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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 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.

Tuesday, Sep 20th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
Push It To The Limit

Your phone is laying next to you. The screen illuminates. You stop what you're doing and scan the screen for something to peak your interest. Low balance alert, damn it. You go back to what you were doing. Every app is at risk of being forgotten, left sitting on a back screen or in a folder labeled "Uselessness" along with the stocks app. Push notifications can make the difference in your app being one of the forgotten, or making it into someone's daily routine. Last year, users who enabled push notifications launched an app an average of 14.7 times per month versus 5.4 times a month for users who did not enable notifications. 3X more launches? Sign us up.

Come on girls, let's go show the guys that we know how to become number one in a hot party show. NOW PUSH IT.

Yes, driving users to engage with your app is the main goal of push notifications. But like most marketing, there is value to be found in other elements. Is it generating buzz? Is it adding value to your brand? Is it creating awareness or building trust with your users? Your strategy should be less focused on clicks, and more focused on ways to build your brand. The language (or emojis) you choose should be consistent with the messaging you use throughout your marketing.

Turn offs include...

Did you click on this article because it looked boring? No. Something about it was compelling. The content of your push notifications need to be compelling enough that users don't turn to the dreaded "Turn off push notifications" option, and instead are persuaded to open the app. The content should be witty and interesting, and provide them with something worthy of their time. If your users don't find value in receiving notifications from you, they will turn you off quicker than cargo pants.

Call me, beep me, if you wanna reach me

I am a vicious online shopper. It's a hobby, it's a sport, it's a passion. And like any good online shopper, I filter my search with precision to find exactly what I'm looking for so I don't have to wade through items I'm not interested. You can apply this same concept to your user's push notifications by allowing them to customize their settings so they choose what notifications they want to see. Rather than turning notifications off completely, allow them the opportunity to decide what's important to them. For instance, ESPN's app prompts you to choose which teams you want to receive updates on, instead of just sending you blanket news about sports. Kayak, a travel app, gives you the option to set notifications based on dates and destinations that alert you when a price has dropped based on your criteria. Users are teeing it up for you by telling you exactly what they want to hear from you.

Push, not shove

You don't want to be the whiney girlfriend complaining that users never pay attention to you anymore. Instead, try to use language that is encouraging. Don't shame users into opening your app or try to preach to them that you know best. We get it Yahoo Fantasy Football, you don't agree with my lineup choices. I read the injury report, and I don't need your judgment.

What's in it for me?

Coupons have been around for decades, but they remain relevant because they offer incentive to customers that drive them to visit. Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks provide value to users by offering them a discount or a coupon at specific times. They make them time sensitive to further drive engagement. There is a 5% higher click through rate with notifications that include the words "off" for discounts and promotions. Success is also seen with words like "come" and "only" that create a sense of urgency.

AWWWW, YEAHHHHH

I can't be the only one who immediately thinks of GrubHub when they see this phrase. In fact, its making me a little hungry to type this. GrubHub speaks to their users in a casual, comfortable manner. In addition to using language that reflects your brand, your language should speak to your demographic in a way they can relate to. Bonus points for using their name, with users being three times more likely to convert from a push notification when its personalized.

Timing is everything

When I was researching the best times to send out a push notification, I found that the strongest open rates are 10AM-1PM, with little variation by day. But I'm going to go out on a limb here with my marketing expertise and say that may not be the best time for you to hit send. I suggest you get to know your audience instead. A/B test until the cows come home. And most importantly, know your product. If you are a language app, your user probably isn't studying on a Saturday night, so hold off on push notifications that night. If you're an EDM show finding app, your user is ready to rage Saturday night and would love a push notification at that time. Know your audience and think about why they downloaded your app in the first place. Ignore best practices.

Location, Location, Location

One day I read a review for an app that assured me I would find the best drink deals in town. I downloaded it immediately, ready to start saving/drinking. I promptly forgot about it. A few days later, I was walking to a friend's apartment and ding ding! I received an alert that I was walking near a bar I could be saving/drinking at. The real value in this app was born. It was making my life easier and more convenient. Instead of leaving it to take up storage in my phone, I actually engaged with the app.

Never forget to SQUIRRELL!!

Our attention spans are short. Are you even still reading this article? Have you clicked on three different notifications while you read it? Because our attention spans are so short, we often get distracted and forget that we left an item in our cart instead of actually ordering it. Check in with users to see if they were done with your app to draw some clicks. Remember that your users have a short attention span when writing your notifications and keep the word count low. They should be able to quickly scan to determine if they are interested.

Facebook Birthdays, like, can you not?

I surveyed a few friends about the type of notifications that they liked and disliked. Highest marks go to Poshmark, an app where you can list, sell, and purchase clothing. Poshmark sends out clever notifications multiple times a day that are guaranteed to spark a conversation, a laugh, or a screenshot. As I am sitting here writing this blog post, I received a notification from Poshmark about pumpkin spice. Timely and relevant as always. However, the only thing this notification made me do was get up and get a coffee, not necessarily go sell some clothes. It's not a blatant sales pitch, but they were on my mind.

You gotta pump those numbers up, those are rookie numbers

The other response I received when polling my friends, family, and coworkers was that they have no interest in push notifications, and in fact turn most of them off immediately. A marketer's nightmare. However, a trend did emerge in the select few that made the cut. Most people continue to keep notifications on social apps, like Instagram and Snapchat. The other one was typically a news app, like CNN or New York Times. This is pretty interesting insight into what user's value. First and foremost, they value their friends. They want to stay connected with people. Second, they value the world around them and timely, breaking news. Ultimately, the most important question to consider when you are writing your push notifications is "does this create value for the user?" The ultimate goal should be to make your users life better! Don't be repetitive with your messages. Try to make your user laugh. Is this alert going to help them, or distract them? If you're going to interrupt someone's life, make it a worthwhile message.

Tuesday, Sep 13th, 2016

Paul D'Angelo

Paul
Ready, Fire, Aim

We've all been there before. You need something asap, and resources are scarce. You've been cobbling together a production ready site with the help of a rotating cast of freelancers and friends, and just need this final piece to get you fully operational. You are so close you can taste it. The final pieces are so obvious to you, you begin looking for help with little more than a 2 sentence overview explaining how you just need a quick fix and that a 2 week should be more than enough time.

You narrow down your search to three potential partners, and explain to them how easy this project will be, briefly outlining the simple quick fixes. When pressed for greater detail, you brush them off, emphasizing the urgency needed and how explaining now will simply slow things down. After a few exchanges over price, you settle on a team you like, and get started.

During kickoff, your team digs a little deeper in to your existing code. During the process, they identify a few issues that you had not anticipated, including some API's that you thought would be simple to integrate with, but in fact are not. You assure them that everything else will be a breeze, and agree on a few areas to begin working immediately. A few days later, those immediate areas also need extra clarification, and you still haven't figured out how to proceed with the previous API issue. As you head into the second and "last week" of the sprint, you find yourself scratching your head wondering how at the halfway point, you suddenly have more questions than answers.

This kind of misplaced urgency happens far too often, and virtually everyone loses in the process. While urgency is a key component in most scenarios, if misplaced it can be a counterproductive force that can cause delays or much worse. With a little patience, more in depth discussions prior to beginning the engagement would've allowed for a greater understanding of what was needed, with potential hold ups being identified earlier and mitigated. How do you protect yourself against such dastardly urges??

Slow down
Whether you are starting a new venture, adding a new feature, or simply behind the 8-ball for a deadline, be sure to give yourself adequate time to think through the problem thoroughly. The moments where you feel there is too much to do to stop and think are usually the times that it is most important to do just that. When in doubt, ask yourself what would Ghandi do? "I have so much to accomplish today that I must meditate for two hours instead of one."

Have a plan
You have spent the past 6 months working day and night bringing your idea to life, and you have a deep, intimate knowledge of every facet of your dream. Guess what? Joey Javascript that you just hired most likely is not a mind reader, and it's going to take time to get him familiar with the code, let alone immerse himself in how the platform is going to serve your mission. The clearer the picture you can paint for the team for both the immediate needs and how it relates to the big picture, the more efficiently they will be able to deliver.

Listen to your team
If the oncoming team doesn't have any questions at all, that should immediately set off all the alarms. Anticipate having to spend extra time clarifying issues and do not dismiss any questions or answer them half heartedly. Any Development team worth their code will give their best effort to deliver in a timely and accurate manner, and any questions are to that end. If you are frustrated that the answers seem so obvious and suspect the team is dragging their feet, please remind yourself of the previous revelation that most are not in fact mind readers.

Know when to compromise
You've been working tirelessly to get things just right, so there's no way you were going to give up now right? You can just impose your will on your team to get them to dig a little deeper, and get it to the finish line. While that sounds inspirational, it can also be dangerous. Not only can it create friction between you and your team, delaying launch just to ensure things are "perfect" can cost you valuable time. The sooner you get your product in front of people, the sooner you start collecting real data.

And know when to stand your ground...
Yes I know I literally just told you to compromise, but sometimes you do need to keep pushing for those final details and features. Nobody said this was going to be easy! How do you decide what's what? Ask yourself, is making this feature, functionality, screen etc being x% more perfecter going to lead to a x% greater chance of success of the product? If yes, then adjust your timelines accordingly, and make sure it's right. If not, and your current situation is "good enough", then get your product going as soon as possible, and can continue to refine as you go, armed with additional real user data to help guide you.

Urgency is a tricky thing. While it can narrow our focus and help us achieve great things during intense deadlines, it can also consume us and cause us to completely blow it. You could say that Urgency is to panic, as pressure is to stress, but that's a discussion for another time. For now, just remember to periodically slow things down, especially when you need them to move the fastest.

Thursday, Sep 1st, 2016

Lauren Basil

Lauren
Now Arriving: An Upgraded Commute

I've always enjoyed driving. Getting into my car and being able to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted was a luxury I hadn't realized. That luxury was a far off memory when I turned in the convenience of driving for the overcrowded, always delayed New York subway system. Lucky me. I would shove my way towards the front of the crowd each morning in hopes of getting onto the first train to arrive, but rarely did that happen. After weaseling my way onto the train, I would stand there surrounded by hot, sweaty bodies and I would stare at my phone in hopes of avoiding any human interaction. I would even preload Snapchat stories or my Instagram feed knowing I would lose service and have no other option but to take my eyes off of the screen. Nothing about my commute added value to my life.

I realized my commute to and from work was going to be 400 minutes a week I would never get back. It was time wasted. I needed to take a different approach. Instead of allowing myself to mindlessly stroll through my Instagram feed, I had to figure out what I could to add value to my life or my career.

I was on a mission to find a few different approaches on how I could spend my time. Was it something that would prepare me better for my work day? Was it something to help my personal life and put my mind at ease? Or was is just simply reading the news? Honestly I didn't know. It might just depend on what mood I'm in.

I started off by considering work related things I could do or read to fill the time. I figured this was a win win for me. I would be occupied during the ride and it would benefit my career in one way or another. I found an app called Any.do that served as a task manager. The quick and dirty: I was able to keep track of my to-do list, prioritize tasks, schedule a time for each task and set long term goals and milestones relative to each task. This was something I previously would do every morning as soon as I sat down at my desk. Adding it to my morning commute cut that time out of my work day and got my brain moving before I walked into the office. Not only did I enjoy the fact that it cut an aspect out of my work-day, it also made me feel more prepared walking into the office. Of course, somedays I may not have been able to plan my whole day out while on the train, but most days I could and it made me more aware of what was critical that day.

Sure, somedays I didn't want to think about work at all before I got to the office. When I was feeling this way I would use an app called Headspace that allowed me to meditate anytime, anyplace, anywhere (even offline). The idea of meditating was completely foreign to me. I had never done it, felt the need to do it, or thought about doing it. It was a game changer, but it wasn't easy. It took practice to ignore the distractions of people talking, children crying and the constant voice saying "stand clear of the closing doors.

If I got the option to sit, I would take it (unless someone else was in need, of course) because this was the easiest way for me to meditate and drown out all other distractions. If not, I would try and go towards the back or the front of the car to avoid people going in and out of the doors at each stop. I would have to carefully plan how long my meditation would be based on when I was able to start it. This was important. If I was completely zoned in and the meditation took too long, that meant I was probably going to miss my stop. All in all, by doing this I got a moment of peace during a very hectic time. It allowed me to clear my head and refocus for the day ahead.

Mediation isn't for everyone. Some days it was not for me and these were the days that I turned to reading while on the train. During work I would come across articles that really peaked my interest, but most of the time I was in the middle of something else and didn't have the time to read it right then and there. It was inconvenient to copy and paste the link to the article and then email it to myself to I could then read it later on the train.

An app called Pocket came to my rescue. I downloaded it to my phone and computer immediately. When I was on my computer, it allowed me to simply click a button on my browser and save whatever article I was looking at to the app on my phone. I could do the same thing on my phone and then later access the article later on my computer. The best part about this app, it accounted for people not having service while on the subway. Every article is saved locally on the app so there is no need for service when wanting to go back and read. Sometimes I used this as entertainment reading and sometimes I used this to learn more about what was going on in my industry and what I could be doing better.

I found every method added value in a different way. I no longer felt as if I was wasting time, and hiding from any human interaction. I am not set in a routine of having to fill out my to do-list on Mondays or meditate on Thursdays, I figure out what I am in the mood for and what is the best use of my time that day. I never thought that apps on my phone would turn the worst 80 minutes a day into an extremely useful time for me to accomplish something. Even though we often hear that we should turn off our screens and be in the present, being present in the subway just leads to unhappiness, irritation, and sometimes seeing things we wish we could unsee. Figure out how you can best use your time commuting and I would bet money that "there's an app for that."

Tuesday, Aug 30th, 2016

Jesse Nagelberg

Jn
A Few Words On Wordpress

In the role of a web developer who's worked on numerous projects involving Wordpress, and as someone whose friends and colleagues are seeking advice on the best web framework to choose, I often express the same opinion to them. I'm not a fan of WordPress. I believe that in several cases there are options that people overlook because WordPress is such a household name, and they assume that it's their only option.

I've been spending quite a bit of time lately wrestling around with WordPress. With an ever-growing competitive landscape in the web framework market, the options for your site are endless, making it difficult to choose the right one. As this isn't my first rodeo, I'm here to help guide you into making the right decision for you and your business.

I'm going to lay out the pros and cons of WordPress, my experience with it as a developer, and broadly cover some alternative services.

Everyone Has Heard of WordPress, But What Is It?

Built back in 2003, WordPress is currently the most popular framework with around 15,886,000 websites on the web and boasting an impressive 17 posts published every second on WordPress sites worldwide. WordPress.com gets more unique visitors than Amazon (126 million per month vs. 96 million per month) and WordPress.org powers some well known, highly trafficked sites such as CNN, Spotify, and TechCrunch.

It's important that I state that there is a big difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, here's a great resource on explaining this further. Simply put, the .com is the fully hosted version of the framework where there is no coding required whatsoever and you can pick from a range of themes and customize the designs yourself, much like SquareSpace which I'll mention later. You pick a theme and they handle the technical aspects for you. The .org version is the self-hosted version where you can install custom themes and plugins to get a more customized and feature rich website. In this article I'm mainly going to be talking about my experience with the .org version.

Wordpress is a Content Management System (CMS) that allows you to create, edit, and publish web content through their web interface. Out of the box, one would consider it a very useful product, offering inexhaustible numbers of themes, plugins, and options for integrations with 3rd party services such as MailChimp and contact forms. You would have everything you would need to build a basic website and the ability to create a far more advanced one if you so choose. These numerous features available to you are designed to take the whole development (i.e. coding) aspect out of your way by allowing you to create and edit content and utilize other tools on both the front end (visual aspect) and backend (data) portion of the site. An example of this could be dragging and dropping rows of text and images via tools like Visual Composer or creating, editing, and deleting blog posts that are created through your backend web interface.

Most importantly, WordPress has a huge developer community. In fact, it's an open source platform, meaning that the core code used to power the CMS is open to anybody to use and develop. Many developers can create their own themes and plugins to share and sell with the community making it an opportune choice for people to hop on the bandwagon and contribute.

This Sounds Great, But There's A Few Problems:

Despite its vast popularity and widespread use, someone simply uttering the word "WordPress" aloud stirs up several emotions and groans amongst developers and non-developers alike. WordPress is essentially the Regina George of CMS's in that it's really popular as the statistics have proven, but relies heavily on the work of the open source community, so can you really trust her? Would you reference stats from Wikipedia in a PhD thesis? You probably wouldn't, so why develop your site on the same foundation with WordPress?

Due to the nature of having this large open source community, there is a serious saturation of themes and plugins, inevitably meaning some bad apples in the group that lack in quality. "At this point in time there are over 44,000+ WordPress plugins which are downloaded more than 1.2 billion times." With these kinds of numbers it's unrealistic to be able to police the creation and sale of said tools because of the size and scale of the community. What this means for users is that they really can't feel comfortable choosing the right tool for their site, and usually have to resort to purchasing a "premium" plugin which will end up costing them extra money. Decisions... decisions... decision fatigue.

In my own recent experience working on WordPress sites for clients, I came across several speed bumps that made my development experience unpleasant. This includes, but is not limited to: broken tools, intrusive workarounds to get small customizations to work, visual bugs, and web interface bugs. WordPress is highly customizable, but has a steep learning curve and doesn't play nice when you want to make customizations.

Ultimately I feel that WordPress would be cumbersome for those that want to launch a new business quickly and without any setbacks, but may be appropriate for those with more time on their hands and who really want to gain a better understanding of CMS's and coding in general.

What About The Competition?

SquareSpace, Shopify, Weebly, Wix, Drupal, Joomla. No, I'm not just making noises with my mouth, these are some alternative services and web frameworks to WordPress.

These alternative services are similar to WordPress in a few ways, namely offering out of the box solutions for generating quick websites with a front end template and a database. These services don't require any development experience and are also customizable through their web interfaces. Take SquareSpace for example, with the main difference lying in the fact that where WordPress is an open source community, SquareSpace is not, meaning that their in-house development team produces all of it's tools specifically for it's users. SquareSpace would be a direct competitor of the .com version of WordPress.

These services both new and old are gaining traction, especially amongst millennials that want cool looking sites with minimal time and assistance required in building. In my next post I'll be talking more in depth about SquareSpace and my thoughts and experience using it.

Is A WordPress Site Right For Me?

The .com version would be the better choice if you're looking for something quick and easy that you can start building right away. I think there are so many other great services nowadays that it can't hurt to try a different one if you're looking to build a more advanced, customized site.

Thanks for reading and be sure to look for my next post taking a closer look at the pros and cons of SquareSpace.

Thursday, Aug 18th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
Best Practices for Collaboration Between Designers and Developers

The design process it absolutely critical to building an application that is both beautiful and functional. These designs serve as a guide for developers, a brand and face for a company, and ensure a clean experience for users. With this all important task, its crucial to remember that no designer is an island. Creating the best designs requires another essential element: collaboration. Poor synergy between designers and development can leads to stress and tension for developers, designers, clients, project managers, and the rest of your team.


Throughout the course of a project, miscommunications between these two parties can occur often. Developers bouncing between projects can mix up where they picked up and left off. Designers can overlook minor styling elements like error messages. Disorganized site maps can lead to confusion, and designers and developers can run into problems when they don't see eye to eye. But many of these issues can be eliminated by simply implementing better practices for communication. Following these simple guidelines can help to ease many of the problems faced throughout the design and development process.

Obsessive Compulsive Design

Organization is absolutely irreplaceable. No matter how amazing designs are, if they are disorganized, they are not useful. Designers- make life easy for your developers by creating the cleanest, most well organized files possible. When labeling layers, include a title, breakdown, and a name that makes sense (to both designers and developers.) Sketch provides the option to annotate your documents, so take advantage of this! Properly labeling requires less clarification later on. Developers- don't be afraid to ask for clarification if you don't understand those labels! There's nothing worse than spending hours coding only to realize you've have been working off of an old mock. No matter what assets are being provided, they need to be on time, detailed, and complete.

Can you hear me now?

Clear communication is the simplest way to ensure that designers and developers are collaborating well. Designers and developers should be encouraged to communicate regularly to gain a better understanding about the status and elements within a project. Benefits go beyond just clear understanding. The extra input leads to more innovative and functional designs for the end user. Every designer has had the experience of staring at a design for a week straight and not noticing a typo, only to be immediately spotted from a fresh set of eyes. Been there, dseigned that.

Meet and Greet

Don't just meet a little, meet a lot. Meet to review the wireframes before designs begin to get made. Meet before a designer presents mock ups to a client to make sure they are realistic for development. From kickoff to presentation, someone from development should join in all design meetings with clients. The extra time spent is essential in preventing miscommunications and misunderstandings that lead to the dreaded response from clients that the finished product doesn't look like the mock ups.

Como Se Dice...Language

Use language that is constructive, descriptive, and detailed. People typically don't see things the same way based on their tastes, preferences, or past experiences. Avoid words like "trendy" or "chic", and instead opt for clearer terminology that describes more literally what you are looking for. Don't leave room for misinterpretation. Designers should have a firm understanding of the lingo used for development as well.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

It's important that both designers and developers approach the project with respect everyone's opinion. Designers, put yourself in the developer's shoes and think how a developer would and vice versa. Be open minded and consider all ideas, even if they aren't yours. Both designers and developers are experts in their field, but that doesn't necessarily make them the authority with the final say. Sometimes a tie breaker vote from an outside party may be in order, but as long as the situation is handled respectfully a lot of problems can be avoided.

Wednesday, Jul 20th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
Benefits To Building A MVP

Are you jumping in head first or biting off more than you can chew? At Devshop, we work with all levels of business, from startup to enterprise level, and everything in between. Sometimes we are tasked with building an application for an existing business, but often the application is the business. In these cases, where the platform is so heavily intertwined with the business itself, the importance of a successful, streamlined application with the cleanest functionality out of the gate becomes even more relevant.
When we are approached by businesses in the idea formulation phase of development, we find that many platforms stand to benefit from building a MVP up front. We often recommend the MVP, or minimum viable product, route because it helps in determining the practicality of an idea is at its core. Creating an initial MVP does not mean releasing an unfinished product. Your MVP should still accomplish your main goals, but save the bells and whistles for V2. Coming from a non-tech background, one of the first things I learned working at a development shop was that a website or application is never really done. It's constantly evolving, developing, and pivoting based on the needs of the user and the goals of the business. Focusing on the main functions of your application as a starting point comes with a long list of benefits.


  1. Getting To Market Sooner

    Competition is constantly present, so a business stands to benefit from any advantages possible. Being the first to market provides a leg up on the competition, gaining valuable recognition before similar apps are on the scene.

  2. Avoiding Overwhelming Users
    A major hurdle in acquiring or converting users lies in their ability to grasp the concept of an app. Beyond designing UX with the user in mind, building an initial product that is simple enough for a user to easily understand can aid in overcoming this barrier.

  3. Getting Real User Feedback Before Adding Features
    User feedback gets watered down when too many features are introduced, making it harder to draw conclusions about the core functionality of the application. Streamlining what components users are interacting with allows them to provide deeper insight into the overall concept, rather than being bogged down insignificant details.

  4. Avoids Wasted Time And Resources
    A client who approaches us with an extensive list of features for their initial product will often be met with a longer timeline and a higher estimate to build it. Whether you're a startup or an enterprise level client, no one benefits by wasting time and money. Creating an initial MVP accomplishes the ultimate goal while saving man hours and cutting down on costs.

  5. No Product Is Ever Finished
    We know you don't want to release an unfinished product to market, and neither do we. We would never recommend that. What we would advise is that no product is ever really complete, so if you are waiting until your application is finished you will never launch. Leaving room to grow once your application is in the hands of users ensures that you're are growing in the right direction.

  6. Lessens Chances For Bugs
    Have you ever opened an application that unexpectedly quit on you in the middle of an action? Frustrating. We want to avoid that. Throwing everything but the kitchen sink in means less time devoted to core functions and a greater likelihood of having bugs within the application.

  7. Makes Implementing Changes As Simply As Possible
    Venmo didn't start out seeking to be Venmo, and Uber offered a fraction of the benefits it does today. Features can always be added on, but changes can occur more quickly when you begin with a less complex product. You may be one easy pivot away from the next best thing, but going too far down a specific path with your initial product can deter any simple adjustments.

Building an MVP allows for easier analysis and adjustments, which will ultimately result in the best possible product. A MVP is a way to test a platforms business model with the least amount of complex features. While this is not a one size fits all method, considering creating an MVP initially has clear benefits that could ultimately mean the success of an application in the long run.

Tuesday, Jul 12th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

Lizzie
Work This Way

The Ideal Workspace

Hanging on a roof deck, sun shining, weather in the mid-80's, with a refreshing adult beverage next to me. The perfect weekend, or the perfect workday? While the the typical office used to evoke images of tan walls, claustrophobic cubes, sterile conference rooms and bad coffee, the definition of office space has pivoted. A well designed office includes modern creative spaces where comfort leads to innovation. While this shift has been occurring in offices like Google and Twitter for years, the move took place for Devshop just last week as we relocated our office from a typical tan office downtown to a funky, fun workspace in Midtown. And it led us to a few realizations about the way we work in our field and in our space. As developers, designers, and entrepreneurs, creativity and innovation are as relevant to our success as technical skill. (Humblebrag, we are also highly technically skilled.) A creative workspace is not about having a foosball table, it's about creating an environment that adapts to every type of worker. Every member of our team manages their tasks in a unique way, but no matter what our workspace style is, we can find it here. Each team member has a unique situation or setting that caters to their specific work needs.

Workspace Realization #1: Silence IS Golden
During an average workday, we get interrupted 6 times every hour. If you sit next to a Chatty Cathy, that number is probably even greater. Silence is golden for a reason Cathy, with studies showing that these constant interruptions have a noticeable affect on productivity. More noise can lead to high levels of stress and have a negative effect on work. When discussing this blog post, one of our DevTeamers waxed poetically about the "Harry Potter Room" in the Copely Library at the University of San Diego. His best workspace was a uniquely designed library room made to look like it was straight out of the mystical book, except with an added bonus: complete silence. The room was so silent you could hear a pin drop. Most of our team agreed that a dream office includes a silent place to focus.

Workspace Realization #2: A Room with A View
Staring at the same walls every day can drastically stunt creativity. While many offices spaces opt for the of-so-charming florescent light, having a view is roundly viewed as the way to go. A great thing about working in tech is most of us can work anywhere, or atleast anywhere that has a place to plug in our laptop charger. An amazing view? Yes, please. Natural light? Heck yes. Increasing natural light in an office helps employees sleep better and get to work more rested and ready to work.

Workspace Realization #3: Space to Pace
How often do you get up from your desk? Having space to walk around and pace a bit before returning to your desk is a necessary element in creativity. We at Devshop are so lucky to live and work in New York City, surrounded by shapes, sounds, and colors that inspire us. A ten-minute walk can be the key to figuring out that problem you couldn't solve. Compared with sitting, studies found getting up and walking around in any form can increase creative thinking up to 60%. Jumpmanjumpmanjumpman up out of your desk chair, immediately.

Workspace Realization #4: Turn on, tune in, drop out
Plugged in with no idea what's going on around you is bliss to some of our DevTeam. Listening to instrumental, hip hop, electronica -depending on how amped we need to be - gets us in the zone. When it's a task a worker performs on a regular basis, music has been shown to increase concentration.

Workspace Realization #5: B$*#% don't kill my vibe
One of our favorite elements of our new workspace is the energy. The vibe in the office is one where people are passionate about their ideas, innovation, and making great things happen. This also happens to also be a cornerstone of the Devshop philosophy. With all of these creative people buzzing around you, it's hard not to feel inspired. In fact, many offices are now designed to create pathways that increase chance encounters and run ins. In this scenario, chatter is a good thing because it can lead to increased familiarity between coworkers and allow for conversations that lead to collaborations, solutions, and productivity.

With so many different personalities in a company, having a variety of workspace options that are suited to different work styles and tasks is the key to making sure that employees are able to do their best work. With a few days under our belts at the new office, we started to explore the different options and locations. Feeling out what works, what we liked and what we hated. Despite all the options at the office, the majority of time will still be spent at the home base of a familiar desk. The new workspace is like a cereal aisle: even with a plethora of options, most of us will choose the same bowl every day...but there's a comfort in knowing you have options.
There's a comfort in the knowledge that you have freedom, and are not sectioned off and put in a corner. Working in a creative workspace has given us the opportunity to see something different every day, work somewhere different every day, and build even better ideas.