Screen Culture

TV was the first entertainment screen in our lives and belonged in the living room. And it stayed there for the best part of 30 years before it multiplied. Slowly, it made it’s way into the other rooms of the house. It was linear and unidirectional, but it was also the start of a new culture. A culture that would shape more than entertainment.

In less than 20 years since the birth of the graphical web, screens in all shapes and sizes have started to pop up all around us. They’ve made things simpler, easy to understand, and just made life better. So much so, that screens now permeate virtually every aspect of our lives.

I call it screen culture.

And it’s much more than TV, web browsers and smart phones. It’s every screen we see. All web enabled, all around us and consumers expect the screens to serve them without a hitch.

They’re in our pockets, they’re on our desk, the car dashboard is now a screen, on the back of airline seats, the airline check in counters, supermarket checkouts, shopping centre directories, in all retail spaces, in the back seat of taxi’s, bus shelters, community spaces. They exist where ever communication and commerce does. Every machine now has a screen. Every time we interact with technology, the interface is increasingly screen enabled. And we often attend to multiple screens concurrently.

The more we learn about the screen, the more it learns about us. The best screens can be manipulated, touched, caressed, controlled and even spoken to. It’s our job to humanize the screens so that they are culturally sensitive. They need to intuitively know what we want… and lead us to that solution. The interface has to be the instruction manual. Screen culture demands that we teach people “how”, while they interface. That the learning, and the solving, happen simultaneously. The screens need to serve us. We must be able to navigate the tight spaces of the small screen, if we can do this, then conversion to the big is easy.

This can only happen when we design as humans, not technologists.


Instructions included

I was working on doing some new instructions for – It’s in an area on the website where things a slightly confusing. Then I thought. Why am I doing this? Wouldn’t it be better to re-design the system so it just doesn’t need instructions at all. Like a chair. It doesn’t need instructions. We just know how to sit on it by looking at it. Next time you start investing time in defining how to do something for our audience think about this:

“If we need steps to explain how things work, the system is broken.”

baby ikea

By definition it’s overly complex because it requires instructions. Especially if our business is web based. It’s a more valuable investment in time to fix the system, thing or service, not educate people how to use it.

Collective Intelligence

You are in a room full of people.

You are speaking to them on stage and have their full attention.

You tell them to pretend all the people in the world are in this room

You ask the people who believe they have ‘above average intelligence’ to raise their hand.

All the people in the entire room  raise their hand.

The fact is, exactly half will be above and half will be below… we all assume we are the smart guys, the good guys, the people make things better…. we all believe we are adding positively to the collective intelligence.

But collective intelligence has a slight nuance. It only works when we let people with specialist knowledge fill in our own knowledge gaps and or take the lead in areas of expertise. If instead, we take the average viewpoint of the collective audience we usually end up with a pile of crap. Collective intelligence can only occur when we segregate and allocate information requirements, not when we aggregate. The latest proof of this is

youtube logo

Once upon a time youtube was a reliable source of cool and important videos. Circa 2005 the most viewed, most discussed for the day, week or month was an intelligent reflection what mattered. Now it’s a mish-mash of over produced pop songs, inane  comedians, and soft porn. A sad failure of the digital ‘Wisdom of crowds’. Youtube is still incredibly valuable, it just takes a little more digging these days.

The point for entrepreneurs is this: The crowd is not always right. Taking all advice from the crowd on how to iterate your product, service or website could result in a very average product. Intelligent design is usually the work of intelligent people.