Published in Super8 -

Eight intriguing articles from April.

Did you know the month of April gets its name from the Latin word ‘aperio’, meaning ‘to open’? This is because—in the northern hemisphere—April represents the midpoint of spring, where flowers and trees begin to bloom and blossom.

In keeping with that theme, Elliott Grigg has hand-picked eight fresh articles to open your perspective on all sorts of fascinating things, regardless of where you are in the world. In this edition, you’ll find behavioural science tips for UI design, learn the history of 3M’s floppy disk, discover the future of user research, and gaze towards the horizon of what’s next in ‘the screen age’. It’s all here in Super8 in April.

1. April Fools’ Day 2024: the best and cringiest pranks.

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If you’re a fan of True Detective, you’ll know the theory that ‘time is a flat circle’. In keeping with that rhetoric, what better way to mark the end of April than by celebrating the very start of it. The technology space is rife for April Fool’s pranks. In a sector where reality is often stranger than fiction, there’s a real art to creating the perfect hoax. Who were this year’s winners? Who landed deftly curated pranks? Whose April Fool’s looked foolish? From Tinder hiring someone to track down ‘ghosters’, to Cthulu-inspired gaming chairs, to Pokémon hosting a sleeping world championship, these are the best and worst from the most fraught day on the internet.

2. Prompts should be designed, not engineered.

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Harry Harlow’s empirical work with primates is often considered a ‘classic’ in behavioural science, but what does it have to do with designing for AI applications? In Harlow’s experiments, baby monkeys were given the choice between two ‘mothers’: one made of wire that provided food and another made of cloth that offered comfort. The baby monkeys showed a strong preference for the soft, comforting cloth mother. In this piece, Alex Klein sees this as a helpful distinction between ‘engineering’ and ‘designing’ prompts. A wire prompt is engineered to complete a job—while a cloth prompt intuitively understands a person’s needs and is designed to provide a fluid and supportive experience. Read the piece to learn more about this distinction and how to design, rather than simply engineer, effective prompts.

3. Put marketing at the core of your growth strategy.

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  • Read the full article here.
  • Created by: Marc Brodherson, Jennifer Ellinas, Ed See, and Robert Tas.
  • Contributed by: Mike McCusker.

Growth is a perpetual business priority. According to this latest McKinsey research, companies that make the decision to put marketing at the core of their growth strategy outperform their competition. This is true for both B2B and B2C companies, and businesses from a range of sectors and sizes. The research also identifies that high growth companies—which are defined as those in the top quartile—invest, on average, three times more on marketing. To quote one senior executive from the study: ‘finance identifies where the money goes; marketing identifies where the money comes from’. Surely that alone is worth investing in.

4. The rise and fall of 3M’s floppy disk.

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Most people these days will identify 3M as a firm that sells abrasive materials, adhesive tapes, filters, films, personal protective equipment, and medical supplies. Despite the fact there is absolutely no mention of the floppy disk legacy on the organisation’s own website, 3M was the most prominent and memorable brand in data storage during the formative days of computing. The history of the floppy disk—and 3M’s role within that history—is a wild ride, featuring Bing Crosby, a banjo-playing orchestra member, steel based magnetic tape, and the flopped idea of the ‘floptical disk’. Check out this article to see how it all fits together.

5. How news organisations decide whether a photo is ‘too edited’.

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For better or worse, we live in a world where it’s incredibly easy—and common—for images to be edited with software. When you add the growing proliferation of artificial intelligence to the mix, it quickly becomes apparent that you can’t believe everything you see online. Or can you? The foundation of photojournalism relies on its ability to present reality in an authentic and unaltered manner. AI and other image editing tools clearly pose a threat to this core principle. To counter, different photo agencies have their own standards about what level of editing is acceptable. One says that photos ‘must not be staged, manipulated, or edited to give a misleading or false picture of events’, while another allows for some minor changes like colour adjustments or removal of red eyes or dust from a lens, but prohibits ‘extreme adjustments’. How do agencies determine these guidelines? What are the implications of different guidelines? And where are we heading as technology continues to evolve? Read on to find out.

6. The future of user research: expert insights and key trends.

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User research is a crucial aspect of all marketing effort, from initial product design and development to promotional campaigns and beyond. So, what does ‘good’ look like for the future? To learn more about the current state of user research and uncover the trends that will shape the user research landscape in 2024 and beyond, this article references a survey of more than 1,200 to identify three key trends. What are they and what do they mean for your marketing? You’ll have to read on to find out.

7. Rounded CTA buttons drive more clicks.

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If you work with digital products—or really, in modern marketing in general—you’ll likely know that call-to-action buttons are critically important. This is because they usually trigger the actions we most want to drive as marketers: things like ‘buy product’, ‘subscribe to newsletter’, ‘download brochure’, or ‘donate’. For such a seemingly small aspect of your broader marketing effort, there are many questions and considerations when it comes to optimising buttons for the greatest likelihood of success. What words should they contain? What colour should they be? Where should they appear? In this research article, you’ll learn that rounder buttons are significantly more effective. How much more effective? And why? You’ll have to click through to find out.

8. Digital displays and the end of the ‘screen age’.

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We currently live in an era defined by information, which is—more often than not—served to us via screens. These displays have become enmeshed in almost every aspect of our lives. You’ll find screens in our pockets, in our loungerooms, on our transport, in our stadiums, and even, briefly, on our fridges (remember that?). So, what’s the next frontier? This piece investigates the potential of OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes). Imagine medication packaging that could light up different aspects of the labelling when the contents reach their expiration date, or that lights up to indicate a person has taken their allotted dosage for the day. According to this article, this type of future may not be far off on the horizon.

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