September 4th, 2012 | Ana Gervásio
You’ve made the decision to convert your content to a mobile app. So now what is your plan to get your audiences to download and view it on their devices, and what process should your users have to go through to achieve this? More and more, efforts are being made to provide readers and users with more value by adding interactive content to traditional print publications (we’re big supporters of this) in the form of an app. However, I have come across too many experiences of well meaning companies that just can’t seem to get the user experience right. The basic lesson is this – if you don’t have the resources to execute digital, then stay “charmingly” analog, and your readers will thank you for it. Awkwardly forcing yourself into the digital space is not the answer.
Let me share a story that illustrates my point.
Last week we noticed that our featured piece in the Design Edge Regional Design Awards Annual issue (Holiday-pick-me-up wine glass labels) had been enhanced with video content. Design Edge had gone as far as making a video of our print submission! What did it look like? How would they present it? The eagerness to learn more grew, and after an excited shout “there’s video content” echoed throughout the office, we all promptly gathered around an iPad to see it in action.
This is how our journey for added value began. Next to the image of our artwork in the print publication, we were greeted by a blue play button with the caption “iPad extra: watch a video demonstrating this project” – no further instructions. While some of us busily looked around the page for clues, one of our team members shouted “check the front page, maybe there’s something there”. And so we do. The front page of the magazine does indeed have the same blue play button. The button is followed by a brief description and a long url (dare I say this is what TinyURL and other like services were invented for… well, this and Twitter). This long url will take us to the tablet addition; surely this is where we’ll find our video.
The link to the tablet edition, as it turns out, takes you to a landing page within the Design Edge website. Nothing has been specially designed to accommodate tablet browsing. This page contains a QR code that leads users to the Android app. However, it’s impossible to scan a QR code when you’re already using the device required to scan. No matter. All messages on the page are over-shadowed by a large app icon with an ‘Available on the App Store badge’. So we do what any user would – disregard all small copy and go straight to clicking on the ‘Available on the App Store badge’, then… nothing. Then we click on the app icon. Again nothing. But we are determined to see this to the end so off we go to Apple’s App store. By this point, I will confess that the original large group of spectators has dwindled to three persistent souls. After doing a search we are once again stumped; the only app we see features a different graphic icon than the one displayed on the page. Maybe we didn’t search for the right thing? Left with no other recourse we forge ahead and download what appears to be the only option for a Design Edge App. Once the App was installed we do a search for the relevant issue, then hit the download button – or an additional fee, mind you! By this point, the team of 8 that had originally gathered to view the added value content was down to 1 frustrated soul (me).
This excruciating multi-step process took about 15 minutes in total. An unacceptable amount of time in today’s instant gratification world. Truth be told, had I not had a personal stake in this, I would have quit exceptionally early in the process.
This attempt to raise awareness of the iPad app is fundamentally flawed. In the future, instead of frustrating a user, provide them with an enjoyable experience, keep them engaged and provide them useful tools to stay in touch. Like an app.
Maybe it was lack of thought or resources, or perhaps it was an irresolvable conflict between management and developer. But one thing is certain, the user was left behind during this process. As a user, Design Edge left me with only one story to tell: “Don’t bother… too much work.”
June 8th, 2011 | Karen Henricks
It’s nice to see designers come up with a branding solution that doesn’t try too hard, that works precisely because of its simplicity. Case in point: the new (old) Canadian Olympic Team logo and supporting mosaic graphic, designed by Ben Hulse.
With respect to the value of the iconic symbol of the maple leaf as Canadian and the rings as Olympic, the logo communicates what it needs to.
Does it bother me that the logo is virtually identical to a version in Canada’s Olympic past? Not in the slightest.
I look forward to seeing the mosaic graphic applied to both online and printed materials.
February 1st, 2011 | Darrell Corriveau
Recently I attended a talk at OCADU, by User Experience (UX) designer and author Dan Saffer, called The Complexity of Simplicity in Design. The talk centered around the idea that achieving simplicity in design is the ideal, but the process to get there is often very complex. In his examples Saffer mainly referred to consumer products and software, but the lessons can be applied to user interfaces and, by extension, web sites and web platforms as well.
Saffer first outlined various roadblocks and pitfalls that occur and must be dealt with to achieve the desired end result. These include things like feature creep, version control and something called edge cases – which on its own deserves exploration in another post. He then went into some detail about the concept of Tesler’s Law. Tesler’s Law, formulated by human-computer interaction pioneer Larry Tesler, states that all tasks or processes have an inherent level of complexity that can’t be reduced. All we can do is shift the responsibility of the task to either the user (more control) or the product (more automation). For example, the first generations of the iPod gave the user basic control over song selection and volume, but the system automatically displayed songs in easy to access categories like album title, artist and genre. The balance of control and automation contributed greatly to the usability of the product.
We see this control/automation interplay on web sites when we perform searches, fill out forms, navigate shopping carts and try to pay for things. The designer and client must make dozens of small decisions on how best to make these experiences easy for users while allowing enough interaction so they feel in control.
When everything is in balance, as in the iPod, the solution seems simple and inevitable. Attributes that were neatly summed up in Saffer’s concluding slide – a quote from Christian Lindholm, Managing Partner and Director at Fjord: “Most companies are looking to ‘wow’ with their products, when in reality what they should be looking for is an ‘of course’ reaction.”
April 30th, 2010 | Janice Carter
Today, Leslie Buck, designer of the iconic coffee cup dies at 87. If you were in New York, particularly before the advent of a certain coffee establishment with a green logo, his cup will likely look familiar to you. Even if you haven’t been to NY, you’ve likely spotted the java holder in “Law & Order”, “Sex & the City” and other NY-based TV shows and movies.
Buck, a refugee from then Czechoslovakia, introduced the cup in the 1960s. The graphics have since been slapped on t-shirts, mugs and tourist memorabilia. If imitation is a form of flattery, Buck should certainly be flattered.
Now, does this mean that the cup is well-designed? I don’t think the answer matters. I think the point is that the cup has become part of pop-culture. How many designers can say they’re leaving a legacy? The next time you’re in New York, grab a coffee in one of the old diners and remember Buck. He was happy to serve you.
September 9th, 2009 | Peter Scott
Speculative work (doing work for free in hopes of landing a job) and the design profession have met once again, this time with a fancy new name called “crowdsourcing” (seemingly coined by Wired Mag and now a Wikipedia entry). U.S. ad firm, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky crowdsoursed a logo for their client Brammo, a manufacturer of electric ‘powercycles’. Posting the job on crowdsourcing Web site crowdSpring they offered $1,000 to the winning logo design and received a huge number of entries from which to choose. A variety of blogs have taken up the discussion on the pros and cons of this new way to reach out to the masses for creative ideas. It is an age old dilemma and still seems to divide those of us who believe that to do the best strategic work for a client, you need thorough and thoughtful analysis and the group that believes more is better (and cheaper).
March 18th, 2009 | Darrell Corriveau
GE, maker of everything from light bulbs to jet engines, is also developing technology and products for smart grids – the next generation of the electricity system. To help explain the smart grid concept, they’ve produced a nifty website that includes a component they are calling Smart Grid Augmented Reality. To make it work, the user prints a simple black and white image on a sheet of plain paper and then holds it up to their computer’s webcam.
Then, in a truly ‘how did they do that?’ moment, an image of wind turbines and houses on a grassy landscape seems to unfold in a three-dimensional manner from the paper image on the computer screen. The image can then be moved and turned by manipulating the paper in the users hands. And that’s not all. By blowing into the computer microphone, the user can actually increase the speed of the wind turbines. It’s a neat bit of tech trickery from a massive company known for its innovation, but really, the presentation is not of much use. You will learn very little, if anything, about the concept of smart grids by giving it a try. But maybe that’s just fine. Despite the absence of social media links of any kind, the site has still managed to go viral to some degree – and if it’s not deepening the understanding of smart grid technology, it certainly is creating brand awareness for GE. The technology could also serve as a springboard for other more meaningful applications in the future.
February 11th, 2009 | Darrell Corriveau
Held at the Gladstone Hotel from February 5 to 8, Come Up to My Room is an exhibition showcasing compelling alternative design from Canada and around the world. Many of the rooms, usually reserved for paying customers, are converted to design and art installations.
Standouts included a room designed and constructed by Studio Junction Inc. that featured a drop ceiling and a room-length, floor-to-ceiling bench all constructed with narrow slats of wood in varying hues. Strategically placed backlighting gave the room a warm glow that evoked a calming Nordic sauna.
The Inside Out House was a project by Laura McKibbon and Jasna Sokolovic. A bathroom transformed into a postmodern fairytale with trees, grass and moss overflowing the sink, toilet and bathtub, amongst which sat a variety of red ceramic birds. Glittering plastic stars dangling from the ceiling added to the surreal effect.
Perhaps my favorite (pictured above) was a simple concept by duo Matt Carr – who is Director of Design at Umbra – and Joyce Lo that used common rope lights from Home Depot to spell “cant get enough” on the walls. Attached to strings dangling from the ceiling were a series of small metal-rimmed ‘peepholes’ that when spied through, rendered the points of light as small glowing hearts – cleverly completing the phrase.