Time to do a quick post to reflect on what I’ve been doing at work…
At ClearGraph, I’m the only designer thus it falls to me to make designs for lots of things.
- App Design: Flows, interaction and visual design for our main analytics app. One challenge is trying to define our brand yet also building in the flexibility to white-label or embed our app. Some of the more daring design choices can’t be used because it won’t meld with another company’s visual identity. I primarily use Sketch and InVision.
- Motion design: We need to do product videos to help sell our product. I use Premiere and After Effects to edit the videos with Pond5 stock music to go behind our voice-over.
- Hard goods: business cards, t-shirts, stickers, trade-show backdrops, pricing sheets. I am a sucker for Moo’s spot gloss.
I’m a bit surprised by the amount of writing that I do as a part of my job. Since marketing has become one of my responsibilities, I’ve been forced to substantially increase the amount I write. (Previously, I couldn’t tell the difference between marketing and sales. Now I think of it as: Marketing = effort to get people to hear about and contact us. They’d become a “lead”. Sales = effort to take leads and then convert them into paying customers.)
- Essential communication: email, chat (Slack), code review, project descriptions (task management)
- Product Blog posts: public feature announcements/walk-throughs in the ClearGraph Blog
- Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, email newsletter. Basically have to notify people that a blog post has happened.
- ClearGraph Website, App, and marketing materials: It’s interesting how difficult it is to write error messages with good tone. (I dislike “Oops” in errors – makes light of an error and doesn’t come off as empathetic)
- Help Center: Gotta give help for all the things. FYI – Support articles should be short, clear and accurate.
This year I’ve done a lot less programming. We’ve been doing a lot more back-end, infrastructure work so the front-end stuff I’d hop in to help with is a lot more limited. That being said, I still try to keep up by learning a few new skills in the code-world.
- SVG: lots of cool things going on here. Working to move away from icon fonts to SVG. Also doing more animating SVG using CSS.
- D3: Starting to finally tinker with D3 as a way of visualizing data in svg using js. Specifically looking at the tree graph and force graphs.
- CSS: I’ve been working a lot with SASS, but I’m keeping a really close eye on the compatibility charts with CSS grid and CSS variables (oh and position: sticky!). As soon as there’s strong coverage across the board, we’ll put those properties to use.
I stopped teaching at Academy of Art University. I had fun guiding students, but I felt too pressed for time regarding homework review and updating class materials. My last semester was interesting though – I tried using github and cloud9 for editing and turning in. There were some hiccups like filesize limits on github pushes, but overall was pretty successful as a free platform setup for coding.
On another note, I’ve gotten a couple of interview requests from early UC Davis design students. I love helping out students, but I also wonder what kind of things they’re looking for. I wish I could offer more entry level jobs to help them along.
I’m getting started handling the Google AdWord Campaigns over at ClearGraph. Here’s some of the more interesting tid-bits I wouldn’t have found without talking to the Google consultants.
Ad Extensions are awesome
The content under the ad description are ad extensions. You can place as many as you want without costing you any extra per click. It’s an interesting way to incentivize people to provide structured content compared to the rather tiny description character limit.
Retargeting search ads
You can increase your search ad bid for Google cookied people who previously visited your site. This helps you appear on top more often in normal keyword searches. As a by-product, it also improve ad quality score since they’re more likely to click your ad. Suggested increase was +40%.
Better conversion tracking using position based attribution
Sometimes people will click on more than 1 ad before signing up. By default, only the final ad gets a conversion point. Like a sport’s assists, the “position based” model splits the conversion point between all ads that contribute to the conversion.
Tools > conversion actions > attribution model, pick “position based”.
Track Cross-device conversions
For some reason, it defaults to false.
Tools > settings, check “Include cross-device conversions”.
Note 11/16/2016: This is 2 years old now sitting in my draft bin. I figure it’s ok to publish. It marks a time of about 6 months into my time at Archives.com (Ancestry acquisition) from Hotwire. It was me jumping from Designer to Developer which seemed a big change at the time. Now… not quite as much. Maybe I’ll write a followup this year.
(Originally written Sep 26, 2014)
Process and project management
You don’t know the true value of something until it’s gone. I happy about my experience with scrum agile. I can finally see the formal training process is paying off. I do miss having a scrum Master- it’s really important for aligning the different types of team members into common goals that they need to work on beyond the daily stories.
Taking an actual jump into being a developer galvanized a lot of new leaning. I really wonder how much I would have learned on my own without the pressure and exposure via work.
Git and sass are now in my All Time Favorite list. That’s high praise given a year ago I barely knew they existed. Require js and module patterns have finally started to make sense but I’m still having difficulty since different frameworks implement them with slight differences (angular).
With Eduardo’s evangelization, I’ve fully transitioned to designing in Sketch. I love the art boards and accurate effects though I do miss Photoshop’s smart objects.
On comparing skills
Someone can always do things better than me and I must learn to have the confidence to accept that. Acceptance means not being reckless and stubborn about my position but also not being frozen and submissive to the status quo.
For years I’ve struggled with my thoughts on community service but I think I finally have a question that I need to answer, “How do I want to contribute?”. I need to hold off the loudspeaker of news telling only problems and let myself decide on how to help on my own terms.
While thinking about my career, it’s important to reflect on my current skills and interests to gain visibility into where I want to go.
I’m super comfortable with CSS and layout. I’ve made a lot of progress this year. Box model, margin vs padding, absolute vs relative positioning, overflow and scrolling, :hover and other pseudo-elements, line height, all of these I feel are pretty well handled.
I’ve learned a lot about agile and project management this year. Through book club, I’ve read several interesting books and discussed how this applies to our work. I’ve learned the differences between Scrum and Kanban. Also I’d be careful on how Lean MVP is left to interpretation and some pitfalls in version testing. I’d recommend the following books: Phoenix, The Goal, The Lean Entrepreneur, Tribal Leadership.
I need to be more comfortable working within MVC frameworks. I understand the concept of why you’d want to use them, but I’m still pretty slow when matching up a concepts to application. When it comes to comparing frameworks, I’ll get hung up on the syntax. In addition I want to be familiar with the differences between the frameworks such as backbone, angular, bootstrap, spring etc.
I’m building a realtor’s personal website. Since I have never worked with realty, I need to learn a few things about MLS searches. Here’s a quick summary of my learnings followed by some process.
1) There are many many MLS databases. Each area/firm/agent has their own. These databases are their secretly guarded stash of people’s homes and their connected agent. Agents have their own action list of homes. These can be managed by things like open realty, a myPhpAdmin but for homes…
2) Getting access to search MLS databases requires a realtor that is a member of the MLS owner group.
3) If permission is granted by the MLS Provider, one can create a query and ftp whichever listings you want to your own database. Permission may require $$.
4) Most often 3rd party companies just provide the code that figures out how to display the listing info. (A good webdev/designer should be able to do this decently)
5) Some companies offer to host the MLS info, but that just takes the place of the original MLS. Heavy lifting here depending on how many people input into the database. These services are really only useful for big agencies like Century 21 who supports hundreds of agents.
- Installing Open Realty 2.5.5 into a test site -> success, easy
- Installing WordPress into test site -> success, easy
- Open Realty 2.5.5 doesn’t actually querry an existing MLS but just allows realtors to input listings themselves. Not useful for me.
- Need to contact Century 21 and ask how to get MLS access. May need actual realtor to make call.
It’s hard to work on the computer with a solid connection to the internet because of the distractions it allows. Blah. Once I start working, then I usually am okay and focussed, but getting to that point has been really hard for me as of late.