In no particular order these are the experiences that engaged me and worked well this year:
1 – Volkswagen – See Film Differently
It’s all here isn’t it? A really clever idea blended with some good web-experiences that lead people to great offline experience. It’s true through-the-line work. For my money not very many brands have ever got this right & I suspect Volkswagen got this right totally by accident. Hats off to ‘Church of London‘ for creating some brilliant content. Anything draped in movies is instantly going to gather an audience, however, it’s difficult to get it right when people can get so passionate about a topic… so to pull this all together as a set of ideas is just genius. Have a look at the Ghostbusters video & tell me the idea here isn’t brilliant… I dare you!
For my money… the best experience I found this year. OH… and one final thing… and this is the brilliant bit… how many of you forgot that you were part of something essentially advertising cars? That’s the genius of new marketing. Subconscious brand awareness.
2 – Quora
Elegant interactions. It looks simple; it prompts instant and easy engagement; and it takes the hide-and-seek elements of a Q&A site away, leaving the user with a trove of relevant information at his or her fingertips. Quora is basically the future of FAQs for businesses. Rich, intuitive and fun.
3 – Levis – Workshop
Again – For me this has just nailed the challenge of blending something people are passionate about with that right amount of brand-awareness. It’s Levis – ACE – so they can get away with alot more than most brands… but what I actually love about Levis is that they know how to tap into peoples passion about a topic & then own it. The Workshops project running in New York is a pretty basic experience truth be told… sign up to attend a bunch of workshops about photography from names in photography that have respect… nothing new, right?
Check out the wealth of good images being stacked against the Levis Workshop search term too… that right there is a brand starting to look comfortable with it’s consumers. You’re part of the brand, not just on the end of food-chain. Have a look around Flickr at ‘Levis Workshop‘ photos too… it’s just brilliant… users are actually spreading the message about an experience & indirectly advertising Levis. Most of you will be wondering what this has to do with UX? Well it’s simple… think about it… this is users (consumers) EXPERIENCING Levis… it’s pure User Experience.
4 – Google
Silently up’ing the game all year round. Unless you’ve got beady interface eyes like me you probably didn’t even realize it. If you could go back a year Google was a totally different place from an experience point of view. It just ‘worked’ and that was enough. Now they’ve bolted in the bells and whistles that not everyone needs, but some will relish. For instance – How about that the left nav… notice when it appeared? Probably not… but it’s already a ubiquitous part of my Google behavior. Live Preview? Spot that one? Not so useful to a lot of people (probably 95% of people to be honest) but to a small minority this has just become the difference between clicking on a link & then hitting back in the browser because of the site not being the one they actually wanted. It’s like looking through the letterbox before going into a house. Seedy but good.
5 – The best job in the world
SapientNitro delivered a multi-platform campaign promoting its “The Best Job in the World” contest. Which although pretty traditional as an approach (it’s been done before) was a stroke of genius in terms of promoting something usual in an unusual way… its the Queensland Tourist Board remember… no? You didn’t know that? Well then that’s why as an experience it’s been a massive success. You saw Queensland and you fell in love with it… experienced it first hand, but didn’t have a sale-pitch to get you there.
Great campaign. A lot of social media buzz… tapped into peoples love and desire for reality TV and talking about reality TV online. Generally just a great use of media to promote something that’s actually pretty difficult to sell in times of financial hard-ship (“Don’t travel TOO Queensland, let someone else win the chance to go & then feedback on their experience” – It’s still desirable though, and one day you’ll remember that & go).
6 – HipMonk
Think of HipMonk as a test bed for possibility. It’s not brilliant, but like some of my examples in this list it’s taking UX and being experimental with it. Which I admire. HipMonk is basically a new way of searching for flights. Simple as. Results are displayed in a more digestible way than normal flight-checkers (think of it more as a Microsoft Gant-Chart for air-travel!) and users are able to make comparisons in a more information driven way.
7 – iPAD
Let us just reflect on this little product of 2010. It’s a solution in search of a problem… we were fine without it and nobody asked for it. I’ve forced myself to use mine a bit since I spent the £450 on it… but it’s still brilliant… it’s that old cliché “it changed the game”… and it has. New paradigms for experiencing content. So fair play to Apple for once again bringing us an experience that’s really too good to be true.
Nothing more to say on the iPAD – If you’ve got one you’ll either agree with me or disagree… it’s a game changer & an opinion splitter.
8 – Twitter
As an experience it really started to infect my life this year. It’s probably my social medium of choice now. I’m bored of Facebook… it’s too explicit… Twitter has just opened up my learning & consumption experience to a whole new level. Back on piste for a minute – The new interface they unveiled this year was a slice of usability brilliance too. Sleek, original (for a website), intuitive and most of all still ‘to the point’. What I’ve always admired about Twitter is that they don’t pretend to be a million things for a million people. They’re just a single thing doing it brilliant. Delivering 140 character messages to followers. So I admire them for not giving in the temptation (Facebook!) to try & be lots of other things.
It’s definitely DIGG that DIGG should have been.
9 – Virgin – The Project for iPAD
I’m not going to lie to you. I absolutely hammered this with criticism when I first loaded it onto my iPad. The biggest flaw is the file size. It is MASSIVE in terms of iPad usage (lets not forget iPad is still just a really big mobile phone with no talking bit) with it’s 450mb downloads… even on my work super-charged wifi network it took an age to download and then load. #fail. But then I started to play with it. Discover things. Use my fingers to explore & really get the experience and it is BRILLIANT. It’s taken all the best paradigms of the last 10 years and remoulded them into something tangible. We gushed over the adverts (panasonic digital lenticular?! GENIUS) and were gobsmacked about the quality of the videos. The Tokyo guide is superb. Fresh blend of opinion and video. Loved it.
What ‘Project’ is to be fair isn’t perfect… far from it… but it does start pushing the world forward in terms of media experiences. It might just be the first glimpse of something halfway between ATL and BTL. Which in itself is where the game changed. Again.
10 – Amazon Kindle
To be specific, for me, the iPAD Kindle app (why do I need a Kindle device, I’ve got my mid-size web touchscreen jobby now!) which has not only re-ignited my passion for reading in a way I never thought possible, but it’s actually teaching this old dog new tricks. I’m bowled over by it. As an experience it’s so pure but it’s so powerful. I can read a book, click on a word if I don’t know what it means and learn the dictionary definition (think about that a moment), I can highlight bits with my finger and save them for later. I can browse books and buy them cheaper than ever before, download them in seconds & not clutter my shelves at home. I’m actually contemplating taking a lot of books to Oxfam Books and buying them back in digital format. So as an experience, and a very intuitive one, it’s made a big impact on my 2010. Thank you Amazon – Proof that content is king – with a little help from Steve Jobs!
11 – Axion Banner Concerts
Quick one this. You’ve probably not heard anything about the Banner Concerts idea. Basically Axion streamed live-gigs in the frame of traditional banners… nuff said… not ground-breaking… but a new experience and one to watch out for in 2011. Live experiences in traditional spaces.
Simple. Brilliant. Inventive. Great experience.
12 – Flipboard for iPAD
A good idea. Well executed. Not convinced it’s going to change my behavior, but I applaud anybody willing to try something revolutionary & Flipboard to me was ‘THE’ iPAD app of the year in terms of showing people what is now possible.
13 – QWIKI
So this list is also about the possibilities we were introduced too in 2010 and nothing really solidifies the new possibilities of user-experience much better than QWIKI which arrived on the scene in 2010 (and will probably leave the scene at the same time next year to make way for something bigger, more refined & more… well… Google!). It’s essentially information redefined. It’s not perfect. I wouldn’t use it everyday (which to me is the ultimate definition of user experience) and I can’t see how it improves me life. But I like what it represents from a UX perspective, which is new ways to digest content. New ways for my son (when he’s old enough) to learn ‘stuff’. It’s stuff we never had growing up, so it can only be a good thing. The world is absolutely getting smaller everyday.
A lot of things taught this old dog new tricks this year. Which is why I got excited about experiences again in 2010. User experience is obviously more about enjoyment and entertainment than the old-skool usability stuff… get a person involved in something & they’ll remember it, amplify it, tell their mates & engage with a brand… make it easy & they’ll keep coming back… make it part of their lives & they won’t have any choice but to keep coming back. This sort of thing started coming of age in 2010. Looking forward to seeing the next evolution of digital urban experiences.