I had a chance to have dinner with my dad last night. We're both nerdy film fans so the conversation naturally turned towards the new Star Trek film and, of course, Star Wars. (Mainly because Star Wars is better.) In 1977 My dad went to go see Star Wars. Actually, what he went to see was A Bridge Too far. What he ended up seeing was Star Wars.
Creativity and discipline are not mutually exclusive. In fact, many artists have promoted discipline as the basis for mastery and as the route which eventually leads to the highest forms of creativity. But discipline takes different forms.
In feudal Japan the bushi class, or samurai, began training in the way of the sword and bow around age five. The rigorous training that followed would shape them for the rest of their lives as warriors committed to the physical forms of swordplay and the mental forms of ceremony. These structures embodied the discipline of the samurai way of life in a practical and tangible way.
We end up working with a fair number of B2B clients. It amazes me how often they complain about their services/product being dry and boring. Most of the time they sit down and pound a few meaningless pages of copy, or they work with a mediocre B2B marketing consultant to develop their website content.
The result is almost always the same, boring copy that reads like a laundry list of ultra-generic product benefits. I can recite these by memory: increased ROI, lowered cost, lowered support burden, greater flexibility. Whether they're selling hosting, contract manufacturing, or consulting — the benefits always end up being the same, regardless of what the product actually does.
The reality is that too many B2B companies are scared of actually having a personality. They confuse being interesting with being controversial. They forget that their target audience is made up of ordinary people who desire nothing more than to learn a little bit more about what their company does in as clear and conversational a manner as possible. A website shouldn't try to dazzle customers with bullsh*t and buzzwords.
In March Iain Tait posted 9 reasons why Japanese interactive work is awesome. I'll leave it to you to drop by his blog and check them out, but I would like to point to a trend in Iain's list. The Japanese culture takes great enjoyment in fashion, gaming, technology, and comics. It seems to me that the success of interactive agencies in Japan is likely due to an understanding of this national set of cultural trends which enables them to target a culture in addition to an audience.
Recently on Twitter Lisa Barone pointed out that the 404 page she setup drives some of her colleagues at Outspoken Media crazy. Personally I think it's hysterical, but that's not the point. Lisa got me thinking about the point of a 404 error page and what makes one good.
The great thing about 404 pages is that you essentially have a whole page dedicated to one very short message. This means you don't need to sacrifice creativity for utility. The 404 page is one of the easiest places to create a user experience that is both memorable and useful. As I scoured the internet for quality 404 pages I was quite disappointed that many social media experts, marketers, and even some well known agencies have bland or unhelpful 404 pages. So, without further ado, I give you ten prime examples of a quality 404 error page: