Tag Archives: UX

Why are you selling what no one wants?

Q: Why do we go to web sites?  Or to stores?  Or to movie theatres?  Or … anywhere? Have you ever really considered that question, I mean, seriously considered it. 

People go to places for information, for entertainment, to interact with people, to buy things, but people go to them always for… something.  We go to places because they have something we want.  Pretty simple model for anyone who’s in business… supply and demand.  People demand – and you supply.  Everyone walks away happy.  That’s the goal.

So, let me ask you why… when we build web sites and software and things for people that we give them stuff they don’t want?  Why do we purposely make it difficult to locate our products.  Intentionally engineer them – to be almost painful… and we as users, are so used to this experience… that we don’t even blink when we see it.

Here’s some food for thought. If you bought a magazine (yes I’m back to the magazine metaphor… work with me here it’s worth it…)  would you enjoy the magazine if every article in it began with the table of contents for the entire magazine at the beginning?    Seriously?  How ridiculous would that be.

Wired Magazine does.  Well, their web page does.  Every web page does.  We call it the navigation menu.  It’s this really cool security blanket on the top of every page.  We just … assume it has to be there because – hey, how can you navigate if you don’t have it??  Right??  I mean… right?  We have to have it. 

Let me let you in on a little usability secret.  No.  No you don’t.  In fact, you probably only seldom actually use it, and when you do – you only use it because, well, it’s there.  It’s something we put up there back in the early days when we were trying to figure out how best to navigate on the internet and we, frankly just kept doing it even after people started just using the back button. 


Here’s a standard map of a classic style web site hierarchy.  It’s not how you’d navigate it, but it is how the links function… go to the main site – then there’s a sub page… then there’s the info you actually want to see…so this is… what the site really looks like to you.  It’s pretty much your experience.

I get to the page, I click, I click, I read.

But… that’s not how a magazine works is it?  Magazine, I look upimage what I want, and then I go straight to it.  In a magazine… your experience is like this… it’s open and read.  Because that’s what you want.  That’s what you expect of it.  But… what if we drop the concept of a magazine.  Let’s say we’re going car shopping. 

Is your experience one of you go to a dealer and they have 8 cars in the window, and every time you want to look at what they have, the dealer pulls out a flip book and makes you flip through them like a police mug shot book – and then he’ll bring one up to you?  And some of the time, he comes back and says, “Sorry that units not available.”.  And every time he drags out the flipbook – there’s a map of the store that drops down in front of you, and pictures of whatever models they’re really pushing this month are stuffed into your mug shot book and they take up like 25% or more of the pages and the pictures of the actual cars to chose from are like … thumbnails, and you have to ask the guy to bring one up every time you see one that might be what you’re looking for.  That’s currently how a lot of online shopping works. 

Now, here’s what you wish would happen… I come in, I ask the guy if he has any of the model of car I like, and he steps aside and the cars I like are on display.  In fact my favorite models are on display and I can see them right there.  It’s like magic.


  Don’t believe me?  Here’s an actual car dealership website.  Here is imagethe same website… with just what I came there to do, and everything else that the web site has on it obscured…

Over 80% of the site… has stuff I don’t want to do.  I mean really, there’s more real estate on that page devoted to navigating the web site than there is stuff there for me to buy. 

imageSo… what’s the alternative?  How about considering that no matter what – there’s basically a 2 tier structure for content, and focus just on the content in those top 2 tiers.  Main Page – > Car Page. Or imageMain Page –> Deals, or Main Page –> Trucks. 

As you can see – this is already getting the customer to their choice faster… they can perform their searches, save them for comparisons, and in general – we’re getting the user where they want to go faster and easier.  We could, include things like financing and research … as an option off the page.  The idea is we get the customer to what they want, effortlessly.  We don’t waste their visuals on navigation menus, on options to download phone apps, and so on.  If we need to provide financing as an option… then we include that as an option.  A good place for this is at the bottom of the screen – because it doesn’t break the flow of what the users doing. It’s not in their face, but it’s an option available and accessible. 

And obviously we’d have a specific details page for the car itself we’ve selected.  But we don’t need all these very big navigations and distractions that break the user out of what it is they’re looking to do – which is find a car.  It lets you sell the user what they want … and not what it takes to navigate your web site.


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Why print designers have an edge with Metro…

It’s ironic that as everyone keeps reminding us “print media is dead”  that designers who have skills with print media, may very well be best equipped to design Metro UX apps. 

Ever take a look at a Metro App or web site?  Swing on over to the Dev Center at MSDN…


  Take a good look.  Its not a web page look – and it’s not an application look…

It’s all content.  In fact, if it looks like anything it looks like a magazine or a brochure more than an application or a web page.

Like a magazine,  there’s very little chrome there – as the UX Guidelines point out many times.   In fact if you look at like a print type design, it actually looks more like that – than an application.   It’s literally Content over Chrome. 

That’s a concept a lot of people haven’t quite wrapped their head around yet.  Content driving the users experience, directing it, as opposed to the Chrome of the app.   The confusion in many peoples minds comes from the concept that Chrome is buttons, graphics, and pretties, etc., and to some extent it is all of that.  But more accurately, Chrome is also buttons and navigation menus and all kinds of things we’ve come to expect on applications.

But the Metro interface is really more like a magazine or something from the printed media world.  Content is what fills a magazine.  When you turn to a page in a magazine you don’t come to a page which has a banner that tells you how to get to everywhere else in the magazine.  In fact, if every article in a magazine started with a table of contents for the entire magazine it would pretty annoying wouldn’t it?  

Here’s a few actual magazine layouts – look at them and see if you can identify a ‘Metro’ look or similarity…


What you expect when you go to an article in a magazine, are pictures and text that tell a story or provide information.  “Content” people often fail to realize that just as a magazine page has images, and  charts and data and text – that’s the content.  What’s in the text of the article isn’t the content on a printed page… it is everything on the printed page.

In Metro, Content is everything on your apps ‘page’ if you will.  Simply put, content is what the user wants to see.   Its what the user came there for.  The actual ‘point’ of your application, of your web site, of the tool your creating.   So, “content over chrome” really means to remove the extraneous, remove the unnecessary, the unneeded elements of your app, and leave behind what the user wants.

It’s in this paradigm that designers with print can really excel over web or traditional software designers.  They aren’t carrying with them the baggage of buttons, scrollers, data grids and objects.  they can say more with a compelling photo and a single line of text than someone who thinks it’s necessary for all that baggage we call Chrome.

They think in terms of typographical elements, understanding the need to punch up titles but keep them short, and that one good picture says more than 100 words.  So yeah, those with a print background have a real advantage over those of us that have to learn to break all the conventions we’ve learned.  This isn’t’ to say that a Web or conventional software designer can’t do it – but for us, there’s a lot of extra weight to carry with all that chrome.

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Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Silverlight, Advertainment, What am I talking about?


Was talking to my daughter today who mentioned she knew several people that didn’t have TVs and watched most of their video entertainment on the computer.  I actually know two people I work with who similarly have replaced their TV with the Internet.   Where I don’t see this being the trend right away, over the next few years I have no doubt more and more we’ll see this. 

Which ties in with some comments I’ve gotten from people and feedback asking what the heck I’m talking about with Silverlight and Advertainment and new media and Web 3.0.

How does it tie in?  Well – let’s for arguments sake remove the concept that Web 3.0 is some tetonic change in how we use the web.  Let’s instead go with the idea that Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 are not dramatic shifts as we’ve seen in the media but actually a series of steps taken over a long period that culminated in something the news organizations could hang their hat on and say, “We dub thee 2.0” or whatever.

If that’s the case then 2.0 was old news when Facebook and MySpace and blogging were “born” in the eyes of the masses — and in fact – they were.  Just as Google had been around for years before it was a phenomenon. 

That being the case I decided to look at what people are doing and what people have been doing – and where it’s all heading in my view.  Here’s what we’re seeing…

People are using YouTube and MySpace and FaceBook and online gaming so much – that yes, TV that bastion of brain sucking numbness now has to move on to the Web to compete. 

How many people are devoting their time to the internet’s new media?  The YouTubes and on line video content?  Here’s something that will make you chuckle – recent studies show there is a drop in on line pornography because users want to watch Youtube.

For the first time ever – Pornography’s numbers are dropping – why? Well we’re not entirely sure but it does look for all the world that the culprit is simply – we’re giving people something more to do that surf the web and locate porn.  In a word – content. 

The higher the quality of the content – the more people are drawn away from TVs, the more are drawn away from Porn sites and the more advertisers are looking at new ways to make this all work before they lose those billions they’re spending ineffectively.

Advertainment – is something we’ve actually seen for decades.  You’d think the video game industry came up with the idea from hearing them tell the story but there’s virtually no product you see in a TV or Movie that wasn’t placed there. 

Advertainment is just a refined version of the same concept – you place products into things without people knowing so they become a culturally significant icon and you buy them without thinking. 

When we combine the Internet – and Advertainment we get completely new and very interesting ways of merging the two.

I mentioned in my last post that with the right masking – you can put anything you want on a background or a billboard or even a tv set on a live action video. 

Now – here’s where you bring in Silverlight – and I probably should issue a patent on this process but probably someone else already has.  (If not – it’s MINE!  MINE I SAY!! <laughs in best Gollum voice … then chokes>).

For a popular video distributed on line free for fans to watch the process is actually pretty simple if you have silverlight (yes – it can be done with Flash but Flash is not as good with swapping out timelines and video – IMHO).  Silverlight – for me, makes it easier so it makes more sense to do it with Silverlight.

You’d first begin by designing your advertainment process.  Here’s how I’d do mine – I’d set it up so first and foremost we have a good video script.

If the content itself is no good – then people won’t come.  If they don’t come – you can’t get the ad dollars.  So first thing is to have good content that stands on it’s own.  So let’s assume that you have good content and people will enjoy it on it’s own merit. 

This is actually the mistake of Gemini Division IHMO – it’s really cool, it’s technically well done but the plot makes no sense and there’s all the depth of a mud puddle in this show.  Okay – that’s not fair at all.

The mistake with Gemini is not that the content isn’t good.  The content is great, Rosario Dawson’s always a joy and she’s joined by a solid supporting cast. 

The lack of support here isn’t coming from the show. I went back and watched it from start to finish this evening to locate how I got the feeling that it lacked depth. 

It’s the abbreviated format that seems to be necessitated by the Internet.  Each episodes around 5-10 minutes which is very little time for even the best writers and actors to develop a good empathy each episode. 

Since we’re looking at taking it all in short bursts of 5 minutes or so – there’s a lot of plot that you can miss out on if you view them out of order or worse skip an episode or two.  To  really enjoy it you need to watch them in bursts chained, which is how they’re doing the show on the website.  Go check it out and you can see how this all comes together nicely. 

Fans of SciFi will go there – some will become addicted.  (I just received an email while editing this from someone pointing me to a fan forum that’s already speculating spoilers for the show.  I love it!  You know you’ve arrived as a TV series if you have a spoiler site with fan fiction.)   The addiction, the fun of the show, will cause it to become the phenomenon they’re looking for.  This in turn will give the advertisers the guts to push the limits of entertainment on line I’m hoping that we’ll see episodes that allow them to be longer – let the characters have more room to work per episode – that sort of thing.

Anyway – as the advertisers and the “network” get more faith in the media – we’ll probably see longer episodes and the “depth” won’t be a problem.  In fact – the more they support the show the better the content will be, and the more people they’ll grab.  So this will become a self-fulfilling (and self profiting) series. 

So as I said the core of any success with advertainment will be that the shows have to be GOOD. 

And my snyde and childish remarks aside – Gemini Division – is  very good. Definitely as good as many of the Sci-Fi offerings on network TV this season.

So you have a good show – but the way you shoot it will of course be how some of our magic – the magic I’m talking about anyway – how it happens. 

You want to go through your shooting script and define your advertising areas in advance.  These are the “ad-elements” – and whenever we’re shooting a scene with these we want to shoot it 3 or more times over and above the usual shooting retakes. 

Why?  Because we’ll need to shoot it once with our live action going on… probably putting a traveling green screen behind the actors (not expensive to buy – and even less expensive to make).   And we want to of course shoot the “master shot”. Then finally – our “ad-element”  background shooting – which will allow us to matte in whatever advertising magic we need in post production.  

You would then make several “ad element” shots for – well, every advertiser that you have.  These shots would then be placed into a “queue” of video elements. 

In a showing – it would look at the users cookie or some other preference gathering mechanism, and it would then play which ever background ad-element fits that preference mechanism while it runs the movie.

To the user – all they would see is a normal video.  But to us – we’re actually sandwiching video footage together and playing it in real time. 

And that’s really what I’m talking about doing – and what I think others will soon be trying to do.  (If you should happen to make money off this process please send checks to … :-))

Anyway… that’s what I’ve been going on about.  I think you can see the benefit of this – and how you could effectively have 1 video episode and use multiple advertisers for the same ad space.  It’s a highly effective cost model so thats really why I see it happening sooner than later.

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Posted by on October 5, 2008 in Uncategorized


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