It's not just your rivals that you should look to when designing digital media products, but Google, eBay, Amazon and other successful websites of all categories. That was one of the main lessons from an AOP Forum event in London last week, focusing on the role of product manager in today's digital-minded publisher.
Check out the video above, featuring snippets of talks from Nic Newman, the former head of BBC journalism products; Paul Lomax, chief technology officer at Dennis, and Marc McNeill, head of experience design at the Thoughtworks agency. And some brief thoughts from me:
Build for the web, not old media
As Paul Lomax rightly said, whoever leads a new product launch project needs to know the sector (cars, pets, furniture, whatever) very well, almost to the point of obsession. But - because in B2B/consumer publishing that person is most likely going to be a print magazine editor, is that person the best to lead this project?
This is an important point. Someone that understands the architecture of print inside out may not appreciate they are building an online product - all the competition is, as Lomax put it, just a Google away. Although there are similarities, the user experience and transactional relationship with digital users could not be more different to that of a print audience.
There is a danger people will want their site to "look like the magazine", when what is needed is a site that works. News International's Times and Sunday Times apps prove this print fetishism is the predominant design ethic among the biggest of big media. But NI's newspaper-like back-to-the-futurism is not because they hired the wrong people - the company uses a good many talented designers, managers and developers - but because this is the philosophy from on high.
But aside from Rupert Murdoch, doesn't every company have its long-standing hang-ups and prejudices about how a product should look and work?
n.b. Martin Belam wrote a very thoughtful analysis piece for TheMediaBriefing on why mobile needs to be considered more seriously in web design, and it is still recommended reading.
Registered TheMediaBriefing members can download a detailed and useful report on product management from Nic Newman and the BBC Academy by clicking here.
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