On The Edge Manchester On The Edge Manchester - John Bower: Digital innovation at Hallmark cards

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John Bower

On The Edge Manchester Conference

John BowerHead of Digital InnovationA Brief HistoryOf HallmarkA Brief History of HallmarkIn 1910, a teenage entrepreneur called Joyce Clyde Hall (J.C. Hall) stepped off a train in Kansas City, Missouri, with two shoeboxes of postcards under his arm. Hall quickly made a name for himself with the picture postcards he sold.

Rollie Hall joined his brother in business, and the company was named Hall Brothers.

A Brief History of HallmarkOn Jan. 11, 1915, a fire destroyed their office and inventory. Unfazed, they took the only salvageable item their safe and set up shop again.Noticing a decline in postcard sales they recognized a need for more privacy in communication. They started offering cards mailed in envelopes.

A Brief History of HallmarkHaving learned a hard lesson about dependence upon third-party stock they decided to print their own cards, and in late 1915 they invested in a printing press.With the success of the Hall Brothers greeting cards, J.C. and his brother continued to innovate.

A Brief History of HallmarkTheir first foray into other product lines came in 1917 when the Hall brothers "invented" modern gift wrap.

When they ran out of solid-coloured gift dressing, during the busy Christmas season, they improvised by selling French envelope liners as a replacement. This proved so popular they decided to start printing their own gift wrap.

A Brief History of HallmarkIn 1928, the company began marketing its brand by using the Hallmark name on the back of every card. JC Hall was intrigued with the similarity between his name and with the term for markings on gold jewellery.This was the same year that Hallmark ran its first advertisement in Ladies Home Journal.

A Brief History of HallmarkIn 1932 Hallmark signed its first licensing agreement, with Walt Disney.

Disney and Hall became fast friends and there has been a close relationship between the companies to this day.

In the same year Hallmark created display stands that allowed customers to see all cards quickly and easily in stores.

A Brief History of HallmarkIn the 60s, Donald Hall (JC Halls son) took over as president of the company and began a huge expansion process.

He developed the Crown Centre around Hallmark Headquarters which was a massive urban revitalisation scheme, replacing 85-acres of run down and derelict buildings with a new commercial and entertainment complex.

A Brief History of HallmarkIn the 80s Hallmark continued expanding and bought various companies in the process including Crayola.The Hallmark Channel was launched on cable and satellite television, which showed family friendly movies and also produced Hallmark funded films.With the rise of the World Wide Web, Hallmark saw the need for an e-commerce platform for finished goods, and a requirement for personalized cards and gifts.

A Brief History of HallmarkWith new technology around every corner, the future of the company is hard to predict, but were constantly poised and ready to lead and innovate. Whether its internet video streaming, social networking, or mobile applications.As big as weve become, and as iconic asour brandis today, were still privately held, still based in Kansas City, and still led bythe Hall family.

Historically people have worried that technology will destroy the greeting card industry, but there is only ever a culture shift.

Unlike MoonPig and Funky Pigeon, were not just about cards.

We have brands, software, technology.

We are a partner with Amazon and we provide them with all the greetings cards for their new card department.13About MeAbout Me

Born in West LondonMoved to the South CoastDad owned a PC Hardware shopMum was a Biology teacherLearned programming from an early age

About MeStarted building websites in the early/mid 90sWorked at a digital agency in London at 17 years old (1997)Co-founded a digital agency in Worthing,West Sussex in 1999

About MeAt 21 decided to focus on 3D Computer Graphics and Animation researchDeveloped an algorithm for real-time muscle deformationGained a Masters degree from NCCA Bournemouth University

About MeSpent a few years developing game engines, learning programming languages, and researching computer graphics technologies

About MeMet Vicky in 2001.Moved to Saltaire,West Yorkshire in 2009.Married in 2014.

About MeDid contract Flash/Web development for regional Digital Agencies.Started my own freelance company.

20About MeTook a job at Hallmark UK & Ireland as the Web Developer in their e-comm team in 2012.Became Digital Innovation Specialist in 2015.

DigitalInnovationDigital Innovation at HallmarkTo provide tools and applications that make workflow more efficient.To give advice and support on website architecture and emergent web technology.To understand the capabilities of hardware and infrastructure, from severs to handheld devices.To future-proof the company.

23What is Digital Innovation?To be a nerd.

Internet Users by DeviceSource Ofcom Research 2014Tablets are the most widely used devices for accessing the internet

Followed by Laptops then Smartphones

Tablets are great for surfing the net. You can fit a lot on the screen, theyre light and easy to hold, and they have Candy Crush for when youre bored of looking at cat pictures.

People would still rather use their Laptop than use the smaller screen of their smartphone though.

Are people happier using Phablets than Tablets? Will iPhone 6 users increase the smartphone percentage?

Other devices include things like Smart TVs, Wearable technology, and Games Consoles.25Internet Users by DeviceSource Ofcom Research 2014When you consider theres 3 Billion people on the internet, even those in the Other category make up a huge number, from a marketing point of view.26Interesting TechnologyMedia CentersSmart GlassesSmart WatchesAugmented RealityVirtual RealityWeb VRNode.jsHTML 5NoSQL DBsAngular JS3D PrintingAlthough each of these technologies are equally important right now, were going to focus on mainly the left hand columns today.

Ill just skip briefly through the right hand side..

3D Printing is something weve totally embraced at Hallmark. Being a company with a background in ornaments and keepsakes, 3D printing is an exciting field that will totally change the way we think about tangible objects. Obviously theres a lot to be said for something thats hand painted and crafted by our artists, but theres an expanding market in making stuff yourself.

Media Centers are things like Chromecast, Amazon Fire, Raspberry Pi, and AppleTV which are the successors to Smart TVs. Browsing the web and using apps on your TV isnt an easy thing though, so theyre probably only ever going to be a medium for people to stream movies and music. If you can develop a plug-in that facilitates that though, youre onto a winner.

Node, Angular, and HTML5 are extremely exciting if youre a web developer. Theyre helping to make desktop applications obsolete. Pretty soon your devices wont need storage because all your files and applications will be stored online and accessed through a web browser, or an application wrapper built around a web browser.

HTML5 is the latest version of the code that makes websites work. Along with CSS3 they make the internet a media rich experience. CSS can even do 3D now, which Ive been doing some research into. Ive written a few demos on CodePen.

Angular has been developed by Google and has been called HTML6 because you can write your own tags and tell the browser how to interpret them. Its a fairly new technology and its really catching on. I personally found it very easy to pick up and when we rebuilt Hallmark.co.uk at the end of last year it made the development process really smooth.

Node has been adopted by PayPal, LinkedIn, GroupOn, and Hallmark among many others. It runs the backend of our website and provides data endpoints so we can write applications that talk to our backend systems from anywhere in the world.

NoSQL DBs are incredibly boring to non-nerds, so Ill skip them, but suffice to say theyre amazing and drastically speed up data storage and retrieval. We used MongoDB for Hallmark.co.uk which works really nicely with Node.

You might notice that Mobile Development isnt on the list. Thats because I thought we should go through upcoming tech rather than stuff you should all be doing already. Having said that..

27Interesting TechnologyMobile Application development is only worth doing if its cross-platform.To do so requires web technologies such as JavaScript and CSS.Cross-platform Mobile Apps must be built responsively.Building Mobile Apps is exactly the same process as building web applications.Heres a few points weve learned about mobile development.

Mobile App development HAS to be cross platform.

There are lots of ways of doing that, including Titanium, PhoneGap and Adobe AIR Mobile. But the HTML / Javascript route is really the best for low medium animation heavy applications.

If your web designers arent designing responsively by now, you should sack them.

You can develop it in a web browser, web developers can get their heads around the framework API quickly, and its exactly the same as building a web application.

But talking about responsive design, what about the displays? Screens are all shapes and sizes, how can you design something that looks good on all possible devices?

Its about to get a lot more complicated..28Smart WearSmart Wear

Smart Wear includes Glasses, Watches, bands, jackets, headphones basically anything wearable that can either connect to other devices or access the internet directly, does more than its obvious function.

A jacket with a built in GPS.

Gloves that allow you to interact with other devices.

A watch that does more than just tells the time.

30Smart Wear

The Apple Watch is hopefully going to make wearable technology more popular when it comes out.

Apples good at bringing a line of technology advancement into the publics eye. Theyre not necessarily the best at innovation, but theyre definitely the best at bringing stuff to market first.

But is it useful as a marketing channel?31Smart WearSMART WEARABLES MARKET TO GENERATE $53BN HARDWARE REVENUES BY 2019juniperresearch.com 9th September 2014Smart wearables are predicted to gain in popularity over the next few years.

There are a lot of potential users to target marketing to.32Smart WearScreens are small, if there is one.Not connected directly to the Internet. Have to go through another device.Only way to force a message to appear on the watch is through a text message to the host device, or via native application.Theres not much real estate on the screen. Itll be hard to get the message across to the target user.

Watches in particular only display notifications from the host device. If you want a message to appear on the watch you have to send it from the host device.

Or you could build a native watch application for the user to install, which could notify them of offers or if theyre close to a store.

Watches might be good for gaming perhaps?

If you were given a vague brief to build something for the Apple Watch today, what would you do? Its something to think about.

33Virtual RealityVirtual Reality

This is what the 80s/90s thought Virtual Reality would be.

Everyone went crazy about it at the time, but it quickly died out because the technology just wasnt ready for it.

Computers were too slow, accelerometers were unreliable, and the graphics were just big shaded blocks that looked more like that Dire Straits video then actual people.35Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is having a resurgence as headsets become cheaper to produce and chips are getting smaller and more powerful.

Oculus, HTC / Valve, Sony, and Microsoft are all developing headsets that use slightly different technologies.

Virtual Reality headsets provide a closed environment to display content to the user in 3D.

Google have designed Cardboard, which is about as low fi as it gets, but is actually surprisingly good.

With 3D location tracking technology like LEAP Motion, and Kinect working along side the headsets they can provide a fully immersive and interactive experience.

Oculus announced at GDC earlier this year that their device wont be hitting the market until 2016, which gives others like Valve a chance to dominate the market.36Virtual Reality

Oculus does not have controller tracking built into the Rift. You need to use a third-party device called LEAP Motion to physically interact with software. Or you could just use a standard input like a mouse or GamePad.

Valves controller is a laser detector, like the headset, which is incredibly precise but looks a bit odd. Then again if you cant see your hands because youve got a giant headset on it probably doesnt matter.

Sonys Maraca-style Move controller has been around for a few years and is tried and tested. Its remarkably precise considering its just a bunch of accelerometers and a big glowy ball that the camera picks up.37Virtual Reality

Youre going to see more and more people like this.38Virtual RealityVirtual Reality is not restricted to games consoles and PCs.Mobile devices will soon be powerful enough to interface with VR headsets.The restricted vision will prevent people moving too far from a single spot though.John Carmack said at GDC this year that hes focussed on bringing Virtual Reality to mobile devices.39Web VRWeb VRUsing coding technologies (WebGL and Javascript) to display 3D content through a web browser.Uses two Virtual 3D cameras to create scenes for each eye.Interfaces with VR headsets.Allowing the user to navigate through content with full web page capabilities in the background.Web GL is supported by all major browsers (including Internet Explorer finally!)

Its not just a way to make games, and the distinction between gaming and web interaction may become less obvious in the future.

Each scene needs to be rendered at half resolution in order to maintain the framerate of the experience.

Mozillas latest prototype web browser includes low level APIs that handle the VR rendering and the interface to VR headsets.41Web VR

An example of how the screen is rendered with a camera for each eye. The brain then merges the two images and creates an illusion of depth.

This is from within the latest build of Firefox.

You can just about see the Chromatic Aberration prevention filter applied to the 3D render to counter the effect produced naturally by lenses.42Web VR

An example of the sort of web sites that could benefit from Virtual Reality capability. The scene is displayed in 3D and allows the user to move through it and interact with objects.

On top of all the normal worries that UX designers have they will have to consider motion sickness and ver...