Trying to Design the Perfect Remote Control for TV

Over the past year I’ve spent a ton of time working & thinking about an option to experience TV on the iPad. There’s a lot of great things that can be done with a swipe or press of a finger. It opens up better conventions than are available on a set top box that has to deal with old technology and legacy issues. It also opens up one issue that every designer wants to improve—the remote control. All of a sudden if a person doesn’t have to rely on an input device that is painful to use to search and browse combined with an iPad the whole convention of TV & movie viewing changes for the better. I’ve blogged in the past about the remote control experience trying to understand how it could be improved. One remote that got my attention when it first came out through images was from Boxee because of the keyboard on one side. I’ve never tried one so I found the review from Terrence O’Brien to be helpful for pointing out a couple things I wouldn’t have considered to be an issue.

FROM SWITCHED—TERRENCE O’BRIEN: The other major hardware component is the remote, which is unique with its full QWERTY keypad on its reverse side. On the whole, it’s a wonderful creation. Using the keypad is much more pleasant than navigating on-screen keyboards with basic directional controls. That being said, there are a few design quirks that keep it from being perfect. The symmetrical controls make it very easy to grab the remote the wrong way, which had us constantly hitting “menu” when we wanted to hit “play/pause.” The remote is also just a little too wide for comfortable typing, especially since the QWERTY keys take quite a bit of force to press. (Still, we’d take the Boxee remote over the Apple TV and Roku remotes any day.) Alternatively, you can always use the iPhone app, which gives you the option of controlling the Boxee Box with virtual buttons or by using hand gestures. Still, neither the remote nor the the iPhone app offer a good solution for controlling the on-screen cursor. Unlike the Boxee desktop app, many videos require you to launch full-screen mode with the remote’s directional pad, something that is at best inconvenient and at worst maddening.

Reading about the experience of using the Boxee remote a couple themes emerged. Trying to find something to do vs a simple action. For example trying to find a show/video through exploration vs. hitting a specific channel. Again because things are being relied from the remote with an up/down & side to side action it still relies on conventions of normal remotes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. One of my favorite remotes is from Apple. It’s pretty disciplined with the number of buttons it has. The difference perhaps is that there isn’t such a physical disconnect from looking down on the remote while trying to keep one eye on the TV. The other issue mentioned that I wouldn’t have considered is the symmetry of the remote buttons. On screen it looks well balanced—but what happens when the icons and names rub off? Hopefully in V2 of the remote one of those two buttons in changed slightly in shape to signify which is which.

Looking at FlickStackr for the iPad & New York Times on Chrome

I’ve started studying apps like FlickStackr for the iPad & newyorktimes.com/chrome among among others. This is a really exciting time to be a designer because it seems like every couple months and weeks something is coming out that is really changing how people interact with information. I just started using both FlickStackr and newyorktimes.com/chrome which kind of challenge some of the old ways images and text have been displayed—so I decide to take a closer look at my initial reaction to them both.

Yesterday as I was starting to updates my iPad apps I started to browse the Genius section of the app store. One suggestion jumped out at me right away. FlickStackr was recommended and since I use Flickr a lot. Up until yesterday I have not had a very satisfying experience with Flickr on the iPad. I haven’t been able to swipe or go through a lot of images from their website or any third party app.

Basics
FlickStackr is that it displays and makes it really easy to navigate Flickr images. If a person signs in they can see their own images and those of their contacts. Everything that a person can see concerning data and section information on Flickr’s website is available—though structured better. There’s recent activity, recent from contacts, groups, viewing photo streams, view collections, view galleries, view contacts and contact profiles.

Other Feature Stuff
A person can search photos, people and groups while filtering through relevance, recency and interesting. In the action tool bar a person can save an image, open it in a browser, share via email, Twitter and Facebook, have the ability to refresh a page (important when looking at the contact photo stream). Selected individual images have the ability to be commented on, favourited, tagged, EXIF data shown, view what sets the image is contained in, what groups it is a part of and what galleries it might be in. One feature that I’m looking to play with is the location based viewable abilities.

Flow
I really liked how the app was able adjust formats in both landscape and portrait modes. Whether I wanted to view a grid of images or list view, both modes worked depending on orientation. Even as I scrolled through images the load times seemed above average. I tried this on a couple different networks and this was the case even with a slow network. If I wanted to see an image full screen it took only a tap or two. If I swiped left or right the image advanced. It was a really enjoyable experience. There were times during the day that I just left the app on with the slideshow playing in the background—that was the first time I’ve ever done that. As I was tapping from one mode or section at a time, the way the columns contracted, colapsed or expanded made sense.

Things That Could Be Improved
As I mentioned about refresh—I don’t think people realize that their contact’s images aren’t the most recent that are viewable if they don’t press the refresh button in the action drop down. Once a person discovers that feature it’s fins, but an easier way would be an auto refresh. I also think that the home button is a bit hidden if a person goes pretty deep browse. Again to quickly go home a person has to use the action drop down menu.

Best Flickr App
This is easiest the best Flickr related app that I’ve bought and used. For two dollars it’s totally worth it. As I mentioned above up until this point there hasn’t been a great Flickr app. As I was studying the UI I was really impressed how fluid everything was.

NYTIMES.COM/CHROME

Within minutes of the first mention of NYTIMES.COM/CHROME on Twitter I opened up the Chrome browser and bounced around the New York Times site to see what it had to offer. After a couple minutes I was curious to see how it handled on the iPad. It was a bit weird for a website to ask if it could allocate 10mb of space to it—but since I was wanting to see what it could do I pressed the OK button. I was happy that in the basic modes I could advance screens by swiping.

Customization
After heading back to my MacBook Pro I noticed all the different modes of display. I noticed some display views to be quite polished while others probably could use more time trying to figure out the functionality. On the iPad I really liked the slideshow mode where one screen can advance the images one by one inside each section. When pressing an image the story is displayed. I liked that I could get an overview of a section quickly and having the ability to focus on the story once I was ready.

Stack was my go to mode on the MBP. I found that I could skim the sections quite fast while viewing an image and a couple paragraphs of text. Unfortunately that mode doesn’t really work on the iPad. My fingers weren’t able to advance stories in any of the sections. I tried tapping, sliding with one finger and two—nothing helped. With that said on the web browser there’s some really helpful keyboard shortcuts that I’m using.

More Development Cycles
Gallery view has a lot of potential but needs a couple revs. They haven’t figured out how to flex image heights and widths in a dynamic way. Another issue is the actual article page. It seems like a bit of an afterthought. It feels a bit clunky, especially in the Stack mode. If I’ve read the first two paragraphs with an image and press the read more button, I see the same text on a different page. Ideally it would just advance to the second page of text. I can’t recall if I saw any articles that contained more than one image (I’ll have to keep an eye out for that).

Coming Back
Aside from those minor issues I ‘m really excited with the potential of this site and Chrome’s ability to handle different modes to view content. They’ve given the reader options to decide how they want to read content. That is something that I hope more publications consider. RSS feed readers is something that I use, however if a publisher gives me more options than an RSS feedreader can show me, I’m more likely to visit the site.

Blackboard vs Whiteboard

blackboard

Anyone that does a lot of design work will find themselves in front of a whiteboard from time to time. I even have a mini Muji version with me by my desk. So when I ended up last night getting a tour of Debbie Millman’s great new space for her Masters in Branding program at SVA, the first thing that struck me was the wall to wall blackboard.

While I won’t comment on the actual illustration (I think it could be simplified a bit), the color bounces off the black in a way that a white board could never achieve. It looks amazing. Sure a whiteboard’s purpose isn’t to make things look pretty, I have to admit that I’d love to make a blackboard like this. I suspect that the best balance would be to have one wall painted for a blackboard and the opposite wall painted for a whiteboard. That way the best of both worlds can be used.

Opportunity through Constraint, Looking at iA Writer’s Keyboard

I kind of tried avoiding the iPad app iA Writer right after the release as I read tons of blog posts about it. At the time I wasn’t sure if people were mentioning it because they’ve actually used it, or if they were pushing it due to personality. There’s been a bit of time since the initial release and I’ve started using it. Last week while on the LIRR heading out of the city with a couple people from Behavior, Chris Fahey showed me iA Writer going through a number of the features. Up until that point most of the blog posts I had read talked about aesthetics, not functionality. Maybe the hype was warranted because this app is all that I’m going to be using to make notes and possibly rough drafts for blog posts. (This is the second post that I’ve used this app for).

The small things that play a big part for me include knowing how much time a post could be read in and the Dropbox integration. The typeface used is also pretty great in readability and size. However the reason for the post isn’t so much for those features but for the additional row that has been designed for the keyboard.

A. This advances the cursor forward or behind single words.

B. Open and close parenthesis, press once to open and press again to close.

C. Cursor movement, this button is worth the full price alone. Instead of using the delete key or finger tap, this button moves back or forward one tap at a time. If WordPress ever comes out with an iPad app it better have this feature.

Those three simple keyboard features are extremely helpful but it also sheds light on part of the design process that a lot of design people miss or take for granted. Most people would look at the default iPad keyboard and leave it as is. Sure there’s technical constraints but they looked at the keyboard harder and figured out a way to build off of the constraints. Adding a new row gave the app the killer feature that no other note taking app has (as far as I’ve seen). I know as I continue to design I’m going to file this small but important idea of building off of constraints as opposed to just taking some things for granted.

Nice Way to Build the Options Mode

Building the options mode

While I was exploring the River of News iPad app I noticed a pretty cool feature that think most people overlook. The River of News app is a rss feed reader that pulls in feeds from google reader. While going through posts with headlines there’s the option of seeing the post styled as the blog design had intended. At this point a person has the option of doing something with the url like mentioning it on twitter or facebook. The thing is though, there’s a lot of other options possible. The really nice way that River of News does it by having a More button. Once pressed there’s a number of other options like opening in Safari and saving it to instapaper. Once I’ve selected a new option it is saved in the options. Next time I want to open in Safari that will be my first option. It’s an elegant solution to keeping the options clean while letting the user select what they want.

Why the Page 1 2 and View All Pagination?

A small thing that always bothers me when I read articles online is the option at the bottom of the first page to go to page two or view all. I typically come across this on the Daily Beast and Wired. While I understand that they’re looking for more clicks, if the content is only going to be divided into two pages there’s no advantage for view all. Why not at least divide the content into three pages so at least there’s a couple potential clicks. A person would either click on page 2 and page 3 or with a view all there still would be two clicks. At the moment it just seems like an oversight to have only 2 pages with a view all at the bottom. And why not give me the option of view all at the top, why do I have to scroll all the way down?

Exploring Gesture Deficiency

Yesterday while working on a multi touch iPad UI issue with Chris Fahey, the phrase “gesture deficient” came up. We were looking at some of the iPhone swipe actions to multi delete and wondered how many people like or even know about some of the things a person can do to swipe. Essentially there’s features built around those that are “gesture deficient”, for those that didn’t know that they can swipe delete things on their iPhone. This also relates to the iPad as well. One interesting response that I was asked about on Twitter after mentioning the statement was “what is the “unsuck” definition of that?” To that I replied “possibly swipe happy or happy tapper”.

Continuing on the swipe theme on a touch screen, I came across the iPhone game We Sliders. At first there doesn’t seem much to it. It’s actually quite ambient. There’s no music (though that would be cool), just shifting colour as a person moves the bars. As far as I can tell the goal is to sync the bars together by moving them side to side. At first there’s just two bars, once that level is completed is becomes three and after that it increases incrementally. I managed to get to six bars last night. As far as experiences go I’d rate this pretty high just on the uniqueness of the game and the discipline to keep it very simple (yet difficult) in terms of game play.

Looking at the Redesign of the @Nooka Website

Nooka Home

Nooka Category Page

Nooka Product Section

Nooka Product Detail Page

Nooka Story Overview

I’ve been really lucky in 2010 so far. It has also been incredibly busy. While transitioning from Daylife and before starting at Behavior I had the opportunity to work with one of my favourite brands to design their new site in terms of UX. I’m not a huge fan of the word UX as I see it as part of the natural part of design, but I’ll save that discussion for a different post. Essentially I worked with Nooka to see what could be improved in terms of people finding products, creating systems for Nooka to talk about their story and facilitating an even better sense of community between Nooka and the fans that celebrate their designs.

I started with these six topics to focus on the redesign:

1. Audit Site
· What is in the site, what are the major categories?
· What is working?
· What doesn’t work?

2. Who is visiting this site
· Who are the people (what are their goals)?
· Gather feedback via blog, Twitter & Facebook (what do you like, what don’t you like)

3. What are the priorities
· When a person comes to the site, what roles does they play?
· What do we want them to do?

4. What is the story we’re trying to present
· What does Nooka want to express?
· What is the typical media release?

5. What is the strategy for growth and evolution?

6. What are the types of pages and the roles?

Process:
From there it was a matter of listening, asking questions and collecting the data. From that it was a matter of sitting down with the Nooka team to set a plan of attack. The main people on the redesign team was Yumi who did the visual design and the lead developer was Leslie. Providing feedback during the meetings and development were marketing and sales.

There’s a lot of details but to keep it on a high level I’ll mention a couple themes that focused on the redesign. As a huge fan of Nooka I’m asked quite often which watch someone should get. There’s a couple basic questions that I’ll start with that focus on the idea of telling time. From there it is a matter of deciding on a band and color. If we could design a home page that allowed people to get a broader sense of what Nooka has to offer we felt that people would be more willing to explore and focus on options. Another important aspect of the redesign was taking the different roles that someone might play in coming to the site. We used the product detail page as the core element and built a foundation around that. Each page shows a number of related products. Each section and category gives an overview to compare. Some fans know the product inside out and just want to see the new stuff—so there’s a section for that.

Being online is extremely important. I look at Matthew and the amount of time he spends on Nooka’s Facebook Fan page and Twitter account and wonder if there’s anyone else that spends that much time engaged with the people that enjoy his products. We wanted to take that spirit, include marketing and news information into one section. Nooka 360 was a section to create a system that allows marketing to be released in a timely manner yet not loose those personal connections. As with any site launch there’s going to be some adjustment in the next couple of weeks. Part of the plan was to release the site, gather feedback for a month and make any adjustments as needed. With that said if something feels kind of strange with the site as you explore, please let me know and I’ll pass it on to Nooka.

There’s a lot of reasons why I wanted to work with Nooka on this. I think it might have been five or six years ago I was complaining about their older website before I even knew Matthew. I was introduced to him via Tina to interview him for a blog post. From there we’ve been friends ever since so when the opportunity to help a brand that I truly respect, I wasn’t going to say no. It was also perfect timing as I was about to leave Daylife and could do a lot of the work before starting at Behavior. I had been on the old site so much that I had a pretty good idea what some of the pain points were. After spending a lot of time going through the site and looking at the issues with fresh eyes along with the team and listening to fans, a lot of the grid and systems designed itself.

Checking in with QR Code to See a Film

Fandango Mobile Ticket

Fandango Email

Over the weekend I saw The Secret in Their Eyes (highly recommend it) at Angelika. Typically like most people that don’t want to be dissapointed by standing in line I bought my ticket ahead of time. But unlike other times that I’ve bought my ticket online, I had the option of having the ticket sent to me via mobile. Having never used the option before I figured why not try it, especially with articles from NYT Web Coupons Know Lots About You, and They Tell and Apply thinking about stuff like this Apple Introduces us to a New iTunes “Concert Ticket +” System popping up these days.

Having never used a QR code as a ticket I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. A friend of mine had to buy a ticket so I stood with her and asked the guy behind the glass. At first he was slightly confused as to what was on my iPhone screen. After a couple seconds of thinking he basically said just go inside and they’ll scan it. As I walked to the entrance I was kind of wondering if this was actually going to work. Everyone in front of me was using paper and I just had my iPhone. Once I got to the ticket person I mentioned that I had the ticket on screen. She was cool with that and pulled out a scanner and printed off a piece of paper so I could get back in if I exited.

It was a pretty seamless process and I would use the mobile QR code again if I had the option. But as a first time experience I wasn’t really sure what to expect. There’s a couple small things that any business that want’s to start going paperless should consider. The designer in me thinks that a simple awareness sign might do the trick. It could explain the procedure of what steps are involved while also advertise to those unaware that such an option is available. Those steps could also be displayed in the email confirmation mentioning that a mobile ticket is available. That would have helped alleviated my first time confusion. I’d also clean up the typography with the actual QR code, I barely scanned the info that could have been made readable with a couple line breaks and bold text to highlight things.

Why Apple Probably Shouldn’t go into Search, Job Listings on Craigslist and Looking at Chatter to Find Work

finding

Thinking about the headline Apple Won’t Build a (Web) Search Engine my first reaction was of course they won’t, there are better ways to find “stuff” online compared to search. For example I like the fact that no two days are usually a like for me—that’s what living in NYC will do to someone Translate that to learning and finding valuable information on screen. When I type something into the search field I need to have an idea of what I’m searching for before I even start. After I press enter I’m judging the highest ranked result. Compare that to actually learning. How can search help when a person doesn’t know what to start typing with? Serendipity is a lot harder. Compare that to a link that a friend sent you or talked about. The subject or topic might be foreign but because they suggested it you’re more likely to click it. Think back to a time when you started reading something online, would you have been able to find it by starting a search query?

On the flip side consider where a lot of people go to start looking for a job. Craigslist is one of people’s first stops. The catch is that a lot of other people are applying for the same job so the odds start getting pretty low quickly. Contrast that to people shooting off on Twitter to people that follow them that they are looking to hire. Chances are if that Tweet follows the right channels of communication via trusted sources they’re more likely to find the right hire. All of a sudden Craigslist starts looking as old as the classifieds did when newspapers lost all their income to their online rival.

My case study about finding work via chatter as opposed to listing is when a friend at FIT was looking for some internship work during fashion week a month or two ago. She like every other fashion hungry person was looking at Craigslist. I didn’t personally know anyone in the fashion industry so my suggestion was to look to Twitter to see if a couple keywords brought in any leads. Since Twitter’s search engine is pretty bad I suggested Icerocket. For whatever reason they tend to actually show Twitter search results better. She ended up finding a couple potential opportunities that she wouldn’t have found through traditional online ways.

Walking to Work Today Mashup in Germany

Walking to work today

#Walkingtoworktoday has been an ongoing experiment for a couple months now. There really isn’t an end goal aside from sharing a pov as someone walks to work. For more information about what #walkingtowork today is, please visit my post Experimenting with Fragmented Medias while #walkingtoworktoday. The way that I set it up was that it was open ended that people could essentially do what ever they wanted to make it their own. In turn by sharing a couple simple keywords that collection could grow.

So I was pleasantly surprised to see a post from Markus Reuter talking about a map mashup about #walkingtoworktoday that he created with Jan Oelze. This is how they describe what they did to make the map. “The pictures with the tag “walkingtoworktoday” are pulled automatically from my flickr account and presented on the map via geotagging. And with the help of a yahoo pipe and twitterfeed new photos are also published on twitter automatically.” This is exactly the unexpected stuff that I hoped would eventually happen. If this is the kind of thing that interests you, please email me so we can figure out a collaboration.

Graduating from Daylife

Daylife

After blogging about my time at Daylife for the past couple of years, this will probably be one of my last posts about it. Today I’m graduating from Daylife and will start a new adventure with Behavior tomorrow. I thought it would be worth while to look back at some of the invaluable experiences of working at a start up in NYC is like.

I think in the mid to late nineties there was a mantra from the design community that it was important to understand business talk. What are CEO focusing on, what are C level executives talking about, how do the management teams function? While understanding that is still important, there’s a new skill that a lot designers are coming late to the game with. That is knowing how to work with engineers, building digital products and the idea of constant iteration.

Living and working in NYC has been one of my goals since I was in school in Canada. I also realized that the path along that way is never straight nor predictable. So when the opportunity to work for Daylife but something that wasn’t a traditional design place like a studio or agency—it wasn’t that hard of a choice. There were a couple reasons why I wanted to see what I could do there. It was the chance to build up some unique skills that not every designer would have, I didn’t totally understand the concept of aggregation—thinking that if I could make it more understandable while there, others using our system would benefit too, and there was an article that I had read many years ago from the NYT. That article was It Pays to Have Pals in Silicon Valley. That article is where I read about the PayPal Mafia where it lists off a number of successful people that started their own companies after once working all at PayPal. Back in 2006 when that article was published I filed it in the back of my mind—if the opportunity to work at a start up became available I should at least try it. It would give me a unique network of people that I might not otherwise have known about. There’s a lot of hype right now about the start up scene in NYC, a couple years ago I don’t think that was the case. So it was a huge risk for me to just do something that really was new territory for me. But now that I can look back it was really worth me trying. I also look at those that were at Daylife ahead of me and how successful they’ve become with their design work, so I have a lot to live up to post Daylife.

Working at a start up made me reconsider everything I knew about design, and business in this economic and technology climate. In bullet form here some of the things that come to mind for me.
· Building a product out of data
· Understanding product road maps
· Developing features, incubating ideas that can become a feature that in turn with time become a product
· Going through stages of product development
· The everyday all hands meetings and post mortems of launches
· Just enough design, agile development
· Info flow, UX and fragmenting content to create new meanings
· Working with engineers*

I really enjoyed launching new features and blogging about it. It gave me a chance to show what was going on, but more importantly gather feedback in a public space. Here’s a couple of those posts from newest to oldest:

A @Daylife Update: SmartSections and SmartTopics Launch

Working on Getty Images SmartGalleries by Daylife

Latest news from Le Tour de France 2009

Daylife Beta Topic Page: Kate Moss

Latest Daylife Select Release

Daylife Select Release

Check out Select.Daylife.com

Daylife Photo Matrix

Daylife Redesign Part One

It would be hard to distill one favourite moment at Daylife. It was the continous cycle of iteration that I was really proud to be a part of. We reworked every section of the site and content type that later on would become the basis for new products. It was cool to see what NPR, ABC News and Dallas Morning News did when they implemented it. In turn taking one of the most popular sections (photo galleries) and turning that into a successful product was invaluable to learn about in terms of product development. This is great gallery from Time Warner about Pandas

But after two plus years I think I’ve done as much as I could and now it’s time to move on. I would def. work with/for/ or create my own start up in time, but for now I just want take what I’ve learned and see what I can do with it. And for those that were at Daylife with me along the way—thanks for your help.

There’s Something Wrong Here. Advertising Age’s This Week’s Print Issue: The Digital Issue

Advertising Age: This Week's Print Issue: The Digital Issue

I don’t usually go to the landing page of Advertising Age, but when I saw this I had to take a screen shot of it. On display is their print issue displayed online that is talking about their digital issue. It seems kinda strange. But what’s more indicative of a print medium still not totally getting it is that when a reader visits the landing page, is there anything that a person is wanting to click on? It looks like everything is a hyper link as there’s things being underlined everywhere. Inside the issue they talk about online stuff (full disclosure, I haven’t actually clicked on anything yet), yet they don’t even know how to display online stuff themselves. Maybe this time next year when the print issue dedicates one entire issue to digital (shouldn’t it be the other way around) that they’ll release a new site that takes online into consideration.

Streaming Content Cone for Olympics

content cone

The Vancouver 2010 Olympics have only been on for a couple days yet I haven’t really been able to get into them. After reading NBC’s Infuriating Olympics Tape Delays Have Sports Fans From Coast To Coast Rooting For Its Quick Demise from Business Insider I might know why. I can get any result I want within a matter of moments after the competition has been completed. After Canada won their first Gold medal I knew almost to the moment because some of the people I follow on Twitter were sharing their excitement. I went to the the CTV who is the Canadian site that is carrying the Olympics to see footage yet the videos wouldn’t load. I’m not sure if it was because they couldn’t handle the traffic or the fact that they were geo blocking me. If it was geo blocking I have to ask why? Why make digital walls that aren’t needed, CTV only hurts their rep by not being available to a bigger audience.

I also started to think about the bigger picture of how old media hasn’t kept pace. For NBC it’s all about sponsors on tv which makes sense. The old thinking is that they’ll build up tension and edit the events for prime time. The problem is that everyone knows the results and watching it is hardly exciting. There’s so many events going on for the Olympics, why not curate the best of instead of adding filler? I’ve had a hard time navigating NBC’s website trying to understand what is being streamed, what is available to me because of my cable system and the fact that the online viewing experience is a huge effort with minimal reward. I see some events are on Universal NBC in HD, I don’t even know what channel that is on my Time Warner subscription. I Googled for it to no avail. It’s a huge info design nightmare that is missing a lot of potential.

When I think of a content cone for the online networked world we know live in, these are the things that pop to mind for me. When an event starts, stream the content live and unfiltered. People love to test, why not keep an eye out for those watching the stream and see what they’re affected by. When are people tweeting the most, what are they talking about? Those pops in conversation are a great place to start editing the footage down. As the event moves towards the end, other stories are naturally going to develop, those being easy to spin off as new content both online and tv. (I wonder how much longer will it be that online and tv are seen as different entities?). As the event completes and the peak or tip is formed there’s a ton of great content for a number of different audiences. There’s the unfiltered live stuff for those that can make the commitment, other stories that want background, a round up of the event afterwards, and if a person missed the event, a possible way to see the archived event. At the moment this barely happens. They’re trying to compress all that stuff together in primetime without much success. Trying to be all things to all people for a couple hours is not going to succeed.

Another way to get people more engaged is to open up the media elements. There’s no reason why a person shouldn’t be able to log into NBC’s Olympic site and create their own user page that allows them to grab content from NBC’s Olympic coverage, allow users to add their own notes and comments. As they create their own pages that drive traffic why not allow them to publicize what they’ve created? Let them embed that content on their own blogs, sites or Facebook wall. All links would drive back to NBC. It’s people driven curated content that allows people to create value where there was none before.

Additional Notes Thinking About Notify NYC

meta info

adjusted email alert

Source of truth, permalink & date stamp

Thinking further about my post yesterday Time to Iterate on Notify NYC and Weather Alerts and why a permalink for each notification could be helpful, I sketched a couple quick ideas. The main point of focus is that people want to pass along important info, however as it gets passed along things might get lost in translation. That’s why having a main reference point like a permalink with date stamp is helpful. Other consideration to possibly include is a hook for updates. That way when a person wants to follow up as information is provided there’s one location.

Quick Points:
· permalink the source of truth
· cognizant of 140 characters but messages shouldn’t be limited to that constraint
· people want to pass info along, messages might get messed up along the way
· updates to original notification

Time to Iterate on Notify NYC and Weather Alerts

NYC at the moment

photo

email

national weather service

notify nyc

twitter

As I went to bed last night I mentioned on Twitter that Snow was getting over hyped this year, though if good reason considering the record downfalls near DC. The only problem with it is that NYC has barely seen the same type of accumulation. We want crazy weather too. So as the latest storm rolls through my area I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the blizzard that I’m currently going through is be carried out online.

I’ve been signed up to Notify NYC for quite some time which tells me when something pretty crazy is happening, though from time to time the alerts have to do with wind, debris and street closures. This morning the alert was about the current blizzard. I’d never taken a really close look at the email alerts but noticed this morning that there isn’t a url for more info or something to track back. I mention track back because if there had been a url I would have used it a tweet. So what I did do was copy + paste the alert text into search to see what results I’d get. In the results there was a page from the National Weather Service, a site I don’t think I’ve visited before. I was surprised in this day and age that this page hasn’t been redesigned, it’s begging for clearer communication. I can understand back in the day when fax’s would look like this, but today there really isn’t any excuse. I don’t even know if NYC is mentioned on the page to be honest. My next step was actually going to the Notify NYC web site to see what information it could provide. I almost missed the small alerts on the right rail that are being feed in through RSS. I think this home page if not all of Notify NYC’s web site could use another iteration on the design side. The alerts are played down and the sign up process isn’t very inviting. The email alerts I get provide a good service yet if I used the home page as an indicator of value I’m not sure why anyone would sign up. I was also surprise that each alert didn’t have their own permalink. If there had been I would have pointed a tweet to that link, but it’s pretty pointless pointing people to the home page that is hard to recognize important information. My last info find was that Notify NYC actually has a Twitter account. I did start following them but noticed that the tweets and the email alerts was different—probably because within email that there’s an unlimited character count as opposed to Twitter that only has 140. If Notify NYC could create a permalink to the original message and integrate that url system into both the email and tweet alerts there would be no discrepancy in messages.

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from Umbrella Today

And since I’m talking about the weather and alerts, these two alerts popped up on my iPhone as I was outside with my weimaraner. One is a basic weather tweet while the other is from Umbrella Today.

Undecided about that old iPad Thing

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How The iPad Could Change PSFK - PSFK_1264678541078

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Young and Brilliant • iTampon, er, iPad clashes with the big, bad web_1264678560126

After watching the iPad demo yesterday I was going back and fourth yes/no/maybe about getting one. In the end I’ll probably go with the low end version because I can, and I want something mobile to read pdfs, but as a tool to publish I don’t think it’s there. Their whole book publishing/reading metaphor is disappointing. There’s no reason to simulate paper books on a new tool. And for creating content with an iPad it’s really hard to predict without having one in my hands, but my experience so far with the iPhone is that it’s great for a lot of things but not long posts. The keyboard dock looks painfully old and makes me wonder if Jonathan Ives has ever blogged in his life at a conference? Again I haven’t even tried one of these things yet but it looks like the whole could have come out five years ago. I also understand how product development works, that they need to actually ship something worthy and iterate after that but maybe invest some time in unique metaphors as opposed to giving us a “what we know is best” dumbed down paper page.

Everyone has an opinion about the iPad online and it’s impossible to even try to read them all. However with that said there’s a couple unique points that I haven’t seen a lot of that are worth noting. While I was left disappointed with the NYT demo on the iPad (it didn’t seem to take advantage of being mobile), PSFK’s reaction to how they might change their publishing was interesting. Daring Fireball making a connection with speed as he’s actually held and used one is worth reading too. The fact that Apple controls their chip is a huge advantage. And there’s Nina’s window’s UI metaphor response taking into her account of using the iPhone to read content.

Family finds missing Daughter in Haiti on Daylife Photo Page

Family finds missing daughter in Haiti on Daylife. Screen shot 2010-01-15 at 11.13.25 AM

Family finds missing daughter in Haiti on Daylife. Screen shot 2010-01-15 at 11.12.30 AM

Back in the day when most design wasn’t digital it wasn’t easy to see if and how people interacted with the completed work. Now that everything is just about online a person can get a decent understanding of how a person interacts with a web site if the right measuring metrics are put in place. But at the end of the day a lot of the time they’re just numbers. That’s why it was really cool to see on twitter that ABC World News picked up a story of a family that found their missing daughter in Haiti through Daylife. It’s one of those rare cases that there’s an awesome story behind the numbers. You can watch the video clip of the news story at http://abcnews.go.com. The specifics of the story are around the last 45 seconds of the clip.

A Simple Post About Txting Donations to Haiti

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 You have donated nearly $3 ..._1263475794994

I’m almost back to a normal blog posting schedule after being in Canada for the past couple of days. While I wasn’t on a digital cleanse it did feel that way at some times. In Canada I did have my laptop but wasn’t always able to use it because I didn’t know the wifi passwords of where I was. It’s a pretty common issue whether a person is in a different country or city, it’s not always easy to get password information. Because of that I used my iPhone a lot more to get my news and information. And that was fine until my network on my iPhone stopped working—but because I was traveling the day my network stopped working I thought wasn’t going to be a big deal because I was flying. Unfortunately I had no idea what was going on in Haiti until I was walking through LGA very late the night the earthquake hit.

The images coming from Haiti are devastating, the photos above are from a screen shot of Daylife’s photo feed. What else is there to say? The news coming out is that there’s wide spread damage and it’s a miserable place to be. What people can do (which I find fascinating) is make a simple and easy donation of ten dollars via txt message to 90999 with the word “Haiti” to the Red Cross. I realize that txt messaging donations aren’t new, but the fact that over $3 million dollars has been raised so quickly that might not otherwise have been given is really phenomenal. It’s a feature that all non profits should consider when they are looking for donations.

If you’re interested in understanding other ways that people are trying to pass along info, there’s a good collection of ideas with this post for Ideas Using Tech to Improve Haiti Relief Efforts on Ground Report.

Decks vs Responses

why make predictions when you can observe and respond

Going from blog to blog and news sites to tweets there’s a ton of predictions out there, almost as many as there are top ten lists for 2009 and the last decade. A lot of the predictions seem to be about similar stuff that people are already doing with a “now it’s going to get serious this year” type of theme. That makes sense, but perhaps the difference between a marketing sound bite and a design response would be, let’s observe what people can and can’t do and figure out a better way to respond in action.

What News Sites Could Learn from TMZ, yes that TMZ…

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I’ve read so many articles and blog posts over the last couple of years about how to save the newspaper that it’s hard to take any of them serious anymore because it seems like no one that is running newspapers (and magazines) are listening. Their typical solution is a walled garden or the assumption that people are willing to pay for news that they can’t see or care about. Digital consortiums are being developed in hopes that a new digital device will be the answer. Good luck connecting with poor internet connections, plus once people get their hands on these new devices they’ll want to do things that A. the devices aren’t capable of, B. stuff that companies want to lock out, and C. the same old corporate thinking of not support stuff people want because they never thought of it first.

All of this brings me to an article by Bob Lefsetz about TMZ being the site of the year—a claim that I have a hard time arguing with. I can recall a couple years ago when I would look to Twitter to get news updates though those days now long gone for me as those that wanted to press the button on news are no longer there. Now that there’s new rolls for people using Twitter at news sites the info flow has slowed considerably. I’d hate to admit this but if I do get a whiff of something interesting going in the news, I will check TMZ first. Regular news sites have adjusted their sites with a headline banner that will let viewers know that they know there’s a story, they just have nothing to report. TMZ will already has a post with a grainy photo typically taken from the person breaking the story—not a reporter but an observer that was right there. Ironically these people aren’t going to CNN or Reuters—but calling TMZ. It’s also known that TMZ is one of the only outlets that will pay for such stuff, though I’m sure everyone does it privately.

One of Bob’s more important points is the facts vs. analysis of news. The irony of course is that all news agencies will claim that they’re reporting the facts, but clearly you compare two news sites and the sentiment analysis would show that each site reports in their own language. The short to the point blog posts that a journalist would snide about are what people gravitate towards. It’s not that people don’t care about good writing, they don’t have time to read it. Everyone has an opinion these days, and everyone can publish on any topic. But there needs to be a starting point and TMZ is getting there first. It’s after the fact that news sites start reporting.

Measuring iPhone Battery Life with Time?

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I’ve complained in the past about the iPhone’s battery life though those issues have been somewhat resolved. But there’s another issue that I think is worth considering for an upgrade. I was playing around with my iPhone 3Gs Settings > General > Usage > Battery Percentage. With a simple switch of the button you can see what percentage of battery life is left. It’s an interesting info note, but it doesn’t really help me in terms of guessing how much time that actually means. My question is that if a percentage can be displayed why not take it a step further and show how much time is left at the current usage state. If I’m watching YouTube video, let me know that I only have forty minutes of continuous play. If I’m listening to music, maybe the usage time is two hours. Obviously I’m not an engineer so I don’t really know what it would take to do this, but my guess is that if a percentage can be calculated the effort to display time shouldn’t take that much more thought.

Technology and Design Research

Technology and Design Research

Here’s three great articles that a design mind will find compelling, two articles are closely related while the other article shows why leading with technology isn’t the best solution to jump in with. Technology First, Needs Last by Donal Norman, Don Norman says design research is great for improvement but useless for innovation by Steve Portigal, and Upgrading the children from The Economist print edition. The primary reason for this post is to pass along Norman’s article talking about conceptual vs incremental breakthroughs and why design research doesn’t help shift the conceptual model. Portigal responds with his post while my friend Kara Pecknold passed me along the Economist article that sheds some light on the OLPC idea.

Norman suggests that design research didn’t play any role in major breakthroughs such as the airplane, automobile, telephone, radio, television, computer, personal computer, internet, sms text messaging and cellphone. I think it’s a misguided argument because the same could be suggested about other popular roles these days. The potential for self educated people to come up with any of those ideas was possible, there wasn’t the need initially for an engineer, president or janitor yet they all helped inform the process in a way. Maybe design research as a title wasn’t involved but by trying to create and solve an issue is what helps inform Design Research.

Another part of the argument is that it’s about the technology first—needs last. When I think about Napster, YouTube and Craigslist I think of a need that wasn’t being met, and technology helped drive it’s success, not the other way around. Look at what Napster started. Once it was shut down it allowed services like iTunes become viable. From that informed learning Apple was in a great position to offer apps via their same music sharing service. Learning about selling music allowed them to have a huge advantage when they brought out apps to sell for their iPhone. People wanted to share videos online yet there wasn’t a way to do it until a designer and technology person decided to do something about it. Those were all built on iterations. There was an unmet need before the technology was there.

In Portigal’s post, the conversation is more about expanded on the discourse unlike me who is refuting what Norman is suggesting. There’s some worthy points to consider such as partnering technology with insights, and how creating big changes isn’t a solo act. “I’d suggest the problem is not with design research but in how it’s deployed, applied, and integrated. Because it absolutely could happen. The underlying conditions need to be there.”

How about the One Laptop Per Child? I think it’s a good example of why leading with technology is a misguided western form of thought. Assuming that giving a tool is going to make everything okay is shallow, learning what the issues are and how they can be informed with action is more beneficial. How does that happen, not with a laptop maker but with design research.

A @Daylife Update: SmartSections and SmartTopics Launch

trave life home

travel life leaf pages

hoop life home

hoop life leaf pages

It’s been a while since I mentioned what was going on at Daylife where I work. Continuing with the editorial ability to manage and publish photos with SmartGalleries, we have now released SmartSections and SmartTopics to round out our SmartMedia tool set for publisher. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that publishers are being asked to do a lot more with fewer resources. The benefit of the b2b services that we’ve created is that a small publishing team can offer a lot of curated content very quickly and within budget.

To give an example of SmartSections in action we designed Travel Life and Hoop Life. The editorially curated sites show off the potential of published travel information out there while the basketball site allows for all the team and player info that a sports publisher could ask for including headlines, photos, tweets and stats. The reason why a publisher would be interested in this type of addition to their site is that they need to add more content that they can’t provide themselves. By using Daylife an editor can create a ton of additional content that they’ve curated themselves.

It should be noted as always with these type of posts about Daylife projects, there was a tight group of people involved with this successful version one launch. I’ve got some further thoughts on how publisher’s can tame the fire hose of data out there, but as a start the above examples show what’s possible.

Possibly My Favourite Site of the Week: The Considered Ensemble

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This morning I received a mysterious email from the person(s) behind The Considered Ensemble letting me know about their site. While there isn’t an about section or mention of who is behind the site, it looks like it’s going to be an instant fav of mine. The concept is pretty simple, explain in your own words what you’re wearing. It’s user generated content working quite nicely. While most fashion sites out there are all images sans words, this is the exact opposite which makes it much more interesting. Everyone has a story that’s worth reading. It’s also genius that they curator can decide what to publish and what not to—everyone has to email their submission.

At first glance the design of the site looks fairly straight forward, possibly even simple. But just like the content there’s more than what just meets the eye. The type is set in a firm confident manner that suggests that they know what they’re doing and the taxonomy classification is pretty sophisticated too; you can filter through brand or colour. Like most things that get me excited, I’m curious to see how this site grows and evolves over time. Though hopefully it won’t change too much…

We know there’s a problem, just chill until we can pass along more info

We're apparently having problems,
just chill until we can let you know what's up

Dreamhost is known from time to time to go down. No hosting service is perfect though Dreamhost has a reputation for going down more than a lot of other companies in the same field. This morning I tried to check some stats and noticed that I couldn’t which is unusual. Next I went to my site and noticed that was not coming up either so I then went to Dreamhosts’ website which was apparently down too. I knew something was going wrong but there wasn’t any way to find out what was going bad except to realize that my site not working was part of a bigger Dreamhost issue. I did a quick search on Twitter to find out that yes many others were having the same problem as me, yet there was no indication from Dreamhosts official Twitter account that anything was wrong.

As minor as Dreamhost perceived the issue of their network going down, one tweet could have really helped them out. A simple “we know something’s up, once we have more info we’ll let you know” kind of tweet would have gone a long way. Sure some people would still have been upset, but at least it would have shown that the company was being proactive as opposed to not looking like they were asleep at the wheel. It would also have put ownness on everyone complaining on Twitter to just chill. Dreamhost knows there’s a problem, they’re trying to fix it, tech sucks sometimes so relax about it until it’s fixed. Instead silence breeds contempt which is unfortunate since a simple message can go a long way.

I haz knowledge with webz and fontz

surtees design quote

When I posted about rental fonts, one of the first things I mentioned was “I’m probably going to be excommunicated from the “web community” for asking this”… I didn’t say design community, but “web community”. I see design in a very broad sense. Over the course of weeks, months and years on Design Notes I’ve tried to explore anything and everything with an attitude of “what can I learn from” experience and it’s relationship to design. It can be something misc. about graphic design to sharing my everyday walking experience to work in NYC. I also like to review apps and books—it’s healthy to question things and not have to worry about personal attacks. What I don’t do is expect is that people should follow how I think. Unfortunately there’s a minority of obnoxious people in the web community that think everything is fair game for personal attacks, intimidation and worse. They would suggest that there is only way to do things on the web and if you don’t agree with them—watch out. The thing is, there’s more to the interwebs than just web sites. Today is about distributing experiences. A lot of the time a web site is the best way to do that, sometimes it’s an application, maybe it’s a product. But it’s bigger than just a web site. All the elements need to work for their intended audience, scale in an appropriate way and degrade when information is missing. But it is about the experience and not the about the underlying tech. I think that’s hard for a lot in the web community to consider.

When I read about “designers with training in traditional typography and graphic design are worse off than those who don’t have any kind of formal design education” I just have to wonder what scores are trying to be settled? The web is only a component of the experience, and to suggest otherwise is a disservice. I don’t think anyone is going to suggest web standards are a bad thing, of course we want things to work. But to believe that the production of a site as the experience is crazy. Design is about figuring out what the issues are that need to be resolved while working backwards and forwards until something is able to be experienced. Going to school to explore this should be commended, not seen as a hindrance. I would hope that there’s room to debate this stuff without having to be worried about being blacklisted or attacked. I know there is room in the design community for the discussion needed, I just wonder if those that can’t think outside of the web can do the same thing.

Experimenting with Fragmented Medias while #walkingtoworktoday

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I’ve been testing a slightly updated idea of distributing content. While it’s not unique and the tools are available to almost everyone, there’s a number of intermediary connections that rely on each other to make it work. The underlying concept is that people have unique relationships depending on the different web tools they connect with their friends and peers. For example a person might have some good connections on twitter, yet that relationship isn’t the same on Flickr. They’re interested in reading some quotes but not trading photos. Another scenario might be that people are connected via Facebook and Friendfeed. Because Facebook has become full of people they’ve chosen to see what stuff they’re looking at by what’s posted to FriendFeed, yet for another person status updates keep them in touch. It’s all fragmented.

Now consider another scene. Last year I was part of a group of people that ran a site that asked people to take photos at 10:15 am local time. Once they had shot the image they needed to download it from their camera and email it to the general email address. From there one of four people would manually upload the photo, copy+paste the title information and tag the location. It was a fun project but the manual labor for one photo was quite a lot. The second part of the equation was that the images were hosted on the site and a viewer actually had to visit the site to see the images. Pretty basic stuff that most people take for granted.

When I think of Fragmented Medias as an idea, I see it as one piece of content being pushed out in as many different directions as possible, allowing for different meanings depending on how the content is pushed through a channel while finding ways to be connected in other media spaces. My latest photo experiment is called #walkingtoworktoday. The rules are simple and open to anyone—while walking to work take a photo from a mobile device. From there the photo needs to be pushed to twitter via flickr while containing the hashtag #walkingtoworktoday somewhere in the tile. With a simple push of the button via email from a phone, a number of different automated triggers happen that eases the burden of labor unlike the other photo project. The responsibility is left to the photographer. While I like using a mobile device, a person could take the time to upload an image with a better camera as long as the hashtag is in the title and is connected to flickr.

A typical walking to work today process would be as follows for me. I’m walking to work through Manhattan and come across something memorable in Soho. I pull out my iPhone, take the photo and email the photo to flickr with a special email address that will also connect with Twitter. In the subject line of the email I’ll try to keep my message to less than 140 characters and use #walkingtoworktoday somehow. Once the photo has been uploaded and the message readable on Twitter and number of other things happen. My tweets are connected to my Facebook status, so the photo link is announced there, I also have Twitter and Flickr connected to Friendfeed which in turn is connected to Facebook. So a number of different ways people stay in touch with me have all seen my #walkingtoworktoday photo. It’s possible that the friends from Twitter aren’t connected to me in Facebook and vice versa so I’ve been able to cover a couple unique mediums with a simple push of send via email.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is that the process is great for a one to many push, but how does it become a group thing? I use Tweetdeck and have a search for #walkingtoworktoday so I can see who’s posting what and seeing the images from there. But there isn’t one dedicated space outside of Flickr to see the photos, and even then it’s only seeing it through one medium—I don’t get to see the tweets. So that’s why I decided there needed to be a site. Because I have a lot of knowledge in taming the fire hose of information from working at Daylife, I decided to create a site http://walkingtoworktoday.designnotes.info/ using Daylife tools that contained Flickr and Twitter moduals. The main modual streams photos from Flickr while the right rail shows the tweets. It’s an interesting redundancy that works. On one side there’s the large photos, the people’s avatars and tweets put the photos in context on the right, plus at time the photos and tweets won’t be in the same order. Because I have the full set of Daylife tools at my disposal I thought it would be interesting to pull quotes from general news about walking to work, and headlines of walking stories. Just for good measure I selected a number of topics that people might also be interested in. From there if any quote, headline or topic is selected there’s a ton of info available, but if people are interested i looking at the photos of people walking to work, they’re available and hosted on Flickr.

I really like the potential of this, everyone has a certain entry point to push the content in the manner that they want, but also allow for hooks that can be pushed into other content areas while leaving a trail where it originally started. Another remarkable thing is that at all times I know who the creator of the digital piece is. The name is connected on Flickr, Twitter and any other content distributing medium. It’s also amazing to consider that once the system is set up and the nodes are connected that with one push of a button a number of different conversations can start. Someone might read the tweet, like the photo and re-tweet what I just said, or maybe just reply with a simple mention. On Flickr someone might favourite the image or comment just like a person could do on FriendFeed or Facebook too. Now consider the number of eyes that have seen or read that one photo that was pushed to them in comparison of having to hope that someone visits a website. The odds and clicks are infinitely higher with a number of Fragmented Medias as opposed to one static site. Lots to explore with a concept like this.

Curious to hear what others considered Fragmented Medias last night on Twitter, this was what I heard.

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Judy_Sims (who has a great blog btw) mentioned “The rise of the trusted editor/curator who aggregates by target audience and/or topic, ad networks organized by channel.”. daniel_howells passed along “Few years ago, only a few media types and channels; now hundreds of types and channels. Exposure is weakened/fragmented”. And inakiescudero suggested “Fragmented media means + difficult to reach consumers, + important to include your single minded benefit in every message”.

Story vs. Systems, or as things will be for the time being

connecting the dots

for the time being

define stories

This post started from a simple search and by the time I was finished I was connecting dots from all sorts of concepts that I’ve come across recently. I was wanted to get the meaning of something so I’ll often type in the word define: into google with a term I’m looking to get more info from. As I started typing the word define I was being auto promoted by what are the ten most popular terms to be defined on google. That list of ten got me thinking about other data inputs out there and a story I saw from the NYT titled The Robots Are Coming! Oh, They’re Here.. In the post they talk about Intelligent Information Laboratory @ Northwestern University – Projects – Stats Monkey who are attempting to take public info like box scores and play by play action into stories. Thinking a bit further about all the stuff, it reminded me of a round table discussion I was a part of at the AIGA Conference that Nick Law talked about systems and stories and how traditional agency people are stuck in an old model. Adding to that point I found a post from Peter Merholz talking about a Framework for Building Customer Experiences. The base level being systems while building to experiences. Considering all that information and what I’m thinking about day in and day out there just seemed to be a lot of dots to connect.

For the time being there seems to be a battle of people wanting to be “the source” as opposed to understanding that they’ll at best be “a source”. It’s hard to grapple. It’s story vs system a lot of the time. One minute the story is the thing, the next it’s just info being transformed into data to be reformatted, mashed up and turned into new info that’s going to be a different story. In the not so distant future it could be interesting to type in a word that adds a couple unique facets that than create a one of a kind story from everyone’s experiences that have been shared.

Lean Pocket Info Fail

lean pocket info fail

cooking instruction fail

cooking instruction fail

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Please take my word that I’m not entirely proud to be publishing my Lean Pocket experience because I doubt most people care about my eating habits. But I think by explaining what happened from an information failure perspective I hope people that are designing food websites might realize why someone would actually go to the site in the first place. My story is pretty simple, I was hungry, there wasn’t much food around and I didn’t feel like ordering in. I went to the freezer and grabbed a single doughy thing that I could microwave. To my amazement the cardboard slip to cook the doughy thing had instructions into how to place it in the box, but not the actual time to microwave it. I also wasn’t the person that originally bought it so I had no idea who made the thing. There was zero branding from the outside. Figuring that I had nothing to loose I opened it. I was a bit surprised to find out that on the inside of the box there was indeed branding of who made it and a url. Thinking that a food website would actually have instruction on how to cook the thing I went to the site. Clicking on http://www.leanpockets.com left me confused. It was overly art directed trying to be “smart” when all it needs to be is informative. I took a guess that I needed to go to products though food would have been a more appropriate title. When’s the last time you ate a product? I did end up finding my food but all the page contained was nutritional info, even the FAQ’s didn’t have the simple cooking instructions on how long to microwave it. So after wasting a bunch of time on a product site that didn’t even contain the info to cook said product I placed my Lean Pocket in the microwave, pressed the number 2 and hoped for the best. After the two minutes was up—it was cooked thoroughly but I couldn’t help but think that 90 seconds would have been better. I only wonder what the info suggested the cooking time to be.

Sunday Night Football Waiting to be Online

Sunday Night Footbal Expanded Screen

Sunday Night Footbal Screens

After tuning to the online version of the Cards vs. Giants at http://snfextra.nbcsports.com last night, I was left wondering if the experience was a half hearted attempt to prove that tv is better than online from NBC’s pov. I bring up this point because the streaming video quality was poor, there were more commercials than the actual tv broadcast and the game was time delayed. Those big issues didn’t come up when I was watching the US Open Tennis which made the football experience all the more questionable.

Because the game was delayed I pretty much from the beginning wasn’t going to spend any amount time online with the site. I don’t think traditional broadcasters understand that people are probably going to watch the game on their big tv and laptop at the same time. The online experience allows people to change things up that a tv can’t provide. Having a time delay makes the online experience a lot hard to enjoy. Why change angles when the play is already over? More infuriating was how the whole screen was locked when there was a commercial. The site essentially was disabled, so any attempt at looking at different section of the site were impossible. I realize that the site needs to pay for itself but locking people out is something you don’t do online. Keep the sound on for the commercial but forcing people with an old commercial format isn’t going to make a viewer come back.

The site itself was divided into four parts; the game with different angles to choose from, videos of plays, stats and chat. The videos of archived plays had the best potential of being a great experience. Allowing the viewer to go back and see clips is something that tv can’t provide. Stats was disappointing—on one level I wish that the players that were mentioned had ways of diving deeper for more content. I also would have liked to have picked my own player to compare data with. Chat was pretty bad too—all a person could do was type into a field and possibly have the question responded to. An area like this would be an idea place to bring in live tweets using hashtags of both teams and popular players.

timeline detail

My favorite feature was the timeline below the play button. When key plays were made a marker would go up. A viewer could rollover to find out what the play was. By clicking on the dot the play would go into action. Again it’s the features that aren’t available online that are going to make the experience great. As a first attempt from armchair quarterback spot it seems like there’s a lot of room to improve, though I wonder if the tv people really want the experience online to be as good as it could be.

Not quite a review, but a couple google wave experiences

google wave experiences

This morning I received an invite to google wave from someone that I haven’t actually met yet, so that was pretty cool because I was curious to see for myself what google was up to. I’ve tried not to read any reviews or explanations from others because I wanted to explore it with fresh eyes like most people would experience it. I sketched out my initial reaction to google wave not so much as a criticism but but honest reaction to opening it up. The first thing I saw was boxes which I wasn’t sure I was supposed to do, though after watching the video I had a better understanding than if I had just read some text. The second thing I did was try adding some contacts which was successful for those that were already invited to google wave. The biggest question mark I had after that was trying to find widgets (there didn’t seem to be that many—or at least I couldn’t find them). I use google maps a lot so I wanted to import my own map that I had invested some time in creating. In the instructions all I had to do was add a url—which I thought would be easy as it’s already a google product. Unfortunately all I got back was a broken widget icon. Hopefully as new versions of google wave are released the integration between products will be a smoother.

I also noticed that google wave is not “beta” but in “preview ” which is a shift. The overall ui is pretty understandable, it’s the feature set that’s going to take some time to get used to. I also think there’s a lot of potential to use something similar to curate content that’s going to be published elsewhere. It will be interesting to see who jumps on that aspect of the interface.

To Exit Turn Right (or Left)

knob

photo.jpg

Coming back from lunch today I noticed something that made me pause. Someone had labeled the inside door knob of my building explaining how use it. Trying to make peoples lives easier is something most designer’s strive for. But I wondered how someone came to the decision to create these instructions. Was it from their own personal experience or did some feel the need to tell someone that they were having problems? Was the knob just too stiff which in turn made people confused. The issues are limitless of course. The irony is that you can turn the knob left and get the same result as turning it right.