Design

Fracture- A New Standard in Wall Decor

Edgy, stunning world-domination.”

It is not quite the description you would expect for a photo printing company. Then again, the goal is not to simply print but to make memories tangible on glass, according to Sarah Ludwig, a Fracture employee. Fracture, a term coined by the company’s founders, Abhi Lokesh, 23, and Alex Theodore, 26, is defined as a one-piece glass picture frame that mounts easily to your wall. Based in Gainesville, Florida, the term has now become a 10-person company devoted to changing the way people print and share their digital memories.

“The idea of Fracture originally came from our desire to work with digital imagery,” explains Lokesh. “We kept circling around the concept of disrupting the photo printing and framing space by creating new, innovative, photo products that were affordable, eliminated all the traditional hassles of photo framing, and could be used by multiple demographics.”

While we are apt to snap away, many digital images remain littered on our hard drives.

“Each picture has a powerful, unique story to tell, but we really don’t have a compelling reason to print and frame any of them,” says Lokesh. “It is just too costly and inefficient.”  Glass emerged as a perfect medium for the two University of Florida graduates to experiment with, mostly because of its modernity and cost-efficiency.

Consumers seem to agree.  In its inaugural year, between 2009 and 2010, Fracture processed approximately 2,500 orders. In 2011, the numbers grew more than five-fold, as the team processed close to 13,000 orders from around the world and generated more than $400,000 in revenue.

Some of that growth can be attributed to a Groupon promotion, which exposed Fracture to over 5000 customers across the country. Ironically, it is also what Lokesh cites as one of the company’s biggest failures and learning experiences. After being overwhelmed with thousands of orders they could not fulfill, Fracture was forced to delay thousands of orders by several months.

“It was incredibly hard for me to watch my teammates be put through something that they couldn’t do anything about. I felt like I failed them by not understanding what exactly we were getting into,” says Lokesh. “We tried to be as transparent as possible with our customers through the entire process and learned an indescribable amount regarding customer relations and company transparency.”

What seemed like a setback turned into a positive growing experience.

“We committed to following through on all the Groupon customers,” says Lokesh. “We didn’t run and try and find the easy way out, as simple as that could have been.”

That is just one of many scenarios that start-ups like Fracture face on a daily basis. Co-founder Theodore says there is no one single lesson you can learn from starting a company. “Entrepreneurship is a mess of lessons that you earn an understanding of only by experience in battle,” he says.

Within the next year, Fracture plans to solidify its production process and branch into new products.  In the long-term, the founders are thinking big.

“We want to be the Apple of photo decor…We’re really just scratching the surface of our potential, and we’re on the edge of some great things”, says Lokesh.

To see the lasting pieces of photographic art you can create, upload your photos to the Fracture website.

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Don’t Make Me Think

The book “Don’t Make Me Think” made me do the exact opposite: think.  (Hence the sad confused face.)

Perhaps that wasn’t the book’s intention, but it did. After close to 200 pages of explaining how to make things so simple that people don’t need to expend any effort thinking, the book made simplicity almost seem not worth the “simplicity”.

Don’t make people think. If only it were so easy…

It’s all about usability.  If there were one word to describe the premise of the book, it’s usability.  Get rid of the question marks for users.  It’s a valid point, given the wacky nature of the world wide web.  If your website does not quickly satisfy visitors’ needs, there is no reason why they won’t instantly click the X button and/or backtrack to another site. Love or hate it, the web makes it incredibly easy for users to make an exit as quickly as they entered.

This is why creating a site that administers to the fact that humans are typically in a hurry and don’t have time to figure out how things work, will make for a more effective website.  I found Chapter 2’s insight into human psychology the most interesting part of the book.  Ironic from a book all about not making people think.  Nonetheless, there are important insights, “facts of life”, to gain:

We don’t read pages. We scan them. aka we don’t have time to spare.

– We don’t make optimal choices. We satisfice. aka we guess and stumble upon things.

– We don’t figure out how things work. We muddle through. aka we find our own way.

These insights form the basis of how we should construct our sites.  The book suggests that we keep things short and sweet when designing our pages since our brains aren’t conditioned to do more than scan anyway.  In line with that assumption, we should create a visual hierarchy, break pages into clearly defined areas, and make what’s clickable very obvious.  That makes sense.  It also makes sense to omit needless words because…well, no one is going to read more than they need.

The book likens a search on a web to a search at a department store. However, unlike a department store customer, a web user has no sense of scale, direction, or location- a good and bad thing.  The practical result is that it’s hard to know when we have seen everything of interest on a site.  Essentially, it’s hard to know when to stop looking.  This is when web navigation tools come in handy.

“Don’t Make Me Think” offers practical rules to follow when building effective navigation tools.  There are 5 elements that a persistent navigation bar should always include.  These are things that appear on every page of a site.

– site id

– sections

– a way home

– a way to search

– utilities

These help simplify the search for the user.  It also gives instant confirmation to the user that he/she is still on the same site, tracking the path it took to reach their current virtual location.  The book calls this path the “breadcrumb” path.

A well-designed site will be simple to navigate for even the most beginning of computer users.  It will answer the following questions with ease:

What site is this? What page am I on? What are the major sections of this site? What are my options at this level? Where am I in the scheme of things? How can I search?

As I turned the last page of “Don’t Make Me Think” thoughts churned through my head for my own website.  I wasn’t sure where to start. One thing is for sure: I have a lot to think about.