Happy New Year! May it be fun, happy, healthy, profitable, and with as little drama as possible.
2015 also launches our new identity. We’ve been “Brass Flowers” for years, and while we’re keeping that as our corporate, legal name, to the world, we shall be PtypeTM. Short for prototype.
Because so much of what we do… from UX work to Axure training… tends to revolve around clickable, interactive prototypes. The name just seemed like a great fit. It’s short, hopefully memorable, different from all the other agency names, and spelled just how it sounds. When you Google “Ptype,” you mostly get semi-conductors, which means I have the chance to make it a unique brand within the UX arena.
So I’m very excited about the new name and our new look! People really ran hot and cold with our old website, the one designed to look like an annotated wireframe. Some people loved it and some thought it was kooky and unprofessional. So with our cool new name comes a cool and more traditional web design, one that’s fully mobile responsive.
We’re very excited about what we have planned for 2015. Lots of Axure training both locally in SF and on-site for small and large companies and agencies. If you are interested in remote or on-site Axure training, please get in touch so we can schedule that.
Take what I call the “thumb test.”
Cover a website’s logo with your thumb. OK, what site is it? Is there anything else on the page that creates a mood? Defines the company image? Makes the site stand out from other sites and competitors? Probably not. Unfortunately, that’s what most “website designers” do. It’s a layout more than it’s a design. This is why my slogan is, “Design, personality, and usability are the new white space.”
A typical “website designer” asks you for your logo, the colors you like, and a few pictures of what you sell or do. Very often, this “designer” is looking to you for direction and ideas rather than being a creative designer and coming up with something fresh. You’ll often end up with a website just like dozens that you see every day; columns, lots of things going on, especially on the home page, and maybe some Flash (please Lord no!). Or maybe you end up with a slightly-altered WordPress theme, and your website looks like zillions just like it.
Is that really what works best for your target audience, your company image, and the way your customers are surfing?
Raise your standards! You want more than website design. You want us to make sure that the site or app is going to be innovative, creative, and darn obvious to use. And I can help. 🙂
Last week, a recruiter considering sending me in for a potential contract job with a very big and well known company basically told me that my website didn’t look like other UX people’s websites… and therefore, I would probably be rejected by this big company because it’s not what they would want to see. I told her that I had seen websites of many other UX/UI consultants, and it appeared they were all mostly words with some tabs… and did she think my website needed to be like that. The basic answer was yes.
Seemed odd to me. In order to showcase my unique talents and experience, I should create a conforming website that copycats others in my industry? I told her that that sort of bland website made sense for who I am, and the types of things I am normally hired to do. Even other recruiters at her company have remarked that I tend to go way outside the usual boundaries of what a UX person is called in to do. So I’d like a website that reflects that. I’m not going to bland down my website to pretend to be a very corporate person so the big corporations will hire me. I’m not corporate. Recruiters are welcome to send me out for as many potential gigs as possible, but my sweet spot is startups, entrepreneurs, smaller companies, or any company or department with that mindset.
So, what’s up with this website?
The website we’re talking about is the version that’s very blue with a big flower, in case you’re reading this some time down the road when the site has another look. I call it Field of Lillies. Before I built my website, I Googled a lot of people claiming to be UX experts, architects, etc… I don’t think of them as competitors, and they shouldn’t think of me as a competitor. But I wanted to see how they were presenting themselves. Well, if websites are designed to represent what working with someone might be like, I think there are a lot of bland, in-the-box people out there.
It was a universe of *yawn*. Most of the websites I saw were nearly 100% words. Few or no graphics. Nothing creative. Nothing innovative. No real website design. Sure, they had a colour palette, but no real website design, mood, or personality. They were like coloured wireframes. On some of them, the links were mysterious or few. If I had to guess what was “cool” based on the websites I keep seeing, I would say the trends are very few buttons and grey-on-grey. All the websites looked the same to me. I couldn’t tell you any of those people’s personal or business names. I just remember there was a site with a solid brown background. There was a site with a bunch of magenta-coloured boxes with the companies for which that guy did work. And then his “about” was grey words on a grey section on top of a different grey background. Snooze.
I wanted to make sure that my website stood out in a world of grey, darker grey, slightly lighter gray, squares and rectangles, and carbon copies. I have something else to say about where my talent, skill, and expertise are. I wanted a website that was definitely different. Yes, I know it’s a little weird. It has a giant flower… that you can’t avoid or forget. It goes with my name, which I hope you can’t forget. I hope I’ve dropped an anchor with people, and out of the pile of UX websites they see, they might remember “the one with the flower.”
I’m not a traditional UX person. If you’re a really traditional UX person, you may not like my untraditional background and style. If you are hiring for a traditional UX person, especially someone who has done this stuff at Google, famous food and beverage companies, and so on, you’re not going to want someone as outside the box as I am. That works perfectly for all of us. I don’t compete with you, traditional UX, UI, and designer guy. I would never work for the companies you list on your site. The gigs you want don’t want me, and the gigs that hire me didn’t want you. We should be pals. 🙂
The best place for me is exactly where I am: I’m in the Bay Area working with startups and small companies who like someone who can wear a lot of hats. They like someone brimming with feature ideas, marketing ideas, and branding ideas. Someone who doesn’t see the project as starting with a flow chart and ending when someone signs off on a prototype. I like to be part of the concept, and I like to carry it through art direction, even into development and testing.
I’m the go-to UX/UI, branding, marketing, and fresh ideas person for startups and companies looking to think like startups. I’m not a typical UX person. I’m not going to have a typical UX person’s website. The person looking for that same-old UX/UI person’s website with all those tabs, boxes, and words doesn’t want me.
This gives me an idea for a new design for my website. I’ll be sure to blog about it when it’s live. Give me a few weeks to get it cooking…
But to answer my question of what should a UX expert’s website look like? It should look right for the type of person you’re looking for. There’s no right or wrong way. There are traditional ways to showcase a UX architect or designer, but if we all always followed all the traditions, what would UX be? Websites would still be very 1996. I’ve been ahead of curves, out of boxes, and never in a cubicle for 16 years now. I must be doing something right. 🙂
GEMoney.com. Not a bad domain to have if you’re GE Money. When I go to pay them, I’m pushed to StatementLook.com. Not that great a domain.
GE Money sent me a survey to ask what I thought of some new domains they are considering. I’m not sure if they would replace StatementLook or not, but here they are:
Ugh. This looks like the work of some local woman I heard speak, who said she was a branding expert. Or this could be the handy work of most domain registry websites.
Most interestingly, they seem to already own GECapital.com. What’s wrong with that one? Why add go, shop, or now?
The survey asked how much I felt each domain is:
- Easy to remember.
- Easy to spell and type.
- Easy to “verbally understand” if read to me over the phone.
- Clear about what products and services will be on that website.
- Clearly conveying that you can access your credit accounts online.
The survey ends by asking me if none of these domains are good, I should suggest some. I get paid for this. Well anyway, I don’t understand why they went with 1) what they already had, 2) something that doesn’t have Capital in it as people don’t always spell it correctly, and 3) something that clearly conveyed what they seem to want, which is hey, you can access your credit accounts. Like how about My GE Credit dot com.
It all started with a weird little Facebook ad asking me if I wanted to work for a game developer in Germany. The job was in Germany.
Well, no and no, but I wanted to click to see where it would go. Before I show you that, let me show you the home page of this company, as I screen shot it that day (click to enlarge):
That’s a familiar website and home page design. I call it “glorified WordPress template.” You see it a lot, and it can be very effective with messaging. It often is lacking a bit in the mood, personality, and uniqueness departments. But you do get the message of what this company is about.
The Facebook ad actually clicked through to this page. Definitely click to enlarge:
What a totally happy world! What a unique page. Don’t you sort of want to work there now? Berlin is evidently a land of happy cartoon clouds and lots of grass! OK, maybe not totally, but this does really make an impression. A positive one. Stuck with me! It was after seeing this that I backed up to the company home page, and saw the purple and white page above. That suddenly felt drab, undesigned, uninspired.
I think you have to live what you do. If you’re a gaming company, there is no reason to have a website that looks nearly identical to a website that might be for a doctor’s office. Or an eCommerce shopping cart. Or a hotel. Your business builds worlds people love to explore. Your website should be a world I’d love to explore.
This was an ad Facebook served me. Which word jumped out at you?
I noticed “Foursquare” out of the corner of my eye when this was served up to me. It then took a few seconds to realise that this was an ad for a church. I am assuming no church is really calling themselves Foursquare… partially because it’s irrelevant and partially because it would be a trademark infringement.
So I Googled, and found their website. They use the word Foursquare in the copyright line at the bottom of the page, but nowhere else on the page. So thing 1, prepare to hear from Foursquare’s lawyer! Thing 2, holy cats, this church is in my adopted hometown of Tucson, AZ. How odd.
OK, they got our attention, but did they really sell us on anything. Will you change what church you attend because they managed to work Foursquare (illegally) into it? This reminds me of how some of my 1990s web clients wanted “sex” all over their meta tags. When I asked why, their thinking was that lots of people are searching for “sex” on the internet, so wouldn’t it be great if they showed up among search results. I would then have to explain that someone searching for “sex” on the internet is unlikely to spend time on a website for pumps and filters for zoos and aquaria.
It also reminds me of how many people grabbed domains names with “Microsoft” or “eBay” somewhere in them. I used to try to explain that 1) they could hear from a lawyer, and 2) that may not really make anybody care more about their product or service, especially once they realise that they’re not connected at all to the corporation whose name they’ve hijacked.
The church’s ad is an interesting exercise in thinking about what words catch our eyes. I am clearly more likely to look at something that says Foursquare.
I was stuck in the hell of trying to get support from Network Solutions last week (on behalf of a client’s domain). I was filling out the support form when I hit the pull-down menu for “select a topic” (the reason why I’m contacting support). What unfurled was the most jumbled, wacky menu I’ve possibly ever seen.
I needed help trying to figure out how to transfer a domain between NetSol accounts. Which thing do I pick here? I don’t see “domain names” or “domain transfer” obviously on the list. Evidently, I wanted “nsWebAddress,” which meant so little to users that they had to put “Domains” in parens.
Branding fail. If what you call your product is so NOT memorable that when you use your branding, you have to remind me of what you really mean, then it’s ineffective and another point where I can easily disconnect. I mean, you must be doing something really wrong when “Design/Develop” needs an explanation in parens.
Make drop-down lists as short as possible. Organise them in some obvious, intuitive way. And if you need to explain something, something is wrong that needs to be fixed rather than explained. Find a more logical and intuitive way to name or list it.
I read a great blog post last week. He has a great visual, which I won’t copy out of respect, on how the Coca-Cola logo hasn’t changed since 1885, while Pepsi is on their 11th logo since 1898.
I can see how Pepsi may have wanted to get away from their early Coca-Cola look-alike logo. Some of the other changes, I couldn’t explain other than execs wanting to try something different.
What I ask you to envision a Pepsi logo, which one stuck in your mind enough to be the one your computer-brain brings up? It looks like mine is the 1973 version because I would have grown up with that one. It would have been the Pepsi logo until I was around age 19. What was wrong with that logo? If a brand is not competing well, are we sure it’s the logo that needs a change? Can you change the marketing, positioning, and style without changing the logo?
Coke has. Coke and their logo manage to make sense to the entire WORLD. Their advertising ranges across many moods and age groups while retaining the same logo.
I have my eye on lots of startups right now. Many of them have bland corporate branding. They chose an overused font, and wrote their unpronounceable name. I’d like to see some of them rebrand. But when the brand is working, say you’re #2 globally, you might just be OK. 🙂
Toilet paper. Most of us use it. We don’t think too much about it. Some of us are brand loyal, some buy whatever’s on sale. I like Target’s own brand, if you must know.
Charmin has been running ads with cartoon bears. Typically, the parent bears are looking at baby bear’s butt to see if he has “pieces” of toilet paper stuck to his butt after wiping. Out of everything I could say about toilet paper, I’ve never had a problem where chunks of it stick to my butt. Maybe I’m special and lucky.
I noticed their ads had some very weird wording… wording related to “enjoy going more.” Again, maybe I’m special, but I don’t associate “enjoyment” with going to the bathroom. In fact, Charmin is using www.EnjoyTheGo.com to dump you on a landing page inside their site.
Most other toilet paper ads focus on their product’s softness or strength. Softness, I get. When I was little, my parents bought Scott brand even though they would constantly joke that it was like “wiping with the New York Times.” Strength… sure, I don’t want toilet paper dissolving in my hand while using it. But when they wet it and dump a bunch of quarters on it? Holy cats, what are people doing with this stuff?
I’m just not getting the marketing angle of “enjoying going to the bathroom more.” Evidently, we are all not enjoying this enough, and need to enjoy it MORE. Charmin is claiming they can lead you down that happy path.
According to an eMarketer article, most “likes” of business/fan pages on Facebook come from campaigns inside of Facebook. People are following Facebook ads to the pages, often inspired by some sort of discount offer.
The study showed that 36% of people later unsubscribed from these pages, highlighting the importance of interacting with people, sustaining the connection, and keeping “fans” interested and connected.