Web Development

Great Read: Product Strategy Means Saying No

Posted by | Product Management, Professional Development, Web Design, Web Development | No Comments

Too often, good products get derailed by spontaneous, tangential feature requests that distract core users from their core product needs. Enter a recent great blog post from Des Traynor, Co-Founder of Intercom, about why product strategy actually means saying no. Check out the very entertaining accompanying video presentation below.

It might sound crass, but if you read the post and watch his video presentation, anyone with experience in product management can immediately see where he’s coming from and outsiders can easily understand how sometimes it’s better not to simply build every feature requested simply because we can. Simply put, feature requests need to be moderated, prioritized, and oftentimes rejected if not substantiated with proper data. Building too many peripheral features can truly distract users from core functions and confuse them with complex workflow and configurations. To top if all off, they’re also extremely painful to maintain and support from a technical perspective, leading to needlessly burdensome overhead.

Intercom looks like a great product with great leadership — I’m looking forward to digging into it a little more after a Russian colleague recommended it to me.

Chinese Fridge Website Redesign

Chinese Fridge Website Redesign

Posted by | Gaming, Mobile, Personal, Professional Development, Resources, Web Design, Web Development | No Comments

Just in time for Chinese New Year (Friday), I decided to do a much-needed redesign of the Chinese Fridge website.

For those not familiar with Chinese Fridge, it’s a growing suite of Chinese learning game apps that I started a while back on weekends to help my friends who are teachers entertain their students while also providing reinforcement for vocabulary.

The old website was just a really basic implementation of Twitter Bootstrap that I threw together out of nowhere when the project was getting started. It was a good learning experience in the realm of responsive design, but this new version is much swankier.

While putting it together, I even picked up a few new tricks to use at work, which I recommended to my design colleague. One such resource is Font Awesome, which is a font that includes tons of useful icons instead of letters.

Why use font awesome? The reasons are many:

  • They scale beautifully with CSS, unlike images — in fact, they scale “INFINITELY” which sounds mind-blowingly amazing, right?
  • Instead of loading several separate images, you simply load one font file (kind of like an image sprite) — and less server calls = faster load time = nice SEO benefit as well
  • I’ve seen images randomly disappear from our Amazon cloud hosting, which wouldn’t happen with this unless the single font file went missing — and even then you can actually load from an externally hosted location on a CDN that Font Awesome provides the URL for
  • The designer I talked to expressed great joy at the idea of potentially not having to design very standard icon images anymore (common symbols representing things like download, delete, edit, copy, arrows, quizzes, videos, play buttons, etc.).
  • What about fancy dropshadows and whatnot? Simply apply CSS styling, my friend
  • Retina display ready

Drawbacks? Everything has drawbacks:

  • The designer pointed out the CSS file size is 21.1kb so technically if you only use it for one or two icons on the page it might not provide much benefit in terms of speed, but the more images you can eliminate with it, the more utility you get from it
  • If you need a fancier UI with a more distinct look, these may not have enough personality for you
  • If that file path breaks, all of those icons break

Well, looks like I went on quite a tangent there. Hope it was interesting. Stay tuned as I’m starting to pick up the app project again and will release some new vocab sets soon.

Chinese Fridge Burgers

New Chinese Fridge Apps Coming

Posted by | Gaming, Mobile, Personal, Professional Development, Web Development | No Comments

I’ve been quite busy in my personal life lately, which unfortunately led to my project Chinese Fridge getting a little neglected.

However, I’m happy to say things are picking up again and I hope to release at least a few more apps in the next few months!

Above is a sneak peak at some of the art from the upcoming game covering American Food vocabulary words. Pretty cute huh? I found myself a pretty cool designer who I think really fits the game’s personality well, so things should move a lot faster now as I’ll mostly be handling the mobile development and publishing end!


Automate Google Analytics to Feed into Google Docs Spreadsheet

Posted by | Professional Development, Resources, Web Development | No Comments

Anyone who works with Google Analytics knows that pulling and compiling reports can be time consuming unless processes are put in place to enhance efficiency.

I recently found a really helpful way to automatically populate Google Docs spreadsheets with Google Analytics account data, using the Management and Core Reporting APIs — and it’s already saving a lot of time.

Google’s official documentation is actually quite thorough, and there are a number of guides and tutorials online that can point you in the right direction like this one.


Code Academy Logo

Codecademy: Back to Basics

Posted by | Professional Development, Resources, Web Design, Web Development | No Comments

Technology is always updating at seemingly breakneck speeds. Lately I felt like I needed a refresher on the basics so I started playing around with Codecademy and I’m really enjoying it! You can even track progress and share with friends, like my profile here. Since most of my knowledge was self-taught and through experience, I this is a great way to remind myself to avoid bad habits.

Running through basic courses on Codecademy really helped remind me of some of the fundamental concepts behind HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and jQuery, and has helped introduce me to Ruby and Python. It seems everything these days is all about data, so learning at least a little Ruby and Python should help me better understand some of the products I manage. PHP is great, and I’m already quite familiar with it, but it’s far less exciting of a language than Ruby and Python. Just the same, Codecademy has been a great chance to refresh the basics and explore new programming languages. Some of their courses have some interesting bugs, but they have a good Q&A section that provides answers to problems based on what people have already run into.

Keynote DeviceAnywhere: A Useful Free Mobile Device Testing Suite

Posted by | Mobile, Resources, Web Design, Web Development | No Comments

Mobile device testing is becoming a necessity, with more and more online visitors accessing websites via mobile devices.

Independent developers or smaller firms may be reluctant to have a repository of devices physically on hand, as regularly replacing and updating devices can be a significant yearly cost. In my own work, I’ve often had to research ways to address this dilemma and recently found a nice solution in Keynote’s DeviceAnywhere.

DeviceAnywhere allows testing on actual physical devices from a remote location. Basically anything you can do on a real mobile device can be done via Keynote because it’s using actual physical devices.

This is a huge improvement over past web-based emulators which were almost always inaccurate and usually simply emulated some basic UI elements and screen size.

In addition, DeviceAnywhere has a nice free plan which still offers several devices to test with. The paid options have a more robust set of devices, which can help mobile-first developers or companies who need to test across a number of devices, operating systems, browsers and screen sizes.

It’s important to note that these are shared devices that you check out and check in when needed, and therefore you need to be careful with any sensitive data like login and password information, etc. I doubt there are major security concerns with these devices, but exposing sensitive data externally is generally a bad idea.

While mobile traffic may only account for 15% of overall global web traffic, many sites are discovering that their rate of mobile visitors is actually much higher, and may even surpass desktop visitors (if you haven’t taken a close look at mobile vs. desktop visitors to your site and you’re using Google Analytics, you may want to check out this comprehensive checklist). If you don’t have a mobile testing solution, DeviceAnywhere may be a great place for you to start.

What do you think on DeviceAnywhere? Do you know any other solutions that you prefer? Let me know as a comment below.

Want to get in touch? Let's Connect