Why Instagram works

There are many photo editing apps and many offer some kind of sharing.

Yet Instagram (see my previous post) is way ahead of the pack in popularity and buzz. This fantastic article goes into why. My favourite aspect is about how it deliberately limits its functionality. you can only load one image at a time. Imagine how natural it would seem to add many at once. But that would detract from the product’s simplicity and delight.

Design is finished not when there’s nothing left to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away.

A picture is worth 140 characters

I’ve said before that one of my favourite tricks in developing new products is simply to break one rule – take a successful formula and change just one thing.

Instagr.am does just that – it’s the Twitter model of easy microblogging, but based around photos rather than text and it seems to be catching fire by enabling people to broadcast their creativity to friends and strangers in a fast and customisable way.

There’s a need for this. Whereas Facebook’s blithely happy environment pulls towards the mainstream, emerging services such as Instagr.am skew towards the thoughtful and creative. And there’s a place for that.

Natural design v engineering tension

Fascinating post from former design chief at Nokia, laying bare his frustrations at innovating in a mega corporation. Alongside some eye-popping comments, this stood out as something to be wary of, yet embraced and made useful:

“Designers are also, by training and predilection, inclined to design for the usual, where engineers are taught a kind of rigor that compels them to account for, and overweight, low-probability events.”

Don’t get left behind in mobile

For anyone interested in keeping up with mobile (that should be everyone, right?), I recommend signing up to the Mobile Fix from Addictive – a smart new mobile agency.

This week, they pointed to to another terrific deck from Mary Meeker. The stats on mobile seem to get more and more amazing. The growth in transactions, sales outstripping desktops and the shift in time spent connected to handheld devices is compelling.

This is a train everyone really needs to be on.

Microsoft holds funeral for iPhone to promote Windows Mobile 7

Seriously??

For stunts like this to resonate and become positive social currency, they have to hit a nerve and contain a grain of truth. No-one believes Redmond will make a dent in the iPhone’s share. Microsoft’s biggest barrier to their usual mainstream OS play is of course Android, and that ain’t going under either.

Way to blow cash. Many brands would, ironically, kill for this kind of throwaway marketing budget. And do a lot more damage with it.

Snacking – the death of down-time

Next time you’re in the queue at Starbucks or Tesco, watch people.

If it doesn’t look like they’ll get served in the next few seconds, chances are they’ll start prodding at their phone. Which will be in their hand. Ready. There’s even a phrase “Blackberry jam” that has been coined to describe being stuck at tube station exits behind office workers slowing to a halt as they breathe in that fresh phone signal.

Increasingly, people don’t do downtime. And this includes me. I’m not proud to admit it, but I find myself digitally snacking in the those oh-so-boring seconds in-between lift floors. Or waiting for the train to pull to a stop. Or while your colleague grabs a drink before a meeting. A watched kettle might never boil, but it’s definitely enough time to read the BBC headlines. I wager that checking facebook has replaced reading a tabloid as the nation’s favourite on the loo pastime (or is that a boy thing?)

I don’t say this is a good thing. It might even be a dreadful malaise, but it’s definitely real. And it’s getting worse/faster. Multi-tasking on iPhone 4.0 means – God forbid – that no longer do we need to stand by idly whilst the Spotify app hogs the foreground. Nope – we can start a track playing and check Twitter. Why has no-one updated anything in the last five minutes?

So what does this mean for marketers?

  1. Recognise that mobile is not just a different screen size, but a different occasion, involving different mind states and needs.
  2. Think little and often. It could be titbits of information, mini games or a decent facebook page but brands would do well to provide snacks
  3. Speed up. Marketing has always been about getting messages across efficiently, but boy, that really matters now. Halve your copy, and double its punch.
  4. Social again comes to the fore. Opening up safari, then going to Google, typing a search and clicking on results is slowwwww. Just gimme the link or a Like button to press already
  5. Or provide alternatives. The world isn’t on its way to hell in a handcart. Downtime is good, and brands that help people to switch off will be more important than ever

Please note. This piece also appeared as a guest post on the Reform Digital blog

conference call

Like most people, I get much unsolicited email inviting me to a wide range of dreary sounding events, so it was a pleasant surprise to receive something that actually made me laugh.

Planet of the Apps is a great name for a conference. Getting noticed always matters

talkablelikeable for the iPhone

If each year of the noughties were never quite the year of mobile, it’s surely a safe bet that the tens/teens will be the decade of mobile.

Serious analysts like Mary Meeker are forecasting that the mobile internet will overtake the fixed by 2013*

To this end, I wanted to share an excellent plugin called WPtouch I’ve found for WordPress that optimises any blog for iPhone viewing. The difference is remarkable:

Before

After

* that’s fully two years before Back to the Future forecasts flying cars and hoverboards 😉