n. a flash of real emotion glimpsed in someone sitting across the room, idly locked in the middle of some group conversation, their eyes glinting with vulnerability or quiet anticipation or cosmic boredom—as if you could see backstage through a gap in the curtains, watching stagehands holding their ropes at the ready, actors in costume mouthing their lines, fragments of bizarre sets waiting for some other production.
Site visitors and app users come for the content. Of course, the information architecture (IA) and the site search must make that content easy to find. The design must be attractive and usable. The technology must work. But IA, search, design, and technology are all there to support the content that people come for: the words and images that make up the conversations between your visitors and your site or app.
“Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products, we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”—Jonathan Ive, from the book, Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson)
When designing a website, it’s easy to assume that everybody is like you. However, this leads to a strong bias and often ends in an inefficient design.
You evidently know a lot about your services and your website; you’re passionate about them. Your users, on the other hand, are likely to not care that much. They have different attitudes and goals, and just want to get things done on your website.
To avoid this bias, you need to learn about your users, involve them in the design process, and interact with them.
Between twitter, tumblr and the whole wide blogosphere, the Holstee Manifesto has been posted over 100,000 times. This Manifesto is one of the first things we created after quitting our jobs to start Holstee. It continues to be a reminder of what is important in life.
The PrintWe made our manifesto in a typographic print designed by artist, Rachael Beresh, on an old school mid 20th century Heidelberg letterpress machine.
n. the point when you become older than your parents were when you were born, which signals that your leg of the relay race has already begun, having coasted in their slipstream as they tackled the mountain stages of life, leaving you strong, energetic and deeply mortified by their loud yellow jerseys.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”—Steve Jobs | http://the99percent.com/articles/7074/Vision-Without-Obstruction-What-We-Learn-From-Steve-Jobs
n. a kind of melacholic trance in which you become completely absorbed in vivid sensory details—raindrops skittering down a window, tall trees leaning in the wind, clouds of cream swirling in your coffee—which leads to a dawning awareness of the haunting fragility of life, a mood whose only known cure is the vuvuzela.
In his blog post on the rise of the connected customer, Brian Solis makes the good point that “empathy is the shared connection between you and your customers” and is even the factor that bridges customers to their peers. This isn’t the only good point he makes. He writes a detailed and beautifully-woven set of arguments for earning customers’ trust, learning their ways, and giving them what they want. Most importantly, he warns us not to assume customers need you more than you need them.
Much of what Brian has to say isn’t new. I’ve read an array of arguments for community building, good listening and customer-centered actions recently. Most of them have in common what Brian told us above—empathy is key.
Seems as though we should be trying to understand empathy and much as we are trying to understand our customers, audience, and users. But if empathy is truly the ability to understand and share the feelings of another (Oxford Dictionary), are we setting ourselves up for disappointment in assuming that all individuals and businesses looking to make a buck can practice it? I ask: should our ability to have empathy be taken for granted?
I’m not picking on Brian Solis or anyone else in particular. But I do wonder whether our language should change from “leveraging” our social connections, “helping others help us,” and how to “turn” customers into a tool for our success. Perhaps my stance is reminiscent of something Viviana Zelizer would classify as a typical and romanticized boundary between money and relationships. After all, even one of my all-time favorite home business gurus, Ashley Ambridge of The Middle Finger Project (not to mention the folks on CopyBlogger) proudly says there’s nothing wrong with trying to make a buck for a thing well done. Especially if it helps others.
Still, what does it mean when we continue to preface our attempts to make money with neatly-phrased disclaimers that we’re still good people for doing it? Is it just a social construct we should, indeed, work against, or is it a social reality that we are trying to subvert by using terms like “empathy” to describe business efforts?
Perhaps semantics are not the issue here. Perhaps we can have deep and productive empathy towards the audiences we need for our financial success. In that case, the question still stands: how do we develop this empathy? And what happens when we can’t understand or share the feelings of others?
“There’s a whispering wind I feel it inside
like a place I can feel but never will see
let a whisper come touch you come touch every thing
I stand in the way of the things I can be”— Moby, “Whispering Wind”
Networks like Behance, where people post decent-to-amazing photos of their work, can really make your .jpg and .pdf portfolio look a little old. You’re not alone. I recently decided to step up from my free wix porfolio and move up the ranks. I made the cheapest and less-elaborate DIY lightbox in the universe (I checked). Here’s how you will spend under $5 and 30 minutes max to take better photos of your work:
What you don’t have to buy:
Cardboard box (recycled from incoming mail)
A sheet of white/black paper for background
2 Heavy-duty paper clips
X-ACTO Knife or scissors
Stuff you need to have/borrow:
Unfortunately, there’s no getting out of this one. Unless you want to use something else to prop up your camera (you don’t have to share with the class).
The point is to make a device that does two brilliant things at once: creates a lovely background for your images and diffuses light so your work doesn’t look like the forehead of a 15 year old.
STEP ONE: Disfigure your cardboard box so that it has openings on either side and optionally the top (depending on what angle you want to photograph from).
STEP TWO: Measure your tissue paper and cut out matching pieces that would go over your cut-out sides (they should be a little bigger to leave room for tape).
STEP THREE: Tape the tissue paper to the sides like below. Shine a light through it. If the light is too harsh, use another layer.
STEP FOUR: Cut a large piece of heavy paper (white/black) to fit the box. Make sure you use a long piece of paper that will not fold down the middle. Tape/clip the paper to the top of your box. Positioning the paper this way imitates professional studio considerations and helps create a uniform background that you don’t have to retouch.
YOU’RE DONE! Position some lights near your screens and shoot. That’s it. Unless, of course, you’re like me, and your box is too small for your work samples.
Adjustments (size matters):
After using the box for a second, I realized it was too small for my needs. All my images included the sides of the box.
SOLUTION: Cut the box and split it in half. Use a wider piece of paper and clip it to each half of your box. No one will ever know.
You will get mostly crisp photos. Here’s an example of one of my portfolio pieces looking like your usual high-brow blurred out image.
I have to admit, the lightbox looked bad and many of my photos needed editing (cause I skipped the tripod stage for the first few pieces) but I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out.