The New SEO is Human Engagement

 

The New SEO is Human Engagement

Just as everyone figured out the mechanics of SEO, everything changed. Here's what you need to know.

Google and other search engines have been updating the way they find the best results for queries. As the biggest name in the game, Google has pioneered the way with two major algorithm updates: Panda and Penguin.

What was once acceptable can now destroy a business’ reputation. Under the changes, websites are being punished for catering to the search engine instead of to their audience’s wants and needs. Overall, Panda and Penguin target websites that churn out thin content, spam backlinks, practice keyword stuffing or hidden text, steal content, and enact a number of other frowned upon SEO techniques. 

The Panda and Penguin updates give the illusion that Google is making big changes in the digital realm, but in reality these updates are just part of a larger trend. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and the increasing popularity of handheld devices have changed the way people find, share, and discuss information. To stay relevant, businesses need to publish interesting content regularly and share it through social media. By doing so, the same businesses will also find that Google’s new rules for SEO will be met naturally. And, that is exactly the goal. 


Apple's New Interface Design is Not New but "Borrowed"

 

Apple's New Interface Design is Not New but Borrowed

Apple's WWDC event held yesterday revealed some new products like the gorgeously redesigned Mac Pro, the dramatically updated iOS 7 and new 'killer' services like iTunes Radio. Yet with all the recent competition noticeably affecting Apple's brand image and market share, was this enough of a spark to re-ignite the once powerful flame that allowed Apple to torch the tech industry for years? Probably not.

This is not a 'bash-on' Apple piece, nor is it a design critique on iOS7, there are plenty of good ones out there. This is simply making a point of what happens among brands when you're no longer the "Big Fish". See Apple was always known for being a "mindshare leader" in everything from their ideas, to products, to design and even marketing, but now it's become very clear that Apple is now a 'challenger brand', they've lost some market share and they're slowly losing "mindshare" - thought leadership in design and marketing. The image of their new iOS (above) represents how Apple is feeling threatened and how Joshua Topolsky editor-in-chief of The Verge summed it up perfectly by saying, "Apple is showing that it can adapt, borrow, and tweak ideas from the competition". Look there's nothing wrong with what Apple has done, in fact, they've been doing it for years. I'm just use to Apple really pushing the boundaries of innovation and design. They've certainly played the "safe card" on this one, only time will tell if it will payoff or hurt them more.

Keeping reading to see how Apple borrowed design cues from the competition, with just one screen.


Beyond Roulette: Rules For Winning At Conventions

 

Whatever day you go to Vegas, you'll find a lot of action in two places: a business convention and a roulette table. Unfortunately, too many visitors think the same strategies apply to both.

We were in Vegas a couple of weeks ago, hitting the Consumer Electronics Show and a few roulette tables. (Just a few.) In both cases, if you don't play, you can't win. That is pretty much the only similarity – well, that and the engaging hosts and dealers to get you to stay and play. 

The key difference is that, with a convention, it's not enough to be in the right place at the right time — which is the fundamental rule of roulette.


Creative Director Anthony Wiktor Featured In Adonit's New "Create" Campaign

 

Through their "Create" campaign, Adonit, a cutting edge consumer creative-technology start-up, is redefining the way we think of "creators." By assembling a group of leading artists, designers, engineers, writers, educators and entrepreneurs, Adonit is seeking to highlight how people across the creative spectrum are using technology to expand productivity and creation in their respective crafts.


Logo (Re)Design: Behind The Scenes

 

A simple logo. A not so simple process.


Adobe's CS6 Beautiful New Identity

 

It's about time the new visual identity of Adobe CS6, looked more artistic and individualistic. They've come a long way in their graphic presentation and software development since last year's release of CS5. I'm glad Adobe embraced the idea of "creative freedom" as their brand platform for their latest edition of Creative Suite. Props to Adobe for truly being committed to its users and the emotional power of the creative process.

Photoshop CS6 New Visual Identity SystemNew Adobe CS6 Branding


The End of An Era...

 

The inevitable as arrived... and with it, an end of an era too. As Apple's creative visionary, Steve Jobs steps down as "leader" a sense of loss is felt throughout the 'tech' world and more importantly the business world. The man who has pioneered so much innovation and ideation that fundamentally changed the way we live, has also been credited with rising a struggling computer company from near bankruptcy to become the world's most valuable company. Now it has come to end, and for that... we can't say anything more than Thank You.

Steve himself published the following letter:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

    -Steve

UPDATE: Gizmodo.com just published this awesome timeline of 'The Life of Steve Jobs - So Far' great read!


Video: New MySpace is now My_____??

 

MySpace's new logo... features an actual space ______ Get it?

New MySpace Logo

Okay, neither do we. But enough logo bashing (see previous post), this redesign is less about the newly unveiled 'logo' and more about the brand. YES!!! The team at Pereira & O'dell got it right! We all know MySpace has virtually unbranded themselves off the face of social media, when at one point they were, social media. But, despite the odds and that new logo, MySpace... wait My_____ is trying to stage a comeback. The site on Tuesday announced a major revamp that aims to go beyond image tweaks, repositioning itself not as a social network that can compete with Facebook or Twitter, but as a "social entertainment destination for Gen Y."

Read more here: CNN.com

The site nor the logo are actually live, but we found this promotional video MySpace just released.


Web Pick of the Month: Skittles.com

 

Skittle Website Adventure

The new Skittles.com is so fresh we just had to show you!

We know it's been a while since we shared a really sweet web site with you all, forgive us... we've been very busy, so it's a good thing. Those of you familiar with our blog know that we surf the web A LOT and discover some really cool web sites. We love highlighting the best of those sites with you. We also encourage you to send in some awesome sites you find while browsing too!

Enjoy an interactive experience driven by a never-ending stream of content, courtesy of Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more. Skittles.com rewards fans with the ability to scroll infinitely, like an adventurous journey through Skittles digital landscape.

So 'Experience the Rainbow'... Love it or Hate it? www.skittles.com


Touchscreens That Changed the World

 

history of touchscreens

Before there was the iPhone or the BlackBerry Storm there was Plato, Simon and Newton. Touchscreens are everywhere we look these days, but they’ve actually been around for a lot longer than you might think. Let’s take a look at some of the most important touchscreen devices that changed the world. Once upon a time nearly four decades ago...

1972 PLATO IV
One of the first ways touchscreens were deployed was for the PLATO project, originally built by the University of Illinois as a computer-based education system. In 1972, the $12,000 PLATO IV system was put into operation. The system had an orange plasma display and a 16 x 16 infrared touchscreen. For the first time ever, students were able to answer questions by touching a screen.

1983 HP-150
Released in 1983, the HP-150 was the world’s earliest commercial touchscreen computer. Its 9-inch Sony CRT was surrounded by infrared transmitters and receivers that detected the position of any non-transparent object on the screen. The small holes that housed these parts collected dust and had to be vacuumed periodically to maintain touchscreen functionality.

1992 Simon (IBM)
The IBM Simon was the world’s first smartphone. Though launched in 1993, the Simon was first shown as a product concept in 1992. It included a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, e-mail, and games. The Simon used a touchscreen and optional stylus to dial phone numbers, send faxes and write memos. Text could be entered with either an on-screen “predictive” keyboard or QWERTY keyboard.

1993 Newton (Apple)
Manufactured by Sharp, the Apple Newton MessagePad was one of the first-ever Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) — a term coined by Apple’s then-CEO John Sculley. Its built-in handwriting recognition was the Newton’s most unique and interesting ability. The handwriting-recognition technology was ultimately ported to Mac OS X, where it’s known as “Inkwell.” It hasn’t really taken off there, either. Two ex-Newton developers founded Pixo, the company that created the operating system for the original iPod.

1999 Edge
Introduced to the market in 1999, the Sequoia Voting Systems’ AVC Edge touchscreen voting machine is a freestanding unit that allow voters to select their choices electronically. It was first used in the 2000 presidential election. It can be placed on a tabletop or assembled as a stand with its integrated legs. The AVC Edge eliminates hanging chads, thereby reducing the number of unintentionally spoiled ballots. After the polls close, the system prints polling place totals. These are stored as a permanent record –- further assuring the security and integrity of the election.

2010 iPad (Apple)
Apple’s iPad promises to bridge the gap between laptops and smartphones. A machine designed to handle browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and eBooks better than any laptop or smartphone on their own. And with an available keyboard dock and plenty of apps just a touch away, the iPad will also serve a market of non-technical and new computer users. The iPad may prove to do for touchscreen tablets what Apple did for smartphones with the release of the iPhone.

See what else made the list at GUIFX.

 


New Twitter Based on the Golden Ratio

 

new twitter design based on the golden ratio

Check out the above picture from Twitter's Creative Director Doug Bowman, found on Twitter’s Flickr page. According to the caption: “To anyone curious about #NewTwitter proportions, know that we didn’t leave those ratios to chance. This, of course, only applies to the narrowest version of the UI. If your browser window is wider, your details pane will expand to provide greater utility, throwing off these proportions. But the narrowest width shows where we started, ratio-wise."

Personally, I think it's a much needed improvement. The new design takes the previous singular microblog layout to a whole new user-friendly multi-column UI giving tweeties a webpage similar to other social networks. As Mashable's Jennifer Van Grove pointed out, "The new Twitter is essentially a full-featured desktop application minus the download." Does this mean goodbye for popular desktop clients such as TweetDeck and Seesmic? What do you think of the new Twitter design?

We also hope that the recent update has solved Twitter overload.


Apple design explained in "Objectified" film

 


WATCH: Jonathan Ive talks about Mac design

In this clip from Gary Hustwit's docufilm "Objectified" we want to share with you one of our favorite clips, which features Apple's creative genius Jonathan Ive discussing the industrial design approach to creating the MacBookPro and iMac products. This is a great look inside the world of Apple's design 'process' and how that translates into the ideas which make up the Apple philosophy. Learn from this short clip just what makes Apple such a beloved brand and a great product

Check out Gary Hustwit's other docufilm "Helvetica" which I'm sure all you graphic designers have seen. We're looking forward  to the 3rd installment of the design trilogy, "Urbanized".


New Website Explores Titanic Wreckage

 

explore titanic wrekage website

Expedition Titanic. The dive aims to help further preservation of the ship, which sits 2.5 miles below sea level, and to give the public an intimate view of its history. The site itself transports viewers 2.5 miles below sea level and includes a 3D virtual tour of the wreckage, all of which is embedded with historical information. The campaign also includes social media initiatives to drive viewers to the site, such as video interviews of the crew seeded on YouTube and Facebook. Come August 22nd, the audience can get real time updates on developments on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.


What's wrong with you Twitter??

 

twitter over capacity

Have you seen your twitter page show like this? “Twitter is over capacity. Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again.” Are you frustrated? Don’t worry, you are not alone. This is one of the hottest discussion in web.

Twitter has been one of the most famous social sites in the worldwide web. Almost everyone in the world has something to share to everyone, even celebrities, athletes, politicians and even fan pages. So, why twitter server is overload? Sometimes twitter traffic is very rapid and its Web server is unable to handle rapid amount of request in very short period of time (server temporary overload).

At least they got rid of the whale...

When Twitter is up! Tweet us: @starmendesign

--

An HTTP status code 503(503 Service Unavailable) indicates that twitter Web server is currently unable to handle the request because of a temporary overload or maintenance of the server.


Insider Tips: Get Your Designs Approved!

 

One of the most challenging parts of any brand design process is getting design approved via "client sign off". It can prove time consuming, demoralizing and if you are not careful can lead to a dissatisfied client. What is more you can end up with a design that you are ashamed to include in your portfolio.

How then can you ensure that the design you produce is the one that gets built? How can you get the client to sign off on your design? Below are 10 tips learnt from years of experience, we call them the "growing pain" years.

1. Write the creative brief

Many of the clients you work with will not have been involved in a web or design project before. Even if they have they may have worked in a very different way to what you would expect. Take the time at the beginning of the project to compose a 'creative brief' explain their role in the design of the site. The best approach is to emphasis that their job is to focus on the needs of their users and business. They should concentrate on the broad issues, while you worry about the details of layout, typography and color scheme.

By clarifying what you expect from the client, you help them to provide the right kind of input throughout the process. The creative brief is also a useful tool that you can use throughout your design process, kind of like a roadmap for the foundation from which you 'brand' your client. Get it approved and you'll have something to fall back on if any disagreements come back to haunt you later on.

2. Understand the business

Before you open up Photoshop or put pen to paper, take the time to make sure you properly understand not only the brief but the organization behind the site. By understanding their business objectives, organizational structure and marketing strategy your design decisions will be better informed.

You cannot rely upon the brief to provide all of the information you need. It is important to dig deeper and get as good an understanding of their business as possible, do some audits, external research, go out and study their competitors. This information will prove invaluable when justifying your design decisions.

3. Understand the users

We all like to think of ourselves as user centric designers, but exactly how much effort do you put into knowing your users before beginning the design process?

Take the time to really understand them the best you can. Try to meet with some real prospective users and get to know their needs. Failing that work with the client to produce user personas to help picture exactly what kind of people they are.

Understanding your users not only improves the quality of your work, but also helps move the discussion away from the personal preferences of the client, to the people who’s opinion really matters. Some client's themselves, do not properly "know" or "understand" their audience until you put it in front of them. Be bold, be creative!

4. Avoid multiple concepts, Avoid multiple concepts...

Many clients like the idea of having the option to choose between multiple design concepts. However, although on the surface this might appear to be a good idea it can ultimately be counterproductive for design sign off.

In a world of limited budgets it is unwise to waste money on producing designs that are ultimately going to be thrown away. The resources would be better spent refining a single design through multiple iterations.

What is more, multiple concepts often cause confusion rather than clarity. It is common for a client to request one element from one design and another from the second. As any designer knows this seldom works. This is one of the primary reasons that legendary graphic designer Paul Rand avoided showing more than one concept to his clients. in fact, his iconic UPS logo was chosen after only seeing ONE comp.

5. Use mood boards

Clients are often better at expressing what they don’t like than what they do. This is one of the reasons why they favour producing multiple design concepts. An alternative less costly approach is to create a series of mood boards. These boards contain a collection of colours, typography and imagery which represent different “moods” or directions, which the design could take.

Mood boards are quick and easy to produce allowing you to try out various design approaches with the client without investing the time needed to produce complete design concepts. This means that by the time you develop a concept the client and designer have already established an understanding about the direction of the design.

6. Say what you like, challenge convention

It is not uncommon for a client during let's say, a web project to ask for a design that looks similar to another site they like. The problem is that it can often be hard to establish exactly what it is about the site that attracts them. Also in many cases the sites they like are not something you are keen to emulate!

A better approach that was suggested by most web professionals is to show them sites that you think the design should emulate. Keep a collection of screen captures from well designed sites and pick out a few that are relevant to that particular client. Explain why you feel these designs might suit their project and ask for their feedback. If they don’t like your choices then expose them to more of your collection and see what they pick out.

7. Wireframe the homepage

Often clients find it hard to distinguish between design and content and so sometimes reject a design on the basis that the content is not right. This is particularly true when signing off the homepage.

You may therefore find it useful to establish the homepage content before producing the design. That way once they see the design they will not be distracted by the content. One of the best ways to do this is by producing a basic wireframe consisting of a series of content boxes. Once this has been approved you will find the sign off of design much easier.

8. Present your designs in person

Although it is true that a good design should speak for itself it still needs presenting to the client. The client needs to understand why you have made the design decisions you have, otherwise they will judge the design purely on personal preference.

Talk them through the design explaining how it meets the needs of their users and business objectives. Refer to the mood boards and preferred sites the client approved and explain how the design is a continuation of those. Never simply email the design through and hope the client interprets your work correctly! It's just impersonal.

9. Provide written supporting material

Unfortunately, no matter how well you justify the design to the client he is almost certain to want to show it to others. He may need his bosses approval or require internal buy in. At the very least he is going to want to get a second opinion from a friend or colleague.

The problem with this is that you are not going to be there to present to these people in the same way you did for the client. You cannot expect the client to present your ideas as well as you did. The reality is that you have lost control of how the design is perceived.

One way to minimize this problem is to provide written documentation supporting the design. This can be a summary of the presentation you gave to the client and allows him to distribute this along with the design. By putting a written explanation with the design you ensure that everybody who sees it gets the same message.

10. Control the feedback

My final piece of advice for managing design sign off is to control the way you receive feedback. A clients natural inclination will be to give you his personal opinion on the design. This is reinforced because you ask them what they think of the design. Instead ask them what their users will think of the design. Encourage them to think from the users perspective. Tell them to do some 'polling' with people unassociated with their inner circle to avoid bias at all costs.

Also encourage them to keep that overarching focus I talked about in my first tip. Their tendency will be to try to improve the design, however that should be your problem not theirs. The role of a client should be to defend the needs of their users and business not do the design. Encourage the client to make comments such as “I am not sure that my female users will like the masculine colours” rather than “can we make the whole design pink.” It is down to them to identify the problems and for you as the designer to find the most appropriate solution. Lastly, please when you're requesting feedback make sure you ask for ONE consolidated and FINAL document of revisions, this way you won't have to sort through 23 emails, as the client changes their mind every other hour.

So there you have it. Our 10 tips to improve design sign off. Will this ensure design approval every time? Unfortunately not. However it should certainly help smooth the way. Now you also know a little bit on how we work, for those potential clients out there... let's talk!


Welcome Web Fonts!

 

typekit-webfonts

Google and Typekit both spilled some much-anticipated beans last week. First off, Google announced they are releasing high quality open source fonts in the Google Font Directory. Users will be able to download these open source fonts from http://code.google.com/p/googlefontdirectory/.  They also went so far as to release Google Font API, which is an HTML based tool that enables you to implement any of these fonts into your site with a level of ease that we’ve been accustomed to from Google.

Wait. It gets better. Typekit and Google announced the release of a Web Font Loader to smooth out any issues when putting their web fonts to use.

The WebFont Loader puts the developer in control of how web fonts are handled by various browsers. The API fires JavaScript events at certain points, for example when the web font completes downloading. With these events, developers can control how web fonts behave on a site so that they download consistently across all browsers. In addition, developers can set the fallback font's size to more closely match the web font, so content doesn't reflow after loading. Furthermore, the WebFont Loader is designed to make it easy to switch between different providers of web fonts, including Google, Typekit, and others. The code is modular, and we expect to add modules for other major web font providers in coming weeks.

To see an example of Google’s web fonts in the flesh visit Smashing Magazine.


Web Pick of the Week: HBO.com

 

HBO New Web Site

Newly revamped flash-based HBO.com features enhanced interactive and video features, personal dashboard

Our good friends over at HBO have relaunched their website HBO.com, adding interactive features and enhanced video support. The HBO Go web site itself is visually stunning, with lots of full-screen visuals for each of the featured TV shows, movies, and other bits of programming that scroll past once a user is logged in. Browsing through the different featured sections — Movies, Series, Comedy, Sports, Documentaries, and Late Night — is quick and painless, with each offering up an easy-to-navigate interface for choosing between titles. Users can customize the viewing experience by choosing between cover, grid, and list modes of viewing available content.

We wanted to create a rich, interactive online destination worthy of the HBO brand," said Alison Moore, vice president, Brand Strategy and Digital Platforms.

Here's a quick list of the site's key expanded features:

Streaming Video – high quality videos of HBO shows in full screen resolution, regardless of monitor size, that provide users with more of a TV-watching experience than a PC-viewing experience.

Enhanced schedule – easy to use and accessible from every page on the site.

Community –upload your photo, create a personal identity and establish a unique voice by posting comments and stories throughout the site.

Shareability – share content with friends in and outside of the HBO community, with a robust set of share tools that includes email, video embed and post functionality.

Personal dashboard – create a dashboard of favorites, plus bookmark discussions, clips, and even get recommendations for new content based on favored programs.

Overall, we think this is a prime example of how entertainment companies can expand their online presence in today's digital age. HBO.com uses the best in web design techniques in conjuction with the latest technology to accomplish an optimal viewing and user experience for its users. I feel the HBO approach can set a standard of design for companies who stream video content online, i.e. hulu, youtube, vimeo, etc.

Explore: HBO.com


CONFIRMED: Apple 4G iPhone Unveiled

 

UPDATE: Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen Arrested, Home Searched And Computers Seized. The lost iPhone investigation begins...

UPDATE: Yes, it has been confirmed by numerous sources in news and media including online that Apple lost the next iPhone, in a bar.

Is this real? Could it be, that one of Steve Jobs secret service agents was sleeping in Cupertino? How did this slip through the cracks? Easy. Disguise it with a Belkin 3GS case. Though it's unofficially unconfirmed, there's a strong chance this is the next iPhone. Gizmodo, a high-reputable online source and popular blog for all things technology, recently posted this discovery.

You have to see to believe! www.gizmodo.com


Adobe Creative Suite 5 Launches Today

 

UPDATE: Preview the latest features in Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Premium. What is Design Premium?

We've been invited to attend the online global launch event taking place right now. Check back with us a little later has we'll have all the latest, up-to-date inside features and news regarding your favorite Adobe programs... for now here's a sneak peek.


Ready To Get Your iPad? Not So Fast...

 

The recent debut of Apple's latest creation, the iPad had people running to their nearest Apple store (myself included) to check it out. In fact early sales numbers show that it did quite well, between 600,000 and 700,000 iPads (pre-orders included) according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. Unlike the iPhone, the iPad is an entirely new category of device leaving many of its potential owners and consumers with questions. Questions not so much regarding the technology of the device itself rather, how will I use this device? More importantly, do I even need this?

These consumer questions are the least of Apple's worries. HP's much anticipated "Slate" is set to be released in the not so distant future, with capabilities that could potentially make it an "iPad killer" or simply 'a better product'. Take a look at HP's latest 30-second teaser that makes a point of showing off all the features on the Slate that are missing on the iPad, such as a built-in camera, a USB port (a real one, not an adapter), and an SD card slot. Now we at STARMEN are Apple loyalists, our office (and industry) has been made possible by all of Apple's sophisticated tools that make our working environment lots of fun and much easier such as our iMac's, MacBook Pro's, iPod's and iPhone's. After reviewing the spec sheet and looking further into the features of the iPad vs. Slate, I have to give a strong second thought to purchasing an iPad. I think HP might have the upper hand in this battle..

Contrary to the iPhone the iPad won't be as easy this time around because at that time, the room for Apple's iPhone competition was slim. Largely due to the fact that the Apple's first attempt at a mobile device was such a rapidly surprising success which had support elements such as its App's Store, usuability, and attractiveness that rivaled virtually everyone. Here the race as tighten considerably, the Slate has more functions (including Flash support), is just as sexy and can be much more of an asset to its owner.

The iPad, for now, is a hit (an impluse buy), a novelty if anything. But when HP's Slate debuts, its sure to shake things up a bit. Stay tuned...


ESPN Radio's New Web UI

 

For those of you who listen to radio or stream online broadcasts, have you ever wondered what makes your experience so enjoyable? Well take ESPN's online web interface as a premiere example. I happen to be a fan and daily listener of ESPN Radio live morning radio shows, before our afternoon meetings. Recently I discovered that ESPN had upgraded the design of their interactive display allowing ESPN to enhance their users listening and now viewing experience. An impressive and improved upgrade made possible by the team at StreamTheWorld, an integrated streaming solution for Radio and TV broadcasters.

Launch it live on your browser, and experience the design for yourself!


Reviewing the New Look for Microsoft MSN

 

Microsoft debuts MSN's new logo and site design

During the late 90s internet boom MSN rose to the top, to become a popular and admired resource for finding information and news online. They seemed to have it all right, a brand identity that was familiar with its parent company, (Microsoft) an appealing television ad campaign and a whole lot of money to support their place in the online community. Fast forward 10 years lately, and the site, logo, marketing, consumer connection, virtually everything about the brand had evaporated. MSN quickly fell behind the emerging internet giants Google and Yahoo! and never seemed to catch up. It wasn't money or colors, the MSN brand simply lost its connection with its audience, which seemed to be outgrowing the company. The explosion of social media is where MSN failed to connect its audience with their new favorite networking tools. So with a new logo, added features, being too little too late for MSN remains to be seen. If it's similar to what AOL did last year, it might just be. AOL if you haven't noticed (recently gave themselves a much needed and highly criticized brand identity refresh.)

Will the new MSN re-energize today's online users back to its brand?

Microsoft lags behind Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. in search share despite efforts to turn the money-losing online business around. The software maker is saying goodbye to MSN.com's blue background and its blocks of text links. Instead, giving the site more white space, fewer categories and more organized navigation. Hoping to bring back MSN.com to what it once was (way back in 1997), a leading online search engine and news source. Microsoft Corp. hopes to get more Web surfers using its Bing search engine. Microsoft says Bing searches from MSN jumped during tests of the new design.

One highlight we can point out is the new MSN has a top news section that features photos more prominently. The addition of the Bing 'branded' search box stands out more, and people can scan lists of hot discussion topics and local posts on Twitter. What we did not like was that this facelift seemed to be just a new facade for its homepage. We discovered some of the interior pages still look cluttered and resemble too closely to the old version, leading us to believe this was done fairly quickly. We also noticed the MSN logo takes a backseat on the 'sports' page where, "FOX SPORTS" seems to dominate the page. This seems to be the case with most of its pages beign external link, making it confusing for some users who may think they've left the site.

Final Thoughts...

MSN is definitely taking a step in the right direction, unfortunately we think it's too late in this rapidly evolving technology market. They just seem to be pressing the emergency button on their re-branding efforts rather than taking a strategic approach, especially coming off the heels of competitors AOL's new launch and Yahoo's new "My Yahoo" updates. Still MSN has a lot of work to do before they can successfully recapture their audience. They need to assess what the brand stands for and how they are different and how to they can effectively communicate it.

Overall we think the site has been greatly simplified but still needs work, and we wish they would have been more creative with the logo! The site doesn't seem finished or complete and lacks in areas where others are stronger. The logo looks as if it has taken taken a step back, with the butterfly closely resembling a more generic icon which doesn't have the right balance or proportions of colors and shape it predecessor so recognizeably had. Regarding the type treatment, underconsideration.com said it best...

The new one suffers from Bing syndrome: It wants to be cool and modern but it suffers from complete lack of typographic decency. In this case, the whole is not so bad, but the parts are."

Tell us what you think? About the web site? The logo?


Helvetireader 2: A Google Reader Theme

 

"Helvetica Always Works" is a theme in a book I've been reading called, "Never Use White Type on a Black Background" (great read) and Gary Hustwit's recent film Helvetica offered a look into the typography, graphic design and global visual culture surrounding the famous typeface.

UK's Hicksdesign latest creation called Helvetireader, is a stylesheet userscript theme for all you Google Reader users out there that adds a clean and minimal look to your visual interface. I highly reccomend checking this out especially if you're bored with Google's default UI that is crowded with colors, lines and buttons, much like I am with gmail. So why Helvetica you ask, well probably because it is just that, simple, clean and effective.

Helvetica is all around us. You've probably seen it several times today." - Gary Hustwit (1964)

If you don't have Google Reader, get it here! You can visit all your favorite web sites, blogs and social networks all in one place.

 


Upgrade Your Web Browser: Get Firefox 3.6

 

We've always been a fan of this friendly and easy open source web browser since it's release in 2004. The latest version of Firefox introduces cutting-edge features, support for a wide variety of Web standards, and access to more than 6,000 free add-ons that allow users to customize their browser to their liking.

The World's Best Browser Just Got Better!

Firefox 3.6 is more than 20 percent faster than Firefox 3.5 and includes extensive under the hood work to improve performance for everyday Web tasks such as email, uploading photos, social networking, and more. It also delivers new features like customizable browser themes called Personas, a ground-breaking Plugin updater, improved JavaScript performance, and enhancements to familiar favorites like the Awesome Bar for a better, more personal Web experience.

Upgrade to the latest Firefox here.


Web Pick of the Week: VisitPhilly.com

 

This week we are so excited to share with you this excellent example of a successful web site re-design for the city of Philadelphia. Philly's very own Happy Cog Studios were commissioned by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation about refreshing the outdated site, located at gophila.com (now available as an archive). The original site launched back in 1997, and over a decade it had become one of the organization’s most important marketing vehicles.

VisitPhilly.com

With the newly designed UI, the creatives at Happy Cog have really set the bar for how a city looking to establish a web prescense for itself with the online community, especially among users in this social media and technology influenced generation. What once was a large, confusing, outdated site, turned into a beautiful, accessible, functional and inviting user experience that conveys the enjoyment behind visiting the great city of Philadelphia. We won't go into lenghty breakdown of this site, since our buddy Walter over at webdesignerdepot.com already posted a great detailed critique on his site. But we will go ahead and single out a few good points, in what makes this an exlempary model of cutting-edge web design.

  • Great expression of design
  • Using identity elements that define the city of Philadelphia (history)
  • Simplification of navigation and eye direction (compared to gophila.com)
  • High-resolution scenic images, capturing the audience
  • Excellent use of white space, not crowding the page
  • Content organization, and page structure
  • Eloquent and effective typography
  • Fresh color choices
  • Improved use of technology such as Java, Ajax, truly compatible cross platform site (non-flash)
  • Adding Social Meida tools, that initiate social networking
  • Overall, the site successfully generates excitement and buzz towards the benefits of travelling to Philadelphia.

What do you think? We want to hear your comments...


Web Pick of the Week: Hawaiian Airlines

 

Everyweek, STARMEN will share with our readers, our favorite website picks from around the web. We look for first and foremost, overall design visibility, technology, navigation, and how they all apply to effective web design. These picks are meant to inform, excite and inspire you to see how we as internet users are affected by web design everyday. Feel free to submit your favorite sites to us, we'll consider adding it!

Hawaiianair.com

Forgive us, we've been on the topic of Travel & Tourism lately, because the STARMEN team has been recently working on a huge identity and design project for a very popular airline carrier (Shhh... details coming soon!). Through our findings and research, one of our delights with approach to online identity and web design is www.hawaiianair.com We don't know too much about the brand itself, but what we found from visiting their site is a refreshing and appealing treatment of simplistic navigation (making the user experience very easy and organized). Using a stimulating background image of Hawaii's rich landscape provides powerful design layout that differs from most travel sites. See our post on the new Southwest.com. The result is a colorful, memorable and simple site which features easy navigation for its users, supporting the ideas of the brand itself. Much like one of our other favorites: Virgin America.

What do you think? We want to hear your comments...


Southwest.com Gets Another Facelift

 

One of our favorite airline companies and admired travel brands is Southwest Airlines. We also have been fans of their web site and apparently you are too (in 2009, Nielsen/Netratings reported that southwest.com was the largest airline site in terms of unique visitors). Not only do they run an efficient, affordable business, but their online destination is friendly, and very easy to use.

We recently booked a business trip to Las Vegas, and while visiting southwest.com, we immediately recognized they had done another upgrade to their user interface. We weren't sure how we felt about it at first, but then after comparing it to the old site we realized that Southwest just made a good thing, even better! Allow us to point out some of the new features, in case your're wondering what's so great about it.

  1. Most popular booking features are right there on the home page.
  2. Use of more elegant black, shying from the corporate "orange" (We liked the orange?)
  3. "What's New" page, for latest Southwest news and info.
  4. Revamped the menus at the top of the home page (We prefer this easy-to-find).

Unlike most redesigns, Southwest was smart about their updates. They didn't do a 360! Causing unfamiliarity with a dramatic design overhaul or cause chaos to their loyal followers by adding on too many features, instead they did a moderate "improvement." Keeping the same popular features, just making them better by improving the user experience.

Take a look for yourselves, we'd love to hear what you think?


Burger King: Whopper Face

 

"Have it Your Way" campaign reaches a whole new level in this Brazilian BK marketing stunt.

Ogilvy Brazil took the Burger King "Have it Your Way" tagline to new heights and presented diners with a "customized" surprise when they ordered a Whopper.

A secret camera at a BK restaurants took customers' pictures. Their photos were then printed instantly onto the wrappers of their freshly made burgers, giving a super personal meaning to "having it their way."

Can this be headed to your local BK? Would be fun...


Follow STARMEN on Twitter

 

Now you can get all the latest, up-to-the moment happenings from STARMEN and around the design world. No matter if it’s thirty seconds or 140 characters, we create ideas that don’t just talk, but get talked about.


Follow us now! @starmendesign


Our New Site Launches Today!

 

As an award-winning creative agency specializing brand design, we are proud to announce the redesign of the STARMEN web site. But "redesign" doesn't really cover it. This more than a aesthetic adjustment or surface-level change. This is more of a "refresh" both internally and externally. The new starmenusa.com reflects our new ideas, new thinking, and new outlook for our clients, and their brands. For those of you familiar with us, you'll find a lot of new and exciting information, about us, the services we offer and see new design work!

Our LA headquarters is buzzing with excitement! This site has been a labor of love, created with synchronized hard work, absolute enthusiasm, and meticulous attention to how effective design can be. The new STARMEN believes happy users means happy business. One goal of ours that hasn't changed is this: We are here to produce solid, valuable results for you! Now, we just look even better!

Visit our new virtual home and experience the new STARMEN!


View Our New Site On Your iPhone

 

While the internet travels and the industry evolves, so do we. STARMEN designers and tech enthusiasts have been very pumped to launch our mobile iPhone site!  We’ve always been believers in simplicity, and this optimized format reflects just that.  Even on your iPhone, we’re here to make your brand work!

Explore our new platform!  Read about our agency, map our location, or just shoot us an e-mail. We are at your virtual disposal!