I love the effect of this ad on the Daily Beast. The dynamic wrap-around is really innovative. Creates a lot of spaghetti source code, but wow does it make an impact.
Hey everybody – just a quick Two Screens post, which is where I point out two screenshots that recently caught my eye.
First, I was watching Leo Laporte’s talk at the Online News Association conference and was underwhelmed by the Livestream player. It’s a great service, but I think the player could be easier. Actually, I think this about a lot of video players. Check out the “on-air” and progress boxes on Livesteam’s player. Both are really small and tough to read or understand. Vimeo is the gold standard for me.
AND a bonus screen. This ad for enterprise network services came up and the word survey is spelled “servey.” Not exactly inspiring my trust.
I’m a big proponent of great copywriting. I think it has the power to salvage an average site, and is the only thing that takes a site from exceptional to outstanding. It’s a shame when big brands don’t engage in robust content strategy. Here are two examples:
GQ Magazine: I was reading an old profile of Ted Kennedy, and this was the footer of the article. What’s bothersome? Who goes to GQ or any other monthly magazine for “breaking news”? No one. Lesson: Don’t pretend you’re something you’re not.
Target: Every once in a while I order something from Target (given that there are none in NYC). This was the response screen after I placed my order. Sins? Multiple.
- “We cannot confirm the price of an item until your order enters the shipping process…” What? Telling me rules *after* I order, and right after you thank me for my purchase?
- “…a small number of items on our Web site may be mispriced…” followed by a few lines of instructions basically saying if they figure out they should have charged you more, they cancel the order.
- And finally, a note tacked on to the end saying not everything might come in one box.
I take screenshots of good and bad user experiences all the time, so I’m trying out this new format for some posts. Every time I have two screenshots, I’ll post them. They don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other, though a theme might be fun in a future post.
This is an all-Flash interface where one doesn’t seem to be needed. The result is choppiness, “loading” screens, and a loss in general readability.
I used to be a big fan of Crucial, but recently they’ve fallen down in two respects. One, their memory adviser tools told me to order the wrong memory for my Macbook. That’s the bigger problem, obviously. The smaller one is below, where all links on the page are split into US, UK, EU, and Asia – including the customer login.
Kevin Maney’s analysis in the Atlantic points to yes:
A year ago–six months after the Kindle hit the market–I talked with Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, for a book I was writing. He told me sales of the Kindle were sizzling. But that’s not quite the
case if you really look at numbers. While Amazon did sell out of
Kindles in 2008, it hadn’t actually made that many of them. In fact,
according to the market research firm In-Stat, the entire e-reader
market consisted of just 1 million units in all of 2008, and Amazon
nabbed only a slice of it. By contrast, Microsoft sold about 1 million Zune music players from mid-2007 to mid-2008, though the product was widely considered to be a failure.
It’s an interesting point of view, but one I don’t think should guide the discussion into what’s next for print. First, the comparison of the Kindle to the Zune isn’t a good one – the Zune launched in a very mature product sector with a clear market winner, the Kindle is attempting to effectively create a new market by fundamentally changing the dynamics of reading and publishing.
A better comparison would be between the Kindle and an old RCA Lyra MP3 player. RCA was out of the gate before the iPod and never had a blockbuster success, but helped define the market itself by recognizing the need for digital audio players. That’s where Amazon is at, though I’ll bet they stick with it longer.
Maney’s main point, though, is that the Kindle attempts to create superior experience and convenience, but in the process succeeds at neither. And this is true – the Kindle is not the last (or for most people, even the first) e-reader you’ll ever own. But the idea that sparked the Kindle remains true: paper is a medium ill-equipped for the requirements of information flow in the 21st century.
Personally, I like to hold a book in my hand, and the Kindle’s product team recognizes that the physicality of books is part of their value.
Bezos and his core team devoted months, beginning in 2004, to analyzing
the appeal of the book and to understanding why books have dominated
the delivery of long-form narratives, stories, and information for 550
years. “We even got into how books smell,” Bezos told me. “We did
research, and found that the smell is mostly glue – glue and maybe
mildew. We joked that maybe we should have a spritzer on the [Kindle]
that would send out that smell.” All in all, Bezos said, the team found
that trying to improve on the book “was one of the most absurd
But what’s not being talked about is something I see as obvious: the Kindle *is* an ideal replacement for newspapers and magazines. The generation of people who rarely pick up a physical paper rarely cite cost as their reason – they talk about inconvenience, lack of time, etc. For this, the Kindle is an ideal replacement. The day’s (or hour’s) news and opinion pre-loaded into your e-reader effortlessly. What could be more convenient and elegant?
Despite its flaws, the Kindle has solved some key technological and market challenges, teaching lessons for the next (and presumably better) generation of e-readers. Wireless, seamless delivery is one of the biggest. That should be driving sales of newspapers, weeklies, and magazines. From there, the market will only grow.
Update: Check out Paul Graham’s Post-Medium Publishing, the best essay I’ve read related to this.
I recently signed up for a library card. It’s a really easy process with NY Public Library – you just sign on the website, fill out a short form, and they send you your new card. But along the way, they show you their backside.
What do I mean? As you type in your name, the NYPL system automagically capitalizes every letter you type. Presumably this isn’t for the user’s benefit, but for their backend systems. This is the type of tiny detail that makes a difference. If you need to convert data like that, do it when the user won’t see it. It’s the polite thing to do, right?
I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I updated Firefox and saw this screen after the requisite restart. Like most, I’m used to the “you’re now updated” screen, but today it was even more useful by alerting me of the importance of updating Flash. Nice work, Mozilla.
This evening I rolled out a new design for Keystone Politics. I never seem to be satisfied with the design, but this represents an improvement over the past color scheme and a professionalized look for the site. I’ll roll out specific new features over the next few days. Here are a few notes on key areas where I’m either testing a new feature or looking for ideas.
- Subscriptions: For the past few years, I’ve focused on RSS subscriptions. With this design, I’m testing whether we’ll see a better response rate from a daily headlines e-mail. Knowing the political audience, I think it will be a hit.
- Discussions: One of the biggest challenges on Keystone Politics is convincing our readers to participate in discussions on the site. I don’t think we made a big improvement in this area, but I’m going to be actively seeking out ideas.
- Revenue Opportunities: I finally caved and installed a leaderboard advertisement banner at the top of the page. I’ve resisted it for four years, but increased server costs mean that we’ve got to bring in more money.
- Cleaner Sidebar: We fit a lot of information into our sidebars; I think this look is cleaner than the last one.
Overall I’m happy with the new design, but I’ll be watching our analytics and metrics packages carefully over the next few days and weeks and making changes based on those measurements.
…but I like this clean, colorful look for my site. I’m going to add some flourish at some point, but I’m pretty satisfied.
(Oh, and as promised, it uses YUI Grids.)