Tomorrow morning, at around five or six AM many iPhones alarms will blare out - probably set to the Klaxon sound for maximum effect - to rouse their jet-lagged owners who will then find their way down to the Moscone centre to stand in line - a very long line - to get into the Apple Keynote.
I am at a hotel I know quite well. I like that the rooms face out onto walkways enclosing courtyards open to the sky - like little apartments. It’s not grand but tries to be bright and everything works ok… and the wifi is always on and complimentary. The only drawback is for those NOT getting up early tomorrow, who will be woken like the rest of us.
From the posters around the centre it looks like the much anticipated new UI design for Apple’s iPhone apps is going to be about translucent colours and a very fine typeface, possibly Helvetica Neue Thin (but to my mind some of the characters don’t look like HN). We shall see soon enough, once the line of mostly men, young and young at heart finally snake their way round the building and up the long steep escalators to see the Tim and Jony show.
One thing I do know is that the swag each delegate gets is a different class of jacket from the black zippered top of recent years. This year its still a black jacket, but quite a nice cut and of a different fabric. Its mostly polyester, so its quite warm - but I always thought that these long-sleeved jackets were a damn good idea for San Francisco, which can get a bit chilly!
The expectations are high - as ever. In recent years we have come to expect a pace of innovation and change of unreasonable acceleration. I think these touch devices are in their infancy, and there is much to do with software. Once the computer becomes a piece of glass that does everything it’s difficult to know where anyone can go next to impress those that want a new trick every few months!
And anyway, there are still millions still afraid to do basic things with computers, so I say - up your game developers and designers, make life in the world easier and better by your work… lets solve some useful problems! And journalists and other pundits, give us all a break!
I often get asked about a list of transitions, where in reality I know of no such thing. Anyway with a little google browsing I came across this interesting and insightful piece about iPad transitions, which also comments on how many UX folk naturally dabble in Information Architecture and Interaction Design (quite right, I don’t know how one can separate these thing s out and get great results!) So, I haven’t finished reading it but thought it worth posting here.
Yes, a few providers of highly successful time-killers can score good coin: Angry Birds has sold more than $300 million in downloads. But this equates to about 3 cents per hour of user time spent slinging those addictive birds. Similarly, celebrity gossip is probably worth 0.02 cents per page view. (Clueless marketing managers might currently pay more for banners nobody looks at, but eventually CPM for generic content and generic traffic will drop far below a dollar to match their real value. Advertising budgets won’t be misspent forever.)
Other mobile use is worth more: the minute I spent making a dinner reservation on the OpenTable app translated into $115 revenue for that restaurant and about a dollar for OpenTable itself. Let’s say $60/hour = 2,000 × the value of playing Angry Birds.
I got all of this via Macrumors, and have not see the poster in the flesh…. but I have seen the Marketting graphics studio at Apple, and they make some fantastic posters. (Tangent: When I had the chance to get one I chose a clever map of Manhattan made with photos of iphones using google maps. I regret that I didn’t get one of the more colourful, illustrated ones) I also saw a mockup of one of the stores (this text talks about how they mocked up a full-scale Regent Street shop floor in a Cupertion Car park so they could undersand the space).
This poster is a great exercise in longform text, and here is the text:
In the last 10 years, we’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned to treat every day with the same enthusiasm we had on the first day. We’ve learned the importance of giving our customers just as much attention as they give us. And we’ve learned the art of hiring the right people for the right positions. We’ve learned it’s better to adapt to the neighborhood rather than expecting the neighborhood to adapt to us. Which is why we spend so much time and energy building stores the way we do. Our first store, in Tysons Corner, taught us our first lesson within the first 30 minutes. We had just opened the doors when we noticed the steel already needed polishing. With a special polishing solution. And a special polishing tool. That’s when we learned that blasting steel with virgin sand makes it less prone to scuff marks. We’ve also learned that glass can be much more than glass. We’ve learned that a 32’6” transparent glass box can stand tall even among the giants of the Manhattan skyline. That when glass becomes as iconic as the Fifth Avenue Cube, it can also become the fifth most photographed landmark in New York City. And we’ve learned that if you have to, you can close an entire street in Sydney to bring in three-story panes of glass. And when you create three-story glass, you also have to create a rig that can install three-story glass. We’ve even figured out how to make the world’s largest pieces of curved glass for one of our stores in Shanghai. We’ve also learned more than a few things about stone. Like how to reveal granite’s true color with a blowtorch. And that sometimes granite has veins of color that have to be matched. We’ve also learned that getting these details perfect can feel like trying to move a mountain. Sometimes two. But in the end, the effort is worth it. Because steel, glass, and stone can combine to create truly unique and inspiring spaces. We also understand that finding the right design for our stores is critical. We even built a full-scale facade of the Regent Street store in a Cupertino parking lot to be sure the design was right. Which taught us the value of seeing things full size. We once had a notion that ministores would offer the ultimate in convenience. Then we built one. Which showed us that bigger can actually be better. And we’ve learned that even when our stores are big, no detail is too small. This is something we learned all over again when we restored the Paris Opera store down to the last of its more than 500,000 tiles. We’ve also learned that our customers like open spaces, glass staircases, and handcrafted oak tables. And that those spaces don’t need to smell like pine trees or tomatoes to make them inviting. We’re constantly working to make our stores more artful, more iconic, and more innovative. And we’re awfully proud of every single one. We’re proud of our stores not just because they’re successful, but because of everything they’ve taught us. All the ways Apple Stores have made Apple stronger as a company. Over the past 10 years, we’ve learned that our stores are the embodiment of the Apple brand for our customers. Now, our customers just happen to be the entire reason we’re here, so let’s dedicate a few words to them. Around the time we opened the store in Tysons Corner, in 2001, everyone else was trying to talk to their customers less. Which made us think that maybe we should talk to them more. Face-to-face if possible. So we’ve found ways to strike up a conversation at every possible opportunity. We talk while they play with the products on the tables. And when they join us for a workshop. These conversations have taught us that customers love our products, but what they really want is to make a scrapbook out of family photos. They want to make a movie about their kid. Or a website about traveling across the country. Which has taught us that Apple Stores can and should be centers for creativity. And we’ve figured out through programs like Apple Camp and Youth Workshops that creativity doesn’t care about age. The movies and slideshows we’ve seen kids make are proof that all you need are the right tools and an idea. And we must be doing something right, because the kids’ smiles are just as big as ours. We’ve also learned that musicians can record an album in our stores that goes to the top of the charts. And that award-winning film directors are interested no just in our computers but in our workshops. We’ve learned a lot about having fun. And we’ve learned our customers like to use our products for business too. Experience has taught us that having one Pro Day per week dedicated to business customers isn’t enough. That we need to be open for business very day. And have space devoted to business training sessions, workshops, and events. We’ve learned that every staff member should be just as fluent in the needs of a business customer as the needs of any other customer. Our millions of conversations with customers of every stripe have taught us it’s not about making people feel like a computer or phone loves them. That’s impossible. Instead, it’s about giving people the tools to do what they love. And we’ve learned how to create amazing programs like One to One and Personal Setup to give people those tools. We created programs like these to replace fear with confidence. Because our customers have shown us that the ownership experience is even more important than the sale. We learned all this by asking questions. And genuinely listening to the answers. And to be sure we’re hearing everything, we’ve learned to converse in 36 languages, and a few of the local dialects as well. We’ve even learned a few cultural things. The proper use of the word <em>y’all</em>, for example. And our Japanese customers one taught us that their superheroes don’t wear capes. Which also taught us to see feedback as a gift. We’ve learned that a visit to the Genius Bar can fix more than just computers. It can also restore a customer’s relationship with Apple. And that we don’t need a minifridge stocked with free water to get people to talk to a Genius. Knowing they can get exactly the right answer when something isn’t working is enough. We even figured out how to shorten the time an in-store repair takes from seven days to one day. Our customers hold us to exceptionally high standards. So we’ve learned how to raise ours even higher. 325 store openings have taught us that a grand opening creates blocks and blocks of excitement. That people will stand in line for hours, even days, just to be among the first to walk through the front door. And to get a free T-shirt. Speaking of T-shirts, we’ve learned more than you can imagine about our own. We’ve found that when we wear black T-shirts, we blend in. And when we wear too many colors it’s confusing. But blue shirts are just right. We’ve also learned that it takes precisely 4,253 stitches to embroider the Apple logo on those blue shirts. And we even figured out which direction the stitches should go in. When it comes to product launches, we’ve learned we have to work hard to ensure supply meets demand. If not on the first day, then soon thereafter. And we’ve learned how to put our own products to use in innovative ways in our stores. We’ve created entirely new systems like EasyPay to help our customers as efficiently as possible. We’ve replaced the red phone behind the Genius Bar with more expertise right in our stores. All of these experiences have made us smarter. And at the very center of all we’ve accomplished, all we’ve learned over the past 10 years, are our people. People who understand how important art is to technology. People who match, and often exceed, the excitement of our customers on days we release new products. The more than 30,000 smart, dedicated employees who work so hard to create lasting relationships with the millions who walk through our doors. Whether the task at hand is fixing computers, teaching workshops, organizing inventory, designing iconic structures, inventing proprietary technology, negotiating deals, sweating the details of signage, or doing countless other things, we’ve learned to hire the best in every discipline. We now see that it’s our job to train our people and then learn from them. And we recruit employees with such different backgrounds—teachers, musicians, artists, engineers—that there’s a lot they can teach us. We’ve learned how to value a magnetic personality just as much as proficiency. How to look for intelligence but give just as much weight to kindness. How to find people who want a career, not a job. And we’ve found that when we hire the right people, we can lead rather than manage. We can give each person their own piece of the garden to transform. We’ve learned our best people often provide the best training for the next generation. And that it’s important for every member of our staff to not only feel a connection to their store, but to the teams in Cupertino and to the stores around the world. Because the best ways of doing things usually translate, regardless of language or country. We’ve also learned that due tot he exceptional quality of our applicants, it can be harder to be hired at the Apple Store than in Cupertino. It can sometimes take two to three years to bring someone in. Not because they aren’t right for Apple. But because we want to be sure the opportunity we have to offer is right for them. Why have we learned to be so selective? So careful? Because our people are the soul of the Apple Stores. And together, our team is the strongest ever seen in retail. As beautiful and iconic as our stores may be, the people who create and staff those stores are what matters most. So on this 3,652nd day, we say thank you to every single one of you. We say thank you to those who were there on the first day, and to those whose first day is today. The past 10 years of the Apple Store have changed Apple as a company. Our experiences, our successes, even our occasional missteps, have made us better. They’ve made Apple better. And it’s because of those experiences, and the ways they’ve changed us, that we can’t wait to see what we’ll learn next. It’s been 10 years. What an amazing first step.
I’ve read articles lately about how readerships of ipad magazines has dropped off to a low level. This does not surprise me, because although there have been some impressive examples to “ooh and ahh” at, not much has made me want to come back the following months, weeks or days.
Many of the apps I have seen so far try very hard to create exciting visual experiences, and to adopt the graphic design language of print – or go the other way, putting too much multimedia in the way of reading. Here are some of the lessons I have learned while trying to design for great user experience on the iPad (and iphone for that matter), and from the apps I’ve tried. These are not numbered hierarchically, it’s just how they fell…
1) Get to the point. When users go to read something on the ipad they usually want to open it and begin to read. If there is a video or some other event which begins to unfold before they become frustrated. A lot of publishers seem to think that because the iPad is a great way to watch video that you should transform readers into passive viewers. I think that’s a big mistake.
Readers want to grab hold of stuff, read it and move on to the next read. Video is best used in context (when a story depends on a bit of video to stand up) – or as a type of content you choose to view. The most important thing is to help the reader get to what they want quickly and easily. The one situation where it is OK to break the flow is if you take an editorial decision to give the reader a surprise – but the surprise better be good and get onto the screen quickly (and be easy to put away) !
2) What’s with the pre-roll adverts? There is a huge difference between seeing as film in a theatre, and watching video content on the desktop or on ipad. When I pay to see a movie I have set aside a few hours to do that, and the ads are a useful buffer zone between the cinema doors opening and the main feature. And the ads tend to be good entertainment! Pre roll ads before video on iOS (or on the web) are a big turnoff.This is a very important distinction which has not yet been taken seriously by advertisers on iOS devices (or the web!) and one which it seems Apple is trying to address with iAd. We want every moment of use of the iphone or ipad to be gratifying. Unlike a newspaper, it is difficult to gloss over adverts, and fractional adverts take up far too much real estate.
3) Feeds are everything. If it’s not in the feed its not in the app. The structure of the data and how it gets delivered, and how much there is determine what the reader can see or read, and how long it takes to download
4) Size Matters. 300+mb per issue makes your app feel far more cumbersome than a magazine. It seem that while trying to solve the problem of creating periodical apps, many publishers have gone with solutions (from Woodwing and Adobe) which create bloated, limited products. Both provide you with an app shell into which you can pour your layouts, creating slideshows and other interactive elements along the way. By it’s nature this ensures very big dowloads, and at the same time shields the content creators from having to understand much about app design. The benefits to publishers:
It is cheaper
It lets the desingers continue using familiar tools, acting as if they are just working on a different print format.
The creatives are not grappling enough with the problems of interface and user experience, or about touch or how the devices are used. Too much is put into making the ipad version LOOK like the print version.
The result is cumbersome products…
Often beautiful print details are left in, which can be mistaken for buttons or other UI elements, thus leading to frustration for the user.
5) The iPad is not just another print format. You are building software, not digital version of your print product. This is related to the points above but it implies the need to think about the staffing, marketing and maintenance of these products.
6) This is not a cheap fix. whichever way you look at it this new approach needs investment, and looking for a shortcut can end up costing huge amounts more than a publisher bargained for because the different approaches to app production are not compatible beyond the news gathering and content generation. Even editing styles will differ depending on the approach you use.
7) Automatic is no substitute for editing. You won’t have seen the new Guardian iPhone app yet, but there are some cool thngs we have done with attention data ( Most Read, Trending subjects). These automated parts of the app based on the reading behaviour of the readers seem to prove the opposite of what I’ve just said, …but wait a minute, are readers reading a random selection of articles? No: the data comes from reader behaviour on the website and therefore reflects an edited product. The combination of people with machines is what makes great content rich products.
8) New stuff for new platforms. There should be content crafted for apps. In the case of the new Guardian app there are larger pictures used in parts of the app. Without a human eye on these details the user experience could be pretty bad. One can envisage a role for content commissioned for these devices as well, crafted to suit the types of gesture and interface available.
Like Marshall McLuhan said, The Medium Is The Massage.
Just over a year ago I wrote about designing the Guardian iPhone app, if you want to read that it can be found here