CAT | Design
Last month YouTube (now the second largest global search engine) reached over 1 billion video hits, Vine became the fastest growing social media mobile app, and TED continued its success, with the site reaching 150 million users. These examples, alongside many others, demonstrate that video is fast becoming one of the most popular and effective forms of content across the web. Websites are under increasing pressure to make a first impression within 8 seconds and with an average of only 20% of web page text being read, it is clear that short, social, engaging and interactive content is in high demand. Video’s importance and popularity comes from its ability to embrace these new information consumption patterns.
So who should be using video as part of their communication strategy? The answer is, simply, everyone and anyone. Video is over 400x more engaging than static content and 70% more memorable. This has lead video to become essential for educational and training purposes, as well as B2B and B2C communication. In the B2B sales arena, video is progressively becoming a key informant for decision-makers and, according to a recent webinar on ‘The Future of Corporate Video’, video as a B2B communication technique is set to rise in importance by 77% annually. There are many different types of video content which can be used; for example, animated video infographics have recently increased in popularity as a result of their ability to convey complex information in simple and engaging ways. In terms of the B2C sector, a recent study by Practical Ecommerce, demonstrated that video content can increase online conversion rates by up to 30%. This transition, from viewing video content to making a purchase, has also become increasingly seamless with new website features such as ‘call to attention’ buttons.
Video has also arguable become ‘online marketing’s best kept secret’. Video is a key tool for content marketing and SEO. According to Marketingweek, video results appear in 70% of the top 100 listings when performing an online search and, in a recent study by MarketingSherpa, it was estimated that pages with video are likely to attract 2-3x more monthly visitors. Video is also becoming integral to mobile strategy; according to the Bytemobile Mobile Analytics Report 2012, online video now accounts for 50% of all mobile traffic.
It is clear that video is fast becoming the most important communication tool for a wide range of online businesses. By 2015, it is predicted that video will be the driving force for 90% of web traffic, and in this way companies cannot afford to exclude video from their communications strategies.
Infographics are a great way to capture and keep your audience’s attention whilst effectively displaying the information you want them to see. Plus they look really cool.
Watch our new video to find out more:
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This Christmas will see the 2012 Furby revival. The mechanical fur covered children’s must-have of the late nineties has been revamped and is back for a new generation of children to enjoy. The 2012 re – furbish – ments include LCD screen eyes which are even more disturbing that their slowly blinking predecessors, a more complicated mechanical body for an impressively large array of dance moves and more sensors so it will be even harder to turn off. Furbys remain without an off switch. But the most exciting addition is that the 2012 Furby comes with its own smart phone and tablet app.
You will be able to feed your Furby by virtually flinging food at it via an app – a vast improvement on just putting your finger in its mouth. And at last you can get an app that will translate Furbish. So you can finally understand that “yoo?” means “Why will you not play with me today?” along with the subtext “This usually means the Furby is upset”. This is, of course, only useful if you are too lazy to teach your Furby English.
The return of Furbys may not seem significant and indeed the popularity of the 2012 Furby may prove to be as short lived as its forebearers. But the kind of technology they offer and the uses to which it is employed are unlikely to be a fad.
Smart phone and tablet apps for children are very popular – 75% of parents share their smartphones with their children according to a recent study in the UK. There are thousands of apps specifically designed for children which range from educational games to apps for their favourite Disney character. The combination of an app with a physical – more traditional – toy is the next step in the evolution of children’s entertainment. The simplest way to integrate an app and toy is to create an app that functions as a remote control. For example, you can use your phone or tablet as steering wheel to control toy cars or helicopters. More impressive apps go beyond this, such as the app gun which uses a device’s camera to turn the screen into a view finder; transforming your surroundings into a battle field.
The app enhances the toy and the act of playing with it beyond the physicality of the toy itself and in doing so the app creates an augmented reality. Playing and experimenting is how children learn, so there will inevitably be worries regarding any detrimental effects relating to augmented reality i.e. that children will somehow be unable to function in reality.
Will it confuse children? Will it spoil them? Will it make them lazy? Whether augmented reality and gaming are beneficial to learning is a topic that we discuss regularly in this blog. Augmented reality creates new experiences and new ways to interact with topics and as a result facilitates learning.
Many commentators on news reports favour the ‘in my day we had nothing but imagination’ approach to attacking advances in augmented reality. The danger being that children could be presented with toys so brilliant that they don’t have to use their own imagination to have fun. These commentators forget that augmented reality works with imagination to ignite it not to replace it. Augmented reality involves the suspension of disbelief which requires imagination.
There are augmented reality apps that harness children’s imagination for their own benefit, for example the app that claims to make plasters fun. It aims to take away the fear associated with plasters for the child’s –minimal – health benefit demonstrating the possible constructive applications of this technology.
In 1998, age 8, I had a Furby for Christmas. A year later my sister had a Baby Furby. My main memories of the late nineties Furby craze are children telling horror stories. Terrifying tales of Furbys awakening mysteriously in the middle of the night were swapped around the classroom. Furbys that mysterious moved from across the bedroom through the night. Furbys that kept talking when they had their batteries removed.
Just typing the phrase ‘furbys are’ into google produces the above results indicating my recollections may be part of a wider phenomenon. It is very hard to prevent a child’s imagination from enhancing any toy and I doubt that the toys of the future, including this year’s Furby, will escape any imaginitive improvements.
On 24th August this year Apple won $1.05b in a lawsuit against Samsung for patent infringement. This is just one stage in an ongoing battle between the two companies over intellectual property rights. Samsung challenged the verdict and have recently retaliated by extending their counter claims to include the iPhone 5 . It appears that the war between them is likely to rage on.
What does this mean for us, the consumer? If the situation continues with a constant back and forth of claims and counter claims then we might lose interest because it doesn’t seem to have any direct effect on us. Why should we care if one mutli-billion dollar company has to pay another a billion dollars?
We should care if we want newer designs, more choice and more innovative mobile phones. Here’s why: intellectual property patents, which are the subject of such disputes, are designed to protect ideas. They protect the investments made in the generation of these ideas. New ideas lead to new innovations and as consumers we benefit from new innovations because they provide us with more choice and better products. The Apple/Samsung dispute raises the issue of whether these same intellectual property patents can sometimes stifle creativity and innovation instead of protecting them.
US Judge Richard Prosner recently claimed that the US system of patent protection can be “excessive” and many commentators have questioned the relevancy of intellectual property patents in a digital age due to the incremental nature of technological advances. Some go a step further and claim that through preventing imitation, patents prevent innovation. This is the philosophy of highly popular open source systems which are owned by no-one and freely available. According to this side of the argument patents create barriers to competition and perhaps Steve Jobs would agree having once expressed the sentiment “good artists borrow, great artists steal”.
It is a problem if patents stop acting as incentives for companies to invest in R&D and instead shelter companies from industry competition. Competition is good; it is what drives business forward. Industries develop and grow through companies learning from each other and building on each other, if they don’t – or indeed can’t – do this then progress is slowed and the consumer loses out. However, it has been a long time since phones just phoned and if additional functions are recognised as an industry standard they can be protected by essential patents. These are licensed to competitors on ‘fair and reasonable terms’ in order to prevent barriers to innovation and competition.
But it is the presentation of such functions and their interaction with users that forms focus of recent disputes. Apple’s legal claims against Samsung are focused on physical design, visual design and features such as ‘scroll-down and bounce up’ or ‘tap to zoom’. This is where the other side of the argument surfaces: patents – even if excessive – force companies to invent different approaches to products in order to compete. This type of competition is arguably more valuable because it creates new ideas. Different user interfaces may introduce switching costs to consumers in terms of time spent learning to navigate a new handset and different software complicates app designing, but they do provide the consumer with a real choice between alternative products.
We need to find the best way to protect ideas, promote competition and create incentives for companies to keep producing new, exciting, cutting edge designs. Perhaps patents – at least in their current form – are not the best way to do so. The Apple vs. Samsung case is so complicated that it may never be fully resolved but spending large amounts of money, time and effort in court doesn’t seem the most efficient way to try.
Who can forget Apple’s notorious ‘Get a Mac’ ad campaign? ‘PC’, dressed conservatively in a suit and tie, portrayed as uptight and boring next to a causally dressed ‘Mac’ with a laidback attitude. Having successfully convinced consumers that their products are ‘cool’, Apple have made a fortune by appealing to a demographic of young, style-conscious individuals willing to pay a premium for good design.
But could a backlash against the popular brand be imminent? Recently, three events have occurred that threaten to cause waves throughout the cult of Apple enthusiasts:
Steve Jobs is often credited with Apple’s surge in popularity after his return to the company in 1996. His supporters consider him a charismatic visionary, and the dramatic dip in the value of Apple shares after he announced his leave reveals the extent to which people believe he is key to the success of Apple.
However, the share value has somewhat recovered and recent surveys suggest most Apple customers would remain loyal in spite of the departure of Jobs. Perhaps the fact that he has left twice before and returned both times suggests he will be back. (Indeed, his personal appearance at the unveiling of the iPad 2 in San Francisco last week was a ’surprise’.) Regardless, his health has certainly caused concern among Apple’s investors.
The service caused controversy among publishers due to the 30% commission taken from subscriptions purchased in Apple’s App Store. Coupled with the restriction that media companies may not offer cheaper deals elsewhere, the publishing industry, who until recently hoped Apple could be their saviour, now seem to perceive them as an avaricious threat.
This is not the first time the company’s high prices and inflexible attitude have come under scrutiny. While their products are undeniably high-end and elegant, some critics are sceptical that Apple products warrant such an expensive price tag and believe consumers are simply paying for the brand. Also, many software developers have been irritated by the strict regulations that cause some apps to be blocked from the App Store.
For a long time Apple was seen as the fashionable underdog, but in the same way that bands that become ‘too popular’ are sometimes abandoned by their original advocates, there have been signs for a while now that Apple’s mainstream success could be alienating the very people it targets.
Suicides at Foxconn, underage factory workers, and n-hexane poisoning at Wintek. Media coverage of working conditions at Apple’s Chinese manufacturers has not been favourable. This could be particularly damaging if the left-leaning, socially-aware stereotype of Apple users is to be believed (which, in all fairness, many people believe it shouldn’t). It must not be overlooked that these manufacturers also supply a range of other high-profile tech firms, but perhaps because of these preconceptions, it is Apple that has been the focus of media attention – and it may be that their reputation suffers the most.
With Microsoft embracing the modification of its Xbox Kinect by amateur software developers and Google’s ‘One Pass’ system offering publishers a cheaper and more flexible alternative to Apple’s subscription service, Apple’s rivals are welcoming the opportunity to associate themselves with openness and creativity. By continuing to use their dominant market position to exercise such a high level of control, Apple risks damaging its liberal reputation. The question is: will their transformation into corporate superpower create a backlash from their core customers, making them a victim of their own success?
Creativity’s a funny thing. Not only is it often thought of as an intangible quality that is bestowed on a rare fortunate few , but we are somewhat used to thinking that those rare few work alone, or that they at the very least, call the shots. Creative agencies have people called ‘creatives’, whose job it is to be creative and direct other people who aren’t creative.
Now of course we have partnerships like Lennon and McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel, Morecambe and Wise, Adam and Joe, examples of people who were on the same wavelength to such an extent that they can produce things which are wonderfully more than the sum of their parts.
But lately I’ve got thinking that creativity itself is starting to take a different turn. Permit me to take you on a tangential dive into one of my pet loves.
Those who know me will know that I go on about gaming a lot. Too much, perhaps. And not in a l33t speak, last-weekend-I-played-CoDMW2-til-my-eyes-bled kind of way, but in a way which acknowledges that gaming’s move into mainstream is an event of real cultural significance, and that entertainment and art may never be the same again.
I have also been, for some time, fairly convinced of the analogy between a game having a designer and a novel having a writer – great novels can be crafted into works of art because often they are written by people with singular visions, who have control over every line, word and punctuation point (to a degree – I realise this is a somewhat naive conception of the contemporary publishing world, at least).
As gaming and the means by which to create games became popularised over the last, say, 20 years, it has become more and more possible for the creators of computer games to exhibit an analogous level of control over their creations. Picture lone programmer/designers, hunched over their machines in the late hours, just as the penniless artist might at their desk furiously scribbling / painting / typing when in the throes of an idea on a dark night, until everything is Just. Right. I believed that if the trend continued, you would eventually get games which were just as honed, just as artful, as great novels.
However, having worked at a digital agency for some time now, it hit me the other day that that vision is unlikely to be the future, for computer games. I’m not discounting the possibility that single individuals can produce captivating gaming experiences; people like Jason Rohrer and Daniel Benmergui. But the thing about games is that they can be so complex and so full of variables, and require so many different skills, that actually the creativity you need to produce a great game is of a very different kind. Some games like Aquaria are created by designer – programmer collaborations, so you get a kind of Lennon-McCartney partnership, more still are created by small teams, like a band jamming to thrash out a song, and others are created by vast studios, like an entire orchestra getting together and saying ‘hey guys, shall we write a concerto? Dave, you take violin.’
To give an example: Bioshock contains innumerable imperceptible touches contributing to the feel of the game as a whole – the way that desks are left open when they’re searched; the way that Houdini splicers teleport in a plume of blood red mist; the way that lone enemies talk to themselves in wrecked corridors as a manifestation of their insanity.
Now, although it’s entirely possible that the same person came up with all of these little ideas, is it really likely? Is it likely that all of these were dictated by the same person who came up with the Ayn-Rand inspired dystopia that is Bioshock’s setting? Is it even likely that whoever decided to set the game in a decrepit, dripping art deco labyrinthine city under the sea, is an individual, rather than a group of writers?
Or is it more plausible that all of these things fell out of when a group of people threw everything they had into a Magimix and pressed ‘On’? For the record, I don’t know who came up with those ideas. Perhaps not even the people who came up with them know. Or maybe it was in fact all one person with a savant-like ability to describe the minutiae of a nightmare they had after finishing Atlas Shrugged in a single sitting.
To bring it back here, the point I’m making is that digital experiences are now so complex, so involved, that to rely on one person to call all of the creative shots would be a nightmare. I’ve produced websites with little touches which I couldn’t have foreseen and told a developer to implement – these decisions come out of discussions and collaboration, and that’s where creativity lies now. We’ve all heard about megalomaniacal directors or musicians dictating absolutely everything on the projects in which they’re involved – but that’s a very difficult thing to do with a digital experience, more so than anything else, I would venture.
And as digital experiences become increasingly common, and increasingly admired, perhaps that will change our conception of creativity. I’m not for a moment suggesting that there’s no room for an individual’s vision, or for the leadership of a creative team, but perhaps there will be less of an emphasis on “genius” as applied to an individual – perhaps what will be most important will be people’s capacity to interact with one another. If games (and digital experiences in general) will become significant contributions to culture, and many of those games are produced by teams, perhaps some of the most valuable contributions to culture in times to come will be put forth by groups, rather than lonely artists. Your thoughts, ladies and gents?
We at Open CC like to keep abreast of the latest developments in our sector – and one of the ways in which we do this is to keep a keen eye on some blogs that we like.
We have an internal newsletter which features the headlines from these blogs.
We thought it might be nice to share this newsletter with the readers of our own blog.
Simple as that. Enjoy!
Apple’s 4th-generation iPhone revealed: Gizmodo has revealed images of the new iPhone after one of Apple’s engineers left it in a pub. http://www.engadget.com/2010/04/19/apples-4th-generation-iphone-revealed/
LinkedIn makes new connections: Following Twitter’s announcement last week, LinkedIn announces new sponsored groups ad model. http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/news/client/e3i3a5406892176b1a13aebfc0791db3154
Ingenious: Free music if you talk about it on Facebook or Twitter: Tweet-for-Track and FBConnect-to-Track mean artists can encourage their fans to spread the word about them in exchange for free music. http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/04/ingenious-free-music-if-you-talk-about-it-on-facebook-or-twitter/#ixzz0leC1eEaY
Twitter’s @Anywhere service goes live: This service allows third-party websites to integrate Twitter functionality and content. http://www.nma.co.uk/news/twitter%E2%80%99s-@anywhere-service-goes-live/3012339.article
iPhone and iPod applications for schools: Useful applications for teachers and schools, ranging from an app for managing timetables to a curious ‘PhoneBook’. http://www.teachingnews.co.uk/2010/02/iphone-and-ipod-apps-for-schools/