Browsing articles in "Speaker Reviews"
Nov
17

Facebook Developers Garage Recap

I keep forgetting my notebook at work, so eventually you’ll have some good quotes and stats to go along with this post, but I wanted to get it up here before the content became stale.

I attended the Facebook Developers Garage in Phoenix, AZ on Wednesday. Overall it was extremely informative. We’ve been on a big facebook app kick at work lately, so the timing couldn’t be better.

It was great to hear Dave Morin speak, it’s not often you get to meet a driving force behind a cultural phenomenon. The amazing growth that Facebook has encountered in the last year is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is the amount of return traffic they continue to receive, about 50% of their user base return. Also, the user base isn’t a set target market, it seems everyone is getting value out of the social graph. Dave stated that the 25+ population is seeing rapid growth. And there isn’t an age limit to Facebook users, Dave mentioned that in international terms 50-70 year old users are booming user base as well. Over 50% of the Facebook social graph is international users, and is the top social network in England. The facebook developers platform is a remarkable way to continue the interactivity of the website, making sure there’s always something new to do, add and get value from each time the user visits.

Dave was clear in the honest reason why Facebook was created in the first place. To be able to share and communicate information through a one to many conversation platform. Being able to share information to a large group of people in your networks at the same time, allowing for communications to be timely and all inclusive to your network base. It’s interesting how the new platform and applications have twisted this exchange of information into all kinds of venues, from comparing your friends to sharing your interests and photos.

The real power of Facebook is the social graph, how people are connected through friends, locations, similar interests and other social networks. To make an amazing application it has to really link in and harness the power of that social graph, both in virility and  in activity. Users need to be able to easily share the application with friends and the more you have activity with friends the more chances you have to introduce the application for install. Chris Johnson cited in his presentation that for an application to exponentially become more popular you need to have AT LEAST a 1:1.1 install ratio. That means for every install you have one or two installs of the application. Facebook gives you many many opportunities to become viral, your application appears in the applications list, user profiles (in two different locations, the quick bar and the profile view), invite friend controls, notifications sent to friends when interactivity is created, mini feeds when the user uses the app, and news items if the application becomes a large enough force within the community. However, having these entry points doesn’t spell success alone.

You have to build virility into  your application, brainstorm ways your user base can connect with their social graph through your application. Share photos, tag friends, send gifts, link them together and create value through their communications. Give users a chance to share, compare and talk to their friends about the information your application provides. Again, this all comes back to communication, make sure you give your users a chance to communicate with their social network why this information is important to them. Not only is it important to be able to allow your base user to communicate to their network, it’s equally if not more so to support communication from their network BACK to the base user. Dave cited that to when a user receives feedback from their network on an application use, they’re TWICE as likely to reuse the application.

Reuse is extremely important!  Chris Johnson cited attrition by uninstall as the number one killer of application success. You must create your application with value to the user that is ever-lasting, something that they will want to continue to use not just install once and forget about it. Because when that other application comes around that DOES provide that value, yours will be uninstalled or hidden to make room on their profile for the other application. An uninstalled or hidden application isn’t very viral is it? So make sure you add continued value for your users.

Nate from Red Bull candidly showcased the Roshambull application during the his presentation. It was a great presentation that reminded us to not just make an application and forget about it. Do testing, ask users opinions, they’ll tell you how to make your application even better. It was great to be able to hear from someone about what they did WRONG about and application and how they made it better, instead of just praising how amazing it was. Your application should be constantly evolving to continue to add additional value to your user base. Also, the facebook platform is far from being finally evolved, so keep in the know about the new stuff that’s coming out, maybe you can leverage some of the new additions to the platform to make your application more successful.

In addition to the keynote, marketing, technology and case study presentations there were also five minute presentations from developers in the Phoenix community to showcase their upcoming applications and brand new ideas for applications still in the brainstorming phase. These were very interesting and I really liked the energy challenge application idea. It was an idea for an application that would allow you to enter in your monthly energy consumption and challenge your friends and neighbors to competitions to decrease your energy consumption. I think applications like this are a great idea and really allow for more important information to be spread throughout the social graph and really make a difference in the world, not that fluffy friends don’t make the world a better place.

Social networking has given the web an additional depth of value in communication in our every day lives. Connecting and communicating with your family, friends and new contacts couldn’t be easier these days. With the facebook platform and applications the sky is the limit of how communication can rapidly expand the knowledge base of the entire world.

So hop on and become part of my social graph by visiting my Facebook profile. 😉

Oct
15

Bill Buxton: What Makes a Good UX Designer?

I happened across a video interview with Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher for Microsoft Research, on Canadian User Experience today and thought some of his points were very interesting in regards to what makes a great user experience designer.

He was questioned about what a college graduate should focus on when entering the ux career field at Microsoft, and his answer was interesting. “I don’t want a Jack of All Trades, Master of None. I want “T-Shaped People”, People who have a broad understanding of the whole field (the horizontal part of the T) but then have deep understanding and perspective in one discipline in particular ( the vertical part of the T).” He went on to describe how having this deep knowledge in one area of the field makes you very creditable and an expert in your area. This deep knowledge allows you to catch details of UX that someone with shallow knowledge likely would have missed.

Building a team of T-Shaped People allows you to have experts in all areas of your full field, yet all of them have a broad understanding of the task at hand and how they fit into the process. Being a T-Shaped person allows you to be trusted as an expert of your area of discipline, and other experts have to trust that you know the very miniscual details of your expertise.

Sep
16

Letters from Code Camp

So I spent a good chunk of time yesterday over at the Phoenix’s Desert Code Camp and I must say, what a great set up! There were lots of sessions available for most every type of coder. I found two sessions to be especially interesting, SEO for Coders and Designing the Obvious.

 The SEO for Coders session went over how developers can start from the inside out when creating a site to really give SEO a fighting chance.

Some of the on-site SEO considerations are:

  • keywords in the domain
  • relavant, keyword rich content (Content is King!)
  • keywords in page titles (Page Title should go before Site Name)
  • clean, keyword rich urls
  • keyword proximity and density throughout the site (use Ranks.nl to test density, 2-5% is good, anymore and possible spamming might be considered)
  • having keyword encompassing meta tags, make sure all your keywords are covered
  • internal links
  • relevant, keyword rich alt and title tags
  • valid xhtml code that’s quick loading

Some of the off-site SEO consideration are:

  • inbound links to your site
  • reciprocal link exchange
  • press releases
  • forum comments
  • e-mails
  • paid links and pay per click

Overall it was a great session that covered the basics of SEO as well as some of the tips and tricks of the trade. Such as using dashes instead of no space or underscores in your page urls. I confirmed a lot of my beliefs about SEO as well as learned about some new tools to look for great keyword combos and how to better market my sites outside of my own.

Designing the Obvious was a wonderful session as well that covered some of the overlooked, but very important pieces of designing a user-friendly site. Some of the highlights were:

  • first impressions are important, make sure you put a lot of thought into the front page of your site
  • use wireframes to mock out your site before designing or developing, it saves time and money
  • pay attention to diagonal balance, don’t force it, but be aware that the users eye will tend to shift from the top left to the bottom right and try to put your main branding and focal point to fall within that diagonal line
  • when designing navigation try to use verb noun pairs to support the users mind set of getting things done
  • many sites are now changing the style of used objects to make them more pronounced on the page, the more the user uses it, the darker it becomes, making it easier for the user to find what they’re really interested in
  • we need to explain exceptable values on forms, approach form design as if you were a user looking at it the first time, make sure everything is instructive and clear
  • there are three states to any interaction on the web, invitation to act, manipulation or the steps to complete the process, and completion and confirmation, confirmation is the least remembered step in web site creation, but a very important step for the user, make sure to include it

Robert Hoekman, Jr., the speaker for Designing the Obvious session, also has a book out by the same title. Also check out his blog and he’s starting Up Down Repeat Workshops that you may want to check out, the next one coming up is about form design.

Sep
11

How to Date Your Clients and Score

So lastnight I went to AIGA Arizona’s monthly Say Anything. This month’s topic was, “How to Date Your Clients and Score.” The presenting speaker was Brian Drake and Arthur Milano of Brian Drake Design Illustration, who hosts the monthly get together.

 Brian takes a personal approach to business, and draws several takes from his personal dating experience to succeed. Brian opened with this simple remark, “Successful business isn’t businesses talking to businesses, it’s people talking to people.” Brian went on to talk about how he has personal relationships with each and every client he has. He knows when their kids birthdays are, if they’re getting divorced, or if thier dog dies. “I never call to talk about business, I always call just to check up on them, like a friend.” He said that this is what makes his company successful at closing deals, big 6 and 7-figure deals.

An audience member asked, “What if the client isn’t into that type of personal relationship?” Brian and Arthur simply replied, “Then they’re not right for us.” Brian went on to say, “It’s just like a passionate relationship, You don’t want to be with someone who just thinks you’re so-so. You want them to dig you, and if they don’t, then you’re wrong for eachother.” He went on to say, “Be excited about that moment with the client, not the future or the executable.”

Brian and Arthur also discussed the word “vendor” and why they don’t use it, or want people to describe them as such. Arthur said, “Vendors sell hot dogs, we are suppling a valuable service.” Brian piped in, “If your client calls you thier vendor, you’ve done something wrong with that personal relationship. The word vendor implies that you’re expendable, that you’re not a valuable asset.”

While personal relations are great, Brian also warns to make sure you’re staying in touch with the score, “Always ask if this relationship is good for me, and is it good for them as well.” Arthur stepped in to say, “We care about the clients success, not just about the money or deadlines, this builds trust, and with trust work goes well.” Trust goes a long way, it makes a committment between the client and yourself to make both businesses successful.

Brian and Arthur switched gears to talk about how thier partnership in thier company. Arthur said, “Brian is the Yin for my Yang, everything I’m not so great at he excels and vise versa.” Brian went on to talk about how it’s important to have a second person to bounce ideas off of. He also spoke about how to hire. “Always hire people who are better than you. Surround yourself with people who are successful.” Brian and Arthur aren’t just personal with thier clients, they also carry that vibe into thier own company. Arthur commented, “Your job effects your life, if you don’t get paid, you can’t pay your bills, that effects YOU. Your work is PERSONAL.”

I really enjoyed the approach Brian and Arthur take with thier business. I think we worry too much about the bottom line sometimes and forget about the people our work effects.

However, being a front end architect in a company I really don’t interact with our clients, however I feel the my project managers are my client. I can then take these “dating” perspectives and apply them to the inner workings of my company. Good relations within the project structure can make it go more smoothly, personal opinion is more respected, and everyone treats eachother as a professional and an expert at thier part.

Keep your eye out on AIGA Arizona’s website for more Say Anything events as well as other neat events.

Jul
11

Life Plans and Success

Last night I attended the Refresh Phoenix speaking event featuring Pam Slim, author of the blog Escape from Cubical Nation. Pam focuses on transitioning corporate employees to the freedom of entrepreneurship, and gives us some simple steps to freeing ourselves from the bonds of the cubical.  

  1. Create your life plan: Visualize where you want to be and what kind of life you want.
  2. Find your passion: What do you love to do and are great at?
  3. Find your market: Who do you want to help and market to?
  4. Execute and Implement: Don’t focus on making it perfect, just start working on it.

Pam instructs that your life plan should always guide the rest of your decisions regarding making the rest of the decisions regarding your new business or career. Make sure to always regroup and say to yourself, “Does this help me get to where I want to be?”  

Regarding selecting a passion and a market Pam says to truly be happy in your new career you should only accept “projects you would do if no one paid you.” This insures that you won’t be overworked and will be able to truly enjoy the life plan you’ve set out as your goal. Joshua Strebel, owner of Obu Web Technologies, suggested to double or even triple your prices to create value of your service as well as to be able to hand select the cream of the crop of your clientele. Pam related this comment with that of high school romance. “If you seem desperate no one will want to date (work with) you. Being secure in your value and turning away clients will make clients see value and be drawn to you.” 

Pam discussed team building and how to successfully build a great support team. She suggests finding a balance between your “big picture thinking” by finding employees who are detailed oriented to compliment you. She warns to not select employees that are exactly like you. If you have trouble on trying to find excellent employees, try finding a mentor in your field that is just a few steps above you in their business and ask for guidance. She sited Bruce Tuckman’s Four Stages of Team Building as a good model to follow as well as mentioning real value in Myers & Briggs personality inventories as good ways to find a truly balanced group. 

Pam also touched on making sure that you keep with your life plan, don’t feel pressured to work a straight eight hours because that’s how you were “taught to work in the corporate environment.” Make sure you take the time to do what you set out to do in your life plan so as to not burn out. Also, during the course of your business, feel free to take a time out and make sure your business is aligned with your life plan. 

I really enjoyed Pam and her opinions, and even though I may never start my own business, I feel a lot of the discussion can help people shape their careers, regardless of whether or not they’re self-employed. 🙂 Thanks Pam!!

What is this?

This little blog happens to be the personal ramblings of one April Holle - I'm female, outspoken, webbie, a community evangelist, and Principal of Made Better Studio. Check out the about section for more info.

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