Blogless: Blog of Design Less Better.

Posts tagged Twitter.

Four Design Links: August 20, 2009

It's Thursday and that means four more Design Links are coming your way. It's our way of sharing the sites we've been reading this week, keeping you up to date on the latest design research, trends, and stories.

1. Far Foods

I caught James Reynolds's Far Foods, an updated design for produce packaging, on Swissmiss. I think the boarding-pass styling might be too clever visually, but I very much like the idea of prominently displaying point-of-origin, distance traveled, and resulting CO2.

James Reynolds': Far Foods
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NickAug 20, 2009

Four Design Links: July 23, 2009

Today's Four Links are of the educational variety. Follow a couple and learn something new!

1. Packaging Design at Its Worst

Treehugger has a gallery of packaging designs that are wasteful and, in one case, downright dangerous.

2. What Street Vendors Can Teach Businesses About Twitter

One of the better articles I've read on making effective use of Twitter. I appreciate the fact that the authors use real tweets as examples instead of simply making broad, unsupported generalizations.

3. Want more sign-ups? Don't lead with "Free" offers

In user testing, 37signals found that a call-to-action button with the copy "See Plans and Pricing" resulted in a 200% increase in sign-ups over variations on "Sign-up for a Free Trial".

It seems that people are weary of "free" things online as they are often a gateway to unwanted subscriptions and opt-out schemes.

4. How to Monetize a Free Service

Okay, that title's a bit misleading.

But we could learn something from the actions of Pandora CEO Tim Founder on how to make the move from free to freemium. Founder broke the news to his customers in a sensitive and well-reasoned letter that's worth reading.

Make a great service and treat your customers like intelligent people. That's something we can all subscribe to.

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NickJul 23, 2009

You Shouldn’t Follow me on Twitter

A thought experiment qua Dustin Curtis.

You shouldn't follow me on Twitter. I rarely post an update and often when I do it is hopelessly cryptic and pointless.

If you follow me on Twitter, my avatar will be like the smug mouth of a fish, surfacing almost imperceptibly in your Twitter stream and then quickly resubmerging.

I lose Twitter followers constantly because I fail to reply to their perfectly well-meaning @messages. Like rude wallpaper.

Like rude wallpaper

You definitely shouldn't follow me on twitter here.

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PaulJul 22, 2009
Tagged with: Twitter, Zen

Four Design Links: July 16, 2009

Time to drop the Trends label, I think. Not everything in my Thursday posts is up-to-the-minute, nor is it "trendy". Let's go with Four Links from here on out!

1. Less, But Better

BBH labs has an long article featuring the work of influential industrial designer Dieter Rams that concludes with an interview. It's worth checking out. Rams is certainly a favorite around here!

2. A Solution to Print Relevancy? Solving Wired's Puzzle Issue

A while back I posted a link about the possible demise of the print version of Wired Magazine. May's special puzzle issue, guest edited by J.J Abrams, makes a case for the potential still left in the medium.

Text from Wired Magazine's Puzzle Issue

Lone Shark Games hid 15 puzzles in the magazine whose solutions unlock a final metapuzzle. Fittingly, the final solution (SPOILER) bridges old and new media, as it involves both cutting the magazine and visiting a website. Read about it here.

3. You Should Follow Me on Twitter

An informal study by Dustin Curtis (the infamous blogger) suggests that to gain more Twitter followers, you may wish to choose your language carefully.

Dustin Curtis -- You Should Follow Me on Twitter

4. Collection of Baseball Infographics

Finally, for a little bit of summer, check out Craig Robinson's Flip Flop Fly Ball for some beautifully presented baseball data.

Distance covered by runners in a season, plotted on a US map.
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NickJul 16, 2009

Four Design Trends: June 25, 2009

Another week, another four design trends. Next week our special theme will be The Science of Scams. Hope you will join us!

1. Two Twitter case studies (that have nothing to do with Iran)

If I only had a nickel for every time someone asked me what a person can do with Twitter…

Well, here are two good examples:

Tim O'Reilly spoke recently about how he uses Twitter as a publisher to build a community. Not to amplify his own status, but to support things and people that he wants to see more of in the world. "Create more value than you capture", he says. It's the same philosophy that made his media company successful and it continues to work for him on Twitter.

Not to be outdone, Amanda Palmer of the Dresdon Dolls used Twitter to make $19,000 in 10 hours using auctions and by organizing impromptu donation-funded gigs.

2. Design Tips for Crowdsourcing Applications

There's a nice piece from Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab about how the UK's Guardian newspaper used crowdsourcing to quickly catch up to a rival newspaper's scoop, creating a website where readers helped filter through thousands of pages of government expense reports in a matter of hours.

A few quick UI tips I gathered from the article:

Crowdsourcing interface from The Guardian UK
  1. Keep the choices limited. The Guardian didn't ask people to write a report or notes for the pages, just click one of four buttons to rate it. This made it accessible to more people and helped them move through many pages quickly.
  2. Make it a video game. Graphing progress and posting it on leaderboards helped motivate readers with a sense of accomplishment and competition. (similar to
  3. Pretty bird. Analytics showed people looked through more pages when they were accompanied by a picture of the person in the report. In their words, it turned a boring .pdf into a detective story.

3. FTC to Patrol Blog Swag

Aside from the occasional lawsuit, product reviews on blogs are unregulated. The Federal Trade Commission plans to change that soon.

It seems many companies gift bloggers with money or free product for a review and many writers do not disclose this in their articles. Although the companies don't tell the bloggers what to write, it's certainly a conflict of interest. So marketers and bloggers beware: if you don't follow ethical practices, the FTC may come knocking.

4. How do you design a package for a product that (technically) doesn't exist?

Cover for a Dan Brown book that hasn't been released yet

The Book Design Review asks an interesting question: who makes those fake book covers for books that aren't released yet?

Danger Mouse had a similar problem with his new album Dark Night of the Soul, when his record label refused to release it due to contract disputes. Unable to legally sell his music, instead he sold an "album" containing a custom-printed blank CD-R , encouraging his fans to download a leaked copy and burn it themselves.

It's an interesting design type to consider in this age of digital downloads. Without a physical package, what does the "cover" or "box" look like for a bunch of bits? Maybe that's an emerging design specialization....

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NickJun 25, 2009

The Soft Bulletin

As users of Twitter, how should we feel about the fact that the microblogging service conceded to a recent request from the US State Department?

As we all know by now, in the aftermath of Iran's June 12 presidential elections, Iranians have increasingly taken to the streets in protest of the election's hotly disputed results. We know this in large part due to the fact that many of those Iranians have been using Twitter to swap information and inform those of us here in the outside world about what's going on in Tehran.

This is no doubt a triumph for the company and even for the role of technology in democracy more broadly. Jon Williams, the BBC world news editor, is perhaps sentimental but certainly not entirely wrong in asserting that "the days when regimes can control the flow of information are over."

Photo from the recent Tehran protests
Photo from the recent Tehran protests, posted by Flickr user .faramarz.
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PaulJun 22, 2009

Oblique Strategies on Twitter

In need of strategic Inspirado? With the Oblique Strategies feed on Twitter, you can get worthwhile dilemmas delivered on the hour.

Oblique Strategies is a set of special cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt whose purpose is to provide creative inspiration.

Oblique Strategies cards

In an interview, Eno describes them thusly:

The Oblique Strategies evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation - particularly in studios - tended to make me quickly forget that there were others ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach. If you're in a panic, you tend to take the head-on approach because it seems to be the one that's going to yield the best results. Of course, that often isn't the case - it's just the most obvious and - apparently - reliable method. The function of the Oblique Strategies was, initially, to serve as a series of prompts which said, "Don't forget that you could adopt *this* attitude," or "Don't forget you could adopt *that* attitude."

Interested? If forty-five bucks for a deck sounds steep, you can get the next best thing with the new Oblique Strategies feed on Twitter. You can even pick up a few strategies from the man himself by following Brian Eno.

Oblique Strategies and Brian Eno Twitter feeds

It’s like having your own Magic 8-Ball of cryptic design wisdom!

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NickJan 13, 2009

Fail Gracefully

Knowing that failure is inevitable from time to time, a good designer has a plan to fail well. We end the week with some sites that do just that.

If your site or program fails, it's common courtesy not to leave your audience hanging. Acknowledge the problem. Offer an intelligible and honest explanation for the error; provide options to resolve the problem. In programming, this is known as failing gracefully. (A little humor doesn't hurt, either)

A popular example of graceful failure is Twitter's out-of-service page, colloquially known as the 'Fail Whale':

The Fail Whale
Twitter users see this image all too often, so it's a good thing it's such a clever piece.

Another type of failure is the 404 page, which a website serves up when it can't find an undefined or missing URL. It used to be an Easter Egg to design funny or philosophical 404's, but in researching this post, I found that either I didn't like most of the ones I found or the links I had for supposedly good ones were out of date. Perhaps it's gone out of style?

I did find one that made me chuckle:

North Face 404 Page

And with that, we take our bow for the week. Thanks for joining us.

PS: If you're interested, Jeff Atwood has the whole 404 best-practices angle covered.

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NickDec 11, 2008
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