Content versus Platform

If I was clever I would make this a Thunderdome face-off, but I haven't posted a blog on this site for a few days and I'm too guilty to be creative.

The first time I used an iPad, I find it hard to concentrate on whatever task I'm set to perform. The system is trying too hard to say, "HEY , LOOK AT ME! I'M FRIENDLY! I'M HELPFUL! I'M SHINY AND BEAUTIFUL!" Meanwhile, my content gets lost in the noise of the device's self congratulating behaviour.

I understand that this may just be because I'm not familiar with the platform itself. Sure. I don't brag about my ignorance when it comes to Apple stuff; I'll get around to trying them out someday. I find ignorance something to never brag about, no matter what the subject is.

But it's interesting how different platforms react to the content they carry. Are you going to be more about the content? Or are you going to be about the platform? I argue that the more the platform matters, the more distractions you have when the content actually has to be consumed.

Is it just a syndrome that jumps in when you're getting used to a new way of doing things? I don't think so. I still think that while the Nintendo DS has some fun video games on it, the platform has always been more about the platform rather than the content. Oh, TWO screens! A microphone! A touch screen! Games, still six years later, still try and rub that off as a novelty, and it's irritating because it distracts from the content.

The remedy is simple: Make a platform that doesn't distract from the content. How? Aesthetic and functional minimalism.

Aesthetic in the sense that there doesn't needs to be a million icons and flash whoogits and watzists on your screen when you're reading a news website. In fact, one of my favorite bloggers, K Mandla, said something to this effect:

Web browsing, given the hoopla of Web 2.0 and yadda yadda yadda, is strictly within the demesne of the graphical environment. Any attempt to browse without visual elements is fruitless and pointless and a waste of time. I mean, what about Flash? What about Java? What about lightbox effects? Rollover CSS effects? YouTube videos? Popup logins? These things are completely inaccessible to a text-based browser, and for that reason, it’s a non-issue.

Or is it? It’s a matter of perspective really, and here’s mine: Flash, Java, rollover CSS effects, popup logins, lightbox effects … all of those things are distractions really — attempts to delude you into thinking you’re getting a higher grade of content from a particular site. You should be sceptical, not embracing, of a site that employs so much glitter and sleight-of-hand that it’s hard to tell if it’s quality or questionable.

Aesthetic minimalism is not strictly in the realm of hardware (OOH my laptop has less buttons yay), but rather more in the case of getting out of the way for content to surface. Why would I need seven bars on my screen to watch video? I just want one.

Functional minimalism is also fairly simple. Just make things work as predictably as possible.

When I turn on my laptop, I know that the same thing will happen that did last time. I know that the web will still look the same, and the content will still be presented the same way. When I watch videos on VLC Player, the interface looks the same whether I'm watching a movie or listening to music.

If something says "NEW!" be wary. NEW is often confused with FUNCTIONAL and WORKING. NEW brags about being NEW because NEW thinks that making the platform different, or pretty, or faster, or cleaner, or touchier, or more natural, or whatever, will somehow make the content better. It won't. The content hasn't changed. The platform has, and NEW hopes you confuse the two.

Content is what matters. Not the platform.

No comments: