This concept of place came to me this morning while I was thinking about how individual blogs can differentiate themselves. As we move into a world where service levels increase and quality goes up and up, differentiating products and services falls more and more to design.
This is particularly true on the (shudder) blogosphere. In a world where 40,000 new blogs come online every day, the blog reader becomes overwhelmed by choice. NOTE: this assumes content is of an equal quality. Bad content = not even on the map. How do you make your blog (or web site, or wiki, or podcast…) stand out from the crowd? One answer is place.
Design from the north looks like design from the south. Indian design looks like American design. The old joke “on the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” comes to mind. This is good when it comes to usability in a global setting. But once the sameness achieves a certain penetration, we’re right back to the starting place, only better looking. I’d like to see more of an emphasis on place in blog design.
One of the reasons we travel is to revel in the differences of place. We notice the differences from home, as well as the similarities. At times, the differences are huge (think toilets); not just in form, but in function. Toilets all do the same thing, yet there are a myriad of designs (never been outside North America? Trust me on this..). Some are certainly more memorable than others.
There are many less scatological examples. Just think about the sense of relief you feel when you drive back into your neighborhood after a couple of weeks away. There is a real sense of familiarity that gives you comfort. What if you tapped into that in your blog design? Wouldn’t it be a powerful thing?
The web, and the blogosphere in particular has by its nature excised place. My site design in no way reflects where I’m from, yet my local environment (Toronto) offers plenty of cues for me to riff on. As a tourist on the web-o-sphere, I’d like to see more cultural and regional reference in design. Clearly it’s not appropriate in all settings. This site is not aimed at a local market, so it’s design has to be more global. But there are many, many examples where using place in your design is a fantastic way of standing out.