Week notes: Design process, stationery & Lego seagulls

It has been a week of juggling many exciting new things — not literally though because I have no co-ordination whatsoever. Project Hamster continues and we start in ernest on 'Project Firefly' which involves a significant amount of cutting gluing and sticking.

We started the week with our product backlog meeting, hosted by Sophie. This is where we discuss what we will focus on in the next two weeks and how we did in the past two weeks. We have started going into a bit more detail about the next steps for our various projects, which works better than just talking about the big picture by making sure everyone understands how what they are working on fits in with the rest of the site and team.

The backlog items (stuff we are are doing this fortnight) go on post-it notes by the whiteboard which we look at briefly after every morning's stand-up to see how we are getting along. We have recently adopted Typekit's policy of holding our standups for 10:05, because standups at 10am always start late but timing them for 10:05 means they miraculously start on time. We have the usual standup format of quickly saying what you did yesterday, what you are doing today and if you have 'blockers' that mean you are waiting for someone before you can do something.

This Monday we kicked off something new and exciting: 'Project Firefly'. I started by gathering together my stationery collection and sketchbook, sketching out some ideas and 'thinking on paper' by writing down both the restrictions and edge-cases and some potential interface solutions. We have already done limited and informal user interviews for this, and I hope to do quite a bit of user testing when we have a prototype ready.

After discussing my sketches and ideas with the team, I started on the wireframes. We recently got ourselves some Magic Paper which we used to cover a large section of the wall to create a whiteboard. This stuff is great, it's a lot cheaper than a standard whiteboard and can cover a large area. Remember to overlap the sheets if you do this yourself.

(this video is four years old now!)

So on our shiny new wall-whiteboard I have made components out of paper, and used blue-tac to attach them to create wireframe of the pages we are going to create. I move these into various combinations for the different variants and views on the page, take photos of these and print the photos, sticking them to the wall next to the sticky wireframe. This means I don't have to draw the same components heaps of times for all the various wireframes I need to create.

After I created the basic view wireframes Simon was able to start on a prototype while I wireframed the various edit states.

I have recently joined Leisa Reichelt's FinalFinalFounders project, so I hope to show you the videos of this process at some point. Leisa's project aims to demonstrate the creative processes actually used in the real world. I think it is a great idea and there are already some interesting videos on there, definitely check it out.

My contribution to the project so far is this video about my collection of stationery (If you hadn't already guessed I am a bit of a stationery nut).

Jake has been hard at work on Project Hamster this week, and has been having fun fixing bugs in several open source projects he is relying on. His 24 ways article came out this week, with some pretty gnarly hacks to get responsively sized images working cross browser on the clientside. Beautifully horrific.

Also in 24 ways this week Anna Debenham wrote a great article about a process I myself have been using for several years. Style guides for front-end development, or 'Pattern Portfolios' as I call them. We have one for Lanyrd, which I might show you one day, if you're good. Anna also links to a presentation of mine from a while ago about a systems based approach to developing front-end code that works really nicely with having a pattern portfolio as documentation.

Also worth reading on the internet from last week is Paul Boag's well observed article Death to design by committee. Although it may seem this article is only useful if dealing with clients, I think it has some useful advice for any designers who need buy-in from other people (most designers then). It looks at the motivations of the stakeholders, why design by committee ends up happening and ways to pre-empt the situation.

Simon and Tom continue with web operations week month ('hurrah') and have been making some incredible headway with our deployment process and monitoring.

We also fixed some more outstanding bugs this week (particularly on 'mop-up Friday' which is when we make small changes and bug fixes). Amongst our favourites were: Changing your Twitter user name no longer breaks your Lanyrd account, so feel free to change your Twitter name at will (and let us know if it breaks), we also fixed a hilarious recursive error in generating URLs for conferences, and the logged out homepage now loads significantly faster (200 times faster in fact, 1.2 seconds down to 0.0039 seconds) because of a bug with our caching: there was a typo in the cache key! Tom found the bug, and described it as:

"More orders of magnitude performance improvement per character than anything else I've ever written"

In other news Jake has finally gotten around to putting together the Lego helicopter we gave him in his welcome basket, here is a video of it providing air support to Tom's Lego police van which is being attacked by seagulls and a giant hedgehog.


Time 2:38pm

Date 12th December 2011


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