Design at WordCamp US 2016

At WordCamp US in Philadelphia the Design group gathered to consider consumer trends that are shaping the future of publishing. Christina Strommer, Sara Cannon, Ashley Urunkar, Michele Mizejewski, Christopher Moyé, Emily Kessleman, Arlen Byrd, Aina Moyé, Miriam Selzle, Sonja Leix, Mel Choyce, Hugo Baeta, Mark Uraine, Michael Arestad, and a few other Open Source designers all contributed their expertise and time to the process.

We started with an informal survey of our respective computing setups circa 2010, which included:

  • CD-Drives
  • Adobe software
  • Heavy laptops
  • Hot laptops
  • Keyboard/mouse dominant
  • ISDN lines and slow network
  • More Windows boxes than Macs
  • Color accuracy issues
  • Never enough memory
  • A lot of crashing and system failure
  • Firewire / large hard disks
  • Saving all the time

which I’m sure brings back a few memories for folks who were active professionally back then. When reflecting on what we use today, we use light, cooler laptops with large, high-resolution screens with plenty of memory working in tandem with smartphones (and smartwatches). Software like Sketch has become predominant in what was an Adobe-only universe; mice are less common than they were in the past. And we don’t think about CD-ROMs anymore because we have the Cloud.

We then discussed what we knew of: 1/ computing before 2010, and 2/ computing in 2016+, as impacting less-techy-y Millennials and Boomers. We placed our focus on these two groups of people because they are demographically large, and also unlike ourselves ourselves — and it gave us an opportunity to design inclusively.

Some pre-2010 attributes that we gathered:

Younger Folks
(our children, nieces, nephews)

Older Folks
(our parents, aunts, uncles)
Videogames
Edutainment
Programming
E-mail
Facebook (to escape home)
Research
Touchscreens
Downloading music
iPads and iPods
Download movies / YouTube still too slow
“How do I do things on the Internet?”
Trying to connect devices
Uploading photos
Internet as a way to find obscure guitar music
Playing Solitaire
Using MS Word/apps learned from work
Looking for information
E-mail as a social network
Acceptable to have a reply 5 days ago
Skyping the grandkids

Some 2016+ attributes that we gathered:

Younger Folks
(our children, nieces, nephews)

Older Folks
(our parents, aunts, uncles)
Secret communication
Impermanence
Anonymity and having a personality online
High basic computer literacy
Touch screen
Small screen is *my* screen
On mobile
Not on a desktop
Constant communicating
Hunt for trends. Shopping = shopping.
Easier to generate snackable content
Seeking validation online
Not having a phone is no longer acceptable
Sending animated GIFs
YouTube / Netflix
AR Pokémon
Mobile phones / my iPhone
Get news quickly
LinkedIn as work
Loving my Nest / IoT
Pinterest as so successful
Stay in touch with friends that lost track of on Facebook
Hunt for bargains. Shopping = buying.
Not owning a camera / just a phone
iPhone enabled transition from “I don’t understand it.” to “I get it.”
Mother was an iPad native so iPhone was easy
Browsers didn’t feel safe; apps feel safer
(iPad was gateway to email for older folks)
Sending animated GIFs
YouTube / Netflix
AR Pokémon

Where this all led to was an audit of how we handle: 1/ photos, 2/ video, and 3/ audio media types. We determined that handling photos needs to be prioritized as a first-class datatype, and we should de-prioritize video and audio for now. Currently photos are an attachment to a text post; but that kind of thinking lives in the older world of primarily text-based posts and when images were scarce. Today with smart phones we now have cameras everywhere, and thus we’ve entered a world of “image accompanying main texts” to “text accompanying main images.”

We also considered the mobile experience as changing what it means to be “well designed.” We’ve moved from a world that prioritizes visual assets and sophisticated navigation capabilities, to one instead that requires speed in performance with minimal visual styling. We’re excited by the opportunity afforded by the REST API to transform our existing notion of themes to behave more like this React-based one that uses the REST API.

Mike Schroder and Joe McGill from the Core Media group dropped by and we were happy to have two new friends who we can work with to think through how to advance the approach we might want to take using photos in WordPress, especially for mobile.


Key insights to takeaway:

  • Millennials started off in technology with curiosity (play); Boomers started off feeling it a necessity (email).
    Example: “For younger folks, computing was a way to goof off using games and also a way to stay away from your parents while at home by using Facebook.”
    Example: “My parents knew computers as useful for word processing, and as a way to e-mail their long lost relatives.”
  • Boomers are now the ones who are curious; Millennials are now the one who have made tech a necessity.
    Example: “If you’re 10 and don’t have a smart phone, you’re put down by your peers. The pressure to maintain an online presence is high — and goes beyond your school group.”
    Example: “My mother can’t live without their iPhone — they’re always on it to be connected, and the iPhone makes them feel smart. The previous generation of technology made them feel dumb.”
  • On the one hand, the younger generation wants “likes” as a way to appeal to their vanity; on the other hand, the older generation is looking to be connected. It’s the overlap of vanity and connectedness that is interesting.