Posts About Sparks
Devices are changing quickly. What we use today will no doubt change in the years to come. How we interact with them will be different. Just think about how we used cell phones five years ago compared to how we do today. Things are moving at warp speed. The future is here. We're building it now.
At the start of the year, we tapped into our inner soothsayer and featured what we saw coming up in the near future for responsive design. We highlighted things a little ways down the road, like devices in our ears, our cars and our eyes that could change how we approach design.
Now there's something else to consider — paper tablets. We ran recently into an article and video that featured these sheet-thin devices. Take a look:
Smart paper has been made. One day it could be in our hands. Sure there are things to work out, like having the processor housed within the sheet. Right now, it's housed elsewhere and the device has to be plugged in.
We talked at the office that it looks incredibly hard to use. So there could be some usability problems yet to solve. Typing, for instance, might not be the best for that format. Maybe it's better suited for writing with a stylus.
That being said, within five years our iPads could give way to iPaper.
A flexible screen makes responsive design even more of an imperative. Imagine how people will use your products and how they'll look on a screen that they can roll up into their hands like a newspaper. The possibilities are endless. Let's just hope folks don't use their smart papers to swat flys with.
Happy New Year! 2013 is here and we can't help but keep thinking that we're really living in the world of tomorrow.
Think about it, science fiction is rapidly becoming fact as technology achieves what only writers could once dream. And you don't have to be a soothsayer, or a science-fiction author, to see that wearable devices will one day be an everyday reality for all of us.
We've all seen the nifty video that showcases the possibilities of their Project Glass. That video only gave us a taste of what could be achieved with a wearable heads-up display, and certainly was more wistful thinking than potential reality.
But what does this all mean for how we design products in the not-so distant future?
Your Eyes Will Do the Walking
Jonathan has previously pointed out that wearable devices, such as Google Glasses, are really extensions of self. That the devices will merely disappear as we have more integrated forms of interaction where content is paramount and data is ubiquitous.
That's something the Google Glasses design team is firmly working toward. Babak Parviz, head of the the project team, recently gave some hints on what's to come. Here's a few key points:
- Augmented Reality: Isn't the immediate goal, but will eventually "come into the picture."
- Interactions: Still working out how people will interact with the Glasses, from using a touch pad to voice commands. They've even experimented with head gestures.
- Sharing: A main goal of the project is to allow people to share videos and pictures with one another, to share how they view the world through their eyes.
- Apps: While the team is still figuring out the interactions on this new platform, there will be a cloud-based API for developers to integrate with the Glasses.
These tidbits all suggest that our eyes will very soon do the walking on the web, which creates some interesting design challenges. Let's take a look.
Our products will one day no longer be confined to a display screen. With a heads-up display, our products will be right in our user's eyes. That means we'll have to consider how best to present content on those devices.
Or as the Nieman Journalism Lab recently put it, we'll have to ask:
How does this look jammed right into a user's eyeball?
The lab may have been asking in terms of news organizations, but it's a question that all product designers will have to consider. We've already begun moving into a mobile-first design ethos, but will there come a day when we take an eyeball-first approach?
Voice or Gestures
Another consideration will be how we actually interact with devices without a touch pad. We're already aware that true hover states don't exist when it comes to mobile devices. We also have to take into consideration the size of touch targets when it comes to fingertip actions.
Now we're in the early stages of voice commands with things like Siri. Researchers are fast at work at the use of spacial gestures. With a wearable device, the day will come when our interactions won't be trapped in four corners.
How We Get There
While Google Glasses may have its own line of native apps, users still expect to have the same content parity across all devices. And whether it's on a smartphone, tablet, desktop or Chrome for Your Eyeball, users will still want the same functionality. Which responsive design does allow for.
In other words, responsive design is the first step to meeting the challenges that wearable devices present. We have a lot of work to do in the coming year. But tomorrow is no longer around the corner. It's here. And we may all soon have responsive design in our eyes.
The holiday season is officially in full swing, and many people are finishing off their lists in time for the upcoming holidays. We all know that mobile commerce is growing and an important consideration for buyers and sellers everywhere as people rush to make their final purchases.
eBay, the famous auction site, has had a great year in mobile. We came across an interesting conversation between eBay's VP of Mobile and our friend Robert Scoble. The conversation covers the impact of mobile on e-commerce, and how it fits into eBay's broader mobile strategy for this holiday season and beyond.
Steve Yankovich, eBay's VP of Mobile and now VP of Innovation and New Ventures, chimed in with a few key thoughts on how mobile will shape the future of e-commerce, referencing their newest mobile initiative, eBay now.
Context and Personalization Are Key
Yankovich believes that for mobile initiatives to succeed, context and personalization are very important. If a mobile e-commerce play lacks in either of these areas, it will be difficult to gain traction and could turn users away.
Google Glass, the search engine's new wearable computer, is one interesting example. Yankovich says that Glass has to continuously "be smart about what is shown," or users will take them off. It makes sense — any irrelevant information that is served up will cause the wearer to become annoyed and potentially stop using the product.
Old social is the New Social
Yankovich also points out a key difference in commerce from then to now. In the past, when we would shop online, we typically didn't do it around other people. With the rise of mobile devices, people are shopping around others more than ever.
When someone makes a purchase on their mobile device and are surrounded by others, they are naturally inclined to tell others about it. This "social shopping — essentially word of mouth " has opened a new acquisition channel for eBay and their users, says the VP.
If you're interested in seeing the full interview, take a peek at the video below:
Our friend Cass Phillipps knows a bit about failure. After all, she produces FailCon, a conference where leading entrepreneurs and designers speak about their own failures. So it's no surprise that she's got a story or two of her own. And she's got a good one on how failure turned into her passion.
Watch the video below and take note of how Cass took an interest in her own failure and turned it into an advantage:
Our ears perked up when Cass said:
Failure hurts. Failure hurts a lot.
She makes a good point when she says that failure becomes riskier as we get older. It no longer becomes falling off a bike, as she put it. After all, as she showed, passion is dangerous and failure is inevitable. It's easier to give up. Or is it?
Fail to Win, Not Fail to Lose
What's needed is not just passion, but passion to fail and do so fast. Before we go on, let's be clear on the type of passion and failure we're discussing.
When it comes to passion, we're talking about investing yourself fully into your craft and your ideas, even when there may only be a slim chance of a financial reward or none at all.
For failure, we're referring to the concept of fail fast, which is not a strategy for coping with defeat. Quite the opposite, in fact. It's a means to win by shedding the wrong answers quickly. The concept isn't an excuse to seek failure. In other words, it's knowing how to fall flat on your face so that you can triumph in the end.
Which brings us back to Cass and how she spoke about getting the blueprint to failure. But it's more than just studying the plans. It's dissecting them, figuring out the mechanics of why you failed and how that can speed you to a win. It's something winners have long since figured out.
After all the more you win, the more you're likely to win again. So it's not passion for failure that we're seeking. It's passion to fail fast so that we can succeed.
Seems a lot of people are talking culture lately. What it takes to build a strong company culture? How does culture affect employees? What are the cultural values that a company holds dear?
Watch the video below and take note of the one thing Tony would change if he started the company today.
We completely understand where Tony's coming from and get his desire to have all his ducks in a row from the very beginning. After all, Zappos has written the book on culture and we greatly respect what he and Zappos has done in that arena. But, as we said yesterday, outlining cultural values from the very first day isn't really feasible, agreeing with Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson that it's something you can't create but can only articulate.
It's like what Levar Burton recently said about the casting of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The producers didn't know when they were casting the series whether the actors would have chemistry. That was something that evolved as the actors worked together. The same goes for culture and a company's values.
You can't impose cultural values from the start. You're still figuring out the chemistry of the company, the employees. You're still user testing, so to speak, your company as a product, exploring and refining what you exactly stand for. But the day will come when you'll want to put the stake in the ground and articulate the values that have sprouted from those early days.
That being said, like an acting troupe, you have to toss a group together and see what chemistry comes of it first.
Around ZURB HQ, we have many discussions about mobile and how it fits within our thinking. Today, Bryan highlighted a conversation he had centered around ensuring that a button was visible (read: usable) on mobile devices. But what excited Bryan wasn't the button (though he gets excited about those details). No, what got him stoked was the notion that we were thinking with the mobile user in mind, thinking about it before all else.
With more and more people pulling out their phones to do things like shopping, as we wrote about on Monday and yesterday, mobile is fast replacing desktop as our go to web device. Of course, our friend and advisor LukeW has been advocating a mobile-first approach for sometime now. And, at ZURB, we're huge proponents for multi-device design, but we've worked in the past from the desktop view down to a mobile one.
Now desktop isn't going away and it'll always play a part in what we do. Yet we've been making the move over the last couple of years to further consider mobile as a crucial component in our work. We're even making Foundation, our responsive framework, more mobile-first friendly. Because even if we're designing something as simple as a button, mobile has to be part of everything we do.
Some of us on this side of the world avoided Black Friday like the plague. Others of us braved the crowded malls, hunting for a good bargain on that brand-name shirt or pair of designer shoes. And the smart ones turned to their smartphones and tablets to get the best deals, just days before Cyber Monday.
But the numbers for the Thanksgiving shopping holiday are quite eye-opening. Our friend and advisor Luke Wroblewski has once again made the rounds and collected some of the numbers for all of us. We wanted to highlight a few of them here:
- Turkey day was the 3rd highest transaction day this year with a 71% increase in online traffic from last year and retail traffic shot up by 46% from the day before.
- When it came to online shopping, 14.1% of shoppers preferred using their mobile phones. The most popular device for US consumers — the iPhone, followed by the iPad.
- Online Black Friday sales shot up 20.7% from last year, mostly from mobile shoppers. 16.3% of mobile sales, mostly from an iPad.
- 24% of Black Friday retail traffic came from a mobile, whereas it was only 14.3% last year and less than 1% in 2009
Beat the Crowds, Go Responsive
If you recall, one of the responsive design myths that's been going around like a bad cold, is that going responsive doesn't makes sense from a retail perspective.
But the numbers don't lie. We're seeing more and more people shop through their mobile devices. So it is imperative that stores consider going responsive for their online stores. Some stores, like Nordstrom, have both a mobile-site and a native app. As we've said before, however, having a site that works across all devices is faster to build and allows mobile users to do what they would naturally want to do on a desktop browser, such as Tommy Hilfiger's site and Currys in the UK.
Not only that, but having to design a native app, which will work on only a specific device, and a mobile-separate site is a waste of time. By designing responsively, stores can ensure that they can reach all their shoppers who might own a variety of mobile devices, from Android to iPhone.
In any case, we have to applaud those stores, like Nordstrom and online retailers like Amazon, for at least having a mobile-friendly version of their sites. But with more shoppers browsing the online racks, a responsive site is the only way to meet the consumer demand for mobile shopping. Stores would be shooting themselves in the foot if they didn't.
This morning, something that Airbnb's Joe Gebbia said in a recent Co-Design article caught our eye. He was talking with other influential product designers about the design challenges of today. He said this decade was:
About using the Internet to enable real-world interactions. It's leveraging this digital life to make our analog lives more connected. It's not using Facebook to spy on an old friend, but to meet them in person.
Facebook Director of Product Design Margaret Stewart riffed off of Joe's comment during the same conversation, saying, "Mobile is the bridge into your real life."
Mobile is a Two-Way Street
As much as mobile and the Web connects us, bind us, even in the deepest rural areas of China, it isn't a one-way street for designers. It goes both ways. If this decade is about real world interactions, as Joe puts it, then we can't think of it as just solely as mere consumption. Rather we have to consider how those interactions are facilitated. In other words, how we build the bridge.
And we can bring a bit of the real world into that design of our products. Take for instance, Pinterest. The offset grid has a very physical element to it, resembling the old school physical pinboards we all probably had hanging in our homes at one point or another. Sahil Lavingia, who was one of the chief architects of the site, told us they took some real-world inspiration from scrapbooks and pinboards. As he said:
It's kinda what people do anyway. I think the most of the best products, like Jack Dorsey says all the time, technology should use whatever human things we're used to.
Which is why everything Sahil builds has a physical element to it.
The real world can inspire us. It can help us improve our designs so that we can build better and stronger bridges that link us. More than that, it can also recall us to the elements of the physical world that we're so accustomed to using, making our mobile devices more of a two-way street rather than a one-way trip.
Seems like everyday we hear something interesting or read something unexpected about entrepreneurism. Today is no different. We came across this proclamation from Bertie Stephens, co-founder of Flubit Limited:
I really don't like calling myself an entrepreneur. It doesn't mean anything any more.
For Bertie, entrepreneurism has become a dirty word, something that's flung about by wannabes and posers. Those wanting to be entrepreneurs as others would wish to be famous celebrities or best-selling authors. As we'd put it, those folks are distracted by the glitz and the glamour. It's understandable that Bertie, who works a some 16-hour day on his product, would feel frustrated with those who throw around the word "entrepreneur" so casually.
Instead, Bertie wants to think of entrepreneurism as doing. Being an entrepreneur is being a doer, as he puts it.
Make The Word Your Own
We've highlighted before how entrepreneurism and building great products doesn't just happen overnight. You've got to put one foot in front of the other and occasionally you'll have to take two steps back before you can take another step forward. It's something we've had to do many times over the years. But it takes doing as Bertie says.
And when we look up from our toiling, our doing, it can be infuriating to see others fling around the word "entrepreneur" so haphazardly. But we can't let that get to us. That doesn't make it dirty. We have to take back the word. Make it our own. It's not the word "entrepreneur" that defines what we do. What defines us is what we actually do.
There was a time when the CD ruled, ousting the tape cassette and vinyl records, but now it's days are numbered. It's quickly becoming a relic of the past, being replaced by iTunes, Spotify and Pandora. Recently, we happened across a video that highlights how physical products are fading away. Take a look:
The part that really caught our attention was when Lou, the record shop owner, said:
The physical goods are fading away, but I don't think that they're ever gonna go away.
Lou is right. There will, after all, be a need for physical products because not everything can go digital. At least, not yet. But the video highlights something important. Consider this: when the CD came out it was the go-to technology, the innovation that changed an industry. Then Napster came along and changed it again. Then iTunes and so on and so on. Now the CD is fading away.
This isn't just one thing replacing another. No, this is innovation at work.
Think about it for a sec. The CD innovated on how we listened to and carried our music with us. Napster innovated on how we got our music. iTunes took it a step further by marrying the purchasing with music with a device, making our music even more portable. Other music services came along making how we store and carry our music even better. They took the best of what came before and improved on it.
In other words, products don't really fade away. They get innovated into the next big thing, the next great product.