29 October 2006

Hopping on the bandwagon

I've been reading a lot of articles online recently about MySpace. Opinions are divided - it's either the best thing to happen to the web, bringing people together in new ways, or it's the worst thing ever, encouraging grooming, phishing, stalking and - probably provoking most horror - bad design.

So I decided to get my own profile. Not just to see what the fuss is about; not even to see if it is possible to make a nice looking page which is actually readable (it is, but they don't exactly make it easy). Oh no; I was looking into the business applications of MySpace.

In short, there are very few. Very, very few. You can have a rant about it as a web designer because that's the "in thing" (and most rants about it are justified, to be honest), but aside from that - and the special case of the music industry - it's very difficult to see a way a business could make much use of it.

I did think that, perhaps, it would be a way of making a small (well, one page) promotional page about a small business - after all, all "the kids" are using MySpace and there's the possibility of getting some credibility with your customer base by using it. However, there are many site-builder options out there with far more flexibility and just as much customisation available to them - setting up a WordPress or Blogger blog would be a far better option. There's the usefulness of comments and friends as product endorsements, but that's about it.

I said the music industry was a special case. Well, it is. It's what MySpace was created for and it works really well - free samples of music, gig diaries, images and of course endorsements... and if they're from other bands, so much the better. There's also a two-way thing going on here - people want to be listed as the "friend" of a famous band. Bands want to look like they've got lots of fans. Everyone wins. But the model is virtually impossible to extend to other businesses. And you'll see that bands have another website anyway - the only real purpose behind a MySpace account is to give away samples of their music to a very specific audience. And once they have a video, YouTube's the better place to do that.

Anyway, that's my opinion on MySpace - and it's not just sour grapes because I find it exceedingly frustrating trying to get it to look right. Oh no.

25 October 2006

Panic! Not at the disco, though.

So... tomorrow is my last day in the office and from that point on I'm alone and need to find business. I think I'm about ready; bank is sorted, website is sorted, contacts are sorted (although I need more), business cards have arrived, I've had training on legal things today (which made my brain hurt a little and is responsible for the current state of panic) and I feel ready - as ready as I'll ever be.

In other news... the JuicyFly site is coming along now, and I've learnt lots of interesting JavaScript - not just a couple of individual functions, but (long overdue) a lot more about the syntax and putting it to use. You can see it in use on the navigation for the test page I've set up - http://www.juicyfly.com/template.php - it needs cross browser and cross platform testing to make sure it's all OK, but it's getting there. Still a lot to do on this but it's certainly moving now.

All that remains is to find a way to stop the cat constantly bothering me for food. We wormed him the other day. So far it's had no effect.

05 October 2006

Business devices as consumer electronics

I love my Mac. Using it, and reading about BlackBerry's new consumer handset, has got me thinking about the differences between business and consumer electronics, the closing gap between the two, and the interesting consequences for the way we use them.

If BlackBerry can succesfully create and market a consumer device with the purpose of giving you push email and the web on the move, then it means one thing: consumers want access to their email all the time. Even down the pub on a Friday night. So what's wrong with phone calls? Well, nothing, but there are several reasons for email and the web on the go; it's cool (honestly - that's a big factor for the sort of people who'd buy one), the world's growing smaller but timezones aren't (it's easier to email someone in New Zealand than call them) and attention spans are getting shorter. Waiting for someone to get to the pub? Now, rather than eyeing up the barmaid, you can fire off a couple of quick emails, organise the next night out, maybe even keep ahead at work. Blog a bit. Shop online.

So what are the consequences for business? They're two-fold. Firstly, it means small businesses can get hold of business tools for lower, consumer prices, and for phones on cheaper, consumer tariffs which still fulfil our needs. Often we have to sacrifice some functionality or benefit - in the case of the BlackBerry, it's ruggedness and keyboard size. But for a small business that's fine - and it can kill two birds with one stone because our business tools become something we're not ashamed to be seen with out and about.

Secondly, it means people are using our websites and services in new ways. At different times, on different devices, and with different restrictions. Site "stickiness" changes when we come to using a mobile or small screen; before, it was a comprimise between giving people what they were looking for and pointing them to other things to browse to that they *didn't know* they were looking for. On a mobile, though, people don't want to browse for ages. It's about giving them what they want quickly but - after the transaction is complete - encouraging them to return. Doing a site variant for the mobile web is less and less about just fitting it on a small monochrome screen - it's about changing the whole navigational system and user experience.

02 October 2006

Being 28

Being 28 feels no different to being 27, really. Not that I thought it would do.

The beer-belly my brother promised would arrive at 25 still hasn't materialised, but then again I don't drink beer, and I do lots of running about waving swords, which I think holds it at bay. That and living on nervous energy and caffiene.

This coming year's going to be a good one. Much working for myself and general career-based merriment will follow, I'm sure.

Oh, and thanks to anyone who gave me a present or a card. They were much appreciated.