Category Creative

Netflix steps up the competition with Cable (rumor)

According to Deadline Hollywood (via engadget) Netflix is in bidding war with channels like HBO & AMC for a new series from David Fincher staring Kevin Spacey called House of Cards.

Needless to say this would be a huge coup for Netflix. In the growing competition between the online video service this would clearly set them apart from Hulu+ and Amazon Prime‘s video offerings. It also makes them a clearer threat to the current cable business model. Even if this rumor fails to become a reality, the seed has been planted and the game has changed.

Only time will tell if this is Netflix’s first step in becoming a premium content provider? And if so, will the masses change their habits and think about “tuning” to Netflix to catch up on their latest show.

UPDATE: This is a rumor no more, Hollywood Reporter writes Netflix Outbids HBO for David Fincher and Kevin Spacey’s ‘House of Cards’

Leveraging Frameworks

Looking back at the last year or so, one theme kept surfacing in all the projects I worked on – the need for a user experience framework. Many of these projects focused around Xfinity.com, part of Comcast’s branding initiative that launched last year during the Olympics. Overall, the projects focused on how to introduce new Comcast subscribers to the XFINITY service and the benefits that come with it, while providing more initiated customers deep access to the wealth of content available online. One project was to design a future version of the site, which would grow alongside individual customers and present an experience tailored to them. This project focused on optimizing both the experience of customers as well as Comcast’s understanding of its customers’ needs.

Clearly these projects needed something more involved then simple wireframes, design guidelines and some magic in Fireworks/Photoshop and HTML…they needed systematic frameworks to support both the design process and the business needs. Besides coming up with concepts and designs that fueled these projects it was my job to create said frameworks.

The embedded Seven Steps to Creating a Framework is the distilled process I employed to conquer the challenges presented to me over this past year. I believe it is universal enough to guide you through creating UX frameworks of your own.

View Seven Steps to Creating a Framework on SlideShare

Please comment if you have questions or comments on this framework to creating a UX framework.

This time it’s personal

Web 2.0 was about making the web social (and glassy buttons), now let’s make it personal, relevant and about the user.

There’s so much content it’s hard to filter out the noise and get to the stuff you want. This is true be it from Twitter, your Facebook news feed or what to watch on TV. The growth of smartphones only exacerbates the need for a personalized experience. Our phones have become an extension of ourselves, though their smaller form factor requires us to only put the important stuff on them. The way we use our phones also dictates a need for faster access to the important things. Besides streamlining the features and the design, the mass of content needs to be streamlined as well. Quicker access to the things that matter to you is the core concept behind Microsoft’s current ad campaign for WindowPhone7.

The mobile space isn’t the only place where this streamlining is welcomed, take Netflix for example. They’ve grown from a simple DVD-by-mail service to one of the biggest online streaming services. There’s a reason people love Netflix. It’s not about the number of movies they have but rather they showcase the videos that you may actually want to watch. When first signing up to the service you’re asked to rate a few movies so it can begin to make recommendations. Netflix even had a ongoing contest looking for anyone that could significantly improve (their already lauded) recommendation algorithms. In Sept. 2009, they had a winner but the real winner was Netflix and their customers.


Personalization doesn’t always need to be complicated, even the smallest touches of personalization will do wonders for the user experience. The latest browsers have removed their default homepages in lieu of quick views of sites that you visit most. Above is the message Safari displays when you launch it for the first time. Like Netflix, it’s aim is to show you content that’s relevant to you based on your actions. Below is a basic recommendation system I created to demonstrate how user actions can be used to bias content towards more items of a similar nature (in this case color).

Week in Links: Facebook Groups, Windows Mobile and Google TV

The Social Network still commands the box office but that’s not the only reason Facebook is toping the list this week. Earlier this week they announced they were adding Groups, a tool to download your data, and tighter privacy control over apps.

The idea of groups isn’t anything new but unlike Yahoo or Google’s offerings this one is connected through Facebook. And though this is an obvious fact, this little factor is a huge differentiating point between the services. With the other group services you would have to go out of your way in order to participate. It wasn’t part of most users daily routine and slowly but surely members would trickle away beginning the group’s downward spiral into obscurity. Facebook on the other hand is where the people already are. It’s simple, integrated and most importantly it’s where your friends are, so there is no searching for emails or additional sign-ups needed to get started. Additionally their new groups feature provides a way to control who sees what. This alone is a huge step forward for Facebook and for those that could really use some discretion. See the SNL skit above for an entertaining example of this problem.

The second new feature is less of a dramatic but another big step forward in Facebook privacy.  Granted downloading all your activity, photos and posts doesn’t increase your privacy but it does provide a window into all the information Facebook does have on you and may change how much info you post in the future.  I don’t see many people making use of this feature anytime soon, but should a new social service spring up the ability to import some of this data may give that service a pretty big jump start. Also related to privacy and controlling your data is Facebook’s new application dashboard. The new dashboard provides users the ability to see and limit what applications have access to and what they’ve accesses last. Now you can see if Farmville is going to market with your personal data.

In a related note, according to a recent study of 10 modern countries most children will have an online footprint by the age of 2, this includes baby photos. The study was conducted by AVG, a security firm that deals with identity theft. The firm suggest people be more cautious when posting information online and to make use of available privacy settings.

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Also high on the pop culture meter is Gap’s crappy new logo (shown on left). It doesn’t take an art/design major to see how big of a step bag this is from their earlier logos. The only positive thing I can say about it is it’s generating a ton of promotion. My favorite quote regarding the new logo comes from Brand New, a design blog, “I’m not one to critique something by saying it looks as if it were done in Microsoft Word but this one is just too unsophisticated to warrant anything more than that.” Can’t get enough of the new logo, check out craplogo.me to make your own Gap inspired logo.

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Even on the eve of Microsoft’s release of Windows Phone 7 the Android platform is dominating the mobile press. Even without the skyrocketing success of Android (top selling smartphone in the US – GigaOm), Microsoft has their work cut out for them if they want to be a player in the mobile market. Newsweek did an extended article on the Android and how it came to be. One interesting factoid in the article was how Google has made enough on mobile search to pay for the development of the Android OS.  So sometimes giving something away is a great way to make money. Also, by Google making Android free, handset manufacturers are more apt to a device to support it as the reduced cost means more profit for them.

On Monday (10-11-2010), Microsoft unveiled 10 devices that support WP7 to the masses and from the early reviews they’re a competitive option. Wp7 is a complete overhaul of their mobile platform and is based on their Metro UI guidelines which influenced this year’s youth targeted Kin, which died a quick death. Hopefully WP7 won’t suffer the same fate. Though I haven’t gotten to play with a device personally, it offers a new paradigm for mobile UI’s that has me intrigued. The bright, flat colors aren’t my favorite, but the split structure of the main desktop, the transitions, the use of type in the design are all unique…but are they enough? Will they resonate with consumers? Working against them is the success of both iOS and Android, while the current lack of a Verizon or Sprint based phone means they’ll still be pushing Android as the ultimate mobile platform to their customers. Top that with confirmation that there will be a Verizon iPhone in early 2011. For more details on the WP7 launch check out Engadget’s WP7 launch guide.

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Apple seems to be in everyone’s sights, with Android and WP7 going after the iPhone. Now the big wigs are Microsoft and Adobe are meeting though what’s to come of the talks is still unknown. And Google just launched the website for their Google TV, that competes with the AppleTV. Like many of the set-top boxes they support Netflix, Flickr, YouTube etc., but what new is that there’s a full featured web browser (including Flash 10.1 support), so theoretically it supports any online service. Though surfing the web on your TV has never been a hit, so Google is requesting sites to make a “lean back” version, which YouTube has had in Beta for some time. Some of Google TV’s big wins include: Android OS based, use of your phone as a remote control, surf-and-browse (a P-i-P of web and video), personalization, and a playlist feature that works across various video sites. Not sure what the price tag is looking like, but I assume it’ll land in the vicinity of the AppleTV, if not the war may already be lost. The potential $400 referenced in Engadget’s guide to Google TV seems excessive, especially with Xbox, Playstation and mini PC’s are all cheaper and do more.

Weekly Recap: Kinetic Type, Hearses and Change

While neither V for Vendetta or this kinetic typography are new, this animation was new to me this week. You can check out 14 additional kinetic typography pieces based on popular movies at Inspired Mag. Rocky and Nick the Greek were also contenders for this hero spot.

Also typography related is The Big Web Show’s episode 18 where they speak with Roger Black, co-founder of Webtype, an online font foundry that also hosts the fonts for use in your CSS3 based designs. Besides having some really nice fonts, I love their browse options.

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Google offers instant results because 2.5 seconds is too long for users to wait for results. It seems crazy that such a small amount of time would make a noticeable change in user behavior but Google has stats that prove it. Years ago it was based around the number of results to display based on the difference in milliseconds to return those results. Today (last week) Google added instant results to cut this number down even more. According to their blog post this could save the world 11 hours every second.

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Earlier this month Twitter posted stats on third party app usage and it showed that by-and-far most users use the Twitter website and mobile site, followed by Twitter’s own branded apps. The third party apps are only used by a small (but active) percentage of their users. This could be why Seemic, who just announced the launch of Seesmic Desktop 2 (SD2), is focusing increasing their support for additional web services (RSS, YouTube, Zappos). Some of this support is through their new plug-in architecture. For a quick overview check out TechCrunch’s coverage of the announcement.

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Big changes at Microsoft. Stephen Elop, President, Microsoft Business Division, has left the building to become CEO of Nokia. In an unrelated note, the Redmond campus celebrated the (manufacturing) release of Windows Phone 7 with some black humor, a hearse and a parade. And what parade would be complete without doing a scene from Thriller. Though I’ve been impressed with what I have seen of Windows Phone 7, it’s has a huge uphill battle to live up to the hype of this parade.

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UX Magazine had an interesting editorial on converting the URL bar into a form of navigation/breadcrumb system.  There are some good concepts behind the potential use of the very static and possibly foreign component included in every browser. Some things needed for this concept to become a reality is out side of the browser’s control, though you can see signs that the browsers are starting to go in this direction.  For example, in Google’s Chrome browser has implemented a system that bolds the domain and grays out the rest of the URL info. Though somewhat random when it occurs, Chrome also boxes out a website when you’re entering your search/URL. To see it in action type “google.com anyTerm,” it does this for other sites as well, but not always and I’m not sure why or when.

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Ending this weeks review with some fun. Take a bunch of animated GIF’s and synch them up with Girl Talk’s spliced samples and you have the making of an Internet Meme du jour…Cache Rules Everything Around Me by Evan Roth

Week in Links – Places everyone

Maybe one of the biggest announcements of the week surround Facebook Places becoming a reality. Facebook held a live, streaming event to announce they were getting into the location check-in game. Rather then take on the two biggest social location services Facebook is actually working with Foursquare and Gowalla. They will soon have an API for other location services to use as well. Almost instantaneously there were people referencing FB as Stalker’s Paradise.  Clearly with Places as an auto-opt-in service it could be yet another privacy concern.  If you want to block your friends from being able to “place” you Bill Cammack entertainingly walks you through the steps.  If you have the Facebook app for iPhone or use touch.facebook.com you can start using Places now.

Even before iOS4 came out and crippled my iPhone 3G, I’ve been leaning towards switching over to Android. Before I make the switch I’m bringing my 3G back to life by reverting it back to iOS3, here’s how. If you want an idea of what it’s like to switch, my buddy Arpit, wrote about his first month with Android covering some of the differences between the two platforms both as a user and a developer. A concern of many developers is if Android is a viable market place, Aaron La gives details on his experience with his Advanced Task Manager app. At $10,000 a month in supplemental income I’d say he’s doing pretty good.

Verizon has been having a good few weeks. More rumors about the iPhone coming out for the Verizon network, though I wouldn’t run to far with that one just yet. They did announce their new HD guide for FiOS subscribers. I don’t have FiOS but I’m glad to see one of the biggies pushing those Motorola boxes into the 21st century.  The current set top box that powers America’s TVs features technology that’s nearly a decade old.

They also boasted about there upcoming iPad app that’s will work as a second screen as part of their TV Everywhere.  They also talked about updating their VOD experience.  Comcast and Time Warner are also working on iPad apps.  Comcast showed their prototype  earlier this Spring at the Cable show and Time Warner shows theirs in this YouTube clip. If you’re not up to speed on TV Everywhere check out GigaOm’s Everything You Need to Know About TV Everywhere.

Though not everything has gone as Verizon would like.  Their new “rule the air” campaign is targeting women with the chance for equality, through Verizon of course. See the commercial and a great rant from TechCrunch’s Alexia Tsotsis.

In the most recent issue of Wired, they proclaimed that the web is dead. So of course the retorts started to follow, Boing Boing uses Wired’s own numbers to show that the Web is alive, well and growing nearly exponentially.  Then again they said Print was dead, Rock was dead…Technologizer has a collection of the death of everything.

To end here’s a beautiful time-lapse video of the Perseid Meteor Showeras seen from Joshua Tree National Park and taken by Henry Jun Wah Lee .

Alma

Though you kinda know what’s going to happen the way the story unfolds is wonderful.  It also reminds me of a doll shop around the corner, very creepy and always empty. Thanks Bee.

Week in Links: It’s Not Google’s week

Late last week there was an article via the NY Times asking “Could a deal between Verizon and Google destroy any chance for Net Neutrality”.  Instead, Google and Verizon called for a press conference on Monday to explain what they’ve been working on. Based on Google’s (and Verizon) blog with their post titled “A joint policy proposal for an open Internet” they spell out that it’s quiet the contrary. Later in the week Google then countered the many concerns about Google selling out or undermining the system.  The NY Times continues to question the proposal and “Who gets priority on the web?” What it all really means is yet to be seen but makes me wonder if this is a dig at Comcast and their win against net neutrality earlier this year.

Google is also getting some heat from Oracle as well.  This time it’s their Android platform that is getting the heat, more precisisly Google’s version of Java that runs it. Daniel Eran Dilger takes Google to town in his long but engaging article “How Oracle might kill Google’s Android and software patents all at once.” Charles Nutter gives a different point of view in his “My Thoughts on Oracle v Google.”

Apple also had some patent fun this week when they published an exact copy of FutureTap’s Where To app inside one of their patents.  Where To has been around since the first generation of iPhone. Apple and FutureTap have worked things out, mostly just a failure to credit rather then a stealing of ideas.

A Hayaku for Japan

I had the chance to visit Japan a few months back and seeing this video makes me want to go back ASAP. The video below by Brad Kremer is a collection of beautiful long-exposure time-lapse shots taken throughout Japan. Hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Metro: Guidelines to the Next Generation of Mobile UX

Microsoft evolves the user experience of smart-phones with Metro, their new design guidelines, and Windows Mobile 7 due out in late fall of 2010. Metro boasts some good thinking in mobile UX.