IN MY DREAM I was designing sublime new publishing and social platforms, incandescent with features no one had ever thought of, but everybody wanted.
One of my platforms generated pages that were like a strangely compelling cross between sophisticated magazine layouts and De Stijl paintings. Only, unlike De Stijl, with its kindergarten primary colors, my platform synthesized subtle color patterns that reminded you of sky and water. Anyone – a plumber, a fishmonger – could use the tool to immediately create pages that made love to your eyes. In the hands of a designer, the output was even richer. Nothing on the web had ever touched it.
Then the dream changed, and I was no longer the creator. I was a sap who’d been off sniffing my own armpits while the internet grew up without me. A woman I know was using the platform to create magazines about herself. These weren’t just web magazines, they were paper. And they weren’t just paper. In the middle of one of her magazines was a beautiful carpet sample. The platform had designed the carpet and woven it into the binding of the printed magazine. I marveled at her output and wished I had invented the platform that allowed her to do these things. Not only was I no longer the creator, I seemed to be the last sap on earth to even hear about all these dazzling new platforms.
Then I was wandering down an endless boardwalk, ocean on my right, a parade of dreary seaside apartment buildings on my left. Each building had its own fabulous content magazine. (“Here’s what’s happening at 2171 Oceanfront Walk.”) The magazines appeared on invisible kiosks which revealed themselves as you passed in front of each building. The content, created by landlords and realtors, was so indifferent as to be unreadable. But this did not matter a bit, because the pages so dazzled in their unholy beauty that you could not look away. Every fool in the world had a meaningless publication which nobody read, but which everyone oohed and ahed at as they passed. And I — I had nothing to do with any of it. I was merely a spectator, a chump on a tiresome promenade.
For Tim and Max. You are the future.
A FEW QUICK NOTES from the first hour of A Day Apart: Mobile Web Design, an all-day learning session led by Luke Wroblewski (aka Day III of An Event Apart Seattle), Bell Harbor Conference Center, Seattle, WA:
Audience questions for Luke
- How to take a website for desktop to mobile?
- Do we need to care about non-Webkit?
- Trade-offs between native and web
- How to navigate differences between different versions of Webkit?
- Mobile e-commerce: best practices
- Challenges with different cultures/languages
- Media queries
- If no budget, what can focus on web to make mobile ok?
- How to take a website for desktop to mobile?
- Mobile e-commerce best practices
- Multiple screen sizes and pixel densities
- Time for one project: go mobile or tablet (in e-commerce)
- CMSes and mobile—sigh
- Best practices for page load
WHY MOBILE? Convincing clients/bosses to care
- Of the 50% of total mobile commerce in the US, 70% of it is coming from one iPhone application (eBay).
- eBay: global mobile sales $2 billion in 2010, $600 million in 2009. Real commercial opportunities emerging on mobile.
- Best Buy: mobile web users doubling every year: 30M (2010), 17M (2009), 6M (2008).
- PayPal: mobile transactions increased six-fold in 2009: $25M to $141M.
- Double-digit (28%) rise in social networking on mobile web.
- Twitter: 40% of tweets sent via mobile, 16% of new users start on mobile.
- Facebook: 200 million active mobile users.
- Instagram: iPhone only app took three months to hit one million users. Six weeks later they hit two million users.
- Mixi (Japan): 85% of page views on mobile vs. 14% 4.5 years ago.
PRODUCTIVITY AND MEDIA
- Google: mobile searches grew 130% in Q3 2010
- Pandora: 50% of total user base subscribes to the service on mobile
- Email: 70% of smartphone users have accessed email on mobile device
“I don’t want to be the record executive clinging to CD sales.”
Yelp: every other second a consumer calls a local business and generates driving directions from a Yelp mobile app.]]27% of all Yelp searches come from their iPhone application, which had 1.4 million unique users in May 2010.
Zillow.com: Viewing active listings 45% more often from mobile devices (audience is primarily active buyers, on location or scoping out neighborhoods)
Facebook: People who use Facebook on their mobile devices (200M active) are twice as active on Facebook as non-mobile users.
Shift in Usage
Let’s look at Gmail:
- Visitors to web-based emails sites declined 7%.
- Visitors accessing email on mobile devices increased 36%.
But what about mobile web usage?
40% of tweets sent via mobile.
16% of new users start on mobile.
Mobile web usage
- Mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access devices worldwide by 2013.
- 600% growth in traffic to mobile websites in 2010.
- Facebook and Twitter access via mobile browser grows by triple digits in 2010.
- Average smartphone user visits up to 24 websites per day.
- Top 50 websites constitute only 40% of mobile visits.
- Opera Mini traffic up 200% year/year.
Follow the live tweets at afeedapart.com.
In “New Publishing and Web Content,” a proposed panel for SXSW Interactive, I will lead book and new media publisher and entrepreneur Lisa Holton, designer, writer, and W.W. Norton creative director Mandy Brown, novelist, web geek, and Harper’s editor Paul Ford, and writer, editor, and content strategist Erin Kissane in an honest and freewheeling exploration of the creative, strategic, and marketing challenges of traditional and online publishing—and how content strategy and design can help.
Topics covered will include:
- What is content strategy?
- For magazines that are born digital, what opportunities and challenges does the internet offer editors and publishers?
- For traditional magazines, what opportunities and challenges does the internet offer editors and publishers?
- How can traditional book publishers harness the energy and talent of the online community?
- What new forms are made possible by the intersection of traditional publishing and social networking?
- How can design facilitate reading?
- How can design encourage readers to become writers and publishers?
- What is the future of magazines and newspapers?
- What is the future of books?
- How can editors and publishers survive and thrive in this new climate?
If this sounds like a panel you’d enjoy seeing, vote for New Publishing and Web Content via the SXSW Interactive Panel picker.
Armed with nothing more than a keen eye, a good seat, a fine camera, and the ability to use it, An Event Apart Seattle attendee Warren Parsons captured the entire two-day show in crisp and loving detail. Presenting, for your viewing pleasure, An Event Apart Seattle 2009 – a set on Flickr.
When you’ve paged your way through those, have a gander at Think Brownstone’s extraordinary sketches of AEA Seattle.
Still can’t get enough of that AEA stuff? Check out the official AEA Seattle photo pool on Flickr.
Wonder what people said about the event? Check these Twitter streams: AEA and AEA09.
And here are Luke W’s notes on the show.
Our thanks to the photographers, sketchers, speakers, and all who attended.
[tags]aneventapart, aeaseattle09, AEA, AEA09, Seattle, webdesign, conference, Flickr, sets, Twitter, photos, illustrations, sketches, aneventapart.com[/tags]
PRESENTING the full audio recording of “From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small”, a panel at SXSW Interactive 2009 featuring Roger Black (founder of agencies huge and small), Kristina Halvorson (freelancer turned agency head), and Whitney Hess (agency pro turned freelance), and moderated by yours truly.
The panel was about quitting your job (or coping with a layoff), working as a freelancer, collaborating with others, and what to do if your collaboration starts morphing into an agency. We sought to answer questions like these:
- What business and personal skills are required to start a freelance business or a small agency? Is freelancing or starting a small agency a good fit for my talents and abilities?
- Is freelancing or starting a small agency the right work solution for me in a scary and rapidly shrinking economy? Can the downsides of this economy work to my advantage as a freelancer or small agency head?
- I’ve been downsized/laid off/I’m stuck in a dead-end job working longer hours for less money. Should I look for a new job or take the plunge and go freelance?
- What can I expect in terms of income and financial security if I switch from a staff job to freelancing? What techniques can I use as a freelancer to protect myself from the inevitable ups and downs?
- How do I attract clients? How much in-advance work do I need to line up before I can quit my job?
- How do I manage clients? What client expectations that are normal for in-house or big agency work must I deliver on as a freelancer or the head of a small or virtual agency? Which expectations can I discard? How do I tell my client what to expect?
- Do I need an office? What are the absolute minimum tools I need to start out as a one-person shop?
- How big can my freelance business grow before I need to recast it as a small agency?
- What models are out there for starting an agency besides the conventional Inc. model with all its overhead? Which model would work best for me?
- Who do I know with whom I could start a small or virtual agency? What should I look for in my partners? What should I beware of?
- If I’m lucky enough to be growing, how do I protect my creative product and my professional reputation while adding new people and taking on more assignments?
- How big can my agency grow before it sucks? How I can grow a business that’s dedicated to staying small?
Whitney Hess has written a fine wrap-up of the panel, including a collection of tweets raving about it, some of Mike Rohde’s visual coverage, and links to other people’s posts about the panel.
LISTEN to “From Freelance to Agency: Start Small, Stay Small”.
[tags]design, webdesign, podcast, recording, SXSW, SXSWi, SXSWi09, panels, panel, freelance, agency, smallagency, transition, survival, economy[/tags]