In redesigning the Great Buildings Collection’s website, I thought that it would be best to re-imagine it as a site centered around editorial content instead of individual profile pages. This would make it easier for users who aren’t looking for a specific building to engage with the site and allow for discovery across the vast spectrum of knowledge about architecture.
Few things make my mother as happy as keeping things organized. Everything always has it’s own box and label, no matter how small and insignificant, including everything from my childhood that I left behind when I went to college. Even my collection of blank VHS tapes. As a 90′s teenager, I would tape everything that I thought I might want to watch over and over again. Episodes of Conan that aired past my bedtime, Slam Dunk contests and NBA drafts, dubbed recordings of movies I rented.
Over winter break I decided that I was going to finally dig in to this box and catalog what had survived. Most of the tapes were unlabeled, but I knew that there was gold buried in them. Pen and pad in hand, I hunkered down in front of a 9″ TV/VCR, excited to rediscover SNL skits & TV shows I had completely forgotten.
After about twenty minutes, I was ready to give up. It had been years since I’d used a VCR and time has not been kind to the experience. Everything was miserable. Rewinding and fast forwarding took forever. Shows started at random points on the tape and wouldn’t stop immediately when they were finished, instead taping hours of programming that I would have to fast forward through. How did people ever think this was a satisfying experience (did they?). Fortunately, I don’t have to deal with this anymore. Thankfully, we have TiVo.
In 2000, TiVo introduced their first digital video recorder, changing the way people watch TV. Even though VCRs offer many of the same features of a DVR, the user experience is markedly better and it is mainly due to the change in media. By recording to digital hard drives, TiVo was able to make the process of recording a TV show much simpler. With a VCR, users had two options, they could either wait until the second a program started and hit record or they could program the time and channel into the VCR and hope that everything worked (which wasn’t a sure bet). TiVo simplifies the process by giving users two simpler and more convenient options;
- Choosing an individual show from an on-screen guide (no need to remember the channel number or exact time.
- Record all episodes of a show automatically
No longer do you need to adjust a number of delicate settings or worry whether or not the blank tape you have is the correct speed, TiVo just works. Once recorded, all yours show are easily selectable from an on-screen menu (no need to remember which tape has which show) and you can rewind and fast-forward throughout with ease and speed. When you’re finished with a show, you can delete it just as easily as you recorded, with one button press.
In the ultimate sign of success, TiVo has become one of the few products that has become a verb as well as a noun. Even though on-demand viewing and online streaming has pushed it toward irrelevance, TiVo will always be known for opening up the ability to time-shift TV programs beyond tech-savvy teenagers and to the general public.
Today’s Bookshelf vs. Tomorrow’s Bookshelf
I love applications that keep everything as simple as possible. I’d rather be using something that excels at a small feature set, than be overwhelmed by a comprehensive, but poorly executed feature set. The epitome of this idea are single serving web sites, which consist of only a single page and a single function. The most famous of these is “Is Lost A Repeat?“. Instead of having to click through a number of screens on a site like TVGuide or Yahoo! TV, you could go to this site, which displayed a single “Yes” or “No” if that night’s episode of Lost was new or a repeat. A simple solution to a simple task.
A simple task that isn’t simple right now is determining if a new album has leaked or not. Under most circumstances, I can wait until an album has been officially released and buy it from iTunes or AmazonMP3. However, for certain artists that I love, I don’t have that kind of patience and I need to have their albums ASAP. In the weeks before release, I find myself constantly on the lookout, searching blogs and torrent sites and checking my Twitter feed for any indication that it has the streets (so to speak). As a teenager, I used to enjoy this hunt, but now it just proves tedious. Often times sites will post fake files in an attempt to gain traffic and it ends up being a huge waste of time.
Enter “Has It Leaked Yet?“. Users will be greeted with the question “Has the new BLANK album leaked yet?” with BLANK being an empty text box. The user will enter the name of the artist whose record they want and will be given a yes or no answer, along with information about how long it’s been available and sites where it can be downloaded. While it’s probably possible to do this with an algorithm, this would most likely have to be curated by an editor, in order to get the most up-to-date information.
Step 1 – User loads the page and is greeted with a question.
Step 2 – User enters the name of the artist they are searching for and clicks “Submit”.
Step 3 – User receives a yes or now answer, as well as how long the album has been available and where it can be downloaded.