Friday, May 4, 2007

In The Future...

Storytelling and interactivity: Your vision for the future of media. 100 years is too far away. What will we be interacting with in seven years?

The future will mean more control for the way comic book collectors and fantasy sports owners access and interact with their chosen hobbies.

Comic Books or Graphic Novels

online comic printCollectors and enthusiasts in the year 2014 will have fully embraced the ever-evolving digital revolution by following the monthly adventures of Spider-Man, Batman and Harvey Pekar in a strictly online format.

Readers would stop buying books in a comic store and instead visit a supplier operating an online store hawking new comic books at cover price and discounted back issues. The reader would then download a digital file and save millions of tree acres each year. Perfect.

Readers can also visit specific comic publishers and download their books in a digital format. Navigational features would be added that would allow the panels to individually expand and fill the screen before retreating back into story with a single click.

The future would also bring a chance for the reader to serve as the artist. So you didn't like the story you just read? You hated the way Spider-Man removed his mask in front of a billion people on television? Then you could alter the events with a few mouse clicks.

Daring artists and publishers would also include free access to bonus files filled with character and background artwork for the reader to alter and recreate the story. The reader can be creative while understanding the artist's intentions with the story. The idea loosely follows the idea of "mash up".

Fantasy Sports

An estimated 20 million people maintain their own version of a professional sports "dream team" by participating in a fantasy sports league. Fantasy owners will spend hours research playing stats and trends in order to draft the players and maintain the best roster possible.

The Canadian-based LiveHive Systems scored some headlines in January when it unveiled its NanoGaming baseball program at Fantasy Sports Trade Association's annual business conference. The company proclaimed its new service the future of fantasy sports. The program would allow people watching games to predict if the batter will get a hit, walk or strike out while competing against friends and strangers alike.

That is all good for right now, but the year 2014 will usher in a new era of control as owners will be able to watch and manage their team through detailed real-time statistics on their portable hand-held television device or computer.

baseball live scoreSo say you have Roy Halladay, Derek Jeter and Jason Varitek on the same team. Well, you can see them all together wearing the uniforms you have designed through an interactive Web program. Your “dream team” would then play in a virtual baseball game you manage (setting the batting lineup and removing pitchers for starters.)

Bonus: Robots

I would be amiss if I didn't mention how cool it would be if the robotic era grew in prominence. I could see robots moving through the kitchen preparing meals from recipes downloaded from the World Wide Web. But how cool would it be to have your personal robot---one that transforms from a vehicle into a walking machine?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Assignment: Interaction Design

Any trip to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, should include a visit to the 57,000-square-foot Hockey Hall of Fame. And the Hall of Fame will satisfy all of the conditions my mother and 15-year-old son have placed on our afternoon outing.

The home page is places the Hall of Fame information on the right side of the page and offers general links such as general information and exhibits tour. Below the main links are two sub-sections of great interest: Information and Hall Highlights.

I have a feeling this outing will turn out well. Well, at least during the planning stage.

Anyway, I click the general information button and I am taken to a new page offering navigation above a graphic of the Stanley Cup. It takes me a few moments to orientate myself and the navigation scheme. The general links lie on the right side while topics that range from "Plan Your Visit" to "Visitor Information" rest on top.

The "Plan Your Visit" page offers six sections anchored by an icon and a descriptive paragraph eliminating any worry of mystery meat navigation.

Parking and Traffic

Numerous transportation options exist from riding the city subway or navigating through the city’s famed underground mall. The site offers [in detail] two lots that will relive any stress my mother will feel about parking.


The Web site offers its information in a basic and concise format. I learn wheelchairs can reach every area of the Hall of Fame. Perfect. An elevator is also available. Excellent. There is one chair for guests. Yikes. I will need to reserve a chair in advance by calling 416-360-7735 ext. 231.

Cool Exhibits

The Hall of Fame prides itself on offering a myriad of interesting and interactive exhibits. Josh can entertain himself by [and not limited to]:


The site includes a page devoted to the The Bottom Line Sports Bar and Grill, a 40-step walk from the Hall of Fame. The restaurant, operated by a former NHL hockey player, offers the typical menu of soups and salads, pizza, surf and turf, burgers and sandwiches. The Hall of Fame Web site also includes a 10 percent discount.

Tour Guides

This is a self-guided tour. My search for any guide information proved unsuccessful.

Visiting Length/Special Events

The Web site states the average visit to the Hall of Fame is three hours, but the good news is the admission is good for the entire day. If the family is bored with some of the exhibits, then shopping in the BCE Place (the mall that houses the Hall of Fame) could be in order.

As for any noteworthy events, I had to type "special events" into the search box, only to discover that the Hall of Fame News page might be my best bet. I found no information, but a free subscription to the Hall of Fame's electronic newsletter could be useful for future planning.

The End

With the Hockey Hall of Fame Web site, I quickly discovered the pages I wanted to see without much fuss. And the ease of the navigation design allowed me to explore the site and discover some exhibits that I wanted to see during my recently concluded trip to Toronto.

The professional look and feel of the site coupled with its expert use of interaction design makes this my choice as a strong example of interaction design.

Interaction Design: Ugh!

"The Largest Barbed Wire Historic Museum in the World."

This is the claim to fame for the curators of the Devil's Rope Museum in McLean, Texas.

But it would seem the museum would greatly benefit from a better designed Web site --- from an information architecture point of view.

For starters, the top navigation bar housing the links are not grouped in a clear and logical format. I mean does my mother need to know all sorts of information on the artist Al Napoletano? What is the connection of Route 66 to the barbed wire museum?

The site is based on a one-column design with numerous rows requiring constant scrolling in order to locate information. If the visitor is impatient then he or she may not find a second navigation box at the bottom containing even more links.

The museum's interactive design doesn't allow me to find any accessibility information for my grandmother and the Web site fails to offer any detailed information on parking and restaurant options.

The Web site's style is also as inconsistent as the information architecture. The Web developer has adopted a folksy language (“Howdy There Pardner”) that may confuse foreign visitors or those not familiar with Texas slang. The term “Web site” is written in two different ways and some phrases including “BEST LITTLE WEBSITE IN TEXAS” are capitalized.

My trust in this Web site is on life support.

Let's Meet Tatum Bell

bell photoTatum Bell, 35, lives in a loft in Minneapolis' historic Loop Warehouse District, with his wife of four years, Stephanie. Their neighborhood is a funky bohemian mix of artists and energetic young couples like the Bells who always flock to catch the newest Richard Linklater film at the Uptown Theater or share a microbrew at a Lake Street bar.

Tatum is action-oriented and his thirst for activity is only strengthened by his personal, albeit cliched mantra: "I work to live, not live to work."

He spars in his Tae Kwon Do dojang three times a week and plays defense for the local ice hockey team at the community center. Tatum does place high importance on quality work as the associate director of research testing for St. Jude Medical---a position he has held for four years. His pager and cell phone are on 24 hours a day. He works on weekends without hesitation as he feels, in part, to justify his $125,000 salary.

But he is proud of his balance between work and recreation.

Recreation Balance

In fact, the Bells, who have no children, will embark on their first trip of the new year in April to visit New Zealand to experience the country that produced their favorite film, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers." Their fall trip will be to see a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, the last of the couple's 30-stadium tour.

Tatum Bell has placed a particular importance on education since his parents came from a strong learning background (his mother is an elementary school principle in Duluth and his father, now retired, was a microbiology professor at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities).

Tatum received his undergraduate and master degrees from the Univ. of Minnesota and earned his doctorate in biology from the rival University of Wisconsin, where he met Stephanie seven years ago.

Tatum still supports the maroon and gold of his alma mater through yearly dues to the alumni association and by helping students secure internships and jobs at St. Jude Medical.

As a moderate Republican, Tatum Bell is excited by the prospect of his city hosting the 2008 Republican Convention at the Xcel Energy Center. He attends Roman Catholic church services twice a month and he is active in the local soup kitchen serving meals and discussing with patrons about the Minnesota Twins chances to resign pitcher Johan Santana to a long-term contract.

Media Consumption

Tatum does find time to use various media products, such as reading Sports Illustrated, Minnesota City Pages and U.S. News and World Report. He has high-speed Internet access, but he limits his time online to about one hour a day to download music for his iPod, sharing photos with some Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brothers living North Carolina.

He also keeps track of his fantasy baseball team (currently mired in last place in the ESPN league). Any more time spent on the computer would impact Tatum's plans to fully experience life.

Tatum has a strong loyalty to activities he finds pleasing. He has cheered for the Minnesota Twins for 27 years and he is about three years away from securing season tickets for football's Minnesota Vikings. And he earned his third-degree black belt late 2006 marking a milestone in his 18-year martial arts career.

Desired Demographic

The Twin City News wants to attract new readers like Tatum Bell because he is an advertisers dream. Why? He is flushed with loads of disposable income. He is affluent. He is highly-educated. He is active.

Please Welcome Gina Park

imageIf Gina Park, 19, had a personal mantra, then this anonymous quote would be it:

"If I ever die of a heart attack, I hope it will be from playing my stereo too loud."

Ever since discovering a copy of Soul Asylum's 1986 album, Made to be Broken from her 27-year-old brother Daniel, Gina feeds her passion for music at every opportunity.

Gina's love of all things musical started back in elementary school and was strengthened through her years in middle school in the St. Paul school system and culminated with a drum major position at her alma mater, Rosemount High School. Music education is part of the curriculum at Minnesota public schools. A few rock concerts later (R.E.M., Husker Du and Wilco) with Daniel and Gina was hooked.

Gina spends most of her disposable income on music publications (NME from England and Paste Magazine in the United States) and on record albums and pricey compact discs from independent stores such as Treehouse Records and the Electric Fetus.

Parental Control

Gina's music spending on music does worry her parents a bit. Jung and Marie Park are two Seoul, South Korea immigrants who moved to Minneapolis 20 years ago and preach the tenants of saving money over spending indulgences. Gina does work 30 hours a week as server at the Dunn Bros Coffee near her school, St. Paul Community College to help pay for studies and save money. The college is a 20-minute drive from her parent's two-story suburban home in the St.Paul area (zip code 55129) in a neighborhood full of school teachers, office employees and the like.

Gina sports a nifty 3.75 GPA and she is completing her general studies at the community college in order to pursue a recording technology degree at McNally Smith College of Music. Gina has no interest in playing music; she wants to guide it as a record producer/engineer. She plans on living in the dorms once she transfers to the college.

Free Time

If Gina has any free time to herself, she usually spends it listening to indie rock shows at the famed First Avenue and the 7th Street Entry and occasionally sees larger bands like Green Day at the 20,000-seat Xcel Energy Center.

Gina searches for new bands and communicates her friends over the social networking site and Ruckus, a college-only multimedia service. She will spend no more than $15 a week downloading music onto her 30GB iPod. Technologically savvy, Gina posts daily to her Web blog daily and designs Web sites for local bands.

She communicates via instant messenger with friends she met at a Boston hostel while on vacation with friends last year. She grows impatient with slow connections and error messages.

Gina is Roman Catholic and attends mass occasionally, but she identifies herself as spiritual rather than religious. Religion plays a larger role with Daniel, a youth pastor and marketing executive with the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team.

Gina is affable and her clothing reflects her mood. She shops at second-hand stores looking for bargains and she is often happy wearing Dr. Martens shoes, jeans, skirts and T-shirts. She will wear dresses and long-sleeve sweaters for more formal occasions and also to hide the chain tattoo design on her left arm from her parents.

Newspaper Habits

Gina will occasionally glance through a newspaper as she cleans tables in the coffeehouse shop. She will stop long enough to scan the major headlines before tossing the contents into the recycling bin. She also follows the news through a scrolling headline box on AOL Instant Messenger and watches a few minutes of CNN nightly with her parents.

Gina's favorite Web sites stored on her Mozilla Firefox browser include links to popular music sites where she can listen to free MP3 files on sites including and Stylus Magazine.

Gina Park is important to the Twin City News because she offers brand loyalty with regards to the Web sites and products that offer the content she covets.

If the newspaper expands its online entertainment offerings to include more arts and entertainment online-specific content such as an MP3 music listening station, exclusive interviews and videos, then she would be more interested in exploring and perhaps building a lengthy relationship with the paper’s Web site. Newspapers are losing young readers and attracting readers like Gina would be a good first step.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mowser---From the Screen to Your Cellphone

As a web editor, I am constantly trying to learn new scripting languages to present information in a cleaner and more interesting fashion on all browsers and viewing platforms. And that includes creating content for mobile phones of all varieties from tiny monochrome screens to the current high-resolution models.

And that means thinking about how the pages will look on a tiny screen.

Anyway, I read about a web-based application that reconfigures Web pages for a mobile phone. Mowser is a program that translates pages for mobile phones through complex algorithms and alters images, text formatting and page functionality (at times).

From my experience and those of my co-workers, for a tiny, monochrome screen, I think Mowser is great tool. It offers the important items on the first page in a cohesive order and all the menus floated to the bottom. People using a mobile phone to surf the Web cannot really expect much more, can they?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Olive is Not Drab. No Really.

My organization’s graphic designer loaned me his copy of a wonderful reference book from Neenah Paper based on the Dewey Color System, dubbed the "world's first color validated color test."

Olive is Not Drab allows readers to pick the right color combinations to communicate "specific brand attributes" through ready-made color palettes that explain what those colors truly communicate about the brand and the company.

So, let's say your company wants to convey a message of high-energy (which the book said evokes an "attention-getting immediacy") then a color palette of indigo, red, gold and black would be in order. Wait, so you want to show the world that your brand/company offers a reserved point of view (known as composed)? Blue and red-orange would be your best bet.

I also love the authors’ quick color breakdown. Here is a sampling of the commentary:

  • Purple communicates out-of-the-box thinking. It appeals to the "impulsive, reactive and emotional consumers."

  • Red-orange is establishes a homelike, familiar feeling while signifying the "expression of composed and objective opinions."

  • Green indicates social and cultural diversity. Paired with yellow, green can help create "worry-free market acceptance of products and services."
So where does gut instinct and personal aesthetic fit in?