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Sandy
persona development - how much is too much information?

Part of our user-centered web design process includes the development of personas through research and analysis. Personas have a noticeable advantage over traditional demographics because we (you, me, clients, etc) can relate to a person far more naturally than a list of stats and demographics. It's human nature to bucket information into a way that you can remember, that you can relate to, that you can engage with - and a persona literally puts a name with a face on a fictional character that we can all discuss and create an amazing experience around.

So my big question is how far to go with the persona? How much detail is necessary to tell the story and paint the picture?

This blog was posted by Sandy on September 2, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy
Free user research for website hosting companies

I would like to personally offer a free user research opportunity here for website hosting companies - for those website hosting companies that question what their customers want, need and feel. For those website hosting companies that are serious about growing their hosting businesses by listening to their customers.

At the end of the day, what we value most, is the most simple of requests - that you please please please keep our websites up and running. What we fear the most, is that you are going to take our websites down for any number of reasons (fixing a bug, fixing a hack, server down for no particular reason, cold fusion crash, windows crash) and not let us know, and not have an answer to when it will be fixed, and quite frankly, move on with your day as if this is and should be expected. Many website hosting companies brag about their up time, but here's the catch. It's not the uptime of our websites, it's the uptime of your servers, which doesn't protect our websites enough. This makes us (your users) not trust your hosting company.

This blog was posted by Sandy on September 1, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy
Marketing Firm's Super Secret Ingredient Revealed

This past weekend was our 3rd annual "Sandstorm Guac-off!" and our guacamole contest results are in.

Congratulations to... ME! (OMG - this is my official first time winning and my staff now thinks I cheated). And here's why. It's all about my super secret ingredient where they think I swayed the judges and the user experience. My super secret ingredient I talked about for weeks, and tested up in Lake Geneva about a month ago with friends and family to perfect my recipe. My super secret ingredient that no one was worried about because last year it was dill and I lost miserably. My super secret ingredient was... tequila. (he he he).

The most fun thing about guacamole is that is really does taste so different depending on what you decide to put in. This year's samples included mayo and sour cream to apples and jalepenos. Zak even brought a dessert guacamole which was my personal favorite (I didn't vote for myself as I don't personally like tequila) - he added raspberries and raspberry jam to be eaten with cinnamon crisps. Yum! And Zachary made guacamole for the first time ever.

So for the next year I get to be the "Guacamole Queen at Sandstorm". A title I am most proud of considering I can't cook very well to start off with. Not sure what my super secret ingredient will be next year. Better watch out Zak.

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 31, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

We are officially announcing our prediction for the new marketing buzz word for 2010: "intelligence". Intelligence is going to be the new way of describing a multitude of already existing words including but not limited to: web analytics, overall business experience, experience in a marketplace or segment of the market, market research, data aggregation and reporting, interactive data driven web tools... okay, basically anything that uses data will now be referred to as "intelligence".

Coming to our web site soon. :)

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 31, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
Impacting the user experience with blue frosting

I made blue and silver cupcakes for my staff today. To get that Sandstorm blue, I had to bust out the food coloring and mix up both the cyan and the magenta to get that silvery blue that makes up our logo. I also put the chocolate cupcakes in silver trays so the cakes look like they are silver and blue.

However, the blue is a little smurf-life as Janna said. And so far no one has eaten a cupcake but me. Hmm... Now I'm not a bad baker (I'm actually decent) as I've brought cupcakes before and they are usually gone by noon - so it got me thinking what was different about these Sandstorm cupcakes and I think it's the blue frosting? Could the blue frosting impact their desire to eat the cupcake, therefore creating a more negative user experience?

This got me thinking about our company color blue, and how blue is a color associated with a positive user experience from a web site and corporate perspective. But when it comes to food, I can't think of a restaurant or fast food restaurant that uses blue except White Castle and that alone proves my point. Color can make a big impact on the user experience. The big question now is if hunger will take over and will the cupcakes be gone this afternoon?

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 25, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy

At Sandstorm Design, we had an incredible time designing and building the Broadway in Montgomery web site this summer! Our creative team explored a very visual, experiential design concept to draw the user into the essence of theatre - taking cues from Broadway. Adding to the theatrical drama are subtle hints of interactivity from the rotating home page show display to the interactive season ticket package selections.

Aligned with our mission, we had a great time challenging ourselves and our client to create a memorable and intuitive online user experience! Plus as an added bonus, we got the opportunity to take this brand and execute in print including ads, posters and brochures.

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 21, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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Sandy
user centered web design drives the user experience

Think of a user experience team (like us at Sandstorm) as a group advocating for web site surfers... basically your web site users whoever they may be. It's easy to get caught up in business requirements while trying to build a web site/ interactive application/ online experience, but the goal of user centered design is to actually have your users drive some of your requirements.

We've been in more meetings that we can count where we'll spend an hour or two discussing what we "think" the user wants, what we "think" the user needs for education and content, what we "think" the user will do when we build our site - and we "think" how much easier it would be if we just picked up the phone and asked a few. So we do, and more often than ever before, user research is driving more and more of our web design decisions - ultimately enhancing a user's experience.

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 17, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy
The importance of Information Architecture

It blows my mind how many web sites are designed and built without considering information architecture. We don't let a project get to our creative team without an information architect (IA) building a few wireframes first.

Maybe it's one part of our "secret sauce" (this is one of my favorite new sayings) but it should be a necessary part of every web design process. The IA is "the one" that ties together the strategy, business requirements, user requirements, and messaging. The IA considers a layout from the user's perspective, ensures the site is easy to use, brings the most important features to the front, and aligns the marketing goals with the web site goals. An IA is highly strategic, is intuitive, and has a strong knack for common sense. My favorite book on the subject is Steve Krug's book, "Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability".

At Sandstorm, everyone in the creative department has to read it as part of their onboarding process. And we've added to the developers as well so we are all speaking the same language. Information architecture for us here at Sandstorm is just a part of who we are.

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 14, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy
social media marketing tips to B2B success

Social media marketing successes are strategic - now say that 10 times fast. Every client and prospect we're in front of now a days wants to talk about social media. It's the buzz, it's been the buzz, and now every B2B company is ready to do something... but the big question is what?

I think the bigger question is why? And do you have the capacity in house to either drive the strategy or execute on it? And what is the strategy or purpose for including social media into your integrated marketing campaign - because at the end of the day social media is yet one more marketing tactic you can add to your marketing mix. And it could be fun, and it's exciting, and more and more companies are playing around with it. But who is successful? And why are they successful?

My social media marketing tip for the day is to do your research and study your competitors and companies in the marketplace that you believe are successfully utilizing social media. It's one of the first steps in planning a strategy, and social media should be no different. So start your competitive analysis and start gleaning some insights from those that are further along.

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 13, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

Sandy
Web design firm selects Octoberfest for employee appreciation

Everyone here has been super busy and I wanted to find a fun way to say thanks - to show the very corporate "employee appreciation". After a very informal staff meeting (this meeting consisted of me sitting on someone's desk starting with a 1-1 conversation, that eventually everyone chimes in on) we decided that a beer tasting at Hopleaf on a Friday afternoon in October would be a great employee appreciation day. We can't wait - stay tuned...

This blog was posted by Sandy on August 10, 2009.
Sandy Marsico, Founder & CEO

About the Author

Sandy Marsico

Sandy Marsico is the founder & CEO of Sandstorm®, a digital brand experience agency that turns consumer insights into engaging user experiences through our unique blend of data science, brand strategy, UX and enterprise-level technology.

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