good design and UX

ios7
I hate to be one of those redesign resistant people, but at first glance I don’t like the design changes of iOS7 announced this week at WWDC.

My displeasure comes down to the loss of skeuomorphism and the flat design.

Aesthetics are all judged by opinions. And opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one. But design goes beyond whether you “like” something or not. Design has rules and order.

Good design is intuitive. And most of our intuition comes from our life experiences. Round colorful circles don’t tell me what something does.

Contrast, color, and hierarchy provide a means for the designer to command the places for the user’s eye to go. With no depth, everything is equal.

It all comes back to something that I’m seeing more and more of. Design for the sake of design rather than for user experience. It’s fun and feels edgy for the newly hatched designer to smear a gradient across their screen and slap a thin font on it. Not so much for the user to who has to deal with it on a daily basis.

linguistical maneuvers

Apple wants the iPad 3 to be called the “new iPad”.

This poses some questions for the future. What happens when the next incarnation of the iPad arrives? Will we call it the newer iPad? At that point, what will we call this iPad? The old new iPad?

Then what about versions after that? Will the hipsters eventually walk into the Apple Store and say “I need a dock for my old newer new newest iPad”?

There is some strategy behind this branding shift for Apple. We just won’t get to see their complete line of thinking until the new newer version of the newest iPad is unveiled in a few years.

brand leadership

Strong brands have strong leaders with strong personalities. This branded leadership will help organizations succeed because the audience will have confidence that the leaders will respond to their needs.

colonel sandersLeaders of the organization (at all levels) can influence brand perception. How they exercise that influence can have positive or negative effects.

But where does this leadership come from? There are three primary sources:

Shoppers trust Joe down at Joe’s Butcher Shop more than the corporate meat cutter behind the glass at the Mega-Low Mart. The product is similar in both instances. Why is there a major perception difference? It’s because shoppers perceive Joe as a guide, curator, and maybe even a friend. His personal integrity stands behind his product. The meat at the big box store is presented as a faceless commodity.

And the naysayers say…

“Well, okay, of course the small mom & pop business can do this stuff, right? That’s their strength. Major national brands can’t do it.”

Perhaps you’re reading this post on a product you picked up down at Steve’s Apple Store.

Steve Jobs was defined by Apple and Apple will always be defined by Steve Jobs (and Woz). Jobs’ personal credibility bled through to the brand. While he was infamously a hands-on micromanager in development and design, he didn’t personally sell iPhones, Macs, and the rest to consumers….Or did he?…You saw the personal connection between him, the brand, and consumers at when he unveiled a new Apple product when he was alive and you certainly saw it when he died.

You’ve seen this strong personal leadership that crossed the veil into the brand at several strong corporate entities. Tony Hsieh at Zappos. Richard Branson at Virgin. Herb Kelleher at SouthWest. Oprah at … Oprah. All individuals whose personal leadership made those brands great.

And the naysayers say…

“Well, okay, of course the founders of these companies made a huge impact on the corporate brand. But our founder is ____. (boring / evil / dead / etc) We can’t do it.”

No doubt Henry Ford, in his day, made as much or more of an influence on his company as any of the people I mentioned above. His influence on the Ford brand is finished. But with social media connections to people like Scott Monty (@ScottMonty), there is a personal leadership and connection to the brand. Through an effective social media strategy, consumers can talk “personally” to a brand and feel a one-on-one connection that is similar to Joe down at the butcher shop.

Another point to remember is that brand leadership happens at every level of the organization. The barista that you interact with every morning who knows your name and you know theirs is more of the face of Starbucks to you than Howard Schultz is. Develop a corporate culture that helps the people who are ambassadors of your brand (employees, volunteers, other customers, and more) show brand leadership.

People want to interact with personalities, not corporations. No matter where the leadership for that personality comes from, organizations will benefit from it whether it be from an employee empowered corporate culture, an interactive social media presence, or a visible dynamic founder.

three commencement addresses that are worth your time

‘Tis the season for people to sit in hot black robes and listen to vague motivational pomptitude (and circumstanitude).

Out there in the cultural zeitgeist, I think there are three commencement addresses that are worth your time. These three are good; not only for recent graduates, but also for anyone who needs some business motivation.

To satisfy the Apple fanboys, I’ll list Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address first. It consists of three stories, and I like the first one best. You never know what connections from the past will come together to create new ideas. Here’s the text of the speech or you can watch it here.

Conan O’Brien’s 2000 Harvard address is mostly jokes and very funny. (naturally) But it actually contains one of the best messages that a twenty-something or anyone can learn: Failure is necessary to succeed.
The quality of the video below is poor so you’ll find the text version is better.

The odd thing about Conan’s speech is that he gave it about ten years before the Leno / Tonight Show fiasco. It’s been his only commencement speech until this year when Conan is scheduled to address the graduates of Dartmouth. It will be interesting if he expands on his theme. (UPDATE: He did.)

“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” was originally a 1997 column in the Chicago Tribune, but Baz Luhrmann reworked the column as a spoken word / musical track on an album. The track became a worldwide radio hit in the summer of 1999. It became an ear rut for me that year in my radio days. The lyrics contain many truths.

One of the final verses of Sunscreen pretty much captures the essence of all commencement addresses…

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

the daily disappointment

UPDATE (2 years later): They finally killed The Daily.

So yesterday, I was all giddy (in a professional way) about the advent of The Daily, the world’s first news publication built specifically for a tablet (read: iPad). I actually “tuned-in” for the live stream of the launch (which began late). But the more I watched, the more I soured. (which probably came through on Twitter)

And it’s my fault. I was expecting too much.

I guess I was envious of what they could do with a fresh slate. There were no sacred cows to kill with the “this is how we set hot type” luddites, no internal turf wars that hinder what could be done with an online news publication, no online/print revenue streams to shield with an opportunity for a real understanding of an online revenue stream, no technology limitations of how content could be presented, and more. It was a chance for a complete re-invention.

But what did they do? They put together a gussied-up online newspaper.

It’s completely made up of the same multimedia content that you can find on any major market newspaper website — just presented like your iTunes albums (and will users flip through with the same uninterested abandon?)

Crossword and Sudoku!? Wow. They might as well as have included Alley Oop, Ann Landers (who is still dead), and the horoscope (update: Corey says they have a horoscope.)

One of the Daily’s first tweets (where you think they would promote the coolest stuff) was that you could share articles on Facebook, Twitter, or email. That’s so unique to this new and exciting platform. I can’t do that with any other site. Email? Tell me more! (btw – it’s not really social sharing if it’s inside the paywall)

I thought of writing a huge post about The Daily, but it would have been full of snark like the above. Instead, here are a link, a personal anecdote, and a quote that pretty much sum up my overall thoughts:

  • This article from GigaOm does the best job of quickly pointing out the flaws and foibles of The Daily.
  • This morning, I’m teaching one of my college classes and today was the day I had already scheduled to talk about web design, user/reader experience, etc. So I started out by asking them about yesterday’s launch of The Daily as a new way to interface news. In a group of 48 students (most in their late teens/early twenties) who are enrolled in a journalism school, not one of them had even heard of The Daily.
  • And finally this from James Lileks’ Bleat

    As for New Media platforms, I’ve looked at the Daily app for the iPad, and I can only say this: it’s always going to come down to tomorrow. Yes, yes, do the in-depth stories, the culture stuff, the lite ‘n’ brite features, but when it comes to NEWS, don’t tell me anything tomorrow I didn’t know today.National and international news has to be updated hourly, or it’s still fishwrap. Without the added functionality of, you know, actual fishwrap.

sweet sassy mo lassy

Today is the anniversary of one of my favorite surreal historical events, Boston’s Great Molasses Flood.

The Great Boston Molasses Tragedy, occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston. A large molasses tank burst and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph, killing 21 and injuring 150. The event has entered local folklore, and residents claim that on hot summer days the area still smells of molasses.

Yes.

Molasses.

In January.

But rather than the tried analogy of slowness, these molasses were fast and deadly.

You hear alot of talk about either old corporations who can’t / won’t keep up with the new rules of business. Or old media companies that can’t keep up or adapt to the new media consumer.

But I think anything is possible. Look at Apple. Several years ago, I would have said that they were dead and had weighted themselves down. But now, they’re agile and making their own rules. And there are lots of old companies who people thought were D.O.A. who have reconfigured themselves and are leading rather than being pushed aside.

So two things::
1) To the fresh new companies: You can’t really rely on the oft-used strategy of being small and agile to beat the establishment.
2) To the old companies: Get moving.

Anybody got a biscuit?

Who’s in control?

First off, this is an a-political post. I have no horse in the race. I’m just looking at the marketing/media issues of this situation.

If you haven’t heard, there’s a web video circulating that uses footage from the classic 1984 Apple spot. However, in this version, Hillary Clinton takes the place of “Big Brother”. And the tagline sends people to the Obama campaign site. See the spot here…

There’s been quite a bit of speculation about if the ad came from the Barack Obama camp. It turns out the answer was “kinda” as someone who worked for an internet strategy firm hired by the Obama campaign did it on their own. (and has been fired for it)

There’s lots of big thoughts here, and I could expand on each of these points, but here are some quick ponderings…

1) Welcome to the Tipping Point for user-generated content and politics. If candidates thought that bloggers were trouble in the last election cycle, they haven’t seen anything yet. Sure, this ad was created by a “professional”, but it could have just as easily been done by anyone else. And the line between professional and homemade with viral web video is miniscule.

2) Wake up. Everyone is now able to create their own political ad (or any kind of ad, for that matter). If you have a message and an internet connection, you have the world’s attention. This has been clear for some time now, but the mainstream has just picked up on it.

3) If you think you can control your marketing mesage, you’re wrong. If two tightly controlled soundbite driven political campaigns can’t control their messaging, what makes you think you can?

4) The thing that I’ve seen no one mention about all this is the fact that Apple’s message was corrupted. I’m sure the iPod generation doesn’t really know the 1984 ad (actually, I could make the argument that not many people outside the advertising world know anything about it). But, it’s something to consider. Is someone going to re-format your focused marketing for their own purpose?

Bottom line: You no longer have dominant control over messages. The best you can hope for is to guide the conversation. If you’re just now figuring this out, you’re in trouble.

Mac Vs PC

I’ve been meaning to post about the new Apple TV campaign. The one where a cool guy (the Mac) and a nerdy guy (the PC) stand in front of a white screen and converse about their differences.

I like the ads…and dislike them too. With such mental dichotomy, it’s been hard to craft the proper blog post. Luckily, I didn’t have to. Slate writer Seth Stevenson and his Ad Report Card sum up almost everything I have thought about the ads.

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Design Basics

Via Scoble
I’ve always said that marketing by committee is never a good idea. This video parody shows what might have happened if Microsoft had designed the Ipod box.

This is true for creating all your marketing pieces as well.
The idea of “we paid for this space so we need to use all of it” sometimes kills your message.

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