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Testing your iPhone and iPad apps: Testflight and what you need to know before Feb 26th

On Feb 26, Testflight in it's original form will shut down as a means to send out builds to your iOS test group. Here's what you need to know:

Why

Apple bought Testflight to take the pain out of being an App tester. It's a long, technical and traditionally very complicated process. Downloading an App to test and provide feedback is now pretty darn simple and similar to how things work in the App store. Testers accept an invite, download the Testflight app on their device, and use their iTunes credentials to login, send feedback, etc. No new accounts, registration, or fancy provisioning permissions goodness. Bish, bash, bosh.

Internal Testers vs Beta Testers

You get 25 internal testers. Internal testers are resources on your development, admin and marketing teams that will have itunesconnect access with permissions. When a testing build is submitted, this internal testing group will have immediate access to your app (like you're used to).

You get 1000 beta testers. This is where your external testers will go. The catch here is that when you submit a build for them to test, Apple must approve your build to be sent to testers. Yes, you read that right. Apple has to approve your beta to testers, which is subject to the normal 4-9 day approval times. That may be a deal breaker for many of you. HOWEVER, there is a silver lining. Once the initial Beta is approved, some app developers/apps will be granted permissions to send immediate builds to their beta team. Translation: If your app isn't sketchy, in theory you'll get to bypass this approval process.

30 day expiration 

New builds to the test group only live for 30 days before they expire. You can submit a new build before that expiration but your testers and your team must be active to keep a steady stream of logs. For apps that are looking to track long-term user behavior, clocks or lifestyle tracking, this may be a deal breaker. 

iOS 8.0+ only

If you need to regression test for devices that are not iOS 8.0 compatible, you'll need to work with either a different or second testing suite. For iPad applications, the iPad 1 is the only tablet not supported. For iPhones and iPods this is going to be a much different story. iOS 8 has a 71% marketshare on iOS devices but know that some of your testers will have to upgrade their devices to be able to test your apps. That may be conclusive for many. This may be a good time to look at your analytics to see what your the makeup of your userbase is. iOS 9.0 so you can delay your panic for another 9 months or so. 

Next steps for teams:

  • Export any .ipa and log files you want to keep for legacy purposes
  • Export your testing group in Testflight
  • Import your testing group into the Beta Testers Tab in iTunes Connect
  • Create a new distribution provisioning profile with the beta tester designation (this is new radio button). Once this is done, simply build against it and submit the app to iTunes Connect per usual
  • Inform your users about the change in process and that they'll be getting a new invite in their email

The BIG Takeaway

Decide on a testing strategy NOW. If you don't, you'll lose all your testing group contact information, your current app builds and logs. That could be a huge setback in the effeciency of your team. There are other cross-platform solutions you could use to continue your immediate build workflow like http://hockeyapp.net/features/ across both Android, iOS and Microsoft (Disclaimer: Microsoft just bought this company so it's future may also be a little fuzzy). 

Keep in mind you balance any solution with it's ease of use to setup users, send them builds and get effective feedback. At Eight Bit, on average 1 in 10 testers follow through with signing up and installing apps from our startups. We're always looking for ways to optimize this workflow and for iOS, this may still be the drink of choice.  Just keep in mind that you're not just making a technical decision, you're making an experience decision for your testing group. 

 

A short history lesson on testing iOS apps

When iPhone app development first started, to test apps with any size team used to be a long and complicated process: 

A tester had to plug in your device to a computer, go into a settings area of itunes, right click on the name of the device, copy and paste the UDID and send it to the developmer. Then all that went into a spreadsheet that was imported or entered one-by-one into iTunes Connect. Provisioning profiles had to be emailed, installed on the devices often involving deleting old profiles, restarting devices and mountains of troubleshooting. Oh you want crash logs? Ugh, here we go again. It was insane. 

After a year or so, companies began to emerge that helped ease this process. Testflight was one of them. Finally, you had a place where users could send testers to register their device that would automatically do most of this. It still required installing some things and registered but it was nothing compared to the old system. For a little while Testflight was handling both Android and iOS development and developers were loving their lives. Apple then purchased the company and immediately discontinued support for Android. #shocking

Written by John W Ostler
Principal and Co-Founder of Eight Bit Studios

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Users aren't adopting your MVP. Now what?

A serious congratulations are in order! You followed the advice of those at 1871. You went to Technori pitches. You met with your tech-savvy friends. You read and shared countless articles in Fast Company and have now successfully launched your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). You have shown your investors that you can ship. You have proven to yourself that you are a true tech entrepreneur. It's a tale only Disney® could write and cast you as the main character. The marquee went up, the show went on and the reviews are in: It's not good. Users simply aren't adopting your product. Now what?

This is not a matter of intelligence. Unfortunately, all the work we put in to release our MVP was just training for this moment. This is the place where the real entrepreneurs are separated from professionals and technicians with ideas and money. There are many books on the subject of goal setting and what to emotionally anticipate: The Dip by Seth Godin. There are also many books on the difference between what it means to be an entrepreneur and a technician with an idea: The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber. If you haven't already, I would encourage you to read both.

It's okay if this is the end of the road. This path is a statistic that anyone with a degree in finance or a soft spot for investment is counting on. However, if you are poised and have the conviction that your best is still yet to come, read on.

I've spent the last 15 years experiencing first hand the tests and tribulations of this moment: will my idea fail or be refined, liberated and celebrated by the masses. In that time, I have developed some guiding principles that I, and the brands I have had the pleasure to help, successfully implemented to go on to achieve post-MVP greatness. If you have other tips, please add them in the comments below.

Listen to your early adopters. Early adopters (popularly referred to as influencers) are the hunters of the digital plain. They are most satisfied when they find products that align with their beliefs. I'm phrasing that very carefully. Their bounty comes in the form of credit when sharing your product with their networks. Your MVP does not have to be polished to effectively solve a problem. In fact, most early adopters would prefer it not be feature complete, because it proves that they found it first. This demographic can tell you very quickly just how clear you're communicating your beliefs. This will give you incredible insights for what you're doing right or wrong.

Tell other people about your idea. Qualitative research at a startup typically involves asking colleagues, friends and family what they think and whether they'd adopt your product. This is rarely productive. We surround ourselves with people who like us. This means they're going to be tactful about giving you feedback. Instead, start going to meetups outside of your comfort zone. If you're more business oriented, start going to design meetups. Find the customers of your biggest competitor and lay out your idea to them. There are countless ways to gather feedback. The point is to start gathering information from people that don't give a shit about your emotional well-being. They represent what your startup is to the real world.

Stop trying to open all your own doors. Are you trying to do this all by yourself? I've never met a successful entrepreneur who couldn't quickly point to the many people and institutions that lead to their success and character. Try thinking about your startup as a person (I'll bet you already treat it like your baby). Instead of trying to raise your startup by yourself, give it a chance to learn from others as it grows. What are the strategic relationships and partnerships you have made to bring your product to market? Use the tools that lead to your personal success as a way to help your product attain adoptive success.

Assess your marketing like you would plan a party. Your MVP may be fantastic, it's just that know one knows about it. Digital advertising is rarely the solution all by itself. Try thinking about your product like you would when planning a party. What type of party would you find your ideal customer base and why? Who do you need to invite? What does the invitation look like? How will they remember your product after they leave? I've found analogy to be fantastic tool. It helps you shape your messaging. It also helps explain why more famous entrepreneurs are able to attract users and investors to their products with seemingly no effort. I have found that when you look at your product through this lens, you will quickly see where your marketing is succeeding or failing.

Stop asking what features your MVP could have and instead ask what your MVP should do. I blogged at length about entrepreneurs who ask the question 'could' instead of 'should'. Take this one to heart. When you're sharing your vision with anyone, start posing the question of what you should do to better achieve your goals. You'll be surprised to learn how many people hold back their true opinions until this more strategic question is asked of them. Read more thoughts on 'should' questions here.

Congrats again on getting to this point. You have our attention. Despite how difficult and complicated creating products can be, this is just the beginning of the true "path less traveled." MVP's are now the beaten trail and you have now entered the real game of survival of the fittest. The next step into the forest is the big one. This is the place where your leadership and resourcefulness will finally be tested. It's as thrilling and challenging as it sounds. I can't wait to meet a few of you along the way.

Illustration by Jordan Polonsky

Written by John W Ostler
Principal and Co-Founder of Eight Bit Studios

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A simple lesson from Groupon & Apple: Could vs Should questions

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A simple lesson from Groupon & Apple: Could vs Should questions

In a recent interview with Charlie Rose, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the hardest decisions Apple makes "are all the things not to work on." (Clip | Full interview) Perhaps you've read this before, but it represents a significant insight into how Apple continues to create products that people love. Apple chooses to focus on what they should make instead of what they could make.

The best example of a Chicago entrepreneur making a decision about what they could do versus what they should do was Andrew Mason. When we met with ThePoint.com they were just 6, yellow sweatband wearing 30 somethings in a giant windowless office space that was largely sublet in 600 W. Chicago. Thepoint.com represented the perfect 'could' company:

  • Could we make a crowdfunding platform?
  • Could we get everybody to do something at the same time?
  • Could we create a market for crowdfunding?
  • Could we build a dome over Chicago?

What happened? They proved to themselves that they could do some of those things, but also that their experiment wasn't going to live up to their expectations. They were asking the wrong question. In a last ditch effort, Mason was forced to think about what to do with the remainder of their funding (and potentially his time). It could have meant more User Experience and Design enhancements to ThePoint.com, but instead he decided to ask our collective team what they should be doing with what they had learned, what they knew and where they were finding success. In just 4 weeks, a WordPress site called Groupon.com was born. 

We officially live in the, "there's an app for that" culture. There are over 1,000,000 apps in the iTunes store because it's full of "Could there be...?" apps. The "should there be" apps are the ones that actually make it to your phone. Call it whatever you want: 'The Why', failing fast, iterating, agile, 'the killer question' or determining your MVP. It isn't until we start asking the tougher questions around what we should create, do the best products and businesses get created, shared and ultimately used by the masses. 

Creating Eight Bit Studios has put us at the bleeding edge of every serious website and mobile app conversation in Chicago. Often, we find ourselves helping people confront and answer this question of “Could vs Should”. For as thrilling and exhausting as it is to live and work on the future, we make a point of not partnering with anyone who isn't sure why they should build what they want to build. That may come across as a little pretentious, but we have learned that companies that are willing to ask the right questions are ultimately the ones that are the most successful.

Companies like Apple and Groupon show us that when you recognize that you could design and build anything, you gain the insight and capability to ask the really tough questions of what you should build. Learn from the best and stop trying to prove something through your coulds. Chicago's talent can execute any could in the world. Instead, be relentless with the question of what you should do and lead your product development through your insights.

Do you think that's air you're breathing? Let's build the next great should, Chicago. 

Written by John W Ostler
Principal and Co-Founder of Eight Bit Studios

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Candor - Genuine bias-free Idea Generation for the Digital Age

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 23 2014 - Brainstorming is one of the best ways of collaborating with a team and unleashing creativity, spotting flaws and driving through improvements. At least it would be if you had a perfectly balanced team. When you have some powerful or charismatic personalities in a group then idea bias creeps in and people will defer to these people subconsciously or publicly, regardless of the quality of their ideas.

Groupthink and other elements of unconscious bias can sabotage even the most mindful brainstorming session meaning many great ideas don’t make it to the table for discussion at all. This has been the way for decades, but a new app can cut through the bias and unleash the unfulfilled potential of unheard ideas.

Enter Candor - the iTunes and cloud-based app that is revolutionizing how people brainstorm. Most simply, Candor allows you to quickly collect and organize the independent ideas generated by your team, before discussing them in a group.

Available to download now from the iTunes store for the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, Candor is the key to unlocking true, unbiased creativity.

Candor takes the received wisdom behind brainstorming and flips it on its head. For over fifty years, managers have been told that group synergy is the best way to work on problems, that individuals working together produce more ideas than working by themselves.  Candor challenges this assumption based on research and evidence that groups who brainstorm produce fewer and less diverse ideas than people who work alone and later pool their ideas.

Humans are social animals and this is why brainstorming fails. People are likely to spend more time thinking about group dynamics than generating new ideas. Psychology identifies this negative function as groupthink. One of the best ways of overcoming this is through private data collection which Candor facilitates to make bias-free brainstorming easy.

Candor operates through four stages:

  • Send the questions or problems to members of the brainstorming team
  • Let them submit their ideas to the session organizer
  • Meet as a group and have the session organizer reveal all the ideas the team has generated independently
  • Organize the ideas by theme and debate the merits of each one.  

Candor let’s people create unlimited brainstorms with simple share codes for inviting others to submit ideas. Submissions can be made anonymous or open to others to view and members can also be notified when new ideas have been submitted.

The research of Professor Loran Nordgren of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University underpins Candor and his ideas captivated the programming team at Eight Bit Studios.

Co-Founder and Design Principal Steve Polacek said: “My beliefs toward brainstorms started shifting the day Loran Nordgren came in to discuss his vision for better idea generation. Loran started telling us about Groupthink and Idea Bias. I knew he was right and the years of missed opportunities formed a pit in my stomach. This is a big problem, which is why we were so excited to work with Loran to bring his ideas to life.”

Candor will change the way you think about brainstorms and creative collaboration so why not try it today and let the best ideas flourish and fly!

 

Notes to Editors

Candor was created by Loran Nordgren and produced by Eight Bit Studios.
For more information contact info@usecandor.com  or visit http://usecandor.com/ 
A copy of this press release can be downloaded here: https//eightbitstudios.squarespace.com/s/candor_press_release.pdf

 

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UX collaboration is a terrible user experience - let's fix it

How many have you sat through a User Experience meeting? If you haven't, it goes a little something like this: 

A talented and educated individual with a design or technical background (and glasses), spends weeks splitting their brains open to work out all the ins and outs of an application. Their intellectual investment in research, gap analysis, hierarchy of needs, and the user journey manifests itself into a 15-50 page pdf document, expertly and thoroughly organized and annotated. [America! Fist pump.]

This isn't just how the newsfeed is going to be reinvented or how the interface is going to fold up like a paper airplane. It represents the answers to questions like: What happens when a user loses their internet connection during a post request and then decides to restart the app? It's the things your users won't reward you for giving them, but sure as hell will let you know the minute they don't

It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? A role that helps design and development do their job. A roadmap for the team and the product owners on what is being built! I mean, how could you possibly do ANYTHING in digital without great UX?! 

THERE IS JUST ONE PROBLEM!

It's broken. It won't take you long to realize that almost no one likes looking at 20-50 page PDFs with annotations, regardless of how valuable that information is!! 

Why?

  1. (Good) Designers need the freedom to reinvent UX patterns, and no matter how good the documentation, not starting with a blank slate can kill creativity.
  2. Engineers and developers now have incredible volumes of tools that increase their efficiency and productivity at their disposal. They need to have conversations about UX, not have it dictated to them.
  3. Project Managers and producers can't keep teams engaged in meetings or a document where they are constantly referencing different page numbers and having to remember points of flow.
  4. User Experience designers, (as in the people who are making the documents) even hate them because any time someone on the product team has an idea or major change, it requires a significant investment to get everything in the document to line back up.

    IF THAT, wasn't bad enough... (which it is)
     
  5. Clients and business units don't like them because it's too hard to track a user journey across multiple pages, while paying attention to the technical details. They either don't understand it, don't care, or let it take place until they see the app functioning so that they can later decide everything needs to change. :) It's not your fault.

Crap. So now what?

Well readers, when we started Eight Bit Studios it gave us a chance to think differently about everything it meant to collaborate with clients. One MASSIVE pain point was watching UX professionals cracking their heads open, only to have their work dismantled as it entered design, then again in development, and one last time for good measure by the product owner. 

We knew UX was important. Really important. Most people (and you) agree! But something had to be done to put it back into the heart of the project and give it the life it deserved. It needed to evolve.

Presenting the Wireflow Document

Why we and our clients love it and why it works.

1. It's easy to follow.

Regardless of your technical expertise, there are some documents that most people "just get". You can explain a sitemap and story board to an 8 year old. When explaining architecture, it turns out these can be amazing foundations for other documents. No spheres and shapes representing decision trees. Instead, this is a layout of screens with arrows that take users from screen to screen in a logical order the way a user would when they use your app.

2. It increases engagement.

Imagine a meeting where you roll out a document the same size as the conference room table. Our wire flow documents are a minimum of 36" x 60". Instead of sitting back in your chairs half asleep, you have to stand up just to get a full picture of it! That's huge, because when people stand up they begin to engage! That's how everyone starts paying attention. It's big. It's awesome. You want to hang it on the wall in front of your office. You want to put it next to the executional team. It's a work of UX art, but better, it's THE roadmap for all good ideas and thoughts about the project.

3. It's extremely agile.

Popular programs for wireframes like Balsamiq are rapid, but are still limited by their always tempting-to-use "this is what's popular in ui now" patterns (if I see coverflow used one more time...). We use blank documents that start in Adobe Illustrator and in many cases our Designers can work directly with the files we create. If someone on the team comes up with a new interaction pattern for navigation, we can copy and paste it directly into the document. If a developer needs to enter an error use case, pop open the doc and add it. It's that easy! 

4. It encourages collaboration.

It's better than the back of a napkin, it's a giant napkin! The form factor encourages people to draw, take notes, and ideate on it. Unlike a PDF, having it right in front of you in paper encourages notations and doodling in a collaborative setting. Whether you're a designer, engineer or product owner, you can now feel the comfort to ideate within the flow and wires live with the team! (and we encourage it) 

5. It puts UX back at the heart of the project.

Dammit, if this wasn't the thing we were after. One of the things that always bothered us at bigger Chicago agencies is the need for "Stage Gates". Basically, as a project passes between teams, there are cutoffs and handoff points that define when Strategy, UX, Design, Development, etc begins and ends. Often times, even the best firms perform exceptionally in each stage, but because of these gates the work has to pass ownership. This process hurts the collaborative nature of digital work because it introduces a bias by each team. Having this document puts the producing and directing back in the entire executional and business team's hands. It's the centerpiece of the project and it constantly evolves with the project as you iterate across domains.

I hope you'll reconsider your UX process after reading this. Think about the role of UX. Even with great research and mental models and gap analysis and user journey flows, are you helping facilitate the right communication between your clients, your executional team, and your business units? 

To us, UX isn't about architecture and patterns and great research (although those are super important). GREAT UX is about facilitating communication. We're probably not the first ones to propose combining these docs or using them in this way, but I think we're quickly becoming the most effective collaborative digital teams in Chicago because of it. It's time your team does too!

Written by John W Ostler
Principal and Co-Founder of Eight Bit Studios

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Designers: Read this before you look for your next job.

If your portfolio speaks for itself, then opportunities find you. But the vast majority of designers suffer from obscurity and are trying to figure out how to build their brand, promote their work, and catch a break.

At Eight Bit, we’re fortunate to receive a steady stream of designers asking about job openings. We've seen the good, bad, and ugly of portfolio submissions. Here are some things to consider, before you start contacting companies.

Know Yourself.

The more specific you are about what you want, the better chance you’ll have at finding it. Otherwise, you’re leaving everything to chance.

  • Be a laser. Having clarity gives you a huge advantage over people without focus. People who know who they are and what they want convey confidence.
  • But what if I don’t know what I want? You’re in trouble and you’ve gotta do some self discovery. The good news is there are a ton of resources online to help you get clear on your interests, skills and talents. You should always be checking in with yourself and paying special attention to what energized you vs what drains you. These could be people, places, activities, etc.
  • Shouldn't I be open to any opportunity to get experience? Not all opportunities are created equal and some will align more with your goals than others.

Present who you want to be.

As humans, we like to organize and categorize things in our head, including people. Our natural tendency is to file people away into tidy boxes in our brain. You can't stop people from doing this. You have to work with it. If we don’t know what to do with somebody, they stay in limbo in our brains and in our lives. Or worse, they put you in the wrong place. Do you want someone creating a neural pathway for you based on a project you did 3 years ago that doesn’t represent you at anymore?

  • Showcase the kind of work you want to do in the future. If you want to be a mobile app designer, but you don’t have any examples in your portfolio, that’s a problem. The easiest fix is to create a fictional project for yourself that allows you to learn and shine as a mobile app designer.
  • Remove irrelevant work. If you don’t enjoy or want to do banner ads, don’t put examples of them in your portfolio. People are more likely to hire you based on what they see, than anything else.

Seek out your heroes.

  • Who do you admire? These are the people and companies you want to work with.
  • Don’t wait for job postings. Start conversations and form relationships as though these people will be in your life permanently.
  • Get interested. Check out their work. Get in their head. Jot down the things that spark your interest and why they matter.
  • Start a conversation. Make it about them. People love feedback. Listen. Don’t ask for anything. Be genuine.

Avoid Generic

  • Don't send messages in mass. Sending a generic, copy & paste message is a quick way to get ignored.
  • Writing to people, not companies. You’re better off communicating with an individual in mind, rather than writing to a company as a whole. Ideally, you can identify someone at a company that you could start a rapport with on a more personal level. Look for ways to strike up a conversation that goes beyond a formal, transactional exchange. Look for common ground. Let's say the Creative Director is a drummer and you are a drummer. Boonski. Just knowing that could help you break the ice.
  • Read your words out loud. If your email doesn’t sound like the way you talk, write it over. Be more casual and conversational. You’re not a robot! You’re a human being for cryin’ out loud. Act like it!
  • Don't do what everyone else does. Everyone sends emails these days. If you want to stand out, send a written letter. Better yet, send a pizza or something physical. It sounds like a gimmick, but if the gimmick gets you noticed, then it’s worth it.
  • Be interesting. One young designer applied to us and mentioned he spent over a year teaching English in South Korea. That alone made me want to know more about him and his experience overseas. 

More Great Advice

Here's a rundown of the best advice I've found out there for young designers.

  • Learn the Secret Handshake is an amazing resource where industry veterans can drop insider wisdom, honest advice and solid ideas to help you go pro. I tell every designer I know about it. Thank you to the talented folks at Bright Bright Great for putting it together.
  • David Airey helped inspire me to start sharing more of my process and experiences. He's a prolific writer who has been sharing his design insights for years. He's built a strong readership who enjoy his articles and books.
  • Paul Jarvis makes freelancing and self-publishing look easy. But we all know it's not. Thankfully, he shares everything he knows.
  • Mike Monteiro tells it like it is. I really love the style and content of his article for recent graduates, where he gives aspiring young designers the straight dope about what to expect when they enter the real world. 
  • Some of us just needs a slap in the face. Here it is
  • Watch this talk by Austin Kleon, who is an artist and writer I only recently discovered. His keynote, which opened the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival, is an amazing compass for how to put yourself out there the right way. He breaks the “Lone Genius” myth and explains why you should find your “Scenius”, a concept he borrows from Brian Eno. Kleon reminds us that to be accepted into a community, you first must become a good citizen. “If you want get, you want to give. If you wanted to be interesting, you have to be interested. If you want to be noticed, you have to notice first."


“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends & Influence People  

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Internet Explorer 6.0 died today: Chicago frontend developer remembers

Today, Microsoft officially stopped support for IE6.
...and the frontend developers around Chicago rejoiced.

When I started in web design the internet was not a place for artists who cared about their pixels. You didn't start your mockups in Adobe programs. You created layouts and added graphics to them. By the time Netscape 4 and Internet Explorer 5 for Mac was released you could create 20-30 nested tables and get your graphics and layouts to match on just about every browser during that time. PROBLEM SOLVED! right? Then some smart people got together and decided the web needed standards and that content should be seperate from layout. Dammit.

After Microsoft started brushing their shoulders off from creating a little known thing called AJAX, they said to themselves, "Hey CSS is the future, let's support the crap out of... kinda." The problem was that the box-model had yet to be formalized. Do borders on divs count as part of a width of a div? As more and more things entered the web design ecosystem, the support got funkier and funkier. After 10 years (50-100 earth years), what was to become the future started looking and functioning a lot like Mom's basement.

Dev 1: "Hey, when we scroll in IE6, why do the bullets disappear?"
Dev 2: "Oh did you declare a position:relative on the ul or ol?"
Dev 1: "[expletive]"

or

Dev 1: "How do I get transparent pngs to work?"
Dev 2: "ActiveX plugin, or gif x2 and make sure you don't have links in there as IE6 has a problem with active anchor tags on top of transparency."

As late as 2009, places like Blast Radius(formerly DesignKitchen), Razorfish, Manifest Digital, Arc, Critical Mass, Accenture, etc couldn't close a single SOW without including the IE6 support requirement. In many cases, Chicago companies that were in all-ie6 environments like Motorola and Sears, were having to add $10,000's to all their project budgets to account for the additional browser support. I was lucky enough to help grow DesignKitchen's frontend team from 4 to 20 between 2007-2009 and one of the deal breaker questions to candidates was, how much IE6 experience do you have? Crazy.

When we started Eight Bit Studios in 2008, we immediately told all our clients that we have no current or future plans to support that browser. We even went as far to use our lack of support for the browser as a marketing tool to find frontend developers. We saved a lot of entrepreneurs a LOT of money and it doubled as an amazing recruiting tool. 

I'm not sure there will ever be a day when I forget all the hoops and trickery it took to protect great design across browsers. When those who endured it are old and gray, my hope is that we start frontend development schools. Maybe to weed out the weak students, we have a history of frontend development that includes 2 months of IE6 support curricula... Maybe followed by a month of IE5 for Mac and Netscape 4 hacks. ;)

RIP, IE 6.0. I hope you fit in your casket. Afterall, you're the one that drew it with those thick borders. Too subtle for ya?


John W Ostler (@seahostler) is Co-Founder and Principal of UX & UI at Eight Bit Studios (@eightbitstudios) a mobile and website design and development studio in Chicago. He has helped lead and produce technical and interaction design engagements with brands such as Cadbury Adams, Burger King, Motorola, Career Builder, Groupon, Exelon, Sidley Austin, and HSBC. His work has been featured in the USA Today, Brandweek, The Daily Beast, NewYork Times Tech blog, Mashable.com, homepage of Drupal.org, and featured on multiple CSS design blogs. He is also Co-Host and Executive Producer of Bytes Over Bagels, Chicago's favorite tech morning show.

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Stop adding and start shipping: how we did it creating Bytes Over Bagels

Last February, we decided to create a weekly podcast called Bytes Over Bagels.

We did it to help promote and talk about all the amazing Chicago startups we were learning about, meeting, and working with in design and development projects.  Last week, we published our 25th consecutive episode.  

So, how'd we get there?  The same way we create software.  By going about it thru agile methodologies using small iterative cycles to continually test and get feedback on the product. 

Once you're done skimming, there is a point to this at the bottom of the blog.

Version 1

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  • Name it
  • Make a logo
  • 8 minute show
  • Recorded on iPhone using iTalk recorder
  • Static website with HTML5 single audio file player for just one episode


Verion 2

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  • Increase show to 20 minutes
  • 1 Featured band from Chicago each show
  • 2 Shure mics with stands
  • 1 Audio Compressor
  • Started taking semi-pro photos
  • Static website with HTML5 audio player for multiple episodes
  • Implement new UX pattern for handling more than 1 episode
  • ITunes Podcast setup
  • Added show sponsors


Version 3

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  • 4 Shure mics
  • 8-channel mixing board
  • Increase show to 30 minutes
  • Implement new UX pattern for scanning larger inventory of episodes
  • Static mobile friendly layout
  • Weekly Email newsletter add with template


Version 4

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  • Increase show to 35 minutes
  • Add show time scrubber to HTML5 audio player
  • Added Vine videos of guests
  • Hosted the Moxie Awards :)


Version 5

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  • Pitch 32 tech startups (four per show): (#ChicagoTechStartupMadness)
  • Add static bracket to homepage and vote via Twitter
  • Added Instagram
  • Added featured tweaks/quote from guests thru Twitter/Facebook


Version 6

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  • UX to better skiimming of guests and guest names
  • Built squarespace site for dynamic control over content by all team members
  • Creating landing pages for all guests for better sharing
  • Creating landing pages for Bracket, Newsletter, Sponsors
  • Fully responsive layout
  • Incorporated Social stream from twitter/facebook
  • Created Youtube channel
  • Transribing all interviews
  • Incentivize newsletter signup


Like most entrepreneurs and startups, we had a grand vision for what this could be in the beginning.  We could see the product as a whole and wanted to make it huge! That's still very important and speaks to having a shared focus for the product with the whole team.  

That all said, their is a big takeaway from the most successful startups we've worked with and interviewed. Vision is still very important, but doesn't amount to anything without the will to stick your neck out and test it with minimal investment. Call it failing fast, or focus, or test-driven development, or agile.  But I think it's common sense.

If people didn't listen to our first episode, why put the site on a CMS?  Or why design a bunch of backstories on the guests?  Why bother making the player more sophisticated or sending out emails to people who want to learn more?  Or why bother investing in nice audio equipment?  Or better designed pages and UX patterns?  

So, what's the one thing your users need to love about your product?  Can you test it with less investment?  Can you GO to your customers in person?  Does it really have to be fully baked for people to get excited and to begin supporting your vision? 

We grew Bytes Over Bagels from seeds and were disciplined enough to not overwater it with features. This allowed us to better focus, ask the right questions and continue down the right path for our product. The next person coming along who wants to get into our space may come across our website and say, "Crap, we need all that!! I can see it!"  

We are taught by the media to make the most of our BIG PRODUCT REVEAL. I'll bet you evaluate your competitors all the time or refer to the feature set of your favorite websites to help drive your product development. It's really really easy to think you need this baseline set of features to be successful.  I'm here to tell you, you could never be more wrong and we have 25 interviews with Chicago's most successful entreprenaurs to prove it. 

Bytes Over Bagels is just one example and I thought it was important to show what iterating 6 times in 6 months looks like for a product that was created to take over the world. :)  Would you have started so small? Try shipping one great thing and continue to improve it until you run out of ways to improve it.  Then add another feature. 

There's one other important thing to mention here.  It's not just about the feedback loops, or mitigating the risk in your time/monetary investment.  It's about teaching you and your team about the value in shipping and how that will change the way you look at your product.  The results can be eye opening that first moment you get user feedback.  Or the first time your social reach doubles. The conversation changes from, "I think we should do this", to, "Based on what we've learned, we know we need to do this."  

From Paper prototypes to WordPress sites, those who ship know:
Teaching yourself and your team simply how to ship, may be the most critical step to reaching the full potential of your grander vision.  

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Remember Tamagotchi? Well then, how about Santa Gotchi? New free iOS game released today!

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Do you guys remember those little keychain Tamagotchi characters? The ones you had to feed and give medicine to and take care of to grow? YES! Awesome!

I'm happy to tell you that today, Eight Bit Studios is helping bing it back with our new free game, "8bit Santa Gotchi". That's right. This is the first time you'll get a chance to take care of Santa in preparation for his big night on December 25th! Check out the screen shots and more on iTunes.

The bonus is, the app is flippin' free.
Download 8bit Santa Gotchi on the iTunes App Store

Official App Description:

Help 8bit Santa Claus Gotchi deliver as many packages as possible by Christmas Day! Check his list twice to see who's been nice or not nice. Give the children a present or coal based on their good or bad behavior. Correct answers help Santa deliver more gifts on Christmas! Take good care of Santa by giving him milk and cookies along the way, but NOT TOO MUCH! 

The game starts when you start the app. It ends on Christmas Day, December 25th, 2013!

Happy Holiday's and a Happy New Year to all you Chicago tech-a-roos -from all of us at Eight Bit Studios!

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What? It's our 5 Year Anniversary?

It's with immense gratitude, I thank the Chicago tech and entrepreneurial community for 5 incredible years of allowing us to help build what has become Tech Startup City. Tonight, Eight Bit Studios marks it's 5th year in business, UX'ing, Designing, and Developing it's future mobile and web applications!!

We started from humble beginnings. 10 individuals from design, project management, marketing, backend development, frontend development, user experience, and mobile development backgrounds. All working from home offices, gathering in garages and dining rooms on the weekends, sending basecamp posts thru the night. 

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We were there when ThePoint.com and Andrew Mason needed some help doing design and UX on their new WordPress site called "Groupon.com".  We made national headlines when we launched JoeBidensTeeth.com. We made headlines again when we launch the App Stores firstFart Lighter App. :)  From "New and Noteworthy" nods from Apple to all the writeups and press our work has received, we've had the pleasure of being able to carefully grow our company to find the right people and the right projects to make all our work rewarding and successful.

In order, all the startups and brands we've had the pleasure of working with over the past 5 years:

  • Skyline Furniture Mtg
  • ThePoint.com/Groupon.com
  • Ortanic
  • BadgerGroup
  • Insight Consulting Group
  • WisePatient
  • SusansMaps
  • ZineCube
  • Chicago Children's Advocacy Center
  • BradsDeals - BlackFriday App
  • SurveyWriter - SplashSurveys
  • DealsGoRound
  • Threadless
  • KoalaDeal
  • Weave The People
  • Finom
  • New Balance
  • Hasbro
  • Navta
  • The Field Museum
  • Mamma.com
  • The Hive Learning Network
  • Octane Rich Media
  • NeverMissGift
  • PixelDom - Quizixl
  • BetterWeekdays
  • Enova
  • BenchPrep
  • Fooda
  • HighGround
  • Douglas Foster
  • Dabble
  • MyCabbage.com
  • Sasser Family Holdings
  • Pasta Palazzo
  • Chicago Fire - Mobile App
  • SupplyVision
  • The Field Museum - Ornithology Dept
  • GlossRE
  • Yesterday's Zoo
  • RTC
  • Wowzers.com
  • Advenshares
  • MyCouponDoc
  • PicTricks
  • DavidsTea
  • RogueNotion
  • Synchology
  • The Cara Program
  • Guaranteed Rate
  • WellU
  • JellyVision
  • GiveForward
  • Plumwise
  • Blitsy
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If that weren't enough, we also had the opportunity to bring 'Bytes Over Bagels' into the world. Just the other week, we launched our 40th consecutive episode. It's given us a chance to share interviews with the biggest movers and shakers in the Chicago Tech Community.

Needless to say, it's been an amazing ride and we could not have done it without your support. To the team at BuiltIn, Technori, TechCocktail, 1871, the meetups and the community: WE LOVE YOU GUYS! Thank you for bringing all the creativity and energy to your projects and making this the best damn tech community in the world!

Finally, a huge thanks to our extended family of those who worked with us and for us over the past 5 years. We're so blessed to have you in our lives and so excited to see what will come next!  Cheers to making what we create next in Chicago, world class!

Thanks, Chicago! You Rock! 

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Shiftgig - Eddie Lou, Co-Founder & CEO, Good Dude

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Today's interview is with Eddie Lou, CEO and Co-Founder, Shiftgig.  Shiftgig is the (yeah we italicized "the")  online community for the service and hospitality industries.  Eddie started out slanging burgers at a Jack-in-the-Box, so he knows about workin' the shifts.  He and his co-founder wanted to create a proactive platform for potential employees and hiring managers to court each other.  The result is a database of over 100K jobs  and workers nationwide. And while Eddie knows the service and hospitality industry, he's also crazy versed in VC and fundraising, having spent some time working at OCA Ventures before blowing out Shiftgig.

Listen to Episode 40 at http://bytesoverbagels.com or thru iTunes Podcast

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Still Need Help With The FOIL Method - Meet Wowzers - Pioneers of Personalized Learning

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Today's interview is with Andrew Howard, Co-Founder and Sara Trice, Lead Developer, Wowzers.

Wowzers is a complete cloud-based solution for 3-8th grade math studies.  The Wowzers platform gives teachers a platform to help them curate learning for a student and spend less time grading papers and creating worksheets.  The platform provides students with creative and immersive ways to understand math concepts at a level customized to the students abilities.

Listen to Episode 39 at http://bytesoverbagels.com or thru iTunes Podcast

 

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