Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Thought for the week

"Once you embrace unpleasant news not as a negative but as evidence of a need for change, you aren't defeated by it. You're learning from it."  

"Business @ The Speed Of Thought" by Bill Gates (1999)

Monday, 22 August 2011

Thought for the week

"You need to be first, best or different." - Loretta Lynn

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Building Windows 8 - The Blog

The site in question: Building Windows 8 - The Blog

The initial post / introduction on the blog represents a rather boring and dry start (sorry Steven Sinofsky) to what seems to be a good idea (allowing people involvement / a behind the scenes look), and to what sounds like a hugely ambitious project given a sub-strapline like 're-imagining Windows'.

Around a billion people could end up using it, so you would have thought people might be interested in this blog. I'd actually argue that only a very specific set of people should be interested in it though. OS's, in my opinion, are better when they are simply behind the scenes doing what the users of them want them to do. I realise this is rarely the case and they are often over engineered for most people, and very likely to fall down on a number of key requirements. I wonder then that the real motivation 'to get involved' will be an early glimpse of the pain to come - with a little chance to stop it from happening.

When it's appropriate I'm going to post on the blog that I'd like to be able to tailor my operating system for my needs at the point of install and throughout it's time on my machine. Basically I'd like to be able to switch on and off a load of juice heavy things as and when I do and don't need them. And I know that most of this is possible via a mass of administration windows etc. but I'd like it to be on a single screen that's easy to use and has needs based options that a non-techie can easily understand.

I'll keep dreaming, and wondering, I expect.

Monday, 15 August 2011

It's not new - you know that right?!

Q: When was the first email sent? A: 1971
Q: When was the first website launched? A: About 20 years ago - 1991 (views vary)
Q: When was the first text message sent? A: 1992
Q: When was the first smartphone sold? A: 1993
Q: When was the first eCommerce transaction recorded? A: 1994
Q: How old is Amazon? A: 16 years old
Q: How old is Google? A: c. 13 years old
Q: How old is MySpace. A: 9 years old
Q: How old is Facebook? A: Nearly 8 years old

These dates are open to dispute, but you get the point - it isn't really that new anymore. Time to grow up Mr Web, you're in your 20's now and still acting like a child most of the time.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Thought for the week

"The only thing that does not change is that everything changes." "Watching The Tree To Catch The Hare" by Adeline Yen Mah (2000)

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

How do writers create a great story? - Part 1

How can the approaches writers take to create stories apply to creating web experiences?

What makes people want to read or experience something from the very beginning to the very end?

Recently I've been giving some thought on how useful it is to apply some well honed practices in story-telling and novel writing  to creating web experiences. I'm not sure where this came from to be honest, but I found it in my head and I've been unable to shake it. In having these thoughts I have come to a perhaps obvious conclusion that from what I understand of the techniques writers use there is indeed a benefit to this approach. So I've decided to pull together some quick summaries of my 'story-telling' approach to creating web experiences, and you're reading part 1.

A great story grabs you from the beginning, perhaps even the title or first sentence, and makes you want to keep reading, listening or watching to the end. In my opinion it's about more than just a series of 'hooks', and its creation often starts with some basic steps.

The following is a summary of how I think a writers approach can apply to the initial process of creating a web experience:
  1. First you need to establish a clear picture of the (story you are about to write) journey you need to create - the vision or plot. This needs to clearly set out the end goal(s). Keeping a parallel with writing techniques I believe this step is similar to what writers call setting. It's at this stage that you need to establish your initial view on the success crtieria for the journey as well.
  2. Then I think it is important to write a summary of this - a single sentence or paragraph that explains what your journey is about and perhaps it's over-arching goal (key business and/or user objective). This is rather like an early process of synthesis following idea generation. This summary is possibly something that comes first in writing practices. The aim here is to be able to refer quickly and easily to this summary when dealing with the detail / problem solving tasks - it should also help keep a greater continuity and focus throughout the team involved.
  3. Then we need to create a flow - what are the steps in the journey that we need to take our audience through? This step may involve some initial information architecture planning and early user task modelling.
  4. Now we can build a list of the elements that make up this story - the features and attributes that are needed to make the story work. This may include some of the technical aspects of the process as well, and perhaps at this stage we may even need to shape the flow that we've already created.
  5. Now we can bring the flow and list of attributes together so we can understand what is needed to tell this story / create this journey, and document this as the initial model.
I'm sure for many this is the sort of process that is used all the time, it certainly has a lot of parallels with approaches I've taken over the years and to those in the many textbooks on my office shelves. I do however think there's benefits in giving another perspective like this, and I feel that a lot of the detail in writing techniques that I've read about could help support people through each of the steps above.

After this initial process is completed a next step might be to create a prototype (draft) and start asking some questions about user acceptance and how best you can use real-people (the end consumer) to help edit the story / shape the journey. And start to make it work for everyone who is likely, or who you'd like, to consume it (UCD). So, I'll be exploring this in part 2.

    Monday, 1 August 2011

    Thought for the week

    "The trouble with the rat-race is that, even if you win, you're still a rat." American comedienne Lily Tomlin