Patrick Murphy from brandthunder.com kindly took the time to answer some of my questions, so please read the interview.
1.) We would like to welcome you to UnderWorld Magazines. Please introduce brandthunder.com and tell us the idea that started this company?
Brand Thunder’s interactive browser themes were conceptualized at the early stages of what’s now called Web 2.0. During the rise of blogging, Facebook, Twitter and similar sites, there were also increased predictions about cloud-based computing and applications residing on the web. The one consistent across this landscape was the browser. While it remained the workhorse of the Internet, it also had the visual appeal of a mule. Working on the Netscape browser, I became familiar with its theming capabilities and those of its Mozilla counterpart, the Firefox browser. It was obvious that a functional browser didn’t have to be a boring one.
Thinking about how the desire of fans to have a logo of their favorite sports team, college or university had created an entire categories for affinity marketing products, the browser appeared to have all the same strengths and then some. That’s because the visual nature of the browser theme is only the beginning of the product offering. The theme is a big draw to get users into the product, but it’s the content and functionality that keep them there. That’s the interactive component of our themes. We’re more than just a visual experience, we’re a communication channel. The end result is not just a business relationship between the brand and its audience, but a better relationship.
2.) Tell us a little about Patrick Murphy the man behind brandthunder.com
I’m a first-time entrepreneur from Columbus, OH. Before founding Brand Thunder, I was a product and program manager at AOL and responsible for browser distribution and video-search partnerships. I also have a background in web-marketing spanning from Chase Bank to Swiss Re. A fortunate side to my career is the involvement in new products and launches.
It’s thrilling to be a part of a team or lead one with the task of creating a new market. Doing this in the corporate environment means you have more security and resources you’ll ever have trying to do something on your own. You may be walking that high wire, but there’s a net and a bunch of people spotting you so you’re never fully at risk. I felt like I was always “doing my own thing” even while being in a corporate environment. But ultimately, my passion for Brand Thunder’s product and the interest it was getting in the market had it taking more and more of my attention. I needed to give it the full attention it deserves. Now, it’s been four years since our first interactive browser theme launched.
3.) How does brandthunder.com work and can everyone use it?
Please, excuse the marketing speak, but to summarize it, Brand Thunder creates extreme makeovers for the Internet browser. Through an easy-to-install browser add-on, end users transform their drab web-browser into an immersive experience from their favorite sports team, entertainment franchise or Internet site. This experience remains in the browser regardless of the web site being visited.
Can everyone use it, is a great segway. To date, Brand Thunder has custom built each browser theme for its clients. But last summer we opened some of the theme capabilities within Firefox in our Personas Interactive extension (http://brandthunder.com/personas). It gave designers and developers more control over the Firefox Personas they developed. This summer, we begin to give full control to anyone to build their own interactive browser theme. Our new platform, BT:Engage (http://bt-engage.com), is in private beta and will go to public beta this summer.
When it’s in public beta, anyone can easily build a theme with a logo, layered background images, toolbar buttons and news feeds, plus it’ll be easy to share the theme with their friends or web community. I’d encourage your readers to sign up for the private beta and give us feedback that will shape what the product becomes.
4.) Can you please tell us how the brandthunder.com helps the design community?
From the visual standpoint, the browser theme is a demanding canvas. It’s an extreme landscape orientation, with a recommended background size of 3,000 pixels wide by 200 pixels high. Of this, about 100 of the vertical pixels will be visible depending on browser and version. Then the width can vary depending on monitor resolution. Add to this the natural obstructions within the browser like the navigation buttons, URL address bar, browser tabs and more – it’s a pretty complex space to work with. Yet, stunning designs are made for the browser and it’s the most frequently used application on the computer so your design gets considerable exposure every day with your audience.
But a showcase for design prowess and aesthetics are only a portion of the value to a designer. It’s the interactive aspect, the connection through links, feeds and multimedia that can be integrated into the browser that add exponential value. We regularly see 8 – 12 times more visits back to a client’s web presence than their average visitor. For anyone building or supporting an online community, that’s a huge lift to their efforts.
5.) Could you pick 5 of your favorite browser themes created in brandthunder.com software? Why are they your favorites of all the Themes?
The Weather Theme is a full integration using WeatherBug’s API and Brand Thunder design elements to create a browser theme that pulls in weather forecasts, local conditions, alerts, weather maps and more. The theme itself changes based on your local weather conditions, so it epitomizes the concept of interactive browser theme and remains a showcase of our technical capabilities.
The Daily Beast
The Daily Beast is a leading news site and their theme pulls an image from the latest feature story directly into the browser theme. The user can hover over it to get the story headline or click through to read the full story. The sidebar keeps users connected to the latest news via special views of the Cheat Sheet, Buzz Board, Blogs & Stories and Video sections of The Daily Beast. The Daily Beast Theme demonstrates several methods to keep their users connected to the breaking news of the day, and how to get users back to your site more frequently.
Brand Thunder’s Movie Premiere Theme is a fun and functional theme for movie fans. Like the Daily Beast theme, Movie Premiere has a feature block that updates regularly with the movie posters of opening movies. Clicking on the poster takes you to an overview page of the movie with reviews, synopsis and more. The theme is also tightly integrated with Fandango for instant access to reviews, showtimes, tickets and even trailers and other videos in the sidebar. It’s a great example of how content and commerce fuse together in an interactive browser theme.
Looking for Group
Looking for Group is a leading web comic and the LFG browser theme was designed by the artists. If you’re a fan, it’s a must have and their community responded that way. We saw almost 60% of their web audience using the theme. That’s an incredible adoption rate for a downloaded application and why it became one of my favorites.
Major League Gaming
The Major League Gaming browser theme has been a huge success across all platforms we offer: Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. For lots of our themes, we’ll see a favorite in one category or another. In this case, it’s clear MLG has a large and avid fan base. It’s fun to see them engage with the product in the browser of their choice.
6.) We would like to take this time to thank you for answering our questions. I think our readers are very interested in what you do. Do you have a final thought for them?
As much as I love and believe in the value of an interactive browser theme, we’re just one of many tools designers, developer and community leaders need to use when engaging their online audience. Just like companies don’t have a presence only on one social media site, I suggest they not have a single application that helps their audience connect with them when they’re not on their web site. Companies invest a lot of time, resources and dollars in building their website. They can positively affect their ROI by leveraging tools like interactive browser themes, toolbars, widgets, gadgets, desktop apps and more to help them repurpose their development efforts and reach users whenever they’re at their computer.
The incremental resource commitment to undertake these initiatives is fairly small. There are leading companies in each of these categories that make it easy to build out the capability and get it into the hands of the companies audience. BT:Engage takes only a couple minutes to spin out a great looking browser theme. Doing this gives the user more choice in how they interact with your brand, and meeting the desires of your audience is a great way to strengthen that relationship. This is a great value add for the designer whether they are reaching their own audience, or helping a client connect with theirs.Tags: browser themes, Design, Graphic Design, Interface, themes, web, Web Design