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Creatives! Please check the latest update before reading the full brief! Thanks cS.
TurnTo is a start-up based in New York City. We launched the system in September and have been signing up partner sites at about 1 per week since then -- which is very exciting. Mostly smaller ecommerce sites so far, but we're getting close on some bigger ones, too. Our vision is to be the dominant provider of "trusted reference systems" across the web. The piece we're looking for design help with here is one part of a bigger plan; but first things first.
Please read all elements of the design brief carefully. The winning project must address all elements. Please be sure to include any commentary explaining functional aspects of your design that might not be evident from the visuals. And most of all, please do communicate with me throughout the project -- no sense in putting a lot of work into something that's way off target. That also means you should post preliminary designs as early in the process as possible so I can provide feedback and guidance.
First-off, please familiarize yourself with the functions of the TurnTo system. Poke around TurnTo.com so you see how it works, then go to all our different live partner sites so you can see the different ways people are using the widget. (On some you may have to hunt for the link -- look in the header bar, nav area, or sometimes in the social sharing area on the individual product pages.) Since we are still early in building the network, you probably won't see "references" (other than zip code matches) on many of the sites. **So shoot me a note with your email and I will add you as a friend of mine so you can at least see me as a reference on some of the sites.**
As you'll see, there are two main parts to the TurnTo system: TurnTo.com where you go to manage your network and sharing settings, and the widget which you encounter on partner sites. **This project relates only to the design of the widget. Feel free to provide feedback on the TurnTo.com piece, too. But the award will be based only on design work related to the widget.**
The widget has two components: what we call the "teaser", which is the small bit that displays on the partner site to encourage a visitor to investigate, and the widget itself, which is the box that opens when the user clicks on the teaser. We need designs for both components.
The teaser provides the "handle" through which a visitor to a TurnTo partner site obtains access to the widget.
- Increased visibility and clear messaging while still fitting in. This is the central challenge. TurnTo is a novel concept -- users encountering it for the first time don't know what it's for. We need to raise the click rates by making the teaser more visible and making its value more evident. On the other hand, partners don't want it to dominate their sites or look out-of-place.
- A user experience appropriate for both first-time users and previous users. As you'll see when you experiment, the TurnTo system forms a network spanning our partner sites, so that as long as you are logged in to TurnTo, the system will recognize you when you come to a partner site. That means that the teaser can operate in two modes, one where it recognizes the user and one where it does not. Your designs should address both cases. A user who has not encountered TT before will, of course, not be logged in, so there is limited content we can show that user. That user also needs a strong signal to be drawn to click to learn more. A user who is logged in to TT when he comes to the site will, of course, already be familiar with the system. Since the user is logged in, we can show him content from the system, and since the user is familiar with the system we can use a more compressed approach to communicate. But we still need to draw that user in to clicking, too.
- Supports placement in a variety of spaces. As you can see from the way it is used on our partner sites, some have it in narrow right or left hand rails where the text wraps. Some have it in header bars with lots of horizontal space but little vertical space. Some have it in the social sharing section on individual product pages. And there is a wide variety of color and pattern backgrounds
- Support for item-level as well as global usage. Currently, all the TurnTo widgets are being used by partner sites at a "global" level, meaning they tell a user all transactions by any friend or other connection anywhere on the site. The teasers for these are typically placed in the header bar or nav area. We will also shortly support an "item-level" functionality, where the widget tells a visitor whether connections in their TT network have experience with a particular item, or an item similar to the one they are considering. In this case, the teaser will be located next to the item to which it refers, perhaps on list pages, perhaps on the product detail pages. It may appear only when a connection is available. The best analogy for this functionality is the 5-star UI model typical of user-generated ratings.
- Text vs. images. Our current design is very text-oriented. This has both advantages and disadvantages. There may be alternatives that are icon or image-based that are more effective, or designs that combine icons/images with limited text.
- We can build functionality to support a library of designs so each partner site can choose the one that works best for them. I strongly encourage you to explore a library-oriented approach.
- Branding: TurnTo is positioned to partners and users as THEIR trusted reference system "powered by" TurnTo. Building theTurnTo brand is not important per se. However, it is important that those who encounter the system on a variety of partner sites be able to recognize the functionality immediately and also that when personal information is shared, they understand why. (i.e. we need to be careful not to evoke the reaction: "How did they know that about me?!?!") The TurnTo brand can be useful for both these purposes. (By contrast, ratings systems pretty much universally use the 5-star system, which clearly signifies the functionality. Since there is no equivalent symbol for "trusted reference systems", our logo may serve the purpose.)
- Treatment of our logo. The TurnTo logo looks great on white backgrounds and black backgrounds. It's problematic against middle-colors. Any use of our logo needs to include a scheme for a background or holding shape that works color-wise.
- As noted in the intro, we are looking for ideas that span the range from refinements on what we already have to totally different and ground-breaking. To get you started, here are three ideas we've been kicking around. Feel free to work with these or go well beyond them.
1. Keep the current icon-with-text model, but put the icon in a black or white holding shape that connects to a box around the text. The color of the box line and the background fill can be customized for the site.
2. Something purely iconographic. Don't know what the icon system would be. But the goal is to try to create symbols that are as self-evident in meaning as the 5 stars are in ratings systems. For the logged-in user, the symbols would indicate what sort of references are available in the widget if the user clicks to open it.
3. Get rid of the page-embed entirely and go with a float-over anchored to the lower-left corner of the page. See for example http://www.liveworld.com/solutions/liveb....
The widget provides the user with the list of "references", details on their activities (transactions) on the partner site, and tools to contact them. Currently, we support 3 types of connection: friends, friends-of-friends, and lives-near-you based on zip matching. We will shortly be adding same-organization / same-group matching and plan to add others over time. Currently we support 2 types of communication: a simple mail-to link and a link to open an AIM client. We will shortly be adding support for anonymous messaging as well. We will also be adding support for a feature we call "Rave", which enables a user to indicate items or sites with which they have had especially positive experiences. We will also be adding user photos and product photos.
- The widget needs to present a friendlier, more clear display of "trusted references" and their activities/transactions to the user.
- A visual design that can work on a broad range of partner sites with minimal customization. Our current, bland gray design has that quality, but at the expense of any personality. However, the contrast of the gray widget box with background graphics is not good. Please explore other ways to visually offset the widget box from the background.
- New features. The design should show how the new features mentioned above would be addressed.
- As with the teaser, our current design is very text oriented. Please consider designs that make use of images and icons or that mix these with text.
- Notes on branding and use of our logo as with the Teaser.
- As with the teaser, we are interested in a broad range of approaches from refinements to the radically new.
- As with the teaser, have a look at http://www.liveworld.com/solutions/liveb....
- Another model to consider: www.getglue.com. Note that this is a browser extension and our model is page-based. However, there may be UI concepts here to inspire you.
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