Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section
Image 1 Dec

email signature



7 Nov

The Six Greatest Breakthroughs in UX History

6 Sep

This might be the most controversial piece I’ve submitted to UX Magazine. I gathered together an entire digital design agency to survey 20 years of Internet history and choose the five most important breakthroughs from a user experience perspective. Tears were shed. Blood was spilled. And in the end we compromised on six.

Why the user experience angle? Because whatever technological innovations are forming in the world’s boardrooms and basements right now, in the end, it’s our users who will choose the winners—with their attention, enthusiasm, and cash.

Here are they are in rough chronological order:

#1: America Online (AOL)

AOL may be fighting for its life today, but it was once synonymous with the Internet. At it peak it had over 30 million subscribers and even swallowed Time Warner. But that’s not why it made our list.

AOL leads our list because it was the original online service for “non-computer people,” offering a friendly graphical user interface in place of command lines and fostering communication among its members long before social became a buzzword.

Through force of will and enough direct-mail CDs to bury Luxembourg, AOL wrested the Internet from the techies, scientists, and academics who created it and made it so accessible your grandparents might even use it—and then they did.

Thank you AOL for bringing the Internet out of the labs and into our living rooms.

#2: Internet Search

No discussion of Internet highs can ignore the centrality and ongoing cultural impact of search. Countless billions have been invested in online shopping sites, products and services, games, media, and social sites. Yet search remains our most popular online activity:

  • 92% of online U.S. adults use search engines to find information on the web—roughly six in 10 use it on a typical day [Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project]
  • 93% of all Internet traffic is generated from search engines [Source: Forrester Research]
  • In the U.S., search contributed to 1.2% of GDP in 2009 [Source: McKinsey]

No wonder it’s so popular. You type some words into a box, and the information you seek comes back like magic. And increasingly it does work like magic: Anticipating our needs—even correcting our mistakes—at ever faster speeds.

Thank you Archie, Gopher, WebCrawler, Lycos, Magellan, Excite, Infoseek, Inktomi, Ask Jeeves, MSN, AltaVista, Yahoo!, Google, Bing, and others for expanding our consciousness, saving us time and money, making us smarter, and settling every factual dispute we’re ever going to have—on the spot.


It’s hard to believe that not so long ago, selling goods online was a risky experiment with an uncertain future. This was the world Amazon entered in 1995 as “Earth’s largest bookstore” and one of the first online retailers.

While many of its peers from those days are gone (See CNET’s Top 10 Dot-Com Flops for a trip down memory lane), Amazon persevered to become the world’s largest online retailer with $48 billion in yearly revenue and millions of products and services for sale. But what most impressed us is how it got there.

“Amazon is such a smart learning organization,” Nancy F. Koehn, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, told Bloomberg Businessweek recently. “It’s like a biological organism that through natural selection and adaptation just keeps learning and growing.”

Through its culture of constant experimentation and tweaking, a willingness to quickly drop what’s not working, and its clever use of customer data, Amazon doggedly popularized online shopping and established itself as the beau ideal for successful online retailers across the globe.

Thank you Amazon for finding your way through unknown terrain without a road map. You are the Lewis and Clark of e-commerce.

#4: Napster

We’re not talking about the Napster that Best Buy just sold to Rhapsody, but the original start-up that ignited the music file-sharing frenzy and rocked the web 10 years ago. Napster’s first act (1999 to 2001) was cut short by music industry lawsuits, but the forces it unleashed continue to transform and shape the global media marketplace today.

Napster boasted as many users as AOL at its peak. Like AOL, Napster popularized a technology it didn’t actually invent, and succeeded for many of the same reasons:

  • It was easy to use and understand
  • It aggregated and standardized a previously fragmented landscape
  • It was faster and more reliable than its predecessors
  • It harnessed powerful social dynamics found in the real world

Napster paved the way for some amazing things that we take for granted today, like the ability to easily find, own, and share just about any song, album, movie, book, or story in the world. It is the mother of iTunes, Rhapsody, Netflix, and countless other services and websites that we use and love.

Thank you Napster. Because content really does want to be free—not free of cost necessarily, but free of boundaries.

#5: User-Generated Content

It’s hard to believe that user-generated content (or “UGC”) has only been a mainstream phenomenon since 2005. Even by Internet standards, its proliferation and growing cultural impact have been astonishing.

Through personal blogs, social networks, online communities and discussion boards, product reviews, wikis, news sites, travel sites, video, and photo-sharing sites, average citizens are exerting an increasingly profound influence over our culture and economy.

  • In the U.S., 43% of Internet users are generating online content [Source: McKinsey]
  • 49% of online users share content online at least one a week [Source: CMB Consumer Pulse]

Entire industries are being transformed. Retail, for one, will never be the same:

  • 81% of people use consumer reviews in their purchase decisions [Source: Nielsen Online via BizReport]
  • Online reviews are second only to word-of-mouth when it comes to influencing consumer-purchasing decisions [Source: Rubicon Consulting]

User generated content was even featured as Time magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year, in which the person of the year was “you,” meaning all of those individuals who are changing the nature of the information age as creators and consumers of user-generated content.

Here’s another way of looking at it: Take Facebook, Craigslist, eBay, Twitter, Pinterest, Myspace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, and Yelp. Without the content produced by users, most of these modern icons wouldn’t exist at all.

Thank you UGC. Customers may not quite rule, as some marketing pundits claim, but because of you they are no longer docile subjects either.

#6: The iPhone

Before the iPhone it was the same story every year. The “year of mobile” was upon us. The phone manufacturers would trumpet their latest incremental improvements and cosmetic enhancements as the next big thing. But something was missing. Then the iPhone debuted in 2007 and we all understood exactly what had been missing.

Five years later, Palm is history. RIM and Nokia are floundering. Windows mobile is kidding itself. And Android is successful because it’s so much like the iPhone. Now that’s disruptive technology.

The mobile revolution is in full swing and accelerating thanks to the iPhone’s ease of use and endless possibility. And with almost six billion mobile handsets in use worldwide, mobile may well be the greatest business opportunity of all time:

  • 90% of the world now lives in a place with access to a mobile network [Source: International Telecommunication Union]
  • Mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web-access devices worldwide by 2013 [Source: Gartner]
  • Direct revenue from the sale of apps, in-app purchases, and subscriptions will hit $14.1bn in 2012 [Source: Canalys]

Thank you Apple for launching the real mobile revolution, and making all that came before you look ridiculous.

Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design

6 Sep



Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design


Back in the late 1970s, Dieter Rams was becoming increasingly concerned by the state of the world around him – “an impenetrable confusion of forms, colours and noises.” Aware that he was a significant contributor to that world, he asked himself an important question: is my design good design?

As good design cannot be measured in a finite way he set about expressing the ten most important principles for what he considered was good design. (Sometimes they are referred as the ‘Ten commandments’.)

Here they are.

Vitsœ’s designer, Dieter Rams. Photograph by Abisag Tüllmann
Z > Graphics > 10 principles poster > Illustrations High Res
TP 1 radio/phono combination, 1959, by Dieter Rams for Braun

Good design is innovative

The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Z > Graphics > 10 principles poster > Illustrations High Res
MPZ 21 multipress citrus juicer, 1972, by Dieter Rams and Jürgen Greubel for Braun

Good design makes a product useful

A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasises the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Z > Graphics > 10 principles poster > Illustrations High Res
RT 20 tischsuper radio, 1961, by Dieter Rams for Braun

Good design is aesthetic

The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products we use every day affect our person and our well-being. But only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Z > Graphics > 10 principles poster > Illustrations High Res
T 1000 world receiver, 1963, by Dieter Rams for Braun

Good design makes a product understandable

It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product talk. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Z > Graphics > 10 principles poster > Illustrations High Res
Cylindric T 2 lighter, 1968, by Dieter Rams for Braun

Good design is unobtrusive

Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

Z > Graphics > 10 principles poster > Illustrations High Res
L 450 flat loudspeaker, TG 60 reel-to-reel tape recorder and TS 45 control unit, 1962-64, by Dieter Rams for Braun

Good design is honest

It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

620 chair for 10 principles
620 Chair Programme, 1962, by Dieter Rams for Vitsœ

Good design is long-lasting

It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

Z > Graphics > 10 principles poster > Illustrations High Res
ET 66 calculator, 1987, by Dietrich Lubs for Braun

Good design is thorough down to the last detail

Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the user.

10 principles > 606
606 Universal Shelving System, 1960, by Dieter Rams for Vitsœ

Good design is environmentally-friendly

Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

10 principles L 2
L 2 speaker, 1958, by Dieter Rams for Braun

Good design is as little design as possible

Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.

Back to purity, back to simplicity.


Read more>


45 Inspiring Design Agency Websites

6 Sep



Solid Giant














Mooze Design


Bearded Studio


Worry Free Labs


Creative Mash


Baker Associates








Read more>

HBO True Blood: Immortalize Yourself App

17 Jun

HBO have launched their latest digital campaign for season 4 of True Blood, creating a Facebook app called “Immortalize Yourself” that plays out a unique, customised video featuring you and your friends… You can choose who features in it, or let it pick randomly from your profile…

If you are a huge fan, this is pretty cool, but isn’t unique by any means, and I think we could all find a few recent campaigns that have used this Facebook Connect functionality to create a bespoke video on the fly. So the question I have for you, is does that matter?


10 Online Resources for Free, Legal Music

8 Feb

Free stuff. Those two words are enough to make one kick up one’s proverbial heels and dance out of pure, plasma-searing joy. And when that free stuff comes in the form of tunes, well, then the dancing becomes quite literal.



1). MySpoonful

San Francisco-based startup MySpoonful just launched recently, touting itself as “Daily Candy for Indie Music.” Three times a week, the startup chooses a new artist, writes up a bio for the band in question and sends users a free MP3 for download.

It’s like having that dude at the record store who always knows about the newest freak folk band in your mailbox — without all the “I can’t believe you’ve never heard of these guys!” finger-wagging.


RCRD LBL aims to be the modern version of MTV’s 120 Minutes, a show that specialized in new, alternative music.

It’s a curated site that launched as a joint venture between Downtown Music LLC (Gnarls Barkley, Cold War Kids, Santigold), and Peter Rojas (Engadget, Gizmodo, Weblogs, Inc.), featuring music that the editors think is catching on/will be catching on soon.

The editorial team curates between five to seven MP3s daily, and users can get jams sent to their inboxes via a daily newsletter as well. Unlike sites such as Pitchfork, which condemn or commend new tunes, RCRD LBL only shares music that the staff likes. We can’t guarantee all these tunes will be to your tastes, but considering the site was an early adopter of the likes of Kid Cudi and Passion Pit, we think signing to this label seems prudent.

3). Insound

Do you enjoy the smooth, plasticine feeling of vinyl in your mits? Well, online record (yes, real records) store InSound has you covered when it comes to that — and the less tangible MP3 as well.

Every month, InSound sends out a downloadable, digital mixtape packed with artists both known and up-and-coming — each one has between 10 and 20 songs. The store has also just started sending out a vinyl newsletter mixtape, which features tracks from new vinyl releases (this comes out every other Thursday). The site also has a dedicated free MP3 section.

Think of Insound’s fare as your own, personal listening booth — that you can take with you.

4). The Downplayer

The Internet is crawling with free MP3s — however, unless you’re a musician in between tours without anything to do all day — it can be hard to track them down. Well, let The Downplayer be that idle band member for you.

The Downplayer is a website that is updated daily (sans weekends and holidays) with 10 new MP3s per day. Add it to your bookmarks and reap the benefits of new jams every dreary day of the work week.

5). Free Music Archive

You know that friend who always knows what’s going down in the reggae scene — and only the reggae scene? It’s cool that he’s so into reggae — if not a tad hilarious, considering he’s from Mount Carroll, Illinois — and he always has good recommendations when it comes to that space, but he’s not good for much else.

Well, imagine having a ton of musically inclined friends with a wide array of eclectic tastes, all down to make you a mixtape. That’s kind of what’s it’s like visiting the Free Music Archive. The Archive is populated by an array of Curators — indie radio stations, venues, art organizations, record labels etc — who all contribute content like original recordings (some of which they have produced), jams from Creative Commons and more.

So if you’re really itching to hear song tunes from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum or a live performance by Suuns — or even some reggae — the FMA is for you.

6). mFlow

mFlow, by its own description, is “Twitter meets iTunes,” in that it allows users to both share and buy music. In essence, it’s a music discovery service/social network.

Create a free account on mFlow, connect it to your social networks, and start searching for music. When you find something you like, you can “Flow” it (share it to your social networks) — and the first 10 songs you Flow you can download for free. You can also buy tracks.

The coolest part of this service, however, is the rewards you can reap for flowing/recommending jams. If a friend buys a song you share, you get credit for future purchases. In short: Sometimes it pays to be an overbearing music snob.

Sadly, the site is not fully available in the U.S. yet — you can still listen to Flows and download your 10 free tracks, but you can’t buy music. mFlow, however, has plans to become fully available in the U.S. toward the end of 2011.

7). is based on the premise that pirating music is a common occurrence — one that yields no benefit for musicians when it comes to publicity. To solve that quandary, has come up with an alternative method of free music sharing.

Basically, artists can upload their music to, which users can then download for free. However, that song doesn’t just end up in the black void of a user’s iTunes library — since one is prompted to connect to via Facebook, the song is also automatically shared to the user’s Facebook wall, where it can be listened to as a stream by friends.

8). SoundCloud

A frontrunner (in my opinion) in the race to replace MySpace, SoundCloud is a site where bands can share music and interact with fans. Although not all music on the site is free — some is merely streaming — bands often offer singles for download.

You can also follow your favorite bands and keep up with their doings via your Dashboard, and join groups dedicated to various kinds of jams. This is a much more active experience than some of the previous services, but diehard fans and those looking to discover new bands should definitely considering deferring to SoundCloud when MySpace goes up on the block.

9). OverClocked Remix

Do you dig the stylings of such bands as Anamanaguchi (they scored Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game)? Well, then, you’ll love OverClocked Remix, a site dedicated to pumping out free remixes of video game music themes.

From The Goonies to Donkey Kong, artists pay tribute to game music, submit their jams, and the site releases those songs to the general public, free of charge.

Finally, something to listen to whilst playing Grand Theft Auto — besides the radio.


Love the free MP3s available on music blogs, but too lazy to actually read said music blogs (or maybe you can’t read, either/or)? Well, there’s always, a chrome plugin that allows you to scrape MP3s from music blogs and create playlists from that sweet, sweet residue. Just surf from blog to blog to capture the embedded tunes.

It’s important to note that the service does not actually download the MP3s it gathers — you can only stream them online. Still, it does provide a handy playlist of available songs on any given blog (not all are downloadable, however — some are just for streaming purposes) that you can then go in and nab.


Sometimes, bands choose to bestow upon us — Saint Nick-like — free downloads of their various and sundry jams. Girl Talk released his most recent disc, All Day, for free, and Trent Reznor released a preview of his The Social Network soundtrack sans fees as well.

Rock band Everest recently decided to give away music in a rather interesting way — as series of 20 or so downloadable MP3s of concerts called “The Bootleg Series.”

Jason Soda, guitarist and keyboardist for Everest, says, “For so many years people were always trying to find our music for free — illegally. [But we realized] the music industry is in such a weird state that you’re lucky that you can get people to listen to your music.”

Fans apparently appreciate the band’s willingness to share their music online — especially shows that the fans themselves have attended. “People go crazy, they want to be a part of something,” Soda says. “It’s like a makeout session with a thousand people.”

Image courtesy of Flickr/Sean Rogers/Charlie White