Gotta love Smashing Magazine. There’s some great stuff in this post. Wireframe your heart out.
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This talk by Timothy Prestero is right on the money. He makes great points about designing products for impact, and highlights some important lessons learned about what it takes to actually take something from design through to the point where you’re actually making a difference with what you’ve built. There are some great reminders in this talk on the importance of seeing a project all the way through and designing for real-world use, rather than accolades.
This morning I put together this little mind map on my iPad using Adobe Ideas. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what a learning platform specifically tailored for creatives might look like, and how we might (HWM) create an online community for that platform that people would aspire to be part of. Given that the core of great branding is the expression of the right values, I started brainstorming there, asking myself “what types of values and traits might provide a good foundation for growing such a community?”. That exercise produced this. It’s incomplete, but I thought it was worth sharing.
If you had a place where you learned online with others, what type of community would you be proud to be a part of?
Like many web designers and developers, I’m almost completely self taught. I started years ago with books, manuals and blog posts because that’s all that was really available. Now we’ve got an overwhelming number of choices when it comes to learning. Im a visual learner, so I find that video works best for me learning this stuff. Being able to watch someone show you how something complicated is done is so much faster, easier and enjoyable.
For the last few months I’ve worked my way through 38 badges on Treehouse, which has been great. At an average 6-7 minutes per video, and about 5 videos per badge, that’s around 20 hours of content. I’ve learned a lot, and the fact that the content is delivered in a thoughtful, structured way has really made the experience good.
This week I’ve been doing some research on prototyping tools. A discussion about these types of tools and what works best came up in a recent meetup I attended in Boston for web/UI designers and it sparked an interesting debate. Some people preferred to start designing straight in Fireworks or Photoshop, others preferred paper and pencil first, and then some people liked a few tools specifically built for rapid prototyping. While everyone had their own preferred method, I think we all agreed that succeeding in the prototyping stage is about speed, pure and simple. Quick and dirty beats slow and pretty every single time. That said, here are 3 prototyping tools that did get discussed:
This is the one I would naturally gravitate to. I’m firmly in the “quick and dirty” camp, and this tool is the simplest and is the least expensive. Keynotopia is a large collection of user interface design templates that enable you to prototype and test your site or app ideas using Apple Keynote, Microsoft PowerPoint, or OpenOffice Impress – it’s almost all drag and drop, and if you understand page transitions, you’re already on your way to mastery. Plus, you can export your prototype as a clickable pdf, which is super handy. The templates include thousands of wireframe and high fidelity vector UI components, designed from scratch in Keynote, Powerpoint and OpenOffice, and are fully editable and customizable without needing additional design tools. Again, at $49-$99, this one is the cheapest of the three.
Here’s a video demo of Keynotopia:
Antetype is an app that’s relatively established in the marketplace, and there were a few strong advocates in the room who praised it. While the learning curve is a little steeper than Keynotopia, this one is definitely better suited for more complex projects and designs. At $289 USD, you’ll have to decide how feature-rich you need the tool to be to get your job done. Students can also score a copy for $49, which is very reasonable.
Here’s a demo of Antetype:
Axure was the big boy of the 3. At $589, you’d have to be prototyping a lot with it to justify the cost, but again, there were a few happy users in the room who had good things to say about it. This tool’s learning curve seemed similar to Antetype’s and it’s clearly suited for more complex demos that require a bit more care in look and feel. If you’re in to adding visual details like rounded corners, gradients and shaded buttons, this could be your best solution. Although, I think everyone in the room I was in agreed that at this stage of the game spending a lot of time on gradients and shadows often hurts you more than it helps. That’s your call.
Here’s a demo of Axure:
If you know of any tools like that you find useful? Please let me know in the comments. I’d love to have a chat about it.
In addition to the Y-axis grid, a baseline-style grid can be a really valuable X-axis alignment tool when you’re design compositing. Given that typography is so important, a good baseline grid is pretty essential for developing a nice rhythm in your designs. In this short 7 minute video, Mike Precious, a designer who contributes to Method & Craft shows how to quickly create an extensible baseline grid within a Photoshop-based web design workflow.
This 99% Conference talk by Yves Béhar on the design process has some great nuggets in it. I watched it on the way to the Harvard Entrepreneurship conference yesterday on the train and really enjoyed it. It’s 30 mins, the perfect length to get through on a short commute on your phone. Yves shares his seven principles for “holistic making.” There’s also a great quote at the end by Saul Bass on creativity and where ideas come from. Good stuff.
This presentation given by Nick Finck and Raina Van Cleave at SXSW this year is great. Slides 5, 10 and 11 stand out. Special thanks to @Fraser for sharing the link on Twitter and pointing to the most valuable slides. Here’s a quick summary of the talk:
“User experiences are your everyday experiences—anything from operating a car, to making a pot of coffee, to ordering a pair of shoes online. User experience is the result of your interactions with a product or service, specifically how it’s delivered and its related artifacts according to the design.
In this presentation Nick Finck and Raina Van Cleave will explore the ten characteristics of a great user experience. They will cover all aspects of user experience design such as user research, information architecture, information design, technical writing, interaction design, visual design, brand identity design, accessibly, usability and web analytics. Nick and Raina will also explain how following the ten commandments can boost your web sites, web app, or mobile app’s ease of use, appeal, conversion rates, and more.”
Back in January I wrote a post discussing why the iPad would be so significant to the future of publishing where I said the following:
“the reading experience itself is going to change…it’s all about the apps… that’s where the real innovation is going to happen, and that’s where consumers are expecting it to happen. They don’t want a crazy new device they have to learn how to use – they want something they know how to use that does new and useful things. The extra screen real estate is exactly what developers have been waiting for, and it’s all they need to change the way we think about reading.”
I stand by what I said – and I think the upheaval we’re about to see in the publishing market is going to be driven by a shift to tablets in general. Once again, the point is that the significance of the iPad isn’t due to the fact that Apple has created something conceptually revolutionary, it’s that they’re in the best position to create a new market and change consumer behavior on a massive scale with what they’re releasing (feel free to debate this point in the comments ;-)).
This afternoon I found this demo (below) of Wired Magazine’s new iPad Table app that made me pretty confident that the way we consume magazines is about to change in a hurry. I’ve seen similar demos like this for magazine-like reading experiences on a tablet (The Mag+ by Bonnier that was demo’d on PopSci immediately comes to mind), but the fact that this is a working demo for the iPad (which hasnt even been released yet!) is pretty significant. I think Chris Anderson‘s bit in this speaks volumes about how publishers perceive the opportunities for rich story telling and revenue that the tablet phenomenon presents (not just the iPad, tablets in general). He says…
“This is what we’ve been waiting for, for 15 years. We’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use all these visual tools at our disposal to tell these stories in a way that is efficient, that is multi-dimentional. But we also think it’s an opportunity to reset the economics. For the first time people might value this experience so much that they’ll pay for it.”
Touch Changes The Revenue Game
Chris’ point about resetting the economics for magazines is an important one. We all know that print is on its way out. You’ll notice in the demo that they make the point that advertising is just as important to the consumer’s experience of Wired as the content itself is….but check out how interactive the ads are. It’s a whole different experience. You know why you haven’t seen ads like that on your laptop? Because we don’t touch our screens, that’s why. When you’re encouraged to touch and explore, ads themselves are much closer to interactive content than they are to an object of interruption. The act of touching is literally creating a whole new category for advertising (as content). Now, you couple the opportunities there with the fact that what you’re touching (the magazine) comes in the form of an application that consumers are downloading (easy distribution) and probably paying as much for as they did for the print version…no wonder these guys are excited.
Considering this is a working demo for a product that hasn’t even been released yet, I’m pretty excited to see what other players are doing. Apple was smart to give developers a window to get going between the official announcement and the actual release date. If this is the beginning, this is a really exciting time to be in publishing.
“All of our devices – our mobile phones, cameras, toys and media players – will become increasingly aware of where we are. Soon, geographical location, rather than broadcast schedules, will trigger entertainment experiences. Content will be tagged to places, and these will alert you to the proximity of your friends and people of similar interests” – Mike Walsh, Author of Futuretainment
The way we experience the web is moving quickly towards a standard where content is not linear, but relative. When content is linear, one piece of content leads us to another. But when the model is relative, any piece of content can be accessed via contextual triggers anywhere, any time and on any device.
Location is going to be a primary trigger that changes how we experience web content. In fact, it wont be long before a lot of the content that exists on the web will also exist as overlays to our senses as we move through the real world. Sound crazy? It’s not. It’s what the augmented reality movement is all about, and it’s coming fast.
A few days ago at TED, Bing engineers demonstrated that they are going way beyond Google’s Street View technology, using backpack cameras to capture pedestrian spaces, Flickr integration to provide a more diverse picture of a place over time, telescope data to allow people to get information on celestial bodies, and live video to show what’s happening in a place in real time. It’s pretty incredible. If you’re not impressed by this 6 minute demo, I’d take a moment to chew on what you’re seeing for a second, and consider for a second how evolved this still-young this technology is…
What Does This Mean For Us and The Web?
Well, first of all, putting content into context this way gives an unprecedented level of depth of information and understanding about place and our relationship to it. As Blaise Aguera y Arcas told Fast Company in a recent interview…
“If you want to explore, if you want to really understand more about a place, you really need to be able to get right down in there, and see if from the point of view that people actually experience it. As great as it is to use cameras on top of cars for building that visual trellis, that’s not the actual human perspective.”
With a layer of user generated content on top of maps we can look around and explore where we are with a completely new set of lenses.
- It’ll be social – other people’s photos and videos will give us a unique perspective of the history and social context of where we are,
- It’ll be personal – Our own location-tagged photos, videos and content can allow us to relive moments when we visit places that are meaningful to us.
- It’ll be educational – instead of having to read and learn in a linear way, you’ll be able to put yourself at the center of the action, in context of place (and eventually time).
Most importantly, the rise of the Geoweb will open up completely new categories for business and innovation. It’s not hard to imagine a variety of commercial applications for virtual augmented reality tours or rich entertainment, educational and social experiences. With consumers rushing to buy location-aware smart phones, expect to see a lot of movement in the mobile market for these types of experiences in the next few years. Exciting stuff.
“If the American Dream of the Baby Boomers was all about being able to have a car and a house in suburbia, the new American Dream is having the choice between living in drivable suburban places and walkable urban ones.” - Chris Leinberger, land use strategist at the Brookings Institution
I’ve been reading a lot lately about the concept of smart cities and what makes cities work well for citizens and the environment. Getting the mix of urban planning, design, livability and community right seems to be the key to unlocking a city’s true potential,and there are a lot of cool ideas and design sprouting up around the movement.
Walkability is a concept that comes up repeatedly in discussions about sustainable urban planning that I find completely fascinating – partly because I would love to be able to walk to get what I need the way I used to in grad school, and partly because I hate throwing away hundreds of dollars every month on my car.
Great things happen when communities are designed to be walkable – the real estate market is stronger, people spend less on transportation, neighborhoods feel safer, the environment benefits and the overall health of the population increases. More than that though, there’s something simple and wonderful about living in a local neighborhood where everything you need is just a stones throw away. When you can walk your neighborhood every day to get the things you need, you feel less isolated, you build relationships with others who live near you and you strengthen your connection to the places and community around you – it feels better.
Deep walkability isn’t an easy thing to accomplish, though. A person’s livable, walkable radius is quite small, so getting it right for everyone in the community is a challenge. Good design can help, though, and there are teams of people out there designing new solutions — like the YikeBike — for the urban future. This thing is bit expensive, but it’s seriously cool.
It’s the smallest folding electric bike in the world, it goes around 12 mph and weighs only 22 lbs (my backpack on any given day can weigh 30-40lbs). You can fold it up to take it on trains, buses and cars. It charges in 30 minutes and has a range of 6 miles. It is one-third the volume of any other 20-inch folding bike so it can be easily stored and charged anywhere. YikeBike is the first bike in the world to have electronic anti-skid brakes and also has numerous other safety features like built-in lights indicators and brake lights. Like I said, seriously cool.
What makes me excited about products like this is that it changes the way we think about important fundamentals principals that make cities work. If commuters suddenly have an option to live in more affordable neighborhoods a few miles further away from mass transit, it takes some of the heavy burden away from the government and industry, and allows individuals to take more control over outcomes.
The bottom line is that smart design incorporates important value positions (like those of walkability, sustainability etc), and gives people the ability to change behaviors… and that’s exactly what the YikeBike does. Plus, this thing looks fun. Anyone have $5000?
It wast much of a surprise that in the hours leading up to and following Apple’s official unveiling of the iPad, “Kindle” was also a trending topic on Twitter. Whether the iPad will kill the Kindle is on a lot of people’s minds and while I’m not going to speculate on the future of the Kindle, I think you can be pretty damn sure that Jeff Bezos didn’t sleep well this week. For what it’s worth, I think Apple’s about to float comfortably into an almost uncontested blue ocean where competing with the Kindle won’t be much of a concern. But most importantly, this launch is going to shift publishing practices and change consumer behavior and expectations significantly this year. Here’s why…
First, The Bad
Before I say anything, I do share some concerns with the iPad’s design. No multitasking, no camera, and no Flash makes me scratch my head a little. Including a camera seems like a no-brainer. The only reason I can think to leave it out would be to reduce the cost to hit a price point. I have a feeling people will complain about their inability to use iChat or use Skype video etc.
Not being able to view Flash content when you browse the web on a screen that big is also a downer – you’re going to have holes in some websites, and you can forget about streaming video. Also, no multitasking completely eliminates the iPad’s ability to compete with even the simplest netbooks. Not having multitasking on the iPhone isn’t that big a deal in my eyes, but I have a feeling that with the larger screen people will expect more of a laptop like experience. That said…
The Market Is Primed For An In-Between Product That Improves The Reading Experience
You might say that the iPad is just a jumbo oreo, and that Apple’s R&D team has lost it’s magic touch. I’m not convinced that that argument has legs, though. True, what’s missing in the iPad’s design gives some of us pause, and the device doesn’t seem to be well-positioned to compete with netbooks, but I don’t think that’s the point.
Even with what it’s missing in this first-generation design, it’s clear that Apple is going to clear the “reading experience” hurdle that plagues the iPhone, and bring users a rich multimedia experience that other ereaders can’t match.
Creating a better reading experience on a screen is what this movement towards ereaders is all about. And that’s all they really had to do with this release – take everything we love about the iPhone, create a significantly better default reading experience and give it lots of screen real-estate for app developers to go wild. That’s it. And that’s exactly what they’ve done.
Here are a couple of videos from Popular Science’s vault that show what the reading experience is actually like on the iPad. It’s obvious that this is where the Apple R&D team put a lot of their effort:
The iPad Is The Best Positioned Device To Become The Next Major Platform For Innovation
If you ignore the device’s shortcomings and focus instead on what the device has going for it, it’s hard to argue that Apple isn’t well positioned to shake up the market:
- Familiarity Is An Important Intangible Asset: Millions of people already use iPhones and are familiar with the interface, the apps, the app store and iTunes. The Jumbo Oreo can be a good thing when it comes to adoption because it eliminates the perception of learning curves for consumers – don’t forget that just holding a tablet creates a completely new computing experience. Going “too innovative, too fast” could actually put Apple at risk for releasing something too different that turns mainstream consumers off. By sticking with the familiar UI, look and feel, consumers know what they’re going to get – and make no mistake, initial perceived value can make or break a product. This thing hasn’t even been released and consumers that are usually at the center of the adoption curve are probably already confident that they’ll be expert users on day one, even though the device represents a paradigm shift in computing. Chew on that for a second.
- Consumer Lock In: iTunes users and iPhone owners already have tons of purchased content and apps that they can start using the second they open the box. There isn’t a single other competing device that that’s true for in this market. Access to 140,000 apps at your fingertips. From day one.
- Apple’s (probably) Not Excluding Other Book Publishers: Users will likely be able to read their Kindle and B&N e-book purchases on the iPad. It doesn’t make sense that they’ll stop Amazon, B&N and any of the independent e-book publishers from creating their own applications. There’s always the possibility that Apple could decide that these apps now “duplicate” a core feature of its own apps and ban all other e-reader apps from the devices, but that this seems like a highly unlikely scenario.
- It’s all about the apps and the developer gold rush: It was a smart move by Apple to announce the device AND the iPad developer platform together, a full 60 days before the device is going to be available for purchase. You can bet your ass there are hundreds of developers busting their hump to make release day. We all saw what happened with the iPhone app store, and the developers know how important it is to be first to market. This’ll just be a rinse and repeat exercise – and this time, Apple’s given developers a ton more screen real estate to work with and opened the doors for new companies to focus on creating rich reading experiences. This’ll increase the size of Apple’s army of developers and companies that are going out of their way to push their apps and do the marketing for Apple. The structure of the marketing effort is completely different than any other eReader launch. After seeing what’s happened with the iPhone over the last 2 years, people are expecting the iPad to be able to do things it can’t even do yet on day one – and they’re also expecting the device’s utility and versatility to increase over time – more apps will come
The Reading Experience Itself Is Going To Change
I’ll say it one more time for emphasis (sorry) – it’s all about the apps – that’s where the real innovation is going to happen, and that’s where consumers are expecting it to happen. They don’t want a crazy new device they have to learn how to use – they want something they know how to use that does new and useful things. The extra screen real estate is exactly what developers have been waiting for, and it’s all they need to change the way we think about reading.
One of the innovations I’m most excited about is multimedia enriched books. Those of us who are used to reading and learning on the web have been waiting eagerly for this. There’s a company who’s already in pole position to deliver – Vook.com. The cleverly named “Vooks” (part video part book) are going to be some of the first instances of mutlimedia rich story telling on platforms like the iPad – and they’re not a part of the hardware – they’re apps. Seth Godin‘s already announced that he’s getting on the bandwagon, and Gary Vaynerchuck‘s got his latest book Crush It! on Vook already (and why the hell wouldn’t you want to experience Gary’s energy and exuberance on video along with his writing).
The point is that the “book” as a product is about to change. Long form content is going to start looking a lot more like web content – learning text will be accompanied by video tutorials, cook books will have recipes with matching technique segments and fiction texts will start looking a lot more like Myst. If players who are making these new multimedia apps can get the pricing right the floodgates will open and there’ll be no looking back. I’m not saying that books will disappear, I’m just saying that the iPad as a platform opens the market up to many more options and lots of innovation that extend the long tail of the marketplace for reading experiences.
And all of this together is why Apple’s iPad is going to be significant to publishing.
Thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments.
Our dumb web is getting smarter. It already knows who you are and who you know, and it won’t be long before it will be able to leverage those connections on your behalf wherever you go. Our mobile devices are already being outfitted with sensors of all types. There are currently two common scenarios for sensors + mobile phones:
1) Everyday objects with sensors pumping out data on things like temperature, noise and activity; the mobile phone reads and analyzes this data.
2) The phone is used as a sensor itself. For example the iPhone has a built-in accelerometer, which is basically a motion detector. This is used for game control and also for re-sizing your iPhone display from portrait to landscape. The iPhone also has a microphone (which can be used as a noise sensor), a proximity sensor, and an ambient light sensor.
We’re starting to see GPS-based Geosocial networking services like Whrrl, Loopt, and Hotlist gain some ground, but I’m really interested to see what will happen when mobile devices are embedded with proximity sensors (i.e. when the mobile device gets close to another short range sensor, data is shared). It may never happen, but I think it’s a great idea because, while GPS based social networking works for people who know each other, it doesn’t work for sharing contextual relationship data between a person and an object or an organization. You could imagine many of different/unique use cases based on foot traffic for business and being social…
New Kinds Of Retail and Restaurant Loyalty Programs
What if a store or restaurant had it’s own short range sensor that knew when you walked in the door and alerted the sales staff about your sales history and personal shopping preferences? What if you were fed instant information on in-store sales based on your favorite items or wish lists? How would any of this change your relationship with your favorite venues?
Enabling The Smart Home
What if your home automatically knew your preferences for lighting, music, air temperature etc and automatically adjusted the environment and your devices as you walked from room to room?
Navigating People & Businesses
What if you were at a conference and you’re in a crowd of people. Would it be useful if your device could tell you when you last saw a person you’re about to run into, or that six steps behind you is someone you went to high school with? What if it could tell you that the product that’s being sold at the store you’re passing is on sale at another store in the same area? The web knows these things, we just don’t have a useful way to get that information automatically fed to us when we’re on the go.
Why Mobile Devices?
Using the phone as a sensor (instead of an embedded RFID chip in our skin, for example) seems like a logical next step for these types of applications because it makes participation optional and manual. It might seem whacky now, but you’d probably be surprised how many people would be on board if the the privacy-to-utility ratio was right.
What are your thoughts on this? Too far out there, or is it where we’re headed?
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I came across this video demo of a digital magazine prototype on Popular Science and was ultra impressed. Hat tip to the developers in Bonnier’s R&D group and BERG Design for their work on this. This year we’ve seen escalating hype around ebook readers like Amazon’s Kindle, as well as a lot of speculation about the looming death of print media, so it’s great to get a sneak peak at what designers are coming up with in the digital realm. The team responsible for this prototype has obviously put a lot of thought into what creates successful digital reading experiences and the demo of what they’ve produced clearly shows that converting a magazine to a screen won’t necessarily rob us of what we love most about magazines. Most importantly, perhaps, is that you can see how much space for innovation and creativity there is in the magazine space. This should give magazine lovers an industrial strength shot of optimism in the arm…