Archive for the ‘user experience’ tag
In a recent essay in UX Magazine, Andrew Turrell, User Experience Director at Lunch.com, argues that the news feed format, those short bursts of syndicated information from Facebook, Twitter, friends, and media outlets, is becoming a kind of universal currency of digital experience. He writes: “As users consume more and more information on personal aggregation websites and on mobile devices, all content providers must evolve to meet these new user expectations and browsing styles, and come to think of the news feed as the default model for presenting digital content.”
I agree with Turrell’s premise, but I think he doesn’t go far enough in spotting the incredible convergence of social and personal “news” with old-school news outlets. For example, someone using Tweet Deck may in the same blush read a feed item from The New York Times about the recession and another item from Aunt Zelda about her cat, and that same user may turn around and comment on both. With the news feed model, Friend News from “content provider” Aunt Zelda and News News from “content provider” New York Times are both vying for your attention within the same interface and the same presentation format. And when you have friends sharing News News as well, it all starts to converge into one universal social and digital experience. It’s no wonder that Facebook uses a little Newspaper icon next to the news feed, and it’s no secret that social news has eroded older patterns of news cycles and news consumption.
Why has the news feed become so central to our everyday lives? Turrell is surely right that the small space format is perfect for the always-on mobile channel. Social and mobile are made for each other. But the other incredible power of the news feeds is the way that they enable sharing of all media forms. News feed items offer a bite-size package that can reveal movies, slideshows, music, and other articles while sparking multiple conversation streams and user actions. With the ability to expand a news item and view its attached media content inline, the humble news feed has incredible communication power behind it.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the news feed for how brands operate. Here are just a few implications:
- Every user is potentially a “reporter” and an advocate for your brand with their own set of friends and followers. They’ll decide what, when, and how to share parts of your story in their feeds.
- Brands aren’t locked into situations where news “breaks” in the mainstream press and then circulates among consumers. It can easily break in social news streams and then find its way into media outlets, who republish it in their own news feeds.
- Since it’s now mainstream for consumers to have their own mini-media audiences in the form of their friends and followers, they are actively looking for interesting media to share that can help them spark conversation.
- Because shared feed items flow into users’ personal space, they often succeed by striking the right conversational tone, with news written and designed not just for personal consumption but to be bantered about in a social setting.
What do you think? Are any of these ideas news to you?
Some agencies steeped in decades of mainstream media may be locked in to a mode of thought in which they see their primary “product” as making ads. Of course, we all know what ads are, but I can’t resist a penchant for defining things, so here goes: It’s a compelling, memorable mini-experience in audio, print, or interactive form that interrupts the channel you’re engaged with, influences your perception, and motivates you to take action. The only people who think of ads as “products” are the people who create them (agencies) and the people who work with agencies to create them (clients).
But with the digital disruption underway and still in its infancy, agencies are starting to move beyond thinking of ads as products, and shifting to the idea that digital and social media products, and the user experiences they offer, represent a new form of embedded self advertising. Some examples:
- The Kindle, with its built-in Whispernet connection, provides a great e-book reading experience, but also contains within it an always-on “advertising” and sales channel right back to Amazon’s entire inventory of e-books (725,000+ and growing).
- The iPhone contains an incredible ad for its own App marketplace.
- Adwords and adsense are deeply embedded into Google’s search product, in which search is advertising and advertising is search.
- Facebook understands that your social network and the recommendations and actions of that network are a dramatic new form of advertising customized by your social connections.
Since these devices contain embedded marketplaces and storefronts, they need not interrupt the channel experience. Today’s great products approach design and technology with the understanding that a great user experience advertises itself and sells itself.
Some core skills of great agencies are well-suited to this new landscape: incredible creativity, layered storytelling, deep understanding of design, strategic capabilities, and brand-building chops. But a focus on interruptions rather than destinations, and a focus on external third-party channels rather than ones baked right into product and platform experiences, can be an Achilles’ heel.
The self-advertising that product thinking represents requires new approaches that put the user’s experience of utility and value first. The experience can support users and enable them to opt in to embedded purchase decisions at their own pace. The experience itself needs to be designed with acquisition, ongoing engagement, and retention in mind. Today’s best digital devices and Web-based products and platforms represent an always-on channel. This mode of “advertising” has the longest shelf life possible: It lasts as long as people remain engaged with the experience itself.