Welcome to 2013. You have six seconds to tell us about yourself

Rob Le Quesne

Vine launched last week, inviting everyone to get creative with their short-form video-making skills. On a good day, this could give rise to multi-player versions of ‘Consequences’ and real-time Haikus. On a not-so-good day, too much badly lit flesh.

As digital service designers, the challenge of gaining and keeping people’s attention remains a key part of our work. It relies on the right combination of linear and non-linear storytelling techniques in order to design both for the immediacy of a person’s first-glance experience and the subsequent reading of more long-form data. Defining the ‘hooks’ that engage people to explore further is a key part of information design.

How do new ways of consuming information, such as Vine, impact not only the way we tell stories, but how we engage with them?

This morning, I was checking my Twitter feed on my mobile while my son, Michael ate his porridge. I wonder what Michael will be doing when he is my age. Somehow I don’t think it will involve something as seemingly obtuse as pressing fingers against glass.

Whilst the stories we help our clients tell are invariably non-linear, interactive experiences – a key design challenge is in providing people with the means to make sense of large amounts of data quickly and easily.

As people become used to more abbreviated formats of content consumption, design needs to embrace this by offering solutions that adapt based on not only platform(tablet, mobile, laptop, TV) and context (home, bus, car, cafe, work), but also user preferences.

The mobile phone has become the benchmark for measuring how effective a service is in the hands of a user.


Both Sleepcycle and the Nike running app invite you to measure your personal performance (sleeping and running) through providing data visualisations of your behaviour patterns. The value of these services lie in the ease with which users understand and engage with the data. There is little ambiguity in the information being displayed. They are useful ways for people to monitor their behaviour patterns on a regular basis.

Jakob Henner’s Sun iOS app provides a great example of less is more. The main interface shows a simple graphic display of the weather. If the user wants more information, they pinch or swipe to dig deeper.

When experiences offer people the opportunity to relate in a personal way, there is much greater potential for people sharing the experience with others and to return to it. Last year, an article about music piracy in the UK, bbc.co.uk/news invited people to type in their postcode to find out the identity of the most downloaded artist in their area. By offering people the opportunity to contextualise the issue around where they live, in real time, the BBC demonstrated their true prowess as a digital news service provider, putting technology to work in order to enhance the news experience.

Try it here

The beauty of digital lies in the opportunity to build experiences that allow people to craft their own meaning. By failing to design for this, we risk generating one-sided conversations.

(With thanks to James Carruthers, Service Design Lead, Martin Charlier senior interaction designer andDominic Quigley, Art Director.)

Rob Le Quesne

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