Brendan McDonald

Brendan McDonald

Freelance Product Designer Joined about 9 years ago

  • 10 stories
  • Posted to Pebble Time Round. , Sep 24, 2015

    Sometimes I love the copy on their site. Sometimes it's really rough.

    The good:

    Header: "Actually helpful notifications." Like most timeless copy, this is about the user. The subject of this sentence is implied--it's about helping you the user. Good positioning too--takes on other smart watches without naming them.

    Header: "Days of power, minutes to charge." This is a simple, punchy phrase that uses parallel structure and contrast to drive home a key differentiator. Memorably crafted phrase that will be easy for Pebble boosters to repeat to their friends. Well played.

    The bad:

    Header: "Make it yours." Unlike the other headers, this one doesn't contain a promise. Since one way of describing a brand is a promise made and a promise kept, this header being phrased as a command is a waste of space. A better rewrite is "Thousands of ways to make it yours." It's longer, but as a copywriter your job is to make something as simple as it can be, and no simpler. The body copy under this section is a mess too.

    The ugly:

    Body copy: "So light and thin, it’s pretty easy to mistake Pebble Time Round for any other watch." The point they are trying to make here is really important--that Pebble isn't tacky and looks like a timeless design rather than a bulky smartwatch. The copy ends up making the watch sound replaceable and bland. If the Time Round is actually easy to mistake for any other watch, why the hell would I get one? This needs to be reworked, and fast.

    Other notes:

    -There is no promise or copy at the top of the site! Nobody tells me what the hell the product is, that it is new, or why I should care. A MAJOR LOST OPPORTUNITY ZOMG.

    -Not a huge fan of the product shots at the top of the page. The four rotate watches don't feel like they are rotated at consistent angles, so it ends up looking sloppy.

    -The video on the site is really splashy, but the founder is simply too uncomfortable on camera to use this much footage of him. He either needs a lot of coaching, or they should explore approaches that minimize his time on screen.

    -This is a small one, but the favicon they use for the site is a square pebble watch. The brand, now that it supports multiple products--including this one, which is a circle--should use a different favicon and branding that defines what it is to be a "Pebbler", whichever device is your style.

    Edit: formatting

    3 points
  • Posted to Bloomberg parallax scrolling, Sep 23, 2015

    I found this dizzying. News sites in general don't have very strong hierarchy; if you compare the front page of a newspaper in print to the same publication's presence online you'd find that the online version always crams more in--to the detriment of the user experience, IMO. Front pages and magazine covers are pretty focused experiences; news website are not.

    I think the parallax effect, while pretty and smooth, calls quite a bit of attention to itself and keeps me from consuming the main block of content--which is generally considered to be the most important content. Any time you break a pattern, you tell users something is special. Since only a slim part of the page gets the parallax treatment, that content becomes elevated in hierarchy. Since this content is summary content, the pattern is misapplied here. I'm not sure what advantages this approach offers over more common patterns, but the downsides seem very obvious indeed.

    There may be something worth exploring in this scrolling pattern, but I certainly hope it is not implemented elsewhere as it is on this site.

    Edit: for clarity

    9 points
  • Posted to "Slack for Gamers" sure looks like Slack..., in reply to Alex Montague , Aug 22, 2015

    we should design for users, not designers. copying/design originality is not a real user problem. it'd be a problem if they were misapplying a pattern or using an existing great experience as a crutch to avoid understanding their users, but it seems like that isn't the case.

    10 points
  • Posted to Let's talk about Salaries, Aug 17, 2015

    The cost of living comments don't come close to answering it. I think the far more important reasons for the huge variance are:

    -Design has become far more valued in the last few years in Silicon Valley and become seen as a critical strategy for attracting and retaining customers. This is still pretty rare in tier-two US cities and outside the US.

    -Companies in the US operate at a bigger scale than elsewhere, in general. If you do great work for Google, a billion people will see your work. For companies at this scale, or that seriously aspire to operating at this scale, it makes a lot of sense to pay to attract and retain the best. Most of the companies like this are based in SF/Seattle. This is, on a bigger scale, the same reason why an excellent community theatre actor will get paid less than a b-list Hollywood actor: they may be better at what they do, but they simply entertain fewer people. They have no leverage in delivering their art.

    -Turnover is quite high in US tech hubs, which pushes salaries higher since frequently revolving employees are aware of the market value for their labor. Generally low turnover means low salary growth in white collar work.

    -Salaries are high across the board for positions at tech companies, especially on the product team (PM, Design, Engineering), and to some extent Sales and Marketing. Most startups have plans to be very high margin businesses that will dominate lucrative segments of major national/global markets. While few may actually succeed, enough have that there is a lot of funding for those who want to try. In general the gap between startup salaries and established business salaries has been narrowing in top tier tech cities because the funding environment is so good, so startups are effectively behaving like established companies in terms of base compensation. High margin businesses generally treat their employees well, regardless of the industry. (Another way of understanding the NYT article exploring Amazon's work culture. Most of their businesses are low margin; hence they're not going to give out a free lunch or other high-margin-business perks.)

    2 points
  • Posted to Apple Music redesign concept, in reply to Spencer Holtaway , Aug 10, 2015

    100% agree. The Apple Music mobile app is a mess: basic actions like adding things to a playlist take way too many taps. However, the killer feature of a music app is the actual music. Apple has the deepest library by far and makes it the easiest to discover a genuinely cool playlist that I like.

    Also, user behavior I hadn't noticed before: I'm way more likely to discover a new artist in playlist that sounded like something I'd like than to listen to a recommendation from an app and listen to an artist I don't know. If this is true of users generally, playlists should be pushed much more than artists. That does require the service to have great playlists, which I've only found Apple to have. (I loved Songza's playlists, but haven't noticed the quality transition with the team to Google Play Music. Which makes no sense, but was my experience.)

    4 points
  • Posted to I'm teaching Sketch 3 for free. Know anyone who could use this?, in reply to Galya Iliev , Aug 06, 2015

    Thanks Galya! Sorry for the late reply :).

    0 points
  • Posted to ASK DN: Macbook Pro Intel Iris Pro good enough for graphic design?, Jul 30, 2015

    I design on a MacBook Air. I know--shocking. I travel and work around the world and love the portability. I work with Sketch way more than anything else. I've actually done a tiny bit of screencasting too--the main issue there is just exporting videos takes forever. With Sketch, I'm more likely to divide big projects into separate files to control file size and reduce lagginess in the program. Sometimes the fan is loud but it generally works fine for me. Also, given Sketch's bugginess I tend to attribute more of the fairly rare performance issues to the app architecture rather than my hardware. YMMV.

    0 points
  • Posted to Well-Designed Interfaces Look Boring, Jul 15, 2015

    I take the general point, though there are plenty of interface breakthroughs like Tinder and Mailbox that put a fresh spin on an old problem. Perhaps eventually these will look boring--and both were adopted as interface patterns so broadly that they are well on their way to boring--but in the beginning they were very shiny objects AND ALSO very useful.

    Google's interface was also a breakthrough. I definitely believe that great interfaces are rooted in what the customer needs and nothing else. It is by shutting out the noise of external trends that we identify what our users truly need.

    It seems like you're conflating "boring" with "visually subdued or even ugly." They're not the same. The "boring" bloomberg terminal is actually exceptionally exciting to those who use it--that information MEANS something. And its very dynamic.

    If you changed boring to obvious, I would probably agree with you--but obvious only in retrospect.

    9 points
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