Saturday, July 10, 2010

June 10 - Tinkering

I can’t remember how many cars my parents owned during the course of my childhood, but I have vivid memories of two of them; an orange VW Beetle and a white Mini.

It isn’t that the cars themselves were particularly noteworthy, although the colour of the Beetle was definitely not what you’d consider subtle, it was the attention that my father lavished on them.

Actually maybe attention isn’t the right word. Because he was never that big on washing or polishing cars. What he loved to do was tinker with them.

On a Saturday afternoon when I was either at the football or listening to it on the radio, he’d be under the bonnet, tinkering.

The saying if it ain’t broke don’t fix it meant nothing to him. Fiddling with the carbies, adjusting the spark plugs, cleaning the air filter – he just could leave them alone.

You’re probably wondering why on earth I’m taking on this trip down automotive memory lane. Well believe it or not, it has absolutely nothing to do with cars or the automotive industry.

What prompted to think about my dad and his endless tinkering was a video that landed in my inbox that had been created to demonstrate the design changes that had been made to the YouTube website.

As I watched the video, all I could think was why? No, not why make a video, but why make so many changes that it required a video to explain them?

Not a short video either. This one ran for over five minutes.

I’m a regular YouTube visitor, as I’m sure many of you reading this column are, and I have been perfectly happy with the layout, design and usability of the site. So why change it?

And why change it so drastically? Because they can.

Sounds simplistic I know, but the catch of many of the most successful offerings of the web-2.0 era have been built on the catch cry “always in beta”.

And “always in beta” is a philosophy I work by too. At our agency we constantly test and refine our work based on results and analysis of data.

But what I’m talking about here isn’t testing and refining. It’s change for change sake. Well I think so anyway.

Of course YouTube are not alone in this. All the popular social media sites have a tendency to needlessly tinker under the bonnet.

Facebook seems to get overhauled every couple of months, much to the dismay of users. Twitter is constantly fiddling with things and even Foursquare, a relatively new social offering, has recently had a revamp.

As a regular user of the above mentioned social media sites I consider myself a brand advocate. And every time they go and mess with their design or usability I consider it a bad brand experience.

So I decided to write about this on my BrandDNA blog. Suffice to say my post received some interesting and passionate comments, including this one from Lauren Brown, who blogs as She Sees Red;

“Considering the internet is such a public space - maybe not by technical ownership, but certainly by modes of engagement, it disturbs me that there is this constant flip.

Like continual renovations or redecorating your local train station - nice in theory, but when you just wanna be able to buy a ticket and run onto the platform before the doors shut, annoying.

I would like to see a little more conversation about changes happening - like a DA notice or something. Most of the time I probably won't care and will adapt, but it's nice to know, prepare, or at least forget and remember again. 

Personally I think unnamed, unspoken changes to sites that leverage their power on their “social media überlord status” does have a whiff of arrogance about it.”


She sees Red

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