A few weeks ago, I received one of those rare opportunities to write for a new publication. Granted, publications—and websites in particular—come and go. But I’ve been following Medium for a little while and I was honored to be asked to participate.
Started by Ev Williams, one of the founders of Blogger, and Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, Medium aims to provide a range of new and diverse ideas through a website where writing and reading are the primary activities. At the present, there are no ads, no social media functionality (though you do need a Twitter account to sign in, naturally), and no comments. The clean interface, designed for legibility and usability, makes the consumption of the website a joy.
Ev Williams writes in his introduction:
Medium is based on the belief that the sharing of ideas and experiences is what moves humanity forward. The Internet is the greatest idea-sharing tool ever imagined, but we’ve only scratched the surface of what it’s capable of.
Thus far, I have written a few pieces (you can find my bald head in a circle here), including What Not to Do to Medium, which goes into why I think Medium should change—but only slightly, at least at first. I also write a piece called There Goes the Ecosystem, about the use of ecological terms to describe desiccated technologies, and and a piece on iTunes 11 that stayed on Medium’s front page for about 28 hours.
Take a look around. These are the best of times for content on the web. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
With the massive growth of social media over the past few years, email newsletters have been getting little to no attention as a marketing and communications tool.
It’s pretty clear why:
- Email newsletters are not sexy
- The newsletter concept is old, reaching as far back as pamphleteers during the U.S. Revolutionary War
- Email is old; the first emails as we know them were sent in 1982, when I was in high school
- HTML emails are very hard to code; Microsoft, in its infinite wisdom, has refused to support email standards
The reality is that email newsletters are powerful, motivating, and highly useful vehicles for all kinds of communications. For all of the exact reasons above, e-newsletters work:
- People read them because they have opted in; it’s a marriage not an illicit affair
- The concept of the pamphlet has legs—almost 300 years of leg history
- Email is not going away, despite the gnashing of teeth among prognosticators
- Like basic website templates, basic e-newsletters have become WYSIWYG (and pre-tested) in many instances
From a client perspective, an email newsletter provides tremendous control over content, timing, delivery, design, and audience. For very little ongoing cost and a small upfront investment in design and development, an email newsletter provides clients with rich data about their subscribers. This cannot be said of websites; despite Google Analytics’ recent addition of its real time reports, allowing you to see how many people are visiting a given page at that very moment, the data is not easily actionable. Facebook’s business page analytical tools undoubtedly useful but one still needs to get visitors there in the first place.
It strikes me that email newsletters perform three business functions very well and simultaneously. They communicate a message or set of messages, they motivate decisions or spur action, and they provide rich sets of data on subscriber behavior.
Emails newsletters may be the ugly stepsister or stepbrother of shiny social media. But they provide a valuable and too often overlooked vehicle. Every client that uses their email newsletters on a regularly basis also regularly loves them.
On Friday, July 6, 2012, we relaunched manoverboard.com. The site itself is not entirely new. It’s still responsive so that it provides optimal viewing and reading pleasure (e.g. legibility) on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. It still features a portfolio of some (but, seriously, not all) of our best work. And the site has the same basic DNA: a slider on the homepage, a set of various projects below, and a structured About section that, hopefully, is interesting.
What’s new, then? We’ve rebranded. No longer are we using DIN 1451 EngSchrift for our logotype. I always had a love-hate relationship with DIN; now, I no longer have to deal with that small psychic wound. Instead, we’ve got a whole new set of type systems, marks, palettes, signatures, and visual elements—some drawing on recent trends like noise (which I’ve always loved) and some building upon work that I’ve done for years such as strong grids, large type, and clear language.
I have more to say about the site but, for now, I’m happy to see it live. Many thanks to Dan and Michael for all of their hard work and for dealing with control-freak tactics accompanied by endless delays due to excessive perfectionist tendencies.
I almost forgot. I had the distinct pleasure of being a judge for the 2012 JUNO Awards in the category of Recording Package of the Year. (The JUNOs are arguably the most important music awards given to recording artists in Canada.)
The process was delightful: I was sent about 15 albums and asked to judge the albums on the merit of their cover and packaging artwork. I spent hours and hours pouring over the imagery, type treatments, color, and materials of each album. Oh, and I listened to each record at least three times. I voted for what I believed represented the very best of commercial Canadian music packaging, at least from the selection of what I had been provided. The difficult part was ensuring that the pieces selected not only represented great packaging and good design but that the object itself inhered the character and sensibility of the music it housed.
A few weeks ago, I gave a sold-out talk about Responsive Web Design for New Media Manitoba and how recent developments provide unprecedented opportunities to deliver online content.
The Boston Globe vs The (current) New York Times as seen at various break points using RWD
Responsive Web Design (or RWD) is a technique and methodology for both creating and implementing websites that takes into consideration the presentation of the site’s interface on a given browser and device.
Ideally, from a design and development standpoint, it means we design a website once and let it work everywhere. From a client’s perspective, it means we design one website and let it perform legibly and usefully for all customers. And for customers, it means a better experience of a given website or web application; no mobile apps, no m-dot insanity (e.g. http://m.cnn.com), and fewer performance issues.
I figured I’d pull out a few key points of the talk that were salient.
- In the bad old days of the web, we were handcuffed by large and energy-inefficient monitors, low bandwidth, browser manufacturers with no standards or scruples, massive QA departments, and static sizing. More unhappily, sites couldn’t scale written or visual content and they were built with spacer gifs, Band-Aid®’s, and either Flash- or image-based static content. No more.
- Reading and using the web on mobile devices (both smartphones and tablets) is accelerating even faster than we could have expected. A majority of young people in the US have smartphones. And soon the majority of people will be accessing the web via mobile devices.
- The W3C, though criticized often, should be given much credit to instituting and helping to implement more robust media queries in CSS3. Without media queries telling the plethora of new devices how to display a website, we would only have flexible websites which we’ve had, well, forever.
- Planning is important. A responsive website requires additional time and thought and consideration. You’re designing for everybody—including folks on tiny mobile screens. (Luke Wrobleski’s Mobile First is a critical read here. Read it. I disagree that designing for mobile-out is an always-already requirement but you can’t beat Luke’s logic.)
- The only two reigning examples of RWD are The Boston Globe and Smashing Magazine. These sites feature tremendous amounts of content of various kinds, sizes and formats and they display that content beautifully and elegantly on nearly every device: high definition or wide desktop, desktop, tablet, and smartphone. These sites also use web type with care and they present a consistent and clear reading model no matter how or where they are being displayed. These sites set the stage for all future sites.
- Jeremy Keith writes: “So the web, I consider to be: resources (mostly HTML) delivered over HTTP, addressable at URLs. HTML, HTTP, URLs. That’s the web.” This should be on the reverse of every designer’s business card.”
Many thanks to New Media Manitoba for having me present about RWD. I’m open to any all corrections and feedback.
May 16, 2012 by Andrew Boardman
I’m honored to be giving a presentation early next week on the advent of the responsive web at New Media Manitoba. The talk, called Responsive Web Design: Toward is an odd name but that didn’t stop it from apparently being sold out. My goal is to provide a strong overview of how RWD works, from which planet it came, and it can be responsibly deployed.