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.
Our annual Sandstorm Guac Off date is officially set - Saturday, August 29th. So what's a 'Guac Off' you ask? Well, it is our official Sandstorm guacamole contest. I remember the first year that we did it, so randomly, it came up in conversation when Alma and I were bickering about who makes a meaner guacamole. I think the funniest thing about our now annual guacamole contest is that Alma nor myself has ever won.
According to Wikipedia, user interface design is the design of computers, appliances, machines, mobile communication devices, software applications, and websites with the focus on the user's experience and interaction. Utilizing the same source, web design is the skill of creating presentations of content that is delivered though the web.
I searched google to see if I could find anyone debating the two terms as they are used often interchangeably, but I don't necessarily agree that they are one in the same.
Our agency is a user interface design firm that utilizes a user-centered design approach to improve the user experience in a creative and conceptual way. Google searches done today are looking for a web design firm in Chicago, but are they really? Hmmm...
As a boutique interactive marketing agency, we're always keeping an eye out on the big interactive players in the marketplace. Forrester's report for Q2 this year includes Sapient, imc2, Razorfish, IconNicholson, and IBM Interactive as the star performers, with a few of our Chicago locals also being noted including Critical Mass, Whittmanhart and Ogilvy Interactive. These companies have multiple locations - and often are found in NY and CA, in addition to Chicago. Take a slice of one of them, and you have us here at Sandstorm...
We've gone head-to-head with Whittmanhart, Sapient, and Ogilvy in the past, but the reality is that we're a great example of a boutique shop and they represent the bigger players. So when the time comes, companies have to first make the choice to go boutique or go big - and then they get a short list from there.
Go boutique agencies!!!
We've had companies tell us they feel like there is less risk with a big interactive agency player (like Razorfish, IBM, Ogilvy). But as a business owner of a solid, stable, and growing firm I think the challenges are different, but the risk level is the same.
Boutiques get a bad rep sometimes due to being one client away from going out of business, or shutting down because of cash flow issues. Big agencies have a bad rep of being "fat" or over managed, of missing deadlines, and blowing budgets. I had a grad school teacher tell me that clients are won because of the relationships they build. So when we hear that a potential client went with a bigger agency with multiple locations, we clearly didn't do a good enough job building the relationship and easing their concerns. A lesson learned and we move on. I would love to get to know a CEO from one of the larger interactive agencies mentioned above to see how they see companies like us.
Can marketing and design firms in big business cities (like Chicago and New York) be leading indicators for the upswing in the economy? I think so. And here's my theory. We are getting flooded with a ton of interesting, exciting, and good sized RFPs from a lot of the large and mid-sized businesses in the area. Companies that were holding their budgets close are starting to explore how they 'may' want to spend their money Q3 and Q4. Which is so exciting - it almost feels like 2006 - 2007 again!
So we're not going to get too excited too fast, because we've seen RFPs sit and sit, but the fact that they are increasing so rapidly (and all of them needed to be finished yesterday) that I am optimistic for the future, and my friends, and family who are looking for a marketing or design job.
You're ready to conduct a formal usability study and have some of your customers or potential prospects available to participate in this study (5-6 users is fine, but don't forget the gratuity). These one-on-one sessions start out with a single user interacting with a web site or wire frame completing a set of tasks, and then a moderator asking them follow-up questions regarding the experience. These sessions usually involve a quiet room, a camera and tracking software to watch a user's expressions and their navigational habits. After the study, the data is analyzed and a formal usability report with key findings and recommendations is written.
The goal of any usability test is to figure out what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, and learn what your users want. So what are you waiting for?
Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes, and thank you to my staff for singing happy birthday to me via conference call while I am out in Colorado. I loved the song more than you know - and am overwhelmed with appreciation for all of the hard work you dedicate to helping Sandstorm grow... Thank you.
So I struggle with web awards. Are they more for the creative team, the client, or the ego? Or are they a great way to celebrate innovative design work and share creative uses of technology and social media? The answer is most likely yes to all, but for some reason they still kind of sit funny with me. I am proud when we win, and I know our clients are proud too - but I know inside that I feel more pride when our marketing efforts really help grow our clients' businesses. That's my own personal mini award. :)
I'm in Colorado this week, on a 'working vacation'. Living an oxymoron. So who came up with this idea of a working vacation anyway? USATODAY wrote an article on top 5 destinations for a working vacation, yet CNN wrote 5 ways to stop working on your vacation.
So do we or don't we work while on vacation? Is it to stay ahead, or is it to survive? Is this a U.S. Phenomenon? Either way, it's a personal choice, and I often have to remind myself that I make the choice every time I open up my laptop or answer my cell phone. I am choosing to let my work life enter my vacation. And this week I'm good with it. My next vacation I might not answer that cell, nor that email, and I'm comfortable with that as well.
One company may beg to differ. We beg to write.
I'm talking website copy for the clients of our marketing and web design firm. We'll beg, we'll plead, we'll keep our fingers crossed - just for the opportunity to write the content. And here is the number one reason why... so we can hit our deadlines. When we meet with a new client and they ask "What do you see that will hold up our deadline?" I'll respond, start writing your content.
To help with this, we're starting to put together content templates to help mitigate the random copywriting we get when multiple SME's write for the same company. Erin Kissane wrote a great blog entry on content templates that goes into detail on how to use them. Thanks Erin!