Friday, October 24, 2014

Keeping it real

One common goal for many of those who regularly use digital technologies is the quest for authenticity.

Its an obvious desire to humanise behaviour and capabilities that are largely seen as virtual or distant. But the very concept of authenticity is a tricky one as it is more often than not a value judgement rather than an absolute. 

In another guise, authenticity is often referred to in relation to food, with no particular reference to the users lack of a first hand knowledge of the provenance of a dish or taste.

Even so, we strive for an authentic voice, despite this being for an audience which is largely unknown.

What we are often looking for relates more to believability and engagement rather than a sense of ultimate truth, i.e. does it sound right is the first step on the road to deciding is this for me?.

Social media is the current barometer for much of this discussion as everybody strives to find their voice in a noisy environment. 

In a business context this is why its good to be quite transparent in your online persona rather than hiding behind assumed handles or anonymity.

While it does increase your personal responsibility it also means you are more likely to attract a question or query from a from somebody interested in your content. With most organisation's continuing to view Social Media as sophisticated broadcast tools, they miss the fundamental point. That this is akin to expecting existing and prospective customers to stand outside a building and shout from a distance.

And sharing in your own voice is always going to be more authentic than addressing a multitude of different groups through a single medium.

This is when  authenticity counts. When it is directly inspired by our goal to be an organisation that is social not one that does social.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Look away now

In an unusual bout of consistency - for me anyway - I can now boast that my least favourite work-related question remains the same now as it did a decade ago. The offending query being, "What's the site going to look like".

For "site" read home page and for "look" read look.

This offends me for for two principle reasons. Both of them the same. 

What something looks like must be secondary to what it does/says. Web sites, mobile applications, blogs, social media feeds are designed to be read, watched and listened too, not admired in a slightly detached way.

This is the base problem when being involved in the production of online products - they are seen as primarily aesthetic rather than functional by those who commission them.

Rather than focusing on what what is to be communicated, we tend to obsess about the superfluous and largely redundant imagery, the colour spread and the quota of white space.

The reason users make up their minds about a page in a fraction of the second is because of a single issue - content. Does this page do what I want/need. They do not ponder the challenge, "but does it please me?" The best looking pages are meaningless if they don't provide the answers to the questions in the users mind (and in their search query) and the sites with the most useful/best content tend to win. 

Just look at the continuing success of Craig's List if you remain to be convinced.

Admittedly this is slightly less of an issue than it once was but just for the record, when working on an online project, on a list of five priorities, pure design will always come fifth.