Carl Edwards is Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Chameleon, a London-based digital agency focused on the charity sector. I asked him to walk us through an average day, and to give us some background on what a CTO does.
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After a bit of a break I'm working on a new side project. It is in a very competitive space and I have decided that the user experience needs to be the core USP, for it to attract the kind of crowd - and content - required to establish a presence in the market.
This has made me think once again about what makes for a good user experience. Broadly speaking, it is pretty much all about reducing friction, to help people get from A to B in the most straightforward way possible.
But is 'good' what we should all be aiming for? Why not aim a bit higher?
So what makes a great user experience? I'd say it was all of the above - a friction-free journey - as well as a smattering of pleasant surprises along the way; surprises that delight the user. They say good design is invisible, but I think that great design can leave quite an impression on people.
I'm constantly amazed by my own reaction to the little details in life. The smallest of things can have a disproportionate influence on how I perceive things, both positively and negatively. I'm a stickler for detail, and have been looking for examples of micro design, as a source of inspiration for my own project.
To this end, two sites in particular have been particularly useful: Codepen, and CSSDeck. Many of these 17 examples can be found over there, and some are very lean indeed, using just CSS to achieve the desired effects.
Ok, let's check them out...
Jimmy Coultas is News Editor at Skiddle, the ticket sales company based in Preston.
Here he explains what he does in a typical day in the office.
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In the past few years broadcasters of all shapes and sizes have accelerated their investment into digital as an audience development channel.
But what should they be focusing on? Content distribution via digital? Social? Second screen engagement? Big data? Mobile? What are the big opportunities on the horizon?
This is a question that our friends over at the BBC Radio 4 are mulling over, to try to extend engagement beyond the linear listening experience, and to portray itself in a different light to new audiences. So what is the future of radio in an age of digital content?
To help find some answers the BBC Radio 4 team has decided to host a kind of hack day, to mine the brains of digital experts.
A decade and a half ago Jakob Nielsen announced to the world that people don’t actually read websites in a linear way. Instead, they prefer to skim read, scanning the page to find what they’re looking for.
As such, content creators were advised to format articles in a way that encourages readers to avoid reaching for the back button. This meant using bullet points, meaningful sub-headers, and highlighting key phrases / words in bold.
Roll things forward a few years, and Oliver Reichenstein published an article that contains one of my favourite quotes: “Web Design is 95% Typography.”
In his article he says: “A great web designer knows how to work with text not just as content, he treats text as a user interface.” This still resonates so strongly with me, as a creator of content, as somebody who is deeply interested in web design, and as a heavy web user.
But does the 95% quote still stand up? I fear that recent design trends have stomped all over text and typography, and that pictures have deposed words.
Have you tried to dream up a brand name recently? It's harder than ever. Not only is there domain name availability to contend with, but you also need to bag the appropriate user profiles on the main social platforms.
I have been trying for some considerable time to brainstorm a domain name for a new side project, and having identified one I've had second thoughts (it contains the word 'freak' in the title, which might be perceived negatively by some people).
As such, I wanted to change it prior to the launch, and I've unearthed some new (at least to me) domain name tools that are proving rather useful. I thought I'd share them with you.
I recently wrote about agile marketing, focusing on reactive campaigns. Many of the 26 examples I highlighted in my post used a news trigger as a kind of jumping off point for a marketing campaign (‘campaign’ isn’t quite the right word for some of them, e.g. a single tweet).
This made me think about the other types of triggers that exist, which provide brands with the opportunity to reach existing and prospective customers. I was surprised by how many there are, and no doubt I have missed dozens of others.
What’s a trigger, exactly? It is, simply, an opportunity to contact somebody. Trigger-based marketing is all about being reactive, and targeted, rather than just pushing out arbitrary brand messages to big audiences.
Triggers might be based around individual or group behaviour. They could be time-specific. Triggered comms may be activated post-purchase, or post-abandonment. They often factor in customer data and will be highly personalised (though let’s not write off segmentation). They can be automated, or they can produced manually, and made to measure.
As with all forms of marketing communication, there is a balance to strike. Everybody loathes spam, but people do like to be rewarded, to be entertained, and to feel valued. So be careful, be meaningful, and be generous. And test, test, test.
Before we look at the triggers, let’s first think about some common formats for marketing campaigns / comms. How, exactly, might you communicate to a customer (or customers) once a trigger has been pulled?
Pete Low is a Games Designer at Chunk, a digital content agency based in Glasgow. Here he explains what he does for a living, and why he loves his job after 17 years in the games industry.
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I read a brilliant article the other day... one of the very funniest things I have read in ages. It was all about how companies in the hospitality sector should play sound to make visitors feel “secure”. Sound, it says, “can help your website achieve major impact”.
Here’s another quote from the article in question:
Website audio can make your website stand out from your competition’s site while reinforcing the marketing and customer service strategies you’re already using.
After pulling myself together I decided to reconsider my views on autosound, which I have up until now considered to be one of the worst user experience mistakes you can make. I set about to find some examples that would make me - and you - see the light (and, ahem, hear the sound).
So then, here are 10 automatic audio experiences on hotel websites that will presumably make you reach for your bank card to book a room. Make sure you have your sound turned up, especially if you’re in the office.
I was genuinely blown away by the simplicity and usability of the government's GOV.UK website, when it relaunched last year. The new site was underpinned by 10 design principles, which the web team created to make their websites more consistent and user-friendly.
What are design principles, exactly? I rather like Henk Wijnholds' description:
Design principles describe the experience core values of a product or a service. They should be written in a short and memorable way. As a designer you should know them by heart while doing a project. Good design principles are cross-feature but specific. Therefore we should always try harder than ‘Easy-to-use’. Design principles are non-conflicting.
Many companies - especially tech firms - have their own design principles, and I thought I'd compile some of the best ones in a handy cut-out-and-keep list. I've also dropped in a few sage quotes from the great and good in the world of design and user experience.