And how many brands can say that about themselves?
Update: Just picked up the print version (L+E is on page 24, not 16). The spread is pretty cool. I would write more about it, but my wife is telling me that if I don't come to bed now—I'm sleeping on the couch.
The latest edition of BusinessWeek hits the stands tomorrow with their highly anticipated follow-up to IN (inside innovation). Logic + Emotion is featured on page
16 24. I don't have a print version in my hands yet so here is a link to the write-up:
"Logic + Emotion
Digitas(DTAS ) creative director David Armano develops graphics to illustrate new concepts for marketing, brands, and experience design. Here he traces bloggers' spheres of influence with overlapping community clusters illustrating social networks and their interactions."
I am being featured in the IN BLOGS section along with the following:
Carroll is a futurist and trend-spotter. His blog traces his travels about the country as he talks to innovators. Here's a look at what building a sand castle teaches us about innovation.
It sees itself as host to the ideas that matter in technology, entertainment, and design (TED), and is tied to the annual TED conference. One of the blog's best features is the TEDTalks videocasts.
This site covers innovation research, best practices, strategies, management, and how businesses use blogs for idea creation and collaboration.
Looks like they may have included the Influence Ripples visual, but can't tell until I see the printed piece. Other topics covered in this edition of Business Week include the following:
(click for larger image)
Here is a simple exercise. Don't overthink this one. Let's say you've completed the strategy phase, you've briefed the team, you've found that core insight and you have a concept that you are ready to execute against. Before you site down and put that mouse to work—take a step back and think of the experience you are about to architect and design. Think of it as a house.
What is the foundation you are going to build it upon? It should be the core needs of the business, brand and the customer of course. Now what will be the core "pillars" that will support the entire experience? There are a number of ways you can break down the experience. For the example above (a financial services site) I chose these:
Interaction (included both motion design and interaction design)
These are interchangeable, but served the purpose for this particular example. The purpose was to think about the execution before we got knee deep into it. The adjectives such as "simple", "organic" and "clean" are tangible terms that resonate with designers.
So the next time you're ready to execute. When the brief has been briefed and the strategy has been strategized. Think about the house you are about to build. Your users might have to live in it for a while.
Like this visual? More here.
I’m obsessed with the idea of providing a good experience.
So, when I set out to start this blog back in February of this year, I made a promise to myself that I would try my best to practice what I preach. Which is the value of a good experience. Is it working? I think it might be. Here are a few signs.
1. The comments here are nearly double the amount of posts
Posts: 295 | Comments: 587 | TrackBacks: 124
2. Many of you have been kind enough to link back to me
Rank: 8,557 (815 links from 261 blogs)
Most importantly, I know I’m providing a good experience because more often than not—you are telling me so. In your comments, in your e-mails and in the way you describe Logic + Emotion when you talk about the content here (word of mouth). And even more important than that, I know my obsession is paying off because I’ve gotten to know people who I would have never had the opportunity to meet and have great conversations with. I’ve even exchanged life stories with some of you.
Relationships are a hallmark of good experience.
But is obsession with anything a good thing? Of course obsession in it’s pure form can be a truly destructive force. There needs to be balance in all we do—but what about when it’s harnessed, controlled and put to good use? What are some examples of “obsessed” individuals or companies (note, I’m using this term loosely and I am not referencing it as a diagnosable condition). But what if we viewed “obsession” as a ruthless kind of focus? An unusual dedication that produces fruit and tangible results.
Here are some examples of where I see “obsession”—and how it’s not always a bad thing:
I think the people at Samsung are obsessed with Industrial Design. They have so many different takes at making a product stand out when compared to the competition. I recently purchased a wireless Bluetooth headset (above) that is a beautiful and tiny little piece of technology. I would have never, ever considered a wireless headset until I saw this. It’s smaller than my thumb, lightweight and doesn’t make me look like something out of Star Trek. Someone at Samsung was obsessed with making a better wireless headset—and they did.
I think the people at Southwest are obsessed with their customers, their jobs and flying. Every time I fly Southwest, I just feel like the people who work for that company actually LIKE it. Like they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. And it’s one of the few Airlines that gives you both peanuts AND crackers! (while others have cut back). Not to mention they run a pretty decent blog and offer useful services like Ding. I actually think that the people who work for Southwest belong to some kind of cult where they worship some kind of mother ship aircraft or something.
I think the people who work for Harley-Davidson are obsessed with—well Harleys. How do I know this? I toured their headquarters once. You should have seen the amount of Harleys in the parking lot. And everyone who was walking around the office just looked like they either rode, or they just loved the brand. Harley shirts, mugs, boots, pen holders, picture frames, mouse pads, the stuff was everywhere. And something told me that nowhere in the Harley corporate handbook is it mandatory to do any of these things. If you need more proof of Harley's obsession, just watch Birth of the V-Rod.
I think my good friend Mack is obsessed with “the community” (and you know I mean this in a good way Mack). Mack is obsessed about creating community within the Social Network. He’s obsessed with pointing out where and when community happens. He’s ruthlessly focused on advancing the case for getting people (and companies) to use social tools in order to reach out and connect to each other. To build relationships in meaningful ways.
So these are just a few examples from my personal perspective. I don’t know if these companies or individuals are truly “obsessed”—but they definitely stand out. They put in unusual amounts of effort into their cause—whether it is product our community. They are not like the competition. Maybe that’s what obsession does. It makes you stand out. And a healthy kind of obsession can make your business stand out for all the right reasons.
According to Micro Persuasion, Edelman has created portal that consolidates all types of content generated from their employees—whether it be blog posts, articles podcasts or any other type of media. I think this is a brilliant idea. It shows that Edelman supports their intellectual capital and values the thought leadership which is emerging from the organization in both it’s formal and informal manifestations. It’s a win for the content providers, and a win for Edelman clients and non-clients who can get this stuff all in one place.
I only have one issue with it. I think the execution can be better.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the opportunities I see. This is my personal opinion and it's subjective based on my experience in the field of digital experience design.
1. The overall first impression:
I’m a bit overwhelmed and don’t really know where to begin. It’s not so much the amount of content. It’s the presentation of it. There are horizontal rows of type that seem to butt up to each other. There is a lot of text. Which is fine—this is a content portal after all. But Edelman could make better use of their corporate color palate. The dark blue column under podcasts interrupts the flow of content for me. And it’s tough to read the white type over the dark background. I think the portal could benefit from a “NY Times” or “Yahoo!” design approach. They also handle a great deal of content using a variety of neutral shades to help organize and “chunk up” bits of content into digestible and readable portions. Overall, there is a lot of contrast, a lot of content, and just a lot off stuff all competing for my attention.
I feel like the portal is shouting at me.
Some of the Employee content links out to their own blogs and some link to content within the Edelman site. It would be nice if I had an idea when I’m leaving to go to another blog or staying. Maybe a simple visual clue could do this.
3. Basic Usability:
Not all links have to be underlined. But the portal uses black bold type as a link. They look more like headers. I’m not sure what is a link or not. The home / speak up text up at the top right actually looks like a link. But it’s not. Please help! A suggestion here would be to standardize, simplify link states and maybe use highlight states upon rollover. This would tell me what’s hot and what’s not.
3. The accordion effect:
The designers have opted to go with an expandable design which stretches the width of the page. I understand why they did this (because other areas of the Edelman site expand) but it leads to unpredictable wrapping of text in the first two columns and when stretched out on say a 21 inch flat screen, it just dozen’t look right. So it’s compromised when the window is condensed and looks odd when it is maximized. It might make sense to keep the header flexible but lock the content section in the to the middle of the page so it always looks the same.
Just a few high level observations. The portal is a great idea. It can be even better. And customers/clients notice the kind of stuff I'm pointing out (even if it's subconscious). Sure Yahoo! And The NY Times both offer good content, but users, customers, and subscribers also appreciate how that content is displayed.