It's been a busy couple of weeks since the Web 2.0 Expo wrapped up in NYC. It was a great opportunity to meet some of the new faces behind up and coming web applications and to mingle with some of the more brilliant minds of the industry. The venue moved from the much larger Javits Center to the more intimate surroundings of the Sheraton NY in mid-town creating a more concentrated and inclusive atmosphere.
Highlights from some of the talks I managed to sit in on:
The Contentious Flash vs. HTML5 Debate:
For a lot of developers Flash has always been a frustrating, closed block of information that does not lend itself to collaboration but does fill a niche for rich interactive media. HTML5 on the other hand is a completely open framework allowing developers to easily modify each others code to quickly enhance and build on the work of others. As HTML5 plays catch up to match the functionality of Flash, where will interactive dollars be spent? Bang for buck, browser/platform compatibility, performance and time will tell, cough, HTML5.
User Generated Content and Brand Building:
The idea of allowing a website's content be populated by user generated content (UGC) has been around for a while. Facebook being the prime example; with most of the content of the site coming from its users. One of the more creative and memorable examples talked about at the Expo was Toyota's "Auto-Biography" Facebook campaign.
Toyota filmed several candid stories of car owners reminiscing about their Toyotas and featured them on their Facebook page. Visitors to the page are encouraged to share their own "auto-biographies" on the Toyota website where they can pick any Toyota they previously owned, down to the year and model, and write a short story about their experience owning the car. This interactivity and the desire to share your story with Toyota's sizable Facebook audience engaged users enough to create their own "auto-biographies," nearly 10,000 of them. Although there is no discernable impact on Toyota's bottom line, the campaign may be doing some good to bolster Toyota's brand in the wake of recall issues that have impacted their safety record and reputation.
DIY User Experience Design:
UX Design Consultant Whitney Hess gave an interesting talk about do-it-yourself user experience design and how companies can look internally at solving their own usability challenges. She talked about how your users won't always have the solution, but that listening to them can often lead to finding one. She also addressed the pros and cons of online usability testing tools; whereby they're relatively cost-efficient, but lack the ability to be asked probing follow up questions. For more on her talk, see her slideshow presentation:
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