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March 26, 2012, 11:48 a.m.

Designing for the iPad, using analytics data, understanding attention, and creating delight: Great videos from Webstock

The annual New Zealand conference brings some of the web’s luminaries together to talk about web publishing and technology. Here are some of the highlights.

I first went to SXSW Interactive back in 2002, when it was a small add-on to the music and film conferences, with attendance measured in the hundreds. This year, 24,000-plus paying attendees choked downtown Austin, leading cranky old men like me to yearn for the days of something smaller and more intimate.

Maybe the best contemporary analog of early SXSW — with a heaping measure of TED mixed in — is Webstock, the annual festival in New Zealand that brings together many of the smartest minds in web publishing and the nerdier corners of media. The speaker list might not have the flash of a Jill Abramson keynote conversation, but folks like Tony Hsieh, Adam Lisagor, Rob Malda, Jared Spool, Biella Coleman, and Matt Haughey are themselves celebs within certain circles and make for an intellectually stimulating experience.

I’ve never been (feel free to invite me, Webstockers!), but I know that from seeing the videos of talks Webstock posts each year once the festival is over. This year’s are starting to trickle out (more coming to this URL), and I’ve picked out four that might be of particular interest to Lab readers.

(Want to dive a little deeper? Also check out Jeremy Keith on web permanence, Erin Kissane on scaling small projects, and Estelle Weyl on developing for mobile.)

Jennifer Brook on designing for the iPad

Jennifer Brook is currently a lead user experience designer at Method, but before that she was an interaction designer at The New York Times, working on web, mobile, and tablet. (You may remember her as the person who demoed the NYT’s proto-iPad app at Apple’s original iPad announcement in 2010.) Her talk: “Within Reach: Publishing for the iPad.”

Two years ago, the announcement and subsequent launch of the iPad catalyzed a strange mix of euphoria and panic in the boardrooms and newsrooms of the publishing industry. The hope for broadening their reach and appealing to new markets has been coupled with the challenge of shifting reader expectations and behavior as an onslaught of new products continue to redefine what’s possible. With a front seat view into the strategy and design of these new products and apps, Jennifer will reveal what went right, wrong, and what might be next.

Nick Mihailovski on how to use web analytics data

Nick Mihailovski is a senior developer programs engineer at Google and oversees developer relations for Google Analytics, a tool you’re probably using on your own website. Whether you’re a GA site, an Omniture site, or something else, there’s lots you can learn from the data your analytics program produces. His talk: “Acting on data.”

We have more data at our disposal than ever before. Learn 10 things you should do in 2012 to make the most of it.

danah boyd on the attention economy

Cambridge’s own danah boyd is a rock star in the social media and social network research worlds, particularly when it comes to how young people interact with these forms. She’s a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and a research associate at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Her talk: “Culture of Fear + Attention Economy = ?!?!”

We live in a culture of fear. Fear feeds on attention and attention is captured by fear. Social media has complicated our relationship with attention and the rise of the attention economy highlights the challenges of dealing with this scarce resource. But what does this mean for the culture of fear? How are the technologies that we design to bring the world together being used to create new divisions? In this talk, danah will explore what happens at the intersection of the culture of fear and the attention economy.

Dana Chisnell on creating delight in users

Dana Chisnell is an independent researcher working on usable security and research methods for social media usability. She has observed hundreds of study participants to learn about design issues in software, hardware, web sites, online services, games, and ballots, and helped organizations perform usability tests and user research to inform design decisions for products and services. Her talk: “Deconstructing Delight: Pleasure, Flow, and Meaning.”

There’s a lot of talk going around right now about designing for delight and gameification. You know what? Giving you a badge for getting your expense report done on time probably isn’t going to make you any happier or more likely to do it on time next time. And delight is temporary — people habituate pretty quickly.

There’s a vast difference, though, between designing an experience that doesn’t suck and one that drives engagement. We’re good at eliminating frustration. It’s easy to observe whether your customers are pissed off, and then just not do that. But that’s really not enough anymore. Users’ expectations are higher.

Some companies are doing it — they’re creating great experiences. From the outside, it looks effortless. But you know it’s not. The user part of you is like, wow, now this is really nice, I get it, in fact, I don’t want to live without it. The designer part of you is going, holy crap, how’d they do that — it’s really hard!

In this session, we’ll look at a nifty framework for thinking about and talking about what I call three levels of happy design. The framework is based on research done over the last couple of years looking into behavioral economics, hedonics, positive psychology, the importance of adult play, emotion in design, and a whole bunch of other stuff better saved for the talk.

Joshua Benton is the senior writer and former director of Nieman Lab. You can reach him via email ( or Twitter DM (@jbenton).
POSTED     March 26, 2012, 11:48 a.m.
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