Scrolling Redeemed

Page scrolling is a browser feature that was once shunned because the physical act of manipulating a web page with a mouse disturbed users’ “cognitive flow” (otherwise known as “patience”). But that was before mobile. Now, due to the predominance of small screens that can only show a tiny portion of a page’s content at a time, users have no choice but to scroll to read or find something. This would be bad except that mobile screens can be scrolled much faster by flicking a finger instead of dragging a computer mouse. The overall user experience is actually better since, with little effort, a whole page can be browsed in a few seconds.

Now that scrolling is being embraced, best practices have arisen to support scrolling in design. In fact, designing for scrolling opens up new possibilities for creating engaging websites:

… once you start approaching the long scroll as a canvas for illustrating a beginning, middle, and end (through graphics, animations, icons, etc.), then you start to see its film-like power in capturing user attention.

The following is an update that describes current thinking about scrolling and provides some tips on incorporating scrolling successfully in modern website design.

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Updating Web Forms for Mobile

Today, all things digital must be usable and provide value on mobile devices. Web forms, one of the most mundane but essential elements of user interaction, are no exception, especially considering that most online transactions are conducted and much important data is collected via forms. Here are some tips for updating your forms to make them more effective on mobile:

Making Your Website Intuitive

People don’t want to think, they want to buy. Making a website intuitive makes it a delight to use, which gives users a great experience and increases the likelihood of conversion.

In an intuitively designed webpage, the constituent elements are built and organized in such a way that the user can access information, navigate, and transact naturally and effortlessly. Intuitive design is inconspicuous, but not necessarily unremarkable.

To make sites aesthetically pleasing, designers often sacrifice usability. This is a crime, considering that if the user does not find a clear value proposition within the first 10 seconds, they are very likely going to bail out. The site needs to make its purpose obvious through its design.

This article offers ideas to make your website more intuitive, create better calls to action, and delight visitors by making it easier for them to find what they’re looking for and complete a transaction.

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Robo-voices Not So Popular

It turns out that people aren’t so enamored with talking tech. Surprised? Using automated answering systems as an example, how hard is it to figure out that callers hate when a bot that is incapable of offering the right option picks up the phone? System designers can’t cover every possible need that a caller might have, and the unnatural voice inflections and mannerisms of phone bots just scream “we don’t care” to customers, partners, and constituents — the very people we need for our businesses to prosper. The more “human-like” they try to make these things, the more frustrating they become to use. Tech is not always the answer. When will companies learn to distinguish between solutions that should be high-tech versus those that must be high-touch? If your business involves serving people, the best interface is another person.

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Amazon’s New Bookstores

Amazon is building physical bookstores. But why?

The big trend in retailing today is toward “omnichannel” strategies, which blend physical stores, Web stores, and mobile apps in a way that makes the most of the convenience of smartphones and overcomes their limitations. … What Amazon lacks is experience in the touchy-feely world of traditional retailing. The company’s proficiency in software and data crunching is unquestioned. Its people skills are another matter.

This article speculates some reasons for Amazon’s move into the brick-and-mortar world. But it also shows why existing local bookstores that offer coffee bars, comfy reading spaces, and an eclectic selection, should have nothing to fear:

The Religion of Tech

This article takes us briefly outside the matrix of modern technology. As cool, helpful, and exciting as today’s tech may be, the ideology behind it is, in this author’s view, founded on a body of beliefs that users readily accept but that serve creators and purveyors far more than consumers who end up paying for products they don’t truly own, and give away personal information over which they no longer have control.

The greatest of the United States’ homegrown religions – greater than Jehovah’s Witnesses, greater than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, greater even than Scientology – is the religion of technology … By spreading a utopian view of technology, a view that defines progress as essentially technological, they’ve encouraged people to switch off their critical faculties and give Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and financiers free rein in remaking culture to fit their commercial interests.

For many, especially younger consumers, notions of privacy and surveillance are no concern. For others, this is the dawn of the ‘Big Brother’ society, which gives unprecedented power to those who control technology, commerce, and information. If the latter is the case, how can a society founded on principles of individual freedom and liberty be led down such a path so easily?

John Kenneth Galbraith coined the term ‘innocent fraud.’ He used it to describe a lie or a half-truth that, because it suits the needs or views of those in power, is presented as fact. After much repetition the fiction becomes common wisdom. ‘It is innocent because most who employ it are without conscious guilt,’ Galbraith wrote in 1999. ‘It is fraud because it is quietly in the service of special interest.’ The idea of the computer network as an engine of liberation is an innocent fraud.

It might be a good time to take our eyes off our screens to consider how far technology has come and how quickly power is shifting. As we become more dependent on our devices and connections and the entities that provide and manage them become more consolidated and enriched, is unquestioning faith still justified?

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A Look At Instagram’s Terms of Service

Does anyone read the Terms of Service when installing software or creating an internet account? The lengthy legalese we must agree to before being “permitted” to use the software, service, or even the hardware we’ve purchased is unreadable by mere mortals. This puts consumers in a legal choke-hold, constrained by the companies that sell the tech we need since without a digital device of some sort, we’re more and more limited as to what we can do in today’s tech-focused world. And considering that these companies are virtual monopolies, consumers have even less power since alternatives are few or non-existent.

A user agreement is not a mere formality. It’s a binding legal contract, of the type lawyers call a “contract of adhesion.” Contracts of adhesion offer no room for negotiation — the user’s only options are to take it or leave it.

The following examination of Instagram’s ToS provides a glimpse at what’s under the hood of these agreements. So what should we expect for the future? Service agreements for purchases like gum, toothpaste, or shoes? “User agrees that we can use their name, address, and dental records in perpetuity for marketing purposes.”

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What’s Up With LinkNYC and Privacy?

The LinkNYC project, powered by Google, is bringing internet access throughout the five boroughs — and a host of privacy concerns as the city sells its citizens’ locations, movements, and various other data to third parties.

Targeted advertising of the sort that underwrites LinkNYC isn’t about getting consumers information about goods and services they want, says Rushkoff, the media theorist. Rather, data collection is about producing profiles of consumers likely to engage in a particular form of consumer behavior and then bombarding them with ads or search results or tailored Facebook feeds to tip them over into that behavior. “They are working hard to get you to behave true to your statistical profile,” Rushkoff says, “and in doing so, they reduce your spontaneity, your anomalous behavior, your human agency, as they try to get you to conform to the most marketable probable outcome.

Find out what’s going on behind the scenes with these cool, but “stealthy,” street-side kiosks in this eye-opening article:

Engagement, Curating Images, and the Visual Web

It’s the day of the visual web. Pictures are worth a thousand words and videos are worth a thousand (or more!) pictures. Images engage viewers simply because our brains are wired to process visual information faster and retain it longer.

  • Write-ups with relevant images get 94% more views that the ones without.
  • Only 20% people remember what they read, while 80% recall what they see and do.
  • Posts that include images receive a 650% greater engagement rate than those that don’t.

Check out this guide to using visuals to increase the effectiveness of your digital communications:

LeEco Comes to US With New Level of Integrated Content, Services and Hardware

LeEco–a mega-Chinese content, services, and hardware company–launches in the US with ambitions that include everything from phones to movies to self-driving cars–all integrated in ways heretofore unseen. They’ve got the chops and the chutzpah, but will US consumers respond?

If you were to take Apple, Amazon, Paramount Pictures, Tesla, Uber, and Netflix, and combine all of those companies, you get what LeEco does in China …

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