As 2012 draws to a close and a New Year about to begin, I will now cast my top five annual predictions for 2013. This is a long post…
1. Print will disappear sooner than you think
2012 ended with Newsweek going digital-only and abandoning print after 80 years.
What most publishers don’t want to face, especially those who are close to retirement age, is that they no longer control content distribution. The print model is no longer sustainable with print advertising on a steady decline.
Of course by now most publications have digital content in the form of web, mobile and everything in between. Pay-walls or paid-metering now being used on many news publications in Canada and the US became the trend in 2012 as media companies and publishers desperately try to get readers to pay for digital content. The revenue gained from paid-metering doesn’t offset the decline in print revenue however, given that metering just means that they need to also offset the decline in page views and sales in digital advertising.
So they have two choices; stop the printed edition and drastically reduce the size of their staff and learn to survive in this (not so new) digital jungle OR shut down altogether and go out of business.
Twitter is the new newspaper. Newspapers can’t comprehend the shift from a local distribution model to a model that embraces the new digital news reader. That is, people who consume content on social media as their main source – socially aggregated content. People don’t care as much for local content these days, they really just want good content. You can pretty much aggregate the type of content you like by following select users on Twitter .
Oh – and by the way, reading content aggregated through Twitter makes pay-walls more-or-less irrelevant. Publishers will need to find new ways to make revenue in this digital world.
It will all come down to services, bundling content and a more data-driven data model.
My new content application prototype, Beamwire CL solves a lot of these problems, so I’ll be talking to a few potential media partners in 2013.
Related Link: Newsweek abandons print after 80 years, goes online only
2. The shift from social to private will begin
Okay, the trolls who are out there will sling mud at this one saying that if you want more privacy, stop using social media. Thanks in advance for overstating the obvious.
Now the reality is that most users have their lives so entrenched in social media that shutting off may be tough to do. There are so many services attached to core social applications that it might become a bit overwhelming to manage.
The opportunity in 2013 is to help users get some of their privacy back. Social media is still a popularity contest and your “social equity” is quantified by how many followers you have. This trend can backfire when you mix large lists of “friends”, most of whom you don’t really know with highly personal information and details about your life.
Identity theft has been on the rise as a result and I think now more than ever, users need tools to help them organize and separate the popularity contest from information that they really only want to share with a select few.
Part of this is education but some folks may be too lazy to bother with learning fast enough. Services that help automate privacy will become popular and help users get some control over their private lives again. The opportunities are too numerous to mention here but keep an eye out for emerging startups that address this issue in 2013.
3. TV will emerge from a new digital cocoon
TV has already changed so much with users moving away from traditional cable companies and adopting alternative means for getting TV shows, movies and video content. Apple TV has been one of the front-runners with users paying à la carte for content rather than paying big fat subscription fees for channels they never watch.
In Canada, this trend may be moving slower than it has in the US thanks to monopolies by companies like Rogers and Bell – Antitrust anyone?
Regardless, users aren’t waiting, they are already going around the problem and taking control of their programming experience through other means. Take into account new display technologies, better entertainment options on gaming consoles (i.e. Xbox 360) and integrated services through the ever expanding Apple TV (they are rumored to have a TV coming out in 2013), you will see a major shift in 2013 in how users consume programming.
Related Link: Apple TV hinted at by CEO Tim Cook
4. Mobile will be the nucleus of our digital ecosystem
This is already happening but will become more prevalent in 2013.
Where your PC or laptop used to be hub of your digital universe not so long ago, the smartphone has now taken its place putting the PC on the periphery. This makes perfect sense since the smartphone is the one piece of tech that users always have access to 24/7.
Now the smartphone acts as our remote control, home monitoring center, music library, gaming console, they can start our cars and they initiate data synchronization from almost any location.
The eco-system will continue to grow around our smartphones as 2013 unfolds.
5. UX is going to be huge
I think 2012 is the first year I’ve seen a flurry of job postings from companies trying to hire their very own UX person. UX education is becoming more formalized and it seems companies are realizing that they need this service in-house in order to be successful in a digital world.
That is all well and good, however not all UX folks are cut from the same cloth and hiring a dedicated UX person may or may not be the best decision to make in 2013. When many hiring managers are still trying to figure out the difference between UX and UI (they are the same thing no?) – then maybe it’s better to start with outside help first.
To be clear, a UX expert should have UI (user interface design), user interaction design and information architecture under their belt with a thorough knowledge of how to apply cognitive ergonomics and solve design problems across multiple platforms. In addition, they should have experience in user testing – formal and informal.
It might seem like a lot to ask but then this is no small role in any organization. You can’t become a good UX professional by attending a few 3-day conferences. User experience takes, well…experience. You won’t be good at it really until you’ve been doing it for at least 4-5 years (I’ve been doing it for 14 years).
The option that should not be overlooked in 2013 is hiring these UX folks on contract. Are you sure you really need someone full-time / permanent? Another option is looking for a design company that specializes in UX. That might be the best way for non-UXers in your organization to learn how the process works before you make the decision to invest in more headcount.
If you do decide to go with someone full-time, make sure they can do a few things first:
- Research – they can use metrics and know how to find data on current user trends
- Business Goals – they understand your business goals and know how to cross reference your goals with a successful user experience.
- Prototyping – They need to know how to generate effective prototypes for multiple devices. I can hear the UX trolls coming down the mountain on this one! Many UXers have made their living from producing reams of documentation. This worked well for web pages at one time but it just doesn’t put things into context fast enough when you’re looking at a user experience on multiple devices.
- Less documentation – this goes hand-in-hand with the third point. Strategic documentation is still valid but should be considered in small doses and when it really is needed to clarify certain issues. (i.e. do you really need to produce another eco-system?)
Part of the fun in casting predictions is watching how many of them come true. I will elaborate throughout the year on some of the above as things progress.
Happy New Year everyone and all the best in 2013!
The world we live in has rapidly changed over the last three years to a point where we are expected to get an application running on several different devices.
One thing that has always been true about wireframes, clients really don’t understand them. I have always endeavored to wireframe in a way that is client-friendly, however capturing all the interactions in a static document can still make it difficult to put wireframes into context. You get very good at walking clients through the interactions (because chances are, they aren’t reading the functional notations) and you can capture a lot of what needs to be communicated if you’ve carefully set-up the flow of your wireframe deck.
In this age of more start-up, less agency, the workflow is very much about the path of least resistance. In the past, I have done both static wireframing and interactive wireframing (or prototyping). I can tell you that it all comes down to time. There are many factors to consider. The scope and scale of the app will determine your approach. The number of core interactions and the fine-line between almost building the app and actually prototyping.
I would say that if it takes longer to place a static element on the screen and annotate it’s interaction, then prototyping is the best way to go. I’ve done my fair share of interactive wireframes in HTML, mostly using tools like Dreamweaver. There are newer tools, specifically designed for non-coders with a WYSIWYG interface that can be useful, such as Balsamiq.
Overall, I find WYSIWYG editors to be more frustrating and time-consuming. There is always something missing and you don’t have the degree of control that you would have when working directly with style sheets.
I’ve always known how to write code and have updated my skills in HTML5 and CSS3, so my preference is to prototype using some of the new frameworks available such as Foundation, which comes with a fairly extensive set of styles to work with. This, in combination with other tools like Placeholdit and Orbit, make rapid prototyping much easier and well, faster. Again, it comes down to time and choosing the right tool for the job. You really need to know whether it’s going to take you longer to create interactive wireframes vs. static wireframes. If your client is paying you by the hour, you need to make a responsible choice.
As I eluded earlier, the modern mindset is to think more like a startup and less like an agency. Today it’s all about product design and not so much about designing for a specific project. Keeping this in mind, it behooves all UX designers and Information Architects to have solid prototyping processes in their toolbox. It’s part of the job, more now than ever.
My toolkit includes:
Omnigraffle for wireframing (lots of great templates and libraries on Graffletopia and you’re probably already using many of them)
Foundation – for rapid prototyping. It’s up to you how you fine-tune the fidelity in your prototype. If you are pitching an idea to a group of investors, you should work with a designer to get a higher-fidelity prototype. Sorry IA community, I know I’m bending the rules on this one but it’s a fact. Investors aren’t doling out seed funding based on wireframes alone.
Orbit: Quick jQuery image slider plugin – this one is slick and dead easy to use.
Placehold it - An easy placeholder generator that really works well.
Did I mention CSS3? Learn to manipulate CSS3 and prototyping becomes a breeze.
Adobe CS5 Photoshop and Illustrator: Everyone in digital should at least know the basics of Photoshop. For a UX designer, knowing your way around Illustrator is a huge bonus. You will, at some point, need to create custom vector elements.You should include conceptual drawing in your toolbox as well. It doesn’t have to be realistic or “polished”. But you should know how to do a good line drawing.
A special thanks to the team at ZURB for pioneering kick-ass processes for interaction design and for providing so many great tools!
Since the death of Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos is starting to appear more frequently on magazine covers. I still have the Time magazine edition with Bezos as person of the year from December 1999. I remember those clever Dot Com commercials Amazon did in 1997, 98, 99. They were a startup in the hole – in a big way.
They were losing money like crazy but Mr. Bezos just kept on smiling. He didn’t care because he had a vision and the ‘stick-to-itiveness’ that most of us lack. He knew that building up a faithful user-base would take time and they would lose money but it was all part of the plan. Those were the days.
They aren’t in the hole anymore. They have an e-commerce intelligence (machine learning) and basically invented personalization for online shoppers. It’s pretty hard to beat the king. I’ve used Amazon as a shining example of usability many times. I look to it for how a website should communicate with customers. Still, here we are in 2012 and most websites and apps still can’t get user messaging right.
It’s about three things: service, selection and services!
- Give a consumer the service and they will buy a product from you.
- Give them the selection and make it easy for them to choose and they will buy a product from you.
- Give them some services to expand their activity on your application and return more often and they will buy a product from you.
Amazon is NOT paying me to say this. I can honestly tell you, every time I see someone receive a package from Amazon, they say the same thing before they open it, “I love Amazon”.
They’ve simply done it right.