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Wednesday, Nov 16th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

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.

Tuesday, Sep 13th, 2016

Paul D'Angelo

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

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."

Thursday, Aug 18th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

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.


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.

Tuesday, Jul 12th, 2016

Lizzie Healy

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.

Tuesday, Apr 12th, 2016

Jesse Mauro

Miniseries Part II: The Kickoff

The Kickoff
"If you look at history, innovation doesn't come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect." - Steven Johnson

Episode II focuses on conceivably the most crucial aspect of app development: The Inception. The Kickoff is what we call the first meeting with a new client. The meeting typically lasts anywhere from 1-2 hours and consists of you, the client, and the assigned members of Devshop who will be crafting your shiny new application. We like to start the meeting by having you provide all members of the team with your "elevator" pitch. That way everyone in the room understands the goal of this project and the "problem" we're going to be solving.

The Team:
In The Kickoff meeting you'll get your first introduction to the members of Devshop who will be assigned to your app. We commonly refer to these members as your "team". Your team will consist of the following roles:

  • Account Manager: Questions about billing, processes, or schedules? This is your main point of contact.

  • Project Manager: This person will keep you up to date on the status of your app from week to week as well as prioritize tasks.

  • UI/UX Designer (user interface/user experience): The art lesion that will be conceptualizing and creating your vision.

  • Lead Developer: While we'll typically have multiple developers working on your app, this person will be your main source of progress updates regarding development.

The Goal:
Coming out of The Kickoff meeting, we like to have a clear vision of what the app looks like. Your UI/UX designer will lead the discussion on constructing the app's sitemap and user flow. We like to sketch the page views of an app right in front of you so that everyone has a beneficial understanding of the app's foundation. Don't worry, this doesn't mean anything is sketched in stone (it's usually an erasable white board to tell you the truth), it's simply used as a roadmap to understand visuals and database architecture. Site mapping helps the developers understand the complexity of the features at hand as well as provide you with confirmation of your scope tailored around your visual requests. When the site map has been completed a screen shot is taken to be uploaded to our project management software for later reference.

The Expectations:
What's our expectations of you other than your vision? Nothing that's expected. If you have a current brand we'll ask you for a style guide and/or logo to work with when creating high fidelity mock ups. If you don't have either, we'll work with you to create a logo and branding. If you enter the project with an idea of a particular look in mind for your app (whether web, mobile or both) we always welcome examples of favorable sites for design inspiration when custom designing yours. What you can expect to walk out of The Kickoff with is a solid roadmap of what's getting done and when. Don't worry, we won't let you leave until all questions have been answered on both sides.

The Kickoff meeting is an essential step in the development of your application. It's the blueprint for building the house. We know problems and changes arise throughout the development of the app process but the plan we lay out can help avoid some of the foreseeable road blocks. Now that we have the blueprint, it's time to design the house. Up next, Episode III: The Design Process.

Tuesday, Aug 12th, 2014

Steve Weiss

Missing The User Experience

Our team was racing through a project, a goal tracking app for companies based on individual employee goals and criteria a company would be graded on. We had already gone through several iterations, created mockups, implemented those designs, and had a good amount of functionality working. This thing was looking great! But during a meeting reviewing the current progress, the tone changed.

The overall tone from those who had not interacted with the app on a daily basis was "Wait, how does this thing work?" We had glossed over a very important concept: Usability. It's quite a big concept, but an easy one to miss when your head is down and you're focused on bringing an app to production.

Viewing an app from the perspective of a user can be difficult. It requires you to not only have functionality in mind, but to also second guess all of your work. If you make a decision on where to place a button or what to label a text field, will the majority of users understand what it's trying to accomplish? What about a first time user who has never seen the product before? Try to put aside all the hours you have spent viewing these pages and go back to square one.

We realized that many things needed labeling. We needed more buttons. We needed to create a first time sign in flow. (remember the Microsoft Word Paperclip/Wizard?) These things all required more work. It's an interesting dilemma to balance. Do you have the goal of making an app as simple and user friendly as possible so it's just so intuitive that anyone could pick it up? Or do you enter the process with a first time set of instructions in mind? It depends on the functionality, your design, and the opinions of your client. It's a complicated mix!

Sometimes the best solution is showing the app to someone who hasn't worked with it before, and just see how easy it is to navigate through. There is no substitute for actual interaction. Also, drop all defenses, because no explanation or justification should be necessary. You won't be sitting next to a user while they're clicking around.

Just imagine the frustrating image of being enclosed in a soundproof cube, watching a user interact with your product. You can't say or do anything. Now, do you beam with pride at your fantastic and intuitive user experience, or do you pound on the glass of this mythical cube in frustration (not unlike Bill Murray as the Ghost of Christmas Past in the cinematic classic "Scrooged")? Just something to keep in mind.

Friday, Aug 8th, 2014

Eoin Thomas O'Hehir

Finding Happiness at the Workplace as a Designer

I've been out working as a designer since I graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in the May of 2013, and I've had the pleasure of working for many different types of companies in that somewhat small period of time. There are so many different kinds of places to work at and they all have different vibes, so it begs the question: How do you find the right workplace for you? How can you feel successful where you work?

Firstly, you have to find a place you love to work at. This is a little difficult, especially when you've just graduated and you don't know what you really like in a company. For me, I worked at a small startup for a few months in NYC before leaving to work at a large medical company in my hometown (Rochester, NY) and I found I really missed how quickly I could get things done at a smaller company. At the larger company I felt like I could work at whatever pace I wanted and enjoyed the larger paycheck, but it took so long to execute ideas and I couldn't really feel how large of an impact my decisions had. I was such a small cog in a very large machine and it was hard to tell if I'd made any progress as a designer, which eventually led me to leave the company. However, that's just me! It takes some experimentation to find out what you like in a workplace. Don't be afraid to explore and find out these things. Once you do, you can make better decisions about where you want to work.

Next, as a new employee, you're a fresh face. Often times you don't get seated with a lot of responsibility to make sweeping changes in a project. However, it's up to you to go above and beyond to really stand out. If you put in the extra effort, you make yourself more memorable as an employee and more respectable as a person. Put in the extra effort on small projects or tiny side-tasks and people will notice. This definitely works, and certainly did when I put in a couple hours to design a poster next to my espresso machine that I brought into the office while I was still working at the large medical company. I just wanted to let people know that they could use my machine to make their own brew if they'd like, but just to ask me first so I can show them how to not burn themselves. I couldn't tell you the number of times people just came up to chat while I was making my morning coffee, complimenting me on the poster I made. Plus, making lattes for people at work helped me get to know my coworkers better. That was one of the small things that helped me feel better about working there, because I got to meet so many different people outside of my tiny corner of the very large office building.

That's another thing - get to know who you're working with. It doesn't matter who you are or where you work, you're going to be working with a team of people who have their own varied interests and backgrounds. Go out to lunch with them, talk to them about your own life, ask them about theirs. Everyone has their own stories to tell. You'll find work will be that much more fun once you get to know everyone better. If you can laugh with the people you work with, you're doing the right thing. It'll make your work life that much more enjoyable.

Finally, ask for feedback on how you're doing. And don't just stop there; give feedback on how you've felt or how things are going for yourself too. Since I started at the DevShop, every couple of weeks I've met with Alec and Jesse P to ask about how I'm doing. It's been amazingly helpful for me to do so. By giving and receiving feedback, I've been able to get the guidance I need to complete projects and mature as a designer, plus I also get a chance to let those two know how we can improve our process. Especially for those of you who work in small companies, this is crucial to both your own improvement and the company's improvement as a whole. Honestly, I didn't know how crucial opening that line of communication was until just recently. After leaving the large medical company, I left to do some remote work for a startup in London which lasted for all of two weeks. There are many reasons why the relationship didn't last, and it was mostly due to my own slowness. I simply wasn't executing designs fast enough, and a large part of that was because of a time zone difference interfering with when I could get feedback on my designs. However, if I started asking for professional feedback sooner I would have known during those two weeks that was a big issue. In hindsight, I could have worked around the time difference in a multitude of different ways, but it's always easier to see these solutions after the problem has already come and gone.

You won't make good work or feel good about yourself until you find a place that rewards you adequately for the work you do, but every person has different definitions of what an adequate reward is for good work. Find out what that is for you, strive for it and work won't feel so aggravating and soulless any more. To me, if you're not having fun, you're doing something wrong. So, in whatever way you can, have fun. Enjoy your work and enjoy yourself.