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October 3, 2014 - Comments Off on Avoiding a Mobile House of Cards

Avoiding a Mobile House of Cards

netflix-kevin-spacey

"There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth." -Francis Underwood

In 2010, Morgan Stanley Research extended their financial necks and predicted that the "mobile internet would overtake the desktop PC by 2014." I talked about the importance of that research the first time I spoke at the PRSA International conference about mobile in 2011. So, how accurate were they (and [arguably] even more importantly, how foolish might I look this year, if they were wrong)?

In January 2014, according to data from comScore, cited by research firm, Enders Analysis, mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States. Traffic from PC's clocked in at 45%. A mobile strategy is no longer a "nice to have" luxury - it's the present and future of communications with regard to B2C and B2B communications. Companies and corporations that have yet to allocate resources for a mobile strategy, or have taken shortcuts with their mobile approach are building a house of cards – and it's about to take a tumble. Mobile has won.

The dictionary defines a "House of Cards" as a flimsy structure, arrangement, or situation that is in danger of collapsing or failing.

Your first consideration for expanding or enhancing any brand within the digital space begins with how the information will be received on a mobile device. While the near future will likely include universally acceptable, massive flatscreen entertainment portals with easy-to-use internet access, for the moment we’re talking about the now instead of the future now – while planning both responsively and reactively for the eventual.

Three Questions

There are three high-level questions to ask when building a strategy to avoid a house of cards. While these bullets may appear simple, the details are important. Building upon a structure of understanding carefully will elevate further insights and ultimately determine how well received your digital experience will be on all devices.

  • Who is the audience?
  • What do they want?
  • Where are they accessing content?

"After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal." -Francis Underwood

Who is the audience?

Speak openly and honestly with your client about their audience. Conduct interviews with key stakeholders. Learn about your clients competitors and review the digital experiences they are likely to visit in tandem with your clients brand. Build exhaustive and clear user case studies to better understand gender, age and other criteria, to consider who will be accessing brand from a digital perspective. If the client has been online for some time, request access to a potentially vast treasure trove of information available from Google analytics to expose further details about the audience: specific times they are most likely accessing the site; what devices they are using. All of this information will allow you to prepare surmountable goals and clear the path for the measurable and appropriate design/UI decisions you will soon be making.

What do they want?

From a mile up, the client or a copywriting research team should be able to articulate what content best suits the audience. Aside from the standard questions that will help design a high-level content inventory plan, the importance of how vastly different mobile content is from the desktop is crucial and must be articulated to the client. To start with the obvious, the real estate you have to work with is different. Consider quantity and the breadth of content you should show to someone on a mobile device vs. a larger tablet or desktop device. Keep in mind, mobile users are on the go, and have a shortened attention span. Content should should always be readable, usable and most importantly – appropriate for the device.

To take a page from Apple’s iOS guidelines, "Text is legible, icons are precise and lucid, adornments are subtle and appropriate and a sharpened focus on functionality should motivate the design." For smartphones in particular, a single column layout is the easiest to absorb for mobile, and calls to action should should be represented by areas no smaller than 44px x 44px (here's a case where a "rule of thumb" is about your actual thumbs). Place important content above the "fold", or immediately viewable area on mobile – like contact info and important calls to action.

Where are they accessing content?

Business Intelligence gained through data collection is imperative. According to IBM, Five petabytes of data are generated every day by mobile phone subscribers. This is roughly the equivalent of 100 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with paper. The means the data you need to best serve mobile content to your audience is out there.

Google Analytics (GA) data will help, as will statistical data, reports about your client's industry and the general mobile landscape, and interviews with key stakeholders and investors. Google Analytics reports will aid in understanding the devices and mobile operating systems currently accessing a digital experience, as well as the location that they are accessing the experience from. If your client is international, pay close attention to their specific carriers and regions. This is also important if your client is predominantly reaching a North America or United States-only market as well. There are still areas in this hyper-connected country where connectivity is spotty or slower than you might expect.

Your plan should be to create the fastest loading experience for your mobile audience as possible, regardless of the device. This can be accomplished in several ways, one of which is limiting or eliminating images that are unnecessary for the overall user experience. When using icons as calls to action, utilize a single image (usually referred to in the HTML development world as a "sprite") for multiple icons to create a single call to the server, cutting down on latency issues that slow down user experience. 60% of visitors on a mobile device wait 3 seconds or less for your page to load on mobile.

We no longer access the majority of our internet content from the desktop. According to a survey run by Google/Nielsen in Q4 of 2012, 77% of mobile searches were from a location (work or home) likely to have a desktop PC available. Stationary, plugged-in devices are not suitable for today's attention deficit disorder audience. We're easily distracted multi-taskers – always on the move – and as such – we want our content to join us on our journey. We desire access to data at our beck and call. Always consider how to deliver content to smartphones, phablets, tablets, wearables, and even ultra books - all devices that are in the mobile ecosystem and the inevitable future of the post desktop landscape.

"There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong and useless pain, the sort of pain that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things." -Francis Underwood

Building a mobile strategy isn't easy. Mobile involves many moving parts, working with right digital partners, and the willingness to take risks based on the inevitable future. 40% of mobile users turn to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience, and this number is growing. It's especially difficult for large corporations to jump in full throttle – but they must. If not, they will likely perish under the waves of progress and watch helplessly as the mobile house of cards inevitably collapses around their valuable brand.

Published by: davefletcher in Entertainment, The Thinking Mechanism
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September 19, 2014 - Comments Off on The MechCast 306b: How has the Internet changed the way we listen to music? (Part 2)

The MechCast 306b: How has the Internet changed the way we listen to music? (Part 2)

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Welcome to The MechCast! This is the Part II of a 2 part series. In this episode, we'll be discussing how the onset of the Internet has changed the way we listen to music, and the impact it has had on the record industry itself. We welcome a special guest – NYU's own Professor of Punk – Vivien Goldman.

Music

  • Bob Marley - Natural Mystic
  • Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen

Related Links

Published by: antonioortiz in The Mechcast
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September 12, 2014 - Comments Off on The MechCast 306a: How has the Internet changed the way we listen to music? (Part 1)

The MechCast 306a: How has the Internet changed the way we listen to music? (Part 1)

internet-music-industry

In this episode of The MechCast, we'll be discussing how the onset of the Internet has changed the way we listen to music, and the impact it has had on the record industry itself. We welcome a special guest – NYU's own Professor of Punk – Vivien Goldman.

Music

  • Bob Marley - Natural Mystic
  • Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen

Related Links

Published by: antonioortiz in The Mechcast
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August 19, 2014 - Comments Off on Could the iWatch Revolutionize Medical Research?

Could the iWatch Revolutionize Medical Research?

“Talkback Tuesdays” is an original weekly installment where a team member of The Mechanism is asked one question pertaining to digital design, inspiration, and experience. The Q&A will be featured here on The Mechanism Blog as well as on The Mechanism’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, every Tuesday. Feel free to offer up your 2¢ in the comments.

George Brassey, The Mechanism’s lead developer, discusses the great potential smart watches can have in revolutionizing medical research and healthcare management. It seems like only a matter of time!

What new piece of tech are you most excited about hitting shelves?

I'm excited to see what sensors Apple will introduce with the iWatch. I'm hoping they announce a watch with an array of sensors which might revolutionize health care research. Last year there was a huge amount of media buzz around the wearable space, with nothing appearing. This year the rumor mill is turning again and it sounds like Apple will finally announce an iWatch next month to be released later this year/early next year. Why am I interested? Last year I didn't like the idea of the wearable. The potential uses didn't interest me. I already have a phone, tablet and laptop. I don't need yet another screen. Especially considering how limited the functionality will be on such a small device. This year, however, I've been hearing about the sensors that will be included.

I'm a migraine sufferer. From time to time, without warning, I get massive blind spots in my field of vision, followed by debilitating headaches. Research on migraines has been inconclusive. The Mayo Clinic lists: hormones, foods, food additives, drinks, stress, sensory stimuli, changes in wake-sleep pattern, physical factors, changes in the environment, and medications; as potential causes. That's a long list with very little practical information as to how to prevent a migraine. I will be interested to see what could be learned by analyzing various health markers preceding migraines.

Depending on how Apple's new Healthkit SDK deals with privacy, the platform could standardize the sharing of medical records. Currently, there is very little access to medical data for researchers. Fears of records getting into the wrong hands means that acquiring data for research often requires a new study, even if a similar study has been done before. This involves, raising money, finding volunteers and conducting the study which may take months, even years. Most health information is under lock and key. The proliferation of devices to passively record a wealth of data could provide easy access for life saving research.

August 12, 2014 - Comments Off on Finding Design Inspiration with The Mechanism Founder – Talkback Tuesday

Finding Design Inspiration with The Mechanism Founder – Talkback Tuesday

"Talkback Tuesdays" is an original weekly installment where a team member of The Mechanism is asked one question pertaining to digital design, inspiration, and experience. The Q&A will be featured here on The Mechanism Blog as well as on The Mechanism's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, every Tuesday. Feel free to offer up your 2¢ in the comments.

This week The Mechanism Founder, and all around design-guru, Dave Fletcher, discusses why his photography is one of the first places he turns for design inspiration.

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Where do you find design inspiration?

Since around 1996, I’ve been taking an abundance of digital photographs from my travels to conferences, events and holidays. Simply being able to look into my treasure trove of images has helped me out of an occasional creative jam. From a photo, I generally can find a color palette or typographic element that ignites something new, or a visual that sparks a memory and triggers another. Before you know it, I’m well on my way to a fusion of ideas without having to do too much thinking. It just flows. Everything we do is connected in a very cosmic (and occasionally “comic”) sense, so the invaluable inspiration gleaned from a photograph I took in New Orleans in 2003, could trigger ideas for a logo or visual metaphor completely unrelated to the original photographic resource.

I’ve read a great deal about sparking inspiration from simply changing your typical path. We are all creatures of habit, and once we lock into a routine, we are easily able to drown out everything around us. We shut down our minds and put our bodies on a kind of “auto-pilot” to get from the train to the office, or our house to the grocery store. However, if you consciously break a habit or routine and try a different route to your destination, you’ll be forced to experience new things and to pay closer attention to your surroundings.

dino-2

In 2005, I was keynoting an AIGA event in Jacksonville, Florida. Part of my daily ride to my destination involved passing an old, overrun Goony Golf mini-golf course. There was a spectacular and decrepit roadside dinosaur in front, clearly visible from the highway, that I simply had to photograph. During my keynote, I showed the audience the dinosaur in one of my slides, and only a few locals recognized it. After I mentioned that I took it not more than a mile away, they were a bit taken aback. This group of highly creative individuals had become so accustomed to passing the dinosaur in their daily routine that they no longer even saw this majestic beast deteriorating right in front of their eyes. Years later I learned that a few of the attendees had taken it upon themselves to save the roadside dinosaur from further deterioration by repairing him and moving him to a safer location.

They just needed to have their eyes opened to their own surroundings to be inspired. It was immensely gratifying to be part of this. It galvanized the lesson that inspiration can be found directly under our noses, and sometimes we just need to be nudged a little bit in one direction or another to actually see it.

August 1, 2014 - Comments Off on Slime – Ultra-Violence in a Modern Society

Slime – Ultra-Violence in a Modern Society

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I am gross and perverted

I'm obsessed 'n deranged

I have existed for years, but very little had changed

I am the tool of the Government and industry too, for I am destined to rule and regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious, but you can't look away

I make you think I'm delicious, with the stuff that I say

I am the best you can get. Have you guessed me yet?

- Frank Zappa, I Am the Slime

I recently found myself held captive in an alternate universe on the planet SyFy, to partake in a rapturous, cinematic marvel entitled Sharknado 2: The Second One. I was sucked into this deluge of gore and social media pornography predominantly by the promise of an all-too-short and relentless escape from human existence, performed by the "less-than-stars" of television's past -- and starring thousands of poorly CGI-generated, starved sharks. I was also glued to the television to look beyond its blank cathode gaze to observe the rapturous power of social media on the massess, hoping to gain some valuable insight for our next podcast entitled "What Makes Content Go Viral?". Preposterous events like the Sharknado films will eventually be taught in Social Media university courses in the future, where desperate educators will attempt to decipher the marketing approach taken to garner 3.9 million viewers and more than a half a million related tweets from nearly 200,000 unique authors. The lack of the Sharknado effects team's quality and attention to detail might have also been part of my personal draw, but sadly contributes to the long-term destruction of the creative profession in general.

"Mindlessness", as a concept, draws us into alternate realities partly because we've been so desensitized to the reality of our own surroundings. Day-to-day reality is too safe, it's a place where most activity is experienced as expected, so we have to generate more complex and interesting hyper-realities. Escapism, along side the advent of virtual and increasingly visceral entertainment (shared with potentially millions through television and the internet), is too easy to blame. Everything that is outside of the experience of life can easily become a gateway to moronic pleasure and escapism. Consider the increasingly detached comedy and climate of our political system, the popularity of "reality" tv, or a television world overrun with mindless hordes in "The Walking Dead" - pure escapism is, and will continue to be, the novocaine for the pain of reality. Who wants to worry about the planet or the homeless? I'm too busy being ensconced in the escapism of enacting some real ultra-violence on a CGI shark - my weapon of choice is a running chainsaw...Pray tell, what's yours? I wonder if the popularity of the undead combined with our fascination with designers consistently revising, revisiting and regurgitating the past is a just a passing fad, or a dystopian vision of our eventual future?

A second installment of Sharnado is not a surprise. Utilizing images and concepts from the past is nothing new. Warhol did it, and Hollywood repeatedly does it. If it works the first time, why not try a second, third and fourth time rather than try to imagine something completely new? Originality in art and design has been reduced to a photocopy of a reproduction; exponentially malleable.

You will obey me while I lead you

And eat the garbage that I feed you

Until the day that we don't need you

Don't got for help...no one will heed you

Your mind is totally controlled

It has been stuffed into my mold

And you will do as you are told

Until the rights to you are sold.

- Frank Zappa, I Am the Slime

Stupidity is a bi-product of malaise. An overly complex lifestyle, including the use of overly complex software and engaging in the overstimulation of Sharknado-type programming can further detach one from focus. Alternately, simplicity is a hard-earned bi-product of thought. Simplicity, when it's done well, calms the mind. Entertainment and our user interfaces and applications have become too complex - software solutions should perform one simple task and do it well. Focus is key. The age of overly complex design has ended for now, and is an offshoot to the lessons of the simplistic clean design movement first pursued by Microsoft's Windows Phone design. John Maeda's 10 Laws of Simplicity is worth a read, but if you don't have the time - have a look at his video from TED.

[ted id=172]

Films like Sharknado, while marvels of cinematic foolishness, are also catalysts for gathering humans with other humans. This might not be too bad of an idea. Collectively experiencing violence of unimaginable proportions has been interesting to us homo sapiens since the days of pitting gladiators with tigers. Technology via the motion picture is allowing us to enjoy exceedingly horrific images of unfathomable gore and destruction not seen since we gathered in front of a television to watch Mike Tyson eat portions of his opponents in boxing, or enjoy wrestlers like Jake Roberts throw live cobras at "Macho Man" Randy Savage. You see, we're all savages, being driven backwards to the caves by the masters of media and entertainment. Maybe if we're sitting around talking about how stupid it is, it might save us. Or not.

It's fantastic to imagine that our societal march into ignorance is being orchestrated by the advance of technology and the warlocks who command it...

I may be vile and pernicious

But you can't look away

I make you think I'm delicious

With the stuff that I say

I am the best you can get

Have you guessed me yet?

I am the slime oozin' out

From your TV set.

- Frank Zappa, I Am the Slime

July 18, 2014 - Comments Off on Selling Brooklyn

Selling Brooklyn

My version of the internet, that is, my specific collection of friends and blogs, has been particularly outraged by a video called "Brooklyn Girls" by Catey Shaw. For those that don't know, "Brooklyn Girls" is one of those deeply irritating, manicured pop songs that eats its way into your brain until you are bouncing your empty head like a bobble-head toy. Its tune is designed to target the market of Katy Perry, Rebecca Black, or Carly Rae Jepsen, but is inflected with the types of folksy signifiers that inspire people like Zooey Deschanel to continue to growing their bangs.   Needless to say,  its a shitty song.  Yet its a shitty song that, if you didn't speak any english, would undoubtedly get lost in tweenage chorus of shitty songs. So whats the deal? What inspires all this hate?  Well, Lets talk a bit about the lyrics and the video.

"There’s a palace of bricks in 11206 where all the fly Brooklyn chicks reside, combat boots in the summer, subway train rollin’ under, see her on the Lower East Side. In her walk, there’s a fire, and she’s got her own style. You’ll get lost in her mystery, and tonight she owns the city."

Meanwhile the video cycles through a kaleidoscope of images and clips of Instagram-worthy Bushwick loft parties, septum-pierced alternative girls, bearded skateboarders drinking Kombucha, and lots and lots of graffiti. Heres a link, because a video is worth a billion words:

Obviously, with my liberal arts degree collecting dust in the corner of my room, I can identify a ton of issues here: Her shallow attempts to celebrate womanhood by defining "strength" through various commodities, all purchasable at your nearest Urban Outfitters, her defining an entire borough by the experience of a very specific group of middle-class white folks in North Brooklyn, her lack of understanding of Geography. But ultimately I believe that this intellectual-hate-sturbating is not the reasons why this video is viral, though there is plenty of it to go around.

 

Catey Shaw is selling a lifestyle in the same way that rappers, breweries, or Dove commercials might; and to the delight of TJ Maxx or Urban Outfitters, for most of the country Brooklyn might as well be what Shaw describes. Nothing is new about what Shaw is doing. The outrage seems to stem from the fact that the culture she is most aligned with hates to even be identified as a culture. It is no coincidence that the culture she is celebrating is full of the very people who are in the forefront of the vitriol. From Vice to The Gothamist to me (I lived in Bushwick and I wear Vans), the onslaught of Internet psycho-babble is, like a mutiny, coming from her very own crew.

Our next podcast is about what makes content viral. Like Rebecca Black's "Friday", Shaw might be relegated to the order of things that are just so silly that we have to keep watching. But in my estimation tonight at a bar in Williamsburg a DJ will play this song somewhat ironically, and many won't get the joke. Brooklyn Girls

July 11, 2014 - Comments Off on The MechCast 304: The Digital Experience: One Year Later

The MechCast 304: The Digital Experience: One Year Later

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In this episode of The MechCast, we talk about the impact that our own digital experiences will have on our lives one year from now. From our dependancies on smart phones and tablets, to the color of the web, we cover a wide array of topics in this installment, so sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Music

  • ESG - Come Away
  • Aphex Twin - Taking Control

Related Links

Published by: antonioortiz in The Mechcast
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July 3, 2014 - Comments Off on The Process of Pomp, Parade and Illuminations

The Process of Pomp, Parade and Illuminations

RoyalFireworks

Despite some historians, who have argued that India first invented fireworks, it appears that the world's largest manufacturer, and (not surprisingly) the largest exporter of fireworks - is China. Likely conceived as a means to frighten evil spirits with a loud sound (known as "bian pao"), the earliest documentation of fireworks usage dates back to 7th century China. They are generally classified as either ground or aerial, both of which I assume you can figure out.

Designing a unique fireworks display generally follows a process, whereby location plans are reviewed, an estimate is prepared and pyrotechnic designers utilize their knowledge of the correct chemicals to produce the correct mix of mojo to delight your eyes and deafen the ears. Clients review the designs and the compositions are tested before deployment into the stratosphere.

It all makes good sense, and as I've mentioned in the past, the process of creation is no more than a calculated and rational march toward the eventual delight or detriment of your intended audience. Whether it's a fireworks display or a digital experience, both have one chance to hit the mark. If it doesn't work right the first time, your crowd - whether digital or in person - will move on to the next town for their dose of delight.

If you're in America, enjoy the day off and mind your “tablet-tapping fingers” around those pesky firecrackers. John Adams envisioned fireworks to be part of the festivities of what became the Fourth of July - before the Declaration of Independence was even signed. In a letter to Abigail Adams on July 3, 1776, he noted that the occasion should be commemorated “with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

...Let's hope your next #digitalexperience does the same for you.

Published by: davefletcher in The Thinking Mechanism
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