S3E2 – Designing Sydney Opera House App with Peter Chen from Beaconmaker

S3E2 - Designing Sydney Opera House App
I chat with Peter Chen, Head of Design & Co-founder at Beaconmaker. I met Peter via the Sydney Opera house hackathon which he won. Peter previously was Head Of Design at Yatango. He also has a lot of digital and advertising agency experience at Holler, Tribal DDB, Soap Creative and WHYBIN. I’ve always been impressed by Peter’s designs and his approach to design. So super excited to be chatting to Pete himself – also his twitter handle!

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Shipping faster with a pattern library – This Mobile Life (S2E3)

Shipping Faster With Pattern Libraries S2E3I chat to my good friend Anthony Cole. Anthony is a product developer with a background in wordpress and frontend development. Originally hailing from Silicon Valley and via NZ, Anthony works in Melbourne for startup Lexer.io. He shares insights on why you should use a pattern library.

A pattern library is a set of components that you can reuse for common design problems. It also defines the interactions of components. By using a pattern library, it allows teams to focus on the bigger customer problems. Ultimately, it helps you ship products faster.

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Making Products Useful With Jobs To Be Done

One of the usual ways to design a product is by looking at the average characteristics of the target users using personas. This approach to make products useful has been around for many years. It the standard used by product makers and marketers.

Clayton Christensen, who popularized the Jobs to be Done approach, argued that people with very different characteristics use a product generally the same way. A highly educated grandfather in the suburbs will use the radio the same way a young girl from a remote settlement area would. If we were to base product design on characteristics then, we are sure to fall short. There has to be other ways that will help determine if a product is just right, or needs more work. Continue reading

Cheap thrills on fiverr – getting a comic of yourself

Fiverr is one of those really interesting places on the internet. You can get any task done for $5. There are preset tasks such as drawing a comic, singing a birthday tune or writing a blog post to name a few. I’ve previously had mobile app advertising banners designed and snare drum sound effects created for our games.

Ho-duken Ryu

The final version of Ho-duken

For my bday, I bought a gig for $5 for a comic graphic of myself. I decided to get a Street Fighter 2 graphic done of Ryu. I’m actually more of a Ken fanboy, but I thought Ryu suited better given he’s Asian (unlike the blond haired ken). I showed them a few versions of pictures from Google Images and gave them some profile images.




I had 3 versions of this comic done and this was the final result. The problem was that the artist didn’t have a sideways facing profile shot of me. So I submitted the below pic and he based it on that.


Here are some of the out takes which has my head at a weird angle, plus my lips look a bit big (but hey this could be the truth!).


So if you are looking for some fun on the internet and a cheap thrill, I highly recommend checking out Fiverr and ordering some $5 gigs! If you want extra revisions or gigs, you can upgrade to buy the extras on fiverr. They are usually an extra $5 – $10.

Thanks for reading this blog and wishing you a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2014.

I’m out like Ryu’s fireball,

Some thoughts on responsive design workflow

I’ve recently become more interested in design and user experience. I found a good talk on Responsive Design Workflow which my friend @sherylyulin recently shared. Responsive Design or more specifically, responsive web design has become a very big buzz word in the tech industry, but is actually quite important given where the internet is heading – internet access from anywhere and any device.

What exactly is responsive web design? Wikipedia defines Responsive Web Design (RWD) as “an approach to web design in which a site is crafted to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones)”.

With more of the emerging world onboarding onto the internet via mobile and the availability of new and different device form factors, responsive web design has become increasingly more important.

I found some good examples via this Socialdriver post. If you go to the Boston Globe and Smashing Magazine website, you can resize the page by dragging the corner in and out to create smaller or larger dimensions. The design will respond and adapt to the changing size. The design is fluid (by using responsive CSS elements). I also came across this fluid layout style when playing with Twitter Bootstrap.

I have to admit that a lot of mobile websites look really crappy when viewed from my iPhone – the ones specifically designed as mobile websites. The culprits can be found on websites that lie on a m dot domain (e.g. m.hoyts.com.au). They usually seem to have a limited functionality set of the actual website and just look plain ugly – I’ve never liked them. With responsive design, the way that we design websites is changing – there are some things that just won’t work on a mobile device e.g. hover effect.

The thrust of the video is that web design itself is changing but the actual design process itself also needs to change. I’ve been through the design process multiple times at a web design agency, and working for a client can be quite painful because of the back and forth process on design, particularly using photoshop. I do like the approach espoused by the speaker to make it more efficient and to rethink how we do it by going from the wireframes to HTML/CSS/JS prototypes (but show them a JPEG version of it first) 🙂

I think that part of the problem is also the emergence of wireframing tools that allow you to make clickable prototypes with actual elements you’d find on an app or website. For example, I’ve used omnigraffle and I was able to re-create an iPhone layout using the exact buttons. I do like the idea of going really basic and using content reference wireframes and sketching. The problem with using actual elements is that it can restrict how you think about the design.

Responsive design and responsive design workflow is some interesting food for thought. The video is at a good pace and the speaker is well spoken, so hope you enjoy it.

I’m out like mobile websites,

Matt Ho

ehonda hundred hand slap

I’ve been playing with photoshop the past few days and learning how to use it.

I’ve created the hundred hand slap effect for Street Fighter 2 character, Ehonda. I used the stamp tool to copy the hand and adjusted the opacity level to 38%. Alternatively you can press heavy punch multiple times on the game controller to create the same effect (light or medium punch also works). Original picture below.

I’m out like the hundred hand slap,

Matt Ho

How to improve your email marketing: Part 1

One of the hats I wear at work is email marketing, amongst other talents I possess – SMS, Promotions, Microsites, Basketballer manager, Chocolate Scotch Finger connosieur.  On a regular basis, I speak with customers of all shapes and sizes about email marketing. I was talking today to one of my colleagues about some email marketing tips, some of which I want to share with you. I have decided to break these posts down into parts, since there is so much I can discuss about email marketing.

Some of these tips I’ve picked up along the way, from general observation, actual practice, from reading email marketing articles and a lot simply from being a recipient of email newsletters!

1.Plan your email marketing strategy

You must plan! You can’t be sending out random emails whenever you feel like it. There’s gotta be an email strategy in place in line with your overrall marketing and communication strategy. Plan for regular communication with your customers, stakeholders and subscribers. Because a failure to plan is a plan to fail!

You can take a longer term view and look at it on annual basis. Think about your peak periods, events, specific times where you need to ramp up communication. If you are a retailer, consider sales periods, downtimes, etc… If you plan to hold a major sale, what better way to drive people to the store then to send a quick email to your mailing list. Perhaps in periods of  expected quieter activity, send out more emails to drive sales and visits to your website.

Do not send out random emails in the dark. A lot of people actually do this, and you can only expect mixed results.

2. Aim to send a regular email

When someone knocks on your door, when do you open it? If its in the middle of the night, and you don’t know the person, are you going to open it? Probably not.

The same applies to email marketing. If you send a regular email on an expected day, you are more likely to get opens and clicks. It’s because I know its coming in and its a friendly party. If something random turns up, or on irregular basis, I’m more likely to ignore it or even opt out.

3. Test your email to an internal test list with different email clients

I can’t emphasise this enough. You may think you’ve done an absolute bang up job and created the perfect newsletter. But when you send it out, one of the pictures look funny or the text is distorted. Customer’s will laugh at you, your brand gets tarnished, it looks sloppy. In two seconds, your subscriber realises you stuffed up.

I suggest that you test extensively to a small group of people. Having more than one person means that you are less likely to miss something. Like a painter deeply involved in his artwork or a student engaged in his year long thesis, these people rarely see the flaws in their work. Because they are so deeply involved. You need a fresh pair of eyes to review it.

Ensure you send to a variety of email clients. Email clients are hotmail, gmail, yahoo, etc….. the reason you do this is because emails can render differently in hotmail as opposed to gmail. You need to ensure the email has been designed to look the same.

4. Keep your subject line short and simple, yet catchy

Sounds easy right? Some people recommend 6 words or less. There’s no hard or fast rule. But remember this: you only have a few seconds to impress someone to read an email in their inbox. An unattractive subject line means delete button.

5. People don’t read emails , they scan

I rarely read online articles in full online. The same applies to emails. Online attention spans are just really short. I look at the top, scroll to the bottom and read the ending. If something catches my eye, I’ll look deeper into it. That is why you cannot have large slabs of text in an email. You CANNOT expect people to read emails in full. Intrepid, puts out the longest email ever and I don’t even bother reading it. (I do not see how they won an email marketing award).

Make your email into bite sized chunks. Consider it as an appetiser, inviting people to find out more information. Have a lead in, a few paragraphs, and the rest on your website. Or just keep the content short.

6. Please, please do not write headings sideways

I’ve seen a few powerpoint slides and email newsletter with vertical headings. I’m sorry, but it looks very bad because they are not clear. Anything that makes me require extra effort to interpret, I don’t like – if it means I have to tilt my head sideways, fuggetaboutit!

7. Have a very clear understanding about email marketing prices

Some email marketing platforms charge access fees, record upload feed, monthly subscription fees. So understand how it works. The thing I like about the email marketing platform I support is that the pricing is pretty clear to the public. You know what you are paying.

Enquire about increased or decreased capacity. Most of the email marketing platforms work have some kind of per email volume basis i.e 1,000 email cost $x dollars. However, what happens when you require extra emails? If you want to send 5,000 more for your January specials, are you able to do so? And how much will it cost?

That is why you need to plan ahead. Understand if you are locked into a specific amount per month or if you can change your capacity.

8. Segmenting your email database to deliver relevant communication

Email marketers and advertisers always talk about segmenting your database. Why is this important? Well the more you know about your customers, the more you can personalise the communication and serve them relevant content.

If you can, break up your database into groups. For example, if I am working for a sports store, I might be able to split the database into people interested in soccer, basketball, football and rugby union. I don’t want to send basketball fans sales about soccer shinpads, because they are probably not interested. You have to gather information about them, through sales data, membership drives, instore and online promotions, inviting people to give you more details. You have to give people an incentive to provide their details. If they feel that they are getting a benefit from it, and also continue to recieve relevant communication from you, then that will build a healthy relationship with your customer.

9. Integrate other digital marketing efforts with your email marketing

Again, this feeds back into point 1. Email marketing cannot be considered in isolation to other marketing efforts. Online display advertising (ODA), search, websites, offline advertising, all tie in together.

10. Have a valid reply address

I abhor email communication which says “noreply@company.com”. It’s annoying because sometimes you DO want to reply to them. And if you do and do not realise it, it bounces back. You should have a valid email address. There may be customer complaints, sales inquiries, unsubscriptions, who knows. You will lose that opportunity of subscriber communication if have no return address. Why should you be able to send emails to them and they can’t send emails back to you?!!!

That’s all for now. I hope that will be helpful to your email marketing efforts. In times like now, it’s all about maximising your dollar spend and getting the best ROI (Return on Investment). Email marketing typically for every $1 spent, has an ROI of $57. Which is fantastic for a budget conscious time.

I’m out like spam,

Matthew Ho.