User Experience

Fi Reimagines What Airline Websites Could Be.

You would think that by now, airline and travel websites would have moved beyond their current state. The reality is that most travel and airline websites are pretty ugly, not that easy to use, and are poorly designed. They look, feel, and act much the way they did 10 years ago, and it’s kind of a drag. If I am going to fork over a few hundred dollars to book a flight, I want it to be the best damn online experience I can get.

Fi has built a prototype called “The Future of Airline Websites”. The full case study is here, and the video below gives you a nice visual walk through.  Flat clean design, combined with rich data, and strong visuals point the way for what travel sites could look and feel like in the future. Hopefully this will come to fruition in the near future, with one of the major airlines or travel sites buying into the concept.

Volkside’s Very Useful Wirify Web Page Analysis Tool.

When I design interactive applications or websites, I tend to look at a ton of stuff before I begin to get inspiration, and to analyze things like site structure and flow. I am a big proponent of not reinventing the wheel. If someone has done something you like, use it to your advantage. I’m not saying ripoff their design, or plagiarise their work, but instead look at what they have done, and use that inspiration to help you create your project.

Today I discovered a new tool to help me understand things like page structure and layout. The tool is Wirify from Volkside.  Wirify is a bookmarklet that lets you turn any web page into a wire-frame in one click. It’s lightweight and works in pretty much all modern browsers.  It’s easy to use Wirify. Simply drag the link with the green arrow on Wirify’s page to your Bookmarks toolbar. When you find a page you want to see in wire-frame mode, click the bookmarklet in your tool bar.

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So, Why would you want to use Wirify?

Well there are bunch of reasons.

First: Wirify lets you strip away all the visual clutter and see the big picture, the underlying frame-work of the visual page structure. By tuning out the detail it lets you study the building blocks of the page and their relationships.

Second: The wireframe becomes a very useful redesign tool that helps prevent you from getting bogged down in visual clutter and detail in the very early stage of a website redesign project.

Third: Using the wire-frame is a great learning and teaching tool. Many of the design concepts that structure page layouts become easier to identify and analyze in a wire-frame. Think about things like visual hierarchy, whitespace, symmetry, chunking, grid systems, golden ratio, etc.

Best Buy, You, and Mobile.

At the recent Retail Innovation and Marketing Conference, Tracy Benson from Best Buy had participants perform an interesting exercise. She asked members of the audience to exchange their mobile phone with the person sitting next to them, and then she asked the audience to exchange them again. After quite  bit of hesitation the audience obliged and members of the crowd found themselves holding a different mobile phone.

The purpose of the exercise was to point out to people in the audience the overwhelming importance of mobile technology, and how it is becoming the most important brand/product touch point for many companies these days. A thought that wasn’t really possibly as little as ten years ago. What is important is the fact that the world is converging, and devices like your phone, your TV, and possibly your iPad or other tablet computer will become more and more important to your brand image and marketing strategy  as this decade moves forward.

The link below is to a video on YouTube that Benson show cased at the conference. It is a presentation about the value of mobile – not only on Best Buy’s employees, but also on the company. Some of the more interesting points made by Best Buy employees for me are when you hear individuals talking about having a browser on your TV, or the entire Best Buy catalog in an augmented reality mobile application that extends the shopping experience for the customer. Like Macy’s iPhone application, Best Buy is pushing the boundaries of what mobile can do, by directing targeted information to your phone based on your physical location and shopping habits.

I love this stuff. It opens the doors to a whole new world of interactive design   possibilities, and the best part is, it makes for a better experience for you the customer/end-user.

The video  link below is about 4 minutes long but worth watching

Adding to What I Posted Earlier About Social Media…

Earlier today I posted on how social media, and shared experiences are where consumers are connecting to brands on a daily basis. This is not really news to  allot of people in the advertising industry, but this goes on to reiterate the “experiences” point: In his most recent Ad Age Post Garrick Schmitt talks about what “User Experience Professionals” have been preaching for the last 15 years or so: experiences, or shared experiences, not messages are what brands should focus on.

An example he points out is, “65% of United States consumers report that a digital experience changed their perception about a specific brand (either positively or negatively) and 97% of that group report that the same experience ultimately influenced whether or not they went on to purchase a product from that specific brand”.

So what does that mean?, It means experience matters. It matters allot.

Schmitt goes on to mention Red Bull, Virgin America,  and Guinness as great examples of brands that have spent their money in creating a qualitative difference in people’s lives. A difference  that ultimately makes a bigger impact than traditional expensive advertising messages.

This is sort of a “Duh,” moment for me, but then again I have been saying for a few years now if you want to reach a broader audience, then you need to touch them on a more personal level (minds out of the gutter please). This means creating an experience that resonates with them, is memorable, and builds a personal loyalty to your brand. You need to create an experience that is reflected in their personal lifestyle, and is shared across multiple media channels. All of which are connected through a common user experience or voice.

The bottomline is this, it comes down to creating acts (not ads) that are based on people and their behavior. You need to define a human purpose for the brand, something that allows people to participate, and in so doing, makes the brand popular. Being able to plan and create for experiences both functional and emotional is the key to brand success.