Process en How to plan your digital project <span>How to plan your digital project</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2021-07/PLAN_YOUR_PROJECT_06.jpg 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2021-07/PLAN_YOUR_PROJECT_06.jpg 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/2021-07/PLAN_YOUR_PROJECT_06.jpg?itok=cceTksnQ 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2021-07/PLAN_YOUR_PROJECT_06.jpg?itok=KHGjtvzh 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2021-07/PLAN_YOUR_PROJECT_06.jpg?itok=KHGjtvzh 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2021-07/PLAN_YOUR_PROJECT_06.jpg?itok=KHGjtvzh 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2021-07/PLAN_YOUR_PROJECT_06.jpg?itok=7MDtmdw7 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2021-07/PLAN_YOUR_PROJECT_06.jpg?itok=7MDtmdw7 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/jpeg"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-07/PLAN_YOUR_PROJECT_06.jpg" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/eric-toupin" lang="" about="/user/eric-toupin" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Eric Toupin</a></span> <span>Wed, 07/21/2021 - 11:40</span> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <a href="/blog/category/digital-project-management" class="tag" >Digital Project Management</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><p>Whether it’s to launch a simple brochure website, build the next killer app, or revamp your brand guidelines, every digital project starts with an idea. Ideas, however, are ethereal. Before you commit limited resources, you need to translate your intangible idea for a project into an actionable plan.</p> <p>The following steps will set your project up for success before you issue an RFP or select a partner. They may even save you some time and money since they mirror what an agency typically does during an initial discovery phase.</p> <h3>Identify the Challenges</h3> <p>Digital projects are often organized around solving challenges your team faces with an existing product or hopes to overcome with a brand new product. Perhaps your website isn’t clearly communicating your brand and engaging your audiences, or perhaps your staff don’t have the tools they need to effectively manage internal processes or produce beautiful digital content.</p> <p>Whether you’re planning to empower your editorial team, connect with new audiences, or update aging software solutions, identifying the challenges you’re hoping to overcome is a first and critical step. With a short list of identified challenges you’ll have what you need to get the right conversations started, and start exploring what a solution might look like.</p> <h3>Stakeholder Interviews &amp; Surveys</h3> <p>There are a lot of people with a stake in your new digital project. <a href="">Effective stakeholder management</a> will gather their insights, keep your project on track, and sidestep the deadlock of “committee think” — getting all the right people in a room together but without a common goal or unifying vision to move you forward as an organization.</p> <p>I quote the co-founder of <a href="">Mule Design</a> at least once a week: “There’s no design so great it makes you feel good about being left out of the process.” People need to be heard. And their contributions and collaborations <i>need to be structured </i>to support a common goal.</p> <p>Stakeholders are not just the people on your immediate team. They may be people across your organization. Who are these folks?</p> <ul> <li>Department level / organizational leadership.</li> <li>Subject matter experts within your organization.</li> <li>Anyone who has authority to approve the budget.</li> <li>Anyone with a decision-making role on your project.</li> <li>Anyone who will work with, or maintain, the project after it’s been delivered.</li> </ul> <p>We recommend starting with one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders to discuss and develop your identified challenges. These conversations should confirm and further define common concerns and aspirations for the project. They’re also a great place to start setting expectations and determining what questions you need to bring to the wider group.</p> <p>If you have a small stakeholder group, you may want to organize in-person meetings to ask questions and reach consensus. If you have a larger group, we recommend putting your questions into a survey. A survey is a great way to collect information from multiple sources. Remember that your survey will be the most effective if your participants have already been included in conversations about the key challenges you’re hoping to address.</p> <p>Some common stakeholder questions include things like:</p> <ul> <li>What defines success to you on this project?</li> <li>What is your biggest concern for this project?</li> <li>From your perspective, who are the most important audiences for this project? In other words, who does this project serve and why will they care about it?</li> <li>After your new site has launched, what words would you use to describe the website?</li> <li>What are some examples of work you would like to emulate and why? (the “and why” is critical)</li> <li>What are some of the features/deliverables you would like to see on this project and why? (the “and why” is critical)</li> </ul> <p>Survey questions will change depending on the organization. Take a look at <a href="">Aten’s boilerplate stakeholder survey form</a> for a better idea.</p> <p>Surveys are a great way to measure general engagement and specific interests. Response rates will show you who’s eager to contribute and who you need to chase down during your project. You’ll also get a sense of your stakeholders’ interests and better understand when to include them in your production timeline (eg: “This stakeholder is keenly interested in events on our website. I should invite them to the working session when we review event detail page designs.”)</p> <h3>Goals</h3> <p>After collecting the results of your stakeholder survey, you’re likely to discover that you have as many ideas, interests, and priorities as you do participants. Don’t panic — you’ll find overlap in many of your survey responses. Shared goals should be defined within that consensus with the aim of satisfying all of your stakeholders.</p> <p>Goals should be clear, concise, and measurable. They should respond to the challenges you identified earlier in the process, clarify the intent of your project, and orient your team around shared, actionable purpose.</p> <p>The following queues can be helpful when working to organize your survey results into shared project goals:</p> <ul> <li>How will this project benefit your organization?</li> <li>How will this project impact individual stakeholders?</li> <li>What does our organization risk by <i>not doing this project? </i></li> <li>Why is now the right time for this project?</li> </ul> <p>Try to limit yourself to no more than five goals that address — as well as possible — all of your stakeholders’ concerns. Here’s an example of project goals inspired by recent higher education projects:</p> <ol> <li>Support increased enrollment and a diverse population.</li> <li>Improve resource management and employee support.</li> <li>Improve recognition/awareness of the school to enhance recruitment and student retention/satisfaction.</li> <li>Provide clear, concise information and streamline the user experience.</li> <li>Improve staff performance and satisfaction.</li> </ol> <h3>Audiences</h3> <p>Who is your digital project for? Who will be using your platform and what are their specific needs? Understanding and catering to your audiences is at the core of user-centered design. The more you consider what your users need and how to deliver it, the more successful you’re likely to be.</p> <p>At the very minimum, you should work with your stakeholders to define a list of audiences. This might include broad categories like researchers, readers, and clients — or internal groups like content editors or writers. Think about all the people that will interact with your product, and work to boil that down to a list of audiences.</p> <p>Take a look at this piece on <a href="">building empathy with personas</a> for a better idea of how knowing your audiences and <i>empathizing</i> with them creates better digital products.</p> <h3>Get a sense of what to expect</h3> <p>If you’re taking on a project that’s completely new to you or to your team, you might not know where to start, how long it’s going to take, or how much it will cost. Reach out to people who have done similar work. Colleagues, peers, and vendors are great resources when it comes to understanding how the project you’re taking on will be organized.</p> <p>If you’re planning a redesign for an existing platform, perhaps you already know that these projects typically start with strategy, pivot to design, and wrap up with software development. Don’t forget to consider content strategy, information architecture, and content migration — three significant tasks that can require a lot of time and focus from your team. You can get a sense for how much effort these tasks will require and where they sit along your project timeline from vendors or colleagues who have gone through a recent redesign.</p> <p>Questions like “What are the major phases you see in this project?” and “What will be required from me and my team?” will give you a general sense of how the project will unfold. Answers to those questions will also help you manage your team’s expectations, and will prove valuable in qualifying proposals and evaluating vendors.</p> <p>Finally, consider identifying and briefing your core team — the members of your team that will work closely with your chosen vendor. You can use a <a href="">RACI chart</a> (a responsibility assignment matrix with four roles: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) to further define team roles and let team members know how they’ll be involved at a glance. In the given example you can decide on deliverables (column A) with your team, and eventually, your chosen vendor. Column headers B, C, D, etc can be internal departments, ad-hoc teams, or individuals depending on the size and structure of your organization.</p> <h3>Qualify vendors</h3> <p>Speaking with a handful of vendors about your upcoming project can help you to expose opportunities and risks that may not have been visible to you, and sanity check your assumptions around the “iron triangle” of scope, timeline and budget.</p> <p>Get started by putting together a call list. Whether it’s through browsing portfolios, seeking recommendations from colleagues, or scouring <a href="">B2B reviews</a>, you’ll want to end up with a couple of contacts who have experience with similar projects. Ideally, they’ll share your excitement for the project — and shed new light on its possibilities.</p> <p>Once you’ve set a few meetings it’s time to walk through your project as you understand it so far, and ask vendors to provide their thoughts on timeline and budget. They may not have that information at their fingertips, I know I often don’t. Aten does a lot of custom work that can’t be priced like an a la carte menu, so it’s not always possible to determine a budget for a project I’m just learning about. When you encounter reticence around discussing costs, <i>share your budget and listen to what vendors say.</i> Comparing reactions to your budget from various vendors is a great way to ground and verify your expectations.</p> <p>The step of finding qualified vendors early on may seem self-explanatory for smaller organizations that don’t have a dedicated procurement team. For organizations that do have a procurement team, <i>this is the time to qualify vendors</i>. Most procurement officers shut down direct communication with qualified vendors once an RFP is issued.</p> <h3>Share your findings &amp; begin vendor selection</h3> <p>You’ve identified challenges, collected stakeholders’ thoughts, set concise goals, defined audiences, done your research, and begun conversations with a few vendors. It’s time to circle back with the key stakeholders you met with at the outset of this planning process and share everything you’ve learned so far.</p> <p>A good way to share findings, reiterate goals, and decide on a way forward is to conduct a town hall-style meeting with your stakeholders. This doesn’t have to be a formal presentation in the boardroom. It can be a simple five to ten minute synopsis — project goals, audiences, what you heard, vendor feedback, etc. — followed by an open Q&amp;A session. You probably won’t need a lectern or an auditorium. Successful town halls can be informal “brown bag lunches,” or conducted from your desk via Zoom. The most important thing is to make your work visible, collect feedback, and build consensus around taking the next step.</p> <p>What is that next step? For a lot of organizations it’s writing a great request for proposal (RFP) and distributing it to qualified vendors. Take a look at <a href="">this article I wrote in 2019 about writing a great RFP</a>. It goes into much greater detail about converting your existing project plan (goals, audiences, surveys, etc) into a formal RFP geared towards engaging vendors with the right questions and the right preliminary data.</p> <p>I’d love to chat about any of your questions regarding project planning, writing an RFP, or engaging vendors. Feel free to <a href="">drop me a line</a>, or just drop a question in the comments section below.</p> <!-- google doc id: 1OiTElDrmgVnZDjOANEDsy6zsV7w-9pVOOmX3g82WxjU --></div> <a href="/about/joe-crespo" hreflang="en">Joe Crespo</a> Wed, 21 Jul 2021 17:40:11 +0000 Eric Toupin 10279 at How to launch a website <span>How to launch a website</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2021-07/ATEN_HOW_LAUNCH_WEBSITE.jpg 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2021-07/ATEN_HOW_LAUNCH_WEBSITE.jpg 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/2021-07/ATEN_HOW_LAUNCH_WEBSITE.jpg?itok=U5XF9dVr 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2021-07/ATEN_HOW_LAUNCH_WEBSITE.jpg?itok=5WUJndXP 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2021-07/ATEN_HOW_LAUNCH_WEBSITE.jpg?itok=5WUJndXP 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2021-07/ATEN_HOW_LAUNCH_WEBSITE.jpg?itok=5WUJndXP 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2021-07/ATEN_HOW_LAUNCH_WEBSITE.jpg?itok=x-22Ep_k 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2021-07/ATEN_HOW_LAUNCH_WEBSITE.jpg?itok=x-22Ep_k 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/jpeg"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-07/ATEN_HOW_LAUNCH_WEBSITE.jpg" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/kacie-minner" lang="" about="/user/kacie-minner" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Kacie Minner</a></span> <span>Tue, 07/06/2021 - 13:45</span> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <a href="/blog/category/digital-project-management" class="tag" >Digital Project Management</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><p>Launching a new website is the culmination of hundreds or thousands of person-hours. Working with a creative agency to design and build your new digital platform isn’t like buying a new car, new house, or new office equipment — it’s reaching common consensus with your team on how your organization will interact with its clients and audiences, <i>and </i>how your team will drive those interactions.</p> <p>And now you’re <i>almost </i>done — wrapping up those final details and with the launch-date “X” on your calendar fast approaching. Here’s a quick list of the most important things to think about in the weeks leading up to website launch. Let’s do this.</p> <h3>Website launch checklist</h3> <p><b>Website launch checklists: make absolutely sure that you have one.</b> Digital products are complex. It’s taken a team of veteran interface designers, software developers, project managers, information architects, and quality assurance specialists to get you this far. Launching a website isn’t just “flipping a switch” — each member of your agency’s diverse team needs to weigh in before the final step of pointing <i><span class="geshifilter"><code class="php geshifilter-php">yourdomain<span style="color: #339933;">.</span>com</code></span></i> to the brand new website you’ve been working so hard at.</p> <p>Most software development teams use robust website launch checklists to manage these last-stage steps. Is your SSL certificate purchased, installed, and ready to protect your website and your users? Have your previous website’s pages all been redirected to appropriate pages on your new website? Is your website analytics platform properly configured to measure how users interact with your content? Are automatic data backups setup? How about other automated tasks that need to run hourly, nightly or weekly?</p> <p>Website launch checklists can vary in size and complexity depending on the website. <a href="">Our standard&nbsp;list is more than thirty items.</a> Each item needs to be “owned” by a client or agency team member, and each item needs to be marked as “done” before website launch is a go.</p> <p>Make sure your agency has a website launch checklist, has shared it with you, and has clearly discussed how it will be managed leading up to launch day. Typically this should happen at least 30 days out — are you clear about what hosting provider you’re using? What your primary domain will be? What’s going to happen with your old website? Some of these issues take time to manage.</p> <h3>Access: sharing is caring</h3> <p><b>Access to any services related to your website should be shared with your agency.</b> Google Analytics for website traffic statistics, Search Console for search engine traffic analysis, SendGrid for sending secure emails from your website, GoDaddy for managing your domain, or MailChimp for newsletter and communication integrations — your individual list probably looks different, but it’s just as important. Often this will mean setting up new users with the right permissions for your agency’s team members. Tracking down the right administrators to dole out the appropriate access — and testing to make sure it’s right — can take some time.</p> <p>Third party service integrations and APIs rely on credentials, too. Things like PDF generation services, external databases, payment gateways and more could fall into this category. It can be hard to find and / or recover these credentials after years of silent, background use, especially since no humans are regularly “logging in” to something with a username and password. You may need to log in to the service on their website and search for “API keys” or other authentication methods.</p> <p>And don’t forget about two factor authentication! More and more services are not only offering but <i>requiring</i> two factor authentication. In these cases, sharing usernames and passwords just isn’t enough. A quick meeting with your technical lead or lead developer is probably the best way to flesh out a complete list of pending credentials.</p> <h3>Any questions?</h3> <p><b>As a major website stakeholder all of your questions should be answered.</b> If you’re a content editor, a webmaster, an analytics guru, an e-store inventory manager — or anyone else who will be working with the new website — you should be feeling super comfortable with the new platform in the weeks leading up to launch. <b> </b></p> <p>Training on new content publishing tools, new workflows, new reporting dashboards, and <i>anything else you’ve built</i> should already be complete. Can these images be centered? Can I promote products to the front page, or just articles? Can I add an arbitrary block with images and text to the “About” page? How do I change who receives the email for event registrations?</p> <p>Most of your questions as project stakeholders will come from hitting obstacles — obstacles that you’ll discover by going through your day-to-day tasks in detail. If you expect to be working with the new website once it launches, you need to be trying to complete your tasks using the new tools in the months and weeks leading up to launch. This often takes the shape of training sessions with members of your agency’s team, but it’s only as effective as it is thorough. Training should go far beyond live sessions with developers or QA specialists. Assigning yourself some “homework” and spending a few hours without the pressure of an audience / trainer is a great way to discover obstacles, questions, and potential issues weeks ahead of launch day.</p> <h3>Do it live!</h3> <p><b>Lines of communication should be wide open on launch day.</b> You’ve been working through your checklist for a few weeks, and there’s a satisfying “done” status next to almost everything. Your team has found and shared all the necessary access, credentials and API keys with your agency. Your website managers, content contributors, and any administrators or webmasters have all been fully trained — they’ve all spent considerable time going through the motions of their tasks on the new platform, and everyone’s questions are answered. Your marketing team is poised to promote and engage. It’s time to launch.</p> <p>Actually “flipping the switch” (switching DNS to point <i><span class="geshifilter"><code class="php geshifilter-php">yourdomain<span style="color: #339933;">.</span>com</code></span></i> to the machine that’s hosting your new website) just takes a minute, but it can take hours or longer for users across the globe to see the change.</p> <p>As your new digital platform comes online, your team and your agency should be collaborating to make sure everything is going as planned. Are redirects from the old website working? Are all of your API integrations behaving as expected? Are emails from your site delivering successfully? Are there any 404 (webpage not found) errors being reported?</p> <p>The minutes and hours surrounding website launch are critical. Assuring the process goes as smoothly as possible depends on open, easy communication. At one end of the spectrum this could be an open-room Zoom meeting where your team members can pop into a conference room with questions for developers, project managers, or QA specialists on the other end. A conference call or Slack channel could suffice, too, as long as there’s virtually zero wait time to ask questions as they come up.</p> <p>A website launch is a collaborative event. While it’s definitely possible (and ideal!) to launch a website with zero hiccups, you’re going to want your team present if anything catches you by surprise. One thing’s for sure: being on hold, typing into an empty chatroom, or listening to ring after ring at your project manager’s desk is not acceptable on launch day.</p> <hr /> <p>A website launch should be exciting. But without the proper planning and preparation, it can easily become a source of stress and frustration for your team and an interruption or degradation of service for your users. It’s your agency’s responsibility to outline the process far in advance, and guide you through the steps it takes to launch your new digital platform without a hitch.</p> <p>Interested in learning more about building digital experiences with Aten? Have questions about website launch timelines or comments about how your team manages website launch checklists? Feel free to drop a note in the comments section below or <a href="/contact">drop us a line directly</a>.</p> <!-- google doc id: 16y1HR1AiWMNva4R5LK470c_o8cjJQvabNoTJrtvO94k --></div> <a href="/about/kacie-minner" hreflang="en">Kacie Minner</a> <a href="/about/joel-steidl" hreflang="en">Joel Steidl</a> Tue, 06 Jul 2021 19:45:15 +0000 Kacie Minner 10278 at Celebrating 60 sprints: The product mindset in action <span>Celebrating 60 sprints: The product mindset in action</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2021-02/PRODUCT_MINDSET_02.jpg 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2021-02/PRODUCT_MINDSET_02.jpg 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/2021-02/PRODUCT_MINDSET_02.jpg?itok=CDciQB_g 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2021-02/PRODUCT_MINDSET_02.jpg?itok=zPLCHLJ_ 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2021-02/PRODUCT_MINDSET_02.jpg?itok=zPLCHLJ_ 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2021-02/PRODUCT_MINDSET_02.jpg?itok=zPLCHLJ_ 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2021-02/PRODUCT_MINDSET_02.jpg?itok=B93TDH7b 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2021-02/PRODUCT_MINDSET_02.jpg?itok=B93TDH7b 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/jpeg"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-02/PRODUCT_MINDSET_02.jpg" alt="Celebrating 60 sprints: The product mindset in action" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/eric-toupin" lang="" about="/user/eric-toupin" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Eric Toupin</a></span> <span>Thu, 02/18/2021 - 10:36</span> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><p>Web applications are often thought of in terms of something you meticulously plan, fund, build, publish, and then — with a greatly reduced ongoing investment — maintain and update until the software struggles to serve its purpose and the process begins all over again. There is a place for that approach. And then there’s <a href="">the product mindset</a>: build something that works, embrace a perennial rhythm of planning, development, and retrospective, then watch your software grow into something beyond what you could have imagined.</p> <h3>Sustainable development: Persistent cadence &amp; reliable progress</h3> <p>A few days after Christmas in 2015 Aten started work on a prototype of an application workflow management system for Stanford University. Stanford faculty and staff needed to manage student applications to participate in off-campus learning opportunities: research, public service, language studies, internships and the like. Our goal was to build something immediately useful, then iterate around stakeholder feedback to deliver the features most needed by users on an ongoing basis.</p> <p>Just six weeks later <a href="">Stanford On &amp; Off-Campus Learning Opportunities</a> (SOLO) was collecting applications for its very first opportunity listings. Development continued at a consistent pace with new feature releases each month. Less than two years later, a need was identified for a second platform aimed at processing faculty applications for internal funding opportunities. <a href="">Stanford Seed Funding</a> (SSF) — managed by the same team in the same development stream — was launched in the Fall of 2017 to meet that need</p> <figure role="group" class="align-center"> <div alt="Celebrating 60 sprints: The product mindset in action" data-embed-button="media_browser" data-entity-embed-display="media_image" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="5045040e-5e49-4cb0-8053-fcceefe7f173" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <img src="/sites/default/files/2021-02/aten_solo_celebrating_60_sprints.png" alt="Celebrating 60 sprints: The product mindset in action" title="Celebrating 60 sprints: The product mindset in action" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> <figcaption>Today Stanford On &amp; Off-Campus Learning Opportunities manages dozens to hundreds of opportunities at any given time and thousands of applications every year.</figcaption> </figure> <p>In its first year SOLO collected student applications for more than 200 distinct opportunities. Today, five years later, more than 12000 Stanford users have registered to apply for — or manage — more than 1600 opportunities across SOLO and SSF. We continue to release new features each month.</p> <p>SOLO and SSF have been the beneficiaries of full-scale development since their inception. We’ve run roughly one development sprint each month to deliver new features and new functionality, and to engage with wider audiences and better serve various units of Stanford University. The platforms have grown exponentially in both adoption and available features. What began as essentially a custom application form builder has expanded to include:</p> <ul> <li>Full-featured application workflow management</li> <li>A robust email notifications system</li> <li>Third party application review management</li> <li>Workload, task &amp; content sharing via user teams</li> <li>Automatic student record and faculty profile integrations via secure APIs</li> <li>Program and university level reporting</li> <li>A host of specialized dashboards to manage content</li> <li>Specialized travel risk assessment workflows, integrated with live State Department Travel Advisory data</li> <li>Application data downloads as CSV or automagically generated PDF</li> </ul> <p>While our team roster gets shaken up depending on the demands of each particular sprint (interface design, QA, accessibility, information architecture), the product owner on the Stanford side and lead developer on the Aten side have been the same since day one. That’s not where the commitment to continuity ends, either.</p> <p>For more than five years our process has embraced three major elements loosely organized along about-a-month cycles — a rhythm I believe is largely responsible for the ongoing success of the project.</p> <h3>Stakeholder engagement and planning</h3> <p>Stakeholder engagement and planning is a huge part of the two-person Stanford team’s full time job, and direct communication between developers and stakeholders has played a significant role as well. We’ve conducted feature planning activities with the staff teams who publish opportunities on the site, held meetings with IT Services personnel to facilitate better implementation of Stanford’s various APIs, and made a habit of hopping on ad hoc Zoom calls with faculty, staff, and students to troubleshoot, explore feature requests, or better understand pinch-points in our various workflows.</p> <p>Whether it’s Stanford students, faculty, or staff, our combined Stanford / Aten team has been proactive and ambitious in engaging the people who use (or benefit from) the SOLO and SSF platforms — a cornerstone principle of user centered systems design. The results of those interactions, conversations, workshops, and meetings feed into a product backlog that’s home to hundreds of feature requests, ideas, suggestions, and research topics in varying stages of evolution, all maturing towards “development ready” items which will be earmarked for future sprints.</p> <p>Dedicated sprint planning sessions organize “development ready” backlog items into upcoming sprints, accompanied by clear acceptance criteria and often supported by screenshots, sketches, mock-ups or additional notes &amp; documentation.</p> <h3>Development</h3> <p>During our roughly two-week development cycles, team communication that’s not centered around the current sprint’s development goals spins down considerably. Developers (myself &amp; whomever else we’ve recruited for the sprint) are given plenty of uninterrupted time to focus on our tasks, punctuated with limited scheduled meetings to present works-in-progress, collect feedback, or begin exploratory conversations on tasks destined for future sprints.</p> <p>In addition to regularly building new features, sprints also make considerable space for best practice “housekeeping” tasks. Code refactoring (revisiting &amp; improving old code) helps us to remove some of the inefficiencies and obfuscations in older code that are inherently introduced by constant new development. This is especially important in rapid cycle development where large features go from whiteboard to production in 3-6 weeks.</p> <p><a href="">Automated testing</a> (both revising existing tests and building new ones for new features) is also an important part of a healthy lean development practice. Our automated tests both subsidize human QA, and reduce the likelihood of butterfly-effect bugs where old features break when new code is introduced.</p> <h3>Retrospective</h3> <p>Perhaps the most important element of maintaining quality and velocity in long term development projects is self-examination. As a team, it’s incredibly important to set aside time to reflect on our processes, examine our opportunities for improvement, and celebrate our wins.</p> <p>Success with SOLO &amp; SSF, like any web application built for a diverse and evolving user base, is a moving target. After each development cycle the combined Stanford / Aten team sets aside time to reflect on the sprint, recognize our successes, and explore our opportunities for improvement. These can be concrete process adjustments (don’t deploy on Fridays, for example), loose guidelines (seek to involve team members from various disciplines, when possible), or simply reiterating and underlining what worked well and should be repeated. The perfect process doesn’t exist, and retrospectives aren’t an attempt to find it. Instead, the goal is active adaptation to the ever changing demands of a living, evolving project.</p> <hr /> <p>This spring we’ll finish our sixtieth SOLO &amp; SSF development sprint, after more than five years of ongoing stakeholder engagement, planning, development, and reflection. It’s such a delight working with Stanford’s Research IT &amp; Innovation team, helping to support their mission of facilitating research, and actively engaging with the extraordinary humans at the center of the platforms. In an ideal world all developers would have the pleasure of working with similarly motivated, dedicated, and flexible teams with tools and processes to match.</p> <!-- google doc id: 1XXj23oWu0Cnoms9t0zERbeO47RpBKrS2y-rBnRjUCCI --></div> <a href="/about/eric-toupin" hreflang="en">Eric Toupin</a> Thu, 18 Feb 2021 17:36:12 +0000 Eric Toupin 10224 at Wireframing for the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine <span>Wireframing for the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2020-09/EIDB_Aten_wireframing.jpg 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2020-09/EIDB_Aten_wireframing.jpg 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/2020-09/EIDB_Aten_wireframing.jpg?itok=a0JbKDZq 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2020-09/EIDB_Aten_wireframing.jpg?itok=lmT_Isj1 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2020-09/EIDB_Aten_wireframing.jpg?itok=lmT_Isj1 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2020-09/EIDB_Aten_wireframing.jpg?itok=lmT_Isj1 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2020-09/EIDB_Aten_wireframing.jpg?itok=Nj5wf4Qz 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/jpeg"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2020-09/EIDB_Aten_wireframing.jpg?itok=Nj5wf4Qz 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/jpeg"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-09/EIDB_Aten_wireframing.jpg" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><span lang="" about="/user/nikki-singer" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Nikki Singer</span></span> <span>Sun, 09/27/2020 - 10:00</span> <a href="/blog/category/information-architecture" class="tag" >Information Architecture</a> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><p>Earlier this year the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (HJF) partnered with us to revamp an HIV research website for <a href="">MHRP</a>, as well as create a website for the Emerging Infectious Disease Branch (EIDB). They were hoping to improve their content publishing workflows and better connect to their audiences with relevant, up-to-date studies in the rapidly evolving field of infectious disease &amp; HIV research.</p> <p>HJF brought some unique circumstances to the table. First, the projects required a quick turnaround. The research &amp; resources that would be available through EIDB were more relevant in today’s world than ever before. Second, HJF had already performed plenty of discovery around their organizational goals, key performance indicators, and audience groups, and were hoping to invest that time spent into a fast-tracked design and development process.</p> <p>During the discovery and architecture phases of a project, I’m often tasked with everything from reviewing stakeholder interviews and analyzing web traffic, through developing technical architecture documents, performing content audits, delivering wireframes and much, much more.</p> <p>In this case wireframes were the primary early deliverable. Prioritizing wireframes would quickly set up our design team to produce high fidelity comps, which would position our development team to dig into technical implementation. While our UXA team often takes a deeper dive into discovery, I was excited to meet HJF where they were with existing assets to deliver on their ambitious timetable.</p> <h3>First things first: What are wireframes for?</h3> <p>Wireframing lays out the content and interactions of each unique webpage. Each wireframe establishes the <a href="">content hierarchy</a> for a specific page, and guides the client through the <a href="">user flow</a> we’re trying to achieve. Ideally wireframes are presented via a collaborative medium so that the client and production teams can easily comment, edit, and iterate.</p> <p>Wireframes are not designs. They don’t reflect a design direction and don’t necessarily indicate the final positioning or layout of specific elements. Instead, they are a prototype for each page that aims to establish a hierarchy of content and a flow of attention that accomplishes specific, pre-established goals.</p> <p>An approved wireframe aligns team expectations for each individual webpage; it builds consensus that helps drive design and development decisions.</p> <h3>Sketch it out: Are we achieving our goals?</h3> <p>For each unique page in a website, we have to know what the page needs to achieve — what its goals are — in order to understand whether a particular wireframe will achieve those goals. This is where the assets we distill in the discovery process begin to get their toe in the door. For the homepage of EIDB’s website, I started with a list of page goals we had established during discovery.</p> <figure role="group" class="align-center"> <div alt="Hand-draw sketch for EIDB wireframe" data-embed-button="media_browser" data-entity-embed-display="media_image" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="f6e566c2-9e20-4e4c-8037-10b13a85cc6c" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-09/EIDB_wireframe_sketch_aten.jpg" alt="Hand-draw sketch for EIDB wireframe" title="EIDB: Sketch one" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> <figcaption>Sketches begin with a list of goals and an arrangement of elements that could achieve those goals.</figcaption> </figure> <p>Early pen &amp; paper sketches suggest layout and hierarchy approaches, in broad strokes, that might achieve the goals identified for the page. Elements in the sketch respond to each identified goal: showcase what EIDB is / who EIDB is (WHO WE ARE), highlight global work (INTERACTIVE MAP), bring in work from scientists and researchers (FEATURE WORK), etc.</p> <figure role="group" class="align-center"> <div alt="Hand-draw second sketch for EIDB wireframe" data-embed-button="media_browser" data-entity-embed-display="media_image" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="6dfc1be6-d90d-40cd-bfac-94554e33c2a6" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-09/EIDB_wireframe_sketch_two_aten.jpg" alt="Hand-draw second sketch for EIDB wireframe" title="EIDB: Sketch two" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </div> <figcaption>Sketches go through several iterations to explore a variety of potential elements, layouts, and hierarchies.</figcaption> </figure> <p>Preparing multiple sketches helps to establish a variety of potential solutions, and begins to develop an ecosystem of elements and regions that can be played with to adjust hierarchy and user flow. After experimenting with a few sketches, I move on to a digital platform that facilitates collaboration and iteration.</p> <h3>Teamwork: Collaboration and iteration</h3> <p>I distribute early wireframe candidates internally for feedback, making sure to get the design and development teams’ approval. With everyone at Aten onboard, it’s time to present the wireframes to the client team, collaborate, and iterate.</p> <p>Ease of collaboration is important at every step of our process, and wireframing is no different. In MHRP &amp; EIDB’s case we were aiming for approved wireframes just four weeks from project kick-off, a timeline that leaves little or no room for an inefficient back-and-forth. The right tools can really expedite the process — recently I’ve been delivering wireframes via <a href="">Figma</a>, an online collaborative workspace that makes commenting, editing, and revisioning visual assets a snap. With initial wireframes delivered, it’s time to pore over the nuances of each page via in-person meetings or asynchronous communication, never straying too far from the core question: <i>Do the content and interactions represented here, in this hierarchy, meet the goals defined for this webpage? </i></p> <figure role="group" class="align-center"> <div alt="EIDB homepage wireframe, first version" data-embed-button="media_browser" data-entity-embed-display="media_image" data-entity-embed-display-settings="crop_freeform file" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="46b19027-d558-4b7c-9ef1-d9126d8b09a2" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <a href=""><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/crop_freeform/public/2020-09/HJF_EIDB_Wireframe_first.png?h=ab477e10&amp;itok=TtjK383-" width="1620" height="1200" alt="EIDB homepage wireframe, first version" title="EIDB: Wireframe first" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </a> </div> <figcaption>An early EIDB homepage wireframe. Wireframes are not low-fi designs; they aim to establish a content hierarchy that achieves each page’s established goals. <strong>Click the image to view the full wireframe.</strong></figcaption> </figure> <p>Answering that question isn’t always easy. A few supporting questions can help guide conversations: <em>Is this the right content for this page? Are additional elements needed to get the messaging across? Does the page have enough visual content? Too much? Do users need to complete something on this page? Is it obvious? Does the content hierarchy match priority of goals for this page?</em></p> <p>Conversations led by these sorts of questions will move wireframes closer and closer to their final, approved version.</p> <figure role="group" class="align-center"> <div alt="EIDB homepage wireframe, final version" data-embed-button="media_browser" data-entity-embed-display="media_image" data-entity-embed-display-settings="crop_freeform file" data-entity-type="media" data-entity-uuid="6ef2949c-4994-4e93-8e88-9071a17233f0" data-langcode="en" class="embedded-entity"> <a href=""><img src="/sites/default/files/styles/crop_freeform/public/2020-09/HJF_EIDB_Wireframe_FINAL.png?h=9ef2130e&amp;itok=DrJ6zWe7" width="1619" height="1332" alt="EIDB homepage wireframe, final version" title="EIDB: Wireframe final" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </a> </div> <figcaption>The final EIDB homepage wireframe. When the answer to the question <em>Do the content and interactions represented here, in this hierarchy, meet the goals defined for this webpage?</em> is a firm <em>Yes</em>, your wireframe is approved. <strong>Click the image to view the full wireframe.</strong></figcaption> </figure> <p>Wireframes often go through several iterations before final approval, but that’s by design. While they aren’t entirely avoidable, significant changes in content hierarchy or page content are far less cost efficient in later stages of the design and development process. Approved wireframes lay the cornerstones for producing high fidelity design comps, and for the technical implementation that will bring the website to life.</p> <p>Check back soon for a link to the brand new EIDB website!</p> <h3>Wireframes: one part of a much bigger whole</h3> <p>Wireframes are often a critical building block for the design process, but every digital project has different requirements. Those requirements can bring some elements of the discovery and design process to the forefront, and sink others into the background. A flexible approach lets us decide — with the client team — where to invest the most energy to push the project towards its goals.</p> <p>For this project prioritizing wireframes facilitated a fast-tracked delivery of high fidelity comps, and helped us to meet a tight turnaround requirement. Other projects have different demands that emphasize different parts of our discovery and design processes.</p> <p>Curious about what our design process might look like for your upcoming project? <a href="">Get in touch to find out!</a></p> <!-- google doc id: 1n7YbySPwCbkeF-NTnIyxnGNrA6k1ydCTm-of1Hn7iJo --></div> <div class="c-article-list"> <h3 class="c-article-list__title">Read This Next</h3> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li><a href="/articles/wireframing-intersection-design-content-strategy" hreflang="und">Wireframing: The Intersection of Design &amp; Content Strategy</a></li> </ul> </div> </div> <a href="/about/nikki-singer" hreflang="en">Nikki Singer</a> Sun, 27 Sep 2020 16:00:00 +0000 Nikki Singer 10149 at Mandatory Work from Home Survival Guide <span>Mandatory Work from Home Survival Guide</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2020-06/wfh_2.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/2020-06/wfh_2.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/2020-06/wfh_2.png?itok=yYF0oqa2 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2020-06/wfh_2.png?itok=HmdOAeug 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2020-06/wfh_2.png?itok=HmdOAeug 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/2020-06/wfh_2.png?itok=HmdOAeug 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2020-06/wfh_2.png?itok=E2FDPemc 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/2020-06/wfh_2.png?itok=E2FDPemc 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/png"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/2020-06/wfh_2.png" alt="Aten Team on Zoom" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/justin-toupin" lang="" about="/user/justin-toupin" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Justin Toupin</a></span> <span>Tue, 04/07/2020 - 19:52</span> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><h2>An Open Letter to my Aten Coworkers</h2> <p>Welcome to week five of <a href="">mandatory work from home</a>. Whether you’re showing up for the next Zoom call in PJs or yoga pants, here are a few ways we’ll keep rocking this pants-optional work situation.</p> <h2>Slack is the new open office.</h2> <p>We use <a href="">Slack</a> for free-form conversations: to ask questions, tell our colleagues what we’re up to, post a meme, tell a joke, or give kudos. This isn’t really new – we’ve been using Slack for years, and have a long history of leveraging chat tools (HipChat, Google Chat, Campfire, etc). But Slack has suddenly become the number one way we stay connected, all day every day. <em> </em>One interesting, though not terribly surprising, side-effect of increased company-wide use of Slack is that a number of our full-time remote colleagues report feeling much more connected to the rest of the team than they had before.</p> <p><strong>A few tips for Slack:</strong></p> <ul> <li><strong>In general, post messages to the widest relevant group possible</strong> so everybody has access to the information they might need – both now and in the future.</li> <li><strong>Use channels when you can.</strong> Post development questions in #aten-team-dev, ask project managers for help in #aten-team-pms, throw hilarious memes (or a photoshop of <a href="">Joe’s</a> face) in #random, and so on.</li> <li><strong>Start a thread to keep conversations scannable.</strong> Threads make it easier for everyone to find and jump in on conversations.</li> <li><strong>Keep Slack open during your entire workday,</strong> but definitely turn it off (or snooze notifications) when you sign off for the day.</li> <li><strong>Post in #aten-whereabouts, set Slack notifications to snooze,</strong> or do both when you need heads-down time (or are away from your desk).</li> </ul> <p><strong>Some of our favorite, most-used Slack integrations: </strong></p> <ul> <li><a href=""><strong>Zoom</strong></a><br /> Simply type “/zoom” to start a new video meeting with whoever you’re chatting with in Slack (individuals or groups). The Zoom app also posts a summary of meetings when you’re done. With a Zoom pro plan, you can make the phone icon in Slack instantly start a Zoom meeting.</li> <li><a href=""><strong>Google Calendar</strong></a><strong> and </strong><a href=""><strong>Google Calendar for Team Events</strong></a><br /> Together these apps provide shared calendars and event reminders. One feature we really love that it automatically posts “Out of Office” calendar events as Slack messages in the #aten-whereabouts chanel.</li> <li><a href=""><strong>icanhazdadjoke</strong></a><br /> Type “/dadjoke” for chuckles – or eye-rolling. At least you can blame the app.</li> <li><a href=""><strong>Jira Cloud</strong></a><br /> Automatically post updates to Slack when Jira tickets are updated or reassigned.</li> <li><a href=""><strong>Karma</strong></a><br /> Give your coworkers kudos by typing “@so-and-s0 ++”. With the paid version, you get reports and leaderboards.</li> <li><a href=""><strong>Polly</strong></a><br /> Make polls quick and easy with Polly, which works for team-wide and group-specific polls.</li> <li><a href=""><strong></strong></a><br /> Sending secrets (like passwords) in Slack is a bad idea. Saltify makes it easy to send secrets securely, directly in Slack.</li> </ul> <h2>Face-time is as important as ever.</h2> <p>If Slack is the new office, <a href="">Zoom</a> is the new meeting room, coffee shop, bar, gym, park bench, you name it. We use Zoom for in-person, face-to-face interaction: one-on-ones, brainstorm sessions, conference calls, happy hours, co-watching TED talks, Friday Bingo (it’s a drinking game if you want it to be), and the list goes on.</p> <p><strong>A few tips for Zoom:</strong></p> <ul> <li><strong>Turn on your camera! </strong><br /> A big part of face-time is, well, face-time. In this season of social distancing, turning on the camera is more important than ever. Let’s all show up with the multi-tasking, kids-managing, wear-what’s-comfortable versions of ourselves, and enjoy each other’s company.</li> <li><strong>It’s old news but important: set a password for your meeting rooms. </strong>With the explosion of Zoom use globally, there has been a ton of “video chat vandalism” – unwanted visitors guessing meeting numbers and dropping in just to be disruptive. It’s annoying, and easily fixed by using passwords for your meetings. Even easier, there’s a setting that adds random passwords to all meetings by default.</li> <li><strong>Randomize your Zoom URLs. </strong>For the same reason listed above, it’s a good idea to let Zoom generate random, impossible-to-guess URLs for your meetings, rather than re-using your personal meeting room for everything.</li> <li><strong>Use Zoom for conversations and personal, face-to-face interaction, not brain bumps. </strong>Zoom is a great place to talk things through, figure things out, and hear directly from everyone involved. Zoom is not a good place for knowledge transfer. For that, stick with good old documentation tools like Basecamp, Google Docs, and Jira.</li> <li><strong>Watch your language.</strong> With everyone suddenly working from home, it's easy to forget that your audience likely includes partners, spouses, kids, and cats on the other end of the call. To be honest, this one’s for me… quit it with the f-bombs, Justin!</li> <li><strong>Mute Thyself.</strong> We all know it, but we don’t always do it. If you’re in a group call and not talking, mute your mic. With even more background noise than usual, muting yourself on a group call really helps cut down on distraction.</li> <li><strong>I love the custom backgrounds; please keep it up. </strong>No explanation needed.</li> </ul> <h2>New traditions help us stay connected.</h2> <p>With Monday status over breakfast, Friday lunch-and-learn, coffee-shop walks, ping-pong breaks, happy hours, shared meals, and all kinds of other ways to connect, we’ve always had a strong focus on people and relationships. Our focus hasn't changed, but the ways we stay connected suddenly have. Here are few of the things we’re doing to stay in touch all week long:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Ted Talk Tuesdays</strong><br /> Watch a Ted Talk together over Zoom, then discuss.</li> <li><strong>Porter Presents Fridays</strong><br /> A.k.a “Lunch and Learn,” a new subject or activity brought to you weekly (over Zoom of course) by <a href="">Janice’s</a> dog, Porter. Bring lunch and a beverage of choice.</li> <li><strong>#Aten-wellness</strong><br /> From recipes to workouts, use the new Slack channel #aten-wellness to share how you’re staying healthy through the crisis.</li> <li><strong>Virtual prizes</strong><br /> Prizes don’t always mean trophies. Get creative with delivery gift-cards or acts of service you can donate to the winner of a virtual competition.</li> <li><strong>News-free spaces</strong><br /> We are all overwhelmed with current events. Let’s be sensitive to others by keeping meetings and chats by-and-large news free.</li> <li><strong>Virtual Coffee Breaks</strong><br /> Check in with each other by scheduling virtual coffee breaks. Connecting face-to-face with someone for just 10 minutes to chat can help lift your mood.</li> <li><strong>Puzzle sharing / exchanging</strong><br /> Trade your completed puzzle with another Atenaught who just finished theirs! Contact free delivery of course.</li> <li><strong>Trivia Tuesday</strong><br /> Send your trivia and fun facts about yourself to Sally for a fun weekly question where we guess which Atenaught belongs to the trivia.</li> </ul> <h2>Your living room couch might be the perfect retreat, but it’s not an office.</h2> <p>Just because we’re all working from home doesn’t mean we should skimp on the office setup. Make sure you have a big screen, comfortable peripherals (mouse, trackpad, keyboard, etc.), supportive chair, and a nice desk. While I enjoy occasionally working from the couch, a comfortable home office – complete with the right equipment – is important for staying productive long-term.</p> <h2>Stay flexible and take care of each other.</h2> <p>We’ve always valued flexibility and believed that our people should be in control of their own individual work schedules. That applies now more than ever. Please make time for yourself: walk the dog, supervise your kids’ home learning program, go for a run, catch up with friends (on Zoom, of course), grab a snack; whatever you need. Take the occasional personal day, as needed. Keep your colleagues informed with #aten-whereabouts in Slack, and snooze notifications when you need to. If you need help or are having trouble of any kind, reach out to your manager, to <a href="">Kristi</a>, or to me directly. In these uncertain and unprecedented times, let’s show each other patience, understanding, and grace as we all juggle the needs of our loved ones, our own wellbeing, and our work. We may be working apart, but we’ll get through this together.</p> <p>(If you have a survival tip you like to add, drop it in the comments section. I’ll keep a look out for relevant suggestions and update this post accordingly.)</p></div> <a href="/about/justin-toupin" hreflang="en">Justin Toupin</a> Wed, 08 Apr 2020 01:52:10 +0000 Justin Toupin 10083 at Design for Scale <span>Design for Scale</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/design-to-scale.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/design-to-scale.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/design-to-scale.png?itok=SULSlT3P 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/design-to-scale.png?itok=bcEXhOeM 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/design-to-scale.png?itok=bcEXhOeM 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/design-to-scale.png?itok=bcEXhOeM 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/design-to-scale.png?itok=EzBAJrML 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/design-to-scale.png?itok=EzBAJrML 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/png"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/design-to-scale.png" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><a title="View user profile." href="/user/ken-woodworth" lang="" about="/user/ken-woodworth" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Ken Woodworth</a></span> <span>Fri, 04/26/2019 - 08:55</span> <a href="/blog/category/design" class="tag" >Design</a> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><p>Here at Aten, we do a lot of work with organizations that deploy web platforms at scale. From universities and government institutions to publishers, healthcare providers and beyond, building expansive and flexible design systems is a crucial requirement for most of the organizations we serve. Here are a few things we’ve found helpful for keeping design systems flexible – and designers sane – at enterprise scale.</p> <h2>Cross-Functional Teams</h2> <p>We involve multiple disciplines from the very beginning of the process: user research, business analysis, strategy, and engineering. Effective design doesn’t happen in a silo, and getting ideas, feedback, and buy-in from the entire project team early on is important.</p> <h2>Research, Data, and Analytics</h2> <p>This is huge, and way beyond the scope of this post, but I couldn’t leave out at least a nod to getting good data as a starting point. Back to the point above about engaging multiple disciplines: we lean hard on user research, usability testing, analytics, and strategy to inform design direction. Good data is critical; it provides both clear direction for design and a benchmark for measuring success. (Related post: <a href="/blog/connecting-content-user-needs-and-business-goals">Connecting Content to User Needs and Business Goals</a>.)</p> <h2>Shared Inspiration</h2> <p>Just like we involve the entire project team early on, we involve stakeholders from the beginning as well. We start with exercises that help develop a shared sense of inspiration, encouraging teams to dream big while refining our own sense for stakeholders’ aspirations. Over the years we’ve used a number of tools for sharing inspiration and aligning with stakeholder groups at the outset: mood boards, comparative analysis, and voice and tone workshops, to name a few. Regardless of the specific approach, effectively aligning project teams with a shared basis for inspiration is important.</p> <h2>Broad Exploration</h2> <p>We start broad, then gradually narrow our focus over the course of projects. Beginning with exercises to share inspiration, outlined above, we hone in on effective visual themes with design exploration. We explore design with Style Tiles or Element Collages, presenting components that demonstrate the use of color, imagery, typography, and other visual elements that clearly establish voice and tone – without tackling the needs of specific content or layout. Starting broad helps build consensus, and is particularly effective when dealing with large stakeholder groups.</p> <h2>Page Mockups</h2> <p>In recent years there has been a lot of momentum around atomic design and holistic design systems, favoring component libraries over specific page designs. While our goal is ultimately to develop comprehensive design systems, we still find specific page mockups to be incredibly important for establishing design direction. Page mockups play a crucial role in providing crystal clear direction for how a design system works in practice. They provide context for the elements outlined in component libraries and help us establish hierarchy for information on each screen. Designing individual screens helps prevent designs from being overly generalized, from feeling sterile or generic. Further, we still find page mockups to be the most effective deliverable for getting design approval and stakeholder sign-off. And while mobile is a huge focus for us, we typically work on – and present – desktop versions first. Why not start with mobile? For us, it’s a matter of solving the right problems in the right order, of running effective presentations and gathering needed approvals. While our design process is strongly focussed on mobile, we’ve found it far more effective to work out content hierarchy for more complex, multi-column layouts first, then refactor designs for the simplicity enforced by narrower, mobile viewports second. Similarly, stakeholder teams tend to be more confident responding first to large format mockups than to mobile versions.</p> <h2>Documented Design Systems</h2> <p>While page mockups are effective and important, designing every single page for any but the simplest of projects is impossible. We use component libraries to document design systems, and a few page mockups to show the design systems in action. We do not attempt to design every single page. Rather, we rely on a thoroughly documented design system coupled with a few specific page examples to establish an extensible framework that holds up at scale. Documented design systems establish consistent patterns for solving a broad range of problems as they arise. They help increase efficiency over time, and provide a visual toolkit that can grow over the life of the project.</p> <h2>Design Systems Won’t Replace Designers</h2> <p>Thoroughly documented design systems are important, but they’re no substitute for keeping designers involved throughout the process. Back to the point we opened with: cross-functional teams are critical to the success of impactful digital projects. As projects evolve, leading up to and even well after the initial launch, there will be new challenges in need of new solutions. Expecting design systems to just work, without the need for new creative thinking and problem solving, is unrealistic and even dangerous. Involving designers at all stages ensures that design systems can adapt and grow to support new, unique challenges. We keep designers integrated in project teams throughout the entire process – from kickoff, to launch, to ongoing iterative releases.</p></div> <a href="/about/ken-woodworth" hreflang="en">Ken Woodworth</a> Fri, 26 Apr 2019 14:55:32 +0000 Ken Woodworth 2548 at Reclaim Your Workweek: No Meetings Days <span>Reclaim Your Workweek: No Meetings Days</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/18-11-29---No-Meeting-Days.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/18-11-29---No-Meeting-Days.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/18-11-29---No-Meeting-Days.png?itok=TTYDma0a 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/18-11-29---No-Meeting-Days.png?itok=f2wvbhcN 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/18-11-29---No-Meeting-Days.png?itok=f2wvbhcN 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/18-11-29---No-Meeting-Days.png?itok=f2wvbhcN 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/18-11-29---No-Meeting-Days.png?itok=oFMeX-jD 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/18-11-29---No-Meeting-Days.png?itok=oFMeX-jD 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/png"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/18-11-29---No-Meeting-Days.png" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><span lang="" about="/user/hannah-stuart" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Hannah Stuart</span></span> <span>Mon, 12/03/2018 - 11:49</span> <a href="/blog/category/digital-project-management" class="tag" >Digital Project Management</a> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><p>When working in an agency environment, meetings are inevitably a part of the jobs we do. We come together to plan, scope, estimate, ideate, problem solve, pair program, demo, present, run retros, hold standups, present code reviews – you get the idea! With numerous meetings on the agenda, what starts out as an 8 hour day slowly gets chipped away. Meetings begin to disrupt deep thinking, they force you to push aside any solo work time you had, and eventually you aren't left with much time during the day at all. I think we can all agree that the current model for meetings is a little broken.</p> <p>Around a year ago we realized this in a major way at Aten. Meetings had become a leading culprit for killing time, with direct impact on utilization.</p> <h2>The problem with meetings</h2> <p>Upon taking a closer look at the ways in which meetings were impacting our team, we discovered some key factors.</p> <ul> <li>Many felt overwhelmed by the amount of meetings whether formal or informal, face-to-face or electronically mediated.</li> <li>People were finding it harder to create momentum on set tasks because of the project whiplash they were experiencing when jumping between tasks and meetings in a given day.</li> <li>Productivity and utility were impacted. As the frequency of meetings increased, productivity rates decreased.</li> <li>Many were lacking time for solo work which is essential to creativity and efficiency.</li> </ul> <p>These issues drove home the realization that while meetings do have a role to play in the workplace, it is far more important to manage meeting time in an intentional way.</p> <h2>Getting rid of meetings</h2> <p>We took these findings and decided to use them as a conduit for change.</p> <p>Our original goal wasn’t to kill or reduce the number of meetings. They do often help us to get work done and make decisions. Instead, we set out to create interruption free days. We did this by moving meetings off of everyone’s calendars on Tuesdays and Thursdays, creating the time and space for deep thinking and solo work which we believed would resolve many of the issues that had been identified.</p> <p>Since implementing no-meetings days we’ve seen an increase in the company’s overall productivity rates, improvements to the level of reported job satisfaction and a decrease in the number of reports of people feeling overwhelmed by meetings.</p> <p>Like with any change effort, we’re still learning and evolving as we move forward with this practice. We'll continue to take stock of how people are adjusting to this new process overall. Any measurable progress we receive will be assessed and discussed. Any concrete wins will be celebrated, and any losses will be seen as a chance to learn and grow.</p> <h2>What does the research say?</h2> <p>In looking at the effect of meetings on our own organization, I became curious about the impacts of meetings elsewhere. The more I researched this topic, two things became clear:</p> <ol> <li>Multitasking is making people less productive.</li> <li>The hidden costs of task switching are bigger than you think.</li> </ol> <p><a href="">Research</a> shows that meetings have increased in length and frequency over the past 50 years. Now more than ever, people are trying to pack more into their workdays and in the absence of clear indicators, many turn towards an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of tasks in a manner which is visible to their peers/coworkers.</p> <p><a href="">Experiments</a> published in 2001 by Joshua Rubinstein, PhD, Jeffrey Evans, PhD, and David Meyer, PhD, found that switch costs can add up to large amounts when people switch repeatedly back and forth between tasks. <a href="">For example</a>, when you’re coding something, and you’re in the flow state, and you get interrupted, it takes 23 minutes (on average) to get back into the groove of what you were doing before. Meyer goes on to stipulate that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can take as much as 40 percent of someone's productive time. That’s approximately 3.2 hours a day, 16 hours a week, and a loss of 832 productive hours a year. Whether you’re an agency like us, a start-up, non-profit, or a fortune 500 company, this loss of time aggregated across a year is bound to have impacts on your company’s bottom line to some degree.</p> <p>Not only do interruption-free days help to reduce the amount of task switching but they also allow for “deep thinking” or “deep thought”. Deep thinking was a term that Georgetown computer science professor, Cal Newport, used to describe the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. Working deeply is the best way to get more meaningful work done: in a state of high concentration while working distraction-free on a single task.</p> <p>It’s also important to be aware of the type of work you need to complete across the week so that you create the appropriate working conditions. Newport describes the two main types of work as:</p> <p><strong>“Deep work”</strong> - Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill set, and are hard to replicate. These tasks are better suited for a no meetings day.</p> <p><strong>“Shallow work”</strong> - Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These tasks should be scheduled on days where there are meetings.</p> <p>By understanding these concepts and the impacts they have on individuals, work and productivity, you can empower not only yourself, but your company to work in smarter and more meaningful ways.</p> <h2>How to make no meetings days a part of your routine</h2> <ol> <li> <strong>Examine the impacts that meetings are having on your company first.</strong> You may learn that it’s more a matter of quality over quantity.</li> <li> <strong>Adapt the process to suit your team set-up and style.</strong> Factor in how this would apply to remote teams, part time workers etc.</li> <li> <strong>Team buy-in is important.</strong> Establish and communicate the purpose and goals of having meetings free days. What are the challenges you’re hoping to help solve? What are the advantages?</li> <li> <strong>What are the rules?</strong> Which days are the no meetings days? Is this over a day or are there specific blocked off times? Is there some flexibility for team members to use their judgement when scheduling a meeting on the allocated no meetings days?</li> <li> <strong>Make sure you maintain momentum.</strong> It’s easy to fall back into the habit of booking meetings on no-meetings days. Try to nominate someone who’s responsible for observing the no-meetings days on the calendar and who can assist team members when questions arise as to potential allowances.</li> <li> <strong>Block off time.</strong> Encourage your team members to block out time in their calendars, which serves as a gentle reminder that meetings shouldn’t be booked on those days.</li> <li> <strong>Stop scheduling meetings.</strong> </li> </ol> <h2>Conclusion</h2> <p>We wanted to ensure that as a company we set a different precedent and created a culture where ‘single-tasking’ was more valued than ‘multi-tasking’. In doing so, we’ve been able to better maximize the amount of productivity we can get out of a workweek. Aten team members now have two days a week where they’re able to focus on single tasks, without distractions, in a state of intense focus. They’ve become an integral part of the Aten culture and many look forward to and / or feel energized by these days. We’d encourage you to try it out too!</p></div> Mon, 03 Dec 2018 18:49:01 +0000 Hannah Stuart 2526 at Collaborative Exercises for Defining Your Brand Strategy <span>Collaborative Exercises for Defining Your Brand Strategy</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/brand-strategy.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/brand-strategy.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/brand-strategy.png?itok=95At5dU_ 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/brand-strategy.png?itok=8C5v1IDe 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/brand-strategy.png?itok=8C5v1IDe 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/brand-strategy.png?itok=8C5v1IDe 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/brand-strategy.png?itok=e5-8PlzJ 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/brand-strategy.png?itok=e5-8PlzJ 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/png"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/brand-strategy.png" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><span lang="" about="/user/christine-coughlan" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Christine Coughlan</span></span> <span>Fri, 11/02/2018 - 11:40</span> <a href="/blog/category/branding" class="tag" >Branding</a> <a href="/blog/category/content-strategy" class="tag" >Content</a> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <a href="/blog/category/user-experience" class="tag" >User Experience</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><p>A huge part of creating a brand strategy for a product is to understand how to position it against its competition. For example, when we recently created the brand strategy for Intercept, an event management system for libraries, we ran a number of workshops to ensure we were reaching the right audience and nailing their innovative spirit.</p> <p>Technologies and learning styles of the 21st Century have forced libraries to take another look at their business model. They are taking learning and free entertainment to a new level, with programming being the key to their success.</p> <p>Richland Library needed a brand strategy that shows how they've taken a seat at the table. In order to provide the best programming to their visitors, they dreamed up Intercept, an open-source event management system made for libraries by libraries. The product idea isn’t just a basic event management system; it’s rooted in understanding customers’ engagement and tracking their participation. We partnered with Richland Library to build Intercept and make that dream reality.</p> <p>But a great product alone isn’t enough. To encourage adoption, they needed a full marketing strategy. We stepped in to create the brand identity and strategy for the product.</p> <blockquote class="quote"><p>“Your brand is more than your logo, name or slogan — it’s the entire experience your prospects and customers have with your company, product or service.”</p> <small>- <a href="">Marketing MO</a></small></blockquote> <p>The key outputs we needed in order to define the brand strategy for Intercept were a value proposition statement, strong experience principles and key voice and tone adjectives. The exercises we used provided the foundation for all their marketing needs. These exercises, in combination with an understanding of audiences and project outcomes, allowed us to create a design system and key messages that resonated with prospective libraries.</p> <hr> <h2>Laying the Foundation</h2> Before getting into the exercises, thinking about the outcomes and target audience of your product’s brand is vital. These items lay the foundation to build upon. <p>With Intercept, we first identified two project outcomes: <ol></p> <li>Get other libraries interested in using Intercept</li> <li>Provide libraries with setup/installation steps and requirements to get started with Intercept</li> </ol> Second, we identified the key audience groups. Although there are four main types of libraries – public, academic, school and special – it was clear from the beginning that public libraries would be the primary inquirers of Intercept. With a steady <a href="">5.2% growth in attendance</a> for public library programming, it’s important for these libraries to not only offer new events, but also improve current programs offered. <p>From there, we identified which staff members needed the marketing site most. A quick discussion identified the big decisions-makers – Library Directors, Tech Directors and Library Programming Directors – as the primary audience.</p> <p>Although other team members, like program staff, website developers and administrative staff, may be the first ones to hear about the software, they are secondary to the decision-makers since the marketing site needs to sell the product to the library.</p> <hr> <h2>Value Proposition</h2> To understand how your brand stacks up against its competitors, you can use <a href="">Dan Mall’s Only-ness Statement</a> exercise. Using his simple format, you can identify what your organization or product is the “only one of.” That format defines the What, How, Who, Where, Why, and When of the brand. <p>Through discussion, Intercept’s Only-ness Statement became:</p> <p style="font-size: 1.25em">InterCEPT is the only <em style="background-color: #FCC318; padding-left: 3px; padding-right: 3px; margin-left: -3px; margin-right: -3px;">open source calendaring and reservation system (made by libraries for libraries)</em> that <em style="background-color: #FCC318; padding-left: 3px; padding-right: 3px; margin-left: -3px; margin-right: -3px;">provides a flexible solution to tie program attendance to your ILS</em> for <em style="background-color: #FCC318; padding-left: 3px; padding-right: 3px; margin-left: -3px; margin-right: -3px;">public libraries</em> who want to <em style="background-color: #FCC318; padding-left: 3px; padding-right: 3px; margin-left: -3px; margin-right: -3px;">know their customers better, improve their programming via data, and offer recommendations</em> during a time when <em style="background-color: #FCC318; padding-left: 3px; padding-right: 3px; margin-left: -3px; margin-right: -3px;">libraries have a changing role in the 21st Century</em>.</p> <p>It’s important to note here that a number of phrases came up in the discussion. Those included:</p> <ul> <li>Analysis is important</li> <li>Made by libraries for libraries</li> <li>Open source application</li> <li>Provides calendering and event management</li> <li>When libraries’ roles are changing</li> <li>Replacing intuition with information</li> </ul> Although not all of your phrases will make it into the Only-ness Statement, they can be incorporated into copy for marketing materials, so don’t just throw them away! <hr> <h2>Experience Principles</h2> To describe the personality of your brand, craft your <a href="">key experience principles</a>. These principles describe the personality of your brand. They represent the characteristics decision-makers should experience when they encounter your marketing materials; including the product website, social media posts, flyers, etc. <p>For Intercept, the key experience principles became:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Keep It Real</strong><br> Let’s be honest—you don’t have time to waste. The information you need is right up front, so you can decide quickly whether this is a good fit for your library. We’re pretty sure you will.</li> <li><strong>Where Do I Sign?</strong><br> You can definitely see yourself doing this, using this software, making it part of your library.</li> <li><strong>This Bit is Legit</strong><br> We know what we’re doing. Our library system has a track record of pursuing ambitious projects and delivering amazing results. You’re not just signing up for a service—you’re joining a community of libraries interested in leveling up. Intercept was built by libraries, for libraries.</li> <li><strong>Glad You Made It</strong><br> This website is smiling at you. </li> </ul> <hr> <h2>This, But Not That Exercise</h2> To ensure all marketing materials communicate using the same tone, conduct a “this, but not that” exercise. For this exercise, ask key stakeholders to state one or more adjectives for the desired tone of your brand. <p>When we coordinate this exercise, we ask participants to do this on their own – either through a quick survey or on note cards during a meeting – to ensure we hear from all key stakeholders equally. We then come together to look for overlap between adjectives and ensure all team members understand the intended meaning of each, and then we vote on the top five adjectives.</p> <p>For Intercept, those were:</p> <ul> <li><strong>innovative</strong></li> <li><strong>personable</strong></li> <li><strong>reliable</strong></li> <li><strong>lively / colorful</strong></li> <li><strong>empowering</li></strong> </ul> This only gets us halfway there. The second part of this exercise, the “but not that” part, tells us when we’ve gone too far. As a group, we discuss how far we can push each of the adjectives. <ul> <li>is <strong>innovative</strong>, but not <strong>impractical</strong></li> <li>is <strong>personable</strong>, but not <strong>intrusive</strong></li> <li>is <strong>reliable</strong>, but not <strong>unmovable</strong></li> <li>is <strong>lively / colorful</strong>, but not <strong>flashy / overbearing</strong></li> <li>is <strong>empowering</strong>, but not <strong>siloed / lonely</strong></li> </ul> <hr> <p>These three exercises help focus your brand strategy, especially during copy-writing and visual design. They work great for both products and organizations – regardless of the marketing method(s) used. And don’t forget to see how we <a href="">applied the branding to Intercept’s marketing site.</a></p></div> Fri, 02 Nov 2018 17:40:53 +0000 Christine Coughlan 2525 at The 5 Lessons I Learned Switching to a UX Career <span>The 5 Lessons I Learned Switching to a UX Career</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/lessons-learned.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/lessons-learned.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/lessons-learned.png?itok=G_0Yzf8J 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/lessons-learned.png?itok=lHYnTAPU 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/lessons-learned.png?itok=lHYnTAPU 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/lessons-learned.png?itok=lHYnTAPU 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/lessons-learned.png?itok=v6RFWZM5 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/lessons-learned.png?itok=v6RFWZM5 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/png"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/lessons-learned.png" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><span lang="" about="/user/nikki-singer" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Nikki Singer</span></span> <span>Thu, 10/11/2018 - 11:01</span> <a href="/blog/category/design" class="tag" >Design</a> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <a href="/blog/category/user-experience" class="tag" >User Experience</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><p>Great user experience is my world – yesterday, today and tomorrow. My interests within the technology field have ranged from graphic design to programming and everywhere in between. Luckily for me, I come from a tech-savvy family. My father was a programmer, and I spent countless hours watching him type what looked like secret code (later in life, I learned this was HTML) and see images magically appear.</p> <p>Around 2008, my brother was working as a programmer and started to hear about UX, which had become a buzzword in the development world. He suggested it might be something I might be interested in, and with further research, I had a lightbulb moment. This was what I had been looking for! UX combined my love for technology, design and human-computer interaction.</p> <p>However, despite getting a lot of buzz, UX wasn’t academically popular yet, and my college didn’t offer a program, so I stuck with Communication Studies.</p> <p>After nearly a decade of working in the advertising/marketing realm, I was still curious about UX. I finally decided to get my masters degree in User Experience Design at Kent State University. While there, I learned all about UX through their <a href="">LUMEN model</a> – five steps that utilize a logical narrative to encourage research, ideation, and execution in order for an individual to meet their fullest abilities.</p> <p>This resulted in a career change from advertising to User Experience, and it came with immense joy, as well as an abundance of lessons.</p> <p>For those new to the UX field, here are five key lessons I’ve learned thus far.</p> <h2>1. Be open to criticism</h2> <p>Now, I know this might be easier said than done, but one of the best ways to learn and grow is to reach out for feedback on your work. You’ll be able to hear different perspectives and get insight into varying views to solve a problem.</p> <h2>2.You will wear many hats</h2> <p>As a User Experience Architect, not only are you tasked with working on the strategy for the project, but you become the product owner, also. It’s part of your job to include the team on discussions, updates, direction on the project and also, to make sure you provide them with the next steps to complete their portion of the project. </li></p> <h2>3. Document everything</h2> <p>Let’s be honest, you can’t remember everything. Documentation is key. Especially working in an agency where you have multiple accounts that you’re working on simultaneously. Not only will this documentation help you keep track of the direction of the project and any changes that occur, but it will help keep the whole team in the loop as well.</li></p> <h2>4. Work on paper</h2> <p>Sketch out your ideas. Before jumping into creating your wireframes, it’s helpful to get ideas out on paper. Usually, the ideas in your head come in chunks but by putting those pieces out on paper will help you provide a clearer direction on where you want your wireframes to go.</li></p> <h2>5. Plan before you start</h2> <p>When starting a project, everyone is always eager to get going. Take a moment to sit down with the team and plan out the project. This includes making sure everyone is on the same page for budget, timeline and next steps. Discuss which pages need to be wireframed so the team has a heads up of what pages to expect to discuss and provide input. As the old adage goes: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”</p> <p>Whether you’ve been in UX for one month or 10 years, what advice can you share? Have you always worked in UX, or did you change careers like me? What are the many hats you’ve worn over the years?</p></div> <a href="/about/nikki-singer" hreflang="en">Nikki Singer</a> Thu, 11 Oct 2018 17:01:13 +0000 Nikki Singer 2521 at Building Collaborative Client Relationships with the Entire Team <span>Building Collaborative Client Relationships with the Entire Team</span> <figure> <picture> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/connections.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1860px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/connections.png 1x" media="(min-width: 1540px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_large/public/connections.png?itok=ABVEX6M4 1x" media="(min-width: 1265px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/connections.png?itok=Ap_N7_bB 1x" media="(min-width: 1024px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/connections.png?itok=Ap_N7_bB 1x" media="(min-width: 768px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_medium/public/connections.png?itok=Ap_N7_bB 1x" media="(min-width: 600px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/connections.png?itok=B65Y_u4e 1x" media="(min-width: 500px)" type="image/png"/> <source srcset="/sites/default/files/styles/responsive_small/public/connections.png?itok=B65Y_u4e 1x" media="(min-width: 0)" type="image/png"/> <img src="/sites/default/files/connections.png" alt="" typeof="foaf:Image" /> </picture> </figure> <span><span lang="" about="/user/andy-bell" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Andy Bell</span></span> <span>Thu, 10/04/2018 - 10:21</span> <a href="/blog/category/digital-project-management" class="tag" >Digital Project Management</a> <a href="/blog/category/process" class="tag" >Process</a> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden t--body field__item"><p>Here at Aten, all of our engagements are high-touch and collaborative. We do not bottleneck communication through a project manager or an account manager. Instead, every client has direct access to their team within Aten via Slack, Basecamp, JIRA and Zoom. Organizing engagements in this way allows our team to develop deep, personal connections with our clients, understand how to best engage their stakeholders and ultimately, build empathy for their users.</p> <p>If you’re a project manager and this sounds frightening, it shouldn’t.</p> <p>Having worked with many different types of teams over the years, I’ve found that having an open, working relationship with the client, including full access to team members, helps to deliver the best projects. When a PM is forced to act as a middleman between the team and a client, there are no real winners – things like trust, collaborative spirit and team empowerment tend to suffer. I would argue that all of those things are what make the difference between good and great project outcomes.</p> <p>When PMs keep themselves as the first line of defense, they will invariably keep certain things from the team, like a tough conversation on budget or scope, or maybe a dissatisfaction with a design comp. While things like this are often difficult to cope with, opening up that dialogue to the whole team fosters a type of transparency that allows us to be agile and able to correct things quickly.</p> <h2>Collaboration is Key</h2> <p>Prior to project kick off, have you ever stressed to a client that they are about to embark on a fully collaborative journey with your agency? If so, how can that truly be possible with a team that is sheltered from the client?</p> <p>At Aten, we start the collaboration process early. The full project team has the opportunity to meet and work with the client during the discovery and strategy phase of the project, continuing all the way through design. If the development team comes into the project months down the line, they won’t have the full context of the project, no matter how many onboarding meetings you arrange. This does not mean the full team has to be in every single working and planning meeting with the client, but I find bringing the full team together when it matters can help save time and money later on in the project.</p> <p>How does this look in the real world? Just the other day, I received a message from a client asking about a particular feature change request. Rather than reply saying that we will need to circle back internally and follow up in a few days, I simply added the client into a Slack DM channel with the developer and we hashed out a solution in a matter of minutes. The JIRA ticket was updated, the budget was quickly checked and we didn’t have to wait until we could all find a time to have a Zoom meeting. This type of close collaboration saved hours off the budget and likely a few days in response time.</p> <h2>Transparency Builds Trust</h2> <p>Being transparent with your clients is always a good idea. It builds trust not only between yourself and the core stakeholders, but it bodes well for your agency in general. Extending that type of transparency to the full project team even furthers that notion of trust. Letting the client know that they are going to go over budget on design iteration is something everyone should hear and discuss as a group. In those types of situations and with everyone present, solutions are often discovered on the spot.</p> <p>But shouldn’t PMs just work with the client and let the developers develop? Nope!</p> <p>Some will argue that it’s not fair or wise to have team members interact directly with the client, in that it could put folks in a potentially uncomfortable situation. I would argue that those situations can be easily avoided, as long as everyone on the team has a clear view of project scope, budget and timeline.</p> <p>Speaking candidly on topics such as budget concerns and tight deadlines are not things that have to happen behind closed doors that only involve a project manager and the client lead. I’ve been in situations in previous companies where I was uncomfortably expected to say to clients, “Why don’t we take this offline and discuss in a one-on-one tomorrow?” There are still times when that may need to happen, but if possible, I try to have those conversations with everyone present. After all, we are one team and we should all be held accountable for the work we are performing as part of any given project.</p> <p>The point is this: be transparent, start clear conversations early on in the project process and make it an inclusive experience for everyone.</p> <h2>Collaborative Spirit + Transparency = An Empowered Team</h2> <p>What is the outcome from all of this openness and collaborative spirit? In one word: empowerment. A fully collaborative and transparent client-project team equals an empowered team. When we refer to the project team we mean everyone, including the core client stakeholders. We are all one group moving through the agile project process, iterating together from inception to launch and beyond!</p> <p>When teams are guarded or ‘protected’ from the client, it doesn’t foster an environment of empowerment. Everyone on the team should feel as though they can be decision makers and influencers.</p> <p>I trust in my team members to push back when it makes sense. If a new feature request comes in, I’m happy for a team member to jump in and call out scope creep or budget concerns. It’s better to have that conversation all together and in that moment rather than keep quiet only to have it blow up at a later date.</p> <h2>Take Aways</h2> <p>In the end, you have to do what works for you, your agency and especially the team. If the team only knows what they are meant to be working on week to week, they will not feel confident having those big picture conversations with the client. They won’t feel empowered to make decisions on the spot if need be and they certainly won’t be able to truly feel like they are engaged in a truly collaborative process with the client team.</p> <p>Here at Aten we do our best to bring in team members who are comfortable with this level of collaboration in mind. Ultimately, we find that an empowered team with a direct line of access to clients works best for coming in on time, on budget and in scope!</p></div> Thu, 04 Oct 2018 16:21:46 +0000 Andy Bell 2520 at