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Interactive Annual 14:

TED.com: Ideas Worth Spreading

Launch Live Site

“Like a case-study in the best UX design, it's so smart, so intuitive and so understated. What’s more, it utterly fulfills the promise of the Web by democratizing otherwise inaccessible content.” —Toria Emery

“Bringing a contemporary sensibility to what could otherwise be a dry video archive, TED offers ways of navigating through the content using community preferences as a revealing filter to explore. Breathtaking in every way.” —Liz Danzico


Overview: TED is an invitation-only event where leading thinkers gather for inspiration and insight. Never intended as a way to promote the conference, in 2006, TED began posting the talks from its conference to the site; they proved so popular that later the same year it was redesigned to be a better showcase. In addition to a graphically-rich and intuitive interface, it boasts a first-of-its-kind video player that allows large-screen playback, automatic adjustment for bandwidth, an adjective-based ratings system and chapter-marking technology that allows skip-aheads to key moments.

  • The site receives more than three million visits and six million page views each month.
  • Currently there are 225 videos, 200+ speaker bios and 2,000+ images on the site.
  • There are approximately 100,000 registered users and roughly 90,000 of them have profile pages.

Comments by June Cohen:

What was the most challenging aspect of the project?
“Perhaps our biggest challenge was straddling two audiences. The primary audience for the new site was people who had never heard of TED, and in all likelihood would never attend. But we also had to serve our core audience of ted attendees ‘insiders’ who were being asked (in a way) to share their secrets with the world. So we were in the curious position of trying to promote and hide the conference at the same time.

“This 'creative tension', between a small, elite, insider audience at the conference and a broad, inclusive online audience, really came to define ted.com. It affects the features we added, the language we use, the imagery we choose...everything. It also affected the design in a fundamental way. In order to reach the widest possible audience, the site needed to be approachable, friendly and utterly intuitive. At the same time, we needed to provide the technical leadership and visual delight that people expect from TED. So we were striving to create something that was both strikingly innovative and utterly intuitive. And those goals, needless to say, can be at odds.”

How did this project compare with others you've worked on?
“One of my greatest fears in developing ted.com was that we would repeat the mistakes I made on another very high-profile launch for a similar brand. In 1997 (almost exactly ten years earlier), I led a high-profile redesign of HotWired.com - the sister site to Wired magazine. We were on the front-page of the paper, the sides of buses - the works. Like ted.com, the redesign featured a dynamic and visual home page. It was beautiful and creative, and everyone loved it—but no one could actually use it. Within six weeks, we had to revise it completely. From that, I learned to really pay attention to usability and to question the wisdom of innovation for innovation’s sake. With ted.com, we were extremely careful about where we chose to innovate and where we stuck with standards.”

Credits:
June Cohen, TED/Chris Anderson, TED, creative directors
David Lipkin, chief creative officer
Robert Murdock, art director
Bruce Bell, lead designer
Christopher Berry/Bertrand Fan/Karl Norling/Christian Omania, programmers
Austin Hunter/Peterson Onori, Flash programmers
George Riley, TED, technology director
Anna Hirte/Milena Sadee, graphic designers
Phi-Hong Ha, information architect
Emily McManus, TED, editor
Stefanie Yaeger, project manager
Jason Wishnow, TED, video director
Kevin Kwan, Kevin Kwan Projects, photo editor
Marla Mitchnick, TED, video editor
Michael Glass, TED, production manager
Christine Beck, quality assurance
Method (San Francisco, CA), project design and development
TED Conferences, client