handling branding and architecture in content sites n.
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  1. Handling branding and architecture in content sites.

  2. Who the hell am i? • Director of Human-Network Interaction at Metrius Europe • A KPMG Consulting company that designs, architects and builds businesses and business initiatives that take advantage of the network economy • previously creative director at: • BBC News Online • and designed the launch versions of • The Times/Sunday Times • LineOne • design for biggest news/info sites in Europe since 1995

  3. Who the hell are you? • Designers? • Project managers? • Writers? • Researchers?

  4. What am I going to talk about? • Experiences in designing content websites • The Times/Sunday Times, LineOne • BBC News Online (MAINLY) • Principles of user-centered design • What is it? • Information architecture and content • brand/content issues • Questions

  5. How did I get into what I do…? • Started in REAL architecture (!) • Thesis: architecture is information, information is architecture (more of which later…) • left in 1995 to work for News Corp sponsored internet project • pretty soon working on launch team for The Times

  6. The Times and Sunday Times (1995-96) • Small team (2 designers, 3 coders, 5 editorial) • No original online content, all re-purposed from newspaper’s ATEX feed • Online ‘subs’ adjust content to fit limited template designs. • Very simple, but very successful… catches up with Electronic Telegraph in 6 months

  7. LineOne (1996-97) • Originally ISP and content offering from News International & BT • Complex brand and content issues • (how does one reconcile the same days news through the eyes of The Sun and The Times?!) • Deep offerings in parallel integrated using complex tech. • A Portal before that became a buzzword...

  8. BBC News Online (97) • Biggest project online to date • over 80 editorial staff 24/7/265 • c. 200 -300 original stories a day • launch design - no bells and whistles • ‘the story is the star’ • How did we do it? • User-centered design

  9. Analysis & Abstraction (1) • All these ambitions had to be implemented • we’d derived a good conceptual “map” of what we wanted to do… but... • we had 12 weeks from green-light to launch • Certain things could be locked down • after review of the market, no suitable off-the-shelf production system was found • therefore - one had to be originated

  10. Analysis & Abstraction (2) • Building a content production system (CPS) • Estimations of content-data throughput and churn made • conclusion that it’s a solution with a database at it’s heart almost a no-brainer • Designing the ‘heart’ • database: objects and their relationships to be designed, behaviours to be modeled… designers should be involved in process

  11. Analysis & Abstraction (3) • The object model: • basic unit of the site: The “Story” • what should the story do? • What relationships does it have with other data? • What governs it’s behaviour? • The good theoretical basis made this stage less painful: less wooly early on the better….

  12. Designing a kit of parts (1) • A CPS design is arrived at that • stores content and it’s inter-relationships in a DB • uses templates to publish content from DB to web • Design for Templates: “Kit of parts”:what do I mean? • A design for which is: • modular • flexible • extendable • has internal consistency • and, when in use is more than the sum of it’s parts • a system

  13. Model of database view of website db content furniture tools templates logos stories help server side programs media copy source layout info (e.g. list of templates)

  14. Model of visitor’s view of website: ‘the user-illusion’* site pages content ‘furniture’ tools navigation logos text media pics audio video pics audio video * Alan Kay et al, Xerox PARC

  15. Designing a kit of parts (2) • Flexibility: • we went for as flexible a model of content production • had to launch quickly, but didn’t want to create a cul-de-sac • Any part of the system as a whole should be able to “slide-out” and be updated, improved or replaced • The design principles were almost a natural extension of this.

  16. Designing a kit of parts (3) • The Design principles were almost a direct expression of the object model, hopefully: • Clear, simple, elegant and transparent for users navigating the site • Clear, simple, elegant and transparent for journalists managing the site • As a result: • Structure of the site simple and apparent • Interface elements and behaviours should be clear and consistent: • “if something does something once, it should always do the same something

  17. Designing a kit of parts (4) • So, templates necessary for launch at logical bare minimum: • Index template(distribution, direction) • Story template (destination) • Schematic designs for both were made

  18. Beyond & then back • A period of generating variants on the the schematic’s “chassis” • some amounted to taking the schematic and “dressing it up” • iterations were tested against: • “The Principles” (primitive use model) • Editorial • prospective users in some cases • pragmatic concerns: download, projected server and bandwidth loads • We kept coming back to designs that were little more than an elegant expression of the schematic...

  19. Beyond & then back

  20. Beyond & then back

  21. Beyond & then back

  22. Outside forces (1) • BBC Brand • a constant... and powerful presence • an advantage - but sometimes a liability too… • well-established perceptions of BBC • graphic identity oriented towards broadcast, not web • little or no previous experience or expectation of what the BBC or BBC News on the Web should feel like • tried to explore this with a exercise with editorial staff to capture defining statements, words, or feelings this question provokes.

  23. Outside forces (1)

  24. Outside forces (2) • BBC Re-branding • BBC re-branding project: Lambie-Nairn • BBC brand and graphic identity changed 1st October 1997…. Just before our launch! • We’d be one of the first BBC “products” to inherit this new brand from scratch… • Incorporating the re-brand • The new branding key feature was simplicity of expression - something we kept coming back to in our testing of design prototypes against “The Principles” • So there was a good fit, and a good opportunity

  25. Outside forces (2)

  26. Crisis Points…! • Timescale required rapid prototyping and evaluation • modular development system meant that different template sets could be ‘slid in and out’ • Rebranding exercise forced late graphic design change • focus on development of schematic reduced impact • Vocabulary…! • different disciplines working together (first exposure to geeks for a lot of Journos!)… different languages spoken • we kept a glossary pinned on the wall…!

  27. Lesson? We found that having a worked-through theoretical basis for every aspect of our design before final implementation invaluable at every point… especially the bad ones…! Make sure everyone has the blueprint… The Information Architecture

  28. Launch & launch again... • Vital Statistics... • November 1997 Site Launched • June 1998 Page views exceed 12,000,00 • July 1998 Already most popular news site outside US • 60,000+ Stories on the site already, 7,000+ Stories viewed every day • Online Survey Scored highly on design and ease-of-use • May 1998… expanded coverage and introduced three new sections • limited redesign to accommodate • … founding principles of site informed this redesign. • Constant Beta • Revisiting of first principles • Make sure they evolve in step with technology and user requirements • 1998/99 Extensive User testing (videotaping, use surveys) leads to version 2.0 design

  29. Launch & launch again...

  30. Launch & launch again...

  31. Launch & launch again… V2.0

  32. What is an user-centred design approach?

  33. The User-Centered Approach: components • User research • ‘Experience-modeling’ or ‘Use Model’ • Information Architecture • User-testing

  34. The Use Model: “A thing to think with” mod·el (m d l) n. • A small object, usually built to scale, that represents in detail another, often larger object. • A preliminary work or construction that serves as a plan from which a final product is to be made: a clay model ready for casting. • Such a work or construction used in testing or perfecting a final product: a test model of a solar-powered vehicle. • A schematic description of a system, theory, or phenomenon that accounts for its known or inferred properties and may be used for further study of its characteristics: a model of generative grammar; a model of an atom; an economic model. • A style or design of an item: My car is last year's model. • One serving as an example to be imitated or compared: a model of decorum. • One that serves as the subject for an artist, especially a person employed to pose for a painter, sculptor, or photographer. • A person employed to display merchandise, such as clothing or cosmetics. • Zoology. An animal whose appearance is copied by a mimic.

  35. Imagining user experience: example • Quick exercise for project team • Objectives: • identify user-archetypes that describe the target market • think themselves into those users • This is for an e-commerce site, but method is applicable in nearly all cases.

  36. A C TECH B D CREATIVE Coming up with user profiles

  37. Words to describe each user profile • A • Practical, functional, does chores, room has to look okay but not confident in design. • B • More interested in design, less confident on technical abilities. • C • Always has projects on the go, hobbyist. • D • Creates a look, less involved in project execution, most interested in creative, trends.

  38. Who are they? • A • Mike, early 40s, depends on wife Louise’s opinion for design. Two kids, his wife is expecting a third. • B • Jane, early 30s, has partner, busy, relies on friends and other people for advice. • C • Jack, single, quite confident in abilities and taste. Shops around and reads lots of magazines, focussing on DIY titles: Better Homes, Changing Rooms. • D • Lucy, single, in her 50s, out-sources doing, shops around, reads lots of magazines, style and end result oriented. Reads lots of magazines, broad lifestyle, Habitat, IKEA, BHS

  39. How do we use this? • To derive user flows through site • to test these flows with imaginary (or preferably, real) response

  40. User flows

  41. User flows (2) • We can then rationalise the many user flows we generate into the best patterns to build • an information architecture for the whole site built around user experience

  42. ‘Brand Experience’ • “A brand is a promise” -- Walter Landor • ‘a brand is a promise DELIVERED’ -- Orange • “The experience is the brand” -- Clement Mok • An ongoing relationship between a customer and a product or service • Built up (or broken down) over time at every point of interaction between the customer and the provider • Content is a key part of the brand experience, and cannot be divorced from navigation

  43. To sum up • Content is king, and emperor, ruler of the universe, etc., BUT its context is everything • more often than not, content IS the navigation, the brand, the user-experience... • consider the user in everything - not just designing the architecture, but also the writing

  44. Some references • Information architecture resources: http://www.jjg.net/ • Editorial/ Content online: Steve Outing: http://www.mediainfo.com/ephome/news/newshtm/stop/stop.htm • Clement Mok: http://www.clementmok.com/ • Tomalak’s realm: http://www.tomalak.org My stuff, including this presentation: • http://www.blackbeltjones.com/work • http://www.blackbeltjones.com/presentations

  45. Questions? Or have you had enough already...