Monday, 23 August 2010

Redesigning for the 25th Century

My partner is currently undertaking a redesign of his online motorcycle magazine and community. Coming from a programmers' point of view, as well as an avid web digester, his approach to the redesign was somewhat different to how I would have begun mine. 

I have seen many a revision throughout the redesign process, all with differing functionality, UX, JavaScript requirements and processing needs. Ultimately, however, I still see form, composition, framing and space. I myself come from an artistic background, and although I have left the practice behind aside from a hobby, the history, technique and consumption still plays a central part in my everyday perception of interacting with design.

Together, we make a good team, as my feedback is the yang to his yin. Hopefully the consumers will agree once it launches! 

It got me thinking however about some of the best ways to approach a redesign, be it logo branding / corporate material / consumer sites or social media personas. Last night, when the energy was burning out of my partners design candle, we took a break and started looking through the past versions of the site. We had a giggle about old logos, identities, promotional assets and also the website. When you begin to evaluate the steps that have been taken to get you where you are, you gain a rounder perspective on what you are trying to achieve in moving forwards. You can spot obvious mistakes, and see what never worked... As well as what did work. You can also track the development of web interaction through the various years of website transformations; with higher quality video and image content, ever-more sophisticated JavaScript elements, social media API's and elaborate SEO qualities. 

With the nature of the web developing so quickly, the need to provide branding that is also flexible is hence highly important. Who knows when the next Twitter, Foursquare, Latitude or Hot Potato will spring up and sweep the fascinations of the world. 

Taking all of these ideas into account, however, does not belie the most important element in my opinion - interaction. I'm sure we all have a few websites or apps that spring to mind that drive us potty for one reason or another. Interestingly, most of mine are gravitated towards some of the biggest consumer businesses. Have they never heard of the fold!? No - I do not want to scroll through reams of news/media that doesn't interest me before I find something that I want to view. I am acting as a UX (user experience tester) for my partners redesign, and he has found the input invaluable. He has a lot of content to get across on the homepage, and together we have established coherent and simple formulas for getting all the top editor and user info in the fold, without losing fundamental readership experience. A lesson that be well adopted by other online magazines who bombard you to the detriment of the quality of their content.

And interaction has another string to it's bow these days. Social interaction on the web is rapidly expanding, eternally evolving and displacing the previous 'distance' between business and customer. It's time to think multi-platform and hybrid technology as I can currently see 12 different forms of media consumption on my morning train commute so far. Think iPhone, iPad, digital reader, android, blackberry, smartphone other, netbook, tethering, laptops, palm things, the list goes on. It's very rare that I get to use my desktop for web browsing - I'm always to busy. So web consumption is happening on the move - and too many websites and apps haven't thought clearly enough about how to hone their content for a tenth of the viewing portal.

I have focused heavily on web-based branding, promotion and marketing, but after reading through, perhaps you understand why. Not only are we so much more web focused and involved now, ensuring all of you PR, marketing, promotions and branding encapsulates a n exponentially expanding social media platform is essential. 

Have you got your twitter, facebook, linkedin, buzz, myspace, blog links on your signature or business card? If not, why not? They're as much your online identity as your website. Personal or corporate.

So there is a lot to think about eh? Precisely. Take your time, track where you have come from, where you want to go, AND where the web is going to go. Make sure it's user focused design as opposed to internally assumed - your customer relationships are your ticket to business conversion. Take serious time to evaluate your UX... It's more important than you realise. And finally think sci-Fi, think insane futuristic, think Avatar+Tron+iRobot+Star Wars... It ain't that far away - so make sure whatever your recreating is ready for it! 

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