Sandstorm Blog

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.

Will
Sandstorm's new digital production designer - Jesse Lankford

For Jesse Lankford, our new Digital Production Designer, design is a way of life. He brings a curator’s eye to our designs and ensures every client’s brand shines.

Jesse studied Graphic Design at Columbia College and continued to cultivate his talent by joining the AIGA Chicago chapter. His ability to articulate a vision through disciplined design practice makes him a perfect fit within the Sandstorm creative team.

As one of the founders of Loosey Goosey, an art zine, Jesse provides a venue for underexposed artists to showcase their work. Through Loosey Goosey, Jesse curates art shows, designs the zine, and creates promotional materials to build recognition for the zine and the artists it supports.

Welcome, Jesse!

This blog was posted by Will on June 5, 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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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.

Sharonda
Sandstorm's new production administrator - Jason Dabrowski

Sandstorm adds creative and development support with the new hire of our Production Administrator, Jason Dabrowski. A truly organized and creative individual, his charismatic personality and natural IT talent is why we are excited to welcome him to our team. As the welcoming face of Sandstorm, Jason will be supporting the creative and development teams with production of all varieties—Photoshop, InDesign, HTML, CSS and more.

Jason, who is skilled on many levels of organization and artistry, initially came from an administrative background. Explorative in nature, Jason exemplifies our learning and sharing culture with his passion for figuring things out. Whenever asked if he can do something new, he replies, “I don’t know. Let’s see.” Always wanting to stay current with digital technology trends, Jason has taken Digital Bootcamp twice.

Not just a techy, Jason loves the arts and donates his time to Hubris Productions as both the Communications Director and an actor.

Welcome to Sandstorm, Jason!

This blog was posted by Sharonda on April 24, 2013.
Sharonda Thomas

About the Author

Sharonda Thomas

Our newest social media marketing and copywriting intern Sharonda has a passion for producing read-worthy content. Knowledgeable with various social platforms she will combine her communications and journalism background with her love of social media to keep our audience engaged. An artist at heart, Sharonda spends her free time cooking, painting, and barbering.

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Amanda
Will Biby, our writing, research and production Sandstormer

After over a year of Sandstorming, Will has been promoted to Writing, Research and Production—a title reflective of his many talents. As Sandstorm continues to grow, so do its employees. Will said the transition period has been one of his strongest growth spurts. He's reached a personal and professional goal: do more great work, better.

Passionate about communication, Will explains that every facet of his new position—writing, research and production—encompasses it. "Writing is obvious. Usability testing and user research involves listening to people," Will says, and his production role results in creating pieces that communicate a client's brand to their audience.

Being the culture vulture that he is, Will spends his spare time writing sketch comedy and going to the opera. "Whether it's through the written word, on stage or through music, conveying our thoughts, ideas and feelings are at the core of the human experience." With an extensive music background to boot, Will is Sandstorm's triple threat.

This blog was posted by Amanda on April 11, 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.

Sharonda
Sandstorm Welcomes Senior Digital Strategist, Emily Kodner

A new addition to our growing team, Emily Kodner, a Kansas City native and self-proclaimed BBQ snob, has adopted Chicago, but not its BBQ. In her position as Senior Digital Strategist, she consults with clients, leading projects and working alongside our team of creatives and developers to provide solutions to complex business challenges.

Having a Bachelor's in Sociology and International Studies, a Master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict Resolution, and a decade shy of experience as a project manager and content strategist, Emily is exceptionally talented at getting to the bottom of an issue. She makes the complex simple and creates the plan to make it all happen. Specializing in content, Drupal site architecture and CMS strategy, Emily’s ability to develop innovative solutions is crucial when determining the needs of our clients and their target audiences.

On top of making it all happen on the job, she also herds the team out of the office once in a while for chips, guac, and margaritas.

This blog was posted by Sharonda on April 1, 2013.
Sharonda Thomas

About the Author

Sharonda Thomas

Our newest social media marketing and copywriting intern Sharonda has a passion for producing read-worthy content. Knowledgeable with various social platforms she will combine her communications and journalism background with her love of social media to keep our audience engaged. An artist at heart, Sharonda spends her free time cooking, painting, and barbering.

Sharonda
Chicago Marketing Strategy Director - Laura Luckman Kelber

Chicago native Laura Luckman Kelber has joined the Sandstorm executive leadership team as our Strategy Director. Demonstrating our commitment to growth and providing more thought leadership to our clients, Sandstorm hired Laura to fill a new role at Sandstorm—a role that is solely focused on solving clients’ marketing problems by bridging the gap between what is and what could be.

After many years of working for large agencies, Laura wanted more time to practice her craft. With both a B.S. in Political Science and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Illinois, and 20 years of marketing experience, Laura borrows from a variety of intellectual constructs to solve clients’ problems. Combining seemingly disparate ideas to solve a problem, Laura unearths unexpected insights to help clients’ fuel their success. Having led digital strategies for top brands such as Sprint, Victoria’s Secret and State Farm in her previous positions, Laura has a variety of vertical experience. Sandstorm provides Laura with the perfect environment to foster thoughtful creativity and apply it to our clients’ businesses.

A unique individual from the (sometimes pink, sometimes purple) tips of her hair to her warm smile, Laura’s charismatic personality is magnetic. A passionate vegetarian, Laura has recently delved into the macro and micro impacts of nutrition on society. As her favorite author, Dorothy Parker, would say, “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

This blog was posted by Sharonda on March 27, 2013.
Sharonda Thomas

About the Author

Sharonda Thomas

Our newest social media marketing and copywriting intern Sharonda has a passion for producing read-worthy content. Knowledgeable with various social platforms she will combine her communications and journalism background with her love of social media to keep our audience engaged. An artist at heart, Sharonda spends her free time cooking, painting, and barbering.

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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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