Serving Social Media at Wimbledon this year

No matter what happens to Andy Murray and the great British hope, taking on defending champion Rafael Nadal – they’ll never look back on how social media is heralding in a new-ish era of ‘open’ tennis – making players and the tournament both easily accessible.

The opening serve or volley, if you will came from Andy Murray and Head. Murray, being Britain’s great hope, is being followed with huge interest as he bumps now into Rafa Nadal.

But it’s not just Andy. Wimbledon, the only remaining lawn (or grass) tennis grand slam has taken up social with aplomb. The official Facebook page does live feeds, and photos are being updated almost as they’re being clicked. There are just under 660,000 fans. The posts are interesting, and sometimes outside the box. I saw a post that linked to a evian promoted page on Wimbledon. Nice bit of code-sharing on that.

They’ve raised the roof so to speak at Wimbledon. With a £100 million roof over Centre Court, Wimbledon will not be held under the weather. And both the official tournament and players are playing it pretty big on social media, mixing tennis on the lawns, strawberries and cream with a healthy dose of facebook and twitter.

Real time online access is now the norm. And, yes, Andy Murray did kick off the Wimbledon-on-Social wave this year with that ‘intended-for-viral’ film for HEAD – the tennis brand that’s trying really hard to keep head above social water, competing with the big brands like adidas, nike, and the new rising ranker – Babolat. HEAD’s ‘Get Closer’ campaign was published on both Facebook and YouTube, aiming to get fans ‘closer’ and more interactive with Andy Murray.

The iPhone App is also a big hit, but overall it’s the Facebook and Twitter feeds and updates that are catching every one’s fancy. The iPhone App of course is not new this year. This is the third year it’s been available, but every year technology partners IBM are working on the app (yes, IBM) to make it both intuitive and useful for spectator and couch watcher alike. With video updates, lots of pics, ground maps, scores, schedules and news, it’s a handy tool for all fans of the purple and green.

Nadal, who’s up against Murray in the ‘really important and nearly the final’ semi-final is also huge on social media. The Spaniard has more than 7,361,073 likes on his Facebook page. That’s over seven million! So are many other players. Sharapova, grunt and all, with just under 5 million fans also has a pretty cool page – and some of her wall photos are rather intersting beyond the grass court. Roger Federer, who had yet another early exit this year at Wimbledon has over 8 million fans on Facebook, and 75,000 followers on his news tweet – but the tweet lines are cold, newsy and impersonal almost. Not very social.

Overall, social media is having a great year at Wimbledon. It has matured in a nice way, and increasingly sports tournaments, sponsors, players as well as fans are being able to genuinely benefit from it all.

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HTML5 vs Flash. The Battle for Web Content design

As we speak, more and more web developers are moving away from Flash for animation, video and navigation towards the new standard HTML5. The war over Flash is ongoing, and while it seems that HTML5 is emerging with a slight edge, one has to recognize that it is still under process. It is being continuously developed and improved over time.

Here’s the basic: HTML5 is a language used by developers to present (and structure) content for online. It is the latest version of the HTML (stands for HyperText Markup Language) standard first created in 1990. The very purpose of HTML5 is to improve video or multimedia presentation, while keeping it all easily accessible and understood by multiple computer devices, browsers and platforms.

Flash is still the choice of excellence – if you are building a fully interactive Rich Interactive Application experience – it’s becoming acceptable to nudge away and embrace HTML5, JavaScript and CSS3. With Flash not available across most mobile devices (specially anything from Apple), the migration seems natural. I’ve had clients call me and say “our site isn’t working” only to find that they were checking Flash driven content on their iPads. Core content built in Flash is a downer. Sorry Adobe.

Unlike as in previous HTML versions, where we depended on added-on, propreitary software such as Flash to view video or play a YouTube or audio stream, HTML5 allows for simple tags such as 'video' or 'audio' to do the trick. And do the trick on mobile devices just as well, just as easily. That’s a win.

But wait. There are speedbumps. HTML5 as supported heavily by Apple is dependaent on the H264 codec. And that requires a bit of a licensing fee. Others like Mozilla and Google have pushed for open source formats as support. Mozilla’s Firefox 4 uses Ogg, and Google is pushing for WebM. Sounds familiar? Reminds the older generation of VHS vs Beta?

But do not lose heart. Firefox, Apple’s Safari, Google Chrome, Explorer 9 and Opera are all HTML5 friendly. And it is tilting. Things are finally shifting towards the new format. But there are brands and platforms still holding on, playing both sides of the fence. RIM’s new Blackberry PlayBook is being touted as ‘better than the iPad’ because it plays Flash.

While the Flash player has been free, Adobe’s development kit for us designers/developers has been expensive. HTML on the other hand is free. But all those games developed in Flash are not going to render in HTML5 and this will be a problem going forward. Because HTML5 is executed by the browser itself, and it is not a added-on plug-in, it will possible become the choice of new age developers. As long as the interactivity depicted is simple, ’5′ wins. For complexity Adobe’s Flash is still ahead. And the the jury is still out on which one overall. We’ll see.

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Writing for the web: Less is More

I’ve been asked this week if there’s some such being as a ‘web writer’ or a specialized copywriter for the web. My answer is yes and no.

Yes, because your average copywriter is usually very adept at writing for tv, radio, print etc and pretty much does more of the same when it comes to writing for web content – and ends up with a lot of words. Their craft is built on the the art of clever verbosity. And no, because, once you’ve figured out that usability on the web demands less and lesser, and the mantra is omission, not commission, than really, any one can write. Less that is. So no.

I know of a McCann big wig who claims that his success is based on his ability to write a clear, precise and meaningful brief in one a4 page. I buy that. That’s an art form right there. And, when it comes to writing for the web, it’s the same thing. We need to avoid writing to fill the page, to defy negative space. All those words, reams of it, there just to add to the volume. Not to the music.

Hope page and section header pages are the ones that are guilty of carrying excess loads as far as copy is concerned. I have had clients send back designs because they felt it ‘didn’t say much about who we are’ on the home page. I had thought that the ‘Who We Are’ page was meant for that. But, clients know best.

If it’s relevant to the page, if it adds value, keep it. As long as you keep it precise. I normally hate bullet points – they look great in powerpoint, but not in ad copy. But they work quite well in web writing. They make the point.

Eyeball tests have shown the average user spends less than five seconds on 100 words. Now, that’s not reading, that’s speedreading – that’s scanning. Picking up clues, sub-heads, bold text and the gist of it all on the way. And, if you keep organic Search in mind, it’s crucial to have all the right words in there without having to repeat thoughts or meander along the way to the main point being made.

A client emailed me to remind me that the copy on the site ‘should exactly follow the one on the brochure’. With word count at a premium on the site, I thought that right there was information design suicide. The brochure had large format pictures, beautiful visual support across an a4 page. Here I had around 400 pixels x first fold. Mistake. Sorry client.

The people who get web writing down pat are the ones at the editorial team for BBC news. Remembering that BBC started off as a radio channel, that’s not surprising at all, because, once you read your copy, you soon realize how much of it is blah blah blah. And cut down at least 60%.Try it. That’s how I do mine.

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Digital agency in Dubai, Innovations_Digital refocused and recontextualized

Innovations_Digital. They're going mostly by I_D these days, giving their brand a today twist. And their product a fresh new flavor, and their mantra of No more same old, same old seems to have sloped out of the room – probably being re-engineered to reflect the new stance as 'digital focused influence agency'. I like 'influence agency'. So, that's a kind of a new approach. And a whole new website at to boot.

There never were too many digital agency horses here in Dubai town. Used to be Innovations and Flip. And of course Impact. The LBs (who had Arc) and the other agencies did their bits. Now there seems to be a game where anyone and their uncle's in the game, Macbook Air tucked in the Prada man bag, Media City address on card, and very little real experience. Some of these new comers are good. Some are horrid and are creating a bad name for the whole gamut of digital agencies in Dubai. Specially the ones that claim the Social Media territory and sullen the land with their flag. But I meander.

Well done Innovations_Digital. Good on you.