Archive for January, 2012

Front page re-imagining: Ridejoy

Jan 27 2012 Published by under frontpages

Ridejoy is a nifty site that connects drivers and riders for long trips.

Here’s a shot of their current front page:

The good:

The page has a simple layout with a strong call to action. It has a lot of information, but tends not to bombard the user with it too fast. The big button/big form combo is always a good one. If you’re going to have a form on your front page, make it extremely easy to fill in. (They also get bonus points for proper tab indexing and a helpful autocomplete)

The bad:

Centered layouts have a tendency to be unexciting. The lack of color makes the site feel sterile, which is a shame because the comapny seems to have a lot of personality. White backgrounds can have the benefit of lending professional credibility, but they do away with that with the handwritten font. Fonts like this have a place on the web, but it’s mostly in personal projects. Even when you do them correctly (and there’s nothing wrong here with the size or the spacing) you still have to work against your users’ preconceptions. And they usually aren’t good preconceptions. Some people see Comic Sans in every handwritten font.

The ugly:

On the big button’s active state, the shadow rises up to meet the button. There’s always some combination of padding and positioning that will let you have a button that presses down while maintaining its original clickable area.

The re-imagined front page:

Here’s the re-imagining. Click for a bigger one.

Keeping the good: The focus of the page is still the big form and the big button, although the button’s orange now. I tend to go with orange or red for the call to action. Red always seems to win over other colors in A/B tests, but orange felt more relaxed and a better fit palette-wise.

Inverted header: This re-imagining actually started as an excuse to do an inverted header. The vast majority of pages on the Internet aren’t a good fit for an inverted header, but I thought Ridejoy’s site would be. The big rule with inverted headers is that the site has to be small enough to be completely above the fold. Remember to use CSS3 media queries to uninvert for mobile.

Combining cities and trips: The original page had two sections for featuring the cities and current trips being offered through the service. The right side of the page here combines those two ideas into one slideshow. The idea would be to feature at least one trip from every offered city.

Offset footer: Inverting a header usually means it ends up awkwardly mashed together with the footer. To avoid this, the footer is made smaller and pushed to the side.

Logo rework: The original logo is pretty simple, and so is the rework. Remember that any time you do a logo like this, which can’t easily be ripped from the front page by journalists, that you should have an alternate logo easily available in a “press” or “about” section.

Tagline: Kept “friendly people” and added “awesome journeys.”

Background image: This great photograph of Highway 1 by Wouter Kiel serves as the example background image. The idea would be to use multiple (user-submitted?) images in a rotation on the main page. But this particular example works really well, so just one image is a possibility too.

Suggestions? Comment below or just tweet at me.

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It’s okay to be bored. It’s also okay to not be doing anything.

Jan 12 2012 Published by under business,startups

There was a blog post today over on HeyWhipple by Luke Sullivan that claimed good, creative people are NEVER (caps his) bored.

I feel like the piece relies on a few misconceptions about boredom, and fuels a few other misconceptions which can be harmful to the creative process.

Boredom is not the same as having nothing to do

Here’s a typical IM conversation for me:

Me: I’m bored

Friend: Go find something to do! Live! Breathe in the world!

Me: I have something to do. I’ve been working on it for 5 hours. It’s boring work.

Me: That’s why I’m bored.

In an ideal world, we’d all have super-exciting stuff to do, all the time. In the real world, though, we have to wait in line at the grocery store, fill out tax forms, listen to our friends talk about their newborns, and do all kinds of other boring things.

Even the fun careers have boring bits. We often see only the fun parts because, well, that’s what’s interesting. Nobody tunes in to see Evil Knievel and his team running tests on handle grips.

If you’re sitting around with nothing to do and complaining about having nothing to do, then that’s a problem. And yeah, that’s probably boring too. But that’s not descriptive of all boredom.

Which brings me to my next point…

Doing nothing is just fine.

Relaxation and downtime are essential to the creative process. There’s this manic compulsion in society today to be doing something all the time. It was bad before Facebook and other social media, and now it’s gotten even worse.

“Sat on a bench and stared at a brick wall” doesn’t make for a great status update, but it’s a perfectly fine thing to do. So is sitting on the couch and absentmindedly flipping back and forth between Trading Spaces and Mythbusters.

Just don’t do it all the time.

Moderation is the key. That applies to the do something compulsion, too.

Burnout

The real problem with the constant do something compulsion: Burnout. Burnout is the creative’s worst enemy.

People who think they can’t get burned out haven’t pushed themselves hard enough. People who have suffered from it know to constantly walk the thin line between their productive peak and their burnout point.

This social expectation of creative people to do something and do something all the time is a recipe for burnout.

Plenty of young creative people hit their first burnout and just give up. The clash between social expectations and the reality of producing creative work is just too much. That’s something we should protect against, because a lot of these young creatives would have produced something truly great on their second, fifth, or twentieth try.

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Technology and the death (and rebirth) of investigative journalism

Jan 06 2012 Published by under media

There were a few things floating around the Internet today that caught my attention.

The first is a post on using social network analysis to detect less-than-legal behavior among landlords. It’s interesting because we have a small not-for-profit behind the effort, where just a few years ago it would have taken a much larger organization and a lot of manpower to pull this off.

Next up we have an insightful comment on Reddit from an ex-journalist. It details the why of journalism’s decline.

Conspiracy theorists will be disappointed by this one, as it primarily points to the increasingly harsh realities of journalism-as-a-business as the reason for, well, crap like FOX News. There are only so many hours in a day, and investigative journalism in particular eats up those hours.

But cuts happen. So it’s the first thing to go.

Changing, expanding technology has brought about a strange landscape where media outlets buckle under the weight of a deluge of information while simultaneously being liberated to do wonderful things with that information.

This is what had me excited about WikiLeaks. They used tech to shed light on the shadowy parts of the world. They were the organizational embodiment of the scrappy reporter getting the scoop and bringing the bad guys to justice.

Of course, now they seem to be the embodiment of the scrappy reporter mysteriously disappearing before the story is published.

There’s still hope, though, and I think it rests with organizations like the one covered in the first link. Truth is always in demand. We just need to figure out who’s going to carry the burden of digging up that truth.

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