Archive for October, 2010
We here at the Zoom Creates Nerd Herd (the development team) have always loved the modX CMS tool. It’s extremely flexible, has a great system for templates and code chunks, and is limited only by your imagination. We’ve been using it for sites since before the code base was at a stable 1.0 release, probably since around late 0.8 beta releases. There are many great plugins that help with breadcrumbs, dynamic navigation and menus, AJAX requests, search engine friendly URLs and more. Today I’d like to point out some of the features and changes of their latest release, Revolution 2.0.4.
I love these; I love the thought that goes into creating these and how perfectly designed they are. I am going to wish for a new client who makes… shopping bags! And Zoom will design the most wonderfully creative bags ever! In the meantime, enjoy these ones…
Today marks the launch day for the new Starbucks Digital Network that wi-fi users will find next time they sit down at any Starbucks location to use the internet. First, allow me to say, it’s about time Starbucks offered something tangible to their wi-fi users; did you know they only recently started offering free wi-fi? Finally!
We’re told (via Mashable) that the Starbucks Digital Network will be something similar to an online version of the corkboards found in every location (you know, the announcement boards). Here’s the article to give you the detailed scoop:
Beginning Wednesday, Starbucks customers who use the free Wi-Fi at more than 6,800 U.S. company-operated stores will be greeted with the Starbucks Digital Network (SDN) — an exclusive content network curated by the company and designed to enhance the customer’s in-store experience. Starbucks has been teasing SDN for months, but now that the network is about to go live we have a much clearer idea about the type of content provided and the purpose behind the digital endeavor.
Starbucks’s Vice President of Digital Ventures Adam Brotman sat down with Mashable (Mashable) in advance of the October 20 launch day for a complete tour. “The vision,” he says, “is for Starbucks Digital Network to be a digital version of the community cork board that’s in all of our stores.”
We’ve known for some time that SDN would offer unfettered access to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today, but that’s just scratching the surface. Starbucks has manufactured a rich experience around each of its six channels: News (news), Entertainment, Wellness, Business and Careers, My Neighborhood and the customer-personalized Starbucks channel.
SDN Content, Channels and Partners
Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of each channel:
News: This section of SDN is comprised of Starbucks media partners offering premium or exclusive content to customers. The New York Times has opened up access to its Reader 2.0 subscription-based service for free, all content from the The Wall Street Journal is available minus the pay wall and the exact replica of the USA Today newspaper is accessible to users on the network. Newly signed content partner GOOD is providing early access to its infographics, so Starbucks customers can view them before anyone else.
Entertainment: Starbucks has populated the entertainment portion of its network with music, apps and books from Apple’s iTunes, full access to a selection of books picked by Starbucks and provided by the Bookish Reading Club (via an HTML5 reader), business e-books courtesy of New Word City, a kid-rich experience powered by Nick Jr. Boost and handpicked documentary films provided by SnagFilms.
Wellness: Health and fitness publisher Rodale is the primary content provider for this SDN channel. Customers have access to specialized content — not available to anyone other than Starbucks customers — from Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Bicycling, Prevention, Organic Gardening and Eat This, Not That!, along with a custom built “Map my Ride, Map my Run” application.
Business and Careers: Professional social networking site LinkedIn (LinkedIn) is making exclusive video and blog content available to Wi-Fi users in this channel. The network also provides LinkedIn job search and suggestions, and offers users a 30-day free trial for the premium account.
My Neighborhood: Starbucks is adamant about creating a localized experience to connect customers with the community around the store. The company delivers on this objective by serving up content to users based on the exact whereabouts of the store where the user is accessing the free Wi-Fi. Community fare includes local news from Patch and a look at nearby DonorsChoose.org classroom projects that could benefit from small contributions. Foursquare (Foursquare) users can check in via the web from Starbucks stores, and Zagat makes available full ratings for restaurants in the surrounding area for free.
Starbucks: This channel provides a personalized customer experience for Starbucks account/card management and also amasses all of Starbucks social (Twitter (Twitter)/Facebook (Facebook)/MyStarbucksIdea) and digital properties under one umbrella.
We may be kicking a gift horse in the mouth, but one thing that struck us about SDN is that there’s almost too much content to go around. In some aspects the experience seems saturated and overwhelming, so customers may not know where to start and partners providing premium content may find some of it gets overlooked. We broached the subject with Brotman who explained that Starbucks will be tracking user activity via web analytics to get a sense of what users respond to. The network is designed to feel fresh each time you come back and the three promo tiles on the home page rotate to engineer more than 40 unique experiences.
It’s a priority for Starbucks to ensure that customers have easy access to content, and “that all the content partners are feeling like they have an equal shot,” Brotman says.
A Premium Mobile Experience
SDN certainly packs in a variety of content that makes for interesting material to explore on a laptop, but the network was also designed with the mobile user in mind.
Users accessing the network via mobile devices and tablets will benefit from the HTML5 smartphone-optimized network. SDN for mobile is also touchscreen-friendly, offering a hands-on, swipe-able experience.
More than 50% of users logging on to the free Wi-Fi are doing so from mobile devices, so the company was motivated by usage behaviors to build a mobile web experience just as good, if not better than, the standard web experience. Content was also designed to be “snackable,” so the mobile user can get value even while waiting in line, says Brotman.
Where Yahoo Fits In
While SDN is cloaked in the Starbucks brand name, Yahoo actually plays a pivotal role in the behind-the-scenes network experience. Yahoo is the coffee retailer’s technology partner on the initiative, so it not only developed the site at Starbucks’s behest, but it’s hosting the network, powering the search experience and providing content as well. Yahoo will also serve as a promotional partner for SDN and market SDN on its site in the form of banner ads. The two partners hooked up after Starbucks approached Yahoo about the initiative. “They’re so strong in the three areas we knew we needed help with — technology, content and search,” says Brotman, “so we came to them … and they were eager.”
“They seemed excited by the local and unique nature of the Starbucks Digital Network,” explains Brotman on why Yahoo was eager to work with the trendy coffee retailer.
The Bottom Line is Choice
One would assume, correctly so, that Starbucks has not gone to trouble of providing free Wi-Fi and a premium digital network without thinking about how it could profit by these pricey additions. If we didn’t know better, we’d presume that Starbucks was charging its partners for placement. Instead, as we’ve disclosed before, there’s no money changing hands — unless SDN users make purchases from partners, in which case there is a revenue share.
What it comes down is a matter of choice. Coffee and tea drinkers have a myriad of options, so for Starbucks it’s about motivating the customer to choose its stores and its digital network content partners by association.
SDN is designed with two key objectives in mind, says Brotman: enhancing the customer’s experience and better engaging customers while they’re in the store.
“Tens of millions of customers are coming in to our stores and logging in to our Wi-Fi on a monthly basis anyways. They’re coming in because we provide this great experience — good music overhead, quality food and coffee and the opportunity to connect with your friends or the baristas … What we hope is that this is a nice complement to that experience.”
The engagement piece is centered around what Starbucks can do with location and perhaps reveals a bit more about Yahoo’s motivation to participate. “We’re really excited about the fact that we can leverage the location-based nature of the site to connect our customers with the communities around the stores,” he says.
The story of a killer robot traveling through time to knock off John Connor is pretty far fetched. Everyone knows time travel is very expensive, and robots just don’t have that kind of dough. But will there be a Skynet self-aware network that turns machines against humans? Yeah, probably. But rest assured, before the Terminator movies become reality, we’ll all have robot servants that go haywire and Will Smith will save us. Then they’ll take over, disguised as the Governor of California. Then we’ll wake up, connected to a matrix, and realize we’re being harvested by machines for energy. Hollywood has been trying to warn us of these inevitable events for years. If you need proof of what’s coming, check out the video below. Just in time for Halloween, here’s a creepy robot to chill you to the bone (and other dancers to warm you back up).
There are good websites and there are bad websites. And then, there are really really bad websites. Those are the ones we’re going to talk about today — the really bad ones. Since working in the agency world, I have learned what qualifies as good design and bad design of a website. I’ve learned that there’s nothing wrong with white space. I’ve learned that a good user experience is just as important as good design. But let me tell you, had I seen these websites prior to working at Zoom Creates, I still would’ve known they were horrific. Since Halloween is right around the corner, I believe these examples of bad websites qualify as scary, to say the least.
Fashion is only a hop skip and a jump from graphic design, so checking on upcoming trends in color and pattern is always a good idea. Today I started looking into color trends for Spring 2011 to help stay a bit ahead of the game. According to Pantone Color Institute executive director Leatrice Eiseman, new spring hues will keep harmony, proportion and balance in mind. In the article by WSAToday, she offered up three color pallets that will be very important in the upcoming season:
A color pallet that works off of neutrals (which include graphite blues and grays) that are infused with hotter hues like yellow, orange and red. The pallets focus is to combine practability with something a little more exciting.
This pallet uses complementary colors, taken from nature, to create vibration for the eye (think blues and reds).
A sophisticated and quiet pallet that uses both warm and cool shades together, almost mimicking the seasons changing weather.
Color has a unique ability to capture the attention of the audience, bring on emotion, and enhance the look of a product or design. So, if you’re just shopping for the next trend or starting early on those spring designs, it’s smart to keep these tips in mind to make sure we are continually tempting the consumer, making a sale or giving off the appropriate message.