Categories
Blog Startups Tools & Services

Surprises from launching UXstamps.com

One of the early prototypes for UXstamps.com

I actually had the idea for UXstamps more than a year ago. I was in London at the time and shared the idea with a few mates, the response was “OK”, no excitement, no drama. Still, I went ahead and got a prototype done via Taobao.com. What came back was a rather ugly bulky 3d printed stamp, it kinda worked but was also hideous, the idea was left aside. Fast forward just 2 months ago, I mentioned the idea to a good friend and was encouraged to make the idea happen.
The very first 2016 Prototype for Uxstamps

So I ordered some prototyped, sacrificed on the size of the stamp for cost and launched a website I was remotely happy about. I wouldn’t allow myself to fire up a woocommerce site, Shopify crossed my mind too, but that also took time to set up). The goal was to test demand and that was it. The plan was pretty simple:

  1. Make a super simple website
  2. Get some prototypes made (cheaper the better)
  3. Give it to some friends in the UX industry to try
  4. Share Photos / Videos on Social Media
  5. Buy some ads on Google and FB
  6. Watch response then decide

What I was expecting

When I launched the site in early November, it didn’t even have payment on it, . The “Buy Now” button was actually a mailto link for users to email me if they are interested in a particular stamp, but then I felt it wasn’t really testing demand if people didn’t have to pay, so i setup payment by Paypal. I then made a video shared it on Instagram and FB


The response was “OK”, nothing like the amount of noise I would like. Almost like an afterthought I decided to post it on Linkedin… and bam, i started getting tons of Likes, Comments, Shares and finally Orders!

At the time of this blog post, there had been over 1700 Likes and 120 comments via Linkedin, I’m now even sure if I ever had 7 likes on my Linkedin posts before, I’m rather impressed by Linkedin, a lot of users were simply tagging other users, really helping it spread.

The Problem

Somehow, completely without me knowing UXstamps somehow made it to both Hacker News and Product Hunt, had some pretty brutal feedbacks on Hacker News, so much so, i decided to stop reading them. There will always be nay-sayers and that’s fine, they just aren’t my audience.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a happy problem to have, but I was just not ready for the number of orders I received, I very quickly went into panic mode and had to get everything ready. The stamps itself, the packaging, the posting and making sure the right stamp went to the right people. It was an incredible rush and I did not want to disappoint anyone (If I have, please get in touch with me, I can offer you a refund).

 

 

The Result so far

Up until today (11/12/2017), we have sold UXstamps to 8 countries over 4 Continents, I’ve been more than happy with the results and are currently looking for a better supplier to mass produce the stamps in actual size, instead of the current scaled down ones at a more reasonable price. The risk is that I’ve only received the number of orders I did because it’s so close to Christmas and it makes a nice gift, and not because of the actual need of end-users to help them wireframe better, on any paper or notepad they like.
This project is still on-going, please sign up to our newsletters to find out how we are moving forward. I’m also planning on writing a separate blog post on how we put the product together.
 

Categories
Blog Tools & Services

FramerJS for Prototyping – Good tool, Bad share

framer-interface
I beg you, don’t look at the code… I’m sorry it’s a mess

So here’s my first attempt at using FramerJS. I only looked into it out of frustration. Marvel and Invision wasn’t handling the animation well enough and Pixate got too weird and complicated really quickly, so since I had bought Framer with Sketch together many months ago, I might as well gave it a try and it was… AMAZING!

Pros

  • Imports from Sketch pretty easily
  • Once you understood how functions/animations are structured it’s really easy
  • FAST
  • The prototype changes as you TYPE (no need to save)
  • Can share to mirror prototype to mobile really easily

Cons

  • I had to learn CoffeeScript
  • The sharing function is REALLY basic
    • No Password protection for prototype
    • All prototypes uploaded will be available for download (I’m embarrassed of my code!)
    • Can’t delete a prototype once it’s shared, you have to email support
    • Prototype is pretty slow in iFrame

 

My First Prototype

Here’s my first attempt with Framer with a fictional project, let me know what you think? Is there a better tool out there?

Categories
Blog Tools & Services

Hertz Car Rental Service Experience

So we were going back to Suffolk (UK) for the weekend to spend the weekend with my parents, train tickets were stupidly expensive so I thought I would hire a car for the weekend. Decided to go with Hertz and this is a quick summary of my experience

On arrival

Once we finally found the location, we entered and saw LOTS of people waiting already sitting on sofas around the place, there was no obvious queues, so I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do would be. Walking around, I saw there are actually a ticketing machine at the OTHER entrance.

Tip 1. Clearly sign post all entrances about the ticketing machine, I wasn’t the only one who walked in confused

The Wait

This was by far, the most annoying thing, although I had pre-booked our car, I still had to wait over an hour, needless to say neither all the other customers and I were happy about waiting, but at least there was a water machine and clean bathrooms for us to use.

Tip 2. Show estimated waiting time and next ticket number. There was a display but it only show you what number it was on when it called someone out.

Tip 3. I can so imagine this to be an automated process like going to the cinema with pre-booked tickets in the near future. Get there first maybe?

The Upsell

I know it’s the staff’s job to upsell and make it frictionless, but one thing that wasn’t frictionless was when I was presented with the bill. I paid £55 online already, I was pretty much expecting to sign a piece of paper and walk away. To find out I was upsold to instead of just being asked to confirm my package wasn’t a nice surprise.

Tip 4. Upsell clearly, there’s no hiding from the bills. Be very clear

Tip 5. The receipt was a mess, with ‘estimated’ this and ‘expected cost’ that. I was nervously checking my bank account for the next few days to see how much it actually cost

Getting the car

Finally I got the car, I was told I just need to walk outside and the car will be waiting for me in 5–10 minutes. LIES I was outside for another 30 minutes, I didn’t know if I was suppose to do hand the document to someone, or if a mistake was made in the procedure. It turns out there were just understaffed and I had to wait.

Tip 6. Waiting is fine, but let me know I haven’t missed anything and am at least in the right place.

Expectation

(Not everyone would find this a problem) Its lovely to get a free upgrade for free, but not its not what you asked for. I ordered a “mini” car because:

  • Its a cheaper hire
  • Cheaper fuel
  • I haven’t drove a car for a while and were not particularly confident with a big car

I know it was nice gesture for the upgrade, but the truth was, it made me pretty nervous. I also understand this could be a supply thing, but I am writing from a customer’s perspective

Tip 7. Ask if customer would like the free upgrade

Leaving the Hertz carpark

I thought leaving Hertz would be as simple as driving out of any old carpark. Nope, I had to present a number of documents to the gentlemen at the gate, why wasn’t I told I need all this ready? Why did you make me search frantically after such a long wait?

Tip 8. Include clear simple instructions in the envelope on what I need to do at the gate, just a few drawings would do nicely.

Car Return

Again, what am I suppose to do? I got to that gate, am I suppose to climb out to reach the buzzer (my bad driving meant I couldn’t reach). It turns out it was all automated all I had to do was wait. The massive gate with ramp and barbed wired was intimating.

Tip 9. Simple sign… Please wait here for gate to open

Car Return, now what?

So I got to the “car return” area, now what am I suppose to do? There was a sign saying “park here” but that’s around a corner, not next to the bays… am I in the right place? Turns out I was, but now what?

Tip 10. A big sign over head saying “park in these bays to return car”

Tip 11. I’m parked, now what? No signs again. A member of staff then came over did a quick check and gave me a receipt. It was that simple, why didn’t you show/sell that? Now that was smooth.

Customer’s POV

Car hiring, especially from Heathrow where I imagine would include a lot of travellers would probably include a lot of tired and possibly foreign travellers. They are probably not in the best of moods to be confused, so please just pay a little more attention and sign post what we are actually suppose to do. Don’t let us feel lost or like an idiot.

My experience with Hertz wasn’t awful, it just didn’t feel as nice as it could have. I’m gonna try another place next time, just to compare the experience.

Disclaimer, this was only the second time I hired a car, the first was in Tasmina.

Categories
Blog Quick Thoughts Tools & Services

Change is normal, stop using bad tools

I was speaking with a friend recently, he works in the UX scene in London and has worked with every type of organisations from tiny hip startups to international corporate banks. I wanted to get more insight into what I should focus to get ready for the UK scene.
I was happy to hear worlds like customer validation and agile, but what I was not so happy to hear was tools like Omnigraffle and Axure. Both prototyping tools which I’ve tested and didn’t like, they felt old and clunky, no where as slick as Sketch and Invision not to mention their no-so-cheap price bracket of $99+ and $289+ respectively.
I don’t mind learning a new tool for the better, but this feels like a backward step for me.  I used to be a big fan of photoshop for mock ups, I resisted the shift to Sketch for quite some time. I was so happy with all my photoshop shortcuts and workflow I just didn’t want to change. However, I know Sketch is BETTER, therefore I should learn it and I did… In fact, I rather enjoy Sketch now. 
The problem is, the banks and large corporations in UK doesn’t seem to be so keen on that idea for change, I understand there is a cost involved to change for large establishments, he cost of software (hardware?) and the training that might be involved, but it’s just such a shame to slow down progress.
So my dilemma now is, should I really try to learn everything and be a jack-of-all-trade at an okay level, so I can work anywhere using whatever tool they prefer or should I get really good at one or two tools and only work with certain companies?
There is simply too much to learn to be good at everything. Any suggestions?

Categories
Blog Misc Tools & Services

Experiment in outsourcing, a Chrome Plugin for YouTube

I know I should be focusing on one project at a time, but it’s often hard to shake a good fun idea out of my head once it make it’s way between the couple of brain cells I have in my head.
I like to listen to interviews and talks from YouTube when I’m doing none writing work. But recently I got increasingly frustrated by how slow videos of talks and interviews can be, I think in part this is because I got used to listen to audiobooks and podcast at double speed on my iPod, so I began to wonder if there’s a way to do it for YouTube videos. I found you can control the video playback speed in VLC player but it was a bit inconvenient for me (even though I does use keyboard shortcuts to control playback)  so I decided to make this an experiment in outsourcing and try to find someone on oDesk to make this into a Chrome Plugin.

The process

Finding a suitable developer was surprisingly straight forward. I went to oDesk and eLance and did a quick search for “Chrome Plugin developers”. Found 7 candidates that specifically mentioned Chrome Plugin experience in their profile. Emailed 4 of them very briefly mentioning a project to control YouTube videos with a Chrome Plugin. 2 of them got back to me within the next 2 hours (Communication and response rate is very important) and since one had experience working with YouTube API, i decided to work with him as a fixed cost project with a deadline of 2 weeks.
Over the next 2 weeks, the developer sent me a number versions to test, I was pretty impressed with the quality of his work, I thought this was a rather simple plugin, so I didn’t think it would require too much attention, but of several occasions, I was asked questions to scenarios I have never heard of, after ironing them with a few more hiccups than I would like, my first experiment in outsourcing development was complete and below is what I have learnt.

Here’s what I learnt

1.  Read up on the documentation (At least a tiny bit)

Being an end user is NOT the same as being someone responsible for the product, just because you have a rough idea of what you want there are still many ways to “skin the cat” (This is a just a common saying, I am very much against animal cruelty). I think I was rather fortunate in finding a decent developer who with good ethics, if I wasn’t I’m pretty sure I could have been ripped off

2. Write a really good detailed brief

I’ve long believed a picture can speak a thousand words, so I made a number of mock ups to demonstrate what I had in mind. This saved both of us plenty of time.
PlaySpeed-screen

3. Clarify the deal

Make sure you have an agreement on the terms of the partnership from the very start. This includes what would be delivered, within how much time and what happens if something goes wrong. I was a bit silly to not state I wanted access to the source code from the beginning, so half way through the process I had to discuss with the developer if I can have the editable files. Luckily he was fine with it, but if he said no, or asked for more money to do so, it would have been incredibly frustrating.

4. Take the time to test out the end result

Seeing we have been making good progress with the plugin so far and being busy with some other work. I actually didn’t check the end result before I sign off the project and full sum was transferred over! Extremely dumb of me on my behalf.  I trust the popup from the tool bar would be styled to how I mocked up the design, disappointing AFTER I uploaded the plugin to Google, I realise that wasn’t the case. So I had to unpack the files and edit all the CSS myself and resubmit the project. Imagine if the styling wasn’t controlled by a language I am familiar with, I’m not sure what would I’ve done. I could engage with the developer again to finish the job or just stick with how it was, but it would have been so much easier if I checked before signing it off.
At the end, I’m reasonably happy with the result at the $160 USD I paid for the development. Any fault in the end product was my own, either not being thorough enough or not writing a better brief.

 The Result

Embedded View
YouTube View – not keen on the placement, but what can you do?
 
 

Categories
Blog Misc Tools & Services

The innovation of Moleskine

I personally don’t use Moleskine notebooks, mainly because I’m cheap but I have to say I admire their products and branding. It is incredibly how far they have taken a simple notebook?
I saw their new ad for a new range of notebooks and it is incredible, they now have ones for musicians, one for rough sketches that tear off and ones for water colours. All so beautiful and well presented.

They are the perfect example of innovation and truly knowing their market. All they sell are notebooks, but they do such a brilliant job, they are able to charge up to 3x more than most brands, why? Because they know how to make useful products that are marketed perfectly for targeted audience. They are like Starbucks, specially for the creative types, where it’s not really about the coffee, it’s about the lifestyle, the social status.
No  iPhones, iPads and Note taking apps will ever be able to compete with their cool factor, because they know their audience and they know how ideas flow best – from brain on to paper and not on to a screen – at least not yet (their partnership with Evernote is trying to bridge that gap).
I personally like to use the double ring note with from Muji, they check all the boxes for me, dotted pages, hard plastic covers, spiral binding for me to keep a blank ink pen and even a relatively low price. The cheap price allows me to feel much more
Some amazing Moleskine notebooks

Categories
Blog Tools & Services

5 Killer Mac Apps you should be using

I love my MacBook Pro, I think it’s amazing and I really enjoy doing my work with it. When it got rained on a few months ago and smoke started to come out, I even overcame the temptation to ‘upgrade’ to a smaller screen, since they don’t make 17″ MacBook Pros anymore.
Still, I don’t think even the all mighty Apple has made their computers perfectly. Below are 5 apps that are fantastic for increasing my productivity. These are apps that I will immediately install after I’ve reformatted my my machine, they are incredibly handy and can save  a lot of time.
Are there any apps you find incredibly helpful? Tell us in the comment below.

1. aText

Price – $5 USD (Go Get it!)
This is an an absolute gem. If you type a lot, regardless of codes or emails, this tool will come in extremely handy. Very similar to Text Expander which I have previously recommended, aText can be set up very quickly to automatically switch predefined text abbreviations and replace them with the actual text. For example, if I type in “myadd” it will automatically replace it with full address! This tool can also come in very handy for all those hard to remember pieces of information such as officer phone numbers or colour codes for your design.
aText-example
aText recommends using a semi colon in front of all your keyword stop accidentally triggering aText text substitution, but it’s not a must. You can also setup aText to allow you to enter text in specific locations.
atext-exmample2

Type (For your ref only) Abbreviation Expands into
Long words ;defo definitely
Phone No. ;tel 555 1234 1234
Address ;myadd 123 High Street
London Town
SE1 1AB
United Kingdom
Codes ;h1 <h1>[ENTER TEXT HERE]*</h1>
Codes ;ul <ul>
<li>[ENTER TEXT HERE 1]</li>
<li>[ENTER TEXT HERE 2]</li>
<li>[ENTER TEXT HERE 3]</li>
<li>[ENTER TEXT HERE 4]</li>
<li>[ENTER TEXT HERE 5]</li>
</ul>
Images ;smile [SMILEY FACE HERE]

 

2. BetterSnapTool

Price – $1.99
Does your screen ever get cluttered with multiple windows all over the place, stacking on top of each other and you find it impossible to find the RIGHT Finder window? Then this is the perfect tool for you. BetterSnapTool allows you to organise your desktop with either keyboard shortcut keys or special hotspots on your desktop. Snapping them to either full screen, half screen or quarts of the screen such as below.
BetterSnapTool

3. Carbon Copy Cloner

Price 39.95 USD – Not cheap, but it’s worth it
Due to a very bad experience I once had, I am slightly obsessed when it comes to backing up my work. I’ve mentioned backing up with Dropbox before for the majority of my work, but there’s only the other remaining 320GBs of  photos and music and raw video footage. For that I like to use should use Carbon Copy Cloner. It let’s you Back up EVERYTHING, let me say that again, Back up EVERYTHING! You can even restore your backup as a bootable backup, this means all the software I once had install will be there along with all my files. In my opinion, that’s a bit better than Apples time machine, which has been known to have issues with starting new backups instead of using your old ones as a continual timeline and delete your old backups when it is running out of space, what if I need those files?
carbon-copy-cloner-screen

4. Alfred

Free or $27 USD for PowerPack
I’ve talked about this app before. But recently noticed some additional productivity tricks which makes me love it even more. The basic version of Alfred is Free, but it’s well worth the money for the PowerPack. In short, Alfred makes it extremely easy to control your computer with simple keyboard shortcuts, I also feel it work much faster than the standard Mac spotlight. Here are some examples of how I use Alfred.

  • Open Alfred pop up with [cmd+spacebar]
  • Launch any apps from your computer by typing in the name
  • Open files by using the apostrophe [‘] before the file name
  • Use it as a calculator, get your answer from the popup
  • Search through my contacts
  • If i need to search on Google, Wikipedia or Amazon, simply start typing and use the arrow keys to select search
  • Currency convertor, requires additional Alfred extension, typing in without the brackets [Convert 1hkd to gbp]

You can also set up commands to open up a group of apps, for example I know I will need to start testing browsers, with Alfred I can start Safari, Firefox, Opera and Chrome all at the same time. It’s pretty awesome. More amazing tips can be found on the Alfred Blog and David Freguson’s blog 
alfred

5. Dropbox / Google Drive

Price – From Free
Work from multiple computers and need to be able to access your files anywhere? Both Google Drive or Dropbox are fantastic for this. I love being able to access my files anywhere and I’ve lost count of the number of times dropbox has saved my behind from urgent calls from my team or clients. Yes, Apple has its own iCloud thing but it doesn’t seem to be as flexible and easy to use as these 2 alternatives. Since I have already written a blog post on various cloud storage platforms, I won’t go into too much details here. But, If you can’t wait to get started with dropbox, please feel free to use my referral link.
dropbox

BONUS: Evernote

Price – From Free
Technically Evernote is not an app, or at least it doesn’t has to be one, because there’s a web version, which is why I’ve put this under BONUS.
Keep all your ideas and notes in one easy to search platform and access them anywhere with an internet connection, I have a huge collection of text notes, audio clips (talking to myself), clips bits of webpage for future references and photo notes of photos and documents. Some people call this “Outsourcing your brain to Evernote” because by using Evernote correctly, you don’t have to rely on your brain as much, allowing you to focus on the actual work itself. It just make my research process much smoother, I can even continue writing notes from my laptop to my smartphone, it’s all synced up. If you are interested in trying it out, it’s worth learning how to use Evernote for best result here and here. As part of their DevCup 2013, there is now even a way to use Evernote as a blogging platform postach.io, simply write your notes and share – that’s it! blog done!
Here’s a quick link to my Evernote referral code, we’ll both get a month of Evernote Premium for free.
Do you have anything you would like to share with us? Please share with us in the comment box below.
 

Categories
Blog Quotes & Tips Tools & Services

3 tricks that saved my productivity sanity

One of the biggest pain with working in digital media is how easy it is to get distracted. Since I am always ‘connected’ it’s not always easy to remain focused. I’ve been testing with a few new approaches lately and these 3 are working pretty well.

1. Set up E-mail filters

15th June 2013 Update: GMail’s new tabbed layout seems to more or less function the same way as how I recommend setting up filters, their solution is a lot more elegant, so I suggest you try it out. Check out this handy article at Lifehacker.com
——
I am literally subscribed to tens of newsletters, some to do with my job and others on areas of interests and it was getting incredibly distracting. I’ve since unsubscribed myself from a good chuck but there are still far too many for my liking. Whenever I see that number pop up next to the gmail tab, it’s impossible for me to resist checking it, just in case it’s an emergency with something I have to fix. Then there are the emails with an incredibly interesting subject lines that I just have to read there and then.
It was just too much, so I’ve started using Gmail filters. ALL the “essential” newsletters now skips the inbox and are stored  inside a News folder that I only check when I am on a break. It’s been fantastic!
Here’s a wonderful post on on Mashable on using GMail Filters
gmail-filter

2. Keep a to do list but keep it simple!

Don’t waste your energy in trying to keep a todo list in your head, write it down, either on paper or use my fav project management app – Trello. but make sure you keep your tasks list short. Anything
Make sure you don’t over do your to do list. If  something is more than 3 months old, than it cannot be important – so JUST DELETE IT or create a back burner list  elsewhere, such as on Evernote. The aim is to keep your list short so you can scan all the items and more importantly to make sure you don’t ever feel overwhelmed by the list and end up doing nothing.
trello-screen

3. Limit the time you spend on social media

Control the time you spend on social media and ONLY allow your self a limited time slot. I only allow myself to go on Facebook and Twitter between on the hour and 5 mins past the hour (9am – 9:05am, 10am – 10:05am, 11am – 11:05am…etc) and If I miss the slot, tough! I will have to wait til the next slot.
I do admit I have a very bad habit of going on to facebook or twitter when I have a lot of work to do. It’s a bit like, if I don’t start the problem it doesn’t exist. This method helps me keep my social media addiction under control. There’s even an asap science video on this very unhelpful habit.

Other methods

I have flirt around with other techniques such the pomodoro technique which separate your tasks into 25mins slots. It can work wonders for some tasks, but other times it’s not particularly helpful when you get in “the zone”.
Do you have any productivity tips? Please share with us using the comment box below.

Categories
Blog Misc Tools & Services

Design good presentations NOT powerpoint slides

A presentation can exist beautifully without powerpoint slides, so please stop making mind numbingly boring slides with 20 power points in each slides. I’ve been looking into the art of presentations and it is such a fascinating art form. I’ve long been a huge fan of TED talks It’s amazing how a good presenter can engage and connect with the audience with their spoken words. I love reading and I enjoy writing (somewhat poorly I admit), but there is something about hearing a great talks and speeches with their intended emotional and intensity from the creator.
I think great presentations are about telling interesting stories can capture your mind, taking you down a path of discovery with just the right balance of substance and humour infused within.
For a recent projects, I was asked to design slides for a rather serious subject, it would have been so easy to add slides after slides of information with endless bullet points, but after being inspired by all those great talks, I wanted to design a simple yet powerful presentation. The process was more of struggle than I imagined but I am proud of the result, even if it mean a 12 hours battle til 3am in the morning.
How to Suck less at powerpoints

 

John Lane – Centerline – Content Marketing Art Of War – 04.13 from Centerline Digital

You Suck At PowerPoint! from Jesse Desjardins – @jessedee

10 Tips for Making Beautiful Slideshow Presentations from Visuali.se

The tool

Although I believe it’s not the tools or technology that we pick which decide on the quality of the presentation, often picking the right tool can still make  difference. For this project I used the bog standard software Microsoft Powerpoint, but here are some other cool alternatives for you to consider:

 

Categories
Blog Tools & Services Web Development

The very exciting CrazyEgg for understanding your website

I’ve known about the in-page analytics and visualisation tool CrazyEgg for a fair sometime now, but it wasn’t until very recently did I realise just how interesting and useful it can be!
It all started when AppSumo offered a FREE lifetime use of CrazyEgg for any one web page. Being extremely cheap and curious I  decide to give it a go, I wasn’t even sure where I would use it to begin with. I ended up installing it on the front page of this very website and after just a few days I was like WOW! All along I thought Google Analytics was all I need to understand what works on my site and boy was I wrong! Google GA is a fantastic tool in itself, allowing me to see if people are coming to my site and what they like to read (WordPress Calendar & Trello). What I didn’t really realise was exactly HOW visitors were using my page. Where they like to click and what they try to click on!
One great example was I originally had my name “Chi Wai Li” highlighted on the home page and it turns out people were clicking on it thinking it’s a link. I’ve since change that to save the confusion but I’m very curious what they would think it would link to? Perhaps my bio or even my twitter? But isn’t that what the top nav and icons to the top right are for? As a website designer, it’s really fascinating to see how users interact with my websites.
It also got me thinking about how I should structure my site. Originally I created this was website as my portfolio, to help me find a full time or freelance work. Since I don’t really need to do that anymore, I’ve made some minor updates to shift the focus into my writing. With over 1000 unique visitors a month I’m pretty proud on this site and hopefully with the help of CrazyEgg I can do a even better job. I am actually rather excited with seeing this data!
It really goes without say that I am very strongly recommending CrazyEgg, it really is a fantastic tool to help you optimisation user experience for your website.
Scrollmap for www.shapes.io