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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The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) and Fortune has announced that Sandstorm has been selected for prestigious 2016 Inner City 100 list. This recognition places Sandstorm in an exemplary lineage of nearly 900 fast-growing and innovative inner city businesses.
ICIC’s Inner City 100 is an annually compiled and released list featuring high-power, high-potential businesses from around the country with headquarters in inner cities. Each company is selected by ICIC with help from a national network of nominating partners who seek to identify, spotlight, and further enable the named companies’ innovative urban entrepreneurship. Ranked by revenue growth, the esteemed recipients go on to have their names published in Fortune.
Sandstorm ranked 95 overall on the list of 100 and it is the third time we have been honored with this distinction. We reported 2015 revenues of 4.29 million and a five-year growth rate of 117% percent from 2011-2015. In the past year Sandstorm has added a number of new positions, including a Digital Strategist, Marketing Manager, Front-End Developer, Director of Analytics & Optimization and a Creative Director.
The full list can be viewed on the Fortune website here.
“We are extraordinarily proud of these pioneering entrepreneurs who lead the way in economic revitalization in America’s inner cities,” says Steve Grossman, CEO of ICIC, of the list of 100.
The Inner City 100 program recognizes and supports successful inner city business leaders, and celebrates their role in providing innovation and job creation in America’s cities. These companies strengthen local American economies, provide job opportunities for underrepresented communities, and drive forward economic and social development.
There seems to be a holiday for everything now, including user experience. And Sandstorm couldn’t help but celebrate it.
The theme for World Usability Day 2016—Sustainable User Experience (UX)—unites UX and sustainability through the shared objective of creating unparalleled experiences. At Sandstorm, we understand the impact UX research and design can have on projects and, most importantly, people.
So we got excited to capitalize on our UX expertise while cleaning up our office recycling habits.
We assembled a team of eco-warriors—aka UX architects and marketing specialists—to investigate our team’s recycling habits. By utilizing user interviews—one of many types of user research—for this project, we were able to better understand current behaviors in the office and identify opportunities for improvement.
We asked our team members questions about their basic recycling knowledge, why they recycle, and what keeps them from recycling at the office. We uncovered two key findings from our research and, as a result, devised four ways to improve recycling.
- The majority of Sandstormers want to, and do, recycle
- The most significant barrier to recycling is Sandstormers’ uncertainty as to whether an item can be recycled or not
Ways to Improve Recycling at Sandstorm
- Ensure bins are present by every desk and in every conference room
- Clearly communicate what can and cannot be recycled
- Reduce plasticware/food waste
- Explore purchasing a dishwasher
Usability is about tweaking what you currently have to create a more effective experience; our user research showed that—with Sandstormers already in the habit of recycling—we need only to implement a few minor changes to encourage greener behaviors.
And just because we have action items now doesn’t mean our process is over. We will continue to track office recycling, and do follow up user research, to ensure office recycling is optimized for a greener tomorrow.
Here at Sandstorm we don’t simply “refresh” a website, we help businesses evolve their brand. Which is exactly what we did for Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) when they wanted their website to project a more modern feel with digital prowess.
Our first move was a content audit to get our arms around the site and understand the complex mission of AAM (empowering media professionals with trusted verification and data). From there we created a set of information architecture (IA) guidelines that informed the responsive website design. Through our thoughtful research and strict IA guidelines we were able to deliver a new website, with approachable messaging, that spoke to their various audiences.
While it would have been easy to take a don’t-mess-with-success approach, our warrior spirit drove us to collaborate with a large insurance company's federal employee program to further optimize their existing responsive web application (which we built a year earlier) to continue to increase online enrollment.
We started with a thoughtful review of their Google Analytics and conducted a heuristic analysis of the app. This allowed us to dig into the data analytics and find new opportunities to improve the application. Combine that with our existing expertise in the FEP program, and we were able to make some adjustments and update the overall interface to provide their users with an even more intuitive tool to help them find a benefit plan that fits their needs.
Sandstorm® is ready to help you develop a web app to convert your users.
In the spirit of our 3rd core value, Have Fun, each year Sandstorm has a Super Secret Event! Our Co-Captains of Fun, Alicia Newland & Nathan Hass, plan everything with our CEO Sandy Marsico. In past years we have gone to a Cubs game, an arcade & bowling.
This year we grabbed lunch at Emerald Loop, to ensure everyone was maxed out on energy for the main event: a scavenger hunt. The staff broke up into 5 teams for a digital scavenger hunt taking us all over the loop. The riddle clues led us to familiar landmarks like the Chicago Theater & the Chicago Cultural Center, and some interesting new places like Harlan J. Berk Ltd., coin dealer, looking for trivia answers. Some of the clues were a little more active and we had to snap a picture of the team doing ballet outside of the Joffery Ballet, posing on 1 leg with Calder’s Flamingo statue in Federal Plaza and double-checking the time with the famous Marshal Fields Great Clock.
Our core values help us accomplish our mission: to create a place for like-minded people to have fun & do things in a way that hasn’t been done before. We understand that some of the best ideas come from giving our inner-selves a place to explore & play. Beyond our Super Secret Event, we keep the fun rolling with a Guac Off, Halloween Costume Contest, Holiday Pajama Day and other pop up events throughout the year.
If “Have Fun” is one of your core values, check out our join the team page for open positions and to submit your resume.
Machines possessing hopes and dreams is a classic theme explored in science fiction. Sandstorm® explored this theme when Acxiom IT restructured their organization and needed a rebrand to reflect their new position as a tech company that dreams of the future.
Acxiom IT recently became a standalone infrastructure management services business, which required a new name and brand strategy to set them apart from their former parent company. Sandstorm® was hired to guide the 46-year-old business as they developed a new corporate identity. The result: the Ensono brand and a vision for the future.
Sandstorm®'s first step was diligent research. We examined the client's history, needs, behaviors and desires to understand where they've been and devised a marketing strategy to help them reach where they wanted to go. In speaking with their senior leadership, it became clear that they wanted to position themselves as a solution that meets the needs of the present and the future. Although they offered industry-leading mainframe solutions, Ensono needed help representing themselves as a company that develops and innovates for the future.
With renewed focus on addressing current client needs while engineering solutions for the demands of tomorrow, we turned to creating a new name. Sandstorm® went international while exploring the concepts of progress and dreaming: "enso" is a Zen concept that refers to strength and creativity, and "in sogno" is an Italian expression meaning "in dreams." By merging these words and concepts together, Ensono, or the company that dreams, was created. This idea of inventive and adaptable thinking followed through the positioning statement, key messages, content marketing tactics, and digital marketing strategies.
Sandstorm® assisted Ensono with their brand launch and website development and has continued to partner with them on many projects including: collateral materials, promotional video, product campaigns, corporate signage, and assisting with the interior design of their new office space.
If you are dreaming of a new marketing strategy, Sandstorm can make it a reality.
Sandstorm® recently acquired some new hardware when we took home the Best Launch Award at the B2B Marketer Awards & Conference for our marketing campaign rebranding Holden, a global leader in sales performance development.
Like many businesses, Holden was in a shifting industry and looking for a way to stay relevant while standing out. Sales training was seen as an ineffective & inefficient necessity, leading Holden to borrow from the eLearning industry to disrupt their industry by repositioning as a SaaS company. Sandstorm came in to create their new brand strategy, which included the bold claim that "sales training is over".
This disruption, punctuated by the new tagline game-changing sales habits, moved Holden away from a traditional sales training organization to an innovative, educational solution for developing talent. The brand launch campaign, that included a new identity, tagline, digital marketing, website and marketing collateral, helped Holden achieve 106% their annual lead gen goal in the first 5 months.
Congratulations to the award winning, Sandstorm team: Chief Strategy office Laura Luckman Kelber, Executive Creative Director Janna Fiester, Creative Director (Content) John Rausch, Account Director Alicia Newland and UX Art Director Nathan Haas!
As 2015 draws to a close, Sandstormers are busy wrapping up our New Year’s resolutions before the clock strikes midnight. Help us celebrate the completion of each goal with these fun GIFs!
Be sure to check back each day until 2016!
Resolution: Save Money
Megan is counting her pennies as 2015 winds down. Looks like somebody is ready for a vacation!
Resolution: Take Fewer Ubers
Adam is determined to spend less time in Ubers in 2016 and more time on his feet!
Resolution: Finish a scarf
Just as the snow begins falling again in Chicago, Alicia is finally getting around to finishing that scarf she started back in 2007. Better late than never!
Resolution: Exercise more
It is everyone's perennial resolution - as soon as January 1 rolls around, those gym memberships start flying in. Unfortunately most of us fall off the bandwagon by February. This year Lisa has been creative in getting her lift in wherever she can.
Resolution: Learn Spanish
Executive Creative Director Janna is putting in some last-minute study hours to try and perfect her Spanish before the clock strikes medianoche!
Resolution: Relax more
Developer Jeff can always be found hard at work building a jazzy website for our clients. So now he is trying to get in some last minute rest time before the new year.
Resolution: Unsubscribe from email lists
Our Art Director Nathan had too many emails flooding his inbox. So this year he made the choice to finally get around to unsubscribing from all the lists he was no longer interested in. Of course, we were there to help him celebrate his accomplishment!
Resolution: Read all the books Laura has recommended
Laura Luckman Kelber, our Chief Strategy Officer, is a voracious reader. Luckily, she always lets us know when a particularly good book crosses her path. This year, Kellye devoted herself to tackling the “Laura-Recommended Reading List!”
When Michael Hartman came to Sandstorm 5 years ago, he brought with him a wealth of experience in Drupal and user experience design. Since then he’s guided our team of UX experts every day while bringing expert knowledge to our clients (and to our blog).
As our Executive Experience Director, Michael will continue to provide thought leadership and strategy. He’ll be expanding UX strategy while cultivating superior processes and standards. All the while Michael will educate clients, mentor Sandstormers, and keep our agency moving forward technologically through development and user experience design.
Congratulations, Michael. Rock on!