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Editor’s note: Christopher
Schmitt, event manager for the second annual In Control Web Design
Conference, shares insights from the two-day event held last month.
What do an online game start-up and an email marketing service have
in common? Representatives from both did speak at the In Control Web
Design Conference, but their similarities stretch beyond their mutual
attendance and into a shared goal: to create more playful online
As Daniel Burka, design director of Tiny
Speck and former design director of Digg, highlighted in his
keynote address, advancements in web browsers have made fun more
possible than ever. Gone are the days of limited table-based sites, and
now designers can use almost any font, color, or device they want. With
this increased flexibility, designers should focus less on explanation
and more on engagement, he said. To do this, Burka urges them to “play
For example, at Tiny Speck, started by Flickr co-founder Stewart
Butterfield, they are working on the multiplayer game Glitch, which allows users to start
crafting characters, with names and even “implausibly large moustaches,”
before prompting them to register.
The key is to throw users into the heart of your site. Don’t rush
them to provide email addresses or complete forms. First allow them to
experience the value of your website or application. Then ask for more
information. A richer initial experience makes users more inclined to
Aarron Walter, lead user experience designer at MailChimp, stressed the importance
of incorporating play not only from the start but also for the duration
of an interactive experience. Websites and applications should go beyond
functional; they must delight and inform.
For instance, to help users through the mundane task of wrestling
mailing lists, MailChimp employs a mischievous mascot that is, you
guessed it, a chimp. Known as Freddie, the mascot hangs out in the upper
right hand corner of the site, spouting funny one-liners—“Slap me some
skin, Amanda! (oh, I don’t have hands)”—or links to monkey-related
YouTube videos that update each time a new page loads. This simple
random-text-link generator combo gives the web application a bit of
flair that makes MailChimp, Freddie in particular, stand out.
A website or app with a pulse—even if just a cartoon chimp’s pulse—is
a way to foster more meaningful relationships with your users. And,
most important, encourages people to keep on “playing.”
What are some more examples of websites that are
switching the focus from explaining to engaging? Do you agree that
websites should be more playful?
Want to quit your job to play all day? When you play games with clients, you can have it both ways. Luke Hohmann reveals how to break free of habits and have fun innovating.
Section: Inspiration -
interview, Voice, design thinking, user research
How can an act as simple as noticing inspire and drive innovation? Portigal and Soltzberg share their observations.
Section: Why Design -
environmental design, usability, business, students
Distraction is easy, attention is hard. Caplan points out why designers must pay attention in order to get (and hold) attention.
Section: Inspiration -
Voice, graphic design, product design, user research
Charles S. Anderson is recognized with a 2014 AIGA Medal for creating a design language that elevates the vernacular into a playful, modern design style and pioneering the role of designer as entrepreneur.
Section: Inspiration -
AIGA Medal, illustration, editorial design, graphic design, packaging, print design, product design
Benjamin Dauer is a Senior Product Designer at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C. and was recently the Lead Product Designer at SoundCloud in Berlin, Germany. AIGA Baltimore took a field trip to interview Benjamin about designing in-house for NPR.
This summer Steamboat Design Camp took place in western Colorado. SDC assembled 9 designers from across the country to work together for 5 days to completely revitalize the brand identity of a local non-profit. Everyone left with fresh inspiration that
good design always brings good to the world.
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