Thursday, June 23, 2011

Why thinking big is so hard in the digital space and why we can't give up

I've been thinking a lot lately about thinking big.  

It's not easy, at least not for most of us, for it requires an abundance of confidence coupled with the tenacity to work though, or at least sit with, uncertainty.

What's made me think about thinking big is an especially exciting project that I've had the opportunity to work on recently with a great team of digital pro's. But we're at that point where it's just frustrating and tough and we all kinda want to give up or give in to a good, but not great, idea.  

Part of what is so challenging is the digital space, meaning that we are ever so aware of  an actual person, that's not us, who will be involved in the experience. Unlike traditional media, interactive can't be pushed on people.  It's not a 10-second spot that someone sits through because they're too lazy to get off the couch. They choose to interact and to get involved ... or to walk away.  

About five years ago I was working on the redesign of a Fortune 10 site.  We developed what we thought was an excellent design.  But when we went into usability, it confused the users.  We watched every single user get frustrated with the experience.  It was so consistent that we had to rethink our entire design. One only needs to sit through a usability study like that once to truly understand that, in the digital space, you are accountable to your user.

And that's great.  It's how it should be.  But it can also be debilitating. It can make you think maybe a bit too much about every single pixel on a page. 

What the team is up against in the current project is trying to convey a great deal of information in a different type of digital medium (I wish I could say more but I can't). Do we develop a contextual storytelling experience or an experience that is less linear and based more in discovery?  Do we use time as a navigational element to provide context or does that make finding information too cumbersome? These are just a few of the questions we are asking ourselves, or shall I say, spinning out on.

So today we are taking a step back and giving ourselves a little room to think bigger. It's very easy to get into the weeds when designing for interaction but sometimes one can focus too much on one leaf on one branch on one tree ... and lose site of the glorious forest. 

It would be really easy to quit right now as we have a number of solid designs done. But we're missing the big one, the one that will make the user go "aahhhh." If we quit now we would not only fail our client but we would fail ourselves.  

So we're keeping at it.
If you have any ideas on how to think big in the digital space please let us know.  We would be delighted to hear from you.

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