Future of Web Design 2007
Web applications with personalityIf you just thought about former porn actress presenting crippled search results, fear not, I don’t mean that kind of personality. Instead it’s something that makes Flickr or Basecamp so pleasant to use. It’s definitely hard to create an application or a website that has a character. Sometimes not even suitable. Many decent applications lack this property and we still use them. del.icio.us, with its focus on pure functionality was a quoted example. What makes up a personality? There’s no “one and only” feature that makes us humans, nor there’s such in a case of web apps. Surely, it’s about graphical elements (typography, colors, icons), but also about voice — the way an app speaks to its users. Ryan Singer of 37signals gave examples of how simple shift from artificial “error notification” to a helpful tip of how to fix a mistake could make a difference. Even the visual style of such a note is significant. Big, red text with exclamation is like screaming at your users. It’s hard then to expect them to like such an app or just feel well with it. An application with personality has views and human voice behind it. In a mini panel with Ryan Singer, George Oates (flickr) and Denise Wilton (moo.com) LinkedIn was brought up as an example of an app that seems professional but not friendly. It has dry language and is more about connecting professionals than people. Ryan pointed that it doesn’t have sign out option and therefore it doesn’t care about its users. That make me think if all web applications should have a voice at all. I will be still using del.icio.us or LinkedIn even if I don’t care about their voice. But I admit I smile each time I look at the cow from the logo of Remember the Milk. It has no actual value but makes me like the app and… stick to it. So for sure it’s worth considering whether your app should have own personality when you create one.
Cross-media marketingAfter morning sessions there were few presentations that had a common message: product sites could bring great results when they’re an integral part of cross-media efforts. Notice the “integral” part. Many times website is just an add-on to a marketing campaign — another way of displaying the same message. But it’s very much like showing black and white movies with no sound in television: it doesn’t explore the full potential of the medium. And one of the biggest strengths of the web is its interactivity. If you own a brand or business, and you have a website, you’ve most likely been trying to master search engine optimization (SEO) from the beginning. The bad news is, SEO isn’t the easiest thing to figure out, and if you don’t get a solid grasp on it fast, you’ll never even get your website off of the ground. That’s where indexsy.com comes into play. Few presenters showed how to unleash this potential: Nat Hunter (Airside), Joshua Hirsch (Big Spaceship) and my favourite: William Rosen (Leo Burnett) and Rei Inamoto (AKQA). Rosen showed a marketing campaign done by Arc Worldwide (subsidiary of Leo Burnett) for US Department of Health. The purpose of entire campaign was to promote physical activities among American teens. The idea was to distribute 500,000 yellow balls through entire country. Each ball had a unique ID. When you received a ball you could play with it, submit the ID on verbnow.com website and pass it to another kid. The website allowed to track what happened to balls; few changed their owners over 30 times. Some were passed to celebrities, so kids could play the same ball as JUMP5 or Greg Raposo (OK, I have no clue who these guys are, but I’m not an expert when it comes to American teen-pop celebrities). Teens could do something interesting with the ball and then describe it on the website as well. What caught my interest was a natural integration of the website with entire campaign. verbnow.com was used to elicit kids’ engagement. In this case internet wasn’t drawing kids away from sport. It rather provoked to do something interesting on fresh air and then share it with others. Very simple, very smart. Rei Inamoto from AKQA had one of the most brilliant presentations I ever saw. It was fueled with inspiring content from AKQA’s portfolio. I’ll give you just one example: marketing campaign for XBox 360 game, Perfect Dark Zero. The main character in a game is a female assassin, Joanna Dark, devoted to kill all the leaders of some corporation, one by one. When you enter the website, you have an appointment with Ms Joanna. She ask you for a name and email of some individual you know. If you enter an address of your friend, he will receive an invitation to the special website. This website will display him a movie from a morgue as seen from a perspective of the dead body. Dead body with his name on a label. When your friend will realize his unexpected decease, you’ll receive a notification from Joanna: mission accomplished. Twisted, immoral, sick. You gotta love it. What was so innovative here? Again, the idea wasn’t completely new. 3 years ago I blogged about a marketing campaign for Audi that also used personalized movies. Yet, the surprise of realizing that you just asked for an assassination of you friend is… attractively anxious. Combining email, web and immersive, game-like experience with your real world relationships gives astounding effect. There were more examples of how to employ web interaction together with other communication channels. It can make your marketing message much more effective. You could summarize it with the phrase: People don’t have offline or online lives — they just have lives.
While we have a responsibility to protect the data we collect by providing a secure website, a security-focused site is often inherently in conflict with a functional, personalized user experience. The more information we can collect from a user, the better we can tailor their experience; but this data has to be obtained in a functional and unobtrusive way, and must be protected thereafter. Most online users are wary about accessing non-secure websites. This is because cybercrime is a very big issue. It is rampant nowadays. Integrating cybersecurity in web design requires close collaboration between the web design team and the web development team. https://www.sapphire.net/ can help educate your non-IT staff members on the best security practices.