Monthly Archives: February 2010

Announcing Meld Studios (day 50)

I have been a bit tardy in making this announcement public (read too busy), but it is with great pleasure that I’d like to announce that I’ve teamed up with Steve Baty and Janna DeVylder to form Meld Studios.

I fully intended to start blogging about the experience of setting up a new company (a la Berg’s blog), but  as with previous best intentions, I won’t be placing bets on me actually doing this!

My summary of the first 50 days is as follows:

It is great to be part of a team

It is great to be working with other people. I have spent the past four years working as a freelancer/contractor. Although I’ve had some long-term gigs, it can be a lonely business. The ability to discuss things with people who have an equal vested interest in a successful outcome is wonderful.

I am also finding that the discipline of planning and strategising, that working with others forces upon you, is fascinating. So often we muddle through, but I’m finding myself question, challenge and think far more about decisions that previously I would have ducked.

You need to compartmentalise

Balancing the roles of owner, boss, practitioner, father and husband is tough. I feel I am cheating the edges at times.

Even the good times can be stressful

We are inundated with work (if you’re a potential client please don’t let this put you off!). We are finding we’re having to turn down projects that previously I’d have torn my right arm off for. The power of a team eh!

Where did all the hours go?

I can’t believe we’re 50 days into this. The time has just flown by. I am finding I’m working more hours, but I am really enjoying it. As Janna has said “we are so in start-up mode!”.

You need to take a step before I can tell you if you’re going in the right direction

In itself the involvement of users in the design process is no guarantee of a successful product or service. Reliance on users alone to guide you to the “right answer”, means you could be in for a long and winding design journey.

Designers must be prepared to develop and test paradigms. Failure to do this means you’ll yo-yo for an elongated period of time, and have little of any substance with which to get any meaningful user feedback.

I have been in a number of infuriating situations recently (generally design committee situations) where the team has shrunk from taking any responsibility for making a decision and instead asked to get the users help in making the decision.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying don’t involve users. Nor am I saying make firm decisions before you involve users. But I am saying that if you are singularly incapable of making a step in any direction until you get confirmation from a user that you’re going in the right direction, you might consider a new profession!

You need to take a step before I can tell you if you’re going in the right direction!

Users guide and inform decisions, but it is the responsibility of the designer and/or business to actually make the decisions. Yes they can be tough, but with user involvement you’ll get their pretty quickly provided you are prepared to ask the tough questions and create materials that enable users to inform the decision. After all you are getting paid for it, the user isn’t.

</rant>

101 advice for websites promoting physical outlets

It has been a very wet few days in Sydney. Being a new(ish) parent I’ve been online trying to find inspiration for ways to entertain my toddler.

I have been amazed by how poor many of these sites are. As I browser I have 4 basic questions:

  • What do you offer?
  • Where are you?
  • When are you open?
  • What does it cost?

Most of the sites I’ve encountered do a reasonable job of the first and last of these points, but boy oh boy the middle two.

Have a go. Go and have a look at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo website (http://www.taronga.org.au/taronga-zoo.aspx) and see how long it takes to find out when they are open. Surely this would be a prominent feature on their homepage? No!

Here’s another. I was recommended this play centre for kids, Lollipops Playland (http://www.lollipopsplayland.com.au/). Just try to find out how to get to the Frenchs Forest outlet.

Difficult isn’t it. Why doesn’t it include a map of the location rather than after spending 5 minutes of so looking around the site finally having to go to Google Maps to find out where it is.

The 101 advice when creating a website for a physical location that people will have to visit is to include the following prominently in your site:

  • A map of where you are with directions and information about parking
  • Information about when you are open
  • Pricing

Yours is a highly competitive market, if I can’t find this information in an instant I’m off to one of your competitors!