To all the interaction design applicants, there may be ambiguity on how we define the role of interaction designers. We hope this post may shed some light on what we are looking for.
There's not much interest in designing a tree of static web pages anymore. We're being called upon to design sophisticated digital experiences across multiple devices and contexts. Interaction design is no longer primarily about information science: it's visual design + information design + motion design + pattern recognition + systems thinking.
This kind of work requires a rare individual.
I started my career in a building with a huge, warehouse-sized newsprint printing press. It featured a production room with pasteboard technicians, plate makers and camera operators - and was a beehive of activity everyday from 3 to 11pm. The distinct hum and vibration of the press could be felt in the body. From that single press room, over 300,000 copies of the daily newspaper were printed, cut and bundled in rapid order in the span of several hours.
For decades, publishing invariably ended with a scene like this one. Editorial meetings and ad sales led to writing, art and photography that flowed through to editing and production which fed the frantic scramble to make plates for ink on paper and finally to a multi-story behemoth that ate paper and disgorged portable, lightweight, inexpensive newspapers.
In 1994, after a few years tenure as an editorial designer, I was assigned to my paper's online arm to consider how to design for the new-fangled World Wide Web, pre-Netscape. My natural first reaction was horror. The web was really ugly. Typography? None. Imagery? Barely - and only if it could be compressed into a 5k gif file. Layout? Laughable.
But something about the web was special and that something was the hyperlink. Unlike type, art and layout, which were invented for print, the hyperlink was the web's unique secret sauce. It was the fundamental idea that enabled bits to transcend ink-on-paper. For the last decade and a half, we have all been on an endless adventure powered by the hyperlink.
Today, web typography, imagery and layout have finally come along. Sophisticated visual expression has finally caught up. And along the way, the web introduced everyone to digital audio, video and the amazing possibilities of interactive media.
Apple's HTML5 showcase was passed around and discussed a bit in the studio today. It spurred a lively conversation and reanimated our long-running conversation about the recent tiff between Apple and Adobe.
On one hand, we are expert Flash gurus with a long history of creating immersive experiences. But, as iPhone (and increasingly iPad) and Mac users, we also want to create beautiful and compatible experiences, as well.
Our current thinking is that Flash isn't going away anytime soon. There will continue to be lots of great opportunities where using Flash is the best choice. We often combine video, animation, 360 degree interactivity and custom type into a single experience. The Sony Bravia Showcase is a recent example of a seamless combination of lots of creative elements. For these situations, Flash is a sophisticated, mature tool that will continue to improve and that we know a lot about.
In most cases, HTML5 will add to what we can do, rather than replace what Flash does. In the right situations, we can definitely see custom fonts, simple transitions and animations and video being delivered without needing to use Flash. From there, it doesn't seem too far off to say we're probably going to move away from sIFR -- hello, @font-face! -- and stop building simple application components (such as navigation) with Flash.
However, we know it's not always going to be a simple decision. There will be times where each approach offers distinct benefits and we only have time to do one. How will we and our clients compare the trade-offs and choose the best course?
With so much attention being paid to the relative merits of HTML5 and Flash, it's really pushing us to rethink what is possible and how we deliver things. In the end, it's really about great experiences. We don't have a betting interest in this debate. No matter how this fight shakes out, it's exciting to have more and more sophisticated tools to make those experiences real. Either way, we'll be watching closely and experimenting a lot and, if we do our jobs well, it's the users that win.
What do you think?
Ever since Apple's iPad was publicly announced, media and geeks have been looking to and fro for alternate tablets that can counter its buzz. None have matched the well-honed PR machine from Cupertino, but few tech companies could resist either announcing their own tablet devices or floating the idea of creating a tablet device (We're looking at you GOOG!).
Does this round of tablet fever bode differently than the last round of Windows Tablet PCs? Everyone involved sure hopes so.
The iTunes App Store just broke 2 billion downloads. Let's run down some of the crazy big numbers:
• 2 billion applications downloaded in a span of 15 months.
• That's an average of 4.4 million apps a day or 133 million apps a month. (It's, obviously, running at a faster rate now).
• 100 million iTunes accounts WITH credit card numbers puts users a click and a password away from picking up any app.
OK, of the currently 85,000 available apps, only a fraction are making a lot of money. Still, the App Store is an unprecedented economic achievement. No other software platform has gotten so many people to buy so much so fast. None.
So, what are the takeaways? What can we learn?
Odopod Creative Director Albert Poon takes us inside the design of Routesy 2.0, an iPhone app that helps get San Francisco and Bay Area commuters from A to B using real-time public transit information.
Discover how we battled our way through the slew of ugly interfaces, spent valuable time considering design details and nuances and planned what's up next for Odopod and Routesy.
Here at the ‘pod, we’ve been tapping and swiping en masse since the original iPhone. We recently came across this article from Ad Age Digital and felt we could offer our perspective on the App Store buzz.
A successful iPhone app, like any application or campaign, is based a lot on its quality of strategy and execution. In other words, for an iPhone app to be useful, it needs to be a good app. Additionally the app needs to fit into a brand’s larger objectives.
That being said, mobile apps are here to stay and are only going to become more and more relevant for advertisers and brands. Whether the iTunes App Store will be the dominant platform or ecosystem in 5 years is unknowable. What we can expect is that engaging, capable mobile experiences that are easy to find, get and use will be the norm -- whether it's a "native" app or an experience hosted in one of the ever-more capable mobile web browsers. Just as marketing dollars are shifting from traditional media to digital today, it would not be surprising to start seeing digital dollars shifting to mobile initiatives. In a few years, we may see a primarily mobile campaign with PC web media supporting it.
We have a running conversation on whether to support and extend development to other nascent mobile platforms -- Android, Blackberry, WebOS, Symbian, WinMo. We feel it should be considered on a case-by-case basis. It is unlikely that multiplying design and development effort to build for multiple platforms will result in a commensurate immediate bottom line (or PR) return for our client or for us. Deploying an application on a mobile platform that is not the iPhone should be considered an investment on learning that specific platform. In the long run, the learnings of creating experience concepts, strategies and interaction design for mobile devices will be invaluable for the future, regardless of what platforms are relevant then.
We believe the iPhone represents the best current platform for brands to gain invaluable experience on designing and developing for the inevitable mobile world.
One side-note: complaining about breaking into the App Store Top 10 is wasted energy. Apple, in the end, cannot be relied upon to be any app's primary marketing. The App Store is great because it is a bulletproof distribution and ecommerce platform. Marketing for mobile apps and experiences will need the same attention and effort as any other online experience or campaign. Tweets, blogs, web sites, ads, PR and all the other usual efforts will be required to reach an app's audience.