By request, I’m following up on my 2011 breakdown of my GTD system. Things are simpler now, though that didn’t come easy and is still very much in flux. I’ve also decided not to be as verbose as my original post and will spare you the lengthy second part explanation.
Though the above makes up the bulk of my personal GTD system in 2012, there are other tools and processes that also play roles in getting things done:
- MS Office
- Inbox zero
- Regular exercise
- 7.5+ hours of sleep
Hope you get something from all this and see you in 2013!
Let’s get this out of the way: I’ve been a big proponent of Evernote for the last few years now. In fact, most of the traffic on my blog is from people searching for ways to use Evernote, specifically for David Allen’s Getting Things Done system (thank you subscribers . However I’ve come to the conclusion that the behaviors that Evernote helps inspire in me are not healthy and I’ve decided to break the habit.
This path began at the end of last year when I was beaten to the punch writing a book on Evernote + GTD by Daniel Gold. From what I can tell, he’s done well and has gone on to write about GTD and other apps, which coincidentally was my original plan. Frankly I was irked, but you can’t blame David and he did inspire me to rethink my path. That got me wondering if all that effort voluntarily selling for a company that didn’t know I exist was helping anyone, especially myself. So I spent a number of months wandering my personal desert and contemplating.
Truth is: the tools aren’t the problem, we’re the problem. Self-discipline is the keyword and many of us lack it.
But what does this have to do with Evernote?
Evernote is a note-taking tool that’s available damn near anywhere, be it web or mobile device. Everywhere you go, you can have all your recipes, checklists, to do lists, or whatever wherever you are. But why? Why do you really need to carry everything you once kept in drawers or on walls with you? What good reason is there for you to put your entire file cabinet – something that you likely shouldn’t need to look into more than a few times a week – in your face constantly?
Convenience and fear, I believe.
This may be an exaggeration to some extent, but hopefully this point is clear: you don’t really need to carry everything with you because it just doesn’t make any sense. In fact, I propose that Evernote becomes unnecessarily burdensome and inspires hoarding, packrat like behavior. If you really get carried away, you’re capturing every little thing with any remote value because you just don’t want to forget it. We become afraid to let go.
But your brain purposely forgets things. It know there’s only a certain amount that matters. We should learn to listen to it and perhaps accept that we really don’t need to have an external brain at all when we’ve already got so many reliable solutions.
I’m ranting, I’m sure, because I’m disappointed in myself. Once again I’ve gotten carried away with trying to impose an unachievable level of control over my life through complex project and task management systems. I have to accept I’m probably getting enough done already. I’m likely blaming myself more than the tools, but simplifying my life includes quitting Evernote.
Ways I’m Quitting Evernote
You probably skipped much of the above to get to this list. I can’t blame you. I went off quite a bit up there, didn’t I? Sorry. This happens every so often when I realize I’ve slipped back into juggling more things than I need to and I beat myself up about it. Big breath… so here we go:
- Put checklists where they’re needed. If you watched Fearless Felix jump from the edge of space, you probably noticed the checklists taped to the wall in front of him. He didn’t have them in a computer screen or on a mobile app; they were placed where he needed them at a specific time. I’m printing and taping some of mine as well. For things like my weekly review, I’ve copied and pasted my checklists onto my Google Calendar appointments. Others are text files in a Support folder on my desktop and a few more in Dropbox for those rare occasions where I do need to access them remotely.
- Native tools for photos. I’ve never been a fan of saving all my photos to Evernote, especially because all computers come with photo management software. I’m relying on iPhoto to keep things collected and also am backing up to a hard drive.
- Book and blog notes offline. This was totally unnecessary, carrying all my writing notes with me. I never reviewed any of them unless I was at a computer anyway so I’m keeping them where I actually use them.
- Blog drafts in my blog. Start in WordPress, end in WordPress.
- Local project notes. Local drive only. Folders for every project, notes included. No need to put my project plans in one place and files in another and it was never very secure putting some of those files in the cloud anyway. Funny how we carry all these devices with us that have all kinds of memory then freak out if we’re not on the cloud.
- Paper notebooks for goals and lists. I’m creating a special notebook for life lists, long-term plans, and basically anything I only look at periodically.
- Tasks and projects in Things. Though I’ve spent time using OmniFocus, I’m back to using Things for Mac/iPhone once again. I like having something bubble up my tasks into contexts, something I can’t do on paper without a lot of fuss and I don’t like carrying a lot in my pockets (paper notebooks would add to that).
- iCloud notes. Some lists are handy to keep with you and I’m using iCloud to manage those. As the week as gone on, I’ve found ways to even cut these out (see above).
- Voice memo for song ideas. In case you’re not familiar, I’m a long-time musician and songwriter. While I was recording my song ideas to Evernote, I’m now using a native iPhone app. Not great, but syncs just the same to the computer where I’ll be listening to them anyway.
- Letting go. This a big one. Just as I should in the real world, if I’ve not touched something in months, I’m just throwing it away. If it’s forgotten, I might be better off.
- Dropbox for those few must-have files. Some files ARE worth keeping with you. I’m using Dropbox for those. Why not just use Evernote? Because I don’t want to be tempted by fixing formatting, adding tags, or adding to a backlog of crap I’ll just frustrate myself with.
Simplifying my life
How does doing all of this simplify my life? It puts things where they’re needed and used, where there are already tools for the job. I don’t need checklists on my phone for things in the garage. I could just put them in the garage. I don’t need all my blog drafts in the cloud when they’re already in the cloud on the blog where I’m typing it. Quite often we’re adding an in-between tool, a third party/wheel by using things like this and it’s just not necessary.
It’s not you, it’s me
I’ve got a little more work to do, but I’m nearly finished with my relationship with Evernote. I know there are millions of people who will disagree with me, who are doing great with the tool, and I’m happy for them. Me and Evernote, however, our relationship has been too rocky. Obviously I’ve tried to make it work, but it’s just not meant to be.
Now – as always – I’m going to continue working on my self-discipline, chipping away at the waste ,and getting things done as simply as I can.
verbs are clearer.
Let’s skip the explanation and get right to the examples:
- Daily review vs. Plan my storybook day
- Journal entry vs Calm my super charged mind (via journal)
- First draft of X vs Write a kick-ass first draft of X
See the difference?
Tasks don’t have to be matter-of-fact; they can be outcome focused, verb-driven, something we own. We need to know why we’re doing what we’re doing, so why not put purpose into the little things? This can be very helpful in weeding out those items that don’t build up to the greater goals.
To me this is an excellent way (though not the only way) to combine Agile thinking into GTD. At the very least, it injects a little fun into my day.
It may be part of human nature to make things more complicated than they need to be. Instead of getting right to the task of fixing things, we often complain and let issues fester. We look for silver bullets, solutions that will make everything better all at once. But silver bullets are costly and generally add more complexity than they remove. We often make things worse by making things “better”.
I propose that if we have the time to whine, then problems are a luxury.
If we have the time to whine, then problems are a luxury.
Let me illustrate my point by introducing you to Keith Knight.
I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Keith last night at the League of Legends World Championships in Los Angeles. To quote MSNBC:
Knight has a form of it called Amyoplasia Arthrogrypos. That means he was born with far less muscle mass than he was supposed to have and, over time, his joints have stiffened and fused.
Keith is an avid gamer and big fan of League of Legends and Guild Wars 2. But he can’t play like many of us because he can’t use his hands. He plays with his head and mouth.
With his head and mouth!
He had a problem and he solved it. That’s as inspirational as it gets for me. Keith is not whining, he’s getting it done. He wants to play games, so he’s playing them. He didn’t need a silver bullet, he moves the mouse with his head and taps the keys with a pen he holds in his mouth.
Elegant, resourceful, and awesome. That’s solving problems. That’s inspirational.
Just enough to…
- keep things moving
- make a decision
- fill the need
- solve the problem
- answer the question
Anymore might be nice, but it’s not necessary. Anymore may be overkill.
We don’t need hours for GTD style weekly reviews when only a few tactful moments will do. We don’t need a task list with a rich hierarchy of tags when three lines on a piece of paper tell us what’s most important to do today. We don’t need a huge backlog of user stories when a couple of Post-It notes get everybody on the same page.
We don’t need most of what we think we do.
So my new mantra is “just enough where needed” and I’m trying hard to find what’s just enough to keep things moving and to put the simplest of tools where they might actually be useful.
Surprisingly as a user experience designer, it’s taken me a long time to begin to truly understand the real strengths of simplicity. Another lesson I’m still learning.
This week I’m chasing an idea: do I really need all the apps I’ve said I do?
I’ve got apps for my schedule, tasks, notes, reminders, habits, music, and more. I’ve got a journal, work notebook, notebook for brainstorming, and another for lyrics, not to mention dozens of digital notebooks I carry with me in Evernote.
But do I really need them?
I believe EVERYTHING has weight, digital or not, so the more you keep, the more you carry. Evernote is great at capturing things, but it’s easy to get carried away and before you know it, you’re hoarding every stupid thing you see online away because you “don’t want to forget it”. Digital pack rats all of us.
But your mind purposely lets you forget things. You simply don’t need but so much information to survive and thrive. Maybe we should embrace the natural state of things a little?
So I’m experimenting with fewer apps and notebooks, starting with Evernote. I’ve copied just three notes from it and am putting the app on a shelf. If I’m doing well, I’ll start looking away ways to transfer that stuff I keep somewhere else, probably just go old school and back things up to a hard drive.
I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the sky won’t be falling anytime soon.
[Update: 10/13/2012] More than 24 hours now and there’s been almost zero need to use Evernote at all. Will likely scan a few notebooks for today’s weekly review, but I’m already making plans to offload my stuff. More specifically, I’m now thinking about where content I’ve been keeping in Evernote – if I need to keep it all – would be better placed. For instance, what would only be used on a computer or a phone?
[Update: 10/16/2012] Hard to believe it, but I’m actually feeling less stressed than I did a few days ago. Not sure exactly why, but I’ve only glanced at Evernote a couple of times, all where there was information there that needed to be moved somewhere else. I’m arguably getting more done, though this could be me projecting or dumb luck.
Be frugal with things that repeat in your task management system!
I’ve made this mistake dozens of times, using my task apps as coaches, expecting them to nudge me towards being more productive. For a while this works, but sooner or later I start resisting. This distracts me from the most important things on my Today list which means my defensiveness is slowly me down.
Scheduling recurring tasks (think: calendar) works better for me and helps keep noise out of the task mix.
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I’ve recently added a new weapon to my personal daily toolbox: The “What’s Up?” list.
A “What’s Up?” list reminds you of things that are going on in your life that you don’t want to forget and aren’t evident from your project and action lists. In a way, it’s a tickler file that focuses on now instead of the future.
- Project X is only partially there
- Project Y has been announced
- Lost a little weight, could lose a little more and add muscle
- Team will probably be talking about Subject X a lot soon
- Borderlands 2!!!
(the last item is actually on my list
What do you do? Scan and modify it everyday so you can keep a general idea of what the hell is going on. Seems most useful for describing what’s between the lines of your other lists and calendar items.
Hopefully this makes sense and works well for you!
Very excited that so many news sources have decided to cover the League of Legends Honor Initiative and felt I had to share all the links. Thrilled to be the UX designer on the project and congratulations to the team!
good doing it.
Ever searched for “what is the meaning of user experience design”? Go ahead. Give it a shot.
I guarantee you there’ll be dozens of variations, some relatively digestible and others aloof. Most will wave a banner, proclaiming undying commitment to the user – quite often forgetting to mention the company that they’re also meant to be helping.
All will probably do little to explain what the growing discipline of UX really is:
UX design is about interaction satisfaction
While visual design is how things look, information architecture is how content is connected, user experience design how it feels to hold a key, slip into a brand you connect with, and drive.
UX designers employ whichever skills necessary to help you build what feels satisfying to use personally. That’s about it. It’s all simply about making stuff that people are happy to use.
Everything else is about how to make that happen.
isn't your setup.
For the last couple months I’ve been away from blogging, focusing on my new job, writing music, and getting used to life in Los Angeles. I’ve also been fiddling with the idea of a book about GTD and in so doing I’ve had a little time to reflect on all I’ve learned and one lesson is now abundantly clear:
GTD setups are a waste of time!
Getting Things Done is ultimately about doing and no tool, no one setup will ever make you productive. Stop jumping from one to the other. Reclaim your time and tackle the things you need to do. Scale back – hell throw out everything on your lists and start fresh.
All you ultimately need is a pen and a sheet of paper to get things done. No, you really don’t need to have everything synced between your calendar and note apps. No, you don’t need a way to create tasks directly from your email app. You want these things, but you’re probably going a long way to avoid work. I declare this tool-based procrastination!
Stop looking for an answer on the outside. Look at the inside. That’s where you are, the one who is doing the doing.
Evernote, Things, Outlook with OneNote, Springpad, Nozbe, SimpleGTD, Toodledo, Remember the Milk? Fine, whatever, doesn’t matter. Use any tool you want but focus on getting those tasks out of your way, not putting them into pretty boxes. Focus on doing, not having things done for you (I’m looking at you 4 Hour Work Week). Or maybe not? Maybe you’re doing too much as it is.
But what do I know? I’m the guy who used to write ceaselessly about GTD setups using Evernote.
[Updated] GTD/Evernote System Inspired by Kelly Forrister, 40Tech, Zen Habits, and Experimentation (Part 1)
Update: Commenting has been restored after a problem with a new plugin. Thanks for letting me know, everybody!
At the beginning of 2011, GTD Times posted an interesting article called “Waiting For” Advice. Within that post was a screenshot of the GTD setup that Kelly Forrister (GTD coach at DavdCo) uses via eProductivity. Instantly I could see a killer Evernote notebook structure that would work great without the need for stacks (read: works great on all mobile operating systems).
Here’s the notebook structure:
This setup is stupid simple and has been fairly bullet proof for several weeks now. Every action is within easy reach, whether I’m on the web or viewing my notes on a mobile phone. Routines, a Kelly Forrister recommendation, is a notebook of checklists, marked as daily, weekly, monthly etc. When… is a list of actions I intend or need to take once something has happened or I’m in a particular place in the future (such as “When I’ve moved into the new apartment”).
Zen Habits also inspired me to add an M.I.T. notebook that reminds me of the most important tasks of the day.
But there were several things missing from Kelly’s setup I thought could be added to the Evernote setup:
- Project support files
Project support files
As recommended by David Allen, we should have a list of our active projects. I accomplish this with notebooks, one for personal projects, the other for work. These notebooks DO NOT contain support materials, since that would clutter the view.
Instead I create tags that match the name of the project, assign the tags to the proper support notes, and store the notes in 04. Support (projects). Because Evernote allows linking between notes, I can even filter by tag then copy and paste the note links into the parent project note. Works like a charm.
For a solid Evernote based tickler system, I’ve turned to the setup that 40Tech.com posted about a while ago. Requires tags for Days (1-31) and Months (January – December). I have a notebook called Ticklers so anything can technically be thrown in there, but assigning tags makes filtering (and obviously reviewing by day/month) a breeze.
For me, References are old files I want to keep. Based again on a recommendation by David Allen, I’ve created A-Z tags with the occasional subtags for further filtering. Everything is tagged alphabetically.
Obviously I haven’t tagged every note quite yet.
Other GTD needs
So far this seems to be the most straightforward and easiest to maintain GTD setup I’ve ever used in Evernote. Granted I’ve not yet covered all our needs; Areas, Goals, Calendar, and other topics still need to be adressed.
As always, feedback is welcome and I hope my ideas are helping!
After weeks of experimentation with HD System 3 for Evernote/GTD I’ve decided to move on. Here are a few reasons why:
- Stacks. These are not available on the iPhone.
- Too much commitment. The hold-your-hand approach worked extremely well, but failed the does-it-work-when-I’m-ill test. Too much to think about.
- Hard to learn. If you already know GTD, then HD3 might be beneficial. If not, I fully expect a “say whaaaaaat?”
- Routines. While I’ve been very successful at pushing beyond GTD with Evernote, many of these extensions and experiments needed to be more a part of my calendar, less within my Evernote setup. I’ll try to elaborate on this in the future.
Now my experiments have led me back to a note-equals-list approach with a renewed use of tags, something I know will work on all phones.
Additionally I’m focusing on setups that are reproducible and exportable; in other words, could this setup work also as desktop text files/folders or as paper?
Alternative Evernote/GTD Setup #1
This setup uses very few notebooks, one note per project (excluding references), and one note per context. Tags are used a little bit for sorting.
- 00. Today
- @@today. Must be done today (not very GTD)
- @agendas. Listed by name of person
- @computer. Sometimes divided into searches, social networks, or whatever (e.g. @computer-search)
- @waiting for… List by name of person
- 01. Projects
- 02. Someday/Maybe
- 03. References
- Copy and Paste
- Projects. Subtags for client names or other filters
- References. Many subtags
Alternative Evernote/GTD Setup #2
This structure is mostly based on a screenshot posted to GTD Times by Kelly Forrister of DavidCo. Straightforward and simple, this setup is the focus of my latest experimentation.
Unlike #1, alternative setup #2 uses one note per task which is nice because it makes it easy to collect and process. However it requires many more notebooks, most specific to a context. Tags come in handy here for filtering.
- 00. Today
- 01. Projects – Personal
- 02. Projects – Work
- Computer – Personal
- Computer – Work
- Routines. Checklists I run through at specific times and days. Many are daily and weekly, but some are more specific like “Monthly – 01″ for things I always do on the first of the month.
- Someday – Personal
- Someday – Work
- Waiting for…
- When… Love this. Lists of actions for when I’m next in particular cities or circumstances. E.g. After I have iPhone
- Copy and paste
- People. Subtags are names of people.
- Reference. Subtags are numerous but include GTD, UX, CSS, etc.
I do apologize for the extensive bullet points; I’m sure screenshots would have been more concise, but my experiments have kept my setup too much in flux recently. However with the start of a new job in a new city, I’ll need to be sticking with the tried-and-true for a while so perhaps an update with screenshots won’t be too far away.
I’m anxious to hear your feedback.
It’s probably sad that I enjoy creating and managing context lists, reveals some weakness underlying my rock and roll foundation. Still things need to get done and I don’t see any harm in having a bit of fun.
Maybe you find context lists fun, too?
As you probably already know, I keep my context lists in Evernote and here are those I’m using or experimenting with in November 2011:
- @brainstorm - things I need to contemplate, mind map
- @computer - my busiest list. I’ve spun off a few subcategories to their own lists for fun and ease.
- @decide - decisions I need to make
- @eat the frog – projects I need to chip away at (thanks GTD Group on LinkedIn!) [experimental]
- @low-energy [experimental]
- @mining [experimental]
- @quit - usually bad habits to work on [experimental]
- @start - good habits I want to adopt [experimental]
- @waiting for…
- @when – ashen mix is finished - tasks that can’t be done till my new CD is ready
- @when – have new iPhone - apps and settings for when I switch back to iOS from Android
- @when – have new home – things that can’t be done until we’ve got a new place to live
- @when in (new city) - things I can’t do till I’m where I’m moving to
- @when in – orlando - things to do when I’m in my hometown
The “when” lists have proven to be the most useful addition to my arsenal in a long time. Granted these lists often contain tasks that may be moved to other lists later (errands, calls, etc), but till then they keep things nice and separate.
What context lists can you not live without?
I’ve almost made a hobby out of writing about different ways to configure Evernote for David Allen’s Getting Things Done, enough so that I’ve begun to forget all the ways I’ve explored. Thought it might be time for a recap.
New! Fourth system
- How I’m Pushing Beyond Unimaginative Evernote GTD Setups with HD System 3
- Problems with HD System 3 and Two Alternative Evernote/GTD Setups
- New, Simpler Evernote GTD System, Part 1: Structure & Agendas
- New, Simpler Evernote GTD System, Part 2: Revised Structure and “Next” Notebook
- New, Simpler Evernote GTD System, Part 3: Removing the Waste (Muri, Muda, Mura)
- New, Simpler Evernote GTD System, Part 4: Context Lists
- New, Simpler Evernote GTD System, Part 5: Workflows
- My Complete GTD System for March 2011: Things, Evernote, BusyCal, iPhone, and More!
- Electronic GTD Tickler File System with Google Calendar and Evernote
- Four Ways to Sync Gmail with Evernote
- Using Tags for GTD Areas of Focus in Evernote
- Simple Evernote GTD Projects with Next Action Preview
- Results: Experiments with Using an Evernote Stack for Projects and Areas of Focus
- Shared Evernote Project Form for GTD
- How I Use Evernote for Songwriting
- Finally! Linking Things or Anything to Evernote
- Evernote as a Copy-and-Paste Power Tool
- Evernote Resource Roundup: GTD, gMail/gCal, Time Management, Projects, and More!
anywhere and flexible
enough to suit my
Update: More screenshots have been added as a gallery at the end of the post.
Inspiration has struck once again. Took boredom, dissatisfaction, and a little betrayal, but I found it.
I found it by thinking about how all the GTD setups I’ve seen and created didn’t really help me do much of anything. They were unimaginative, lifeless, boring, and quite often facsimiles of GTD apps. Beyond the cyclical urge to fresh things up, where was the motivation?
So I was inspired to create a better way, an approach within the ever customizable Evernote ecosystem that would coach and inspire every step of the way. Hanami Design System 3 has the promise to be that system.
Some basic GTD stuff
Since many people who visit my website are interested in Evernote GTD setups, here are a few highlights:
An interactive daily review
The new Daily Review stack is arranged to be interactive, not passive. You actively move through the notebooks, one by one, in order, moving notes/projects in and out based on the action required at that step.
Tools such as checklists and filters are kept within the appropriate notebooks. Scan Ticklers holds my tickler notes; Filter Projects gives helps me determine whether a project is worth doing now or even keeping.
- Clear emails. Deal with emails and send what’s needed to Evernote.
- Clear notes. Create new notes from what I’ve been jotting down on paper. Drag actions to the appropriate context notebook (under Next Actions), create new projects, etc.
- Scan ticklers.
- Review calendar. Last week, this week. Create actions (new notes) and drag them to the appropriate context notebook.
- Filter projects. Drag all active projects here and filter them. Move the first to the next notebook.
- Create next actions. Review projects and create next actions (by creating new notes). Move notes to the appropriate context notebook. Move project to Schedule today (next notebook).
- Schedule today. Block out time for the project on my calendar (if possible). Move project note back to Active (under Projects). Go back to filter projects until all have been reviewed.
This arrangement forces me to do something at every step. I sort, I filter, I review, and I’m less likely to skip. Next actions are created within each notebook and quickly dragged to where they’ll be attended to next.
If I spot something in my inbox (or anywhere) that can be done in two minutes or less, I drag it into the Two Minutes notebook and then do that something immediately.
Since a GTD enthusiast already knows he/she should be doing two-minute items right away anyway, this might seem superfluous, but the reminder and the satisfaction of seeing a two-minute item killed instantly has made this notebook worthwhile for me.
As mentioned at the start, my playground wasn’t limited to just David Allen’s Getting Things Done. From the Five S’s, I’ve taken steps to put tools (such as checklists) where they’re most needed. From Scrum, I’ve begun putting active projects I can’t yet schedule into the Backlog. Someday/Maybe items are in the Icebox.
Obviously I’ve not covered everything this system does and unfortunately further updates will have to wait for me to return from a two week break from writing. Rest assured that I’ve very far along with fresh ideas on how Evernote can be leveraged for a task and life management system and I’ll be anxious to get your feedback.
Take action and take care.
FanTogether is beginning to come together (enough for beta, anyway) and I thought I’d share a few of my latest contributions to the “Sports Bar” section.
Even though we’re developing with a minimal set of rules, I feel it’s important to keep the tone personal, the forms simple. Furthermore, I’m trying to avoid obvious forms wherever possible and build interfaces that seem more spoken.
The first version of the Sports Bar view focused on two functions: search and addition. While both of these were technically fine, they seemed too impersonal for the kind of experience FanTogether should provide.
After a bit of playing, I decided to combine the search and add functions into a single sentence that sat nicely above where the results would show.
To make things more useful, I added some jQuery that would set focus to the first text input when the document was ready. To support this, I added a peach-ish focus style.
To support more advanced users, I next worked on a decent outline style so users could see where they were tabbing to (via the keyboard). Unfortunately I had to stick with a square outline since there’s almost no browser support – planned or existing – for a CSS based radius on an outline.
Next I expanded the map to fill the available horizontal space, followed by a basic table with jQuery-based zebra striping.
We’re chipping away at the app and are nearing beta. Hoping to make the big announcement soon.
Though this UI pattern has a singular purpose – to promote and provide links to websites within a business network – it can take various forms.
On NetTuts, the menu was a drop-down featured prominently in the top right, more recently replaced by a promotion for Theme Forest:
On sites under the Wall Street Journal umbrella, the menu runs almost the entire width of the site:
MTV uses a simple drop-down, placed near the top along with other meta content:
Gizmodo, Gawker, and their sister sites display names, photos, and even sublinks in a block at the bottom of their pages:
Though sometimes they use a smaller version:
I’m certain there are thousands of variations out there so don’t be shy about sharing what you find!
I have a mild fascination for stock market websites due to the shear volume of data. Most are tests in patience at best, others more bearable. MarketWatch seems to be one of the better in terms of layout, but they’re just as chock full of info.
I think MarketWatch could be simpler. This experiment challenges my assumptions.
Please note: I’m not trying to reinvent MarketWatch and I don’t assume that I know their business or their needs any better. The sheer volume of their content makes it hard for me to breathe and I’m testing myself to see if maybe I could generate a few solid ways to make it better. I want to simplify while reusing as many of the elements as possible. I’m assuming, too, that everything has a purpose, that I can’t just randomly throw features out or make MarketWatch look like a business they are not.
Since I’m designing top down, I first focused on the “hat_div”, black bar at the top of the page. This typically serves as a website promotional tool for companies in the network; in the case of MarketWatch, it’s also where user’s can search.
On other websites in the network, the search box may or may not be present, all depending on the needs of site (as far as I can tell). I’d be curious to find out how well this really promotes as I have sneaking suspicion that it’s more often overlooked. So I decided to lump all the site links into a single network menu, prominently featured to the left.
I also move the design away from using the background of the page as the color of the “selected” network tab. Looks wonky on many sites in the network. A thin light line was also added to make body/network bar separation more pleasing.
On the main menu of MarketWatch is a membership promotion that I didn’t feel was getting the proper amount of visibility. I’ve move this to the middle of our now much freer network bar. Search stays where it is because the top/right is a natural place for search; having it here also makes sense network wide.
Currently the world map/summary that indicates which markets are open/closed and the status of the DOW and the like is squeezed in beneath the logo. Not sure how much visibility this really needs, but I’ve made a few enhancements and gave it a more prominent place.
Among other things, I’ve made “open” more bold and gave all the text a bit of a size/space bump. This move made it possible to free space around the logo, better focusing the brand. I’ve left date and time basically where they were.
Where this focus on the map/summary is risky is how it reduces the emphasis on news. Frankly I don’t understand why the featured articles were given so much real estate – but there may be a legitimate business reason.
In my approach, I’ve altered the featured articles to be image focused: a single square image is overlapped by a category name and short title. Controls are beneath, just as with the recent news list.
Recent news is still fairly spacious and keeps items to single lines, with a fade effect to the right to deal with long titles.
So far that’s about it. I’ve spent a fair amount of time designing a mobile version of the site, but it needs a bit more work. I should be posting about this and more changes to my MarketWatch concept soon.
Here’s my version of MarketWatch network bar and header as it exists today: