Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Studio Insights: Which Web Browser Do You Use?

Web browsers

Web Browsers: Which one do you use?

Talking Point: How TV brings us together

Television brings us together. Not just physically as we converge on the lounge room, hustling for space among family members and pets, but in a greater much more social way too.

It wasn’t so long ago that you couldn’t skip ahead of a channel’s programming and sneak a peak at yet unaired episodes on the Internet. Instead, we all waited for the same night next week, speculating in the mean time on what would happen. Not knowing gave us a conversation, and we shared in the anticipation.

Then we started to stream episodes online at our convenience and without the ads. We downloaded whole series ahead of time and watched them alone at home, regardless of commercial schedules. We went from sharing the chapters of each story, to racing to the end of the book, only to get there alone.

There is no doubt that the convenience and flexibility of watching our favourite shows in our own time, on our own schedule, is entirely more appealing than fitting our lives around the columns in the Greenguide. But somewhere along the way to streamlining our viewing, the social side of television got misplaced.

For a little while it just seemed to disappear, but upon closer inspection it seems it has found a new host in the form of live variety or panel shows which can’t be leaked ahead of time. And our conversations have become live too, conducted as we watch, and shared over social media.

Every week, millions of viewers tune into programs where panellists debate current affairs, contestants perform or cook to avoid elimination and celebrities give exclusive interviews with popular talk show hosts. These are now the timeslots we race home for, not wanting to miss what everyone else is seeing for the first time. Not wanting to be the only one not in the loop.

Like before, we want to be part of the conversation about what we’re watching, but unlike before, this now takes place as we watch. A 2009 Neilson pole revealed that 57% of TV viewers in the US simultaneously use the web. It is impossible to guess how high that number has risen in the last three years, suffice to say that while people’s attention may be split, they are far from disconnected with what’s going on around them.

Every week the ABC in Australia reports thousands of unique users engage with popular panel show Q & A via Twitter, tweeting questions and responses both to the panel and each other in a flurry of conversation and debate. Talent shows like channel nine’s The Voice encourage their viewers (often in excess of a million) to vote via Twitter and even iTunes. Putting your money where your mouth is has never been such a simple click away.

So while the forum may have moved, the conversation is very much still taking place and we’re clamouring to be involved. Live programming coupled with social media has proven to be the ultimate social occasion and there are more people at the party than ever before.

Penguin: Who’s out in the cold?

It’s pretty well documented that Google updated their algorithm last month leaving users in a frenzy as they scrambled to recover rankings. As with all Google updates, spokespeople for the search engine giant have stayed tight lipped on the specific details of the update to protect its integrity but that hasn’t stopped speculation from industry experts who claim to have the answers.

Headlines preaching ‘how to recover’ have filled online news channels over the past few weeks but as with all algorithm overhauls, the real results will take time to appear and few are in a position to guarantee immediately improved rankings.

What Google has made public is the intended effect of Penguin on link farms and disingenuous inbound linking. Link farms have proved fairly successful in skewing organic search engine results, raising site rankings through the use of outbound links which Google views as authentic. Penguin has been designed at least partially to combat this mercenary tactic and evidence to date seems to suggest it’s working.

In the same vein Penguin is meant to significantly reduce the rating achieved by Pingbacks (links that send readers straight back to the original source), which has seen blogs in particular rank higher than usual due to the publication of links to credible outbound sources. It has also be revealed that sites with too many ads above the fold will be penalised, reducing their ranking and overriding the effects of any permissible SEO strategy.

While no one is denying there have been some negative effects with legitimate sites losing rankings, Penguin is yet to fully take flight and organic ratings will return to normal eventually. What else is hidden in the new algorithm will only surface over time, so hold tight and beware the promise of a quick fix – the truth is we’re all out in the cold on this one for now.

Facebook Timeline – Maximising Business Potential

Having introduced their new timeline format to business pages just over a month ago in a soft launch, Facebook has now officially made the switch to all pages in a mandatory update. Similar to the new format for personal profiles, the timeline for pages offers a host of new features and ditches a few of the old, in some cases dividing opinion. To help point the way, WhiteRhino’s web developer and resident wizard Jason sat down to give us the rundown on the pros and cons of the social media giant’s latest facelift, providing a few useful hints along the way on how to optimise the benefits for social savvy businesses.

As with previous Facebook revamps, improvements in functionality, accessibility and user interactivity have been driving factors in the redesign. To this means, several major changes including the introduction of the cover photo (banner image) and larger photo display have been introduced.

“The cover photo is one of the biggest benefits to businesses as that banner space provides much bigger promo capacity than previously available,” says Jason. In addition, the ability to highlight specific stories allows businesses to control what gets priority on their page, pointing visitors to important news and positive feedback over other news.

The improved accessibility of the data and analysis information is also a major bonus for businesses wanting to track customer engagement through their page. The analysis tool is much more akin to that of a blog, says Jason, adding that “while it’s not much different to before in terms of actual tools, it’s much easier to find and use now, saving time and effort when collecting this data.”

Next the newly introduced capacity to direct message (DM) business pages serves to further encourage customer feedback and interactivity between consumers and businesses. In terms of using social media as a tool for genuine feedback and interaction says Jason, this is a big step but one that requires proper handling. “It’s important to acknowledge messages from clients or consumers, whether positive or negative as it can both cut down formal correspondences to help lines and encourage more genial resolutions to potential problems.

Businesses and consumers alike however should be aware of the cons of the new design as there are potential pitfalls for both parties. “The loss of the conversation tracking or wall-to-wall feature is a big one,” says Jason, highlighting how it is now virtually impossible to track interactions between two parties chronologically anymore. This means all wall-to-wall conversation history has been virtually eradicated so there is no paper trail to track interactions that have taken place publicly.

As well as this, apps (e.g. pages like forms or booking info etc.) have now been limited on the home page, making them harder to find and access and in some cases reducing the functionality of the page for some business interactions. Posts in the no longer static timeline design are also now subject to moving around the page, meaning posts not highlighted (including negative comments or feedback) are quickly lost. It’s also now harder to follow a page’s interactions as events are categorised under ‘Activity’ and ‘Likes’ boxes rather than chronologically. This is not necessarily a bad thing for businesses but consumers should be aware of this when posting complaints or feedback.

“Basically, businesses will need to adapt their approach to using Facebook as a tool,” says Jason of the update, recommending all businesses take the time to learn their way around the new features and design, familiarising themselves to avoid unnecessary gaffes and improve the usability of their page.

QR Codes Make Window Shopping a Virtual Reality

We saw it a few months ago with eBay’s Give-A-Toy Christmas store and now major Australian clothing retailer Sportsgirl has taken up the concept of virtual shopping with the launch of a new ‘window shop’. Cashing in on the prime real estate of their prominent shop fronts, pictures of products are accompanied by QR codes for instantaneous purchase straight from shoppers’ phones.

The brand recently transformed its Chapel St store window and the campaign is set to be rolled out nationwide over the next few months. By combining the convenience of online shopping with the advantage of strategically placed 24/7 interactive ads, Sportsgirl’s new digital marketing initiative is at the forefront of the Australian retail landscape. Stay tuned for who will be next to pick up on the high-tech shopping trend…

Top Free (or almost) Design Apps

 

1. WhatTheFont
(Free)
Sourced from My Fonts’ comprehensive font library, WhatTheFont allows you to identify fonts directly from your phone. Snap photos from within the app or choose from saved photos in your photo library.

In-phone image processing optimises upload for speed and accuracy. You can then view font details in your web browser or share a link. This app is fast, accurate and extremely handy for any designer.

2. Shillington Design Reference App
(Free)

Designed by a pair of graduates from international graphic design institution Shillington, this app covers useful design basics in a clean, functional layout.

Features include helpful Adobe CS keyboard shortcuts, international paper sizes, typography definitions and tips, artwork checklist and pre-press terminology.

A great reference app, this is a must-have for students and old hands alike.

3. myPANTONE™ X-Ref
($1.99)

A portable swatch-book, Pantone’s colour reference app is the ultimate guide to cross system matching.

Simply enter an RGB, CMYK or Hexadecimal value and to find the closest Pantone Color match sourced from the following colour system libraries:

  • New PANTONE PLUS Formula Guides Solid Coated and Uncoated with 224 new colors
  • New PANTONE PLUS Color Bridge Coated and Uncoated
  • PANTONE Goe™ Coated and Uncoated
  • PANTONE Goe Bridge Coated
  • PANTONE FASHION + HOME (paper and cotton)

4. Classic Color Meter
($0.99)

Found the colour but need the name? Classic Colour Meter measures and displays the colour values of pixels displayed on the screen, giving you a direct means of identification.

A drop-in replacement for Apple’s DigitalColor Meter application, the app restores all functionality previously available in Snow Leopard’s DigitalColor Meter.

Whilst not free this is definitely a valuable cheapy to have in your back pocket.

5. Ruler 2
($0.99)

Finally the most analogue tool of all – the ruler – has been digitalized. Simply drag the pointer for precise, fully formatted measurements with fractions for inches, decimals or centimeters. Convert between US and metric systems with one tap and save measurements on LED scrap paper to see what you measured and when.

Ruler 2 is a handy tool, not just for designers and at a dollar, is definitely worth the spend.

QR codes make Christmas giving as easy as window shopping.

eBay and Toys for Tots have teamed up to launch an animated shopfront with The GIVE-A-TOY Store. The interactive storefront launched in New York and San Francisco and invites passers-by to window shop ‘for good’.

Passers-by can select the toy they wish to donate simply by scanning the accompanying QR code, making the donation directly from their phone.

Collecting Christmas gift donations for disadvantaged children, the virtual store engages passers-by making it easy and fast to donate while creating a feel-good experience with the animated window. The clever use of QR codes and the digital window adds an exciting new element to traditional shopping and is perhaps a precursor of things to come!

QR Codes becoming ubiquitous


Found this interesting video about the latest use for QR Codes on headstones in cemeteries. The QR Codes link to a page (similar to a Facebook page) about the deceased person, thus creating ‘living headstones’. Is this the future of memorialisation, or is social media for the deceased just taking it one step too far?

Social Media Icons

socialmediaicons

Social Media and File Sharing websites are increasingly being integrated with corporate websites to the point where custom-made icons for some of the world’s most recognised websites are being re-styled and crafted to suit the design of the corporate website. And what a great thing that is!

Not only do they look cool, but the best thing is that these companies don’t seem to mind – and so they shouldn’t, because their brand is being spread around the world at a ridiculously fast rate. Imagine if a brand like Apple or Microsoft suddenly had corporate websites displaying their icon or brandmark redrawn in sketchy pen or all teched-up and glossy. I don’t reckon they would approve, do you?

Anyway I’m really getting into this small detail that websites are putting in and thought I’d share a couple of reference sites with you:

Enjoy!

Facebook to offer ‘F-mail’

On the 15th November 2010 the future of email was set to change forever, or so Facebook say.

At the annual Web 2.0 Summit, Facebook announced the launch of its new email system and how it will revolutionise email in the future;

Messaging is growing faster and faster, so we’re talking about what the next version of this is. Here’s the “problem space.” Modern messaging is not email — it will have seamless integration. It will be informal, rather than formal. Formal adds a cognitive load so people wont share as much. It should be immediate.
Mark Zuckerberg – 15th Nov 2010

Facebook has a user base of approximately 500 million users, where as the highest current email provider, Windows Live (Hotmail) has only around 315 million.
It will be interesting to see how the social environment changes in the following months.