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Artwork by Patrick DolanMore Information

Guest blog: Designing to engage

Apple iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 from Apple, the experts in design and engagement. Photo from abulhussain's Flickr.

“Ok, I’m bored.” – The thought that goes through your head when you see something, on screen or in print, that is badly designed or ‘noisy’. From a billboard to a web site, every piece of information that crosses your path has a certain amount of time in the spotlight (usually just a few seconds) to draw you in before you move on to sub-consciously critique the next thing that catches your gaze.

In a world that already bombards us with adverts, news and other information, attention spans are lower than ever. If you want someone to take notice of something you’ve created you better make sure you put some thought into how you present your creative masterpiece.

What’s the solution? Well I haven’t got all the answers but, I believe whatever you’re creating (and for me it’s usually web applications) you should aim to know your audience and make things ‘usable’ and engaging. Terms like ‘usable’ and ‘easy on the eye’ can be subjective so, content design and presentation isn’t an exact science. There a lot of design and usability rules to create things (especially on the web) in the ‘right’ way but, I’m a fan of less is more. Simplicity usually wins out over complexity and noise when you want to engage people. Think Twitter.

Along with the other guys at OuterArc, I spent a long time looking around the building management market at all the reporting software and complex outputs available to people. This meant little to Managing Directors and other non-technical staff who wanted to decrease energy usage in their building and be ‘greener’. Therein lay the problem, only one guy could use all of this complex software and even then only a small proportion of features were actually used. This type of software is not designed for everyone to quickly take a look at how much energy the building is using, influence people into making more energy conscious decisions and generally increase occupant energy awareness. The information to do that is usually found in these systems somewhere but it’s not presented in the right way.

Step in KyotoTV. We created something that stripped away nearly everything to do with building and energy management to serve one purpose, engage people in energy usage. It wasn’t easy. The design we have now is simple but it took a lot of thought and a few hard decisions to work out how best to present the information we have in there and what we could leave out.

Bear in mind that not everyone is going to be interested by your content or what you’ve got to say. Accept it. Once you’ve accepted that, concentrate on the people you do want to engage and think long and hard about the best way you can do that through careful design. Your customers will thank or maybe even love you for it. Apple is a prime example.

This post concludes my guest blogging time on CreativeNottingham, thanks for reading, I hope I’ve given you a bit of an insight into my world. I’d also like to say a big thanks to CreativeNottingham for the opportunity.

If you want to look at any of my previous posts click here and my contact info is here if you want to get in touch.