TL;DR: There are lots of criteria to make something great, but here is how I judge it: was every second purposeful, and does it have a heartbeat? This is usually enough to set it apart.
Let me give you two examples I know.
Best Harry Potter Movie: Prisoner of Azkaban
Is the story necessarily the best of the Harry Potter series? Possibly not, though I’m partial to the only movie to not have Voldemort in it and the first to really dive into serious character development. The reason it’s the best movie is because there is not one second that does not have complete and utter attention paid to it. From the opening WB to the closing credit sound (Harry Potter saying “nox” to turn out the light), the movie is complete. It’s alive. And if you were to play the movie part over and over again minus the studio branding, it would breathe like it had gillyweed in a cold lake. Complete and perfect.
Best music album of all time: Pearl Jam’s Ten
Is this the best music ever – not necessarily, it’s a matter of taste. I firmly believe it has no bad songs and a ton of good ones which means the artists didn’t throw in any filler, and that already makes it better than most. It is the best album that I know of however because it has that heartbeat.
The opening of the first track are some sounds that come from the chaotic silence and slowly coalesce towards musical order, and then the last track ends with them in the reverse. So, when you put the album on repeat, the last track leads directly back to the first, with a rhythmic heartbeat of 1 beat every 53:20. It’s beautiful. It’s purposeful and complete. It’s Alive.
How I’m Using This
The film I directed and produced, “The United States of Autism”, had this same effect of detail. From the moment it started until the final credit close, it was purposeful and complete.
In the web platform I’m building for creating and managing events, Hapnapp, we’re also focusing on that purposeful content and how we create it for web experiences. How do we breathe life into things that aren’t subject to a set time?
So, our goal becomes not one wasted pixel on the screen or in the experience for our users. Every piece of the experience is accounted for in the testing.
Ultimately, we’re guessing it’s also going to be our “absurdly awesome” customer attention that is more important to the heartbeat. All we do know is that we’re aiming to be the greatest at the small things we do, which is not a metric and has some esoteric nature to it I suppose.
For the rest, well, I’ll leave the music and Harry Potter to people better than I.
What do you think out there?