27 5 / 2013
Beyond Tellerrand 2013- Jeremy Keith
Jeremy Keith ran an interesting talk today. He covered some interesting topics like preserving the web, maintaining its openness, providing people with a platform to experiment and using inspiring science fiction to help predict its future. Jeremy started his talk by highlighting how its important to keep the barriers to web design minimal. He quoted a tweet that stated: “Keep barriers to entry nice and low so its not only for us professionals”.
Photography: Craig Gardner Cyber-Duck
Looking back to the 90s, Jeremy said that many of us web designers are in this profession (web design) because of websites like Geocities and Myspace. This proves his point about lower barriers of entry. In retrospect this is an interesting thought, as many of us professionals are in lucrative professions, actively stimulating the economy and feeding off each other. When you think that Geocities was the 3rd most visited website in the 1990s, many of us arguably wouldn’t be the professionals we are today without websites like Geocities. The sad thing is that during 2009 Yahoo deleted GeoCities. At the time, Yahoo announced the reasons behind removing all the data: “It became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it”. Jeremy and the rest of us do not think the town was saved though. Phil Gyford a prominent web designer followed up by saying that 7 million websites were deleted in an instance.
Many startups that get ‘bought out’ end up losing their data and services. The website Our Incredible Journey highlights that consumers can get burnt by buy-outs. The Indie Web Camp believes in principles that protect and conserve data: 1. Treat our data like it matters. 2. No upload without a download. 3. If you close a system support data rescuer. Jeremy further stressed the importance of maintaining the web’s history with this quote by Josh Clark (@globalmoxie): “You can’t be a futurist without also being a historian, Our industry has an unusual lack of knowledge about ideas of just a few years ago.”
Moving on to the future, Jeremy mentioned some of the science fiction books that keep him inspired. These include “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi and the “Glasshouse” by Charles Stross. How should work be measured in the long term? Jeremy quoted Mandy Brown from A List Apart “we should measure our work’s success in decades, not months or years”.
The web was built with the goal of enabling collaboration but where does this leave the app economy? If we look at the present, flash developers who were disappointed with its limited mobile capabilities, ‘closed’ and proprietary infrastructure are now iOS and Android developers. Perhaps lessons have not been learnt? Jeremy drew parallels to CD roms. Jeremy asked the question if some publishers and app developers dream about a world of producers and consumers. On an ending note he stated one of the beauties of the web; you can go crazy, you don’t need permission to do things.
05 4 / 2013
Freedom for ecommerce designers
Stripe is a new and well-funded start-up that has emerged in the UK recently. Unlike other online payment processors, Stripe provides freedom so designers place transactional form elements wherever they want on a website or app.
I saw John Collison from Stripe at the General Assembly in Clerkenwell on 26 March 2013. I had the pleasure of speaking to John in person and also emailing him and he has been very responsive. John is one of two brothers that founded Stripe and it sounds like they are on track to becoming a payment processing empire. This is not an easy thing when you are in your early 20’s, a young graduate, competing against PayPal and trying to strike partnerships with banks.
John is a down to earth guy and someone you want to be friends with. Originally from Ireland, he is a personable guy, his head isn’t in the clouds and he likes to help. His modesty and passion are truly inspiring. John and his brother, created Stripe as a prototype while at university and the project rapidly turned into a fairly revolutionary payment-processing engine. One thing he mentioned is that he liked to work without getting paid. This is pretty incredible considering that Stripe is now valued at $500 million. This echoes what Seth Godin says in his book ‘The Icarus Deception’. Grit, belief, passion, persistence and prevalence are paramount – money is very much secondary.
Stripe is good because it allows developers to put a few lines of code in a web page (multiple programming languages are supported) to send encrypted debit/credit card data to a PCI compliant Stripe server. An abbreviated token is then sent back to the website or app to confirm purchase. The store-owner (admin) will then be able to validate transactions via a backend. While none of this is revolutionary, the pricing and flexibility is. There are no setup fees and Stripe charges 2.9% plus 30 cent per successful transaction. There is flexible and robust fraud protection where developers can utilise a full API to query whether the customer payment is made from the same country as the card owner. Stripe also allows for both web and native mobile app payments, recurring billing and stored payment credentials within native apps.
The most impressive thing about Stripe from both a digital agency perspective and user experience (UX) perspective is that designers are not forced to use secure payment templates and don’t need to send customers to another web page (like other payment processors). Designers and developers can curate their own design with the payment form fields and be as artistic as they want in terms of the ecommerce flow. See more on Stripe’s website.
26 2 / 2013
Deloitte technology predictions 2013
Every year a Deloitte expert team of technologists and futurists headed by Paul Lee, compile their top predictions for the New Year. I saw Paul Lee, Deloitte’s Head of Global TMT Research speak at Google Campus in February 2013. Running for 12 years, these insights are important for analysts, technology practitioners, web designers and digital agencies alike.
Paul claimed that almost 80% of his 2012 forecasts were pretty much fulfilled, so his projections are almost bound to happen. He boasted about last year’s prophecies: Tech demand defied the economic headwind and that ‘it takes two to tablet’. He confidently specified how big data became a ‘big deal’ and that during 2012 there was a ‘hard time’ for the hard disk.
I was impressed by Deloitte’s methodology, which included getting data and opinions from multiple sources such as Deloitte’s alumni and others. In this post I will highlight the top 3 predictions that I took for digital agencies and user experience professionals:
- The PC is not dead - Deloitte predicts that 80% of Internet traffic measured in bits will continue to come from desktops and laptops. On average, 70% of our computing time will be spent (at least in the western world) on a PC. According to Paul, desktops will continue to be the primary tool for creating meaningful content including spreadsheets. Paul further stressed that it’s “about usage not units”. My take on this is that while web designers focus on mobile websites (due to the explosive growth in smartphone usage), desktop websites should not be neglected, as they will continue to play a vital role.
- The end of strong password-only security –Deloitte predicts that 90% of user-generated passwords will be vulnerable to hacking. Many organisations will continue to look at other forms of security beyond a password. Paul predicts that multi-factor authentication will continue to flourish with passwords being sent to cell phones and USB dongles that authenticate users. Its time for digital agencies to be more creative with their password methodologies to better improve customer security.
- Higher definition 4K is here - TVs are getting larger and larger and the next generation of higher definition (HD) 4K TVs are here. Deloitte predict that there will be 20 new 4K TV models on the market. There will be further challenges for web designers with this newer higher resolution. Some agencies (like Cyber-Duck) are already well versed at designing for retina displays but new resolutions will pose further issues. It’s important that agencies continue to ensure that websites and apps ‘scale up’ on this new medium. By using responsive web design (RWD) and doing a lot of testing we should be able to do this.
15 1 / 2013
Top 5 UX trends for 2013
Last year was the year of the mobile and with Gartner Research predicting a structural shift for the desktop era, now is the time to kick off 2013. I want to highlight what I think are the top 5 trends we should focus on:
- Responsive Web Design - With the BBC, Disney and Mashable creating optimal responsive websites, 2013 will be the ‘responsive year’. See 29 inspiring responsive websites that were featured on today’s The Next Web.
- The death of the password - A recent article in Wired magazine by Mat Honan announced how his personal accounts were hacked and the death of the password. Its time to ‘harden’ our defences and make this the ‘security year’!
- The digital agency year - In Ajaz Ahmed’s book Velocity, agencies focused on UX, design and technology will help to deliver new products and engagement by blending content, technology and design. 2013 is the ‘digital agency’ year!
- Year of the publishers - A friend from Accenture said 2012 was the technology year. He argued that publishers should use new platforms to publish ebooks and apps. eConsultancy highlight how that 2013 is the year of paid content.
- Big data - Where would we be without big data? The latest buzz word in the tech world is ‘big data’ and how to make sense of both structured and unstructured data using tools like Google BigQuery. See FT’s video on the rise of big data!
At our digital agency Cyber-Duck we are excited and ready to help clients with their new challenges for 2013 and beyond. I look forward to one of the most exciting years yet!
22 12 / 2012
Digital Agency summarises 2012 with infographic
This is my last blog post in 2012 and I have a series of regular posts planned for Tumblr. In this post I would like to firstly thank all the team at Cyber-Duck Ltd for giving 110% this year to truly take the business to the next level and also share some thoughts about our business this year.
Due to the tireless work this year (across client work, R&D and our own product development), we are able to produce amazing user experiences at a higher quality and faster than before. We integrated expert new team members that include UX, Front-end and Back-end developers who are now working with our 7 year strong team. This year, the agency was recognised by Deloitte Fast Track as one of the top 500 Technology companies (FAST 500) in Europe, the Middle East and Africa - this award recognised the 280% growth rate in the last 5 years where now the agency has revenue of over £1mil per year.
We managed to obtain amazing clients like Aston Martin, GSK and keep our existing loyal clients thrilled with our work by exceeding their expectations. None of this amazing growth has gone unnoticed with the BEA Awards for North West London and Hertfordshire shortlisting Cyber-Duck as small business of the year for 2012. Cyber-Duck is renowned as the UK’s leading independent digital agency in the field of Mobile web design (Adaptive Web Design or AWD) and Responsive Web Design (RWD). Following various projects and insights on the subject of Mobile UX this year, we were published in the UX Magazine and had hundreds of tweets and positive comments about our expertise. Furthermore, we published articles in the Kernel, NMK and NetImperative talking about how the public sector can benefit from UCD (User Centred Design) and Agile with Matt Gibson (our Production Director) also publishing a history of web design trends in Design Week. If that wasn’t enough, our agency was featured in Wired Magazine while we mentored and hosted 6 kids and taught them how to build mobile web apps as part of Young Rewired State.
To celebrate our success and give you something stunning to look at, we created our yearly digital agency infographic that summarises our year. So what am I excited about? The teams energy/ideas, an updated business plan, giving back to the community, pleasing our clients, working with our suppliers and getting my hands dirty with product management and execution - lets make 2013 even better!
25 5 / 2012
Hertsmere Borough Council business rate extortion
As a managing director and entrepreneur I have always believed in paying taxes and business rates as these rates support our community’s vital civic services. We had to move out of our previous serviced office in Borehamwood last year (12/08/2011) as we ran out of space and needed dedicated, secure and scalable facilities to support the expansion of our award winning digital agency.
The reason for moving out was because the business expanded from 10 people when we originally moved in (22/09/2009) to 22 people end of 2011. Yes, it has been a real success story and the serviced office block was great as it included all business rates inclusive. Six months after (25/01/2012) we moved into our amazing new dedicated block Elstree House, 12 High Street, Elstree we received a demand to pay £3,957.61 for business rates despite the rates being fully inclusive in the serviced office block.
After several letters to and from Hertsmere Borough Council’s Revenue Departments and submitting clear evidence that our business rates were fully inclusive they are constantly threatening us with court action (despite all rates being fully inclusive in our tenancy agreements). It is bizarre how Hertsmere did not send any notifications or statements for business rates during our 3.5 year tenancy period (!) and my company will continue to prove that our agreement with the service office always included business rates. The question we should ask is why do local authorities spend OUR money on trivial pursuits?
I will continue to cover this topic on my blog as I think it’s important that other entrepreneurs who may experience similar problems with Hertsmere can share their stories. It would be interesting if local politicians have views on this matter.
25 5 / 2012
29 3 / 2012
It is not the end of the web…
In this brilliant article Mark Suster argues why the web is not dead and why enterprise gatekeepers should not control what producers can create as it limits our innovation and forces developers to curate apps for a multitude of ecosystems.
There are a number of strong arguments to support why the current App Internet is winning. Better technology such as GPS, accelerometers and cameras built in to mobile smartphones are one reason. The other is the convenience of ‘one click’ app buying via the app stores.
The future is looking to the open web though - one only needs to look at recent web apps by the FT.com, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to understand that they all celebrate and bet on HTML5 and adaptive web design. They won’t be dumping their native apps just yet but the web apps include cheaper costs of development and superior HTML5 technology which is ubiquitous and easier to develop for without any gatekeepers.
29 3 / 2012
Leave Tech City alone
So the UK government is hyping up Shoreditch. In this TechCity article David Blumentstein argues otherwise. A little hype and ambition is good but the Tory government should focus on other things and not try to develop start-ups hubs.
The government should focus on R&D tax credits, reducing PAYE and NI contributions for startups and helping to stimulate the economy by giving blue chip and SMB’s credits when they commission startups and embrace new technology.
Perhaps its better for the government not hype up false promises about a new tech hub that will save London. On the subject of success, I would like to raise one point: Why do us Brits not embrace failure and celebrate it as without failure there is no success.