Posts About Sparks
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:
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."
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.
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.
Occasionally you run across something that reminds you of the importance of looking at the larger picture. This video did just that for us. Take a look:
When we're in the thick of things, rushing to finish a design or just in the whirlwind of a product release, we can sometimes become myopic. We forget to see the bigger picture of what we're working on. With a ticking clock, we lose sight of the product's vision or the company's mission. We lose perspective.
When that happens, we need to take a break. Slow down for a moment in time. Step back. Fly above what we're working on, like Superman hovering above the Earth, and appreciate the full picture of your vision.
Hard to believe that it's been a year since Steve Jobs died and things are still being unearthed about the man. Marcel Brown has recently discovered the entire recording of Jobs' talk at a 1983 design conference in Apsen. Until now, only a portion of the recording had been available.
What's interesting about the audio-only recording is that Jobs lays out the next 25 years or so of computing and innovation, from wireless internet to Google maps to even the iPad. Our ears perked up when Jobs said:
Apple's strategy is really simple. We want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn in 20 minutes.
A lot of folks are focusing on the iPad prediction aspect of the above quote. Sure that's a pretty boss prognostication to make, but there's something even deeper underlying that quote — design strategy.
Even in 1983, in what Jobs called the "I Love Lucy" stage of computers, Apple had figured out what users' needs would be in the years to come. Jobs predicted that they'd have a book-sized computer five to seven years down the road in that talk. Of course, it took them a few more years to get a prototype and then an actual product to market. More importantly, however, Apple and Jobs had figured out how it should align its business goals with what users would need years down the road.
Think about it this way: what will you predict users will need and how will we align that with your business needs? And what product will you envision now and build tomorrow that will revolutionize the way we interact? The possibilities are endless.
If you want to listen to the entire 54 minute talk, click on the player below. Enjoy!
Chance favors the prepared mind.
Louis Pasteur, chemist and microbiologist
What Pasteur, the chap who invented pasteurization, is talking about is being able to recognize an aha moment when it comes. And even further, that you'll know it when it happens. Why? Because you've probably already been hard at work to solve a particular problem and it's been mulled over by your brain several times. Other times, an aha moment happens when we least expect it, when our minds are put in neutral and we're not even really dwelling consciously on it.
Alternatively, someone else can nudge an aha moment, which happens when we talk a problem through or bounce ideas off each other. Then suddenly problems and ideas we've been working on for days, weeks or years, come into sharp focus. Rather than the prepared mind, maybe chance favors collaboration more. That's a notion that author Steven Johnson, writer of "Where Do Good Ideas Come From," talks about in this video we recently came across. Take a look and notice how collaboration may be just the spark to create that brilliant flash of insight:
What really spoke to us was when Steven talked about how real breakthroughs happen when hunches collide with other hunches. Having an environment where that can happen is crucial. In other words, we need spaces where collaboration is both encouraged and physically feasible. Or as Steven puts it in the video:
The great driver of specific innovation and technological innovation has been the historical increase in connectivity and are ability to reach out and exchange ideas with other people.
Think of it this way, sparks of insights happen best when people can collide with other people. Have that chance discussion in the office, where two people (or more) can hash things out, bring together their hunches and create a viable idea or solution.
Which is why we're not just a distributed office, where we're all cloistered in different buildings or divided into desperate groups. Our current office is open to create that collision of hunches and people. It breeds collaboration. Our new home will be the same. This encourages the chance meeting, the impromptu discussion.
The best example of this was our recent ZURBwired event where we updated the website for Family Giving Tree and also created several print materials for their One Millionth Child celebration. During that hectic 24 hours, we were broken into different teams that handled one specific part: content writing, visual design and website design. But we didn't let the team monikers stop us from seeking each other out, or just having that causal conversation with a member of another team.
In one instance, a designer on the web design team caught one of the content writers walking from one end of the office to another. The designer didn't feel the copy that was written actually fit the slider image that would appear on the Family Giving Tree website. He had a suggestion on what would make it better, but didn't have the exact wording. Together, both the designer and writer had a meeting of minds where an ah-ha moment jumped out at them. The solution resulted in the text that now appears on the website.
We listen and talk to one another, which is fostered even more by the layout of our offices. Occasionally, we have heated debates, testing out ideas and challenge each others assumptions. Having a prepared mind may help you recognize those aha moments, but connecting with others can spark them a lot faster. As Steven said, "Chance favors the connected mind."
There would always come a point in a Sherlock Holmes story when the detective's brilliant deduction would perplex Watson. A bemused Holmes would merely turn to his partner and say, "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains however improbable must be the truth."
Design, like detective work, seeks an answer, a solution to a particular problem. Which is something Harry Brignull, of Clearleft, pointed out during a talk where he spoke about creating an iPad app for a British magazine. He called for a new metaphor for design rather than the old played out one of design as a purely artistic endeavour. Instead the metaphor should be, he said:
Design as detective work.
Take a look at the video below and notice how Harry's company used detective-like work to deduce a problem with their prototype:
What really caught our ears was when Harry said:
Detective work rarely takes you to a solution.
In other words, detective and design work doesn't take you directly to a solution. You have to be willing to take many side streets and wrong paths to get to your destination.
As Harry points out, good detective work is about following leads, no matter where they would lead. This is how we approach problems, be them design or otherwise, at ZURB. We refer to it as opening up the problem, exploring all the possibilities before closing down the problem. Through following those leads, testing out our theories, we eventually define and frame the problem before we begin to close it down. We explore what works, what doesn't. Then we take notes of what went wrong and why so that we can come up with other, and hopefully better, solutions.
Now that's not to say that there's no artistry in design. However, that artistry doesn't matter if the design isn't solving a problem. By exploring possibilities and chasing down leads, honing what works and doesn't work, our designs become much more than just pretty pixels. They become lasting, usable and brilliant works of both art and deductive reasoning. It's elementary, after all.
As of today we've included a whole new accessibility icon set for you to use! To go along with this new accessibility icon set we've also made the markup more semantic, the CSS cleaner and we've included SCSS for those that love Sass like we do.
A couple months ago, we created a sweet set of icon fonts that fit right into Foundation for people to use anywhere! We soon realized that our implementation could be better and more accessible for things like screen readers.
The problem with our original implementation was that it relied on random letters to display the icon. This didn't add any meaning to the markup, nor was it very obvious which letter mapped to which icon. More and more icon fonts kept appearing across the web and we thought it was time to standardize how people use them. After looking at a bunch of different implementation options, we settled on a simple implementation that uses CSS psuedo selectors and an IE7 specific stylesheet for browser support.
By having glyphs that exist as a font, you get the advantage of scalability. Now you can have icons ready to go in any size, color and style. You can even use some awesome CSS text styles, such as shadows and gradients, to make them feel less like a glyph. Forget about copy and pasting from Illustrator to Photoshop only to have the pixel edges look fuzzy. Now you'll get the same crispness that you get out of any font rendered on the web.
This has been a big week of refactoring for Foundation. On top of these icons, we completely refactored the Foundation Github repository to be easier for people to contribute and understand. We care a lot about the people that use Foundation and want to give you the best! We've also pushed a new version of Foundation 3 that is available for public consumption today! This release includes lots of bug fixes and a couple new features, like a media query toggler and layout options for block-grids.
We're showcasing our icons font sets on our playground. Get over there and download it. We'd love to hear any suggestions for glyphs to include in more set to come!
Forget Geordi LaForge and his VISOR. Don't even think about it, Google Glasses. The future of interaction might not be a bulky sunglasses-like device that we slip over our eyes. No, it might be a contact lens or implant attached directly to our pupils, kinda like the eyePhone from "Futurama."
And going by this eight-minute, science-fiction short film we ran across, the freaky apps of today, such as Highlight and Placeme, might just get freakier. Take a look:
"Sight" does what any good science-fiction story should do, take the technologies of today and predict where they might go in the future, good or bad. Here, augmented reality has become completely immersive and provides a venue for possible freakier apps than Highlight and Placeme. A future where personal information and the ability to manipulate it can be done in the blink of an eye.
Sure, the ending is very disturbing and brings chills to your spin. But Daniel Lazo and Eran May-raz, the makers of "Sight," have also brought to life a future of possibilities that aren't quite so frightening. It shows the good along with the bad. The good being an immersive augmented reality, where data is no longer confined to a device. A future where we are connected to each other in ways that we've only begun to explore. As Daniel told VentureBeat:
We did some research, delved into every kind of augmented tech out there today, and somewhere along the way we thought, "Hey, I wonder how augmented reality would be like without the device or apparatus barrier. What if we could just SEE augmented reality?" So we tried to envision the world and how it would act after this kind of technology is standard, and it rolled on from there.
But it's the dark ending where the male character hacks the female character's device that's caught everyone's eye. Let's face it, all technology will be vulnerable in some way, whether it's a freaky app or the actual device we stick into our eyes, for which, as VentureBeat points out, there will always be a few that will try to exploit it. And a quite a few folks latched onto that theme of vulnerability in the movie, debating how such a technology could expose so much to those willing to take advantage of it.
However, we shouldn't become paralyzed with fear to the point that we're too afraid to push the boundaries of innovation. Nor should it blind us from seeing the wondrous possibilities that tomorrow can bring. And those possibilities are endless.
Hat tip to Zeaun Dot Com.