Sandstorm Blog

Will
Responsive Web Development earns Drew and Alma a sweet treat

This morning the Sandstormers were greeted by a very welcome surprise from Sweet Sensations Bakery. This assortment of scones, cupcakes, and, my personal favorite, coffee was a thank you gift from our partner .orgSource. We recently developed their brand new responsive site (all made in Drupal). Take a look at their site on your desktop, tablet and smartphone. We’re really proud of it, and we’re glad that .orgSource is, too!

Thank you to Sherry, Tara and the rest of the .orgSource team for this thoughtful gift and the opportunity to develop your new responsive site. Congratulations!

This blog was posted by Will on July 10, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

Will
Sandstorm celebrates Independence Day

Tomorrow is Independence Day. What does that mean? Is it just the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence? Is it an excuse to get tipsy in the glow of pyrotechnics? Is it a reminder of who we are and what we do? Does the day mean anything to you at all?

I asked the Sandstormers what America meant to them and got some interesting responses.

  • Cultural diversity, acceptance, and hamburgers, BBQ and tacos
  • Star spangled awesome
  • Fireworks, Beer, BBQ
  • Bring on the Fireworks!
  • AMERICA! Canada's britches
  • Possibility, hope and family
  • Always moving forward
  • Home of the free
  • Limitless potential, scrappy grit, breathtaking topography
  • Cheap beer, grilling and bottle rockets

Some of us are already celebrating.

As you can see, the answers are all over the map. Which is great! We’re individuals who are all over the map. Ranging from where we come from, where we live, what we do outside of the office, and what we eat and drink. (You can see on the left that some of us have already started celebrating.) We’re silly and range from normal to weird (I’m closer to the weird end). Despite all of this, we come together everyday to create great things for our clients, whether it’s full marketing campaigns, company mascots, Drupal websites... you name it.

This is what America means to me. It’s the culmination of people, experiences, and backgrounds to do something great.

To answer all of the questions I asked at the beginning: Yes. Tomorrow, and America for that matter, means what you want it to mean. Independence Day is not a celebration of a country or an anniversary. This is the celebration of who we are and what we do and, more importantly, the potential of what we can (and will) do.

We, here at Sandstorm hope to accomplish something great with you very soon, but for now we hope you have a great and safe celebration tomorrow, whether you’re at home for a quiet day, at the park watching fireworks, or traveling cross-country to light sparklers with family.

Happy Independence Day!

This blog was posted by Will on July 3, 2013.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Janna
Great User Experience

Imagine it is your first time. You are probably excited, anxious, hoping everything will go right and you don’t do anything too embarrassing.

Afterward, you may think “overall not bad,” but you should have tried a different technique, approach or way to make the experience better or maybe closer to what you expected.

Now, get your mind out of the gutter…

These same emotions and concerns can be said about the first time you visit a new web site. Users have high expectations and feel anxious, hoping they can find everything they need and will be able to perform all necessary tasks quickly and easily.

During the initial visit, users may try trusted approaches in using the site until they stumble upon or otherwise discover how to complete the task at hand. If the process takes longer than expected, users often berate themselves thinking they did something wrong or are not savvy enough to use the site. If they become frustrated enough, users lose their patience and leave.

I have seen this emotional rollercoaster first hand in usability studies. No matter how challenging the task, web site or overall experience was, the users usually blamed themselves for failing and expressed they “just need more time to learn how to use the site.”

In a recent blog post, Jakob Neilsen wrote, users invest a lot of time “learning” sites they often visit. That is, by spending time “mastering” the site, the user will be able to quickly and easily complete what they need to do each and every visit.

As UX experts, we strive to create user-centered web sites that are easy and intuitive the first time, no handbook required.

Knowing users are willing, and at times expect, to spend time learning a new site, adding teaching moments to key steps enables the first-time user to be guided, even taught how, to use the site immediately.

Here are some areas of your site’s experience that might need some first-time love:

Key Tasks: You don't need an instruction manual.

  • Break long, key tasks into stepped processes for quicker completion
  • Integrate a robust help and search functionality

New Elements: It's strange at first, talk them through it. 

  • Tutorial-style pop ups for new features
  • Microsites and/or videos to explain larger new features (FB on open graph)

Forms: Keep it simple and don't be afraid to give suggestions.

  • Indicate required fields clearly
  • Include inline tips and suggestions
  • Provide formatting prompts for dates, phone numbers and zip codes

By using these tactics along with other UX techniques, users will not have to learn the web site, instead they will be free to use it. Each and every web site encounter will be exciting, engaging, intuitive, informative… and, perhaps, earth-moving.

This blog was posted by Janna on June 13, 2013.
Janna Fiester

About the Author

Janna Fiester

Sandstorm's VP of UX & Brand Innovation, Janna, is a design-thinker. Showcased in several design publications and exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, she is talented in taking nuggets of good ideas and nurturing them into solutions that are always strategic, engaging and visually delightful.

Amanda
Sandstorm Design Named Top Interactive Agency in B to B

Digital marketing and UX agency, Sandstorm Design is honored to be named one of the Top Interactive Agencies of 2013 by BtoB Magazine. Receiving this recognition for the third year in a row, Sandstorm is continuing to grow by nurturing talent and building creative solutions and intuitive user experiences for new and existing clients.

BtoB's Top Agencies List is a comprehensive compilation of the top 150 agencies in the United States. BtoB Magazine's Kate Maddox said, “Many of the top b-to-b agencies registered double-digit growth last year though new clients and organic growth.” Sandstorm is poised to continue the momentum built in 2012 by partnering with clients such as CIC Plus, MathWorks, and CareerBuilder for a successful 2013.

BtoB Magazine is a Crain's Communications Inc. publication and is a trusted source and platform for top marketing professionals to grow and learn in the b-to-b space.

This blog was posted by Amanda on May 7, 2013.
Amanda Elliott

About the Author

Amanda Elliott

Amanda Elliott is the Marketing Coordinator at Sandstorm Design. She absorbs the creative energy from our leadership team and facilitates the team so they can focus entirely on solving client challenges. She is passionate about anticipating needs, solving problems, and making projects fun.

Brill Street Chicago Top Gen Y Employer Sandstorm Design

We are so excited to announce that — for the 3rd year in a row! — our UX agency is one of Brill Street's Top Chicago Gen Y Employers for 2012.

Here at Sandstorm, a Gen Y employee has the opportunity to shine doing what they do best and to be proud of it whether it be interactive marketing strategy, UX design or Drupal web development!

Our Warrior Spirit drives us to create compelling online experiences and cutting edge work — all while having loads of fun!

Inspired by the idea of giving back, this year the team came together to create an interactive holiday card inviting users to choose a charity for Sandstorm to donate towards. We were encouraged to make the card fun and, most importantly, to make it our own.

Sandstormers have the platform to do great work, to learn and grow, and to become part of a forward-thinking UX agency. It's a great place to work for everyone: generations X,Y, and the eventual (hopefully awesomely futuristic) Z!

This blog was posted by on January 29, 2013.
John Lombard

About the Author

John Lombard

John is an intern at Sandstorm.

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Karen
Happy New Year From Sandstorm

Sandstorm is ringing in 2013 by inviting you to collaborate for a cause. Scroll through our interactive New Year's Greeting. At the end, choose a charitable organization, and Sandstorm will give them a contribution.

We love how well parallax scrolling fits the theme of collaborating for a cause. Your participation begins before you even vote for a charity—it starts the moment you start scrolling. Your movement down the page activates snowflakes and triggers year-end greetings. So travel with us through the seasons and learn about our accomplishments in 2012. You'll be part of the experience in motion and part of the collaboration to give back. You'll even get to see a cameo from the SkiFree guy (sans the yeti).

Check out the greeting and choose a charity at the bottom!

This blog was posted by Karen on January 11, 2013.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

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Matt
Sandstormers at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba

was the night before Christmas, at Sandstorm Design.
User Experience was on everyone’s mind.
Our clients were happy and handled with care
With hopes that our work would increase their share.

The developers were nestled all snug in their chairs,
While visions of wireframes danced ‘tween their ears.
And I in my sweatpants with a glass of eggnog,
Had just settled in to write a holiday blog.

When on Ravenswood Ave there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my Mac to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew with great zest,
Passing coworkers implementing usability tests.

The light from a projector where brainstormers meet,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to those on the street.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
He shouted, “I’ve come to bring holiday tides,
But, first tell me the services that Sandstorm provides!”

Now Sandstorm, we aide those, whose websites need fixin’.
Rebranding, designing, and marketing mixin’.
Our SEO’s white hat, our UX has flow.
We’ve been named a top Gen Y business 3 years in a row.

Santa spoke not a word, he just gave me a smile.
And began stacking presents in a neat little pile.
We Sandstormers gathered ‘round the jolly old elf,
We sang and we laughed in spite of ourselves.

He then sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good-Night!"

 

This blog was posted by Matt on December 21, 2012.
Matt Chiaromonte

About the Author

Matt Chiaromonte

Matt is a copywriter and social media guru in Sandstorm’s Internship Program. With a background in marketing, journalism, and improv comedy, Matt brings equal parts knowledge and entertainment to our little corner of the Internet. When he isn’t generating social media content, Matt can be found enjoying pizza, podcasts, and many other things that begin with the letter “p”.

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Matt
Sandstorm Launches New Internship Program

One of Sandstorm's cornerstones has always been to learn and share at every possible opportunity. After being named a Top Gen Y employer for the third year in a row, we are building upon that cornerstone once more. Sandstorm Design is proud to announce the birth of our brand new Sandstorm Internship Program!

We are always looking for new ideas and a fresh voice. This program will bring together our strong, well-respected workforce with a new drive to learn and share. While the internship program is still in its infancy, we are already seeing progress. We have recently hired our first Social Media and Copywriting Intern, and boy is he handsome. Full disclosure, he is writing this blog post. My name is Matt Chiaramonte and I am looking forward to contributing to not only this blog, but also to many future creative and informative discussions regarding strategic marketing in an ever-evolving environment. Say that five times fast.

Internship Program Details

We plan to continue to grow this program and have begun working with local Chicago recruiting channels including Columbia College Chicago, Loyola University and Internships.com. In the near future, we will be looking for individuals to help us out in the fields of:

  • Sales and Marketing
  • Social Media & Copywriting

This internship program serves as a tool that provides professional experience in the interactive world to creative and intelligent individuals. We look forward to finding and working with interns to help achieve our mission.

While proud of every accomplishment and accolade we are lucky enough to receive, Sandstorm will never stop moving forward. We believe that hard work, innovation, and positivity make us more than just a great company; they make us a great family. We look forward to adding a few new members.

To apply, please send a cover letter and your resume to interns@sandstormdesign.com and include 140 characters as to why you want to intern at Sandstorm. In the subject line, include what type of work you're interested in (sales/marketing, social media, copywriting).

This blog was posted by Matt on December 12, 2012.
Matt Chiaromonte

About the Author

Matt Chiaromonte

Matt is a copywriter and social media guru in Sandstorm’s Internship Program. With a background in marketing, journalism, and improv comedy, Matt brings equal parts knowledge and entertainment to our little corner of the Internet. When he isn’t generating social media content, Matt can be found enjoying pizza, podcasts, and many other things that begin with the letter “p”.

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Karen
Sandstorm moves to the new Basecamp

That's right, we're moving to the new Basecamp! The new version of our project management and collaboration tool was released this past spring. After spending some time reviewing the new features, we decided it was finally time to make the move. As of September 4, the day after Labor Day, all of our projects will be migrated to the new Basecamp.

So, for our current clients, that means you'll be seeing a fresh new interface when you log in. But not to worry. Change is good! Catching up on updates, collaborating and sharing will all be faster and simpler.

Check out the images below. The project page compiles all parts of the project in one place, and the calendar allows easier at-a-glance understanding of the project timeline. We're excited to see how everyone likes it!

PROJECT PAGE:

The project page includes all the pieces of a project – messages, to-dos, files and more. However you'll notice messages are now called discussions. And the writeboards have been changed to text documents that will allow text formatting.

CALENDAR: 

To-do items are now listed on the calendar along with the larger milestones.

For more information, read the new Basecamp launch post.

This blog was posted by Karen on August 27, 2012.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

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Karen
Sandstorm Staff celebrating Top Inner City Company Award

Some of the staff at Sandstorm, literally showing upward growth!

2012 is proving to be yet another award-winning year for Sandstorm Design! In March we were named as a Top B2B Interactive Agency by Crain's BtoB Magazine. And this week, our Principal Sandy Marsico traveled to Boston to attend the awards ceremony for the Top 100 Fastest Growing Inner City Companies in America. We are so honored and humbled to have landed at the #43 spot, with a 33% 5-year annual growth.

With our Chicago marketing firm's move to a larger space last year and hiring a number of new employees, we've been steadily and strategically growing. We couldn't be more excited about this achievement, and we thank Fortune, Harvard, ICIC and all of our amazing partners who've worked with us to create impactful work!

This blog was posted by Karen on May 11, 2012.
Karen Boehl

About the Author

Karen Boehl

Karen does a little bit of everything – webmaster, social media manager and search engine optimizer. She can most often be found on Twitter, in the Usability Lab, or happily buried in the Drupal admin menu.

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