That’s really the great mystery about bureaucracies. Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things—the leaders—are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Pleasing your teachers, pleasing your superiors, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Jumping through hoops. Getting along by going along. Being whatever other people want you to be, so that it finally comes to seem that,...you have nothing inside you at all. Not taking stupid risks like trying to change how things are done or question why they’re done. Just keeping the routine going.
It’s tough speaking truth to power, and much easier to just stay quiet. I find that sometime when someone is branded a troublemaker, it may be they are just curious. It’s a long read, but worth it.
I've been sitting in on a few design meetings over the pass few weeks, and the one thing I was absolutly looking to hear is how a person or company is approaching mobile when building applications or websites. What I'm hoping to hear is "we don't have one"
At this point a mobile stategy is not a seperate idea, but a part of the whole strategy. A company that spins out mobile as a seperate line item is the same as saying to me, that making a site semantic is an extra cost, or using css is a extra cost. In my mind making a site look it’s best on any device is part of the job and working out the best way to serve your user and within your technical capabilities
The largest trend to hit web applications over the last few years is mobile. I think we are at the tipping point where most companies will have needed to think about an approach to mobile. A few years ago it was almost laughable to think anyone would make a purchase over a mobile device. Today, some 60% and rising, are using smartphones to make those purchases. If a company is not moving on mobile, then they are being left behind.
The software program that I think gets it right, business acumen aside, is Netflix. I think there are
three areas that they get right.
1. They are device agnostic. I think the fact that they are striving to be on every device that a potential user might be on is great. I think they really understand that a user wants it, when they want it, where they want it.
2. They take care of the grunt work. I think a great program makes me not have to think. Other than downloading, there is never any configuration, never any hassles. Also, I constantly amazed that even through the movie is streaming, it never feels like it.
3. I’m awesome. Because of item one and two, as a user, I feel great. For me it just works, in that way, Netflix becomes transparent, and achieves my goal, which is to watch the past seasons of Breaking Bad
I think my runner up would probably be Dropbox for almost exactly the same reasons.
You have to drive folks to innovate. The tendency in lots of large organizations is to try and find a comfortable place where you think you can get measured rewards for measured work. In other words, they say to themselves, “I know how much I’m going to get if I do this much, and then my life is in balance.” I just don’t think you get a lot of innovation under those circumstances. You want people to figure out how to do things better, to figure out a smarter way. When that’s a constant process, you start seeing things innovate. It’s not because someone comes up with some brand-new idea where you say, “Oh, no one’s ever thought about this before.”
I had the good fortune to take the two day workshop for SEO. It was a very good experience,and there is plenty that can help others. Here is my Top Ten takeaways from the workshop that can help everyone
10. Google is really the only search engine that matters. They carefully control their search market share here in the US to under 66% so they won’t get charged with running a monopoly. In other parts of the world they have 90% market share
9. Check what is the norm for you industry. Generally a well optimized web page falls in what is considered normal for like pages. For example, a shopping page might only have 250 words of copy, this is considered ‘natural’. Google does try to consider that when determining Search Engine results, so if you are doing something different, while you may not penalized, it may not help.
8. #1, #2 and #3 are the only positions that matter in a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Google is increasingly adding value to searches by adding maps, images and videos in SERPs, a great thing for the user, but it does take a little more effort for the site that wants to get above the fold. Position 20 might as well be position 10,000.
7. Search results is a games of inches. With millions of results per query, the distance between position 3 and position 2 and position 1 is the width of a hair. It’s about which page is ‘least imperfect’. Put another way SERPs is a game of inches.
6. Focus on the long-tail. When people search they generally try to be specific as possible generally using 3-4 words. If those terms don’t produce the desired results, then the user start searching more broadly
5. Use the tilde ‘~’ when doing keyword research. The tilde is an undocumented way when doing a google search to also return up a result that not only produce your results but also other terms that users have used when searching for the same thing, this is great for long-tail keyword research. An example search term might be “~fashion”, which also brings up ‘style’, ‘accessories’, ‘clothing’ and a slew of fashion related terms
4. Structure you site into silos. If structure is properly done, you can maximize pagerank for internal links. So, that means fewer links per page, linking to landing pages, and being a lot more thoughtful on how you link to other areas of the site and whether you should.
3. Use Google endorsed schema’s. Sitemaps XML files are something we already know about, but a new thing google has endorsed is schemas. This s a spec they intend to probably support in 2012, but it’s a headache to implement, so weight the cost benefit of implementation
2. Result may vary, Factors in SERP can be influence by location and the searches that can before it. For example, if you initially search pushups you’d probably get a lot of results about exercise, but if the search before that one was on bras, you’d get a different set of results. In regards to location, they are starting to be more and more important in result rankings. Think about those things when writing for your sites.
1. Content is still king. We all know this, but the definition is expanding to video (with transcribing), PDFs and images, (which google is starting to learn to read), and of course social media
I participated in the foursquare hackathon over the weekend. My project is called Everything is cool. The idea behind my project is that most people when they hear of something going on in your area,, whether it be something weather related, or an accident, all they really want know is where you are and that you are okay.
My app let’s you do that in the quickest way possible. Using the Foursquare API, once you sign in it grabs the nearest location to you. From there you can just hit a button, and an email or text will be sent to your contact list with two pieces of information: Where you are and that everything is cool. Here is a link to the demo
I think the term social media will be obsolete. In 5 years all media (and everything else for that matter) will be social and baked into everything that we interact with because everything we interact with will be connected in some form or fashion to a greater network.
Social as it is defined now refers to living organisms, i.e. people, but I think that definition is bound to expand to include things as well. What we’ll really mean though is everything will be networked and ‘aware’ of it’s surroundings. I can imagine a world where the alarm clock will be networked to your online calendar and will know when you have a 9am meeting and disable the snooze button.
Additionally, they say that the best time to be on social networks is when you are alone but the gulf of being in two places at once (reality and virtual) will continue to close, on one end technology will be get better and phones (or whatever they will be called) as a distribution and consumption platform will have evolved in to something less intrusive and natural. On the other hand talking with someone face-to-face and doing whatever else will become accepted and even expected by the mainstream.
The first thing we noticed was a drop in traffic. Then other symptoms that seemed unrelated at the time were also being reported like search not working. it wasn't until we got a notice from Google Webmaster that we realized we'd been hacked. Again.
After taking the site down for the second time in two weeks, it dawned on me, if we are to continue we’d better learn to fail.
It’s simple, a website with our set -up running a popular content management system on a public facing website might be compromised. It could happen for a variety reasons both in and out of our control. The important thing then is getting the site back to a point where it is safe as soon as possible while being 99% sure that whatever compromised the site in the first place has been removed.
While I’ve moved on from being a designer (and arguably, most designers should at some point move from being *just* a designer), there is always the ever present debate of whether a designer should go to college. I’m not particularly against designers who are self-taught, but I am an advocate for anyone going to college whether for design or almost anything else. It just opens so many more doors, also you learn to deal with people. In the specific instant of design I think there are a couple invaluable reasons to go to school.
1. The peer group. This is so incredible important in the early life of a designer. I think that feedback of early work amongst one’s peers is essential. To a certain extent it’s finding one’s voice and personal style of the designer. It also lays the groundwork for future work habits.
2. Learning context. I once asked an instructor how she could grade art. She gave a good, if rote answer. Art can be graded based on what has come before and the rules that have already been established. The same can be said with design. Of course another rote idiom applies here: You have to know the rules to break the rules.
3. Experience. Not real world experience, but experiences in different aspects of communication, whether its printmaking, bookkeeping, or painting. These experiences I think help round out a designers work and voice, and expose the designer to things they may not necessarily be exposed to if they are self-taught. There is something to be said for a well rounded education.
More often than not my main job is managing the chain of information. The pieces that dictate what drives the information is, the what, how, why, who and when and usually can be decided pretty easily. The challenge is how much of the information needs to be passed on. Like too little information, too much information can bring productivity to a screeching halt.
don’t take action if you have only enough information to give you less than a 40 percent chance of being right, but don’t wait until you have enough facts to be 100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too late
My task is 1. Making sure information and resources get to where they need to be and 2. Determining how much information needs to get there.
For example, some people only need to know the what, others the how and others the when. As we shift to a knowledge based society, where information is fueling the how people think, what people do and what is considered important, distribution is gold.
Coming from a design background I'm going to say something heretical.
Logos are useless and everyone who design logos for a living had better find something else to do with their time.
The company I use to work had a complicated business to say the least and was not terribly brandable. I believe that most companies are going to be this way going forward. It might even be hard to create a logo for even a sandwich shop, it might seem easy but what would differentiate it from the sandwhich shop down the street?
“What do we do?” is the million dollar question for any company, and one rarely asked. I doubt just a logo can answer that question and more often than not that is what is being asked of a designer in the logo creation process. A good designer will do the research, and create media friendly iconography, and then hope that the company is willing to attempt to make a brand connection to it.
There in lies the challange to companies. Once you engage in the creation of a logo, the willingness to put the full force of the company and it’s people behind the logo to breath life into it.
I like QR codes but for the life of me I can’t think of an application for it that would be worthwhile. Yet.
The QR (Quick Response) code is a 2D barcode that is huge in Japan and trying to get a foothold here in the US. QR codes can be scanned by applications on smart phones using the phone’s camera. The QR code usually contains a URL, a short text message or contact information.
This can be a boon to a digital marketing strategy. It can track responsiveness, stickiness, and take advantage of user feedback. I think the potential for social games is huge. I think as a counter-part to the foursquare and gowalla’s of the world are huge.
But the QR code has a last mile problem big time. Outside of the name which doesn’t mean anything to anyone, and as a first step ‘QR code’ should be dropped—quickly. The last mile is one part behavioral, one part technical and one part usefulness.
On the behavioral side, the actual act of scanning is a clunky process at best. However with the advent of location based services, whipping out the mobile phone to open a casual application is over-coming that hurdle big time. Even now, the more I get into the habit of checking in, the easier it gets. QR codes will follow the trend I suspect.
On the technical side, sometime the information that is scanned is not very actionable. If I scan some one’s contact information, the application should recognize it as such and give me the option to add it to my address book or more options when it’s a URL I should also get more options, whether bookmark it view it, and it should certainly lead to a mobile site. Applications just need to be smarter.
Finally we need to be smarter on how we use them in campaigns. What is the added value of the hassle of scanning a QR code? The challenge is going to be figuring out what the user wants when they are scanning and are we giving it to them. Is it information? Is it a coupon? What can I give the scanner that will prompt a next step? What are the expectations? Am I adding value?
I think it’s something that needs to be figured out before QR codes can really ever catch on.
There comes a realization that some problems will need to be solved by future generations, in the business world this usually means the person that will have your job after you leave.
The problems we leave behind could be for several reasons: political, technical limitations or just plain trying to get a minimum viable product out the door. Some of the concessions we make for progress is a headache waiting to happen for someone, in a worst case scenario, a headache for ourselves six months down the line. Just in the past couple of weeks a couple examples have cropped up
Icon creation can be a challenge, the simpler the metaphor one can use the better for all involved. For example, a down arrow could have several possible meanings, the most likely is ‘download’, but it could also mean ‘apply’ or ‘move down’. What if the application has an ‘apply’ feature but not a download? Do you assume that at some point in the application roadmap that a download feature might be added and go with something else or do you go ahead and use the simpler, more direct metaphor and let future generation sort it out?
According to standards on a website I was involved in we could not have orphan pages. It forces us to make very deliberate decisions of document taxonomy. But occasionally, there is a business need for what could be an orphan page. What do we do? Do we set up a new rule? Do we use development resources to create a new branch of the document tree? What if this really is a one off page and there does not appear to have other pages created like it in the future? Do we throw the link on a backwater internal page where no one will find it and let a future generation revisit it?
The only way to can feel okay about screwing the future is to document, document, document. Put down somewhere why the decisions were made, what the context was and/or the limitations that may have boxed you in to a less than desirable situation. At the very least the person taking up the mantle after you has somewhere to start and does not need to re-invent the wheel. it’s the least we could do.