The two-day boutique Future of Web Design conference concluded yesterday in New York’s Midtown, with speakers focusing heavily on innovation in engagement science.
Long gone are the early days of monolithic, cumbersome websites, which are quickly being replaced by simple but beautifully and thoughtfully designed user experiences. Gamification and social integration play a central role in many of these sites, where usefulness and emotional connection are more important than simple stickiness and virality. Examples include goal-focused finance sites Mint.com and bank “replacement” Simple.com.
“Today, the brand is the product, and the product is the brand,” said speaker Randy J. Hunt, Creative Directory at Etsy.com. “We need to be thinking about customers as actual people.” It’s an often talked-about lesson in the age of badges, game mechanics and reward systems. Hunt empasized that what people crave today are sites, products, and brands that respect them and inspire feelings of wonder and delight.
Carsonified launched their own new gamified learning site at the show, Treehouse. For a monthly fee, students can unlock achievement badges for watching videos and showing mastery within the broad topics of web design, web development, and iOS.
Even the consumer product space is seeing a new generation of innovative products that put user experience and engagement first, such as the Nest thermostat. Several speakers mentioned the new device as something that solves a real problem (it purports to cut energy costs by hundreds a year) by encouraging repeated user input and learning its owners heating and cooling habits over time.
2012 promises to be the biggest year ever for FOWD, with a unified five-day conference scheduled in Las Vegas, combining the disciplines of web design, web apps, and mobile design.