James Wynne is Director of User Experience for Sandstorm and has been in digital product development since 1996. He has worked as a UX designer for a myriad of clients including large eCommerce brands, mobile device manufacturers and integrated marketing agencies.
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Sandstorm Design is thrilled to be ranked 21st in Brill Street's list of the top 50 most Generation Y friendly companies in Chicago. Joining Sandstorm on this list are huge companies like Google and Orbitz and local gems like Threadless and The Field Museum.
Brill Street selected honorees based on extensive quantitative and qualitative research. Judging criteria was based on what mattered most to Gen Y employees, including the use of social media, allowing flexible hours, and maintaining a work/life balance. Sandstorm Design is about 50% Gen Y and embodies a Gen Y’s ideal corporate culture.
We made the list - the top 21 list that is! We are so proud to be in Brill Street's Top 50 Generation Y Employers Chicago. Yep, we're #21 (hence the top 21 list). And they wrote a nice bio about our company on their site that really exemplifies who we are as a company, and what it's like to work with us, and for us. They even mentioned our guacamole contest! This recognition means a lot to me - and has easily become one of my favorite highlights of owning a business for the past 11 years. I am honored and proud that Sandstorm is a company and has a culture that people want to work for. That's why I started Sandstorm, to build a place that I would want to work at too.
Sandstorm Design and the Green REsource Council have been awarded a Standard of Excellence WebAward by the Web Marketing Association.
The Web Marketing Association annually honors sites in 96 industries based on their design, innovation, content, technology, interactivity, copywriting and ease of use. Entries are judged by an expert panel using a 0-70 points system, and only the top performers receive an award. Sandstorm and the Green REsource Council were honored in the Associations category. Learn more information about the WebAward Competition and check out the winning site.
The Client: National Association of REALTORS, Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC)
The Goal: Create a user-friendly web site that addresses the needs of multiple user groups.
The Solution: After conducting usability testing, user research, and establishing personas, we identified what type of information the different user groups required, and what features and functionality they were looking for. We designed a clean web site design and navigation that organized information by user group, and tested the navigation to ensure key tasks could be completed with ease. Important information and tasks were called to attention in the form of graphic callouts to engage users and ensure that they found what they were looking for. Cool blues and greens were added to round out their color palette, and subtle textures were incorporated throughout the design to add dimension. A coordinating advertising campaign, brochure, and tradeshow were launched in conjunction with the new site to drive traffic to the site and brand REBAC consistently across all mediums.
So we're starting to play around with the idea of posting some videos of us around the office on any given work day. We tend to laugh a lot around here, we keep a random quote board, and it seems like there's always this energy unlike any place I've known.
The question I ask myself is if anyone wants to get a look into what our work life is like at Sandstorm? So keep posted as we explore a video diary concept of our lives at Sandstorm as a social medium.
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.
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?
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.
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...
We are hiring! (Oh, I just LOVE saying that!) It's one of my favorite things to do. We are looking for an information architect that is a whiz at wireframing, understands the user experience, and can take strategic business decisions and turn them into intuitive interfaces. So that's our minimum requirement. Other pluses are whatever else you bring to the table - you tell us! Have design or photoshop skills? Great! Have experience in development? Cool. Love to conduct user research and usability tests - you're our next Sandstormer. Can't wait to meet you!