Is your site Google friendly

On April 21st, 2015, Google announced changes to it's search algorithm. The update is focused on giving emphasis and higher ranks to sites that are mobile friendly. Likewise, if your site has not be optimized or built with mobile in mind then your site will drop lower in their rankings. This a huge change in thinking both for designers and clients alike. No longer is having a mobile friendly site optionally. It is required if you want to achieve high search engine optimization (SEO).

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The problem of ME, a major user experience problem

I have been working with companies around the world solve their communication problems. During this time, I never once thought about how I was presenting my own self and what communication problems I was creating. I recently received two separate emails from prospective clients that said almost the same thing. They didn't understand what I did. Over time, I've become my own worse communication problem. As you can imagine, I couldn't believe these individuals didn't understand what I did. To be honest, I was a little irritated too, but that was just my ego talking. After putting my ego aside, I began reading through my site. I asked myself questions about what the content was saying to someone outside of the web industry. I realized that these individuals were right. I didn't even understand what I do anymore.

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Product Design: The debate between one feature vs a thousand

There is a fundamental problem with product design. We want things to do everything for us, instead of focusing on one thing. When planning products, it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of “what ifs” that we forget to focus on what is actually needed and what will users actually use. This issue extends beyond just digital products. We see it in the physical world all the time. However, when we try to include everything under the sun in one product, we end up creating something that is completely unusable. This is the problem with a lot of startup products. They try to do too much too soon without any actual input from their customers. I applaud them on their excitement and dreams of changing the world, but I promise you that any startup or product will have a higher rate of success if you can find the one thing that will bring customers and encourage them to use your product over and over again.

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Does your site need a redesign in 2015

Going into the new year, many companies, individuals and startups will be asking, “Do we need a redesign for 2015?” This is all part of the annual planning process that everyone goes through. They will ask this question each year so they can put together budgets, RFPs and the dreaded search to find the right designer or agency to help.

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Treat Your Clients Right

I've talked before about how much I love my clients. I've also talked about how much they can frustrate me sometimes, but at the end of the day I love my clients. They treat me well and I hope I offer them the same respect and love back. When you work as a freelancer in any industry, your clients can make or break you. If you don't treat them well or bend over backwards for them then you're on a short road to financial problems. I've witnessed several situations recently that made me think it was time to set the record straight. One of the situations I heard about from a potential client who was stuck in a "loveless" contract with another designer. The second was an experience I had with a freelancer who didn't disclose the details of their process upfront. Finally, a fellow designer refused to take blame for a unsuccessful launch.

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A year in underwear

It's been a whole year! WOW! I mean seriously who would have thought that time could fly so quickly. It's definitely been an interesting ride so far. Lots of ups and downs, learning experiences, and life changing events. I don't think I would have changed a single thing.

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When working with lemons

Sometimes in life you reach a point where everything comes crashing down all at the same time. It seems like no matter where you turn or what you do, a new obstacle is being put in your way. This past week has been one of those for me. It has been a combination of struggles all coming together in order to create the perfect storm. I'm happy to tell you there are ways through it. It's not the end of the world but rather just a bump in the road. Like an entrepreneurial journey, we risk living in a way that could potentially make everyday like this. You just need to keep fighting through.

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A behind look into my passion project

Passion projects can be the key to staying inspired while getting through the daily grind. Having the time to focus and learn about what really drives you is important in your growth both as a person and in your career. For me, I've spent years trying to find the things I've been passionate about. I was one of those college graduates who finished and said "Well that was fun but now what?". I didn't want to follow in the steps of my colleagues who went into sales or real estate. These sounded terrible to me. I eventually discovered that I loved design. It brought me back to when I was a kid and used to redraw entire comic books or silly little cartoons just because I could. I was never the greatest at it but it gave me moments of incredible joy. This discovery for design soon lead me into the emerging medium called the web. The ability to create one thing that is flexible and beautiful across various devices and screens blew my mind. In all honestly, it still does. Every time I work on a new web project or app and release it, I have that feeling of excitement.

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Podcasting On Importance of Corporate Culture

A couple of weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to speak with the INFINITUS team about the importance of your company culture as a key marketing strategy. In the discussion, we covered several important aspects of why your company website is more than just something to have online. Your site is like an employee that is selling your company at every opportunity it gets. With this thought in mind, you can translate your corporate culture into the face of your website. Let your audience truly understand who your company is and how to engage with it.

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Learn From My Mistakes

We all make mistakes during our careers and I recently realized I made a couple of huge ones that has cost me a significant amount of money. As many freelancers know, time is money. Sometimes, when you are starting out you rationalize the idea of helping out a friend or doing a small favor for a client like design their contest print materials when in reality all you were contracted for was to do their website. You tell yourself that there will be a big payoff in the end whether it be more work from that client or that your friend will cover you off the next time. Well I'm here to tell you that doesn't usually happen. The overall payoff is stress, burn out and the further expectation that you will continue to do free things.

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3 Qualities Of Great Leaders

I am very fortunate. I live in a city that isn't too big, but sometimes feels too small. The reason this is important is that it's given me some incredible opportunities to do things that in a larger city I may not have been able to do. For one, I get to spend a lot of time talking and learning about startups. I get access to some of the most innovative and smart people you will ever meet. No red tape, no middle man. Just them and myself having a cup of coffee. To me this is what I imagine Silicon Valley was like when companies like Apple were still operated out of a garage. Like Apple, I see some of these startups being lead by inspirational, incredible leaders. These standout leaders are not only building world changing products but also exciting corporate cultures. Why do some of these leaders stand out more than others? I've done a bit of research into it and noticed three common traits that cross the board.

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The power of Sweatpants

Design is not meant to be seen but experienced. With that being said web design is full of trends and trend followers. One of the latest trends that we've jumped on the wagon for is flat design. This trend continues to plow ahead with the announcements by Apple yesterday at WWDC in respect to the new Yosemite OSX. A few designers have tried to fight this fad while stating that design is dead.

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Finding direction

It's been about three weeks since I last posted anything to my blog, but I wouldn't have changed those last three weeks for anything. Opportunities, vacations and just tons of awesome client work have been eating away at my time. I know it's a terrible excuse but it's a valid one. Over the last few weeks, I've been presented with some incredible opportunities. I helped one client launch a highly successful podcast series that reached number one on the Canadian iTunes charts within a day. The people that they've gotten for the podcast so far have been incredible and have amazing insights and definitely worth listening to as they are all leading experts in their fields.

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Organize your content

When working with developers, one of the biggest complaints I've heard is that a client's content is all over the place. They also say that the design and the content don't match up. I began to look at this with my clients and discovered it's true. Of course, can we blame the client for this? My gut reaction is ABSOLUTELY, but I know it's up to us to guide the client to deliver what we need and how we need it. I've written in the past about not designing in isolation of content and that content is actually an important piece of the design puzzle.

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3 techniques to stay inspired

I don't know about the rest of you but this winter has been hard. One thing I noticed is that my creativity and productivity were starting to slow down. I was beginning to feel less satisfied with the designs I was working on and more easily frustrated when I couldn't find a solution to a problem right away. I started to second guess my design choices and even overlooked some of the most basic details. It wasn't a good scene. I noticed that even my emotional fuse seems shorter and a bit more blah to what was happening around me. Unfortunately, a vacation isn't in my near future and I discovered it shouldn't have to be. There were other ways to get my creativity back. I started to look for these ways to get reenergized about the work I was doing and found some pretty simple ones. I've narrowed down my techniques to the three I found worked best for me.

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The power of colour

Experiencing design is more than just how you interact with a particular site. It's how the site makes you feel. This can be the result of great typography, imagery and colours. Today's focus will by strictly on the use of colour and what that means to your user's experience. Designers spend a significant amount of time determining what particular colours will generate the correct feeling for your site. Unfortunately, based on timing or the decisive powers of management, the correct colour palette for a site is often overlooked or misguided. I've been a victim of this in the past with clients having strong love for a particular colour. When a situation like this happens, be the strong voice in the room and show these individuals why they have to put their personal feelings and love of certain colours aside.

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Google removes link underlining

Google made an interesting move in their latest design tweaks on their search results pages. When searching for something on Google, you will no longer see links underlined. Google says the removal of the link underline will help bring Google out of the 90's and into the modern age. This got me thinking about what this link style change could actually mean to users. There are a lot of people who still don't understand that a blue colour means that something is clickable. I also wonder about how this will effect users with vision issues who may have trouble seeing colour and rely on the underline to determine if something is clickable. Will this change to Google search lower any engagement on their search site? It's hard to say but let's take a look at how it could effect how users engage. I think for the most part engagement will stay the same. I do think there is a portion of the population that will find this change to links frustrating.

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4 Ways To Be More Productive

Earlier this week, I got an email from Google stating they were no longer supporting the Google Notifier. I couldn't believe it. I'd been using this app since day one to help me see my emails while I work through the day. As I was uninstalling the app from my laptop, cursing and swearing about how stupid Google was, I realized that by removing the app from my system I was actually doing something positive for myself. I made a mental note to observe my behaviour over the next few days to determine if there were any benefits to losing the notifier. I concluded after several days of observation that I was actually accomplishing more throughout the day than I had when that little red mail icon flashed messages at me. This made me think of how else I can be more productive throughout the day. I've narrowed down the list to four ways that you can implement right now.

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Creating Mental Models

Have you ever hung out at your local coffee shop and looked around at the patrons enjoying their coffees or chatting with friends? Of course you have. We all have. But have you watched these people and made certain decisions about what they are like and who they are based on what you are observing? You probably have without even thinking about it. It's definitely something I do regularly while working at my local coffee shop. I have certain beliefs that come into play and allow me to make gut reactions to each person I observe. These decisions I make about the people around me are a part of the image of the world I have floating around in my head. It's a part of the mental model that each of us create individually. Each of us has a mental model that differs slightly from other.

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5 Components of Usability

Usability testing is the absolute minimum level of designing for people. We have thousands of products around us everyday, but not all of them are usable. How often do we find ourselves swearing and get frustrated with the products that we are using? More often than we should. Sometimes there is so much press for a designer to make something innovative that they make the product to complex to use.

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Spend Time on Corporate Culture

Every company has a culture. You might not think about it much because you live it everyday, but it's there. It's in every interaction you have with your colleagues, bosses, customers and yes even every email you write. Some corporate cultures are more fun to be in than others. Wikipedia describes it as:

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Putting the 'feed' back into feedback

One of the scariest things for designers is getting feedback. We are terrified by the idea that someone is going to hate what we've spent countless hours designing. This is completely understandable as we have created something beautiful out of nothing. We care for this thing we've created the same way a mother protects their new born baby. Here's the thing though when we don't receive feedback on our designs we feel slighted and ignored. This is why it's a benefit to get clients involved early and often. Having an open dialogue with clients can help benefit the final product greatly.

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Staying Focused

Designers are very strange creatures. Our minds wander and we are always trying to think of the next great innovation. We're actually a lot like surfers, who sit for hours on their boards, staring out into the vast ocean waiting for that perfect wave. Occasionally, a surfer will grab a decent wave and ride it in. Usually just to make sure they can still surf properly or try a new trick. Designers do the same thing. We'll grab at projects that don't necessarily excite us all that much but we'll still do it. The reasons usually varie from designer to designer. Sometimes it's for the money, the practice, the hopeful thrill and sometimes it's just related to boredom.

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Funding the future of UX

I care deeply about creating incredible user experiences for audiences when they visit our digital products. Without a strong user experience, we are just throwing content at a wall to see what sticks. With an incredible user experience we are able to craft our content in ways that actually connect with our audiences. Not only does this help your business objectives but it helps turn audiences into believers of your brand. However, this practice of research and crafting experiences that achieve connections with brands and audiences are often overlooked or mingled in with other job descriptions. There is a need though for people who have the right mix of hard, technical skills and soft, interpersonal skills.

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Is Jade getting messy

I've been working with the template engine Jade over the last few months and most recently with the redesign of this site. I was loving how clean and simple it was to use and learn. If you haven't tried it, you really should at least once. But like most great things, there has recently been some changes to the engine that make the code a tiny bit uglier.

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Working in an open source environment

Several years ago, I was introduced to WordPress. It was my first taste of building for the web using open source technology. I was extremely new to developing for the web at this time and how zero concept of what open source meant. At the time, I think I had just learned about this revolutionary coding language called CSS. Mind blowing I know. But now times are different. We've evolved and become less secretive about the work we are doing. In fact, now open source can be found in almost every aspect of the industry.

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What are wireframes and why you should care

Wireframes are an essential tool to help communicate the flow of content. They can be described as a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of the website. You can think of them as a blueprint for your site. Wireframes connect the underlying structure, known as Information Architecture, to the surface visual design. They help us stay focused on key aspects of our sites such as kinds of information that will be displayed, the range of functions, the relative priorities of the information and functions, the rules for displaying certain kinds of information and finally the effect of different scenarios on the display.

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On a path less travelled

2013 has been a year with so many ups and downs. It has been a year that has caused me to reflect on the life that I've been leading to this point and make some extremely difficult decisions. The most recent of these decisions has been to step out of the daily 9-5 grind and pursue freelance web design full time.

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The Product Story

Over the past couple of years, there has been a shift in the overall function of a website. Once they were purely sources of information at the press of a button. Then we went through the years of Flash dominance. We saw some nifty tricks but little in the way of helping the user. Now, we’ve seen the industry mature. We’ve moved past the age of animations for the sake of animations and have brought the user and content back into the light.

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Keeping it simple

Yesterday, Apple released its latest redesign of their iOS. Immediately the world of Twitter exploded with comments either for or more loudly against this new design. But are their comments and anger justified. It really comes down to few things. Most of these comments are blind. They are making conclusions about icons, fonts and other aesthetics without knowing the decisions that went into the making of those designs. I’m going to throw this out there and say I actually quite like the approach that Apple is taking. It’s not because I’m an Apple fanboy, but because I'm looking past the visual layer into how the actual experience is going to be.

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Content with personality

We spend a lot of time talking about "content first", but we talk a lot about the why of content first. It helps how figure our hierarchy, flow and other structural information. This has been analyzed over and over again so today I won’t be going into that. I want to talk about the how of having content first. To put it more bluntly, the “how are you going to bring out the personality of the given content?” I can hear you saying the personality? Yes that's right. Many people don’t even realize it but the content of any given project has a personality in the same way that colours or fonts have personality by evoking different emotions or feelings of friendliness.

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Starting Out On A Startup

A few weeks ago, this video made the usual rounds through social media channels everywhere. Most watched and thought "wow that's a nice thought but I can't do anything about it". And to be honest, I was one of those people. I thought sure if you could forget about the money for a minute or two, what would I do? Could I survive doing something I loved every day? I think for anyone in the web industry, we can all quickly answer YES because we all love what we do. We may rant and roar for a while about how a client is being stubborn or a browser isn't behaving the way we want it to but we do love the journey each project takes us on. What about working on a startup? The wheels in my head began to turn. Was there more to this video that I had initially thought? Was there an itch that needed to be scratched?

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Trimming The Fat

Over the past several years, there has been a debate raging online and offline about the benefits of building separate mobile sites verses using techniques like responsive design or building an app. There has never been a clear winner in this fight and unfortunately I'm not going to offer you one here either. However, I want you to stop and think for a moment before starting your next big web project and how you will deal with your content on a mobile view. No longer is it a question of rather or not you should offer optimized content for mobile rather ask yourself how am I going to deliver it to my audience while providing the best experience possible?

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But The Government Does It

This was the argument I heard today for why we should continue to support IE8 for some non-government clients. The argument was presented to me by an IT guy for this particular client. He says that because the local government still uses and supports the use of IE8 that everyone building digital products should be supporting it as well. But let me ask you if the government endorsed the use of horse and carriage still instead of using a car as the common way of transportation would we all follow them and do that instead. No because it doesn't make sense. It's insane. So why would we continue to support a legacy browser that goes against the mentality of innovation that modern browsers have commit to?

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The Magic Trick

Designers are often hit with this overwhelming need to use the greatest and latest features to display our designs. But what we are doing is creating an illusion. We're clouding our designs in magic. We do this because often times the content we are using to build our sites is weak at best. Maybe it's too dry. Maybe it's poorly written. Maybe it just doesn't tell you anything. But all these things make us feel uneasy. So what do we do? We add glitter and spicy it up with CSS or Javascript magic.

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Insightful look at how Steve Jobs built NeXT

Steve Jobs didn't build any of his companies over night. They took months, years, sweat and tears. There were goals set and then reset time and time again. But one thing Steve Jobs was able to do was stay focused. It was his relentless focus on the company objectives that set his companies a part from the competition and helped him create revolutionary products. In the 20 minute piece posted below, Steve and the original NeXT employees are seen at a company retreat while they focus and plot their future growth. A very insightful piece for anyone starting a company or looking to start a company.

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Build for yourself

I'd heard it a millions times, read a thousand articles and had hundreds of conversations about it. I never realized how rewarding and inspiring it can be to build products for yourself. Most people don't even build products related to their industry. Take Elliot Jay Stocks for example. He wanted to do something outside of web design and created one of the most beautiful ongoing typography publication, 8faces. Others have created t-shirts, or written books in seven days instead of always focusing on the web. For me, I kept my focus simple, straightforward and related to my day job. Why you might ask?

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Content is design

As user experience designers, we must remember that content is the driving force behind why people use the web. We spend a lot of time thinking about the visual display that we forget that the content is what we really want. Recently, I had a project come in and we were told the business goals of the site. They were the usual types of stuff like increase awareness and get more donations. But when we came back with our emotional focused design, they argued that the site was lost on them. One thing I should mention is that we gathered the content after the initial design was created. I can hear the grind of teeth and swears about this approach from here. Before you send a mob after me, I will tell you that we used the content from their existing site as our base for the content as we assumed it contained everything we would need.

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Part of the new workflow - Wirefy

The web designer workflow is changing. Well that's a lie. It's changed. Responsive design has changed the way we think about screens, flow, content. It's also changed the way we present our designs to clients.

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Prototyping Can Make You Better

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to our design processes lately. I don’t think we can design the way we used to. If you equate it to a math equation, there are just too many variables out of our control. That’s kind of a scary thought isn’t it? But I don’t think it has to be a bad thing. This new approach to design will actually be better for our clients and us. We’ll be able to show our clients the true value of what they are paying us for.

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A Common Voice

Believe it or not every site is sending users a message. It’s not just site that is sending this message but the elements we have built into it. Whether it’s a template site that you bought or had custom built by a professional designer, your site is saying more than just what is written on the page. Your logo is saying a lot. The color, shape and size of your buttons are speaking as well. Of course we can’t forget the fonts and imagery that have been included.

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No More Crap

Let's be honest. Not every designer is the same. Not every solution for a client is the same. But does that mean that clients should put up with designs that are crap? I think not. As designers, it is our responsibility to leave the world looking a little prettier than we found it. If you can't do that then you shouldn't be calling yourself a designer.

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Feel love from mobile

Over the last few years, we've seen an increasing amount of attention turn towards mobile design and development. This is to be expected with the new hi-resolution screens and device abilities that have appeared on the market. The focuses of these conversations are about how we should limit our designs in the mobile space. How we have to scale back. I think we've got it backwards. I think we're able to connect our designs with users at emotional levels we've never been capable of before.

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The end of the AEA roadshow

I recently attended the An Event Apart SF. It was eye opening and mind blowing. The web industry has some extremely smart people in it. The majority of the speakers focused on pushing mobile first but without forgetting the content. I must admit while Nicole Sullivan while talking about how our best practices are killing us. I felt extremely guilty that some of my “best” CSS is wrong in her books. Guilt wasn’t the only feeling I had during the week, I saw felt a sense of awe.

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Make the button bigger

There is a lot of talk around the web about always have a responsive design for any web project that you create. But one thing we never seem to talk about is how to actually design for this space. So people are doing an amazing job of this like Treehouse, Simon Collison to name a few. But what really makes these great and easy to navigate through.

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Are There Any Humans Here?

Five years ago, if you had told a client that you were going to start their digital project with wireframes, research and the development of a content strategy, they would have told you to stop wasting their money. They just wanted a site that put them online. It was a time when user experience design was relatively unknown by the general public. These days, however, anyone who makes web sites, apps, or any other form of digital media will offer this as a primary service. Our clients are generally pretty happy with what we’ve come up with. But have we put too much focus on content strategy and user experience that we’ve lost visual human element of design? Are our designs falling flat in translating brand experiences into the online world?

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Give Me Process

Recently, I got thinking about how differently creative designers approach their client’s problems. Some work best by just throwing themselves in the adobe suite and start working through design after design until they feel they’ve gotten it right. Others use different methods or technologies to pull together a useful solution.

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I'm eating breakfast @SomeCoolPlace... But Does Anyone Care?

Since the invention of the smart phone, I’ve noticed a growing trend in location based content. We’ve seen it in the raise of Foursquare, Gowalla and thousands of geolocation based APIs for both web and mobile. But my question is does anyone actually care where you are at any given moment? Maybe your mother does. She’s always been a bit of a worrier, right? I know mine was growing up. Is that really why these systems keep popping up?

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The Next Digital Evolution

In today’s world, technology is changing faster than grass grows. But what is the next big evolution in how we connect and use technology? We’ve seen thousands of examples of what technology will eventually be able to do. We’ve seen examples of holograms, visors, touchscreens and the list just seems to go on. But what seems to be the next big evolution will be 3D computers. Over the past year or so, we’ve seen a huge raise in number of 3D movies. In fact, it seems like just about every movie out there is 3D these days. In fact, I think it won’t be long before we see this our TV’s and on our computer screens.But I will be honest, I’m not the first to think about this.

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Hi, my name is Google and I'll be your Sales Rep Today

Do you know where consumers are getting their initial sells pitches? It isn’t the sales representatives that brands pay for to walk around and ask “is there anything I can help you with today?”. It’s not even the promotions you place around town on billboards, newspaper ads, etc. It’s Google.

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I am available for hire to consult, advise, and design user-centric projects with passionate teams around the world. I specialize in user-focused design that improve performance, shapes strategies and connects you with your customers.

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