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Devshop Blog

Tuesday, Jan 24th, 2017

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
It's Hip to Write Script

There are countless design programs available for designers (and non-designers) to learn, each with unique tricks and tips. In my early stages of learning Adobe Photoshop, I spent roughly five hours watching and attempting to create coffee beans. I then Googled "PNG Coffee Beans" and clicked copy and paste. It got the job done.

Creatives express their design chops in many ways, and while they may excel at drawing or calligraphy, they may struggle with adapting to the scores of options available with design programs. You could take the time to watch one of the many video tutorials online walking you through each step, or you could learn a few easy hacks to get you through those beginning stages. Because sometimes you just need to put pen to paper, we're walking you through how to convert your hand drawn sketches, letters, and images into an SVG.

What the heck is an SVG you ask? An SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics. Gibberish, I know. Google provides equally gibberish answers. In my own plain language definition, it is an image that does not have a background, enabling you to place it as a layer on top of other images without the lovely white square background. This is helpful for things like logos and icons because they can be placed on a lot of different images without interrupting the design.

So here it is:

Step 1: Sketch It

Draw your design by hand, with pen and paper. It helps to use fat markers like Sharpies to create a starker contrast. Try to use white paper and a black pen because converting an image that uses black vs. white will be much more successful. It also helps to tend towards thicker lines instead of thinner, as the converter will pick these up more easily.

Step 2: Snap It

Take a picture of your sketched image. Avoid shadows on the paper, again think CONTRAST.

Step 3: Upload It

Upload the image to an SVG converter. There are a lot of sites that do this, but we used http://image.online-convert.com/convert-to-svg (because it came up first when we Googled it).

Step 4: Convert It

If you are using a converter that gives you the option to choose color, select grey or monochrome. Click "Convert File".

Step 5: Open It

Save the file and open it in a design program like Adobe Photoshop. It's actually that simple.

Wednesday, Dec 21st, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
8 Reasons Your Business Should Be Going Live On Instagram

Instagram, continuing their march to meticulously rip off the best elements of their competitor's social media platforms, has been rapidly rolling out "new" features that look and feel eerily familiar. As if following a social media recipe for success, they've added a pinch of Snapchat here, a dash of Pinterest there, and a heaping spoonful of Periscope to top it off. The resulting Frankenstein social media platform is actually pretty incredible, and users are eating it up. Last week, Instagram announced that it had crossed over the milestone 600 million users, acquiring 100 million new users in the past month. With new users flocking to the app, and the introduction of features like Instagram Live, businesses have an amazing opportunity to build a closer, more authentic relationship with their followers.


  1. It's Easy to Use

  2. To start using Instagram Live, simply swipe right from your feed to open the camera and tap "Start Live Video" to begin sharing. Instagram sends notifications to specific followers, based on their algorithm for who would be most interested, to alert them that you are going Live. The word LIVE will also appear below your image in stories.

  3. It's Scarce

  4. Because FOMO is real (and effective for marketing), the Live video will only be viewable while streaming is in progress and disappear immediately after. Do. Not. Forget. To. Promote. Drop hints and reminders to followers to let them know when you will be Live, with incentives for them to follow. Think: giveaways, special announcements, relevant and interesting content. Ask users to turn on notifications, which will ensure they are alerted when you go Live, so they Don't Miss Out! Because once the cast is over, it's gone forever. FOMO is a marketer's best friend.

  5. It's Responsive

  6. Have you ever been on a dance floor when a bad song comes on, and everyone decides it's a good time to leave and refill their drinks? This is the same concept as the number on the top right of your screen, which shows how many people are tuning in or tuning out of the broadcast. You can immediately judge which content works and which sends people running for another drink by the number going up or down. This makes catering content to your audience even simpler because you can judge it in real time.

  7. It's Direct Access to Consumers

  8. Your Live broadcast can last for up to an hour, during which viewers can heart or comment on the video in real time. Instagram let's you report any internet trolls with just a click, or turn off comments all together (though this would ruin much of the marketing benefits of the broadcast). During the broadcast, businesses can provide details about pricing, availability, special features, and respond to questions as viewers ask them. Live allows businesses to get direct feedback from viewers on products and services, just by swiping and asking.

  9. It's Authentic

  10. You've heard it over and over again. Consumers respond to marketing that is authentic, real, and personable. They can spot a fake from a mile away. With Instagram live being filmed on the fly, it's your opportunity to say f%$k it, do it live! As much as you can and should plan your cast ahead of time, the value in going Live is that it's a genuine, unedited look behind the scenes. Be real, share personal stories, burn food. That's why people tune in to watch.

  11. It's Branded

  12. Going Live on Instagram is an incredible opportunity to showcase your brand. Your brand reflects the core values of your company, and what better way to convey these than through behind the scenes looks at how products are made, introducing team members, and showing off the culture that makes your company so unique. There's a reason research is predicting that 75 percent of all data will be video by 2020. It allows you to go beyond a flat image and convey your message through visual and audio content all at once. Dance to your own jingle, drink from a mug branded with your logo, show off all the benefits of your product or service in real life situations. The possibilities are endless.

  13. It's Engaging

  14. Engage with customers through an interactive Q & A, where you can receive and respond to viewer's questions in real time. Ask questions directly to viewers about what they like, don't like, and want to see more or less of. The ability to pin comments is an amazing hack by Instagram that can be used in a few different ways. Pin questions you ask, questions and comments being posed by viewers, or just add a brief description about what you're doing so viewers just tuning in can be quickly caught up to speed.

  15. It's Fun

  16. The best part about Instagram Live is that it's fun. So your business should be having fun with your Live stream. Show a cooking class. Mix up your favorite drink. Do a cosmetics tutorial. Demo a new product. Teach a fitness class. Preview a new track. Make you video content something that is appealing to your demographics, with tips that benefit viewers and incentivize them to keep tuning in. Rule of thumb: if you're having fun, your viewers will too.

Wednesday, Dec 7th, 2016

Paul D'Angelo

Paul
Do You Even Blog?

Blogging. Why on earth do we do it? Do we really have THAT much interesting information to share? Is it really necessary to constantly bombard the internet with more hot takes, insights, and opinions from "experts"? Why does our marketing BOSS Lizzie constantly harass us for new posts, even though I literally just wrote one like, 4 months ago? Does it actually help our business?

While the quality of the content and the resulting noise from so many people oversharing every thought and opinion is a topic for a much lengthier discussion that we can tackle in another post, the act of consistently posting new content is extremely beneficial, and you should all be so lucky to have a star like Lizzie on your team! (I swear she didn't pay me to say any of this.) Posting new content improves your search rankings when bots crawl and index your site, and keywords in your posts can help drive traffic as well.

In addition to the direct benefits, content plays an important role in giving your brand a voice, and can help solidify yourself as a thought leader in your industry, assuming you are on the right side of the above comment regarding quality content and not just noise. So how do you manage to put out consistent insights without recycling the same ideas, wrapping them in different buzz words and adding to the noise? First, create a realistic schedule, and then put a system in place such that you will have a backlog for when people miss their deadlines (it's inevitable). Next, have people write about things they are NOT familiar with, but want to learn about. Sharing your own learning experiences is a great way to reinforce your own knowledge and ensures the content will be easily digestible for most readers.

Finally, embrace the process! Writing content can be a tedious, stressful experience that is to be avoided whenever possible, but it doesn't have to be. Too often the day to day grind of our jobs (and lives) make it difficult for us to continue pursuing knowledge and learning, and I personally think that the role technology has had in putting virtually unlimited information at our fingertips has actually made us less knowledgeable, but we can save that for another discussion. Use the chore of writing for your company as an opportunity to explore new ideas. Who knows, you may learn something! At the very least you will make Lizzie happy, and that's definitely worth it.

Monday, Nov 28th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
It's The Most Digital Time of the Year

We're making a list of E-Commerce Holiday Do's and Don'ts and checking it twice. Today marks the official online kick off of holiday shopping season with Cyber Monday, the web equivalent of Black Friday. This year more than ever, customers are avoiding the chaos of shopping in store and opting instead to hunt down bargains from the comfort of their couches. This holiday season, digital sales are expected to increase by a whopping 25%, leaving your brand with one crucial question: is your website ready? Tis the season....to prep your e-commerce site for the holidays.

DO: Be on the lookout for 2016 Marv & Harry's
The characters behind holiday hijinks now operate in a new realm: online. Cyber security needs to be a top priority for any website, but most importantly ones dealing with private consumer data like banking and credit card information.

DO: Complete a security audit.
One customer with a bad experience could destroy you with online reviews. Doing a security audit early on in the holiday shopping season ensures all transactions and access points are secured, and can prevent your customers having an experience that sends them running to Yelp.

DO: Reassure nervous shoppers.
Have yourself a merry little purchase. Include a trust seal for customers so that they can feel confident their online purchases are secure.

DO: Embrace the holidays.
The holidays overflowing with eggnog and themes (as if you couldn't tell from this blog post), and the perfect opportunity for marketers to get creative. Top retailers take advantage with specialty landing pages promoting holiday offers and products, and capitalizing on these easy themes.

DO: Include customer reviews.
The little drummer boy wants to purchase new drum sticks, and heads to two websites to compare products. One website has ample reviews, speaking to the quality of the drumsticks and providing a four-star rating. The other has no testimonials and he has no indication of the quality of said drum sticks. Which ones do you think the little drummer boy is going to purchase?

DON'T: Skimp on descriptions.
Do you hear what I hear? Customers might not understand how a product is described, so make sure there are enough pictures and information included included in every product listed. Providing accurate, informative, extensive information about products is crucial to making online sales.

DON'T: Lose customers at checkout.
I'll be home for Christmas and so will your presents. Many companies lose customers on the checkout page because of lengthy shipping times or high costs. Companies can benefit from charging lower costs for shipping or building that cost into the product. Don't pay the price of losing customers because you didn't want to pay the price of shipping.

DON'T: Forget to take into consideration the type of product your buyers are looking at. According to studies done by the Nielsen Group, shoppers looking at thumbnails of bookcases were studied carefully, while thumbnails of flat-panel TV's were pretty much ignored. The use for the product is different. One was studied for the look and feel, while the other was purely studied for function and the usefulness could be conveyed through text.

DON'T: Forget to provide a clear value proposition on your website.
Shoppers visit countless websites when shopping for holiday gifts. The items that stand out are ones that showcase their value! What can this product do for me? I don't want to purchase speakers, I want to be rocking around the Christmas Tree. I don't want wireless noise canceling headphones, I want a silent night. The crucial elements of a good value proposition are: clear, simple language that showcases the promise of value with a product. Shoppers need to understand the features, advantages, and benefits of the item!

Wednesday, Nov 16th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
5 Design Disasters & How To Avoid Them

Designers do not get enough credit for their work. It takes research, restraint, and ultimately a good eye. Any average person may look at a website and think, "Hey, I can do that!" Setting to work building your website from a source bursting with templates and options, you end up falling prey to the many pitfalls of poor web design. You don't need to use every plugin option. Trendy isn't always the best answer. And simple elements may get overlooked without planning. Below, we take a closer look at the problems that many DIY web designers encounter and how you can fix them.

Too Many Bells & Whistles
The Problem: You want your users to know what your site offers, what they can find there, create value, direct where to go next, build SEO into your content, reinforce your Adwords, and tell a story about your brand. You want to have it all! Well, you can't. Not on your homepage at least.
The Solution: Less really is more when it comes to your homepage. Slow your roll, and just include the intuitive elements that will lead visitors to the next, more informative sections. Don't get me wrong, its important to do all of these things on your website. But for the homepage, you only have a few lines of text and a simple graphic to do so. Throw the kitchen sink at the visitor and they won't know where to look, rendering all that "useful information" useless.

Not Enough Bells & Whistles
The Problem: In your scramble to spin up a website, you forgot to include some key elements to make your users experience better. No search bar, no call to actions, and an unorganized content layout create a poor experience for visitors.
The Solution: A search bar should be easily found on your web pages. It saves visitors time and simplifies navigation. Keep your pages simple enough to quickly scan, with a clear hierarchy to guide your eyes through the page. Using call to action buttons to direct visitors to the next sections are invaluable. Planning this before starting to design is a key to success.

Endless Scrolling
The Problem: You designed a stunning website...on desktop. You completely forgot that that paragraph of text will extend to the length of two IPhones when viewed on mobile. Who is going to read all that?
The Solution: To create an effective responsive design, or web design that has been optimized for mobile, ensure that the horizontal grids created on your web page can collapse into vertical lists when a user is operating on a mobile device. Grouping or reorganizing content can help prevent the endless scroll that results from poor designs.

Hiding Contact Info
The Problem: Failing to put a phone number, address, email, or contact information in several, easy to find locations. You put all that time and energy into trying to direct users to your website, and then once they got there, you never included how they can actually reach your business!
The Solution: Your business should be everybody's business. Providing multiple ways that users can contact you caters to their specific preferences. Make sure that this information is on every page.

Being Antisocial
The Problem: Forgetting to link your social network sites. This is a HUGE bugaboo for me. I once received an email blast from a company with no Instagram link at the bottom. Curious as to why such an established company didn't have an Instagram page, I went searching for it. It was glorious. And I almost missed out on seeing it because of an oversight! (Yes, I did email them back and tell them it was missing. Marketing looking out for marketing).
The Solution: Many people, like myself, go searching for more than just the basic information listed on a website. We want the story and the background that makes a brand what it is. Forgetting to link your social media is a major fail.

Thursday, Nov 10th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
Mo'bile Mo' Problems

When creating a website, every aspect is carefully thought through to determine what will yield the most success. Every button, color, and action is analyzed and carefully chosen, but the most irreplaceable element of a website is it's responsiveness. A responsive web design allows a site's layout to change to accommodate the screen it's being viewed on, and without it, your carefully chosen design elements will be useless. The importance of this cannot be understated, as customers are increasingly reaching business websites from mobile and tablet devices in addition to their computers. See for yourself how users are viewing your website with some statistics about mobile in Devshop's Mo'bile Mo' Problems infographic.

Tuesday, Nov 1st, 2016

Lauren Basil

Lauren
8 Technology Trends to Look for in 2017

1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and advanced machine learning are composed of technologies and processes like deep learning and neural networks. Techniques are moving beyond rule-based algorithms to create systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously making smart machines appear "intelligent". As encouraging as AI and machine learning sounds, many people don't realize that as AI evolves, so does its criminal potential.

2. Intelligent Apps

Intelligent applications such as virtual personal assistants (VPAs) are making everyday tasks easier. VPNs and virtual customer assistants (which promise to enhance customer service and sales) should transform the nature of work and structure of the workplace.


3. Intelligent Things

Intelligent things, such as drones, autonomous vehicles and smart appliances, permeate the environment, but we expect to see a shift from stand-alone intelligent things to a collaborative intelligent things model. Intelligent things will leverage AI and ML to interact with humans and surroundings.Smartphones, smartwatches and smartglasses will partner with intelligent things and form a Smart Ecosystem.

4. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Immersive technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), have captured the imagination of gamers and other consumers, but they will increasingly have business-to-business implications. We are still in the beginning stages of VR and AR and we will evolve dramatically through 2021. We will see rooms and spaces become active with things, and their connection through the mesh will appear and work in conjunction with immersive virtual worlds.

5. Digital Twin

Within three to five years, hundreds of millions of things will be represented by digital twins. A digital twin is a dynamic software model of a physical thing or system that relies on sensor data to understand its state, respond to changes, improve operations and add value. Organizations will use digital twins to proactively repair and plan for equipment service, to plan manufacturing processes, to operate factories, to predict equipment failure or increase operational efficiency, and to perform enhanced product development.

6. Blockchain Technology

Current blockchain technology hype is around the financial services industry, but a growing number of industries have joined the party. According to the Economist, a blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of records called blocks secured from tampering and revision. Each block is chained to the previous block, and the process is noted in a specially encrypted peer-to-peer network.

7. Conversational Systems

Currently the focus for conversational interfaces is focused on chatbots and microphone-enabled devices. Soon, they will move from chatbots to a broader digital mesh, which will move to an expanded range of endpoints that we will all interact with on a daily basis. These will work together to a growing extent. This will enhance ambient digital experience in the process.

8. Digital Technology Platforms

Digital technology platforms provide the basic building blocks for a digital business. There are five major focal points to enable digital capabilities and business models:



  • Information systems

  • Customer experience

  • Analytics and intelligence

  • IoT

  • Business ecosystems

Every organization will have some mix from across these five digital technology platforms. The platforms provide the basic building blocks for a digital business and are a critical enabler to become a digital business.

Tuesday, Oct 18th, 2016

Lauren Basil

Lauren
8 Reasons Snapchat Spectacles Won't Last

Snapchat is attempting to stay relevant by introducing their first piece of hardware and changing their name to Snap Inc. Obviously, the Snapchat app is still their bread and butter, but they're exploring hardware as the next endeavor to further the company's influence. I don't see this as the next stepping stone in growing their company, but only time will tell.

That Ray Ban Vision

Let's be honest, if I'm going to buy myself a pair of sunglasses for $130, I'm going to buy myself a pair of Ray-Bans that look great and won't go out of style. Not Snapchat Spectacles that only have one frame available that may or may not look good.

Kim K.

The Spectacles can only be used outside, unless of course you think you're Kim K and wear sunglasses no matter where you are. But truthfully, the fact that they are sunglasses limits use to outdoors and if I were to buy something like Spectacles (for the purpose of recording), I would want to be able to use them wherever and whenever.

Lights Out

To limit the use of the glasses even more, half of anything worth documenting outside is going to happen while it's dark out. Snapchat Spectacles won't do you any good then.

Thirty Seconds

Realistically, that's not a lot of time. Not to mention, you have to prompt the glasses to continue recording past 10 seconds if you want a longer video. The glasses are set to end after 10 seconds in correspondence with the length of a snapchat video. So what happens if you record a longer video and want to upload to Snapchat?

Blurred Lines

Who's to say how good the quality of the recordings will be? We won't know until the hardware makes it's debut and users give their feedback. My guess is that I wouldn't want to use the video many other places outside of the Snapchat app because of the quality.

Sorry Android

Using an Android limits the user friendliness. You have to be connected to wifi in order to transfer the recordings onto your phone, unlike an iPhone user who can easily transfer via bluetooth.

Need an Endorsement?

So far, the only person endorsing Spectacles is the Snap Inc. CEO, Evan Spiegel. That doesn't instill very much confidence in potential buyers because of course the CEO should LOVE the product.

Creep it real

They have the ability to classify someone as creepy. I could be wearing the glasses and be recording my friends and they might not even realize it... or frankly, they may not want to be recorded!

The Spectacles give Snap Inc. a glimpse into the world of hardware, an unknown territory for the company thus far. I can't say this will be their breakthrough product, but it's a start and they will continue to improve the hardware just like any tech company would. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Wednesday, Oct 12th, 2016

Paul D'Angelo

Paul
Wanted: solutions looking for problems

While planning, researching and writing this blog, the following tools were used:



  • Slack to receive countless reminder messages to write this thing already...(Cough Lizzie)

  • Trello to add a card to remind myself when it was due
    Google doc to write it

  • Trello again to gather research

  • Oh sh#t, I put some of those links in Slack too

  • Damn it where did I save those screenshots?

  • There they are, in the Google Drive

  • Ok done, the Google Doc is shared in the drive

  • What? Ok I will Slack it to you too

  • Wait now you want me to post it to Trello because you can't find it in Slack?

Talk about more than one way to skin a pig...

If this sounds like a familiar scenario, then you are not alone. While the boom of productivity tools continues to surge, the market is becoming saturated with an overwhelming variety of options to in theory, help streamline your day. In reality, the glut of "solutions" has created a vast ecosystem of tools that, while often integrated with each other, lack a central home base to help the user make sense of it all. A One app to rule them all, one may say. We've stumbled into a situation where the solution for streamlined processes and increased productivity is more processes and tools than we can effectively manage. Isn't that Ironic? Don't ya think?

So which tools are the best? Does Trello save your documents and tasks in the most efficient way? Is Asana the PM'iest tool out there? Should I Slack? I always hate Slack's delay on mobile, should I have one chat for interoffice and another for mobile? Obviously we have Google Mail, should we use Google Drive too for document storage? Dropbox has such a clean ux, and is awesome, especially for design work. Maybe we can use Dropbox for images/visuals, and Google Drive for everything else...

Rather than bore you all to death with my 2.5 cents regarding all of the options out there, I want to discuss something else. With the level of sophistication required to simply get to market, the incremental improvement between option A and option B is negligible. Instead, I want to talk about how to get the most out of their tools, whatever they may be, because a true craftsman should never blame their tools...who doesn't like a good cliche`.

The first step is to assess what your current needs are, as well as what your needs will be in the future. What is good enough to get the job done now may not be able to support you 6 months down the road, and the switching costs from platform A to platform B are tangible. Additionally, it's tough to find the solution when the problem is not clear. At the same time, begin collecting information as to the options available, and what each is capable of. With virtually every platform employing some variation of the Freemium model, it's easy to simply ignore the paid options. Don't! Assess each option independent of their cost. Remember, freedom isn't free...

Once you have a clear idea as to your needs and the options out there, ask around for some insight from others in your industry, as well as have a discussion with your team to solicit their feedback. Getting their buy-in is critical, but it's also important to not get stuck trying to make everyone happy. Since everyone will have their own preferences, and these will rarely align perfectly, an objective viewpoint is necessary to ensure the best decisions for the group are made.

After you've talked things over with the team, its decision making time. It's important that you don't compromise your solution by prioritizing free over useful. As we discussed earlier, most platforms have some basic free option, and many companies can get by cobbling together a Frankenstein of 6 free tools. However this simply creates more friction and drastically reduces the overall potential impact on productivity. Most paid options are still reasonably priced to say the least, so choosing the best set of tools will pay for itself in time saved.

Once you have made your decision, the most challenging part will be not only getting the team to buy in, but also getting the team to commit to consciously using the tools. There are many different ways to manage the transition from the old to the new, but the most important thing is that you develop and plan and stick to it. Depending on your team's tendencies, the bandaid approach, where you clean house and roll out everything over a short period of time may work best. Gradually transitioning project by project to new tools until your entire current workload is connected is another option. Regardless, consistent effort is key.

If the team does not commit for the long haul, then nothing will seem to work, and your team will begin to look for different tools because the current ones suck. To convey the effort necessary, it's important to provide specific timelines to help manage expectations. In this article by Jason Selk for Forbes, he talks about the myth of habit formation in 21 days and the real challenges needed to create good habits. He references business coach Tom Bartow's model of the 3 phases of habit formation:

Phase 1: The Honeymoon
Fairly self explanatory. You start using your new tool and everything's great. This is so easy! I am CRUSHING it this week. I may as well stay home Thursday and Friday because i'm going to do 5 days worth of work in 3 at this rate...

Phase 2: The Fight Thru
You start to encounter situations where you default to your old habits, rather than the new process or whatever it may be. You are pressed for time, and know that you'd save time if you just went back to what you are used to. Winning 2-3 "fight thru's," where you encounter these moments and are able to stick to the new script is essential for these new habits to take root.

Phase 3: Second Nature
After battling through phase 2, you typically settle into a new routine and feel good, and are on your way to a better life. To ensure you stay on track, they go on to describe 3 common speedbumps that can knock you off course, The discouragement monster(we all know him), Disruptions(my throat hurts and the only thing that seems to help is this whole gallon of ice cream), and the seduction of success(see I was able to sustain it for 4 weeks, I can basically turn it on and off, no need to do this all the time).

Managing change is always a challenge. These challenges only get harder when it entails simultaneously changing multiple habits, and the success is dependant on the everyone buying in. Nobody said it would be easy! But like any challenge, people can change. All it takes is time, patience, and maybe a small miracle or two.