You read A List Apart without me having to remind you to, right? Nevertheless, I thought this customer services post called Designing for Services Beyond the Screen was really excellent. How can you take the lessons from this article and apply them to your site?
Wow, talk about going mainstream. Ms. Magazine is getting into the fray on the topic of the miserable representation of women in gaming. Actually, About Half of Gamers are Women. It’s a good summary of the topic if you haven’t paid much attention before.
July 1 will be the end of Google Reader. Are you prepared? I’ve been using Netvibes after trying it out along with Feedly for a week long trial period. Netvibes won. Here’s a list of 12 alternatives to Google Reader. Just a reminder that there are links in the sidebar so that you can subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog using what ever reader you love the most.
Is it just me, or does it seem that now that Steve Jobs is gone the Apple fanboys (and fangirls, may I add) feel free to poke jabs and complaints at Apple for various decisions regarding new products? It’s as if they are challenging Tim Cook to earn their affections all over again regardless of the quality of the products. The tweets during the recent announcements about iOS7 were often critical and bitchy – where has the unquestioned glowing enthusiasm gone? Was it all about Steve Jobs and not about Apple technology at all?
Think about cultural icons. You know, things like The Statue of Liberty or movie lines like “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” Think about Apple products. Think about Facebook.
That’s right. I said Facebook.
How can I think Facebook is iconic? Because it’s now become a symbol. I don’t mean a symbol on the stock exchange. I’m talking about a symbol of a way of life, of a generation, of a movement. And here’s proof in the form of Katy Perry’s latest video.
Facebook is no longer just a social media site. It’s now a way of communicating something about life and art that transcends social media. In other words, a cultural icon. If Andy Warhol were here, he would paint Facebook.
So what does it take to become iconic? Here are Virginia’s rules on becoming iconic.
1. Everybody has to Know about Whatever IT Is
Everybody knows about Facebook. Even if they don’t use it. In the U.S.A. about 59% of the online population uses it. The rest of the people just listen to endless news reports about it.
What is something everyone know about that you consider iconic?
2. Everybody has to Value Whatever IT Stands For
Everybody knows about The Statue of Liberty, too. But it’s more that just knowing about it. It stands for something important.
The Statue of Liberty = freedom. The Land of the Free. That’s what we are and we have Lady Liberty to remind you. You love freedom, right? Me, too. I scream, you scream, we all scream for freedom. We all feel a thrill when we see Lady Liberty standing in New York Harbor. We all recognize her image as she lifts her light. Why? Because we all value freedom.
Freedom is so important we are willing to die for it. The things that symbolize freedom – be they statues, flags, slogans or images – stand for those things we cherish and value. They are iconic.
What iconic symbol stands for something you value?
3. You Have to Love IT Every Single Time
Every time you watch “Casablanca” you love it, right? You can throw out lines like, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” in appropriate spots and everybody knows what you are referring to because they all loved “Casablanca” too.
It bears rewatching. You never get tired of it. You’ll go out at midnight to see it on the big screen. It’s a cultural touchstone. It’s iconic.
What iconic bit of culture do you love every single time?
4. IT Can Excite and Thrill
Just looking at it, touching it, using it, has to be exciting. Has to thrill you and make you feel cool and powerful and fabulous. I’m thinking of Apple’s product line here: everything from the first aqua iMac to the minimalist interface of the iPod to the sleek and brilliant iPad. This rule applies to anything extraordinarily beautiful as well as to anything that works effortlessly and beautifully.
It’s so cool to carry or wear or be around that you are cool too. We all agree on this. We bestow coolness on you because you are smart enough to have this iconic thing beside you.
What beautifully designed and thrilling thing do you consider iconic?
5. Stories Are the Road to Iconic
We love stories. We tell stories to each other, we read stories, we follow stories on TV, we watch stories in the theater. We get personally attached and involved with the stories we love. We’re passionate about our stories, our characters. I think having a great story helps make the ordinary iconic. So many of our icons came from stories. The emotional connection comes from the story, from the idea, not from the thing.
If you set out to create something that everyone would know about and love and enjoy time and again, how would you do it? How would you create something iconic that would endure through generations and across cultures? Would you start with a good story?
I think you’d have to have a good story. That’s my step one.
Google+ made some changes and upgrades last week and I thought it was time to take a second at this site, both to see what’s new and to discuss helpful features. Google announced the changes on the Google blog in Toward a Simpler, More Beautiful Google.
If you are familiar with Google+, you can see from the image the look has changed to something sleek and minamalist. Google describes it as “more functional and flexible.” Google touts the new navigation, saying,
You can drag apps up or down to create the order you want
You can hover over certain apps to reveal a set of quick actions
You can show or hide apps by moving them in and out of “More”
A few of the other changes (you can get the full list in this video) are easier ways to join conversations, ways to track activity around conversations you’re following, and a page just for Hangouts. Some of the menu items pop out for more precise options, such as the Photo menu.
After several months using Google+ it remains way down on the list of social networks I check regularly. Perhaps I’m not following enough people to get the value I was hoping for from it, but I don’t find it especially important – yet. I think the Hangouts feature is terrific, but people I’d like to share a Hangout with (for example, my book discussion group) are not all on Google+.
Even so, I’ve learned some tricks that help me get the most from Google+. They seem almost secret, because they are a bit hidden. If you take a second look at the site now to check out the new look, perhaps these tips will help you get more out of Google+.
The first almost-secret is circle volume control. It’s a bit tricky to find.
Start in your stream with the Home button. Then pull down the More menu and select a circle. I picked my circle called BlogHers. That will bring posts from BlogHers to the top of my stream. And, it brings up a volume control slider to the right of the page.
Use the slider to determine the amount of volume as a percentage of your total stream you want to see from the chosen Circle. I find this really helpful. I recently added a circle called Women Who Work in STEM, and, wow, those women are talkative! I can turn the volume down on those posts, while getting more volume from my BlogHer circle.
The second almost-secret is Sparks. A Spark is basically a saved search. I searched on the keywords “web design.” You see the results immediately, of course, but when the results appear, a button to “Save This Search” also appears. Click it and your search is saved.
I saved another search, too. This one was for “social media.” Now, when I’m on the Home page looking at my stream, I can find both those searches in the More menu and check for new search results anytime.
As with any change, reactions to new design are mixed. It’s interesting to use Google+ to search for “Google+ redesign” and see the mixed reactions. My personal reaction is, “Oh, Google+ changed.” What’s your response?
Honestly, I’m more excited about using features that were there all the time like the Volume Control and Saved Search. The new design is just “Okay. Thanks for letting me know.”
Editor’s Note: All screen captures from Google+ by Virginia DeBolt. Cross-posted at BlogHer.