Monday, December 14, 2009

How Not to Build Highly Interactive Mobile Internet Applications

A new breed of Highly Interactive Mobile Internet Applications (HIMIA) is gaining a foothold in the marketplace. Many app designers and developers are curious to know the best practices that lead to building such apps. In this post, I will do the opposite - give you five tips on how not to plan your apps.

But first, let me begin with a brief history.

Several of the very early internet applications for mobile platforms were merely web pages delivered through a mobile browser. Whether you used Safari, Opera Mini, Internet Explorer or any other browser compatible with your device, the usability of such applications was minimal at best. The lesson was clear and obvious: what was designed for computers played best on computers.

I will skip the WAP part and move on to the early signs of interactivity on mobile - the traditional mobile apps. Several of these are natively supplied with the operating systems such as Symbian or Win Mobile. Many more are nowadays found in application exchanges such as the Apple App Store. A large number of these seem to be small form factor versions of desktop apps.

In some cases, however, you do encounter applications that take advantage of mobility inherent in the device. These are the forerunners of HIMIA - the Highly Interactive Mobile Internet Applications. There are several factors fueling the growth of HIMIA. You have a good screen size, high resolution, touch interface, GPS capability, accelerometer, camera, speakers, microphone, storage and processing power. And of course you can assume connectivity with a good bandwidth. Users are increasingly familiar with the use of internet while on the go, they are comfortable with thumbkeys and expect to stay connected at all times. No wonder, then, that a whole new generation of highly interactive mobile internet applications is round the corner.
So, then, what are the do's and don'ts when planning to build HIMIA? As I started to write this piece, it appeared to me that it will be easier define what a HIMIA designer should not do. So here is the DON'T list.

DON'T use a page-browsing metaphor
This should be obvious, but worth stating because many of us miss it. HIMIA are thick clients, with a rich user experience. Imagine the difference between a LinkedIn app on your iphone versus browsing on your mobile browser.

DON'T mimic experiences similar to computers
Taking advantage of the unique capabilities of mobile devices enumerated above is critical. If the app simply emulates PC-like experiences, that is no fun .

DON'T think it is a standalone app, operated in a silo
A successful mobile app is usually a part of a bigger system, and therefore must integrate well with the backend.

DON'T hope to use the same app interface for all mobile platforms
This may be a holy grail, but it ain't going to work. Each platform has unique capabilities, and you need to contemplate variations in your app to take full advantage of unique platform capabilities.

DON'T cram all features of web app on mobile
That does not work. A judiciously selected subset of features works best. Try a Facebook app on itouch. You cannot do everything that you can do on the web app, but you will get by. It would have been disastrous of the mobile app version tried supporting all features.

This is a developing list. You are welcome to add more DON'Ts to this list.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

5 Great Ways to Block U-Turns on Your Web Site

Great site designers follow basic principles of interactivity to make their sites sticky and engaging. They do everything to prevent u-turn traffic. Here are five ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Capture Attention with a Visual Site Map
Most web sites start simple, but they get pretty complex before long. There are myriads of pages, sections and links. Users then resort to a site map to figure out what they are looking for. Why not make their job easier with a visual site map?

A visual site map is a pictorial representation of a web site, where clicking on a part of the picture would pop up a small display describing what is in a particular logical section of the web site. For example, a home furniture web site may have a site map showing the various parts of a home, and clicking the living room would pop up a desciption of living room furniture section. Next to this description, you can have thumbnails representing pages in that section, so users can easily navigate to couches, for example, and so on.

Visual site maps are vivid, memorable and easy to use compared to traditional treeview textual site maps.

2. Enhance Engagement with Related Actions Suggestor
If you know the way people use your site, you probably also know where they will go next from one part of the site. For example, someone that looks up pricing will likely go to the buy page. Someone that looks up a webinar schedule will likely go to the enrollment page. Or maybe the webinar recording page. In other words, you can anticipate related actions from a given point. Use this knowledge of user intention and make it easy for the user to find the related pages quickly. A Related Action Suggestor is an interactive element on your web page which suggests pathways to related pages. A well-designed related action suggestor can include a video, image or text with audio that optionally educates a user, helping him or her find parts of a site he or she may not be aware of. A great way to roll out new updates to sites.

3. Create Curiousity Using Page Peel Banners
Often you can easily organize a message in two - maybe three - layers. There is something you would like to say to everybody that visits your web page. And then there is something additional you would like to say to those who are interested. And maybe even more to those who are really interested. Peel-away banners work great in such situations. A well-designed peel-away banner can have attractive images,crisp messages and even voice over or music that plays when the banner loads, as well as when the user peels away the top banner to reveal what is underneath. It is customery for the top right corner of the banner to appear in animation which suggests that you can drag it and peel it away. That's the teaser. For a fuller discussion on the art of harnessing curiosity to drive engagement, see my earlier post on this topic.

4. Build Credibility with a Quotes Flicker
In the age of instant credibility, you must substantiate the message on your website with customer testimonials, recommendations, reviews and other types of quotes. For best results, a quote should be short, storylike, easy to read, and preferably accompanied by a picture of the person providing the quote. A voiceover adds a personal touch to quotes.

A video is sometimes worth a thousand pictures. When a customer speaks to camera about your products or services, it creates a great impact. I therefore recommend video quotes, where possible.

A single quote creates a lot of authenticity. If you have several customer quotes, even better. A good way to render multiple quotes is to make a playlist of sorts and render the quotes one by one. Depending on the section of your website, or seasonal merchandising focus, you may choose a different set of quotes. This not only adds variety to the site, but also focuses the right message to the right audience.

5. Build a Sense of Urgency and Drive Action
A web site is about driving user action. People will act if there is a sense of urgency: a deal that is good thru the end of the month, a deadline for enrolling in an event, a special that lasts for only 24 hours and so forth. Highlight the urgency with a countdown timer that shows the days remaining and drive action by popping up additional media on mouseover. The media could be a video, an image or text with audio, designed to issue a call to action.

Good luck with building interactive sites.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Is Your Web Page Getting a Lot of U-turn Traffic?

There is one word that spells the dirty little secret of useless web traffic: Bounceback. For all the search optimization that brings your site in the first ten blue links on google, what good is a site traffic that will make a u-turn and go away?

Let's declare a war on clever schemes that bring u-turn traffic to web sites. We want engagement and stickiness - visitors must stay on site and interact meaninfully with the site. That should be our goal.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Present Interactively - Your Audience Expects It!

Ellen Finkelstein, the noted Presentation Guru, recently conducted a webinar with a catchy title: Present interactively — your audience expects it!

Everyone kind of knows that presentations should be interactive - this webinar showed how to do that. Ellen stressed that we need to keep the audience, not slides, as the focus of the presentation. Some of the ideas she presented were:

Interact before the presentation
Ideally, the interaction needs to start before the presentation. One can do some kind of surveys using sites or different tools such as surveymonkey and surveygizmo. Surveys help in understanding the audience.

Feedback loop
During the actual presentation, create a feedback loop – you speak, listen and let this continue throughout the presentation.

Menu-based presentations
Ellen explained as one can hyperlink different slides from the menu so that - based on the audience needs - one can navigate to specific slides.

Use of third party software
Ellen talked about YawnBuster – a software tool to engage the audience for group activities. She also showed how YawnBuster is used in a webinar mode by taking votes / new ideas in a brainstorm activity using the chat pod available. Ellen further demonstrated the use of Raptivity Presenter – another software tool to create interactive presentations.

Use of social media
Here Ellen referred to Twitter and other tools to create a backchannel for audience interaction: A concept I introduced in one of my earlier posts in this blog.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sixth Sense

The buzz around Sixth Sense technology developed at MIT Media Labs continues to grow, especially after Pranav Mistry delivered this inspired speech at TED.

The idea of wearable sensors and cameras that track gestures and enable the interaction between the physical world and the digital world is compelling. However, for it to meet its full potential, a plethora of backend applications will need to be built. There are several killer apps waiting to be built here, and they could be harbingers of a new generation of technology ventures.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Poll for My Readers

A recent article on InstantShift titled 'Why is Social Interaction Important for a Website' has generated plenty of interaction on the site that hosts it. I mentioned this to Poonam Agarwal, the author of this article. She argued that if the readers had additional interaction tools beyond 'leave a comment' and 'retweet' available, they would have even more fun interacting. Do you agree?

The article has some nice graphics (credits : - be sure to check it out!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Is the Word 'Social' Doing a Disservice?

As I was reading a blog post titled 'The Latest Brew: Social Interaction!' , I decided to pretend that I am an enterprise IT manager reading the post, and at once realized the problem with the overtones of the word 'social'. Is this some kind of a club activity, where people get together and do things casually? Another post, titled 'The Much-Needed Factor for Websites: Social Interactions' accentuated the same issue. Is this Web 2.0 stuff of any use for enterprise IT, or is it more for sites like Facebook?

As interactivity professionals, we need to do one of two things urgently. Either we should downplay the word 'social' in our messaging, or educate our stakeholders in enterprise IT about the true meaning of 'social' in the context of social interactions. Andy McAfee, the enterprise 2.0 IT guru, prefers the former alternative. I prefer the latter. Here is why.

In our context, social interactions are interactions between people through computer systems. These cover a broad range of very useful and serious functions such as:

  • describing your work experiences (blogging)
  • collaborating on writing useful articles (wiki)
  • aggregating opinions data (polling)
  • helping each other through discussions (forums)
  • helping each other search and find things (bookmarking)
  • sharing digital assets and interacting with each other using those (video, presentations)
  • contributing to the content of web sites (user generated content)

and so forth. There is nothing casual about the word 'social' when used in this context. Therefore, we should make sure that IT decisionmakers understand this and weigh their decisions appropriately, without a negative bias towards the term 'social'.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Levels of Interactivity in Presentations

In this post, I list the various levels of interactivity seen in presentations. (Note: In this post, by presentation, I mean .PPT, .PPTX or similar computer-generated slide deck, and not the act of presenting.)

Level 0: Text Bullets and Pictures
This is where most presentations are today. Each slide displays a bunch of bullets with static text, and sometimes there are a few pictures, and you go from one slide to the next.

Level 1: Transitions, Build-ups, Effects
Here, presentation creators use slide transitions, slide build-ups and slide element animation effects. A variation often seen includes click-based slide buildup. Each time the presenter clicks the mouse, a new bullet point gets added. While all this jazzes up slides a bit, the interactivity is superficial at best.

Level 2: Enhanced Internal and External Navigation
Often confused with interactivity, this is simply the use of interface elements - such as buttons and hyperlinks - which allows the presenter to navigate quickly to another location within the presentation. It also allows the presenter to open a document or a web page, or play a sound, video or a movie, on click of the button or hyperlink.

Level 3: Basic Interactivity
Questions, polls, quizzes and such basic interactive elements are found at this level.

Level 4: Essential Interactivity
Presentations which provide essential interactivity allow for rich navigation metaphors such as flip-books, panning cards and 3D objects; story-building metaphors such as sprite animations, guided tours, flowcharts and diagram build-ups; and interactive visuals supporting features such as build-up, rollover and drilldown.

Level 5: Advanced Interactivity
Presentations with advanced interactivity allow the presenter to accept audience input and selectively present information by adapting to the input. Advanced interactvity also includes group activities such as games, shows and contests; participation enhancers such as brainstorming sessions and key takeaways; collaborative exercises and so forth.

As you go from level 0 to level 5, the impact of a presentation goes up several fold, because the audience gets involved progressively to a greater degree in the presentation. Of course the presenter achieves the ultimate impact, but a well-designed slide deck with sufficient interactivity will make the task a lot easier.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Interactivity in Web Design: A Beginner's Guide

For those of you who enjoyed my earlier post on interactive web sites, I have some good news to share. A new article, titled Interactivity in Web Design: A Beginner's Guide has appeared on Desizn Tech. This article is a convenient starting point for those of you who need a quick primer on interactive web design.

The article first draws a distinction between Single User Interactions and Multi-User Interactions. It then gives numerous examples of each type of interaction on some very well-designed websites.

The article, written by Poonam and edited by Kawsar Ali, then goes on to answer the key question: How do I add interactivity to my website?

For single user interactions, their prescriptions include javascript, jquery sliders, photo gallery, CSS navigation and rapid interactivity. For multi-user interactions, the ideas they suggest include chat, polldaddy, slideshare, shoutmix and TeemingPod, among other tools.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Interactivity Helps Non-Verbal Kids Communicate

Phil Bookman and Lenny Greenberg, two eLearning pioneers, have turned their talents to helping non-verbal kids communicate. Their new innnovation? TapToTalk, an interactive software on a Nintendo DSi, which a kid can proudly and easily carry around. The program shows images of various things the child may want to say, but cannot quite easily verbalize. So, the child has to simply locate the right image and -you guessed it- tap to talk. The program "speaks", thus assisting the child.

The product is only one part of Phil and Lenny's innovation. Their business model is the other part. What they sell is a subscription, a SaaS service to let parents and professionals make each TapToTalk meet the individual and changing needs of each child. The actual software that runs on the Nintendo DSi is free. This is a new paradigm at work.

If you would like to see a youtube video that shows how TapToTalk works, check out their Support Center page.

Assistyx, the company that makes TapToTalk, is a start-up company working to use technology to help individuals with physical and mental challenges reach their full potential. According to their web site, Regardless of cause–autism, developmental disability, mental retardation, Down syndrome, and many diseases–TapToTalk can help those who are non-verbal or have other speech or learning challenges communicate and learn.

When I asked Phil Bookman how he feels about Assistyx, he said: "I've started a number of tech companies over the years. This one, and this product, are a labor of love."

They have a embarked upon a noble cause, and I wish them the best.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Interactivity Spells The Midas Touch in Web Design

The telltale signs of a sea change in website design using rapid interactivity are beginning to show. Success stories of interactive websites are emerging in different parts of the world. With minimal cost and effort, designers of these sites are adding the midas touch. Who are these web designers? What are they doing differently?

Interactive websites present their message in a very attractive and engaging way. Considered the American Baptist Church web site, which presents the Call to God in way that is sure to attract and engage the younger visitors, who play with a 3 dimensional cube that rotates and narrates its messaging with voice and pictures. The message in this case talks about one’s connection with God through prayers, and volunteering for the local church. It targets the youth aptly through the creative use of interactivity. A great example that shows how a non-profit organization uses interactivity to convey its message effectively.

When I talk about success, I am not really surprised to see the commercial use of interactivity done effectively. A firm that deals with professional Internet Marketing Services aptly displayed their portfolio through Panning Cards. This interactive feature engages users and encourages them to get a quick visual of each portfolio item, with an option to drill down for more. That’s what I call reaching your varied target audience with a bang!

There is a whole new generation of website design. As Clayton Christensen argues in his celebrated book The Innovator's Dilemma, disruptive innovations start in under-served markets. New generation web designers are yet again demonstrating efficiencies in their work with rapid interactivity, trumping traditional ways of web design. The question remains…will this work for you? The answer lies solely with you!

Click here to refer to these and similar success stories.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Seduction: The Art of Harnessing Curiosity to Drive Engagement

Seductive ideas rest on our ability to spark the kind of intrigue that will keep the imagination engaged.

Like Mona Lisa, who seems to be alive because her attitude is so open to interpretation, something left to imagination will enthrall and captivate better than something served on a platter. Both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo were masters of deliberately unfinished or ambiguous work, which exploited the power of suggestion.

Today's dialog creators should also grant their audience the freedom to finish what the creator began. As the iPhone that removed the keyboard from a cell phone shows, subtraction produces seduction.

Curiosity is a natural trait of human mind. When something is missing, the mind looks for it actively.

In designing interactions, then, we have an opportunity to invite our users to look for and fill in missing pieces. This is seduction, the art of harnessing curiosity to drive interaction.

(Inspired by: In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew May, Broadway Books, 2009)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Day in the Korean Capital

Seoul, the hotbed of early adoption of high tech, has a 95% household broadband penetration. This densely packed city teeming with 20 million people is the most wired city in the world. The way Seoul has embraced technology has not only transformed South Korea’s economy, it has also profoundly changed the way the city is governed.

Image from The Korea Times / Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Government

Several months ago, Cheonggye Stream in downtown Seoul set up a marriage proposal spot near Dumul Bridge, where citizens can have their own video clip played on a big screen as the backdrop to a romantic proposal. The clip can feature their marriage proposal, which will be played to their prospective lover.

That may sound like a once-in-a-while occasion, but the the famed ubiquitous city (U-city) project in Seoul also promises several new experiences in the day-to-day lives of citizens. I am listing eight here. Some of them are already operational, others are due anytime.

  1. You are at a restaurant. To catch a waiter’s attention, no need for waving or calling out any more – just touch a wireless device at your table, and your waiter will show up.
  2. Bus stops carry displays that show you where your bus is, so you can decide whether to wait for it.
  3. Media poles along sidewalks help you search for city information.
  4. You need a copy of your vehicle registration. At any subway station, walk up to a kiosk that recognizes your thumbprint and issues public documents. You have your paperwork in minutes.
  5. A child wears a U-tag which alerts parents on cell phone if he/she leaves a designated safety zone, such as a school campus.
  6. Before you venture along a route, check air quality and traffic conditions over cell phone.
  7. Leave a city-issued RFID tag on your car’s dashboard. If you don’t take your car out on the streets for a day, you automatically receive an insurance discount.
  8. When you get on and off a bus, swipe a plastic card and it calculates fare based on how far you went.
The technology for doing all this is no big deal. We are talking about RFID, GPS, Bluetooth, touch-screens, fingerprint recognition, GIS and mobile messaging. Pretty routine stuff. What’s unique is the way this city has weaved it into the lives of its people. People need to interact with the transit systems, with the city, with businesses and with each other. U-city project has laid the groundwork for that.

It is easy to see how the downtown’s four-mile long Cheonggye Stream walkway will be a fertile ground for launching innovations in interactivity.

Monday, August 31, 2009

An Interactive Online Shopping Experience

If you are a seller, the last thing you want to do with a buyer when she is about to buy something is to distract her. Sounds pretty obvious, right? Well, here is an exercise. Go to any online store's 'buy' page and count the outbound links. Do you see what I mean?

Bringing a visitor to the buy page - the holy grail for any web site that sells online - is necessary, but not sufficient for online sales. Your visitor must actually buy something. Imagine this. Your visitor is one click away from adding an item to the cart. What if she has questions that will make her feel uncertain? She may not quite make up her mind. In such situations, you want to leave no stone unturned in answering those questions.

There is one small problem, though. You are usually not there with the visitor when she is on your buy page. So, before you know it, she follows another link and takes off.

This is a perfect opportunity for embedded social interaction, as is illustrated by a web page I was reviewing recently.

Like other 'buy' pages, this one too has the product information, pricing and discount listed. There is the 'add to cart' button. Then there is the usual contact number, time zone and email listed. So far, nothing extraordinary.

What is different is that the frequently asked questions (FAQ) are not an outbound link or a separate menu item. Instead, there is a small space on the buy page itself, where people can view purchase related questions and their answers. They can also ask questions, and come back to see them answered.

Raptivity Buy FAQ: Click to Enlarge

According to the product manager, a visitor can search the FAQ with a keyword, for example, someone may search for 'ship' and all questions pertaining to shipment, shipping etc. appear as search results, making it easy to see answers. Visitors can choose whether they want to see most popular questions first, or most recent ones. People who want to help each other can add guest answers to a question. Someone who wants to see all Q and A's in print (!) can also click 'Export' to get a PDF output which compiles all questions and answers in a report.

Product Buy Page with Embedded FAQ: Click to Enlarge

"It took us less than an hour to set up and embed FAQ in the page, and every time anyone adds a question, we get an email alert," added the manager.

As of this writing, there are about a dozen questions, spread over four mini-pages. The biggest advantage of this implementation is clear: You don't send visitors wandering around the web site when you have them on the buy page. You instead keep them there, and answer as many questions as you can right there. This enhances engagement and improves goal conversion - a compelling illustration of effective embedded interaction.

To visit this page yourself, click here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Video-in-Print Debuts September 18, 2009

When Harry Potter opens a newspaper, a video starts playing right inside the paper. Sounds like a phenomenon from the world of fiction? Not any more. According to a story that just appeared in The Wall Street Journal, we are about to see video in a print magazine.

Video in a print magazine? Yes. The September 18 issue of Entertainment Weekly will contain screens the size of a cell phone display, and they will play CBS and Pepsi ads. Americhip developed the technology which allows up to 40 minutes of video content to be displayed on the screens.

When a reader flips to the page that contains the video ad, it will begin to play. Sort of like a greeting card that plays music when you open it.

Will this create a whole new way of experiencing print advertising? Right now there are several concerns. The cost of these ads is significantly high. There is no recycling of batteries and screens. The environmental cost is a concern, because people will simply throw the magazine away after reading. And of course there is no ability to track reader interaction.

Like all innovations, then, video-in-print has many wrinkles. What remains to be seen is whether the idea of embedding screens in print magazines takes hold before print magazines go completely online. Readers expect to be able to add comments, forward stories to friends, give feedback and so on. If print makes this happen, maybe there is a way to fulfil this expectation. Otherwise, people will increasingly use book readers - like the kindle - or smart phones, netbooks and laptops to do their reading. The debate goes on.

For now, we can agree that the Time Warner Inc. publication has opened a remarkable illustration of adding interactivity to the most unlikely environment - the print.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Using Interactivity to Fight Teenage Obesity

In, Mike Cassidy recently did a story on Hopelab, a nonprofit technology incubator in Redwood City. Hopelab is working on a unique idea to reduce teenage obesity.

Hopelab built gDitty, a product that grew out of an interest in combining technology games with health care. Philanthropist Pam Omidyar came up with the vision when she started HopeLab in 2001.

The idea of gDitty appears - as is the case with all good innovations - quite simple. Cassidy reports that gDitty is an accelerometer-based device that kids can carry in their pocket or clip on their clothes. The gDitty measures and stores data on any moderate to vigorous movement. The data is then uploaded to a Web site where kids now testing the device can see how their exertion is increasing or decreasing. They can also compare their scores with other users (identified by screen names) across the country.

And kids can cash in points for prizes, such as iTunes or Amazon gift cards.Because the gDitty measures all significant movement, kids rack up points for walking, climbing stairs or doing household chores.

Children in test groups increased their daily activity by 35 percent, the company reports.

Ingenuous, isn't it? What I find most noteworthy about this product idea is that it exploits interactivity in the teenager's natural environment. To provide input to the program, the user has to do nothing special, just move about as usual.

This is a point to note for web designers, presentation makers, e-learning developers and other dialog creators. Blend interactivity naturally into the environment of your target audience - be it a blog, a web page, a slide deck or an online course - and the audience will love it. For example, if you want to poll your audience in the middle of a presentation, embed the poll in your PowerPoint. If you wish to encourage conversation amongst site visitors, have a discussion area right there on the web page. Whenever possible, avoid switching to another application for polling, or sending the web site visitor to another page for discussions. Preserve context, and interactions become more natural and meaningful.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The future of interactivity

“The world is flat”, proclaims the title of Thomas Friedman’s international bestseller which analyzes globalization. While the title metaphorically refers to a level playing field amongst businesses everywhere, it also seems to allude unintentionally to the growing number of flat screens we keep looking at in the course of a day. Between the laptop, smart phone, TV, gaming console, book reader and navigator device, we increasingly endeavor to experience life through these screens, driven by software. Good news for software developers? Depends.

People don't just want to stare at screens. They want a two-way dialog. They want to actively participate in things happening online, and not just watch passively. Little wonder, then, that people are increasingly demanding interactivity in this serious business of dealing with the world through screens. Software developers should understand the implications of this shift. As a food for thought, I have put together ten predictions for the not-so-distant future of interactivity.

10. Users will get a wider choice of input mechanisms. For those of you who use the iPhone or the the Wii, you know what I mean. It’s not just the keyboard and mouse anymore. From accelerometers and multi-touch screens to 3D cameras, there are a host of new input mechanisms vying for mainstream usage.

9. Less will be more. Interactivity designers will have to make life simpler for users. As buy decisions are increasingly shifting to end-users, minimizing user learning curve will become a priority. That means, the less a user needs to learn, the better.

8. Broad platform support will be crucial. At least in the near future, developers will have to make sure they build interactivity according to each client platform’s capabilities, form factor and preferred plug-in. There seems no consensus on a standard in sight.

7. New applications will emerge. In areas where knowledge exchange is at a premium, interactivity will gain momentum. E-learning, presentations, and web pages appear to be good starting points. Other applications will emerge.

6. Technology will evolve. Rapid interactivity will go mainstream, because not everyone wants to write programs, and yet everyone wants control over the look and feel of interactivity through customization.

5. Composite applications will thrive. There will be opportunities to integrate interactivity using mash-ups and embeddable components. Both on-premise and SaaS applications will present such opportunities in the enterprise and consumer software space.

4. Customer interaction will go online. Increasingly, a lot of interaction with customers and other stakeholders will be forced to shift online, and this will create a pull for interactivity.

3. Diverse platforms will support interactivity. While primarily the PC will continue to be best suited for interactive experiences, other devices will also afford unique opportunities for interactivity based on their inherent capabilities and usage patterns.

2. Web 2.0 will increasingly go interactive. User generated content will embrace interactivity through embedded social interactions.

1. End-users will gain the most. As interactivity goes mainstream, bringing about more engaging and meaningful online experiences, the end-user will be the ultimate winner.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Interactivity drives interaction. Get the difference?

Is it interaction or interactivity? A lot of people use the two terms interchangeably. In this post, let's explore the subtle difference between the two.

Interaction is mutual action between at least two participants. For example, computer software and its user can have interaction.

Some interactions are trivial, for example, click on a button. Some interactions are non-trivial, for example, walk along a street and look around the houses using Google Map.

Any artifact (such as a piece of software) is interactive if it allows for interaction. For example, the digger game is interactive because it allows for interaction.

Interactivity is the property of an artifact that allows for interaction. Thus, an online discussion forum software has interactivity, because it allows for interaction between users.

Over time, the word interactivity has also come to describe a software artifact that allows non-trivial interaction. For example, an online flip-book is an interactivity. Its user can turn the pages like a real book, go to any page directly, close the book and so forth.

Which means, the flip-book not only has interactivity, but it is an interactivity. Interactivity, then, is not just a property, but also an artifact possessing the property.

Therefore, we can use its plural to denote many artifacts that exhibit interactive behavior. For example, a web page that contains a flip-book and a mind-map can be said to have two interactivities in it.

Your spell-checker might complain about interactivities, but there is a way out. I have already added the word to my dictionary, and so can you.

There is a simple way to remember all this: Interactivity drives interaction.

You are welcome to explore the definitions using the interactive glossary in this blog.

Monday, May 18, 2009

An Interactive Glossary of Interactivity Terms

For some time now, I've wondered what is the best way to put together clear definitions of the various terms used in describing interactivity technology. I figured an interactive glossary would work best, so here it goes. Just click on any term and see its explanation in the box below.

Using Raptivity, it took about fifteen minutes to build this glossary and to insert it in this blog.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A brief history of interactivity

Here is a step-by-step illustration of the evolution of content delivery applications - from the old days of teletype green terminals spouting stock quotes, to today's highly immersive and interactive applications.

The move from text to graphics was a big step in content delivery applications. If a picture was worth a thousand words, the next generation of applications went a step further with sound, video and animation. Multimedia applications had arrived.

Then came the internet, which revolutionized content delivery. The web's HTML pages were easy to link to other pages. Search engines made it easy to look for something on the web.

With the advent of blogs, wikis and social networks the web further evolved to support content creation by everybody.

The web has now spread to a large number of users that consume increasing amounts of content. These users have come to expect their online experiences to be a two-way interactive street.

So, expect to see interactivity entering the mainstream of content delivery.

The six important milestones (text, graphic, multimedia, web, social and interactive) in the history of interactivity conjure up the image of a ladder we are ascending. Just roll your mouse over a step to drill down to a short description.

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