It’s the consultants dilemma: either you have time to dream up cool new products and communicate them in some fashion to the world, OR you are tied up with your clients, which is brilliantly absorbing and educational, but have limited capacity or even inclination to document all the new, fun things you have been learning.
After spending 10 hours a day at a desk fretting about URL structures and iffy email providers (a rabbit hole of complaints coming soon), the last thing that appeals is sitting down at a computer and summarising it all in pithy soundbites. No.
My recent project, working for the mega-watt WaterAid, is just one of these projects. Very, very busy, but also extremely interesting. Working for a greater good is also motivating, which helps when I feel the tiniest bit over-whelmed.
So far, it’s all digital migrations (um, once and soon to be twice, all within 12 months, gulp!) and no small amount of old-fashioned digital marketing.
Wouldn’t it be nice if brands acknowledged their secondary market?
Those lower price, everyday brands, your H+Ms, Gaps, Club Monacos etc?
Rather like Chanel et al at the top end have serial numbers for their products to combat forgeries.
You would need a number per designed item, not a different number for each individual version of the item. Think of it as more of an ISBN for clothes, much in the same way that books have one.
The end game is that if enough brands used these unique numbers, donated items would be easier to classify. I’ve heard that Madewell jeans for example, have a healthy secondary market. If those items were listed online but with the clear number to identify it, buyers might be more confident buying something sight-unseen. I imagine it would remove some buying anxiety and thus potentially help second hand shops obtain better prices. As a loyal Housing Works shopper, I like the idea of spending there as it is a charity shop.
Furthermore, do we really need to keep on making more? I’m fairly certain that in terms of clothes, the world collectively has made everything we need already.
How would it work? Barcodes on the labels? So it’s only a case of finding it for the garment to be classified correctly.
Kindly citizens of the internet, I have a vision.
In this vision, those fashion-y ladies who tag their #OOTDs (Outfits of the Day) can go beyond just tagging the brand, but instead tag the specific item they are wearing. It would demystify a lot of the blogger wardrobes that always seem so elusive, but also, from a business point of view, the opportunities to then boost sales and cross-promote a related look or item is enormous.
Imagine, you see something like this, but you can itemise everything.
The User Story would go something like this:
1) Spot cool-as-cool photo of some flighty ingenue epitomising the look you have decided to go for this season.
2) You research said ingenue’s online persona. If that’s how she plays it.
3) Finding her online persona, you can find the post and then…
4) Look at the specific tags of the outfit.
eg Alice and Olivia – Courtnee Dress (via a drop down menu perhaps? Arranged by most popular, most liked or most searched or something else, and this itself could also be a micro-advertising opportunity for brands)
5) The tags lead back to the item if it’s still available. Perhaps even to your size too, although this would be hard to do as every brand handles size filters differently.
The brands would then pay Instagram (or Pinterest, where it would also work) for the traffic, or the sale, depending on their specific business goals.
However there’s also an opportunity to sell ad units to brands selling ostensibly similar items.
There’s even a broader social network opportunity too, as you could then follow and track people’s outfits. There could be some cool data too, everyone loves Celine for example, but how many people really wear it? Likewise, just tracking cost per wear etc could be quite fun, or summarising the user’s style in a year-end summary, rather like Spotify’s “your year in music” roll-out.
Hours of fun for the fashion set.
Clearly, there are a few things to think about:
– I’d need access to historic product feeds as well as current ones.
– I’d also need a long, long list of brands, past and present.
– it would help if there was an accurate sort of ‘smart’ way of uploading your wardrobe without having to scroll through a long list of product items, if we really wanted to go to town I suppose the app could tie-in with any digital receipts, scanning the the item barcode, thus storing and pulling the product data directly. Or perhaps visual product recognition software is good enough to at least identify the item of clothing from a photo of you in it, thus narrowing it down enough so it’s quick to tag your specific item. Amazon have something of this sort in it’s app, so the technology exists, but I’m unsure how good it is.
– for vintage items, the user would have to enter it in but this still gives an opportunity to produce ad units for any brands selling similar products.
Watching the horrible events on European coasts over the last few weeks, as desperate refugees flee their homes in Syria, I started thinking about a new product idea, one that would help deliver the supplies directly to the people that need them.
Introducing: the GreatDonate
Charities on-site in refugee camps produce and publicise a wish list (borrowing Amazon’s existing product), detailing what the refugees need.
Voila, my latest dream product idea – how about Amazon, or indeed, any e-commerce platform, works with established charities on the ground, whether it’s an influx of refugees or a natural disaster.
Amazon customers can then easily click to buy and deliver the products directly to the charity’s base.
To my mind it makes the process of donating to a charity much more transparent, which is always welcome. Instead of wondering if your donation is paying the CEO’s fancy lunch tab (am I too cynical about this?) you can be sure that your contribution is going directly to the people that need it the most, in the most useful form, whether blankets, books or boots.
Thinking through the technical requirements, it’s simply (simply!) a matter of grouping donation centres for easy distribution, but Amazon and their peers are good at just that, at using algorithms to make distribution as efficient as possible.
Can we make this happen, internet? E-commerce companies? Make it easy for people to easily donate immediately useful items to charities on site.
Whilst I am over-whelmed by the sheer level of technical knowledge required for my dream project, a level far beyond what I am (currently) capable of, I’ve decided to step back, relax and just think it all through. By breaking it into tiny projects I might, slowly, slowly make progress and can iterate on the idea as needed.
Where to start?
1) Define the product: build something that shows auction results in the search results, a specific google product that does this, like the recipe boxes, map results etc. Product should have images as this is critical for an art dealer.
2) Research a list of auction houses, start nationally.
3) Build a search engine crawler, that will visit the websites of these auction houses, scrape the results and present them in the as-yet-non-existent search product, or, in the short-term a website.
4) Display the data in a uniform, engaging way. There is Artnet already, but there info is behind a login and I don’t think the UI is particularly effective, easy or engaging. I haven’t even tried to look things up on a mobile…
Does this all sound wonderfully simple? Well, it won’t be, because I’ll have to:
a) work out how to build a search engine crawler. Looks like i’ll be learning Python after all..
b) work out how to collect and present what will be a mess of data. At this point, I have no idea how I will be able to plough through it all algorithmically to then make sure the fields populate as they are meant to. Nothing worse than an automated product that doesn’t work.
I believe the data lake I will be presented with will be my biggest challenge. How to order all of that? How to make sure all art works are properly collected under the right artist?
Making sure the following are all grouped under one man:
Henry Moore (1898 – 1986)
Henry Moore (British, 1898 – 1986)
circle of Henry Moore
attributed to Henry Moore
The ‘circle of’ and ‘attributed to’ are iffy, but I believe it is still important to offer these results initially, whilst giving people the opportunity to filter them out.
At present, spelling mistakes or formatting errors mean results get lost. I also know that you can ‘hack’ the results by asking the auction houses not to submit their results to the existing product.
From a young age, I have always loved reading, getting completely absorbed by the world of the book, whether Mallory Towers, Hogwarts or Thornfield Hall. Even now, as an adult, my capacity to lose days and nights to books is a pleasant reminder that I’m not jaded and numb in this adult world – I can still get lost!
It is hard to predict what will get me, but now this desire reveals itself when I’m browsing online episode reviews, fan videos (love me some fan art) and twitter. The internet is the home for fan devotion, it’s amateur in nature and charmingly sincere. This is content that makes me content. It goes someway to indulging my curiosity about the story, be it Lost theories, love triangles or Sherlock tumblrs.
Content of this ilk absorbs me and has my attention.
Do you know how hard it is to generate that sort of reaction?
In my marketing day job I harp on about the importance of making good, high-quality content, but am I setting up my clients (and myself) for failure with the bar set so high?
Let’s be honest, the absorbing potential of a story about stationery supplies is low. You might get the odd hit and generate some positive buzz but beyond that, it is unlikely that people will get too caught up in Stapler-gate: who used the last staple?
I’ve been reading @Sree, @LesHinton and @SuperWuster’s work, the TL;DR of which is human attention is the scarcest resource. With this in mind, where does this leave me? What can I recommend to clients?
Here we are now, entertain us
Here’s a novel idea, instead of making people work when reading your beautifully-crafted content, why not focus on entertaining them instead? Short videos instead of lengthy blog posts. Give them less to do but more to enjoy.
Perhaps we should leave immersion to the creative writers and storytellers and instead, focus on FUN? Less is more, when it comes to content. Save your users some time.
Everyone talks about this, this urgency to take the wheat and let the chaf be still. To butcher Chaucer. Consultants are defined by their ability to do this, but it’s very hard to make someone understand how to do this sort of thinking for themselves.
I certainly struggled with it, finding it difficult to prioritise projects as a result. Not to mention producing results that would keep the client fitter, happier and more productive. After all, it’s all well and good getting more traffic to the site but if none of that traffic signs up, tunes in or buys something, it’s just not going to impress The Boss. I don’t mean Bruce Springsteen. I doubt he’d be impressed with anything in the realm of Digital Marketing. Not that he has anything against it, forcibly, I’d imagine, but, you know, it’s just not his thing.
That magic, clarity-inducing solution to project overload? The simple binary test as to whether something is worth doing. Or not?
Vitamin or Aspirin?
Just ask yourself if i’s a vitamin or an aspirin for this particular problem.
To put it another way, is it a ‘nice to have’ or will it solve something? Will it help your client make more money?
I’m not the first person to use this analogy, just chiming in as I hope it brings clarity to anyone struggling with how to schedule projects. I cannot explain why this wording worked for me, but lo, I share the knowledge.
Pass it on, or let me know if this helps you with project planning.
What with the safe arrival of the finch and all that entails, I’ve been remiss in documenting just what I hope to achieve this year. So now, one month in to motherhood, whilst still professionally and intellectually ambitious, here is my plan.
Amazon Web Services – get it up and running so my Recycling Hack product works. This sounds simple, but isn’t.
Get to grips with Terminal and use it to update my Github account. Like real techie people do.
It’s still in formation, but some likely projects include a responsive Resume page including a slideshow and finally nailing the Blue Project, which is pure whimsy but fun, for I love a bit of colour devotion.
There’s no denying it, this is a big deal. My first project, conceived and built from scratch. I mentioned it in an earlier post and after no small amount of panic, despair and sweat. It is now live! It lives! It lives!
DISCLAIMER: I’m still struggling with Amazon Web Services ( I need to install node.js and run code from their cloud, this is surprisingly difficult).
Built with UX in mind
I’m influenced by Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, the basic gist of which might be clear from the title: do not make users work when using your product. Instead it is much better for everyone if it’s painfully clear what needs to happen. Based on this idea, I decided that my product would not require any user input. This would be an upgrade (IMHO) from the existing products available through the city of New York. The existing product requires the user to enter three fields of information.
Given that every field requires user input, they are essentially obstacles for the user, standing between their current position and the information they want. The existing site is also not responsive, making it a rather clumsy experience for any users on a mobile.
Hmmmm, I rather imagined that I would be better at design than turned out to be the case! However I persevered and I’m more or less happy with with I ended up with. I created this header in PhotoShop, which was fun. Other than that, I went with grey and bright orangey-red for the colour scheme.
Ideally, I would have preferred to have this product work for anyone in NYC, but that would involve user input. When I’m super-clever with location APIs perhaps I could use this data to build something like that, but of course, it’s just as likely that someone could look whilst commuting, meaning it would return data for that location, instead of where they live. Unless of course, there was some sort of cookie functionality… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I still dream of Google Now integration, to take all of the effort out of it for the user, meaning they would just see a card reminding them to put out (or not) their rubbish. One day, one day.
I still dream of combining my love of art and technology to build something. Showing auction results in the search results for example, but that’s a bit beyond my scope, I don’t have access to Google’s Search results! Also, clearly, that’s a fairly ambitious coding project, I’d need to join forces, which, by the way, would be awesome. Anyone? Tony Stark? Do you have a minute?
The issue with this sort of niche is that Doulas are not medically trained, it’s a more supportive role, but a role backed up with lots of incredibly positive statistics proving their worth.
In terms of branding, we wanted the site to look approachable but authoritative, useful and packed with information, but with a calm vibe. I believe our chosen page design and palette embodies these aspirations.
The logo, designed for First Descent Doula, is sunny and pretty, Kate liked the look of it but I felt it was important to tone down the site colours. The blue/green of the logo is gorgeous but a bit too saturated for wide usage. Building on this logo, I reduced the saturation of some complimentary blues, and used black and white images.
It might be a result of the times, but cutting any colour with grey usually lends it a more considered tone.
This theme of grey text and muted blue from the homepage is used throughout the site. To keep it somewhat upbeat we experimented with links in a brighter turquoise, to attract the eye and make links obvious.
We have had opted for a soft launch, right now, friends and family are reviewing the site, because fresh eyes always do a better job.
It will be interesting to monitor the SEO value of the site too, as I have made every effort to set up all the page content in the most SEO-friendly way, whilst also encouraging Kate’s content schedule, both on the blog and on social media.
The goal of the site is to provide information and promote First Descent Doula services, I believe this site does this, it will be interesting to see if the public agree.
my thoughts on the internet, media and other mysteries