Our digital bits are slowly gaining ground on the physical world.
And slowly we realize where in a new age wherein what matters is what’s happening online more than off of it.
I mean sure, stuff happens off-line but... a lot of that is transferred into the digital world, where it really matters.
The last generation was about the big house and the fancy car.
The new generation is about the big youtube following and the fancy new website.
If it’s travel, it’s about posting the story from your travel.
If it’s fashion, it’s about sharing photos for your latest find and discussing with others in the forum.
So, ok physical still matters but only because it assists us living our digital life.
You know, the Apple packaging that made you feel like you were unboxing the future?
The magazine on the shelf that stood out.
The book cover. The exterior of a car.
This is being brought online. (Duh!)
We're creating packaging for everything online and putting on the infinite shelf of the web.
And design on the web is hitting it’s stride. Whether it's brutalist websites or pop up websites, the shelf is limitless.
Therefore in cyberspace we’re looking even harder for something to catch our eye.
What if you thought about your website like a physical product on a shelf?
The first step is to realize whether your in the physical world or the digital, you're still selling a product in a package.
It needs to catch the idea of the browsing customer perusing the isles of the internet.
Then, when they take a chance and select your package, you have the ability to provide the "unboxing" experience.
Now that we're on the web, your product isn't static, and your unboxing can last quite awhile. This is your advantage.
Digital product packaging is an art that's in it's infancy.
Well funded companies with big digital budgets are creating beautiful packages that stand out and make us want to buy. And companies of the future will continue to push the boundaries.
But what we haven't figured out yet is what that new interface is turning into.
Your website may be rather static. But we have a new opportunity to turn the process of pulling someone into the work (and it is a process) to a journey that can last quite awhile.
That’s done through updates, something that physical goods don’t currently have (until IOT hits).
The updatable nature of products mean that they are ever changing. And, through push notifications they can break more like a process than a product.
And if your product becomes a process...
Your customers are students and you are their teacher.
I think Apple is a perfect example for what I'm talking about here.
What are they keynotes if not drawn out public Onboarding events?
They are taking us all into the future with every keynote. They wish to do this, hypothetically forever, so the onboarding must never stop. If we as consumers catch up with Apple, where they're not one step ahead leading us, they're dead. Which is sort of why it's started to feel that way. With the limited future innovation potential with their biggest product, the iPhone, it feels like we're catching up with Apple instead of them being at a distance pulling us along.
So a key of onboarding is to remain in the lead of your customers. You must lead them through the experience so that they delight and grow over time. This is reinforcing the ongoing nature of your experience for onboarding.
You can do this but online, and for your product. Hence Webinars. Although we can get much more creative than that and with a lot more technology.
So what's next?
Recognize that you’re selling a good. And that good sits in a package that catches the eye or is skipped.
But on the internet, there's infinite shelf space.
So once someone takes a chance on you… you can let them peel back the layers for a long time. You're always onboarding. You're always remaining in the future for your customer and you pull them with you (although they remain slightly behind).
If you lose your lead, you'll lose their interest.
And what's next for websites (the package?)
Like every invention, we always begin by mimicking what came in the past. The first TV show's were essentially radio-style broadcasts.
So the first websites look like paper, put online.
Then we got the browser and linked web pages.
Then we got apps.
Stage 3 is the feed.
Stage 4.. is about breaking these standards all together. Because the truth is the web brings infinite opportunity and space to expand beyond the containers and packages we've built to date.
I applaud Squarespace for it's democratization of our online world. But I feel they have built a robust system for building for the web of 2017 but not the web of the future. Sure, simple interfaces will always win, but we’re stuck on one paradigm. That of the browser. That of the scroll and the click. This will be obliterated once we change how we interact with the web.
Before that happens, we’ll see many experiments. These are already popping up. I don’t see them succeeding, because we’re still beholden to the mouse and key. But once the paradigm changes I believe that pages will lose their structure and open up into entirely different possibilities.
"As the screen constantly sheds the limitations of its previous technologies, the capabilities of the space behind the glass accelerate forward at light speed."
So far it's been static, but in the future our digital packaging will flow and shift and become dynamic interact with. Feeds, non-linear journey's, webs, collages.
The internet is really just information, organized.
In the future we will continue to dream up new ways to organize this information in a way that better suits our style of consumption.
And in the future we will get physical with the web.
"As inhabitants of the web, we are bound to using the click of the mouse and the scroll of the wheel as essential method of communicating with the ether. Yet despite the power afforded to our web presence, our relationship with these actions remains constrained to a purely utilitarian approach. The infinite space of the screen is hindered by our inability to use these peripherals as more than just a functional means to an end. With user interface technology becoming more and more frictionless, more and more engrained in the paradigms of Kinectian motion sensors and Leapesque gesture based navigation, the mouse and the keyboard are faced with the possibility of obsolesance."
I can imagine a scenario where we will use our hands in the air like with our Wii remotes to unbox a website. To explore the boundaries. To connect physically with our digital items.
And VR will utterly destroy the browser and the web page view. It will seem laughably static. Like a comic book vs. a movie.
And, maybe, eventually, the experience returns full circle to where we can physically feel the selection and exploration of a new product we buy online.