Archive for December, 2006

Adobe and the Big Pink Elephant

By December 22, 2006

Abobe released their CS3 suite as a beta version on the Adobe Labs site at the end of last week. The product has been getting rave reviews, but the new branding is taking a beating in the blogsphere. User are pummeling Adobe on their move to a ultra simplistic branding of the new suite. It […]

Abobe released their CS3 suite as a beta version on the Adobe Labs site at the end of last week. The product has been getting rave reviews, but the new branding is taking a beating in the blogsphere. User are pummeling Adobe on their move to a ultra simplistic branding of the new suite.

It looks, from the Adobe’s own blog, that all of their product line will be going to the new style. Here they are. This icon image is from Jack Nack’s Adobe blog. The comments to his post were extremely negative, most of them seeing the move making their workspace “indecipherable,” because of the “mystery meat” style that the new products will be branded with.

I actually don’t mind the look and feel of the new branding. I am really enjoying the swing back to “simple” that is going on in design right now. But when you’ve been used looking in your app dock and seeing a feather, eyeglass, or Venus, and instead you see a whole row of squares of different color, all with two letters on them, it might be confusing on which is which.

The point of this post was not the discussion of the actual design, but how Adobe has handled the backlash. Ryan Hicks, Sr. Experience Designer at Adobe, when asked about the negative comments on the new branding said, “Honestly, we have been living with the icon system internally on our own machines for so long now that it’s a bit hard to remember what the big deal is. We’re as varied and hardcore a user group as will be found anywhere, we’ve found the stuff just works. Done.” I agree with Aral Balkan when he interpreted Mr. Hicks’ comment as, “We designed them. We like them. We use them and they work for us. Done.” Aral goes on to relate Adobe’s attitude to software development, but I think it can relate to any area of creative development.

If we are releasing a web project that will be used by a majority from a dial-up connection, and the pages are extremely “bloated”, then we have done a disservice to our users as well as our clients. And if that’s the case then we have not done our job as designers and developers. The same can be said of any creative endeavor that is not intended to be art for art’s sake. If any design piece, print, web, video, etc, is pushed public because it “looks cool,” but doesn’t meet the user and/or client’s purposes then we have completely missed our mark and lost touch with our own purposes.

If this ignoring of the “Pink Elephant” can happen with a company that is driving our industry, and therefore has great accountability, then it can easily happen on our level as well. We must keep the end-user in mind, even more so than the client, when approaching any new project. Because if a project does reach it’s audience then the client won’t be happy in the end. We must also plan for the user, and then TEST, TEST, TEST those projects to make sure that they end up the way we planned them.

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Looking good moose

By December 22, 2006

Has any company ever gotten more (pardon the pun) mileage out of a commercial’s creative than Enterprise Rent-A-Car and that quick shot of the packaged car at the end? How long have they been using that shot now? I think it’s been since at least the mid-90s, if not earlier. That clearly looks like a […]

Has any company ever gotten more (pardon the pun) mileage out of a commercial’s creative than Enterprise Rent-A-Car and that quick shot of the packaged car at the end?

How long have they been using that shot now? I think it’s been since at least the mid-90s, if not earlier. That clearly looks like a Chevy Lumina, Corsica or some other fleet vehicle of that era.

Besides the staleness of that one shot though, my biggest pet peeve about that commercial is the fact that it’s now 2006 (almost 2007) and the guy’s still saying “Class of ’94, here I come” in reference to his high school reunion. Now I’m a ’94 grad too. But I must have missed the invite to my 12 and 13-year reunions. I also wonder how the girls who are so vain as to be impressed by his Cadillac somehow missed the big green Enterprise Rent-A-Car sticker that would no doubt be hanging off his pimp rental.

I know I’m giving it too much thought. It’s just a 15-second commercial. And I actually find the guy who plays Moose likable and funny (most notably in the Capital One spots.) But after you see the spot for the 20,000th time (they seem to be buying a heavy rotation on all my favorite channels) you can’t help but nitpick the details and notice that the very dialog epitomizes a company that doesn’t seem to care that it’s advertising and overall image is stale. Enterprise, update your ad. Please. And while you’re at it, gift wrap a car from this era.

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Most Contagious

By December 22, 2006

Not much to blog about here, but found this at Jaffe Juice, and thought it was a very cool read, and related to what we are trying to do in the marketing world. Also if you have never read Jaffe Juice, it is a very worthwhile blog to subscribe to. Enjoy.

Not much to blog about here, but found this at Jaffe Juice, and thought it was a very cool read, and related to what we are trying to do in the marketing world. Also if you have never read Jaffe Juice, it is a very worthwhile blog to subscribe to.

Enjoy.

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Ms. Dewey gives MS Live search a viral edge

By December 19, 2006

One of my favorite quotes of all time is Oscar Wilde’s line “talent borrows, genius steals.” We see it all the time in our field and this is no exception. First there was the Subservient Chicken. Then the Beer.com girls raised the ante. Microsoft has arguably taken it out to a much broader level with […]

One of my favorite quotes of all time is Oscar Wilde’s line “talent borrows, genius steals.” We see it all the time in our field and this is no exception. First there was the Subservient Chicken. Then the Beer.com girls raised the ante. Microsoft has arguably taken it out to a much broader level with Ms. Dewey.

She’s more than a little obnoxious, but that’s the point. And she doesn’t have quite the same tightly-defined repertoire of preassigned queries/responses that the Beer.com girls have (then again, the line of queries in the case of the Beer.com girls was fairly singular and easy to predict.) Still, there’s some good canned responses already in place and if it’s a success I wouldn’t be surprised to see them revisit it to add more based on the questions they’ve already received (wouldn’t you love to see the keyword list it generates?)

Like most viral efforts it’ll likely only have a relatively short window of opportunity before interest fades away. But it just goes to show how difficult it is to wrestle people away from Google’s stranglehold on the search industry. Most Google users don’t realize that competitors like Yahoo, Microsoft Live, Ask.com, etc. actually have strong search offerings on par (and in some instances, greater than) Google these days. But Google keeps most of their existing users relatively happy and as a result enjoys something that’s extremely difficult to come by in the online world, loyalty.

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NBC on YouTube

By December 19, 2006

I realize this isn’t breaking news to anyone, but as I was watching a clip from last Saturday’s SNL, I was struck by how far we’ve come. It wasn’t that long ago that broadcasters like NBC were asking to have their copyrighted materials removed from Web sites like YouTube. Now they are embracing the new […]

I realize this isn’t breaking news to anyone, but as I was watching a clip from last Saturday’s SNL, I was struck by how far we’ve come. It wasn’t that long ago that broadcasters like NBC were asking to have their copyrighted materials removed from Web sites like YouTube. Now they are embracing the new medium. (Background)

After being told about a funny spoof video from this weeks’ SNL that I missed, I logged on to YouTube where I found it was the number one viewed video of the day. The real beauty of it is the fact that YouTube was able to show an uncensored version of the Digital Short that wasn’t allowed to air. And in doing so, they’ve racked up almost 1,000,000 views. Because it was never broadcast, without NBC’s participation that version of the video would have never been seen.

Visiting the NBC profile on YouTube shows an interesting video promoting a new show by Carson Daily called It’s Your Show which takes the user generated videos and makes a TV show out of them with a $100,00 cash prize. While Bob Sagat actually beat Carson by a good 15 years, I think it’s a signal of change. Where once record companies and even bands were suing Napster users (no, Metallica, I’m not still bitter about you having my account cancelled), now every major label has deals with one or more of the online music Web sites. Television networks like NBC and CBS are now encouraging their users to view their content outside of the traditional television time slot. Not only is it Life After the 30 Second Spot for advertisers, it’s becoming Life After the 30 minute Sitcom for networks. I’ve said for months now that Comedy Central has to be the best network on television. Not because they have the best programs, although they do have some really funny stuff, but because of their Motherload site where you can view almost every episode of every show they have.

For those of us who have hoped this day would come, it’s been a long 5 years, but the media companies take a while to come around. At least they eventually do.

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del.i

By December 15, 2006

After discovering the iLike and Kaboodle Web sites discussed blow, I added both to my del.icio.us. I found it interesting that 1234 people had bookmarked Kaboodle while only 427 had bookmarked iLike. Of course it’s reasonable, since iLike is considerably newer. Even so, I think there is some interesting insight to be found in the […]

After discovering the iLike and Kaboodle Web sites discussed blow, I added both to my del.icio.us. I found it interesting that 1234 people had bookmarked Kaboodle while only 427 had bookmarked iLike. Of course it’s reasonable, since iLike is considerably newer. Even so, I think there is some interesting insight to be found in the number of people who bookmark a site and when they do it. Each time I add a page to my del.icio.us I check to see how many other people have added it. It’s often interesting to see if I’m the first user to “discover” a site or if the site is much more popular that I might have thought.

This got me to thinking about using del.icio.us as a metric of a site’s popularity. While you can already look at the raw number of bookmarks a URL had, as well as seeing when it was bookmarked(grouped by month), it would be interesting to see a graph of the bookmarks per month over time to see if a URL’s del.i (del.icio.us index) is rising or falling and even graph it against other sites. You could use it to track the effectiveness of various marketing by looking for a correlated spike in the del.i, much in the same way Technorati does with their Mentions by Day buzz graph or Google Trends. I suspect del.icio.us will need a larger and broader user base before a tool like that can be effective and relevant, but I still think it’s an interesting concept.

Maybe the real idea is a scoring system that takes each of these items, along with information from sources like Hitwise and Google PageRank to create an overall index for a URL or a search term.

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Social Media Wish Lists

By December 15, 2006

Exploring the iLike site that Jonathan sent around yesterday got me to thinking about other topics that could benefit from Social Media. Anyone who has known me for a while should be aware of my fondness of wish lists and being the holiday season, the topic seemed even more timely. I got to thinking about […]

Exploring the iLike site that Jonathan sent around yesterday got me to thinking about other topics that could benefit from Social Media. Anyone who has known me for a while should be aware of my fondness of wish lists and being the holiday season, the topic seemed even more timely. I got to thinking about what an ideal use of social media a wish list really is. Make a list of the items you would like for your birthday/Christmas/etc. and allow people to review and comment on them. You would also be able to view other people that want the similar items and get new ideas. It would actually work very much like the iLike site, even with the opportunity to link directly to Web sites that sell these items.

Of course, I have many wish lists online, including my B&H Wish List and my Amazon Wish List from back in the CD-Now days before they were acquired by Amazon. There was a Babies-R-Us list (also on Amazon) for my [now 4-year-old] son and, of course, the out-of-this-world wish list on my personal Web site, not to mention the bridal registry that will surely be online soon. But each of those are for a specific purpose and none of them really offer the kind of social experience I was thinking of.

I really thought I was on to something here, so I thought I would Google it and see what I could find. Turns out there is a Web site called Kaboodle that does just that. Started in October of 2005, it claims to be a free social bookmarking service, but the Wish List examples that I found are pretty much exactly what I envisioned for a Social Media Wish List.

Kaboodle would seem to dovetail very nicely with Yahoo!’s del.icio.us and Upcoming.org offerings. An acquisition of iLike and Kaboodle could help round out the offering for a full-scale social media platform. While they have the Launch product for music, I haven’t seen the social aspect that iLike has. As outlined in the infamous Peanut Butter Manifesto, the transformation has begun. For example, these individual Yahoo properties are shifting to the unified Yahoo sign-in. They are already starting to incorporate Flickr and Yahoo! Local with Yahoo! 360. Each property needs to stay independent, but at the same time there needs to be integration and unification in the back-end of each of these sites. It would be nice to be able to automatically pull your del.icio.us links, your iLike music playlists or the Kaboodle wish list into your Yahoo! 360 page and create the ultimate page about YOU, completely interconnected with all your friends on your Yahoo! IM Buddy List. Better yet, imagine if you could access your images, your links, your events and your wish lists along with maps and local listings from a single API. The Mash-ups that could come from that combination are mind boggling.

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Google opens Google Web Toolkit

By December 13, 2006

For the uninitiated: GWT uses object-oriented widgets and desktop application development idioms to facilitate rapid development of Web applications with proper multi-browser support. GWT uses a generative approach to AJAX, converting Java code into Javascript and HTML with a specialized compiler. It was created to speed development of Google’s AJAX based tools like Gmail and […]

For the uninitiated:

GWT uses object-oriented widgets and desktop application development idioms to facilitate rapid development of Web applications with proper multi-browser support. GWT uses a generative approach to AJAX, converting Java code into Javascript and HTML with a specialized compiler.

It was created to speed development of Google’s AJAX based tools like Gmail and Google Maps, but has not been widely adopted in part due to its license. By going to an open source license (Apache License in this case) its possible that the Toolkit will see wider use. Given the success that Google has had with their rich web applications, its certainly conceivable we’ll be seeing more of this tool soon.

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Greatest News Ever!

By December 13, 2006

Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement. But I was very excited last night when I read the Flickr Blog entry that said they removed the upload limit for pro accounts. They also upped the free accounts from 20MB to 100MB per month. The change was brought to my attention by a friend who uses a Nikon […]

Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement. But I was very excited last night when I read the Flickr Blog entry that said they removed the upload limit for pro accounts. They also upped the free accounts from 20MB to 100MB per month. The change was brought to my attention by a friend who uses a Nikon D80 and regularly runs out of upload bandwidth. He often complains about the 2GB limit and was thrilled to see the change.

I bring it up here, not because I think everyone will be as excited as I was, but because it’s another example of the trend in Web development: Encourage the user to participate and remove their constrains. This new bread of Web sites doesn’t moderate it’s users, force them to give up personal information, or limit them in other ways (such as storage quotas). It allows them to explore and interact to whatever degree they want and only reach out for contact if and when they are ready.

It’s discouraging to see businesses who continuing to push very hard to keep general information private. The most common way is by making a user provide some amount of personal information in order to either ensure they aren’t the competition or to create an opportunity to reach out to the customer. By now it should be clear that the customer only wants to be contacted on their terms, if at all. Look at the backlash against SPAM or the Do-Not-Call registry as examples.

These businesses want to know who’s accessing their information and why. They are deathly afraid that the information might fall into their competitors hands. They don’t understand that the competitor is going to get the information anyway (if they don’t already have it) and in the process they are pushing away ten-fold or a hundred-fold legitimate users (potential customers). Instead they should be focusing on letting everyone have as much information as they want about the products and creating the next innovation instead of keeping the current one private.

While many small-ticket B2C manufactures get this, the purchases with a more involved sales cycle are still stuck in an outdated model. The company will argue that if they don’t capture that information and follow up the sale will be lost. What they don’t realize is the number of sales that are lost because the customer wasn’t ready provide that information and simply moved on. Given the opportunity they would have continued to investigate the product and would have eventually reached out for contact. Not to mention the fact that the customer would have been much better educated at the eventual point of contact and further along in the selling process, creating less work for the sales person.

When a company is really able to do that, I think it’s a win-win for the company and the customer.

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Usability on the web is a sham

By December 13, 2006

When I saw the title, I knew I would have to post it even before I read the article, even if just to incite Matt. The post is a little light on meat, but worth a quick read. Probably the most relevant quote is: “Usability on the web” has come to mean usability in a […]

When I saw the title, I knew I would have to post it even before I read the article, even if just to incite Matt. The post is a little light on meat, but worth a quick read. Probably the most relevant quote is:

“Usability on the web” has come to mean usability in a web browser, but increasingly we’re accessing the web outside the browser.

Usability on the web is a sham by ZDNet‘s Ryan Stewart — While accessibility and standards are great for the web, the concept of usability has been overblown. “Usability” as we define it is basically the rules for how the web should behave while in the confines of the web browser. But web applications don’t have to exist inside the browser and relegating them to these antiquated notions of usability is bad for progress.

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