Thnx to smashingmagazine.com and flipthemedia.com
When I think about where we are with the Web in comparison to other media in history, pinpointing it is really hard. Is it like when the Gutenberg Press was just invented and we’re experimenting with movable type, or are we still embellishing pages and slavishly copying books by hand?
By Francisco Inchauste
Our knowledge of building digital things changes rapidly, taking us from newborn to adult and back again every couple of years. It’s both exciting and frustrating, because just when you think you have it all figured out, it completely changes. But if you’re like me, learning something new keeps things interesting.
So, it seems pretty normal that our methods of designing and building websites are questioned every so often. The argument to ditch design apps (or to drastically minimize the time spent in them) and go straight to the browser has popped up a lot in the past few years and then quite recently. It’s obvious that our digital world and, by proxy, our design process are in a state of transition. And they should be: considering design in the context of your materials and goals is always important.
I tend to shy away from prescriptive approaches. Most decisions are framed by our experience, and, as humans, we’re continually drawn to and seek out what we already believe (known as “confirmation bias”), ignoring the rest. So, I strive to keep that in mind whenever listening to advice about how things should be done. We’re all navigating the same changing landscape here. What many designers recommend is the right answer for them and not necessarily the right answer for you, or your client. As Cameron Moll more eloquently states:
“You know your circumstances, your users, and your personal preferences best. And if that means responsive web design — or design methodology or todo app or office chair or whatever — isn’t the right choice for you, don’t be ashamed if you find yourself wanting more, or at least wanting something else.”
That’s exactly how I feel right now. A lot of the explorations into Web design lately have been looking for the best ways to optimize an experience and to make it as flexible as possible across devices. These are important issues. But what about the design principles we’ve proven and iterated on through a variety of media? How can we apply what we’ve learned about design so that it can be utilized in an appropriate way to create websites in this multi-canvas world?
“Typographic Design in the Digital Domain” with Erik Spiekermann and Elliot Jay Stocks
In an interview with Elliot Jay Stocks, legendary typographer and designer Erik Spiekermann explains how he finds it funny that designers today complain about limitations in designing for mobile…
by Elizabeth Wiley
1. Technology and use trends
- Digital options increase every day
- Fluidity allows you to reach people through all the different methods available
- Some devices actually create new data, which yield new insights (i.e. FitBit, Fuel band, etc. This idea will also be interesting for toys.)
- Network speeds increasing (huge difference from 3G to LTE)
- With the decreased price of cloud storage, sharing content across devices is easier (shared experience)
- Content management systems drive the consumer experience and should be integrated into the foundation of your platform
2. Types of connected experiences
- Synchronized: for example, the eReader let’s you make notes and brings you back to where you last stopped, no matter the device. Evernote allows you to share information and access documents from different locations and devices.
- Adaptive: content adapts to your current device. This could mean apps for the device you want to target or responsive websites. It’s important to consider how the customer will engage on a device and what information you need to share.
- Complementary(second screen): people interact with content at an event or with others experiencing an event. A lot of networks are investing in second screen platforms. 80% of people with tablets watch television with a second screen in front of them; an opportunity for networks to build deeper experiences for customers.
- Device shifting: people start searches on mobile/tablets and finishing them elsewhere, shifting seamlessly from device to device. Consider content and context of each device. For example, when searching for cars, on the phone you might want to show visuals, basic information, and location-based results, while on the PC you have expanded information, but don’t focus on location-based information specifically.
3. Today’s challenges:
- Figuring out what devices to target (iOS v. Android, tablet v. phone v. PC –huge variations). When deciding, think about each device and what capabilities they have (screen, memory, location, etc.). Creating a great experience for all devices is expensive and hard to maintain, but can be valuable.
- To create a connected experience, you need an Internet connection. People want to access information while in stores, but often don’t have the access to do so.
- Departmental silos within companies are the biggest challenge to creating really compelling connected experiences for customers. Often separate teams manage different aspects of a project and content management systems can result in duplication of content. A system for inter-departmental collaboration need to be put in place.
- Sometimes you don’t need a connected experience. Be able to recognize when a connected experience isn’t necessary.
4. How to get started
- Define your target market. Who is best to target for what you want to achieve? Focus on this group first, expand later
- Create customer personas – don’t just rely on data, think about personality, hopes/dreams, etc. to create a more personal customer experience
- Consider user flows
- Map out the experience using the sales funnel from awareness to interest, sale, etc. When done well, this gives you a sense of all the engagement points, online and offline.
- Most importantly, break down the silos and create connection points between departments and products
- Think about how the pieces work together and how resources can be combined to create more powerful products
Marr cautioned not to get distracted by shiny objects or “the next big thing.” There will be always something new and exciting. Instead, start by thinking about why you do what you do. Then, figure out who needs your content, what they are using it for, and the best way to get it to them.
Connected experiences are now, we are the ones holding it up.
A New Medium With Old Roots
When we talk about designing a website today, we can’t help but mention the “What if?” challenges (or, if you’re a positive person, the opportunities) we face:
“What about embedded Web views?”
“What if the user has limited bandwidth?”
“What about this awkward break point?”
It’s as if we have suddenly discovered the first medium in history that comes with limitations. We’re definitely not on an island here: Every medium has faced limitations — and continues to face them.
“The way to design is the same [between print and Web]. You give content form, and the medium is always different anyway… I remember designing the little forms for medication, the little things that go inside, and I have the same issue… Essentially, I’ve got to cram a lot of complex content into a given format, however small that may be.”
He explains that when he designed for other media, the constraints were similar. You had to ask questions about the circumstances and about which information was the most important to the audience at that moment in time, and he asked things like, Are they really sick and trying to read this medical information? Are they at an airport and need to know their gate? Spiekermann goes on to say:
“So far, they [Web designers] have been bogged down by having to look at code all the time… So, now they can actually look at the problem. That’s why I said, in a few years time — however long it may take the individuals — they’ll design for the issue at hand and not for the medium.”