An analysis of election candidates profile photos and personal statements using cognitive algorithms. Does happiness matter? Can it be faked?
David Winer has a post titled Styling icons that makes the following observation
Design for the sake of design is not good. Design should enhance the utility of the thing being designed. Too many websites are substituting style for design
It’s an issue I see crop up alot. Whenever I hear someone say they want SharePoint to not look like SharePoint, they usually mean in style, not design. It’s a rare case when the reason is based on the flaws in SharePoint’s user interface (of which there are plenty).
As Lee Bryant from Headshift said so eloquently at a Dell B2B meet-up last year:
Investing in shiny corporate web sites is a form of narcism
Will not looking like SharePoint make the site function better? Because Facebook looking just like Facebook doesn’t seem to be doing it too much harm… Companies with those shiny web sites are finding they get 10 – 100 times more visitors to their company Facebook pages. That ought to be telling them something.
And it’s not just web sites. Improving presentation skills is to be recommended if you need to present. But reading Presentation Zen and then heading over to an online photo gallery will not transform you into Steve Jobs. I’ve muttered about this before:
…are they designing their presentation or creating a piece of art? Replacing bullet points or clipart with stunning visuals only works if those images enhance the message being delivered
I’ve sat through a few presentations in recent years where every single slide, all 30+ of them, consists of a full screen high-resolution photo, with or without a ‘clever’ caption. It rarely works because it’s no different than a single slide crammed with too many bullet points at an unreadable font size.
Too many points being delivered in the same way means none in particular will be remembered, regardless of the format used.
The most effective presentations are those that vary the pitch throughout and choose a style appropriate to the purpose of the presentation. Got a key message to make that you want people to remember long after the event? Use a dramatic photo or quote that will make people stop and think. One photo. One quote. Are you teaching a group about a specific topic? Sometimes bullet points are useful when presented correctly. Just don’t lean on those bullet points – they should be for the audience’s benefit, not to prod your memory. Too many means you should have prepared a separate handout.
To conclude, I attended an excellent presentation at Cambridge University in September 2006, delivered by Clive Grinyear. It had clip art, bullet points and photos in the mix. And six years later I can still remember the main point he made. It included the use of an image not dissimilar to the one at the start of this post:
Why lipstick on a pig? No matter how much lipstick you apply, it is still a pig. Design only matters when the product function is also great. There are plenty of great designs that have failed to reach a market because the product simply isn’t good enough. (Examples given included the Sinclair C5 and the Segway)
You may not have heard of Clive. He co-founded a design agency called Tangerine. Commissioned by Apple in 1992, one of the other co-founders – Jonathan Ives – went on to design some great products there during the last decade…
- Studying Icons by David Winder, Scripting News, March 2012
- Presentation Zen by (it is a great book, just don’t fall too in love with the use of photos in presentations)
Related blog posts
…is how responsive the screen is to interaction: visual, touch and motion. That’s where Apple is succeeding and others, Android- and Windows-based devices, are failing compete. It also needs to be ‘Instant On’ like a mobile phone, but most have at least cottoned on to that.
— Update 30th March —
Steven Sinofsky has just posted on the Windows 8 blog details about Touch hardware and Windows 8, expanding on information first shared during the Build conference last October. We attended that conference and have a Samsung Windows 8 tablet prototype in our R&D lab. The touch sensitivity is certainly far superior to previous Windows devices we’ve worked with. But not as superior as the iPad (v1) that I’m still using for day-to-day tablet activities.
Somebody has added a great comment to Steven Sinofsky’s post:
Is there any support for great track pad for the laptops ? Many people (programmers, businesses) have the traditional laptops (may be with touch screen in future) but having a great quality touch with same gesture support will be THE feature for Windows PCs going forward
Spot on question. My primary hardware devices at the moment are an Apple MacBook Air, Apple iPad (v1) and Apple iPhone 3GS. All three have comparible sensitivity in the touch department. No, the MacBook Air does not have a touch-screen but the trackpad is so good that I no longer use a mouse. The same cannot be said for any Windows-based laptops I’ve worked with. Microsoft needs to get better at linking the experience (hate using that word but can’t think of a better one) across different form factors. A tricky challenge when you’re dependent on many different hardware vendors. And given Microsoft is not great at achieving this across software, or even their own web sites, the odds of that happening are not great.
— original post —
Ryan Block at gdgt outlines why he thinks the new iPad retina-display specs are a big deal:
The core experience of the iPad, and every tablet for that matter, is the screen. It’s so fundamental that it’s almost completely forgettable. Post-PC devices have absolutely nothing to hide behind. Specs, form-factors, all that stuff melts away in favor of something else that’s much more intangible. When the software provides the metaphor for the device, every tablet lives and dies by the display and what’s on that display.
So when a device comes along like the iPad that doesn’t just display the application, but actually becomes the application, radically improving its screen radically improves the experience. And when a device’s screen is as radically improved as the display in the new iPad, the device itself is fundamentally changed
Whilst the article emphasises the new retina-display introduced with the latest iPad, the same can be said for other sensory inputs and outputs – the sensitivity of the screen to touch (for swiping, input etc.) and reaction of apps to motion.
The first mobile phone I used that involved a pure touch-based user interface, i.e. no physical keyboard, was the HTC Hero running Google’s Android OS. For me it was a step change in how I used a phone and I loved it from the start. The ability to quickly swipe across screens and retrieve or view different data, whether it was to check emails, find a contact, follow a map, send a Tweet… it was a jump in productivity for me. Until…
… the iPad launched.
Having always been a fan of tablets and frustrated by the lack of progress, it was an easy decision to get one and see if the device was worthy of the hype. I still have it 2 years later and it’s an integral part of my daily work. I don’t still have the HTC Hero. Because once I started using the iPad, the way I touched screens altered. The iPad was way more responsive (read: reacted to a much lighter touch) than the HTC Hero. All of a sudden, I’d go to swipe the screen on the phone and it wouldn’t respond. I’d have to swipe again, but harder. It was nothing compared to the lack of sensitivity on Windows touch-enabled phones but it was enough to be annoying.
Then there’s the thought behind motion on Apple devices. I was delighted the first time I moved the iPhone from my ear to look at the screen (on a dreaded automated call that required keyboard input) – the keypad automatically appeared. On the HTC Hero, I was forever accidentally cancelling calls because it didn’t do that, you had to push a button to reactivate the screen and I’d invariably press the button that ended the call. Doh!
That’s why 2 years later, I now also have an iPhone, albeit the ageing 3GS model. Everything about how it responds to my actions trumps the alternatives I’ve tried. That’s the challenge facing Apple’s rivals. Tablets will, in one form or another, become a standard part of the typical workplace in the coming years. And they are setting the bar for what people have become used to. Alternatives need to either be a lot cheaper or do something fundamentally different that the iPad can’t.
Related blog posts
Update 1st July: Google now requires everyone to login to view anything so the first row of the table has gone red too. Makes it even less useful and it was already struggling to justify any effort…
The short version:
The Wall Street Journal has a great article looking at Google’s efforts to rival Facebook – The Mounting Minuses at Google+ <- title kind of indicates how well those efforts are going.
Some quotes that stand out from the article:
“Nobody wants another social network right now,” said Brian Solis
Intel Corp said 360,000 Google+ members have signed up to receive updates from the chip maker since it set up a brand presence on the site. [But] While Intel gets dozens of responses to its posts on Google+ the company has nine million “fans” on Facebook and gets thousands of comments there [according to Ekaterina Walter who manages Intel’s presence on social media sites]
Facebook and Twitter helped change the way people discover new things on the Web, rivaling Google as the chief gateway to the Internet. Much of the activity on Facebook is private and can’t be accessed by Google’s search engine, making search less useful as people spend more time on Facebook.
All of this makes it more important for Google to win over people like Ben Hopper. The 29-year-old photographer in London joined Google+ shortly after it launched. But in November, Mr. Hopper stopped using Google+. Instead, he re-focused on Facebook and social media sites like Twitter. Google+ “was an additional tool that needed time investment—time I didn’t have to begin with,” he said.
That last sentence is particularly relevant. When you are not first to a market, you need to not just do something different or better, you need to make it easier for the people who you want to not just attract to the product or service, but keep them using it. This is where Apple succeeded with the iPhone. It wasn’t the first smartphone, but without even talking about the hardware design compared to the standard at the time, its user interface was incredibly well thought out in terms of making features easier to use. Simple steps like when you move the handset from your ear to look at the screen, the keypad automatically appears (it assumes you are about to do something). Previous phones I used (both Windows and Android) required you to press a button to reactivate the screen – half the time I’d press the button that cancelled the call. Doh!
Having experimented with both Facebook and Google+ from a business perspective, the opportunity that Google has is making content accessible to everyone. I can add a link to a Facebook page on my web site. But nobody can see the Facebook page without first logging into Facebook and nothing from that site will ever appear in search results. Facebook may have 800 million and counting users but there is a growing backlash to being logged into it all the time and I don’t want to make those sorts of demands on any client. Google+ doesn’t require the same – anyone can view my company’s page on Google+, the page will appear in search results, and nobody needs to login unless they want to participate in the conversation. All good reasons to prefer Google+ over Facebook.
So why is Google+ so quiet?
Google requires you to invest too much time to keep the site active. I haven’t found an easy way to share blog posts automatically through Google+. At the moment, I try to remember to go over and add it to the feed. Once there, I usually have to switch accounts because my Google Apps account doesn’t currently work with Google+ but my Gmail account does. I’d like my Twitter feed (all or by a certain hashtag like #in for LinkedIn and #fb for Facebook) to be automatically added. If it can be done, I haven’t figured out how. This is compared to a great little tool I used a few years ago called FriendFeed that looked visually similar but made it easy for you to automatically integrate data feeds so that you didn’t have to duplicate effort. FriendFeed was acquired by Facebook.
But even the act of adding a manual status update isn’t obvious on Google+ in some areas (it is in others – consistency, or lack of, is another gripe). Where as Facebook and Twitter both put it right in front of you in the main part of the page, regardless of whether you are on your own profile or a fan page for a company, Google has taken a different approach for each area.
The image above is the start of the stream for the Joining Dots company page. See if you can spot where to add a status update (I’m logged in as admin for the page)…
…It’s the tiny + visible just to the left of the logged in account ‘Joining Dots’ in the top right corner. Go figure.
If Google seriously wants to take on Facebook, it needs an Apple mindset to make Google+ as easy and intuitive as possible when you are on the site. And it needs to start making it easier to add in automated feeds such as Twitter updates, blog posts when they are published etc. Along with Likes and all the other trickery that Facebook has done so well but keeps locked and hidden inside their walled garden (even if it is a big garden). Until then, as the photographer Ben Hopper soon found out, Google+ is simply too much hassle. And that’s Google’s, not than Ben’s…