Category Archives: concepts

Using Social Media Platforms for Teachers’ Day 2009

Many things have changed since our last Teachers’ Day website. Social media has taken off in a big way. If Facebook was the vehicle that brought social media to the mainstream, Twitter is the shiny new Ferrari F70 of the online space.

Celebrities are using it to speak to their fans without the intervention of their agents, sportsmen and sportswomen update followers on their latest training regimen and even U.S. President Barack Obama uses it to garner support and understanding of his policies.

So rather than keep this year’s messages from students past and present to ourselves on the Teachers’ Day website, we wanted to use Twitter as a means to send messages the whole world could read and possibly even participate with us.

Feel free to drop a comment if you think something could be improved – it’s a pretty novel idea for us, so I’m sure we have a lot to learn!

Content Complexity vs Navigational Complexity

The dream job of any designer is one that gives the flexibility to design a product exactly the way the designer wants it. The best-case scenario is where the designer’s vision matches what the users want. Users may not want pretty user interfaces and this is where designers need to learn to tame the designer ego.

Designers, on the whole, deal with a whole lot of constraints other than just ego. Even beautiful products such as the Macbook is constrained by cost and availability of materials.

In MOE, the main constraint to designing great online communication lies in the heart of defining what good communication is. For the most part, users I’ve had the privilege of polling would like information presented clearly and plainly. We have tried our best to do that whenever possible. They want unambiguous instructions to facilitate their decision making process.

From MOE’s point of view, clear communications means a slightly different thing. Information and instructions should address the myriad of possible user scenarios down to the smallest minority cases. A lot of the time, this is the reason behind extremely long and convoluted instructions which end up doing a poor job of communicating to anyone with less patience than Mother Teresa herself.

Our mistake here is in believing that the addressing of all scenarios ought to be contained within the copy. The correct application should be to put the burden of sorting out user scenarios on navigation. So rather than reading 30 paragraphs of instructions trying to find out which paragraphs apply to you, the website ought to allow you to navigate to a webpage containing information pertaining to your specific needs; and on that page instructions should be written in simple, easy-to-understand language.

The balance of navigational and content complexity is something we’ll always have to grapple with.

Why 6 Words

When we first started working on Teachersday.sg, we put ourselves on a shoestring budget. We weren’t planning on using any formal form of advertisement. We needed something that was “viral” in nature. Sorta like the cute photos of bunnies everyone forwards around via email. The print ads and radio spots were unplanned, but something we’re grateful to the guys in the other division for. 🙂

Somewhere between brainstorming and procrastinating I came across an article by Wired entitled “very short stories. The concept stuck.

I know you’re probably reading this because you’re upset that your note of thanks has been constrained to a mere 6 words. I have no doubt a longer account would have been easier to write, but we didn’t want this year’s Teachers’ Day website to be like the rest of the other years’.

So we’re counting on you to showcase your creativity, ingenuity and wit. You can leave a note that’s as simple as “Thank you for teaching me well”, or really put on your thinking cap to craft a message worthy of Hemingway.

Six words. We issued the challenge.

Meet it. We know you can.

Saying thanks need not be verbose.

Just speak it from your heart.