Here's what we're up to these days: redesigning the UX of a food subscription brand. Launching a mobile insurance app in Zürich, addressed at active families. Rebranding a fast-growing social media publisher. Helping a leading futurist thinker expand to new markets. Preparing for an ecommerce brand launch in Saudi Arabia. Re-inventing the UX for a fishing company. We just couldn't be more excited for the times ahead.
Hello WPP Streamers. So I've quickly hacked a little payment gateway solution (using an existing Stripe account I have) so that we can all use credit cards to gather the resources needed for our proposed 1800USD Stream Scholarship 2017 donation for the folks at Child Watch Phuket. Use the green donation button above to complete your donation.
After we reach our proposed target, I will contact them first, and then transmit the funds via an ACH bank transfer from Singapore (to the same bank account featured on their website right now). I will proceed to request confirmation of receipt, so I can post it in this thread too. I will go ahead and request that the funds are used in their education program, and will also share screenshots of those conversations here too.
If you would prefer to donate to them directly, you can find the information to do that at: http://www.childwatchphuket.org/support-us
Thank you so much for your interest in this idea!
First update (March 19th): We've already received around 1650USD via the transfer link, and we are now tallying the petty cash donations received.
Second update (March 20th): all credit card transfers/donations coming in so far are scheduled to be available for final transferring by March 31st, according to the payment gateway infrastructure provider (Stripe).
Third update (March 20th): WE'VE MADE IT, FOLKS! Our initial goal has been achieved this morning, through a lovely contribution from Christine. Keep them coming until March 31st, though!
Fourth update (March 22nd): We're now past the 2500USD mark, with a total of 15 successful online donations, 115USD from the Club Med donation box, plus the direct handout from Rob/Yossi.
Fifth update (April 3rd): Money has arrived, now establishing comms with the NGO for final transfer.
Breeding a new generation of data analysts
Every day, there are more than two exabytes of raw data being added to the World Wide Web. That's 1,073,741,824 GBs of data, multiplied by 2! As digital natives realize their own power over this new media, they will seek to acquire higher skills to build their personal knowledge libraries and information bases to create software and apps at whim, if they like.
But they all don't need to become programmers or complete a Computer Science degree to be able to achieve this. Maybe they need to understand a few basic things about data structure on the web — that most of this content is not yet standardized, that you need APIs to give content structure, and that you need a smart tool to do that.
What's an API, you ask? Before we get to that, let us introduce you to this week's Business Model Showcase — Kimono Labs. Despite still being in beta state, it has acquired some 15,000 users [Wired] and allows people to do for themselves what Google does on a regular basis.
Simply put, an API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of technical protocols that allow third-party software programs to interact with an application. So an API is a program that can be automated to do repetitive and mundane task as specified via code.
This is where Kimono Labs comes in — to help us 'scrape' the web without understanding APIs or writing a single line of code. And it only takes minutes, if not seconds. It allows us to focus our energies on how to make use of the data we wish to collect - instead of worrying if our data source has an API available or collecting and tracking data on spreadsheets maintained manually.
Now, it's no secret that Kimono Labs is focusing its efforts on engaging the developer user base for now, perhaps to improve their service, but they will shift their focus to make their service friendlier for non-technical users, ultimately. They know the main driver of the digital economy will be ability to build APIs, and to even out the playing field in terms of app development, including non-technical users is a high priority. Already there has been a surge in the app market with revenues for app stores shooting for the moon every quarter, which is a good indication of where all the digital natives are heading.
So you can use Kimono to build mobile web apps, to set up email alerts, and to embed feeds directly into your website, but you can also create nifty data visualizations that can come in handy when making design decisions for a website, or for data analysis.
Gone are the days when most of the hard-work started with collecting data manually, which was a painful process — extracting it according to a schedule, cleaning it up before being able to use it, and then updating it periodically. It was a time-consuming process that shifted the focus from the real task at hand, and might have been the reason why many startups failed right at the beginning. And then there was the issue of websites that required authentication.
When it comes to collecting data from email, social media or subscription news, the extra layer of encryption still proves to be a major pain for web scrapers. Earlier this month, Kimono Labs came through with 'Auth APIs' that now allow users to get data from websites that require authentication. As if all its other features weren't enough, this latest innovation makes Kimono Labs the best web scraper available to us today.
In The New World Order of Marketing, we talked about Zapier at great length, which allows users to upload their own APIs to create 'zaps'. While there may be some similarities between the offerings of Kimono Labs and Zapier, it is easy to visualize how Zapier's magic could work really well if you have your data sets available to you via APIs made by Kimono's smart tools.
The #BuiltWithKimono site features a collection of projects that use APIs created with Kimono Labs, mostly featuring World Cup related apps and visualizations, to showcase some of the incredible things that can be done using their service. There are a few more examples here as well. If you have a knack for creating apps for smart wearable devices, you can use this simple guide to build an app for the Pebble smart watch in under 10 minutes.
Kimono Labs is still offering its services for free with unlimited public APIs and a limit of 20,000,000 pages fetched. But they will be introducing paid plans soon that will also allow users to create unlimited private APIs for $400 a month.
In this era of information overload, Kimono Labs is making it possible for us to tame exabytes of data.
A hard working young man from Chittagong
Meet Mahabub. Mahabub is a young man from Chittagong in Bangladesh. He's also the guy who I've been spending most of my time here in Dubai, while I work on a UX project for a local client. He's the only person I see and talk to everyday. When he comes to clean the hotel room I'm staying, he's always saying sorry when he has to ask me to lift up my laptop. He's shy, but speaks a fairly good English.
Like many other workers in Dubai, Mahabub lives in a labour camp in Al Quoz. Al Quoz is an industrial neighborhood of Dubai, where workers share space with large warehouses, cement factories, and logistics hubs. He says he has good roommates, and that his place is not too crowded, even though things could be better.
Mahabub has a younger sister and a younger brother. They are back in Chittagong, and he hasn't seen them for more than two years. He's planning to go back for good next year when his visa in Dubai expires. He says he had enough of here.
Mahabub works six days a week, every week, from 8am to 6pm. He has his off days on Sundays. He tells me that there isn't a specific busier day of the week, however sometimes things get busy during events, or when certain guests come in and trash the rooms (he did mention a nationality, which I vowed not to share with anyone).
I have a deep respect for hard-working people, and Mahabub is a perfect example of someone putting in his best effort in expectation of a brighter future. I couldn't help asking what his salary was, and he was kind enough to tell me: 1000AED, or around 200 euros per month. That's less than 7 euros a day.
So I decided to call all of you to join me on a little project: I have around 10 days left here in Dubai (I leave on May 21st), and I want to raise enough money to surprise Mahabub with a return trip to see his family in Bangladesh. That costs around 1400AED on flydubai, or close to 380 USD. So I've prepared a PayPal donation button to receive donations for him. If you donate, I will match the value of every single donation that comes in, up until we reach the value of the flight ticket. If we go beyond this target, I will hand him the ticket voucher plus the leftover cash.
So I'm asking you to click on the Donate button below and make your donation of any value.
If you need to contact me about this, just send an email to email@example.com or on Twitter at @andregoiano and I will reply to you straight back. I thank you in advance for your commitment. One does what is in his or her power to do.
May 10th, 2014 — All donations will be refunded if we don't reach the final goal.
May 10th, 2014 — 10 days to go.
May 10th, 2014 — We have 7 confirmed donors, and 44.5% completion already!
May 11th, 2014 — 9 days to do, 8 donors, 68% completion.
May 12th, 2014 — In less than a couple of days, we have reached our ticket goal already. We gathered 405USD so far. Will be posting a follow-up soon about when and how I will hand it out to him. Thank you all.
If you’ve been looking for animators, then this week’s Talent Spotlight, Motion Authors, might interest you. Remember when Santana said, “You got that kinda lovin’ that can be so smooth!”? We have reason to believe Santana was talking about Motion Authors.
They’re a bunch of designers, animators and directors who make hand-tailored 'explainer' videos for companies of all sizes, with pertinent motion lines that transition with utter smoothness. They use cute and simple illustrations that appreciate textures and use colors rather effectively.
To witness the work of a team that cares about all the little details that go into making an animation for your products, you should see the work Motion Authors has done for their clients InVision App, Upluence, and KickoffLabs.
Keep the hacker space alive and thriving
Following a call from José Luis Vicente in his Technopolis blog, we at Mecenato – frequent visitors of the space when we're in town – would like to dedicate our support for their cause by helping to spread the word. MediaLab Prado, an open and free hacker space, is risking displacement due to corporate interests in the building that they occupy in Central Madrid. The site has been recently expanded through public fund investment. However, the new facility, which enjoys a great location in town, has attracted the interest of corporate players. The cause is clear: we all want MediaLab Prado to fully enjoy its newly reformed site, for many years to come.
If you don't know the place, check it out. If you do know it, help by spreading the word too.
Achieving global compliance to brand guidelines
As more and more companies compete in today’s global marketplace, the differences between their product offerings are shrinking rapidly. More often than not, what this means in terms of business strategy is that the brand remains to be the most-priced asset for a company. So it only makes sense that protection and consistent application of the brand be prioritized as most critical.
Brand teams work hard to perform this critical function by ensuring every consumer-facing activity goes through an approval process mandated by the brand or marketing code. They ensure that every piece of content being used is on-brand and that all brand guidelines are being followed in their entirety – with no exceptions made. Imagine the endless chains of emails from external partners, FTP uploads and downloads, query after query while searching for information, the DVD file errors, courier delays, duplicated assets, and WeTransfer download interruptions that they face each day.
Our tech overview for the week features a Brand Asset Management (BAM) solution called OnBrand, developed by North Plains’ recently-acquired Vyre. Their tagline, “dissolving complexity,” really starts to make sense once you compare it with other BAM/DAM (Digital Asset Management) solutions such as Asset Bank, Canto, Razuna, Woodwing’s Elvis, Widen, Cumulus, Filecamp, NetXposure, and Third Light IMS – just to name the few we compared with OnBrand.
It is a cloud-based, simple, modular solution that is out-of-the-box and supports the evolving brand ecosystem we face today. It allows a brand’s stakeholders controlled yet unhindered access to assets while protecting them at the same time. It is based on the UNIFY platform and features six modules that can be added on as the needs of a business grow.
The Software as a Service (SaaS) solution comes out on top primarily for its versatility in digital asset management – from brand guidelines, creative workflow and campaign management to smart approvals, reporting, and web-to-print services – allowing assets to be created and managed in a very controlled way. OnBrand ensures compliance to brand guidelines as well as legal guidelines and it also allows for projects to be delivered on time and within budget. Here is one system that was built with a thorough understanding of the pressures and bottlenecks most brands face today.
Protecting and controlling brand communications is a tedious task for any brand – especially global ones – and requires establishing a workflow system and rights management. Someone who needs to use the latest brand creatives for a slideshow doesn’t need high-resolution images; so OnBrand determines user requirements and grants access rights through its system, whether they are direct employees, joint ventures, distributors, agencies or even customers.
It goes a step further though. Digital assets are often duplicated or recreated just because users were not able to find what they are looking for – whether it was because of ineffective search tools or missing metadata. On average, users spend nearly 37 minutes (or 8% of a typical work day) on average just searching for information. Since the OnBrand BAM allows for dynamic navigation, relevancy, predictive, synonym support and query suggestions, it is possible to find assets through accelerated search and retrieval allowing for ease of repurposing and reusing content, saving organizations at least 50% of the time (and thus money) spent searching.
Apart from being a single, central store for guidelines and best practices, the key benefit of the BAM is in how it accommodates the direction coming from board rooms that demands greater efficiency, greater transparency and a greater throughput of work. The system actually helps organizations eliminate waste by laying a strong foundation to calculate costs, measure performance and calculate the return on marketing investment. This kind of intelligence goes directly into the making and improvement of an evolved business plan.
OnBrand can be deployed as a licensed tool or as a service that typically costs £2,500 a month (or £30,000 a year). With the advent of new media technologies, timely creation, management and distribution of visual content has become an integral part of the creative marketing lifecycle. Marketing resource management and achieving global compliance to brand guidelines is not some distant dream any more. The right tools are already out there.
Get up close with UX techniques and definitions
We've recently come across the wide variety of user experience books offered by Rosenfeld Media. Ranging from research to strategy to content and much more, these are extremely valuable resources for the creative who wants to start on the path of UX learning. If you're an agency leader or marketer, I'd go for the entire 20-book package for 299USD.
Crisp and clean
This week we bring you Milan-based Frank Rapacciulo's slick designs in our Talent Spotlight. Being able to create huge spaces in mobile application design is a challenge for most, but Rapacciulo accomplishes this rather comfortably with his minimalist art direction. Rapacciulo's specialty, however, seems to be flat user interface design where he is known for his modern touch, simplicity, masonry layouts and clean designs.
He is currently engaged with Fubles utilizing his UI/UX skills for websites and mobile applications.
Content brewing: smart, real-time, filtered, curated and creative
The production and distribution cycle of branded content has gone from 21 weeks (TVCs) to 21 minutes (tweets) in the past five years. Meanwhile, consumers are uploading 300 million photographs on Facebook every day (40 million on Instagram). Brands are being compelled to create new content at an alarmingly fast pace (given the rate of its consumption), and that poses a massive challenge for even the most talented content creators working at your typical digital agency today.
Enter Percolate.com, a fully comprehensive content marketing platform that allows brands to turn idea seeds into full-form content, ready to be posted onto their Facebook page, for example. Now, how is that any different from the content marketing solutions a digital agency provides as part of their retainer package? Let's take a look.
Social media is a very visual medium. Digital agencies typically employ a team of graphic designers and illustrators, some photographers and a Shutterstock account to aid production of visually appealing content. Some of these team members have a better understanding of the brand and what it stands for, compared to others.
Percolate also sources images from various sources, such as Getty Images, Shutterstock, Scripted, and Visual.ly, but before they do that, their platform incorporates the brand DNA into their algorithm so that most of the suggestions displayed are on-brand, helping cut through the clutter. As a value addition, their partnership with Aviary allows users to edit content without the need for advanced Photoshop skills using their interface.
Both digital agencies and Percolate try to make full use of user-generated content, however, Percolate offers FanBranded, a user-generated content procurement application created to simplify and streamline the curation process.
Digital agencies always claim full knowledge on every platform available out there but typically their strengths lie in some, not all. For example, most agencies understand Facebook and Twitter very well, and then they just duplicate the same content onto other sites. Percolate also covers Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, websites, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Google Plus, giving users publishing tools that allow brands to tie elements of their digital marketing content together based on the varying dynamics of each medium. Perhaps their unique advantage over digital agencies is how they are able to offer one place that ties everything together to create an actionable framework for managing content production cycles.
Content creation is mostly a human process that takes time. In addition, brands need to vet through every piece of content that goes out so concept-makers and copywriters at digital agencies struggle with short deadlines to deliver sheets of content way before they would be posted. But digital media occurs in real-time, so despite a content bank full of approved content, agencies get stuck in the vicious cycle of last-minute content creation, chasing approvals minutes before a piece of content needs to be posted. Again, it seems that Percolate's ability to allow teams to build concepts together in one (virtual) space allows for a much better publishing workflow.
Social media challenges brands who had previously become accustomed to not paying any attention to anyone but mentions of themselves. But we are now part of a digital world where production requires consumption. With digital agencies to act on their behalf, it has been the agencies' prerogative to analyse consumer trends and behaviour through content consumption, in order to suggest appropriate content strategies (to bring home more of those mentions). This has often resulted in one-off campaigns that may or may not even be culturally relevant.
To tackle this problem, Percolate asks brands to identify their brand's interests and to pay close attention to culture in real-time using their interface to allow for more sustained communications that are not only apt for global audiences but also relevant. They've also thrown in features such as data visualisations that draw patterns out of content to help brands understand what works best and why.
With ongoing campaigns, competitions, promotions, new offerings and what not, real-time, on-brand content creation that is inspired from latest trends, both from the real world as well as the virtual world is the challenge for every brand today. With Percolate, it seems that brands can now directly engage themselves with their consumers without the need to rely on their digital agency for everything.
Our talent in the spotlight this week, Brassai, is one of those few people whose work is full of character – fresh and unusual. His line work is fantastic. It is very clean and only enhanced by his iconic color selection and palette. If typography is an art that clarifies yet disguises the meanings of a text at the same time, then Brassai must know more than a thing or two about it. The britto cross-hatching style, flat shadow colors and cubic strokes found in his work show that this artist is a force to reckon with.
Based in Transylvania (Romania), Szende works exclusively on logo, print and web design. His work speaks for itself and we are really excited and looking forward to see more great stuff from him.
Nike campaign shortlisted in three categories
Mecenato is happy to announce that JWT Dubai's LVL UP campaign for Nike Football Middle East, which took over three floors of a tower in Dubai, has been shortlisted in three different categories (Media, Promo & Activation and Branded Content & Entertainment) at this year's Dubai Lynx awards. Wishing the team the best of luck at the awards night.
What's happening in the intersection of smartphones and cars
First they battled for space in your pocket, and now we're seeing an upcoming battle for your car dashboard and your home.
Mobile World Congress
This year's edition of MWC in Barcelona saw the preview of the new Samsung Galaxy S5 (heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner included). Nokia showcased their new X line running Android, but we're still unsure what that means for the future of the company and their integration with Microsoft. Mozilla entered the conversation with plans for an incredibly low priced $25 smartphone running Firefox OS, and Ubuntu was seen with their first prototypes out. Sony launched a few new flagship products, but didn't sustain any major attention in the conference.
Geneva International Motor Show
Meanwhile in Geneva, things were getting electric, entertaining and integrated. We've seen the recent announcement of Apple's CarPlay integration with a range of car brands, which will battle with Volkswagen Group-backed MirrorLink for car dashboard supremacy. BMW is constantly putting in more meat into their i electric line, and we should see their i3 model hitting the US markets this year already. Their venture investment in the integration of Life360 seems to be a good indication of continuous car integration. Elon Musk's Tesla is already featuring a $100-dollar-per-year plan to connect their S models to the web, with users set to see a range of innovations there (an app for pre-heating car seats is already out there, and we see a not-very-distant future where cars are unlocked with finger sensor-enabled smartphones).
Our take on all of this
The era of the car connectivity is already upon us, but there's still room far beyond the smartphone, mobile carrier and car manufacturer trio. Brands and outlier startups can still enter this arena. Marketers and service providers that have covered the desktop and mobile arenas now have one more space to take care of if they want to keep relevant in all of their user's daily experiences. This is also true to the upcoming wearable devices arena.
There are still some technical issues to be covered before car connectivity becomes ubiquitous, but now is the time for brands to start designing and prototyping experiences for it. Regulatory issues will play a role here too, so it's still unsure what will be allowed or not in the futures. Voice recognition and voice commands will play a larger role too, so expect to design with that in mind.
Once car connectivity and mobile integration is covered, there's also an opportunity for car brands to once again attract new demographies and retain some of their customers by offering an outstanding mobile integration and in-car experience, in addition to just the regular fight for price, design and car specs. A different look at mobility concepts and collaborative consumption will also be enabled, like the co-ownership of cars, ride sharing, etc.
Interesting times ahead.
Internet is a gift from God
Our talent spotlight this week, Goran, might as well be a modern take on Boris Artzybasheff himself. Not only does he use wicked perspectives and a delicate choice of colour palettes, he loves playing with textures and gradients in his own unique style that will make you fall in love with his work.
Selected for the Communication Arts Typography Annual 2014, and also among the Top 10 designers for Adweek Magazine in 2011, Goran has served a plethora of well-to-do clients be it huge brands like BMW and Samsung, or media empires such as ESPN, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fortune Magazine, GQ, Men's Health, The Washington Post and Wired - just to name a few. Let him mesmerize you from his base in Milano through some work samples taken from his Dribbble account.
Reimagining the car-buying experience
Buying a new car is one activity fraught with a lot of stress where high-pressure sales tactics, slogs between dealers, and haggling over prices do nothing but add more disgruntlement to the experience. Our business showcase for the week, Tred.com, guarantees you “the best car-buying experience you’ve ever had, and the lowest car prices,” and they claim it will take no more than 60-90 minutes of your time, all done from the comfort of your home.
Backed by Rick Wagoner, the ex-GM CEO, Tred.com offers fee-based test drives to give car shoppers a behind-the-wheel experience for up to two cars at a time, delivered by Tred Experts. These car experts are purposefully incentivized to ensure customers have a great experience – not to sell cars, since Tred does not collect a percentage of car sales, but to help customers make informed decisions based on their unbiased opinions.
Car dealers are also incentivized to partner with Tred, so they are able to offer customers the lowest possible no-haggle price – a service Tred is so sure of that they will mail customers a check for $500 if they find a lower price elsewhere.
One of the more nifty features of Tred’s service is the “deal screen”, which is an innovative way to connect prospective car-buyers with car dealerships anonymously through Tred Talk – their online portal, to discuss options such as financing, trade-ins or a lease. This part of the service eliminates the need for car shoppers to visit dealerships, giving them the freedom to shop for cars from the convenience of their homes or offices.
As we write this, Tred is only operational in Seattle, and charges customers $19 for each test drive delivered. The service is free for electric and hybrid cars, though, if you wish to Tred Lightly.
Tred is also delving into the business of picking and dropping cars for anyone who would like to save a trip to the workshop and provides a loaner car of their choice that they can use in the meantime, all for a small fee, also delivered by Tred.
Everyone's a tutor
As a seven-trillion dollar industry, it is surprising that the Internet has not yet managed to disrupt the field of education. But the digital education landscape is changing fast - from a one-size-fits-all model to more technology-enabled solutions, such as TutorUniverse.
TutorUniverse offers a free service that allows students to ask study-related questions from qualified tutors and get them answered almost immediately. They can also use this service to find skilled tutors who are available to assist students with a specific hourly rate for study sessions conducted through the website interface.
To turn this into a financial transaction, tutors must decide how much they would like to charge their students and mention it on their profiles. In turn, students must set their budget and then load 'TutorBucks' in their account to hire the tutor they need (1 TutorBuck = 1 USD).
Students are given a 100% satisfaction guarantee by TutorUniverse for their first study session, so the pressure is on the tutors to deliver what they promise their prospective students in the Virtual Study Room.
GotIt! is a free app by TutorUniverse that has been launched on both iOS and Android platforms to provide the same free service that TutorUniverse offers on its website, only on mobile; allowing students to get help with their studies instantly. Just as on the website, this app also allows tutors the opportunity to impress prospective students by answering questions and getting noticed.
Tutors must pay 15% to 25% commission to TutorUniverse as service charges, depending on how often they use the platform to teach. As they tutor more, the service charge gets smaller and the tutors save more money.
From Lean theory to Lean practice
There's a wide gap between theory and practice, particularly in the innovation arena. After the wide success of Steve Blank's "The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company" and Eric Ries' "The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses", the market was now armed with a new innovation theory, but lacked the in-depth knowledge to avoid pitfalls in practice. Ash Maurya's "Running Lean: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan that Works" aims to fill that gap.
Covering all steps of the Lean strategy, Ash goes into each part in detail, arming current and wannabe entrepreneurs with tools, processes and vocabulary to tackle each phase.
Running Lean works for us as a weekly consultation guide. That works for us much better than a long continuous read. We recommend it for intra and entrepreneurs in any industry that are already familiarized with the Lean Startup philosophy, as well as developers who would like to get rid of their waterfall processes.