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GOV.UK wins Design of the Year.

And for good reason.

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 12.01.06

Do you know what I like about this site? Apart from everything? It’s the site’s pure simplicity.

All too often, you get websites that are so bloated and over designed that you scream for something that doesn’t deploy parallax scrolling, that isn’t swathed in gradients and that isn’t filled with stock image after stock image after stock image. The new gov.uk site is the antithesis of pretty much everything you’ll see on the FWA (not saying that all those sites are awful, they’re not) – it’s clean, it’s considered, it’s flipping brilliant. It does what it needs to do effortlessly, and without all the fluff that most of us add to every single bit of design; the drop shadows, the bevels, the textures – the dribbble essentials if you will.

I love that it takes it’s influences from the right places (taken from Creative Review);

Government projects that are well designed, that have stood the test of time and are copied around the world. The Festival of Britain, Kenneth Grange’s work on InterCity, the tube map – in that style of diagrammatic design, it’s obvious to me that it is ‘user-focused’. It’s so effortless that you ignore it now, you don’t even notice it’s designed.

And I love that it takes those influences and brings them bang into the now;

…it explicitly cements a relationship with the achievements of the past by making use of a new version of the classic 1950s typeface Transport, originally designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert for use on British motorway signs. Calvert worked on a new version of the face for GOV.UK with London studio A2/SW/HK.

Just as good is the process behind the site. If you follow Ben Terrett’s blog, you’ll have seen little snips of the day to day workings in the Government Digital Service. For me, hiring Terrett was a master stroke, he’s so switched on – the More Ideas, Less Stuff article he wrote for the Guardian back in 2009 is great. Read it.

Anyway – less about my design crushes, and more on the site, and the example it makes about THE IDEA being the most creative thing about a project and not the finished article itself. I love that this site is being championed as ‘good design’, this will hopefully cause a bit of shift in the day to day acknowledgment of what good design actually is. It’s not about throwing a load of semiotics with more Photoshop effects than you can shake a stick at applied to it, it’s about answering the brief the right way without clogging up or diluting the original idea. I don’t think ‘less is more’ I just think it’s more a case of if ‘less’ is what it takes to work, then ‘less is enough’.

You can read more about the GDS here.

Will the Apple iTablet be a bitter pill for your website?

Will you website work on the new Apple tablet?

Will your website work on the new Apple tablet?

So, it’s just one week before we finally get to see the Apple iTablet/iBook/iPad/iPallette/iSlate/iDontcarewhatitscalled (probably) at their event on the 27th. Exciting stuff. But unless I’m missing something then there has been surprisingly little mentioned about how the rise of tablet computing (it isn’t just Apple developing a tablet computer) might affect the way we build web resources.

For instance, the iPhone doesn’t work with Flash and according to most people in the know about these things, nor will the tablet. Why? Primarily because it dissolves battery at an alarming rate (as highlighted to me by the Guardian’s tech editor Charles Arthur on Twitter today). It’s also quite buggy. I should say now that I’m not actually the Manifest London web nerd guru – that title goes to Mike Francis, but for me it seems the rise of tablet computing (and indeed the mobile internet) could therefore have a big impact for a lot of content-heavy websites.

We noted in our 2010 predictions that Javascript frameworks such as jQuery and Mootools will increasingly rival Flash (and software in general) in terms of creating dynamic page content – but as more and more people access the web via smartphones or tablets, surely we will also become less motivated to use Flash? How much of your website content uses Flash? Have you considered what your site looks like on an iPhone, or how it will look using a tablet computer? I don’t think Flash will disappear anytime soon, but there will certainly be an impact for sites that rely too heavily on Flash content.

Other growing considerations will include content dimensions – the iPhone has very specific dimensions (which will likely be shared by the forthcoming tablet) which could cause a headache for those using other proportions. Apple’s proprietary software will all use iFrame for video rendering and content that doesn’t use this will have compatibility issues (however slight). As an aside, very few video cameras render video in iFrame, meaning quick editing on iPhoto is more difficult and precious battery will be used converting the files in the editing process.

Anyway – all of this is pie-in-the-sky until the 27th so we’ll just have to sit tight and wait and see. But if what I think is true, then we’ll see a rush from brands to create websites that perform to their optimum on a tablet. For those that don’t have the budget to create a dedicated app or an alternate mobile site, it could prove a headache.

Ten in 2010 – our predictions for next year…

Ah December. The season to be jolly. And to make ludicrously inaccurate predictions for the year ahead, of course. It seems to me that under the guise of ‘predictions’, most of the soothsaying blog posts that appear at the end of the year read more like Christmas wishes and are more about what the author wants to happen, than what is likely to happen. So, we’ll try to avoid the ‘wishlist’ approach and come up with our 10 predictions for communications in 2010 – but we can’t deny there’s a bit of wishing about some of them (well, if December isn’t a time for wishes, then when is?). So here goes, in no particular order, our Ten in 2010 predictions are:

  1. Social search becomes the norm: For the past ten years, web search has been dominated by Google. When we’ve been in need of anything, from toilet paper to travel advice, we’ve asked Google’s reliable algorithm. In 2010, we’ll see the current ‘hot topic’ of social search become a social norm for all web users. I already ask for recommendations on Twitter before I search on Google in a number of circumstances – particularly if it involves making a purchase – and the recent and ongoing changes to Facebook make crowdsourcing a recommendation or solution much easier. Google.com will always bring more results (and lovely, accurate ones), but recommendations bring with them so much more: trust, peace-of-mind and quite often a witty quip thrown in. That’s probably why Google is testing out its own amazing social search product in Google labs. It’s all a bad sign for SEO companies as they lose their grip on search – especially when you see Google personalised search take hold too. I guess we’ll see the continued growth of SMO as opposed to traditional SEO as well.
  2. Apple changes the way we read: Okay, not just Apple, but touch-screen tablets like the one they’re planning to launch. TechCrunch have written about producing one, and a number of other manufacturers are rumoured to be working on products. Essentially, tablets fill the gap between a smartphone and a notebook – providing a convenient way to browse web pages, read documents or even watch movies on the move. They also potentially spell disaster for products like Amazon’s Kindle. However, there could be business benefits also. What if you were to show up to meetings with tablets for those taking part – allowing participants to view bespoke presentations, or slide notes, or creative design options? They could zoom and scroll through a design as they wish, while the presentation covers the key points. Okay, it sounds complicated and expensive, but we’re just excited about what will no doubt be a nice shiny new toy from Apple.

    Apple's tablet will arrive in 2010 and change the handheld computing landscape

  3. “I have a stream”: 2009 has seen the emergence from the shadows of a number of lifestreams – with Tumblr, Friendfeed (recently bought by Faceboook) and Posterous making the most noise. Technically, Posterous has moved the lifestream on from being an aggregator of social content, to a syndicator as well – which is where the true potential of these services can be seen. As such, 2010 will see more and more ‘aggregator/syndicator’ apps appearing, and more and more people using them. Updating Posterous can automatically update your Twitter account, Facebook profile, blog, Flickr profile and more. It’s quick, easy, and simple. You can even just send it an email and the content appears everywhere. As people develop more social media identities they need a place to keep them. Having to access dozens of websites, desktop apps or even phone apps to keep things up-to-date is a massive hassle. Posterous and its ilk are already successfully catering for a need that will grow exponentially in 2010.
  4. Augmented reality becomes a reality: We love augmented reality (AR) at Manifest. There are obviously amazing benefits it can bring, but our main reason for loving it is it feels like something from Back to the Future II. And if you haven’t seen the Google Goggles video already you’re in for a treat. AR has arrived quicker than expected really, and the pace of development looks set to continue. Bionic Eye and Tube Deluxe are the AR apps in my iPhone arsenal, but the opportunities for brands are there for all to see. Imagine a gym where you look at a machine and are given a tutorial, for example, or pointing your iPhone app at a packet of crisps to get a calorie count/CO2 impact/price comparison.

    Augmented Reality (AR) is not only like living in Back to the Future II - it actually works

  5. Wave says hello: Google Wave is here already. But not really. In 2010 we expect it to start making a big impact, although a mass switchover from email is pie in the sky yet. Wave has loads of benefits for businesses and collaborators, but we’ve not seen them yet because most of us don’t have any contacts on there. In 2010, the early adopters will get to grips with what promises to change the way we communicate online. If this post were a wave, for instance, you could comment on each prediction underneath the actual  paragraph you’re commenting on. I could then ‘rewind’ the post to see how the comments have been added over time, and the final Wave would be a collaborative effort – not just my work. It’s really pretty cool – and in 2010 we’ll start to see why. Hopefully we’ll all get some more invitations as well.

    In 2009 - we were all waving with ourselves. 2010 will see wave unleashed.

  6. We're already seeing promos for Twitter services appear on our twitter profiles, contextual ads are next

    Twitter already has the space to add contextual ads

    Adding context to Twitter: We predict contextual advertising will finally make its way onto Twitter in 2010. This year saw the introduction of where the ads will likely run – in the top right of the page as pictured – so they won’t be invasive if they do arrive. By making ads relevant to the twitterstream they won’t just relate to an individual, but to their precise activities that day. Everyone keeps talking about ‘how twitter will make money’ but there are so many ways they can make it without affecting the service, I think we’ll see people get bored of that question as Twitter continues to thrive.

  7. Paying won’t pay: Murdoch’s idea that online content should be paid for will be proved unworkable. At least in the UK. As long as the BBC exists, nobody will be able to charge their UK readership successfully – which to be honest, is great. A lot of people talk about not wanting to pay the license fee to fund the 25th series of 2 pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps – but they forget the money goes to genuinely pioneering online resources such as iPlayer. There are plenty of ways for media to monetize their content (such as affiliate links and freemium content privileges) but so far it’s not worked – but nor will making people pay for something they can get for free elsewhere. The Huffington Post only flourished because newspapers began charging for their online content, don’t forget. We predict many publishers will start charging, people will stop using, then many publishers will stop charging.

    Paying for content is about as popular as Gordon Brown

  8. Social media agencies will struggle: We’ve said already on this blog that dedicated social media gencies shouldn’t exist, and in 2010 we predict that unfortunately the dedicated social media agency will begin to struggle and we’ll see the launch of new dedicated agencies slowing. This is because they’ll be competing with PR and marketing agencies increasingly able to match their expertise in social media, whilst coupling it with skills across the broader media mix. Ooh, we’re getting a bit controversial now.
  9. Not so Flash now: Okay – this one is from our new media nerd guru Mike. He says that we’re going to see JavaScript frameworks begin to do much more of the complex web tasks which had previously relied on software, such as Adobe Flash and Director, as well as Microsoft Silverlight. “it’s to do with the continued development of JavaScript frameworks.” he says, “For example, the Manifest site only uses Flash to render video, as it is impossible to do this cross-browser using HTML. A couple of years ago simple animation and dynamic page elements would have been produced in Flash, however as popular JavaScript frameworks such as jQuery, MooTools and Scriptaculous continue to grow in terms of their development communities, I think we will begin to see more and more complex animation and dynamic content produced using the browser to render this rather than software (Flash player/Shockwave/Microsoft Silverlight).” Make any sense to you? Nah, me either. But it’s in at number 9 because Mike generally knows what he’s talking about.
  10. Fonts for the memories: Now for some designery predictions from Martin in the creative studio. According to the Chinese, 2009 was the year of the Ox, but for Manifest, it was the year of Helvetica. We predict that 2010 will be the year of…. Helvetica. Again. Cos it always is. But maybe things will change. We think TheSans, Kievet, DIN fonts will probably pop up more next year (DIN has been the best seller at Fontshop 3 years running, so we’re not exactly out on a limb here). Oh, and we predict there will be more and more websafe fonts used for logotypes, following IKEA’s recent switch to Verdana from Futura. If you ask us, it’s not a good example to follow – it’s just a bit lazy.

    Could Helvetica's reign be over? Nah. Probably not.

Okay – so that’s our ten for 2010. What do you think? Don’t be shy – let us know if you think we’re talking nonsense – or if there’s something we’ve missed (although be fair, we were restricted to ten).

Google Chrome for Mac

Google Chrome for OSX

Yup. Google Chrome is finally available for the rest of us. In Beta admittedly, but still. Another browser for team Multimedia to test sites in. Whether it’ll become more popular than Firefox in the Manifest browser pecking order needs to be seen, but props for the colour halftone Popeye on the home page.