Last night I gave a presentation for Agile Welly on how Boost integrates UX and Design in to Scrum. Thanks to everyone who made the time to come along. For those who attended, and for those who couldn’t make it but are interested, you can now view the slides and the transcript on Slideshare.
We are still working behind the scenes on the Boost website and another sprint has come to an end, bringing with it a few more changes.
This week we’ve made one change to the Boost site, some changes to the site that houses our event’s bookings, and furthered our concept for the Boost design portfolio.
View the Board’s latest episode
Two shows have already been aired, so we thought it was time we made them easily accessible from the Boost website. You can now click through to the latest episode directly from the sidebar on the homepage, and if you are viewing it on a smartphone you’ll find it under our events information.
We are going to allow event attendees to book directly though our website in the near future, but until then Eventbrite handles it. Whilst they do a great job, we felt the jump from the Boost website to their page was a bit jarring due to the differences in colours used and the placeholder images that are displayed alongside each event.
We have replaced these images with Boost branded ones, and used similar fonts and colours to our own website, which in turn makes the transition feel a bit more seamless.
We had a story in the last sprint to come up with a concept for displaying Boost’s design work in an interesting way. There was no implementation necessary, so we showed a hand drawn concept at our sprint review. We can’t say too much about it now, as it’s still a work in progress, but our next step is to create a working prototype which we can show to the team here at Boost.
If they like what they see, we will design and build the portfolio, so expect an update on that soon.
Jelly at Boost is casual co-working in Wellington. Every Friday we open our space for 10 people to work, drink our coffee and steal our wifi for free. We are a small part of a large international movement that started in a Brooklyn apartment with some contractors sharing their lounge. There are now Jellies in over a hundred cities.
Why are we Jellying?
We want to give back to the design and development community. Wellington is a great place to be creative and we want to do our part in making it even better. We want to provide a low key, easy going space where people can get work done.
We’re not on an idealogical mission to join all humanity in loving harmony; though if it did happen, we’d be surprised, very surprised, but we wouldn’t freak out :-).
We’ve had some great feedback from the first Jelly last Friday, and are looking forward to this week’s Jelly. Space is limited so if you are keen DM us on Twitter (or drop us an email) with your name and what you will be working on (broadly speaking) and we will save you a place.
Hope to see you soon.
Friday 30 July is New Zealand’s National Poetry Day, a ‘celebration of this country’s unique and vibrant poetic voice’.
Just in time for the celebration, the National Library of New Zealand has released a new look website for the New Zealand Poet Laureate.
The website was set up on the Blogger platform in January 2008 and over the past two and a half years has filled up with rich content provided first by Michele Leggott (Poet Laureate 2007-2009) and now Cilla McQueen (the current Poet Laureate). During Michele’s time as Poet Laureate the site had functioned as a normal blog, with regular updates from Michele as well as the publication of pieces of poetry (such as wonderful to relate and work for the living). Cilla McQueen took a different approach to the blog, writing Serial, a poem published in many pieces, each accompanied by an item from the Library’s pictorial collection (see the chapters so far: Higgs, Hotdog, Birdie, Inflation, Pleochroic). All this activity meant the site was becoming a little difficult for visitors to understand.
The National Library wanted to stay on Blogger, but also wanted to bring the site into focus with new content and a new look. Earlier this year Blogger introduced the ability to add static pages to blogs. This meant that the Library could now set up individual pages for each of the laureates, as well as an information page about the New Zealand Poet Laureate Award itself. While staff at the Library were working on new content, at Boost we were working on a new design and template.
The Library wanted a design that was clean, elegant, and served the dual purpose of showcasing the changing content that makes up Serial, while also providing clear paths to information about each laureate and the Award. The Poet Laureate Award does not have a brand as such, so we were asked to keep the design consistent with the Library’s existing brand guidelines. In discussions with staff at the Library we discovered that intelligent use of typography was important, as well as creating a sense of space and ease for people visiting the site.
The resulting design hits all these notes. The navigation is treated as a frame for the main content and presented in a quiet shade of grey, enlivened with flashes of teal green for roll-over effects. A number of small tidy-ups have been put in place, such as subtle frames around images and repositioning comments and tags, to reduce the clutter on the page. Fine horizontal lines have been introduced to help separate individual pieces of content and navigation.
This is the first entry in a semi-regular series sharing things that we’ve been looking at and reading recently …
Sarah (one of our project managers)
Sue (one of our designers, recently returned from a break in the sunny northern hemisphere)
- Eye-candy and inspiration on www.citid.net
- Great experimental fonts (also: free!)
- Lighten up your winter blues: heaps of colour and shapes on Coolhunter
Alastair (one of our developers)
- Firefox 4 introduces more HTML 5 and CSS functionality. One step further towards the death of Flash? Still in beta so one for the developers.
- Excellent! Wayne and Garth spotted in the UK. Party on!
Rachel (our office manager)
- World Cup 2010 statistics: all the key data for each team, from the Guardian
(Rachel notes that she’s not as much of a sports fiend as the above link might suggest, and also recommends data/infographic blog Cool Infographics)
Jake (who looks after our usability testing tool IntuitionHQ)
- David Gillis on Fusing Content Strategy with Design, in UX Magazine
- The Real Life Social Network, slides from a presentation by Paul Adams, Senior User Experience Researcher at Google
- Gnarcade – Video Game Invasion: for video game fans, and geeks in general
Courtney (that’s me – project manager)
- Aaron Straup Cope’s magical slippy map showing the world as revealed by geo-tagged photos on Flickr
- Significant Objects, an investigation of art and the market through short stories and eBay
- Swallows and Amazons, the current exhibition at Robert Heald Gallery, which is close to our office – on show until 31 July.
It’s been 5 months since we launched IntuitionHQ, our online usability testing application. We have not quite found the time to write a post about IntuitionHQ but will be writing a couple over the next few months to help you find ways to improve you design and your business with usability testing.
We have however been busy. Over the last couple of weeks we have spent some time identifying areas within IntuitionHQ where we can improve the user experience.
The first area we have focussed on is the test taking page. We evaluated the existing page and came up with a list of things we think the page needs to do in order of importance:
- It has to be fast
- The user must be able to clearly see the task they are being asked to perform
- It needs to be clear where the site ends and the test page begins
Making the list from the user’s point of view was extremely valuable and gave us a clear understanding of what needed to be done.
Improving the speed of the page loads
We started by looking at each of the steps the page takes when loading. It soon became clear that the round trip to Amazon S3 where the images are stored was taking far to long. Further investigation showed that we were searching for the bucket based on the URL each time. Fixing this has brought significant speed gains. (more…)
Cross-browser compatibility issues are the bane of web developers world-wide and in this ever shifting landscape it is important to have processes that integrate cross-browser testing in a robust and systematic way. Over the last 9 years we have evolved a robust workflow for web development and cross-browser testing is an integral part of this.
An overview of the process
We start by constructing the HTML/CSS in a text editor (Textmate, RubyMine IDE or Aptana IDE) and viewing it in Firefox. We develop standards compliant HTML/CSS, so Firefox is a great starting point as it supports the CSS standards well and enables us to use a number of key tools including Pixel Perfect, YSlow and the Web Developer toolbar.
Once we are happy that the design is accurately implemented in Firefox we use Litmus to create screenshots across a selection of Browser/Operating System combinations. Litmus has a number of great features that really make this process easy. Firstly, you can retest the page with a simple button click and Litmus keeps track of the revisions, secondly Litmus uses the W3C validators to check that the HTML and CSS validate and links trough to the error pages and thirdly Litmus lets us indicate visually whether a particular combination is rendering correctly so we can keep track of what is complete and what remains.
Here at Boost we lovingly handcraft our HTML and CSS when implementing our designs. We use text editors rather than programs like Dreamweaver or Frontpage. We find it’s faster, and it enables us to produce clean, correct code that’s easy to integrate.
Our process starts with the production of the designs in either Photoshop or Fireworks. Once these are approved by our client, we convert them to HTML/CSS templates before integrating them with the web application or content management system.
It seems that week on week Google introduces new tools without fanfare and it’s easy for these to slip by unnoticed. A year or so ago Google Web Optimizer appeared in the Adwords toolbar. There hadn’t been much of a buzz about it appearing but who could ignore a link that promised to ‘optimize’ your website, and from Google no less.
Taking a closer look at Google Web Optimizer it was clear this is a very useful tool in the web designers toolkit. In a nutshell it allows developers and designers to test variations of design, copy or even whole pages.