Design for Flow

At NCI we have some mid-volume, highly structured websites.  They flow from search criteria, to lists of information to details in an entirely structured, sound way.  It is a classic design to organize information for easy, predictable access.  It is as efficient as the Dewey Decimal System.  It is inherently flawed.

I spent the last couple of days working with our Interactive group and our Home Design team thinking about how to fundamentally improve the design.  We have already worked through this logic for our Apartment Finder and Real Estate Book brands, but I think we took another big leap with our framework for Home Design.

What we are trying to achieve is a “flow” that is potentially infinite – like a never repeating Mobius Strip.  Once we understand generally what our consumer is looking for, we want to provide them specifically what they asked for within their direct field of view, with valuable and interesting “other” information in their peripheral frame.  The goal is ongoing engagement – not a singular solution.  The analogy we tested in our design session compared a traditional magazine – well ordered and organized – to Nash’s room in “A Beautiful Mind”.  We want to show all of the potential interconnections of content, the weave of articles, posts, polls, contributed, subscribed, pictures, videos – well enough to create a collection of strings connecting element to element within our world with a goal of engaging our audience while simultaneously presenting our advertisers.

Our new design requires a different kind of thinking about how we create, curate, share and integrate content.  Our editorial teams are busy wrapping their head around it as it will change the nature of their work and their processes.  The discussion we had yesterday was a giant leap in this direction.  It centered on how what we already do can be used to weave this fabric for our audience.  I am excited to see how it starts impacting the ways we are doing business.  There will be a lot of trial and error, but when we find approaches that work it will create a potent offering that should create tons of value for our advertisers!

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One response to “Design for Flow

  1. Todd,

    What a challenging project! You are absolutely right, “it will change the nature of their work and their processes.” As I am sure you know, the site(s) should also be reviewed regularly and modified to meet the needs of your audience as it grows. The nature of the web requires us to constantly assess and weave, doesn’t it?

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