CCLOTD: On the Importance of Words in Web Design

This is the third post in my Cynical Corporate Lesson of the Day series.  I’m, thankfully, about to run out of cynicism, so just check out my Introduction notes here.
This is for those who care about the grind.

You know what was missing from my previous job’s organizational structure?

Copywriters.

Image from Dan North’s blog

 

I’m just thankful I get to see it in action now (in my current job).

Marketing-centric organizations (like the digital advertising agency where I work) value copywriting a lot.  You can’t sell anyone something without the well-crafted words to tell them what’s so special about it.

The challenge (or advantage — depending on how you want to look at things) of working inside a media/entertainment company was that our internal Clients (the actual heads and creatives of the media brands) were highly-experienced content-creators themselves.  In the organization, they were, then, considered responsible for content.

Because of this, the web development team became more relegated to designing “houses” or containers for content, and not really the content itself.

Continue reading “CCLOTD: On the Importance of Words in Web Design”

LFTD: “Think of storytelling before responsive design”

Useful, well-written post by Jani Modig on Medium.

There are many articles these days on the importance of content, but Modig’s proof seem to be the clearest, and simplest to remember:

“according to the latest statistics (verified by The Associated Press)and even the goldfish have an ability to concentrate longer than us”
 
“I had spent couple of all nighters watching Game of Thrones on my laptop and in the following mornings I realized I was explaining to clients that people are just browsing web, not really concentrating on the content.”
 

Jani Modig is a UX designer.  See more of his work here.

Jani Modig Portfolio (Skype)
Jani Modig Portfolio (Skype)

5 Ideas I liked (since January): Pie + Creative brainstorming, Google work philosophy, Watercolor Typography, Facebook Userflow

1. One of my favorite ideas in the past year.

Pie + User Feedback or Community Involvement + Design = PieLab

2.  This PaidContent article on the insensitive coincidences of online ads and tragic news stories (e.g. shooting massacre articles and bloody novelty shirt ads).

Screencap by Evan Brown

3.  “Why Google Does Things The Way It Does“, by The Guardian.

Thought-provoking.  Because you keep hearing about how Google is revolutionary, but they’re never as suave at branding themselves as Apple, plus they have weird ideas like Google glass, and annoying decisions like killing Google Reader:

“In its behaviour and vocabulary, Google oozes scientific method. A couple of times recently I’ve heard Google executives say in public, ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it’. …engineers are trained not to act on intuition. You are allowed to have intuition, of course, but you use it to make hypotheses, which you then test. You act on the results of those tests…

When an experiment is completed, you either choose to follow up on it, or you terminate it and move on to something else. A scientist doesn’t get emotional about this; it’s the way the system works, and everyone knows that it’s all for the best.”

4.  I don’t know which I enjoyed more – the Maricor/Maricar watercolor typography exercises…

Or the Shillington Design Blog “I Love These Guys” category page, where they were featured?

Shillington Design Blog - MaricorMaricar
Shillington Design Blog – MaricorMaricar

5.  Facebook sharing its “Report Abuse” interaction flow.

7 Magazine-type blogs: Culture-curation’s really where it’s at now, I guess?

1.  Flavorwire  – “Cultural news and critique

I like the relationship between this cultural news magazine, and Flavorpill, which is their web app to “find events in your city”.

A well thought-out experience, of learning about, finding and going to interesting things.

In fact, I would probably measure the success of a “culture news” website by the number of individual articles I feel like spontaneously opening, plus the number of outgoing links that I also open.

In that case –

Articles:  4

10 Criminally Underrated 90’s songs

Video of the day: If Pinterest were Invented in the 90’s

What’s On at Flavorpill: The Links that Made the Rounds in Our Office

Glowing Night Photos of Urban Grocers

Clicked external links: 4

Jawbreaker Shot Glass

and, from probably one of the most addictingly viral “pop culture news” magazine sites – Buzzfeed:

The Top 10 Most Legally and Illegally Downloaded TV Shows

14 Trends from Coachella 2012 You’ll Probably See More of This Summer

13 Untapped 90’s Fashion Trends

2.  Domus I love this magazine/site.  It looks just immersing and beautiful, and the features are good slices of the art and design world.

3.  Kempt

I like this.  In comparison to hearty (#6 in this list), this is more like what I’m talking about.

Distinct voice, even if isn’t exactly for me.

Feels crowded, but the content seems well-written enough – fresh takes on even “normal”-seeming things.

4. The SuperSlice

Slick and snazzy.

Altogether glossy branding and design.  With the slim category colors and clean serif title fonts.

5.  Social Design Zine

In Italian and English, I think one of the more high-brow and intellectual among this bunch, with reviews of design books and analyses of logos.

6.  hearty magazine

Love their logo, and the look of their header.

Unfortunately, I don’t fully know what to make of the magazine’s “voice”.

Not as youthfully luxurious and fashionably brash as Nylon, but also not as insightful a cultural lens as Thought Catalog.

For me it’s like the “Cosmopolitan” magazine of the web: it’s a bit too full of fluff, I’d rather read a men’s magazine.

7.  The DEFGRIP blog.

Bike culture and art.

I love that it has such a clean and crisp aesthetic for a BMX culture magazine.

Diversity is so beautiful.

Fast Company 100 Most Creative People 2012: I’m impressed.

I know I am such a fan girl, even of the hard-copy-physical-media magazine.

But, I think this is how a text-rich magazine is translated smartly to web.

It retains the strengths of a text content-rich magazine, plus the way they structured the information, and how to navigate through it, is just practical.

It prepares for and takes advantage of the strengths of web.

On paper or print, a large part of the ease is just being able to randomly flip-through.

I just realized now that I can go through and enjoy an entire magazine without even reading the table of contents.

Not the same for a web experience – people won’t click on things that they don’t feel will have something interesting “behind” it.

Now, that makes it hard because that means every single piece of content you have has to have an enticing way of being found.

Be it through a text link, an engaging image or a meaningful description.

But, what the web has, that print doesn’t, is adaptability (according to your personal taste).  It can allow you to explore a single set of information using multiple systems of navigation – going through something the way you’d find interesting.

And, that’s what Fast Company did for their 100 Most Creative People in Business 2012 issue.

The design team for the feature, who I’d like to name and laud if I could (I’ll try to find them), decided to have two ways of wading through the content.

You can either go through:

1) a countdown-type, names-in-order of “creativity” list (similar to the magazine),

2) or through a skill-centered path, where you go through the articles according to what advice or skill sets you want to work on.

The skill-groups are cute, too:

Be Weirder

Do Good, Well

Be More Productive

Think

Rethink

Sell

Lead

See, relevant and concise.

The entries themselves also follow the little guidelines I see on the usability sites, and they help.

Bulleted lists, highlighted text, one-paragraph nuggets of content; relevant hyperlinks.

If they had used the exact same format from the magazine, it would have been so much harder and less interesting to go through.

I think I actually like the information architecture more than the list itself haha.  I shall just leave a comment on their page. Yay, Fast Company!

[Sorry for the really long image, I screengrabbed the entire page.]

Teenage Engineering: The group that helped Ikea make a digicam out of cardboard

Ohmilawrd.  This site deserves its own entry.

Teenage Engineering was mentioned in the articles for IKEA KNÄPPA, the cheapest digital camera created, crafted from cardboard, featured on petapixel.

Teenage Engineering worked with Ikea on the camera, and with a name like that, I had to check out their site (wrong pronoun placement/use of antecedents).

I have to post their “About Us”-slash-“Careers” page.  I would like to work for a place that thinks of pages like this (but that’s just the fangirl in me talking):

The Stockholm agency’s current main product is a digital synthesizer and this is their product feature page:

That’s really all.  I just really wanted to show their site off. Haha nice clean, but colorfully loud aesthetic, highlighting their products.

P.S. While, I’m at it – this PS AT HOME site by Ikea, also a great idea.

Featuring their products in actual people’s homes.  Good strategy.

Usability and User Experience: 5 articles that help clarify my job + a fun chart!

I would like to thank my twitter feed, for bringing me links that would help me explain to the clients and managers I work with, the nuances of what they’re trying to achieve.

User experience is some sort of buzzword in the web design and product development circle.  Or at least in the company I work in.

Managers talk about it, and the designers “name-drop” it.

My boss calls me a usability professional.  Sadly, it’s not what I want to be or want to be called, nor am I equipped to be one.

1.  Clarify what you’re aiming for

This piece in UX Matters, entitled More than Usability: The Four Elements of User Experience Part I helps explain my predicament.

See, I want to be a User Experience professional.  I want to be a user researcher and, hopefully, an interaction designer.

That is much more than usability.  Usability only refers to the ease with which you are able to do something.  Whether a task can be accomplished or not; whether people make errors and how easily they navigate through a device or interface.

A user’s experience (hence the phrase “user experience“) can’t be oversimplified into just how easy it is to do something (otherwise it would just be called “user ease”).

It has to be enjoyable to use, or give some sort of value.  It’s an entire package of sensations and delivery beyond “efficiency”.

As the article points out, it’s usability + value + desirability + adoptability.

Multiple frameworks have already cropped up I know, this just seems to be the most concise and memorable one I’ve seen (so it’s easy to repeat).

Frank Guo’s User Experience Framework

2.  Acknowledge that it takes a lot of humility, emotional maturity and self-restraint (not just creativity and camaraderie) to make a multi-discipline group work together

Richard Anderson writes, in depth, about the multiple perspectives on “working in silos”.

This strikes a chord because a) there’s this one particular boss in our corporation who loves using the word “silos”, in meetings, to repeatedly refer to why it’s difficult to create successful strategy.

b) Because I’ve realized that product development teams are composed of people from different educational and professional backgrounds, all required to be creative and productive together.

The really really great thing about Anderson’s entry, is that he argues for both the good and bad sides of deferring to each other’s expertise and “leaving your _____ hat at the door”.  Because, that is how complex the UX design team situation is.

On one hand, you do want to respect that the designer knows design best, the developers know code best and the researchers know social sciences best. But, yes, once you’re all discussing “UX”, everybody really tries to stir the pot and get their hands in the stew.

I also like his conclusion, regarding the collaborative process centering on delivering a “good experience” to the consumer.

I wish it were that easy, though.  When put in practice in real life.  But at least, in terms of corporate evangelization, Anderson’s articles and talks (“Borrowing from the field of child development…“) would be very helpful in explaining how team division and conflicts should be dealt with.

Richard Anderson – UX Working team objectives

3.  Dirk from Involution Studios writes about his (seemingly scathing) reaction [“Losing faith in UX”] to a Whitney Hess article, which, to be fair, did seem to put UX designers on a high horse.  Or a much higher horse than she should have.

I sympathize with Mr….. Dirk.  Despite my not having worked in or with as many start-ups.  Mostly because of humility.

I am humbled by my new-ness in this field, and by the fact that, realistically, I am primarily a market researcher and a user researcher.

Meaning: As much as I badger and hammer my digital strategist teammates to refine their strategy (or actually make a sound one), since I’m the one who “knows the user”, I respect the difficulty of what they have on their plate.

Product Strategy, particularly in my team, is differentiated from…my role – user research.  And, as much as, sometimes, I’d like to think I could create better strategy, it isn’t my job to and I honestly wouldn’t enjoy just doing that day-in and day-out.

I’ve always been the one checking how people respond to products or content, or finding out user needs, but it’s a whole other level of responsibility to put a product out there and your ass on the line, juggling business decisions and all.  This is why I particularly dream of becoming an Interaction Designer, not a Product Manager or Brand Strategist.  I’d rather work with systems, framework and evidence, more than price points and competition.

To each his own, basically.  I just hope that people had as nuanced a view about work.

4.  This is really more for me.

I like how this UX matters article articulately differentiated the disciplines behind Agile and User Experience.

Again, being new in a web design team, these are phrases I kept hearing over and over and over during my first weeks of work.

It was almost funny, sometimes.  People would get into lengthy discussions or arguments on what kind of method to use, when, if you really thought about it, it’s not as if they were mutually exclusive.

This article, Agile User Experience Design, communicates how “Agile” is a web development process and “User experience” is a design tenet and methodology.  They can actually work together.  Please read the article if you want to know more; Ms. Janet Six is much more articulate.

5.  On a lighter note, there’s also “How to annoy a UX designer“.

It’s really practical and funny at the same time.  Thank you very much, Peter Hornby, for writing this.
Worst answer—You’re kidding, right? You’re employing me as a UX designer, and you want me to code? Sure, I’ll hack something together. Perhaps we should discuss my hourly rate?

And this really fun infographic! on chart types 🙂