Portuguese Waves

by Andy Howard on October 17, 2012

portugese-wavesTourism accounts for around 10% of Portugal’s GDP. Anecdotally, there are over 300 days of sunshine annually and the nation is referred to as “European California”. It’s also the home of Supertubes and a raft of other world-class surf breaks. The Portuguese Surfing Federation, coastal municipalities and governmental authorities have recently made efforts to establish Portugal’s best surfing regions as global surfing capitals.

As part of this, the recently launched Portuguese Waves website features the country’s best waves and makes a commitment to surfers that they can “come back for free” if they don’t score waves during their trip. It’s the biggest doubt every surfer has going into any surf tip. Portuguese Waves has removed the doubt. A simple idea. But that’s not what’s great about it.

Portuguese Waves seems to have launched alongside the Rip Curl Pro, a world tour surfing contest currently underway at Supertubes. There’s an ad promoting Portuguese Waves on the event website. It’s also receiving a stack of airtime on the event’s webcast, watched by millions worldwide including a big piece of the surf traveller target market. Surf commentators are discussing how consistent the waves are in Portugal. Surf travellers are tuned in across the globe. Portgual’s growing on the surf travel rader through the voice of Rip Curl.

In the Portuguese Waves fine print the “come back for free” offer is limited to 20 people. There are plenty of other conditions. But this doesn’t matter, and the 20 trips may never be claimed (there are waves in Portugal most of the time). The simple truth, the thing that makes this campaign a great idea, is that Tourismo de Portugal has borrowed the voice of Rip Curl to tell surfers around the world that the waves in Portugal are always good, and they’ve given them a reason to believe. It’s not a big spend. It’s not an elaborate idea. Brand sponsorship isn’t new. But webcasts are pretty new (good, watchable webcasts with big audiences, that is). Which webcasts, podcasts or online videos are your target market watching and trusting right now?

Wantful UX

by Andy Howard on July 29, 2012

Wantful is a beautiful, thoughtful and carefully crafted experience. The homepage immediately communicates what Wantful is, who it’s for and why it’s awesome. Artwork, photography and copy is convincing, strong and crisp. The repeated ‘Get started’ call to action at the bottom of the homepage (pictured) persuasively re-enforces the proposition and previews the product collection. Move through to the ‘mad libs’ sign-up form, the welcome page with upcoming occasions and gift selector. Note the interactions, the way the design anticipates your next step, the clear and comprehensive copy all the way through to the questions and about pages. The details are well executed and communicate care, precision, sophistication and perfection. Details matter.


Wireframing and prototyping tools

by Andy Howard on July 29, 2012

I use a handful of wireframing and prototyping tools and choose specific tools depending on the job. There are dozens of UX tools available and countless blog posts comparing them.

Plenty of people arrive here by Googling things like ‘wireframing’ and ‘prototyping tools’ so I thought it’d be useful to talk about the tools I use and why I use them.

  • Paper. I start on paper every time. I like the design studio method and time-box paper sketching as tightly as I can – often to a few minutes. Then it’s a question of how far. After sketching and iterating sometimes I test with users on paper; rough sketches can be the highest fidelity required for validating interfaces. Solidify or UX Pin can bring paper sketches to life and stitch them together into a user journey to help with testing.
  • Keynote. If there’s more detail required beyond paper I’m straight into Keynote with the Keynote Kung-Fu wireframe toolkit. Keynote handles web and mobile prototyping well; it’s fast, disposable and exports nicely. Most of the time Keynote is sufficient; the rest of the tools stay on the shelf while Keynote gracefully iterates and knocks out my prototypes. I test face to face whenever I can and for remote testing I use Verify or  Chalkmark. I understand why designers also use Keynote for web and app interface design. It rocks.
  • Fireworks. I find interaction design with Fireworks works best when the prototype evolves into the visual design. Files can be handed over and artwork integrated with wireframes, but this also the issue with Fireworks – it’s a fully-featured digital design tool so it’s easy to focus on the details too early. It can work ok, but I’m using it far less than I used to and generally favour Keynote.
  • Markup. Mocking up with markup is the best approach and always will be. Real code is unbeatable; it feels right when customers are testing it, it’s natural for testing responsive design, it’s native and it solves the big issues early. It’s the best format for eye-tracking and is re-usable (to an extent) in the final solution. If the UX requirements demand markup (big, detailed projects) I’ll do the basic thinking on paper and jump into code as early as possible. Foundation, Bootstrap and other frameworks are good places to start and sometimes building the prototype on a CMS makes sense. Divshot looks like a good way to generate responsive markup without writing it, particularly for me – my coding skills are limited and I’m generally directing other people to produce the output, so a collaborative drag-and-drop environment make sense.

People love tools like Axure, Balsamiq, Mockflow and others. I’ve tried these and plenty more and have settled on my regular workflow of paper (always), Keynote (often), Fireworks (rarely) and markup (whenever I can).

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