Sandstorm Design is excited to announce the launch of SRES.org! We’re so happy to provide this excellent resource to anyone age 50+ with real estate needs, helping them connect with SRES® designees all over the country. The SRES® designation, offered by the National Association of REALTORS®, indicates specialization in the real estate needs of those age 50+. Baby boomers can visit this web site to easily search for an SRES® designee near them, and prepare themselves for what types of considerations they’ll face with their real estate decisions. We love working with the National Association of REALTORS® and marketing to seniors, and couldn’t be more excited to launch this web site!
Sandstorm Design is proud to announce the launch of our second interactive health care web application. Federal employees have the opportunity to answer a series of questions and get a customized recommendation to help them find the right insurance plan. Along the way, learning moments are integrated throughout the experience, educating the user to make better decisions.
We love working with our clients as much as we love creating interactive tools to make people’s lives a little easier, and that’s why we’re so excited to launch this quick and easy-to-use web application to help Federal employees!
We are so honored to be mentioned in B2B magazine today! I just wanted to share as it really demonstrates our company's passion for user centered design and usable web sites. Here's a little excerpt for those that don't have time to read the full article:
Another trend: Making the most of a user's time on the site, rather than focusing on increasing the amount of time spent on the site, said Sandy Marsico, principal of Sandstorm Design, a web design and usability firm. “You want to help them find what they want quickly and get on with their day. Businesspeople don't have any time to waste anymore.” “You want clear areas of content,” Marsico said. “There should be more conversation and less selling.”
After months of collaboration, health care education, Medicare explanation, web application development, voice over talent selection and a bit of instructional design, we are proud to announce the launch of an interactive health care web application to help users understand Medicare health care coverage options from a large insurance company. After going through the application, I feel confident I can help my parents through the Medicare process and explain the difference between A, B, D, gap and advantage. If you can't, and you know someone who is around 65 years old, you should send them to check it out. (There's closed captioning as well as the ability to increase the type, too.)
Part of our user-centered web design process includes the development of personas through research and analysis. Personas have a noticeable advantage over traditional demographics because we (you, me, clients, etc) can relate to a person far more naturally than a list of stats and demographics. It's human nature to bucket information into a way that you can remember, that you can relate to, that you can engage with - and a persona literally puts a name with a face on a fictional character that we can all discuss and create an amazing experience around.
So my big question is how far to go with the persona? How much detail is necessary to tell the story and paint the picture?
I would like to personally offer a free user research opportunity here for website hosting companies - for those website hosting companies that question what their customers want, need and feel. For those website hosting companies that are serious about growing their hosting businesses by listening to their customers.
At the end of the day, what we value most, is the most simple of requests - that you please please please keep our websites up and running. What we fear the most, is that you are going to take our websites down for any number of reasons (fixing a bug, fixing a hack, server down for no particular reason, cold fusion crash, windows crash) and not let us know, and not have an answer to when it will be fixed, and quite frankly, move on with your day as if this is and should be expected. Many website hosting companies brag about their up time, but here's the catch. It's not the uptime of our websites, it's the uptime of your servers, which doesn't protect our websites enough. This makes us (your users) not trust your hosting company.
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.
It blows my mind how many web sites are designed and built without considering information architecture. We don't let a project get to our creative team without an information architect (IA) building a few wireframes first.
Maybe it's one part of our "secret sauce" (this is one of my favorite new sayings) but it should be a necessary part of every web design process. The IA is "the one" that ties together the strategy, business requirements, user requirements, and messaging. The IA considers a layout from the user's perspective, ensures the site is easy to use, brings the most important features to the front, and aligns the marketing goals with the web site goals. An IA is highly strategic, is intuitive, and has a strong knack for common sense. My favorite book on the subject is Steve Krug's book, "Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability".
At Sandstorm, everyone in the creative department has to read it as part of their onboarding process. And we've added to the developers as well so we are all speaking the same language. Information architecture for us here at Sandstorm is just a part of who we are.