October has been conference season. One of the events I attended was the Speaking Business Summit – online of course. The European speakers gave a presentation about innovation in speaking which made me feel really old.

It seems tools from gaming are now leaking into virtual presenting, such as a suit you can wear to project a 3D avatar of yourself that mimics your movements in real time to a remote audience.

You might remember that my background is home shopping (retail). In that world, we are now seeing augmented reality apps that show your choice of product before you buy it. Just hold up your smartphone camera to show the corner where you plan to place your new furniture. Or see yourself wearing outfits digitally.

I had been pleased with myself for being pretty good at Zoom, but it made me wonder how I would ever keep up with all these developments. And then I looked back…

Years ago, I read a book about the original Star Trek TV series. It said that automatic sliding doors were invented in real life because they were inspired by the doors of the Starship Enterprise in the programme. The book said they were operated by an off-camera human for TV purposes. Similarly, the original flip mobile phone designs were inspired by the communicator devices used by Captain Kirk and the crew. When I went to the Star Trek exhibition in London, I saw they had actually acted with shabby little painted blocks of wood.

The point is that everything that now exists in reality started from something that was once in someone’s imagination.

I remember dreaming that there would one day be an invention that could tweak photos. A way of changing things, colour correcting, adding details, deleting details… And then someone invented Photoshop.

For me, what drives such innovation is simplicity. All these products and changes are about, ultimately, trying to make the user’s life easier.

Reassuringly, I have always thought this way. Back in the day, I was on the Information Design Association committee, working alongside people such as Conrad Taylor and Susie Gear from Siegel and Gale. (That was the company who redesigned the tax return form before it all went online).

We would talk about how to improve and simplify signage, navigation, design of business forms etc. I still have copies of our IDA newsletters somewhere, and books that were written about information design at the time. This means I worked on UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) before they even had a name.

What this means to you

My way of thinking is one of the reasons I like working with the team at Design JD. Jon Docksey approaches websites from the same simple, user-friendly perspective as I do.

His team specialises in branding and graphic/web design but also in what is called way-finding. That is, designing maps and signposts to help people move around the real world. There is a close parallel between this and helping people find their way around the digital space.

Let me know if you’d like help with your website and we’ll write it, design it and structure it in a way that makes it easy for users to navigate, find what they need, and take the action you want them to take.

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