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editorial Information Matters. That is what we learn in business, sooner or later. We learn because a sales presentation failed to impress a client, customer complaints revealed that product literature was incomprehensible, employees didn’t bother to visit an intranet developed at great cost, prospects failed to respond to a recruitment advertisement… We learn. But these lessons are very expensive. And we at Synapse believe that businesses will continue to pay till they make an effort to understand the power of Information. This journal is our attempt to increase the understanding of Information. Instead of articles driven by theory, it takes a case-study approach and explores real-life examples of how information successfully resolved varied business challenges, from Marketing to HR, from Retail Design to Information Technology. We hope that these wide-ranging examples will compel companies to look beyond the traditionally narrow context of marketing communication, and become sensitive to the entire universe where information influences your business. What we at Synapse call the ‘Business Information Ecosystem’. This journal is a modest first attempt, and if it is to increase in value, we need to hear from you. Please write to me at Sifar@InformationMatters.in

Gourav Jaswal President, SYNAPSE

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overview

PUBLISHING

PUBLISHING | RETAIL INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY FINANCE | CONSULTANCY ENTERTAINMENT | EDUCATION HUMAN RESOURCES | MEDIA TRANSPORT | PUBLIC SERVICES EARTH SCIENCES | RESEARCH

FROM

Start TO Print IN 8 WEEKS

Why change when you are, by far, India and South Asia’s largest selling photography magazine?

26

Restructuring and redesign of ‘BETTER PHOTOGRAPHY’

PORT

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

watch this space for

e-business

PUT YOUR RIGHT LEG in

06

How a share-broking company took a giant leap with one small step for new stock market entrants.

FINANCE | CONSULTANCY

THE one-minute PORTAL

21

THE WORLD WIDE VERB

37

THE LONG LEGO TAIL

44

ARE WEBSITES JUDGED IN THE blink OF AN EYE?

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Is it possible to create a Website in less than a minute? Find out how a person with no web knowledge can manage this.

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RETAIL

the map that organised

LONDON A look beneath Harry Beck’s classic rendition of the London Underground map. TRANSPORT | PUBLIC SERVICES

Creating an

Information Environment for Technology Stores

How Information Design of the Retail Environment helped HP stores in selling technology products.

12

20 infoGRAM

IT | HR | ENTERTAINMENT

MASS appeal Aamchi IT, Aamchi Manoos

45 IN SEARCH OF A

star

A communication campaign that helped the Maharshtra Knowledge Corporation Ltd. spread computer literacy amongst marathi speaking students.

i CANDY EARTH SCIENCES | RESEARCH

EDUCATION | MEDIA | IT

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Can an Information Application help program executives tune in new talent?

THE EARTH by light

An account of how STAR India’s improved talent search application helps them stay on top.

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FOR

Alagu Balaraman, the key need for his organisation Godfrey Phillips India (GPI), was “To promote the organisation of information in a manner that makes it easier to access and share. Too much information is trapped in the hard disks of individual PCs and notebooks. The content management framework was meant to provide a tool to get over this.”

“...promote the organization of information in a manner that makes it easier to access and share.” - Alagu Balaraman Senior Vice President, Information Technology and Corporate Development, Godfrey Phillips India (GPI)

Re-engineering Blogs for the Enterprise

The concept for this framework was modeled on the growing popularity of blogs. After all, if relatively technology-shy people are comfortable with creating blogs and sharing their viewpoints almost every other day, why not extend this logic to the enterprise world as well. Thus began the first phase in creating a corporate content portal that would allow project groups to create project microsites. These would serve as information channels between project members through shared project notes, meeting reports and discussion logs internally as well as showcase key project milestones externally. Project leaders would act as microsite managers and assign and authorise users to view content, make content postings and comment on postings of others. Microsite management would be centralised with graded levels of access and functionality.

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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

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THE ONE MINUTE

PORTAL Is it possible to create a website in less than a minute? Sure, if you are a competent web administrator and know your programming tools very well. But how does a person with no web knowledge at all manage this? Read on‌

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The initial thought-process was to use the same technology as that of blogs and transform it into a Web-portal. “Movable Type, a blogging system in use at most major sites, had the flexibility to create multiple sites and users could be granted site-level permissions, so our initial experiments focused on tweaking Movable Type and positioning it as 08 a content management system,” remarks Dr Gurunandan Bhat, head of technology practice at Synapse, the agency involved in the creation of the portal framework. With Movable Type you could create multiple sites with graded levels of access and posting rights. MT also had a fairly robust templating system that allowed content and design to be separately administered. “First there was the conceptual design – what we are trying to achieve and how it will be used. After which it moved to a technical design. A prototype was reviewed and a pilot tried out. The objective of the pilot was to test the working of the application across geographies and types of users,” adds Alagu.

A

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Synapse was now faced with a dilemma. Should it tweak a proprietary system such as Movable Type further so that it could be simplified, or look for a better alternative? The problem! The alternatives weren’t any good either and all of them were targeted at the web administrator and not the end-user.

SOME

suit + blog + blue = A

With technology companies like IBM, Microsoft and Intuit of Quickbooks fame showing the way, large corporates have taken to blogging with a vigour and candour that is surprising. Randy Baseler, VP Marketing of Boeing uses his blog (www.boeing.com/randy/) as an occasional public view into his business mind and sometimes to trash the competition. Bob Lutz of General Motors does it , as does Jonathan Schwartz, COO at Sun. HP has a whole slew of VPs at http://h71028. www7.hp.com/enterprise/cache/104417-0-0-0-121. aspx#exec. Corporate Blogging received the ultimate in acceptability when Gartner thought it important enough to study as a new trend in Business Communication: “Corporate Blogging involves the use of online personal journals by corporate employees, either individually or in a group, to further company

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How much to tweak?

The first experiments in creation of autonomously managed multiple sites were largely successful, but user testing exposed the system architects to the first in a series of successive challenges. Creating websites meant that users charged with that responsibility had to have some understanding of how websites were laid out on the file folder system of the web server. Without this understanding, project managers found it extremely unintuitive to create multiple sites. Movable Type’s templating system also proved to be not intuitively obvious and much of its power and flexibility had to be learned at its innards to be exploited to its fullest.

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TECH HYPE GRAPH


TECHNICAL SPECS OF THE SOLUTION

PHP + MySQL + Oracle 10G Red Hat EL 3 Database and file systems operating out of a NAS

Given the complexity of the requirement, Synapse decided that it was best to create a content management framework from scratch. Such a system would cater to the needs of multiple users who didn’t know much about websites. The foremost challenge was to present a design that wasn’t intimidating, one that endeared itself to the end-users. A Website in three steps

Synapse realized that the crucial need was to provide key features using as minimal steps as possible in the creation of a website, and it should take less than a minute. “The key requirements were to use a familiar idiom (web sites, links and drop down selection) and easy search (data in fields and full text indexing),” elaborates Alagu. “The technical goals were speed and light-weight processing and simplifying development by utilizing built in capabilities of tools,” he adds. Bearing this in mind, the design highlighted only three steps and mainly involved typing out the name of the site, the description and an icon for the site.

blog A

CORPORATE

goals. It reached the peak of hype in 2004 although mainstream firms have not yet got involved. Its impact will be on projecting corporate marketing messages primarily and secondarily in competitive intelligence, customer support and recruiting.“ According to Gartner, here is the position of Corporate Blogging on the Tech Hype Graph:

Once this was done, the rest of the process was quite simple. Authorized users could now create a structure for the content based on a folder structure of Windows, add articles within the folder structure, link images to the article and attach documents related to the article. This was possible using a simple ‘Word-style’ article, upload interface with icons for making text bold, inserting tables or using different styles. Users could select the articles or folders that could appear on the home page of a particular microsite, and also decide on the ordering of these elements. The difference from most other “products” was that it built on open standards and was able to adapt to the environment of GPI and the specific requirements of users.

access IBM - The developer Works community http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/blogs/ MICROSOFT - MSDN blog http://blogs.gotdotnet.com/ QUICKBOOKS - The Team blog http://quickbooks_online_blog.typepad.com/ blogmain/ BOEING - Randy Baseler’s journal http://www.boeing.com/randy/

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A WEBSITE IN 3 STEPS 10

1 Give the site a name, a description and an icon. Choose to have a discussion forum and a calender.

2 Select a layout for the site. Decide a basic look and navigation.

3 Identify the users who can view the site or manage the content.


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The web interface featured simple navigation and easy content management tools

The Value-additions

Project managers at GPI took to the system quickly and were soon creating sites, modifying them, and unwittingly the first feature request became the ability to delete sites. There were quite a few important features added on based on user request such as the ability to link to other systems as a folder or category itself. Since it was an internal portal, promotions became an important aspect, and Synapse added the aspect of adding promotions to a microsite in the form of an image, Gif animation or Flash. Full-text indexing and searching through documents attached and uploaded to individual sites were added later.

20 by 20

It didn’t take long. About 20 microsites for different project groups and departments were created in a jiffy, and the focus shifted to uploading content to these sites. PowerPoint data, Excel sheets, PDF documents, all found their way suddenly to this new system and data usage grew significantly. Important documents found their way to the web system, and branches started using the site as a means of communicating with headquarters. Six months later, nearly 40 sites had come up, with more than 800 users.

KEY FEATURES  Easy upload of documents and images  Full-text indexing and document search  Event calendar  Discussion Forum  Automatic notification on new posts  Automatic Log Reports in Excel  User Authentication and integration

within a J2EE framework with single sign-on

With the framework up and running, the real challenge is now, in the adoption and utilization of the site. An innovative tool in the form of a comic book was used to promote the site. As Alagu points out, “It is important to

change behavior and that requires continuous pushing and communicating. Once we build a dependency on this tool, we would be home and dry.” – Mohan Krishnan

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RETAIL

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Creating an

Information Environment for Technology Stores How Information Design of the Retail Environment can help retail stores in selling technology products.

H

ewlett-Packard, one of the largest technology

companies in the world, faced a unique challenge in India. While the company is a market leader in the Desktop PC, Laptop and Printer categories, their strength and popularity lies mainly with commercial customers. Selling through retail channel to the new Indian consumer, however, is a whole new challenge. The IPG group at HP is responsible for over 200 exclusive retail stores of different sizes and layouts all over the country. The key problem that they face in these stores is a lack of consistency — in store size, geographical locations, product communication and the quality of in-store promoters.

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Snapshots of the HP store environment before the makeover

These create a situation where customers are unable to connect with what the brand has to offer and the benefits of choosing to buy the entire range of HP products – which include printers, personal computers, laptops, digital cameras and handheld PCs. Synapse recommended an overhaul of not just the aesthetic environment in the stores but also the Information Environment.

Understanding technology consumers The first step therefore was to understand who the customers visiting the stores are and categorise their information needs. The Synapse team undertook a survey of HP retail customers and retail store managers across 4 cities to identify different categories of consumers who visit the stores. Customers were then divided into categories like, Target Shopper — a prospect who knows what he wants and is just looking for the right place to buy it or the right price to buy it at, Browser — someone who wants to see the products, understand how they work and then even consider whether he wants to purchase or not, a Man-with-aQuestion — someone who has a need, but is not sure which product forms the answer. A study of retail international best practices in HP and other technology retail stores was conducted across 6 countries – US, UK, China, Korea, Singapore and UAE.

The Redesign process The problem study identified shorcomings and areas of improvement for the makeover exercise. This was then used to create a checklist of specific information challenges that needed to be addressed in the retail stores. This comprehensive checklist included not only issues like design and branding, but also practical retail issues like attracting footfall and processes for recording visitor and customer information. This checklist was used to develop a Store Design specification document for the retail execution partner (Ventures India) which was selected by Synapse to execute the store makeover. This document provided functional directives for the retail agency and included a list of specific deliverables to be created — Product Display Units, Store Branding (like posters and signage), Information Tools (like forms, fliers and booklets).

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KEY OBJECTIVES Showcase the entire range from HP to develop a sense of respect for the HP brand. Explain the value proposition of HP, and differentiate it not only from local brands, but also from other global brands. Underline the USP : Buying HP means that it will work seamlessly with any other HP product—you can nullify the risk of incompatibility. Highlight products soon to be launched. Up-sell and cross-sell relevant products to existing customers and develop a focus on high-end products. Build the ability to successfully address all the different customer types and manage different customer segments. Leave the prospect with a unified positive impression of Brand HP. (pg 18)

Tag the Customer through a database entry as well as take-away literature which will help in follow-ups. (pg 18)


Creating The Retail Store Concept Development of the HP Store Concept design was then commenced by Ventures India along with the Synapse team. This stage included the selection of materials, developing the colour scheme, design of each display fixture and the lighting for the store. Since the size and format of stores could vary greatly, these fixtures would need to be designed to ensure flexibility in deployment. A detailed description of the construction materials to be used for the store makeover was also specified at this stage to ensure consistency across stores. An important change in the retail selling approach at HP was move to an application-centric approach instead of the largely product-centric approach. This required creating application-centric display units that would allow one of the focus application areas — Digital Photography, Digital Entertainment and Mobility to — to be created within the store. These display units needed to accommodate a combination of products that can be demonstrated working together in a seamless manner so that customers can better understand the applications. The Synapse Team’s role at this stage was to ensure that the design concept matched the requirements that had been identified through the problem study and that the makeover was in line with HP retail design guidelines.

3D prototype of the HP ‘Experience Zone’

Signage for application-centric display units.

+

+

=

3D prototype of application-centric display units INFORMATION MATTERS

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16 festive buntings for region-specific promotion

Unfolding The Brand

Keep-in-touch communication to help up-sell and cross-sell

Halo cards to identify star products within the display units

An important phase of the retail project was the conceptualisation and design of in-store branding elements like display unit branding, posters, floor graphics, promoter livery, price talkers and application screensavers. The aim was to ensure a strong sense of the brand for customers within the store environment. Crucial considerations for this exercise were to ensure that the communication was direct and explained succinctly the benefit that a product or technology offered to the user. Another important guideline was to use visuals of Indian people to make the communication easier for store visitors to relate to. Since the store promoters and management team play an important role in building and maintaining relationships with customers, customised store branding was created to help build credibility for the partnership with HP. Some examples of these were customised stationery, visiting cards, posters featuring the store manager and testimonial fliers from some delighted customers.

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Application scroller to highlight the functions and benefits of a product category

Information tools also play an important role within the retail environment. They explain the benefits that products offer and aid marketing activities conducted by the store staff in its catchment area. Synapse designed fliers that could be used for cross-selling activities, canvassing in the store vicinity as well as to the store’s existing customer base. These selling tools help the store to cross-sell and even up-sell products to their customers by providing information that helps make meaningful comparisons with competition. Some of these tools also provide a prospect with information to mull over even after he has left the store. Information design principles were applied to each of these tools to make them friendlier and easy to understand for customers.

Attractive carry bags to help promote the store

Way-finding signage to help demarcate different product sections

Standardised entrance signage across all the stores

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SELL the Brand Value As part of the objective of communicating the values of the brand, we presented HP as a global brand with a longstanding presence in India. Also important was communicating the fact that HP has the industry’s largest network of service centres — since this impacted a prospect’s comfort level while considering a technology product from HP.

Understanding The Customer

Part of the Customer Tagging Campaign

The Customer Information Desktop Application VOLUME 1

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In addition to the revamp of the physical retail premises, Synapse also proposed steps to be taken to ensure that a sustainable business process was incorporated to ensure that the objectives of the redesign were being met. A key part of this initiative was the implementation of a system of tracking the prospects and customers that come into the 190 Exclusive Retail Stores and capture interaction information for each visit. This application consisted of two components. First, a Desktop Application at each of the 190 stores that would capture visitor information. It would allow the store manager and promoters to capture contact information, date of visit, details about the inquiry made and the sales completed. A second Central Application will be installed at a central HP server location that will be fed with all the data from each store on a regular basis. This application will provide a unified view of the information from all locations and aggregate figures such as number of unique visitors to HP stores, averages across days of the week, store with the highest footfall, store with the highest sales, etc.


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Creating an effective selling environment for technology products — which are not impulse purchases and require education of customers as a prerequisite — needs much more than an attractive-looking store. Information takes different forms in retail and plays a critical role in this persuasive process.


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Dissemination and retrieval of the information therefore needs to be ‘managed’ to ensure its effectiveness, making it easier for customers to locate a product, understand the benefits it offers them, make the right comparisons with other products and give him confidence that it will fulfill his needs. Any retail overhaul exercise, therefore, must provide the promoters with processes and tools that help them identify, understand and answer the questions that may be crossing a prospect’s mind. This is the key difference between an attractive sales environment and an effective one. – Karan Manral VOLUME 1

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THE WORLD WIDE VERB e-business

Google is a household name when it comes to search engines. An entire medium of communication — podcast, has been nicknamed after an Apple product. eBay recently paid 2.6 billion dollars for Skype as they realised that people like not

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having to pay for internet phone calls. According to the old business models, the best brands became common nouns like aspirin, jeep, xerox. But now, the successful According to Wikipedia the verb ‘to google’ means “to perform a Web search”, new business models usually with the Google search engine. “Mary googled for Wikipedia references.” are those that become This new word arose from the tremendous popularity of the Google search common verbs. One is a website, the other, a handheld product and the last is a software application. What they all have in common is a strong brand, a loyal customer following and a business model that harnesses the future potential of current technology…and the fact that they are changing forever the way people communicate…in more ways than one.

engine. The American Dialect Society chose the verb ‘to google’ as the “most useful word of 2002.” Another use of the word is to say that some brand or concept “does (or doesn’t) google,” which indicates whether or not useful information can be found on it using a quick Internet search (commonly with the Google engine). For instance, a person named David Jones, or a computer program named “Click”, doesn’t google, since using either as a query would return hundreds of links unrelated to the individual or program in question. Similarly, really obscure things don’t google because they return no hits. Both search engines and companies try to ensure that the most relevant results are returned first; thus, virtually every well-known company googles. Podcasting is a term coined when the use of RSS and other syndication technologies became popular for distributing audio content for mobile devices. Today podcasting is a more generic term that is evolving as people understand what it means. A podcast is simply a web feed of audio files (although increasingly people are applying the term to video and other media) that is placed on the Internet for anyone to download. It’s usually possible to download the files directly from the website, just as one would normally do; however, special programs called podcatchers exist that let users subscribe to podcasts in order to automatically download and store the media files for later playback. Skype is a proprietary peer-to-peer Internet telephony (VoIP) network, founded by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, the creators of KaZaA. Skype users can call other Skype users for free. They can also call traditional telephone numbers (SkypeOut), receive calls from traditional phones (SkypeIn), and receive voicemail messages for a fee. Phone companies have traditionally charged users a large amount, often proportional to the distance, for long distance calls. Skype, arguably the first major VoIP software, allowed people to talk over the Internet for free. This led to many home users with broadband capability to switch to Skype for placing their calls over the Internet. Skype being secure and encrypted end-to-end, has also attracted large corporations who are beginning to switch from their traditional phone companies for their internal calls. Phone companies were all of a sudden out of favor in the markets which patronized Skype. SR Consulting surveyed 4 million Skype user profiles in October 2005. According to new year resolutions that people have shared on www.43things.com 8 people “want 2 skype” Significantly, all three are brands that inspired the creation of verbs; googling, podcasting, skyping. According to the old business models, the best brands became common nouns like aspirin, jeep, xerox. But now, the successful new business models are those that become common verbs. All of these are community building, and these communities happen to be as niche as they are networked.

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info GRAM

TRANSPORT | PUBLIC SERVICES

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the map that organised

LONDON “Harry Beck’s diagram of the 7+ lines of the London Underground, although geographically inaccurate, provides a coherent overview of a complex system. With excellent colour printing, classic British railroad typography (by Edward Johnson), and, in the modern style, only horizontal, vertical and 45 degree lines, the map became a beautiful organising image of London. For apparently quite a number of people, the map organised London (rather than London organising the map). Despite 70 years of revision due to extensions of the Underground and bureaucratic tinkering ... the map nicely survives to this day. “ – Edward Tufte

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On the official website for the London Underground, commuters can view, download and print maps of the tube routes in PDF format. They not only have different versions of the map highlighting wheel-chair access and connecting tram routes, they also have the map in 12 other languages – Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Greek, Gujarati, French, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Turkish, Vietnamese, Spanish – to aid international commuters in London. Plus two interactive versions of the map, for low and high bandwidth, which allow users to access information about any station. It also highlights availability of additional utilities like ATMs, escalators, toilets, waiting rooms, photo booths, taxi ranks, vending machines, car parks, etc. at every station.

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VIETNAMESE

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ARABIC

BENGALI

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www.tfl.gov.uk/tube

25 London Underground Limited is a public authority under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and is committed to providing public access to the information it holds. The Freedom of Information Act came fully into effect in January 2005 from when any member of the public is able to request access to unpublished information held by London Underground Limited. One of the aims of this scheme is to ensure that a significant amount of information is published routinely and proactively, without the need for individual members of the public to make specific requests for that information.

Being the Underground electrical draughtsman, Beck based the map on the circuit diagrams he drew for his day job, stripping the sprawling Tube network down to the basics. The result was an instantly clear and comprehensible chart that would become an essential guide to London - and a template for transport maps the world over. The main problem with the Tube map is that it is geographically inaccurate. This can lead to a very distorted view of London, particularly for those new to the city. Many stations are geographically very close and you can end up spending half an hour in the tunnels when you could have walked over-ground for five minutes. The same occurs in reverse. Of interest for comparison is this map which shows the London Underground as it truly is, geographically. Yet for people who use the metro on a regular basis, the map is otherwise excellent and allows you to figure out routes quickly. Which is why for quite a number of people, the map organised London rather than London organising the map. – Aparna Ranjan

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FROM Start

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PUBLISHING

TO Print

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in

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RESTRUCTURING AND REDESIGN OF ‘BETTER PHOTOGRAPHY’

Why change when you are, by far, India and South Asia’s largest selling photography magazine?

Highlights of the article

TIMELINE by the week An overview of the entire redesign process, week by week, from beginning to end. [pg 28] BEFORE & AFTER A closer look at the major elements of the re-vamp [pg 32] What’s New New features, new sections and everything else that made the new issue of BP stand apart [pg 34]

September 2005: Better Photography, a special interest magazine published by Infomedia India Pvt Limited, was facing crises—not enough newsstand sales, not enough new and young readers, not enough reader interaction… In addition, the market had just seen two new entrants ‘Smart Photography’ and ‘Asian Photography’. Better Photography (BP), which was the first magazine to be launched continued to have a loyal readership but the market was expanding and the magazine was not being able to attract the increasing number of photo enthusiasts (many of them younger readers), who had money to buy equipment and were keen to learn how to take better pictures. Shift of editorial leadership to the rival had resulted in the shift of some clients to the competition. The look of the magazine seemed frozen in the past and some of the contributors were not keen to feature in BP, further reducing its charm to the target audience. INFORMATION MATTERS

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TIMELINE

by the week

WEEK 1

Research and Orientation

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 We started by evaluating the client’s need and minutely going over the existing magazine. We also looked at Indian and International magazines catering to the same audience to find out what they were doing right and what particular interests were not being addressed by Better Photography (BP). We visited many websites and blogs on photography to evaluate the expectations and needs of the audience.  We studied Reader Research Survey conducted by BP and validated by AC Neilson (September, 2005) to understand the problems faced by the readers and to see in what ways the magazine was falling short of their expectations.  After going through the survey and analysing the best practices followed by similar magazines internationally, we made a list of the information needs of the audience of Better Photography. This information and research was used to create a positioning statement for Better Photography.

PROBLEMS faced by Better Photography Where have all the young men gone? The reader survey conducted by Better Photography (BP) and validated by AC Neilson (September, 2005) showed that the readership of the magazine is primarily older: “Almost half (45%) the readers claim to be pursuing photography for over 11 years”. Stagnant newsstand sales? The reader survey also showed that “Less than half (46%) of the respondents got their copy of BP from the news-stands”. How do we nurture the existing reader community? “Only 28% of BP readers have participated in any photographic competition in BP” and according to the Survey “Majority (87%) shoot at least once a month and about 36% shoot several times a week”.

WEEK 2

Documentation

 Using the positioning statement, we created a ‘Guidelines to Redesign’ document. This document was then passed on to a design expert (Hashim of Designdifference, Cochin) hired for implementing the redesign, and to the editorial team of BP. It listed out the six information needs of the target audience and what the content structure and design of the revamped magazine must do to answer these needs.  With the ‘Guidelines to Redesign’ document the logical flow of information in the magazine was sketched out after which the ‘Structure of the redesigned magazine’ document was done. We decided to organise the magazine into five main sections, each in response to an information expectation of the target audience and one that covered two related needs.  To help attain the marketing objective ‘Leveraging reader passion to create a strong and profitable magazine brand’ we created a ‘Marketing Innovation’ presentation enlisting advertising opportunities for the client.

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WEEK 3

Validation  Inputs from the BP editorial team (eg. Great Masters article suggestion came from Dinesh Krishna, the editor of BP) were added to the structure of the new magazine and at their request some ideas were kept on hold for use later. We then created a final structure document with tentative page numbers allotted to every story. We shortlisted story ideas and themes for the January 2006 issue and sent them to the editor of BP for validation.  Preliminary work on design began. We created a unique 6-column grid to allow for ample white space within layouts. This flexible grid allowed us to do multiple layout options (3-column, 2 column plus half column layouts) in order to show the pictures in the best possible way. Dummy layouts using this grid to show the edit team at BP how their articles were going to be laid out were created. This allowed them to understand what changes they would have to make in the way they approached and constructed the stories.  We bought fonts from the ’ITC Bureau Grotesque’ family to use as the title font. After, much rumination, Tyfa was chosen for body copy.  Preliminary work started on the masthead of the redesigned magazine.

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Dummy layouts helped the BP editorial team change the way they wrote stories

WEEK 4

Collection of Content

Mock layouts helped fortify the magazine grid and make it adaptable for different kinds of articles

 The writers in the BP team were assigned the stories to be compiled on very tight deadlines due to the short gestation period for the project. At Synapse, we sourced web content to fill the smaller elements of the magazine. For some new sections like Q&A and Photocritique, reader input was also crucial. We visited the immensely popular BP Forum on betterphotography.in and picked up reader questions posted there to populate the Q& A section.  This was also a time for disappointment as some of the story ideas planned in the original list could not be implemented due to non availability of the photographs. The BP edit team suggested alternatives and asked for interviews again. To get a suitable picture for “Story Behind the Picture’ took time too. We had identified sources and possible pictures (we wanted to feature Gandhi by Margaret Bourke-White) but were met with disappointment either due to high cost of the original picture or lack of response to our queries.  We made structure templates for new sections and subsections and send them as pdfs to the edit team to review while commissioning stories.  The grid style was finalised and dummy pages and visuals styles were created for every section. Supporting visuals for stories were collected. Masthead and cover styles were finalised. INFORMATION MATTERS

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TIMELINE by the week WEEK 5

Content Creation  The busiest of weeks. We started writing and editing stories to fit into the new profile of the magazine. Due to the short deadlines, most writers of the BP team had sent in stories in the older format. We rewrote them, added facts and requested for additional inputs to make the stories complete and more reader-friendly. Additionally, we relied on the web for fact checking, adding meat to some stories and also for getting visual support for stories like Tips etc.  Wherever it seemed that the writer from BP Team will not be able to give in a story in the required format in the short time we had, Synapse got in-house experts to write the stories, do fact checking and also rewrite them. Some of the wrangle of the previous weeks got cleared up and PIB finally agreed to let us have the picture of Bahadur Shah Zafar for “Story behind the picture”.  First layouts started and we finalised icons and type clusters for some stories.

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WEEK 6-7

Layouts  These two weeks saw everything coming together. An additional layout person was pulled in, the work on rewriting of the stories provided by the BP team also picked up. We had over 90 editorial pages to lay out, and the content for some of these was still coming in. Prabhudda Dasgupta, the main photographer featured in this issue, was traveling and could manage to send in only low-res pictures, which we used do the layout.  None of our ideas for Step-by-step seemed appropriate. Anish Bhasin, a freelance expert, had not been properly briefed and he sent in a story in the older format, but upon being told to change it he promptly sent in another story that fit our ‘Better Pictures’.  We decided to pick up one section for layout at a time. We first worked on the layout of the GearGuide section. As the write-ups were completed, and visual support arranged, the storyboards were prepared to guide the designer.  Simultaneously, adding the text to stories where it fell short, checking facts where they seemed dubious, providing visual support for the stories using the paid services on the Net, archives of the BP team and creating visuals specifically for this issue, was underway.  We also got in a designer to create special logos for BP Photographer of the Year, BP Recommended, BP Best Buy, BP Best of the Year awards.

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WEEK 8

To Print  The completion phase of the redesign involved, proofing of stories. We farmed out different sections to different experts, who then worked with the page layout person to incorporate their inputs.  This also started a phase of exchange of mails between the marketing manager and Karan on the issue of pagination. Some ads had to be dropped and many had to be worked around to suit the stories.  Wherever we had placed low-res pictures, we put in the final hi-resolution pictures. Order of stories was finalised and Page numbers were put in. Cover page was finalised and used in the home ads. Contents page was finished and the editor gave in his edit. Another level of proofing followed. PageMaker files were burnt on cds and sent to Mumbai….

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….and the wait began.

the re-design team

GULNAR JOSHI Content Specialist

P M HASHIM Designer

Gulnar Joshi : Overall concept and structure design, editing and rewriting. PM Hashim from Design Difference: Prime responsibility for design, layouts and overall look of the magazine. Karan Manral : Coordinated between the various teams and keept an eye on the schedule of the program. Umesh Chavan : Designed marketing communication and logos. Prasad Kenkre : Assisted in the layouts and also helped in winding up the project. Anurashi Shetty : Assisted in writing, rewriting and proofing.

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BEFORE

& AFTER

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December 2005

New Masthead, tagline and text styles

January 2006

Along the way

Masthead and cover design variations that were given as options before the final one was selected VOLUME 1

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single-page contents

layout of the new contents page ‘In Focus’ echoed the five sections of the magazine

cover-story opening spread

cover-story opening spread

Camera Directory

Camera Directory INFORMATION MATTERS

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2 Content Structure

new WHAT’S

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Starting from the masthead to the last page, each and every visual element of Better Photography was redesigned, and the information structured to make every page and section memorable and reader-friendly.

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Masthead The new masthead allows for better visibility of the name—it stands out from the newsstand clutter. The client was also provided a palette of colours for the masthead to ensure that the magazine title stands out irrespective of the cover picture. The redesigned masthead uses a font from the Bureau Grotesque family—this font was specially purchased for the magazine and is used as a title font throughout the magazine. The new tagline “Better Technique. Better Insight. Better Pictures” replaces the earlier lofty title and is more contemporary and in tune with the new structure.

1

We made a list of the information needs of the audience of Better Photography and mapped sections of the magazine to these needs. The revamped magazine provides informative content under sections: Snapshots: This ‘news’ section has interestingly laid out news articles and relevant elements like What’s New, Events, Reviews, and Columns to keep the reader up-to-date with the latest in the world of photography BetterPictures: This ‘hands-on’ section of the magazine aims to help the readers take better pictures. Critique of reader’s pictures, answers to their questions, useful tips and techniques feature here. ShowCase: This section showcases the work of acclaimed and budding photographers. GearGuide: Tests and reviews featured here help the readers make an informed buying decision. New sections like DreamGear (what you wished you had, but don’t), B&W which is a section on market prices of products and Buyers Guide enhance the practical reference value of this section. Photofinish: The revamped back-of-the-book section provides light reading and features contests to promote readers interaction with the magazine.

The contents page was redesigned from a onepager to a two page spread that reflects the new content division across five sections.

A look at some of the new sections 1. GreatMasters: Highlights timeless photos of one great Indian or International photographer 2. Tips and Tricks: Four pages of tips written by the BP team collated from the web and invited from readers 3. 1000 words: A selection of the best pictures from mainstream media 4. B&W: A section on market prices of products and services 5. DreamGear: A one-page article about the gear you wished you had, but don’t.


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Pictures replaced descriptive text in sections like GearGuide

4 Picture style 3 Writing style The writing style was reworked and made fresher and crisper. Information density per page was increased by giving more information in less space, but by breaking it up into easily digestible nuggets. Boxes and blurbs were used to allow for readers’ shortening attention span. Instead of long-winded descriptions, we used visuals. For example, in the GearGuide section where the reviewers ponderously described the camera in words, we used pictures and pullouts. We also attempted to bring in all levels of information (specialist, market driven, articles that inspire and fascinate) into the magazine through new subsections like ‘DreamGear’ and ‘In Black&White’

2

Pictures were brought center stage. They were made bigger and bolder by running them into bleed. The new grid was used to give the page an uncluttered look. For some ‘Showcase’ stories we used a background colour (black for ‘genre’ article on photographing rock singers and yellow for the travel article on Goa) to bring out the best in the pictures. Pictures also replaced descriptive text in sections. We used close-up shots of the camera with pullouts in the reviews to explain the ergonomics of the camera body and test images shot by the camera to show the image quality of the pictures. In the January 2006 issue of Better Photography, every page has pictures. For instance, in the letter page we used photos, layouts from the earlier issues to cue the reader to the subject being discussed. We had special pictures shot for some sections like Tips & Tricks, Q&A and also started a purely pictorial feature called “Photocritique’.

3

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5 Navigation tools We made liberal use of design tools and principles of Information design to enhance readability and usability of the stories. Some of them are mentioned below:

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Contents page: Five column double-spread of the Contents Page reflects the five main sections of the magazine. The story descriptions here were kept the same as the story headlines within the magazine in order to prevent confusing the reader. Page numbers were in a bigger font size for easy access. Design tools: Use of drop caps, quotes, icons and blurbs reduced the monotony of text and highlighted some of the key views presented on the page. Rules were used to delineate separate section of the same story. The opening page of every section had a think band on the top to cue the reader to the start of the new section. Each section’s start band highlighted some of the main stories (with page numbers) of the section for the reader’s ease.

Colours: Use of a red and black scheme throughout the magazine gave it a cohesive look. Boxes in reverse text were used for stories that were not visual.

Story length: To accommodate the shortening reader attention span we introduced stories of various sizes. Some elements like ‘web reviews’, ‘my best shot’, etc have less than 100 words of text.

6 Reader interaction Contests were introduced to increase reader interaction. Reader input was encouraged through columns like “Photocritique’ and ‘Your Pictures’. They were also invited to send in tips for the Tips & Tricks section. We also inserted the magazine contact numbers and address for readers to send in their contribution at prominent places throughout the magazine.

– Gulnar Joshi

“Better Photography suddenly looks like it has

“The new mag looks Great. I’m glad the focus

a photographer’s thinking behind its design

has moved to actual photography analysis and

and now stands apart from the other photo

comparing photographer’s notes. I hope BP

magazines in India.”

continues the trend. ”

– BANDEEP SINGH Photo Editor ‘India Today’

– Kalyan Varma winner of the ‘Wildlife Photographer

in a conversation with the editor of BP VOLUME 1

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of the Year - 2005’ award by Sanctuary Asia


e-business

THE LONG LEGO TAIL I find the long tail a fascinating concept -

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basically the idea that technology advances are moving our culture away from concentrating on a few massive hits and towards a situation where the market is spread across a much larger number of less popular items. The classic example that gets quoted time and time again is Amazon versus bricks-and-mortar bookstores - the marginal cost for Amazon to hold a copy of a title that sells one or two a year is virtually nothing, whereas a highstreet bookstore has a finite - and expensive - supply of shelfspace, so concentrates on a much smaller number of bigger sellers.

And there are numerous other examples, from iTunes to eBay - I bought a camera a few months ago which has been out of production for well over ten years, something I would never have been able to do without an online store connecting me with the seller.

One of the examples I hadn’t considered up to now is Lego. But according to Chris Anderson’s Long Tail blog, Lego is actually a great example of how the long tail effect has not only changed the market, but also how the company has reacted to that: “It’s worth pausing here and considering the Long Tail implications of this. At least 90% of Lego’s products are not available in traditional retail. They’re only available in the catalogs and online, where the economics of inventory and distribution are far friendlier to niche products. Overall, those non-retail parts of the business represent 10-15% of Lego’s annual $1.1 billion in sales. But the margins on these products are higher than the kits sold through Toys R Us, thanks to not having to share the revenues with the retailer. And because the virtual store can carry products for all Lego fans, from kids to adult enthusiasts, and not just the sweet spot of nine-year-old boys, the range of prices can be a lot greater online, from $1 bricks to the aforementioned $300 Star Wars kit.” What’s also startling is how wide a distinction exists between industries that do get this - i.e. Lego - and those that don’t seem to, like the RIAA-affiliated music business. There are numerous highlydetailed examples of how long tail effects could affect the music business, if only the music business would sit up and take notice. And I couldn’t help but notice how much cooler Lego has become - I sometimes get the feeling I missed out, having been brought up a generation before the online Lego store selling bespoke kits and Mindstorms… – Tim Duckett courtesy Tim Duckett’s blog post on www.infosential.com INFORMATION MATTERS

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FINANCE | CONSULTANCY

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PUT YOUR RIGHT LEG in How a share-broking company took a giant leap with one small step for new stock market entrants “This one’s a good buy provided it breaks its resistance at current support levels, its EBIDTA in the previous quarter showed a Y-o-Y growth of 540%. It has a high EPS of Rs.70 and a P/E Ratio of only 7.5” A few months ago, to most earning Indians, the statement above was as comprehensible as a rustling railway service announcement. Until, an unusual but commonsensical approach changed all that.

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Perplexing Proportions The RBI Handbook says that between 1985 and 2005 money invested in stocks yielded a 17% returns p.a. as compared to 9.1% in Fixed Deposits and 5.7% in Gold. Yet, the Indian Finance Ministry, as of March 2005 puts a meager 2% of the population (including those who invest indirectly through Mutual Funds and Equity-linked Insurance schemes) in India to investing in the stock market. Such a yawning gap in what is poised to be a growing market globally; was cause for concern for the Indian economy in general and to Sharekhan, an Indian stock broking company in particular.

Blind men and the elephant? As Sharekhan’s consulting firm, Synapse got down to the business of examining the nature of the problem. Debates sparked and questions flew. Some said the stock market was too complex, the jargon too offputting. Others claimed the risks were too high. Yet others put it down to ignorance or no initiative. In the lull after the brainstorm what emerged was that while all of these were true; the vital missing link was in fact, guidance. There was no Primer, no ‘Stocks for Dummies’ Course for those who might have wanted to invest but hadn’t a clue. In absence of clear direction, anyone who tried first hand, faltered and simply turned away from investing altogether.


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Hitting the bull’s eye

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Zeroing in on the problem of the lack of guidance, Sharekhan had stumbled upon a business opportunity. Given that no one else had provided this kind of fresher-training before, it would be a first-mover advantage which would expand the category in the country. And every one knows how good that can be for business. The Sharekhan management, thrilled at the potential, geared up to drive the new initiative.

THE

5

step strategy

But being first also meant getting it right the first time. Investing in stocks is by no means easy or completely risk-free. The investing process can be daunting and the risks involved, fairly intimidating. The task was to simplify the process, minimise the risks and maximise the returns on investment. All in one shot. The moot points were to inspire confidence in the consumer and having done so, deliver the promise. Synapse adopted a three-pronged approach. First, we developed a marketing programme for beginners. Second, a service delivery mechanism for consumers to access and use was put in place and third, we created a communication campaign that would inform them of the programme. Everything in a format that was simple, complete, absorbing and easy to digest (Much like mom’s home cooked meal). The result was Sharekhan FirstStep, the first ever program for those who wished to invest in stocks but didn’t know how.

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BRANDING - Simple and Memorable FirstStep was so coined to position it as a programme for beginners. The marketing premise was to provide a complete investing gateway (information & services) for newcomers.

Sharekhan FirstStep all the way The Sharekhan FirstStep program (so titled to cajole people into making the first move) consisted of a howto series done to guide the first-time investor every step of the way. Information tools were turned on their head in a manner of speaking to become vehicles of innovation. For instance, the importance of investing in shares as a subject was delivered in a comic book form. Another self-styled Mook (A magazine that looks like a book) gave an overview of the stock market in a language any one could understand. One step further, training and tutorial video sessions were planned, in fact animated demos that virtually simulated trade ie. Buying and selling execution as well as to read research reports were created. These were backed by training webinars (Interactive web seminars) wherein consumers could interact with the experts and get them to answer any possible question (To later become the theme for the print advertising campaign).

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BROADCASTING THE BRAND Awareness was created through interest generating media- specific communication campaigns that urged people to enter the stock market.


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3

INVITING PROSPECTS To peak interest and thereby convert leads generated from the campaign to customers, those who wrote in (web, phone, direct) were given a preview of investing essentials as well as the FirstStep programme through product literature and detailed info-video sessions.

The ShareKhan TV commercial with Boman Irani

4

5

WELCOMING INTO THE FIRST STEP FOLD Once signed up, a FirstStep customer got all the relevant guidance for investing in stocks, via demo CDs, user manuals, research primers, training presentations, webinars and knowledge booklets.

KEEPING THE FAITH Leading customers up to the investing path meant nothing unless the promise was delivered. Mechanisms for service delivery including a dedicated phoneline, sales and training executives and prompt online service were effectively put in place.

With the programme content in place, the delivery mechanism was also made very basic. A person interested in investing or knowing about the FirstStep Program had to simply register through a small form on the Sharekhan website ( www.sharekhan.com ) and a customer representative would get back to them with the program kit. A toll-free helpline was also set up so that help was only a phone call away. The communication campaign used different forms of media. Print, television, internet, mobile and retail marketing were deployed to inform and create awareness among the public. While the television commercial featured Boman Irani (A likeable talented personality that the masses could relate to), the print featured a campaign that reassured consumers that no question was too foolish to be answered by Sharekhan. And the buck was set rolling.

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The Print campaign

Direct Mailer

Web-based Targeted Messaging The messages were content specific. General interest sites banners had simple call-to-action messages, while special sites had customized ones. These banners were for a matrimonial site.

So where did the Buck stop? It hasn’t. The FirstStep program turned into an escalator for the Sharekhan business. In the ďŹ rst month itself in July 2005, it registered 5027 customers. At the time of this article going in to print, Sharekhan had generated over a lakh and twenty thousand leads, a third of which came through FirstStep. But more than the numbers (which were no doubt staggering) the greater impact was felt in the overall business. Following the expansion of the category, Sharekhan came to be seen as an authority on stocks and per force a leader in the industry. What they did, much to their credit, was also to leverage their business strengths of experience, research and analysis to build and retain a strong customer base. The Economic Times has in fact ranked amongst the the topmost Indian Brokerage House in 2005 for garnering the highest returns (127%) for its customers. Saluting a simple case in point where money instead of talking; listened.

– Deven Shah, Anurashi Shetty

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e-business

ARE WEBSITES JUDGED IN THE blink OF AN EYE?

People can get a strong impression of your website within one twentieth of

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a second, according to a new study. But it may not be a lasting impression. First impressions matter a great deal, according to a study by Carleton University, Canada. “The importance of being pretty” was the heading used by Wired Magazine, in reporting on the study. wIt has long being known that looks matter. Studies have shown that more attractive looking people, as well as taller people, on average earn more. The Carleton study asked students to rate the visual appeal of a range of websites on a scale from “Very Unattractive” to “Very Attractive”. The decisions made in the first one twentieth of a second held up over longer periods of examination. “Unless the first impression is favorable, visitors will be out of your site before they even know that you might be offering more than your competitors,” Gitte Lindgaard of Carleton University stated. It is unquestionably true that people are highly impatient on the Web. However, it is hard to understand how people can get an impression of a website in one twentieth of a second, when most webpages takes several seconds to download. (Laboratory conditions are not the same as real-life conditions.) Have you ever visited Ryanair.com? On a visual appeal scale it would surely rank as very unattractive. It uses garish colors and has blinking text in several places on the homepage. Yet, Ryanair.com is one of the most profitable websites that has ever been launched. Not many people would say that eBay is a pretty website. Nor would many defend the visual appeal of Amazon, MSN, Yahoo or AOL. Skype.com would hardly win too many design awards. I remember the original Napster website looked like it was designed on the back of a beer mat. If first impressions are so important on the Web, then why have all the above websites been so successful? Perhaps the answer is that the look of the website comes second to the function of the website. Aer Lingus, Ireland’s national airline, used to have a very pretty website. On the verge of bankruptcy, it was forced into a radical restructuring of its entire organization. The new management described the Web as “the business”. They created a very ugly website that had a hugely positive impact on their online sales. It is not advisable to ask anyone to judge the visual attractiveness of a website until you have discerned their opinion in relation to how the website allows them to carry out basic tasks. What do they want to do when they come to the website? Were they able to do that simply and quickly? Only when those questions are answered positively should you focus your energies around the visual appeal. Function and visual appeal do not have to be in conflict. However, it is clear that the websites that are making the most money are focusing much more on function than visual appeal. What would be the value of asking people to rate the visual appeal of Ryanair.com, Aerlingus.com, eBay.com, or Yahoo? We need to be careful about the questions we ask because they could lead us down the wrong path. courtesy Gerry McGovern For your web content management solution, contact Gerry McGovern http://www.gerrymcgovern.com

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Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z


ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ MOST ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ IN SEARCH OF A  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ  Can an Information Application ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ help program executives tune in new talent? An account of how ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ STAR India’s improved talent search ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ application helps them stay on top. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ useful and popular applications start off as well-worn spreadsheets, and the origins of the application to archive, manage and browse resumes of aspiring performers at STAR India – both newcomers and estabished – was no different. With 42 of the top 50 television programs currently on air coming from its stable, the commissioning team at India’s premier television company receives, over 50 resumes from performing and technical artists every week. Almost always, resumes came with photographs, video or audio clips showcasing the applicants work on cds and VHS tapes. As the number of incoming resumes began to grow, STAR’s IT team devised a simple but effective, shared file and folder system to store the accompanying material and a spreadsheet that linked the applicants contact details and a brief list of the performers portfolio with the files. The Folders were interesting and reflected the way a commissioning agent approached his or her search.

MALE

FEMALE

YOUNG

CHILD ARTIST

MIDDLE AGED

LEAD

OLD

IT | HR | ENTERTAINMENT

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STAR

SUPPORTING ROLE

At the top were three folders Male, Female and Child Artist and then each branched into a subfolder tree first– “Young”, “Middle Aged” and “Old” and then further into “Lead”, “Supporting Actor” with the final leaf of this tree– the filename with the applicants name and an extension that captured the file’s format. Within two months of its introduction, this system became popular. Talent prospectors used file browsers on their desktops to scour these shared folders periodically and then used the filename to tote-up the contact details from the spreadsheet in case they were interested.

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With three months of use and over 300 resumes, the system began to creak. Program executives, under pressure to introduce fresh faces, needed to quickly move past files that were old and seen already to the ones that were added recently - a task made ponderous by the multiple branches that needed to be traversed to get to the fresh leaves. Commissioners wanting exclusive use of an exciting prospect had no way of notifying others of his plans. A suggestion to allow executives to tag the artist as “cast” in the linked spreadsheet – meant opening the spreadsheet to be written by others and creating a “New Entries” subfolder inside the main tree to hold freshly added resumes and then moving them out manually after a fixed period meant increasing the number of hands for its maintenance. When the number of resumes crossed five hundred, the commissioning editor at STAR, Kumud Chaudhury asked the IT Department for an application to coordinate the process she had set in motion six months ago.

What is good for ME is good for US Very often, organizations replicate processes that we use on the personal desktop into collaborative practices over a network. Placing classified resources on a shared system and then devising a shared folder tree to reflect that classification is a common first step that almost always fails to scale when the number of users or the number of resources increase beyond a point. The reasons are numerous – many of them architectural and some of them social and almost all of them rooted in the fact that what is good for me is not necessarily good for us. Architecturally we are still some way away from the visionary statement by Jobs (?) - the network is not the computer – at least not yet. For a spreadsheet to serve as a collaborative information application, the size needs to be just right. The key to designing successful information applications lies in bridging this gap between the computer and the network, between personal idiosyncrasies in our search for useful and relevant information and the requirement of an ordered and coherent data store that is robust enough to serve these idiosyncracies without becoming chaotic. With innovative desktop applications like personal information managers and search dashboards constantly pushing the envelope on information management on the desktop, it is now increasingly pushing collaborative information management applications to innovate.

The User and his Freudian Couch. The project started with intervews with the program executives at STAR and an attempt to understand their world of work, their special needs. As is common in the entertainment industry, these prospective “users” were remarkably articulate and sensitive to their needs without being needlessly and irrationally demanding. VOLUME 1

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They explained their needs in surprising detail asking for features that they believed their high-presssure responsibility demanded. And they were remarkably equivocal as a group: they wanted to be able to search and quickly find a face for arole they had in mind, they wanted to know what their colleagues had to say about a prospect, and they wanted to be able to quickly check the latest additions and if anyone of their colleagues had got to them first.

When asked about other applications they liked and found useful – all of them without exception said in one voice – Google! None of them cared about technology or had an opinion about it. When the developers tried to probe their opinion or their preference for a browser based interfaces as opposed to complex GUIs they got no help except a blank look that said - “Hey, I don’t understand and I don’t care. Just give me something that Works!”. When asked about other applications they liked and found useful – all of them without exception said in one voice – Google!

To me, its all one big IT! A free-flowing conversation with users working in a high performance and demanding work environment is a surefire cure for a developer’s or a technologist’s academic propensity to divide his world into fine compartments and then seek improvements in these individual compartments. Users want information. Want it on time. And they want it right. Evidence of this came up repeatedly during these user interviews at STAR. Conversation about their special requirements from this application would quickly flow into other areas – email delivery, bandwidth issues, Windows desktop annoyances, Viruses and eventually into what a great thing Google was. Weak attempts to explain that slow rendering of web pages was due to a less-than-perfectly-tuned caching proxy, or that the problem of vanishing updates on a shared Excel spreadsheet was due to Windows being an Operating System and not a database maintaining transactions across multiple file update sessions and, definitely, neither of these was related to the slow browsing or a Virus infection got that same blank look. Don’t give me that crap. To me its all one big IT.


Chiller Dude meets Hot Item Girl Our vocabulary forms an integral part of our search for information. Vocabulary is the difference between people who find their needs fulfilled on the first ‘G’ while others need to click on that fifth ‘o’ for something interesting and useful for their search terms. And the vocabularly at STAR was similarly chaotic. When asked for words to describe the requirement for a performing role, the vocabulary was widely disparate and sometimes very colourful. One person’s “DUDE” was another’s “chill-guy” and somebody who was “sexy” or “HOT” was another’s “ITEM”. A “sati-savitri-type” was also a “behenji” as “ROMEO” was “tapori”. These were terms that formed a shared language – behavioural archetypes that needed to be accurately communicated in as few words as possible in this fast world where nobody has time to theorize and pontificate. The people charged with uploading and tagging data came from a world much less dramatic and colourful who worked and were comfortable with categories like “beautiful”, “plain” and “ELDERLY”. Even with imagination, the limited time available to tagging the rapidly growing backlog of unfiled resumes waiting for the application to happen, it would be difficult for one or two people to describe images and clips with the range of vocabulary that would lead to a match on a search by 20 crazed production executives under pressure to deliver an “item girl”. The response to this need was a thesaurus – compiled by the commissioning editor using just about 8 or ten caracteristics and then mapping these characteristics and their multiple combinations to over 60 to seventy words that better characterised the tokens of the shared language of this group of users. The search would take the colourful term, reduce it to a correct combination of underlying categories and then search the base categories for that combination. And the search, because it looked for matches with integer indexes for the base categories, was blazingly fast. The executives hopefully would find what they wanted without subjecting the data taggers to verbal scandal.

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The ďŹ ve step system

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4

2

5

3

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1

Login

2

Enter Artiste Details

3

Enter Role Description

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Search For Talent

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View Search Details


First I do this, then I do that.... An application’s flow of screens must accurately capture the order in which users approach their tasks. And the layout of information on an individual screen must prompt the user with all the information required to take a decision or move forward without too much clutter. The Talent Information application tries its best to do that. It shows the latest additions on the first page. And yes, there is a single search box much like Google as well as a more expansive form that invites the user to select from a set of base characteristics (gender, nature of role, appearance and experience) that an executive can use if he or she has the time. Similarly the screens seen by the executives allow each to enter their opinion of an applicant for the benefit of others as well as to cast an applicant for a role so that others looking for a “fresh face” are suffciently forewarned. The two sets of functions – uploading and tagging of data with base characteristics and searching and casting – are performed by different sets of people and the screens reflect this separation too. Each group only sees what they need to see and what their responsibility entails. And the thesaurus strives to bridge the gap between these two worlds. If the thesaurus fails, there is always the possibility of a more structured search with all base attributes, mistakenly but very commonly referred to as an “advanced search”. The search results allow users to browse photographs and related multimedia material archived. It also allows the more conscientious among them to add attributes, comments to each face that would hopefully help others find their dream face faster. The layout is clean with pleasing colours, just in case a match with their search is not.

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Different Faces, Same Smiles The completion of the project brought home to the developers the rapidity with which the fragile world of this application’s users changes. At a pre-deployment presentation soon after development was completed, every single face in the audience was new. None of the users interviewed during the scoping and planning stage was around. They had moved on. Yet they responded to the screens in front of them with the same smile as if they had scoped the application themselves. When a system developer looks deep enough, Program Executives chasing a character are the same everywhere. – Dr. Gurunandan Bhat

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EDUCATION | MEDIA | IT

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MKCL’s MSCIT- Not enough takers

Aamchi IT, Aamchi Manoos A communication campaign that helped the Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Ltd. spread computer literacy amongst marathi speaking students.

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The Maharashtra Knowledge Corporation Ltd. (MKCL) promotes IT & IT- enabled education all over the country, especially in Maharashtra. The Maharashtra State Certification in Information Technology (MS-CIT) Program. is an initiative where students through a curriculum of illustrative material and multimedia, get instant e-certification after taking an online exam. This instructive course is geared to teach students the fundamentals of computers and its importance in the knowledge and learning context. The 3 month, 2 hours-a-day course is available to anyone who has passed their matriculation. However MKCL found that despite having a bilingual (marathi & English) course that was simple, economical and time-efficient, the enrolment was not that high. It averaged roughly 80,000 students a year, nowhere close to potential. Synapse was assigned to undertake a communication drive that would motivate Marathi students to enroll just after their 10th exams, that period being free.


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Newspaper Advert across local Marathi print media

An innovative promotional flyer targetting the students

A still from the MSCIT TV Commercial

Two birds with one stone Synapse after assessing the background, concluded that while the Marathi students need to be targeted, their parents also exerted an influence in the decisionmaking process. Therefore the communication had to address both, the students and their parents. Limited time in hand, two separate campaigns couldn’t be created, so the real task was to find a unifying thread that would appeal to both at the same time.

Best actor’s role That common thread was Marathi theatre and film. The Maharashtrian community as a whole is a vibrant one dedicated to preserving its art and culture. Irrespective of social standing or economic position, every family is an ardent patron of Marathi books, poetry, songs, plays, films and dance. It was decided therefore to go the celebrity way.

We looked out for a Marathi celebrity who was active in the film and theatre scene, was well-liked by the people and most important of all was extremely computer-savvy. We found that actor Prashant Damle fit the bill on all counts. Not only was he an accomplished artiste, but he also had his own website www.prashantdamle.com which he updated himself. This gave his student fans a chance to interact with him as well. Using his testimonial as a creative, we launched a 20 day campaign burst in all the Marathi local print (Sakaal, Loksatta, Maharashra Times and Lokmat) and television media as well as collateral such as posters and flyers in strategic places

End results The results after the campaign were astounding. Over 2.35 lakh students enrolled, a 90% increase in its enrolment from MKCL’s previous highest of 1.35 lakh. Clearly Prashant Damle played his part well in the MSCIT series. – Anurashi Shetty INFORMATION MATTERS

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i CANDY

EARTH SCIENCES | RESEARCH

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This is what the Earth looks like at night. This image is actually a composite of hundreds of pictures made by the orbiting DMSP satellites.

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by light

This image of Earth’s city lights was created with data from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) Operational Linescan System (OLS). Originally designed to view clouds by moonlight, the OLS is also used to map the locations of permanent lights on the Earth’s surface.


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Photo Credit: C. Mayhew & R. Simmon (NASA/GSFC), NOAA/ NGDC, DMSP Digital Archive

More info available at: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap001127

Marc Imhoff, a biologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and his team of researchers have been looking for ways to measure the effects of urbanization on the biological productivity in the U. S. and other countries around the world. They created a method of mapping urbanization on a countrywide scale by using satellite images of the light cities generate at night. With the resulting city lights maps, they are now zeroing in on the impacts urban sprawl has on the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the ecosystem within which we live. – Aparna Ranjan


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SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT How the Customer Explained It

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What theWhat Customer the Customer Really Needed Really Needed

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Information matters - Vol 1