The internet is magic

By Meriel Lenfestey

I believe in snake charming, Father Christmas, the Tooth Fairy and the Connected World.

When I research, check public opinion and arrange a holiday in an evening; when I use Skype for free to wish my kids goodnight when I’m away; when I transfer money instantly from one bank account to another; and when I can exchange ideas, thoughts and news with people I am connected to it feels like magic. Maybe it’s because I’m over 40 and remember clearly the inconvenience, expense and ineffectiveness of the alternatives. Whatever the reason, connectivity and all the apps and websites it has spawned have changed my life for the better.

Working in the industry, advising some of the most influential organisations shaping our digital experiences and having built complex websites from the ground up, I know that it’s not really magic – just the product of a lot of hard work, clever technology and great design. Just like snake charming, the magic of the internet is a product of some clever trickery. For avoidance of doubt I also ‘know’ Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy aren’t real physical beings – but that doesn’t stop me keeping the idea alive for the enjoyment of others.

So how can you keep the magic of the connected world alive?

Build something worth talking about …

Fairy Tales must be compelling, simple and relevant stories if they are to connect emotionally with people. Designing a website or app is no different.

  1. Don’t start with the functionality, the data or what you can deliver. Start with the users and their needs, expectations and abilities.
  2. Before you move into designing functionality, think about the equivalent of an elevator pitch for the proposition. How would you describe it to a potential user in 30 seconds? Try this for 3 or 4 archetypical users. The pitch may be quite different.
  3. Design a basic, unadorned interface to deliver the core functionality and test it on real people. Do they see the vision? Is the design communicating the pitch? Does it map to the broader brand experience?
  4. Add in richer functionality or content for specific scenarios with great care not to dilute the core proposition. E.g. by revealing it in response to a user request such as train route details, or by making sure the design protects the visual hierarchy within the UI.

Encourage people to talk about it …

Make good use of the social web to build some volume around your brand, and the experiences people are having.

  1. Make storytelling easy for them, provide hashtags, links to Facebook pages, forums, invite a friend… and link to susceptible moments such as when they have just fulfilled a goal.
  2. Participate in this dialogue – be a character in the story – let your brand personality become central to the story.
  3. Allow people to engage with and adapt the story to their networks.

Let’s keep the magic alive by enabling great experiences worthy of telling others.

What do you think?