Posts Tagged ‘navigation’

The social navigation – Predictions based on the digital now

Posted on: September 28th, 2011 by Fransgaard No Comments

The original version of this article can be seen at the Capgemini – Capping IT Off blog.

Personalised and predictive navigation features have been around for a while. No need to look further than Amazon.com’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” and “New For You” panels.

They are great selling tools. One is based relationships between products; the other based on your previous purchases. Both are based on the products’ or the users’ historical digital footprints within the environment controlled by the company in question.

Your friendly neighbourhood navigation

But what if the next generation of navigation tools could suggest products based on knowing what is of interest to user right now? What if the navigation could behave like a friend of the user?

Users are increasingly sharing their thoughts, tastes and opinions with their friends online and often in public digital spaces which results in a nuanced picture of what is on their minds right now.

Tools such as Radian 6 can listen and digest social sentiment by understand things like how many liked a product or didn’t like it. And if they didn’t; what did they not like about it?

It is an overview of what the many say about a few things. But could this be turned upside down and look at what the individual say about many things?

An example of social navigation

A user visits a website selling DVDs. She has never been to the site before, but at the promise of receiving a personalised experience she decides to identify herself to the site. This could be as simple as entering her name or by connecting to her social profiles using functions like Facebook Connect or the Twitter API.

As she submits her details the site sweeps the web for any content created or associated with the user and it notices that she recently have made positive comments about the new movie “Drive” as well as showed interest in learning more about other Danish movies.

With this information the website can now suggest other movies by Danish “Drive” Director Nicolas Winding Refn as well as other similar Danish movies. The site effectively listened to the user’s online voice as her friends would and started a relevant conversation by replying back in context.

Creating a subliminal personalised experience

As a real friend, the website is not just listening to the words, it is also paying attention or other communication signals such as music preferences, ‘Likes’ given etc. As the website sweeps the Internet it finds a range of photos uploaded by the user and notices that she has uploaded several photos of blue skies and green fields.

The website reacts on this information and modifies its own visual appearance to match in a sky blue and nature green colour scheme. It may even have a nice header photograph of a blue sky in its repertoire. By mimicking the user’s preferred photography subject the site makes itself more appealing in a way not that dissimilar from human behaviour.

Final thoughts

Facebook has recently been under fire for monitoring the behaviour of users without being transparent about its activities and motives. While their services may be beneficial for companies and users alike, not being transparent only nurtures suspicion.

Creating social navigation features as described above need to be done in a transparent fashion and with the customers having full control over what they share and are fully informed about the process and what the benefits are. As soon as that trust is established a true friendship can be formed to the benefit of both the seller and the buyer.

The business case for good typography online

Posted on: March 8th, 2011 by Fransgaard No Comments

The original version of this article can be seen at the Capgemini – Capping IT Off blog.

The Internet is still in its infancy. Typography, however, is not. Typography is a fully adult mechanism of communication that has been around since the first cave paintings started to look more like letters than buffaloes and men with spears.

Gutenberg’s Mechanical Printing Press, The Masters Of The Renaissance and The Modernists all added their input to the evolution that has resulted in the honed delivery mechanism typography is today.

illuminated manuscript typography

…so it is strange that typography is largely ignored in digital design and left to be determined by default browser settings.

Typography is much more than fonts

Typography is not just fonts or type faces. Indeed some of the history’s finest typographic works, “Illuminated Manuscripts”, were created in Medieval Europe long before fonts as a concept was invented.

According to Wikipedia: “Typography (…) is the art and technique of arranging type, type design, and modifying type glyphs. Type glyphs are created and modified using a variety of illustration techniques. The arrangement of type involves the selection of typefaces, point size, line length, leading (line spacing), adjusting the spaces between groups of letters (tracking) and adjusting the space between pairs of letters (kerning).”

An accurate description of the physical act of using typography but says little about why.

Why is typography important?

Successfully using the various techniques described above creates a sum greater than its parts. It creates a ambient and tailored environment that delivers the meaning of the words written to the reader. In fact, one could argue the best typography is the one you do not notice and doesn’t get in the way of delivering the message.

There are loads of examples of where the reader suddenly becomes painfully aware of the typography.

  • Recently picked up a magazine where the letters were printed too close to the centre accidentally cutting off first (or last letters) of each line of text?
  • Ever tried to read a cheap print of a book where the text lines are printed so close together the fonts blend into each other into an illegible mess?
  • When did you last read and understand the small print on a document you signed? Give it a try next time. It is harder than you think.

Typography is also a great tool to help guide the reader. Pick up any newspaper and see how the different sizes in text makes headlines lead their stories and makes quotes stand out. Even without adding colours typography can create a hierarchy of importance on a newspaper page.

The new typographic aspects introduced by digital media

Knowing how to set traditional typography is the foundation to mastering digital typography but the on-screen environment brings some new opportunities to the table as well as some new obstacles to be aware of.

The biggest difference between printed and on digital typography is: Control. Printed typography stays fixed looking the same from instance to instance but typography created for screens need to be more fluid and accommodating as the display mechanism is more or less unknown.

Digital typography must allow for user-controlled font-sizes and more often than not be ready for constantly changing amounts of content as content-management-systems allows website owners to update content on a regular basis.

Reading on screens is harder on the eyes because of the low resolution and the light from screens.  And additional limitations to visual delivery such as like low quality screens or small screens (mobile phones and other handheld devices) cannot be ignored.

Good typography online is also a legal requirement in many countries as it is part of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

In addition to setting typography correctly, using shorter paragraphs, bold to highlight keyword and bulleted lists helps people read on screens as it breaks down the content into digestible chunks.

Typography also plays a role as navigation, a role that is unique to the digital environment. Not only does typography navigate the reader’s attention across the page, it also helps the user navigate through a series of linked web pages using the foundation of the Internet: The hyperlink.

Visit any website. Can you instantly recognise the links on the page? You can if they are made to stand out from the main content, but if they don’t stand out… well, you may be able to decipher the links as you read the content, but this is a much slower process and not something we, as impatient web users, are happy with.

Why typography is important to your business

Each year a significant amount of money is spent to create awareness of digital destinations and to drive customers to these websites. Taking care of those customers who successfully arrive is crucial.

Having a good user experience design helps users navigate around the website. Typography is part of good UX design but it also extends beyond the visit to the website as it makes the content easier to read and as such easier to remember.

The immediate benefit is customers can read and understand information about the products and confidently make a purchase decision and the long term benefit is preventing misleading understanding of the product descriptions leading to dissatisfied customers and even wrong products being purchased as a result of this.

Further read