“If you aren’t solving a problem then you aren’t designing.”
“When we try to get ideas out there, we have to understand it’s not just the idea that matters. The marketing, the business, and more have to be designed with just as much detail. It’s our job to figure all these parts of this ecosystem out.”
“If Facebook buying Instagram pissed you off, I have a suggestion. Don’t just stop using Instagram, stop using free social networks and services period. Stop using sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare or Pinterest, because it is a given that they will all inevitably let you down in favor of the bottom line1. More often than not, when you actually quit a service, it’s not because they were evil. It’s just because they either became useless or boring. The reality is that you’re not going to stop using services that are useful to you2. You’re just going to waste time switching from one company to the next until your latest service inevitably falls short or sells out.”— Michael Schechter
“When a thing has to be attempted, one must never think about possibility or impossibility.”
I was in high school when iTunes was first released. I stayed up until 2 am carefully crafting my first playlist from ripped CDs. Tracks were added based on how they fit the mood of the playlist. The last note of each track had to flow into the first note of the next. The finishing touch was a pseudo-poetic title like “as we lay dying”. The next school day I shared my freshly burned playlist with friends. I was overjoyed to find they too had been up all night creating playlists. Sharing with friends was how I found new music. Actually, sharing music was how I made friends. Many joy filled memories from high school are tied to sharing playlists.
“Rdio is bringing the joy back. They have captured that intrinsic characteristic of music which is community.”
While iTunes is a fantastic tool, and still the primary way I acquire music, it does not connect with that joy anymore. For want of a better word, it’s become closed. Music wants to be shared. It wants to be social and part of a community. Apple tried with Ping, but they got it backwards. It focused too much on the artist.
Rdio, in my humble opinion, has made a brilliant move. Their new interface puts greater focus on the human side. They’ve made it simpler to share and discover music with your friends. Rdio is bringing the joy back. They have captured that intrinsic characteristic of music which is community. For me that is the key to Rdio fitting into my life. It replaces Pandora and Pitchfork, not iTunes. I still intend to buy music to support the artist. $5 a month is a bargain for getting the joy of sharing and discovering music back as far as I’m concerned.
“A product is more than an idea, it’s more than a website, and it’s more than a transaction or list of functionalities. A product should provide an experience or service that adds value to someone’s life through fulfilling a need or satisfying a desire. The ultimate question then becomes: who identifies that value? After the executive or stakeholder identifies the initial idea, who in the organization ensures that the product and experience deliver value to the user? Maybe it isn’t the product manager, marketer, technologist, or designer; perhaps what we need is a new role: the product storyteller.”— Sarah Doody
Sarah does an excellent job explaining something I’ve been lobbying for the past year. Products can’t just be the manifestation of a feature list. They tell a story. They engage the user and carry them on a journey. That’s why we need more storytellers at the heart of each product development team. I agree 100% with Sarah that we need a new role to make the most of this idea: Product Storytellers.
“Sometimes 1 pixel makes all the difference in the world.”
“Designers deal in ideas. They give shape to ideas that shape our world, enrich everyday experiences, and improve our lives. Where there’s confusion, designers fashion clarity; where there’s chaos, designers construct order; where there’s entropy, designers promote vitality; where there’s indifference, designers swell passion; where there’s mediocrity, designers imbue excellence; and where there’s silence, designers lend voice.”
“It is not about self expression. It is to make something that looks like it wasn’t really designed at all because it’s inevitable.”
Path 2.0 has become one of my favorite iPhone apps, so much so that it made its way onto my home screen. There is much to love in Path. Every designer I know raves about the design, how it is original yet completely intuitive. I think there is a lesson on design to be learned.
I imagine the Path team started with a vision. Then they probably did the normal market research, use cases, and personas that have become status quo. I don’t doubt this produced a market requirements list which included the need for hyperlinks, importing friends from Facebook, web pages to see everything, and the like. But creators of Path made many bold design decisions and appear to have ignored the list.
You can’t import friends from other social networks. You can can’t add more than 150 friends, or post hyperlinks. While you can send posts out to Facebook & Twitter, you can not do the reverse. When I first encountered these features I admit I thought they were bugs. It did not take long for me to see how theses omissions made Path focused. It’s not where I post a link to yet another academic paper. It’s where I share my daughter ripping apart a pancake with my 5 dearest friends. Focusing the app on a purpose made it clear where it fit in my life.
I think the current state of design, especially when it comes to apps, has become wrapped up in features. We do research to define what users want and need. This produces a list often which then becomes the products identity. It becomes about what the product does, and how what it does fits into the market. The problem is there are so many apps that all do the same thing. It is just white noise.
Claude Debussy said, “Music is the space between the notes.” I think this is a beautiful concept that applies to the design of apps. Without space between notes you have white noise. It’s the space that brings focus to each note. The genius of Path is that it is less defined by what it does, and more by what it doesn’t. Each time they removed a feature they created space and brought greater focus to what remained. In the end it was the removal of features that brought about something new. It’s not Facebook or Twitter. It’s different.
I think this is the lesson for us designers. The days of adding more to make something cool and different have past us. To many apps are just white noise. They lack focus. We need to recognize that removing features is beginning to have more impact than adding them. Giving greater attention to what should be removed ultimately leads to greater focus on what remains. We need to master the art of removing to create something new.