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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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...
Ready to conduct some usability testing because you have no budget and something is better than nothing? Then read on my friend...
You only need 5-6 participants to catch 80% of your problems (Jakob Nielsen, March 19, 2000), so what are you waiting for? Assuming you don't have access to your end user, grab a coworker or two (who isn't on the project) and watch their expressions and their navigational habits complete a series of tasks that you have deemed most important. It's basic, and rudimentary, but it's a start. And you've just started the beginnings of a task analysis - which will be important when you start to implement your web analytics.
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!
I once heard that there were 2,000+ web design companies in Chicago alone. And the average staff size for these web design companies were a mere 4 people, with the majority being 1 person shops. I know only 4% of the companies in the U.S. ever hit $1M in revenue, so that basically means that of the 2,000+ web design companies out there, less than 100 hit that mark statistically speaking. A creative magazine once published that only 1 out of 7 designers held a salaried job, but that seems pretty low so I either misread the statistic or have a memory block. So I did some research on my own...
According to the bureau of labor statistics, graphic designers held about 286,100 jobs in 2008, and they consider everyone in interactive media to be graphic designers as well. I couldn't find anything on web developers other than computer scientists (28,900 jobs recorded) or computer support specialists (565,700 jobs recorded). So maybe 2,000 Chicago web design companies is actually a low number. If anyone finds the stat somewhere, please post a comment. Would love to know...