The more things change…

Mobile&ParallaxI was recently thinking back to the early days of digital and how I was shaken to the core when presented with the task of creating my first banner ad. OMG, it was like I had followed Alice down the rabbit hole. 468×60? 12k? You must be joking. This isn’t for me. Don’t you know I create masterful full-page ads in USA Today (hellishly large by any standard), not this rubbish? It took some time but then I figured out the formula. (Yes in commercial design, there are formulas. Concrete visual absolutes. A starting point or baseline to any creative exercise. ) For banners the formula is the right balance of visual interest and calls to action. Not all great performing banners are pretty. That was the learning curve I needed to get up in order to understand the formula. After figuring that out, the singular focus of a banner ad became beautiful in its simplicity of messaging and design.


More recently the design challenge has been for our mobile world. Mobile screen sizes in the beginning were considered to be a hindrance for me and my fellow designers the world over. “I mean, come on… how can you work within such a small viewport?” where common discussions amongst even the most avant garde designers. But, like with the banners, we figured out the formula – quick digestible chunks of highly focused content meant to drive engagement. As an industry we have gone back to simplifying the screen, and are creating more meaningful interactions by only displaying buckets of content at a time. One call-to-action at a time and believe me, we are all better for it.

Responsive display sites have been another hurdle and a huge game changer, by enabling us to tailor content and the experience to the mindset of the user, where they are, when they are doing it, and on which device/viewport they are doing it. Interactions on different devices have different constructs, expectations and learned behaviors. They each also have their own limitations in size, resolution and performance. Understanding those nuances is the secret to creating thoughtful, more meaningful interactions between clients their customers. Just like banner ads, if done correctly, those tailored experiences are a crucial message delivery vehicle along the customer journey.

Equally notable are parallax sites. While these are challenging to implement well in mobile, if your audience is consuming content on desktop they can offer a rich and rewarding experience. Parallax sites dazzle us with animations to keep us wanting more, to keep scrolling, to be entertained while also being informed. Animating areas of focus one at a time to tell a complete story. Great storytelling requires a thoughtful approach to content and design and is yet another arrow in the digital quiver of designers, requiring us to – once again – figure it out to make it work well.

The next change agent in the mobile experience has to be 3D touch. Yeah, it’s new but you’ve done it before. It’s called a rollover. But it’s not the wave of a mouse, it’s the level of pressure you apply to your touch device. Boom…the possibilities are endless. So endless that I think I’ll save my musings on that for my next post. I mean haven’t I already tackled enough design challenges for today?