Entries Tagged as 'Design'

Why Niche Magazine Subscriptions Aren’t Worth It

Magazines
Image via Wikipedia

Most people have subscribed to some sort of magazine in their lifetime. I mean any sort of magazine.

But I can tell you right now that the journalism industry is doing so poorly that it’s not even worthwhile to buy these subscriptions no matter what sort of deal you’re getting. Why? The chance of that niche disappearing is very likely and all you’ll end up with is holding the empty bag.

In this household, we’ve already had two different magazine subscriptions disappear from under our noses in the span of about two years. Just one day, you’re thinking that it’s been a while since you’ve had the last subscription. Then you go on the Internet and find out that the company has folded or the publisher just refuses to put out another copy and laid all of the writers off. What really drives me nuts is the fact that they don’t even have the courtesy to at least send a bulk mailing postcard to all of their subscribers to tell them that they basically are folding one of their publications. Just one day:

“BAM”.

Magazine disappeared. I think the nice thing between this and the newspaper industry is that at least they’ll tell you if they’re going down. Flames and all. Common courtesy and it really helps the subscriber to take the side of the struggling industry instead of getting them annoyed with the publishing corporation.

So if you run a magazine business, regardless of how successful you are, perhaps it’s time to budget out some money for postcards and stamps. Just in case there comes a time that you have to turn the lock and shut the door for the last time. Because remember that customer service is still your business and no matter where you’re going, if you want your loyal followers to come with you, don’t slap them in the face with you failed current venture.

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When some newspapers just don’t get the web

Newspaper and tea

Image by Matt Callow via Flickr

Sometimes people just don’t understand how the Internet works. It’s really evident in the GateHouse Media lawsuit against the New York Times:

“Boston.com’s local pages, like hundreds of other news sites, aggregate headlines and snippets of relevant stories published on the Web. They link back to the originating site where the interested user can read the entire article,” she wrote in a statement.
“Far from being illegal or improper, this practice of linking to sites is common and is familiar to anyone who has searched the Web,” Mathis wrote. “It is fair and benefits both Web users and the originating site.”


Here the New York Times is exactly correct. From a perspective of just headlines and first sentences, that has always been fair-use in the aspect of blogging, websites, and the like. And by precedence, this has been a set rule pretty much since… well…the dark ages of the Internet. To think that headlines and first sentences is violating copyright is absolutely preposterous.
Now I can totally see violation of copyright if they did a verbatim dump. Without prior permission and no credit, this would be plagiarism at best and copyright violation at worst. But headlines and first sentence with links back to the original article give the original article full credit. That’s the blogger way, not to mention the Internet way.
I’m not sure how GateHouse will pull this off, but I’ll be surprised if they do. From the Internet’s perspective, it seems like the NYT has the weight of history behind them.

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Deus Ex Machina

AC_Deus2.jpg You have got to admit that this is one of the most interesting designs of transportation. It’s familiar since it’s been seen in anime and games before but in actual reality? Never, until now.
Being able to achieve 0-60mph in three seconds and worn as an exoskeleton is definitely one of the most interesting ideas for a while considering most transportation are ones that you get into and on top of. Unfortunately, there’s really not much in the likes of storage for this and thus makes the concept … well, purely a concept. I’d still love to see this go down the freeway though. Strangely enough, you would think that to gain speed, you would have the the vehicle and person closer to the ground for less wind resistance. It’d be nice to see it in action. Regardless, this is one concept design that is neat in reality. Made by Yamaha.

If you have a news site: clean design should be number one

One of the most annoying things about news sites is the blend of advertisement and news. In fact, if you notice the difference between blogs and news sites, there’s an inherent design difference between the two. The former is usually very clean.
What’s interesting here is that blog theme designers take into account the single thing that most news websites do not: “single page layout”. If you look at a print newspaper, it’s set in a finite space and thus it’s spaced out very evenly so that you can take in each individual piece without getting thrown into a mess of things. Things are easy to find.
Similarly, news websites, particularly small local papers that have websites, need to remember to do the same but on a single page. This means that you shouldn’t just jumble all your ads together to try to appease advertisers, nor should you use all your space for news. There’s a fine balance between the two, and actually very passive ways to go about making things work in your favor.
Remember that without readership, your advertisers mean nothing. The audience is everything for your business. Thus, a clean design should not only be absolutely key to your process, but it should be a part your entire process from beginning to end. There is too many-a-time that I visit a newspaper website or a local news website to find myself jerking my fingers across the mousepad to get the piece as quickly as possible and get out of there.
Clean design is the key to everything. And don’t think that print layout is any different than the web. Medium might differ, but there are many things that you can learn from the more matured process.
Photo Credit: (Patrick Haney)

Tip to monetizing your blog: Use pictures

Another great way to pull readership?
Add pictures.
As they say, one picture is worth a thousand words. And truth be told, it also applies to blogging. Are you interested in boosting your numbers? Choose wisely and get some more pics in there.
How did I learn this? A friend told me to just try it out for a week. And I haven’t looked back. Depending on the type of blogging software you use, there are actually pretty good tools out there to help you pick pictures from different types of image storage sites if you really have an issue with storage and bandwidth. Don’t forget, unless it’s allowed, hotlinking is a bad and naughty thing to do.
So go ahead. Add a picture to that post of yours.
Photo Credit: (are you my rik?)

Tip to monetizing your blog: Clean design

Let’s be honest now. Everyone one that writes in a blog, would love to make a little money on the side. But you won’t be a Robert Scoble or a Jeff Jarvis unless you’re special somehow just as most actors and actresses aren’t Hollywood movie stars.
But having learned many things about the trends of blogging before I delved into actually making a little bit of fun money from one of my good friends, I can say that there are many things that are worthwhile to selling your blog.
One of the biggest sellers? A clean design.
You won’t believe the amount of difference a readable and clean design makes in uniques and page views. In fact, when I shifted the design of LUX to the current, I saw the current stats shoot up almost twice the uniques. This is because the easier it is on the eyes, then the longer the user is staying, the more likely they might turnover into a regular reader.
Remember. Clean design will do you wonders.
Photo Credit: (melop)

Bad designs of escape ladders

Have you ever noticed the poor design of portable escape ladders? This realization came to me while I was watching Women of Ninja Warrior where the last part of the First Stage was an escape ladder that they had to climb up.
Think about it. To compensate for space and storage, they make it with strong nylon rope down the side. Not a bad idea. But, the biggest flaw in the design is based on the fact that in an escape situation the goal is to get down as quickly as possible. But seeing how difficult it was to climb up, there’s no doubt that climbing down in a stable fashion is just as bad.
The issue really lies in the center of gravity. We’re all more likely to step to the sides of a ladder, than the middle. This is why they developed the triangular shaped escape ladders. But even those are not as quick and friendly as you’d think. Again, due to the movable joints. At each joint, since it sways, it makes it difficult move quickly down. In fact, you’d probably be better off rappelling if you knew how and could.
In any case, depending on the style of escape ladder, there definitely is some improvement areas that could be worked upon. The goal here is how to not sacrifice stability for storage. The rigid ladders are always the easiest and best for quick movement but they also seem to be an eyesore in suburban areas. It might not be soon, but one of these days we’ll begin to see some fresh new designs.
Photo Credit: (jurek d.)

Why e-book readers really haven’t taken off

The first time I heard of Kindle was actually through my buddy. Truthfully, I don’t find it worth the $399 price tag. In fact, it really doesn’t strike me as anything that different from the other ebook readers out there except for the service. Sure it seems like it’s e-ink operated. Big deal.
Here’s why I don’t think it’ll work. Let’s take a look at why most digital formats haven’t taken off and people still rather read books or magazines.
It’s human conditioning.
That’s it. Still don’t get it? I’ll explain. It’s all in the form factor. Current readers make the assumption that human beings are willing to read pages of documents like an LCD screen or monitor. But how many book readers actually do that? Not many. And if you’ve ever tried to page through War and Peace in a PDF, it’s no fun.
So how do you make it a better design? I would probably propose using a book-like display. Think about it. If people are more interested in reading a “book” then the best replacement would start out as a pseudo-book. It’s the same as hybrid cars. The funky designs didn’t really take except for early adopters and as you move towards an actual mainstream automobile body in existence, the more general consumers are adopting the technology. Similarly, if you created a “book-like” design with two displays connected at a hinge, then if you tap the corners to turn the page or what not, you could actually virtually turn pages. That would make the entire e-book two displays thick, but way more usable.
Not that I’m an expert by any means in modern anthropology, but I can tell you that there is a reason why Apple’s industrial designers do a great job. And it isn’t by designing things by going from one thing to another in one huge jump. Just take a look at the generations of iPods to watch the progression of a mp3 player to a media player that plays music. It took five gens. And it wasn’t because the technology wasn’t there.
Similarly the e-book readers will eventually take off. But you have to create something that people will take to currently rather than jump forward and assume that since tablet PCs exist, that everyone will like the whole 1-page format.
Interesting isn’t it, how this one little thing could be the reason why e-books just haven’t had the adoption that it’s been seeking.

A clean design will propel traffic to your site

It’s interesting that people will use whatever default template or what not for their site without tweaking it this way or that. But webmasters are constantly tweaking sites to gain more traffic if you haven’t pulled over a certain type of high water mark.
Guess what? Easiest thing in the world. A clean design will drive traffic off the bat.
I know it sounds really simple right? Perhaps. I can tell you that with a site that I haven’t launched yet, it took me over three months and browsing thousands of templates and themes to find the one that would suit my needs. Even then, there still are countless number of hours to actually tweak it to do what I believe will be the maximum marketing angle.
And that’s the key. If you’re looking for traffic, it’s not the flashy Flash based things that a lot of people from non-web advertising think is the key. You have to gain traffic from search engines and aggregators. Best way to do that is through clean design. Clean doesn’t mean it can’t be pretty, but it does mean that certain things work better than others.

MacCase Jacket for 17″ Macbook Pro

A while ago, I bought the MacCase Jacket for my Macbook Pro. I chose the design of this bag due to one that I already have for a work Dell, that works very well for me. These are usually designated a profile design.
The Jacket is a vertical design, where your laptop slips in sideways and is hanging downward from your body along the long form. The Jacket has a flap zip up storage for some little things, or accessories. There are also two other pockets, one that is definitely for an iPod and the other is supposedly for a cell phone. The iPod pocket has a place for the wiring to string through so that you can manage the headphones without having to leave your iPod out of your bag. It also have directions for the buttons so that you can play, pause, fast forward and reverse your music without having to take out your iPod. If you carry a lot of gizmos and cables for your Macbook Pro, then you’ll be able to toss them in the mesh storage area that is right under the flap.

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