Monday, April 16, 2012

The Fold: So 20th Century

The fold is dead. Long live the scroll.

Hierarchically defining stories by their street appeal, on a newsstand or in a coinbox, is a tactic we know today as linkbait.

When commercial internet experiments started, their page layouts memorialized the coinbox shaped newshole from what was already a dead medium -- only they didn't know it then.

Back in the late 20th century, with narrow bandwidth and low resolution monitors, that choice almost made sense. But that was a long time ago.
Here in the 21st century, engagement is the goal, and the digital page layout rule is scroll, baby, scroll.

Three digital purveyors --, and -- present their content with differing degrees of density, complexity and reading levels to different audiences, but they share one common approach: their pages send users hierarchically scrolling from big stories/packages/images/movies to lists of headlines and links.

Sandwiches of aluminosilicate glass and stainless steel that fit in our hands are our window to the world now, not a coinbox or a newsstand.  The metaphor of the fold is now as antique as the medium whose metaphor it was. 

If you have more than a screen's worth  of content, show it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

New News vs. Old News -- Trusted Networks

Where do you get your news? Great question, with great answers from the community.

What I loved about magazines and newspapers growing up, and why I was a reporter until the internet was invented, was the thrill of the unexpected. The stories journalists called "didjas"  could be anything amazing: scientists claiming that advanced dinosaurs could be ruling other planets, pictures from space, a cat rescued from a tree.

The multipage full color special sections on moonshots were the most awesome. If the internet was around when the space program was, we could have liveblogged it.

"The Filter Bubble" is the opposite of that; it shows us what we already want to know, not what we don't know, based on our digital trails.

Digital surprise and digital delight happen despite the filter bubble, but you have to defeat the machines to get them. The bloggers, curators and content strategists who filter the filters are our allies. They do what editors used to do, plus links, community and moving images.

The rabbit hole of the internet -- starting here and winding up who knows where -- enables serendipity for all sorts of things, but your digital trail can defeat that unless you don't let it.

If you work at curating the content you consume, and finding trusted networks, you can find amazing things. If you don't, you'll keep seeing the same ads for diapers long after your child is done with them.

There's a hierarchy of news, with slots for things that affect more people and things that affect fewer; within those slots, there are things that are more or less important to you, things that could directly affect you, and things that are just fun. There are vast spaces and opportunities for matching people and interests.

A continuum of news:
  1. World War III begins
  2. World War III ends
  3. Science did something awesome 
  4. Science did something awesome that directly affects you or someone you care about
  5. Today's winning lottery number in another state
  6. Today's winning lottery number in your state
  7. An author you follow publishes a new book; a band you like releases a new album.
  8. It's your child's birthday
Random example: LOLcats, circa 1960s was news to me when I found it. I have no recollection how I found it, but when you get to where you're going on the intrawebz, there you are.

Design School

A group of design students toured a shop I'm working with, so I demonstrated UX by doing a quick survey.
  • Interested in print design? All but one.
  • Interested in digital design? Just a few.
It's the opposite of what I would have predicted.

Are they in love with print because it's retro? Because they see digital as just ads?

They played along with the joke that I had just perpetrated user research on them.