Handling branding and
architecture in content sites.
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Who the hell am i?
 Director of Human-Network Interaction at Metrius Europe
 A KPMG Consulting company that designs, architects and builds
businesses and business initiatives that take advantage of the network
economy
 previously creative director at:
 BBC News Online
 and designed the launch versions of
 The Times/Sunday Times
 LineOne
 design for biggest news/info sites in Europe since 1995
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Who the hell are you?
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Designers?
Project managers?
Writers?
Researchers?
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What am I going to talk about?
 Experiences in designing content websites
 The Times/Sunday Times, LineOne
 BBC News Online (MAINLY)
 Principles of user-centered design
 What is it?
 Information architecture and content
 brand/content issues
 Questions
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How did I get into what I do…?
 Started in REAL architecture (!)
 Thesis: architecture is information, information is
architecture (more of which later…)
 left in 1995 to work for News Corp sponsored internet
project
 pretty soon working on launch team for The Times
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The Times and Sunday Times (1995-96)
 Small team (2 designers, 3 coders, 5
editorial)
 No original online content, all repurposed from newspaper’s ATEX feed
 Online ‘subs’ adjust content to fit
limited template designs.
 Very simple, but very successful…
catches up with Electronic Telegraph in
6 months
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LineOne (1996-97)
 Originally ISP and content offering from
News International & BT
 Complex brand and content issues
 (how does one reconcile the same days news through the eyes
of The Sun and The Times?!)
 Deep offerings in parallel integrated
using complex tech.
 A Portal before that became a
buzzword...
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BBC News Online (97)
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Biggest project online to date
over 80 editorial staff 24/7/265
c. 200 -300 original stories a day
launch design - no bells and whistles
‘the story is the star’
 How did we do it?
 User-centered design
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Analysis & Abstraction (1)
 All these ambitions had to be
implemented
 we’d derived a good conceptual “map”
of what we wanted to do… but...
 we had 12 weeks from green-light to
launch
 Certain things could be locked down
 after review of the market, no suitable offthe-shelf production system was found
 therefore - one had to be originated
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Analysis & Abstraction (2)
 Building a content production system (CPS)
 Estimations of content-data throughput and churn made
 conclusion that it’s a solution with a database at it’s heart almost a nobrainer
 Designing the ‘heart’
 database: objects and their relationships to be designed, behaviours to
be modeled… designers should be involved in process
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Analysis & Abstraction (3)
 The object model:
 basic unit of the site: The “Story”
– what should the story do?
– What relationships does it have with other data?
– What governs it’s behaviour?
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The good theoretical basis made this stage less painful: less wooly
early on the better….
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Designing a kit of parts (1)
 A CPS design is arrived at that
 stores content and it’s inter-relationships in a DB
 uses templates to publish content from DB to web
 Design for Templates: “Kit of parts”:
what do I mean?
 A design for which is:
 modular
 flexible
 extendable
 has internal consistency
 and, when in use is more than the sum of it’s parts
 a system
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Model of database view of website
db
content
stories
media
copy
help
source
furniture
templates
tools
logos
server
side
programs
layout
info
(e.g. list
of templates)
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Model of visitor’s view of website: ‘the user-illusion’*
site
pages
content
text
‘furniture’
navigation
media
pics
audio
tools
logos
video
pics
audio
video
* Alan Kay et al, Xerox PARC
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Designing a kit of parts (2)
 Flexibility:
 we went for as flexible a model of content production
 had to launch quickly, but didn’t want to create a cul-de-sac
 Any part of the system as a whole should be able to “slide-out” and be
updated, improved or replaced
 The design principles were almost a natural extension of this.
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Designing a kit of parts (3)
 The Design principles were almost a direct expression of the object
model, hopefully:
 Clear, simple, elegant and transparent for users navigating the site
 Clear, simple, elegant and transparent for journalists managing the site
 As a result:
 Structure of the site simple and apparent
 Interface elements and behaviours should be clear and consistent:
 “if something does something once, it should always do the same
something
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Designing a kit of parts (4)
 So, templates necessary for launch at logical bare
minimum:
 Index template(distribution, direction)
 Story template (destination)
 Schematic designs for both were made
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Beyond & then back
 A period of generating variants on the the schematic’s
“chassis”
 some amounted to taking the schematic and “dressing it up”
 iterations were tested against:
 “The Principles” (primitive use model)
 Editorial
 prospective users in some cases
 pragmatic concerns: download, projected server and bandwidth
loads
 We kept coming back to designs that were little more than an elegant
expression of the schematic...
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Beyond & then back
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Beyond & then back
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Beyond & then back
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Outside forces (1)
 BBC Brand
 a constant... and powerful presence
 an advantage - but sometimes a liability too…
 well-established perceptions of BBC
 graphic identity oriented towards broadcast, not web
 little or no previous experience or expectation of what the BBC or
BBC News on the Web should feel like
– tried to explore this with a exercise with editorial staff to
capture defining statements, words, or feelings this
question provokes.
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Outside forces (1)
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Outside forces (2)
 BBC Re-branding
 BBC re-branding project: Lambie-Nairn
 BBC brand and graphic identity changed 1st October 1997…. Just before
our launch!
 We’d be one of the first BBC “products” to inherit this new brand from
scratch…
 Incorporating the re-brand
 The new branding key feature was simplicity of expression - something
we kept coming back to in our testing of design prototypes against “The
Principles”
 So there was a good fit, and a good opportunity
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Outside forces (2)
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Crisis Points…!
 Timescale required rapid prototyping and evaluation
 modular development system meant that different template sets could
be ‘slid in and out’
 Rebranding exercise forced late graphic design change
 focus on development of schematic reduced impact
 Vocabulary…!
 different disciplines working together (first exposure to geeks for a lot of
Journos!)… different languages spoken
 we kept a glossary pinned on the wall…!
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Lesson?
We found that having a worked-through theoretical basis for every aspect
of our design before final implementation invaluable at every point…
especially the bad ones…!
Make sure everyone has the blueprint…
The Information Architecture
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Launch & launch again...
 Vital Statistics...
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November 1997 Site Launched
June 1998 Page views exceed 12,000,00
July 1998 Already most popular news site outside US
60,000+ Stories on the site already, 7,000+ Stories viewed every day
Online Survey Scored highly on design and ease-of-use
 May 1998… expanded coverage and introduced three new sections
 limited redesign to accommodate
 … founding principles of site informed this redesign.
 Constant Beta
 Revisiting of first principles
 Make sure they evolve in step with technology and user requirements
 1998/99 Extensive User testing (videotaping, use surveys) leads to
version 2.0 design
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Launch & launch again...
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Launch & launch again...
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Launch & launch again… V2.0
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What is an user-centred design
approach?
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The User-Centered Approach: components
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User research
‘Experience-modeling’ or ‘Use Model’
Information Architecture
User-testing
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The Use Model: “A thing to think with”
mod·el (m d l) n.
1.
A small object, usually built to scale, that represents in detail another, often larger object.
a.
1.
A preliminary work or construction that serves as a plan from which a final product
is to be made: a clay model ready for casting.
Such a work or construction used in testing or perfecting a final product: a test
model of a solar-powered vehicle.
2. A schematic description of a system, theory, or phenomenon that
accounts for its known or inferred properties and may be used for
further study of its characteristics: a model of generative grammar; a
model of an atom; an economic model.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
A style or design of an item: My car is last year's model.
One serving as an example to be imitated or compared: a model of decorum.
One that serves as the subject for an artist, especially a person employed to pose for a painter, sculptor, or
photographer.
A person employed to display merchandise, such as clothing or cosmetics.
Zoology. An animal whose appearance is copied by a mimic.
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Imagining user experience: example
 Quick exercise for project team
 Objectives:
 identify user-archetypes that describe the target market
 think themselves into those users
 This is for an e-commerce site, but method is applicable in
nearly all cases.
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Coming up with user profiles
A
C
B
D
CREATIVE
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Words to describe each user profile
A
 Practical, functional, does chores, room has to look okay but not
confident in design.
B
 More interested in design, less confident on technical abilities.
C
 Always has projects on the go, hobbyist.
D
 Creates a look, less involved in project execution, most
interested in creative, trends.
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Who are they?
A
 Mike, early 40s, depends on wife Louise’s opinion for design. Two kids,
his wife is expecting a third.
B
 Jane, early 30s, has partner, busy, relies on friends and other people for
advice.
C
 Jack, single, quite confident in abilities and taste. Shops around and
reads lots of magazines, focussing on DIY titles: Better Homes, Changing
Rooms.
D
 Lucy, single, in her 50s, out-sources doing, shops around, reads lots of
magazines, style and end result oriented. Reads lots of magazines, broad
lifestyle, Habitat, IKEA, BHS
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How do we use this?
 To derive user flows through site
 to test these flows with imaginary (or preferably, real)
response
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User flows
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User flows (2)
 We can then rationalise the
many user flows we generate
into the best patterns to build
 an information architecture for
the whole site built around user
experience
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‘Brand Experience’
 “A brand is a promise”
-- Walter Landor
 ‘a brand is a promise DELIVERED’ -- Orange
 “The experience is the brand”
-- Clement Mok
 An ongoing relationship between a customer and a product or service
 Built up (or broken down) over time at every point of interaction
between the customer and the provider
 Content is a key part of the brand experience, and cannot be divorced
from navigation
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To sum up
 Content is king, and emperor, ruler of the
universe, etc., BUT its context is everything
 more often than not, content IS the navigation,
the brand, the user-experience...
 consider the user in everything - not just designing
the architecture, but also the writing
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Some references
 Information architecture resources: http://www.jjg.net/
 Editorial/ Content online: Steve Outing:
http://www.mediainfo.com/ephome/news/newshtm/stop
/stop.htm
 Clement Mok: http://www.clementmok.com/
 Tomalak’s realm: http://www.tomalak.org
My stuff, including this presentation:
 http://www.blackbeltjones.com/work
 http://www.blackbeltjones.com/presentations
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Questions?
Or have you had enough
already...
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