The Idea Dude


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How many people would prefer a simpler web?

I do.

It's a question that continues grow more prominent in my mind over the last few months. Developing for the iPhone taught me to keep things simple. There are only so many things you can do one screen and since you have to tap with your finger, there are only so many hotspots available. While you can scroll on the iPhone, the objective for me is not to require the user to do so.

It's harder than you think. Simple is hard. The rule of web entropy is that like the bedrooms of our teenage sons, if left alone, simplicity usually ends up in chaos.

Nothing is more evident in today's websites and blogs. Given that the resolution of screens are increasing, people are adding more and more, links to flash based ads, double row tabs, links to other websites. Probably only 5% or less on any given webpage is relevant to the topic at hand. The rest is fluff and represents the paranoia of web designers and blog owners that you'll go away without consuming more content.

As web publishers we should think web cuisine, not web buffet. A little content done well goes a long way in getting that user back. A bad buffet really makes no one happy. The consumer learns to filter rapidly. If you asked me what I saw on any given page, I would struggle to tell you beyond the content I was looking for.

So why do we do it? Because the technology allows us to.

That is not to say it is a good thing.

Perhaps it's age but I grow tired of content overload. What I do seek is relevancy and experience. We have yet to learn how to take a white piece of paper and put just enough content to satisfy our hunger.

With that being said, I should heed my own advice and stop right here!

Hopefully Web X.0 will be a simpler, kinder web.

Friday, November 06, 2009

So you think you can dance

That's name of a very popular TV show that finds the country's most popular dancer. One of the best parts are the auditions. Like American Idol, there are clearly people who not talented but nevertheless stand in line for hours for a chance at stardom.

We are all alike. I remember as a child, watching an action movie and for the next week, every kid who went to the movie wanted to be that hero, donning capes, swords and pretend guns.

Nothing's changed really. We still watch TV ads and buy stuff that promises we'll cook like an Iron Chef or make renovations like Mike Holmes. Last week, I accompanied my wife to an art store. It was like Christmas was early. Every shelf had crayons, pastels, paints of every shade and color. Hundreds of books showing you how to draw perfect pictures and paint beautiful landscapes. Air brush kits, projectors that could project any image on any wall, the list goes on an on. I wanted to draw again, paint again.

Then realized that anything I bought would sit on my shelf at home like many other things I bought in the past in the spur of the moment.

It was all aspirational.

That was when the penny dropped. Most of what I feel in life is aspirational. Something lit a fire and emotionally I wanted to do something. In reality, when that moment passes, nothing would be done.

So now before buying something, I make the mental calculation, is this aspirational or inspirational. Aspirational means it got me excited but I either wouldn't have the time or the talent to follow through. Inspirational meant I was capable of finishing what I will start. It is a call to action and there is a happy conclusion.

Of course advertisers appeal to our aspirational side. The people who show off makeup are the most beautiful people in the world. Toyotas are driven by racing drivers. The food is cooked by chefs. "Buy this and you could be like me, rich and famous."

Aspirational means, don't buy that snowboard for myself because I saw my son do some pretty neat stuff on the slopes the other day. Inspirational means try that new recipe for breakfast because there are only 3 ingredients and I can actually cook it.

So next time you pull out your credit card, ask yourself.

Is it aspirational or inspirational?