Consider the building.
If you live in the city, they surround us. If you look at any single building, they often look “fine”. Nothing award-winning. It makes sense why it’s the way it is. It’s cost-effective and an efficient use of space. No one is going to lose their jobs over using it as a guideline for a building.
It’s rare that you look at any single specific building and think it looks bad. But when you start to use the same designs for every building, you end up with a very boring skyline. It’s not the fault of any individual architect, but collectively it can add up to a problem that creates real consequences. Our environments change who we are. Well designed architecture has been shown to improve an area’s health, improve education and civic pride, and decrease stress and depression.
Investing in great architecture shows clear benefits in the real world, but what about in the digital world? We are escaping into our social media sites and apps at an ever increasing pace, and we need to be thinking about how culture shapes us in these spaces too.
These days, kids think of phones the way people used to think of cars. As kids hit their teens, they’re looking to establish their own identity and separate themselves more from their parents. When people of my generation were 16, the car was our way to escape our parents and a signal of moving towards adulthood. Now it’s smartphones. In 2011, 46% of 18-24 year olds said they’d rather have access to the internet than access to a car. I couldn’t find more recent stats, but I’m willing to bet that percentage has gone up.
As we move more and more into the digital world, we need to treat our virtual spaces the same way as we do our physical spaces. The internet age is still in its infancy. We’re shaping this culture with how we’re tackling online bullying and anonymous harassment; with how we’re handling privacy; with how we’re handling the mashup of other real-world cultures that we’ve never had this amount of access to.
Sometimes this shows up with how people handle the little details. When people pull up a Star Wars album in Spotify, the progress bar changes to a lightsaber.
If you search using an emoji in Yelp, you can get some really interesting results
Sometimes expressing culture is more than just cute. When multi-racial emoji’s were added to iOS and Android, a large portion of the internet celebrated. Not having it held people back from communicating the way they wanted to.
“@Jahlil_Tweetz: Emoji’s have:? Chinese? Indian? white?Hispanics ?Animals? ?Gays?Straight♿ Drake from Degrassi But, STILL NO BLACK PEOPLE!”
— Quadralyn Saddler (@QSaddler) February 1, 2013
Maybe one of the biggest strides in adding culture into software is when Apple introduced accessibility features into iOS. I saw posts by blind people spring up saying that it changed their life overnight.
When crafting our software, we need to be thinking about the type of world we want our digital spaces to be. We want it to have a point of view, but not to the point of being difficult to figure out. We want to have a chuckle, but not slow down what’ we’re trying to accomplish. We want thoughtful software that shows that it’s crafted with care, not because it’s made by people who are trying to squeeze every dollar they can, but because it’s made by people who care about solving a problem well.
Just as we don’t want to walk down the street surrounded by nondescript towering grey boxes, we need to put an effort into our software to make sure that we have culture in all aspects of our life.
Image courtesy of Rohit Tandon for Unsplash.