Colorado Tech Weekly #24: Plans for the future. Awards for the past

Colorado Tech Weekly Binary FlagColorado Tech Weekly brings you the top 10  technology stories of the past week and the best upcoming local events every Monday morning!

This is another Colorado-only edition of CTW! I love when this happens!

I really like reporting on awards won by local technology companies for 2 reasons. The first reason is it’s just fun to tell people “Congratulations” for their hard work. The second reason is it gives me an idea of which companies I should apply for once I have some skills. I also really like hearing about long term plans from companies because I don’t plan on being hirable for 2 years. Enjoy the short week! Happy Thanksgiving!

Top News

  • Denver-based BiggerPockets CEO Dorkin talks about ‘Going all in’ [BuiltinColorado]
  • Fueled by a recent acquisition and a supercomputer, Denver-based WellTok is changing the healthcare game [BuiltinColorado]
  • Congratulations to Ascent Award winners from Communications Technology Professionals: AudioAir for Most Innovative Company, Ajubeo for XaaS Company of the Year and Level 3 for Biggest Impact on Colorado [CTP]
  • A “restructuring” at Trada, Inc. 5000′s fastest growing private company in Colorado [TechKnowBytes]
  • SGI racks up six top honors in 2013 HPCwire Readers and Editors Choice Awards [InnovatioNews]
  • To SpotXchange’s co-founders, it’s a long-term view to reach global success [BuiltinColorado]
  • First Data Corp. to cut 550 jobs in metro Denver [DBJ]
  • Colorado tech execs want to hire, but they worry about talent [DBJ]
  • Five infographics to give you the run down on Colorado companies you should know [BuiltinColorado]
  • KidsTek partners with a volunteer from Carbon8 help North High students learn and apply web design and marketing principles [KidsTek]

Upcoming Events

Thank you for reading!

If you know of any other good news stories or sources about tech in Colorado, please let me know! Also if you attend any of the events listed, I would love to hear from you!

I have a break in my courses at Regis until January. I am using that time to work on my own projects. During this break I am focusing on learning UX design and how to implement it with my website. You can find all my updates on my website design project here.

Colorado Tech Weekly #23: Optimism and Innovation

Colorado Tech Weekly Binary FlagColorado Tech Weekly brings you the top 10  technology stories of the past week and the best upcoming local events every Monday morning!

Looking over this week’s headlines I am thrilled by the amount of optimism and innovation in Colorado’s technology industry. We have non-profits helping kids learn about tech, a recognized college program, startups creating innovative products and large companies adding quality jobs to the area. Everything’s coming up Colorado!

Local News

  • KidsTek received grants from XCel Energy and Chase Community Giving [CTA]
  • UC-Colorado Springs computer science graduate program rated No. 2 in nation [InnovatioNews]
  • Boulder-based Revolv flips switch on its Smart Hub to unite home automation devices [Xconomy]
  • Agencies turn to Denver company, Mobile Accord, to raise money for typhoon relief [Xconomy]
  • Loveland-based Madwire Media to launch new digital marketing software that will set standard for industry [InnovatioNews]
  • Forget the $1,500 Google Glass, check out Denver-based Pivothead Smart for $400 [TechKnowBytes]
  • Precision Discovery moving California operations to Denver Tech Center; hiring planned [DBJ]
  • Lockheed changes mean more jobs for Denver [DBJ]

National News

  • Android Is Gaming’s Future, And The One OS To Rule Them All, Says Nvidia CEO [TechCrunch]
  • PlayStation 4 first impressions (review) [DenverPost]

Upcoming Events

Thank you for reading!

If you know of any other good news stories or sources about tech in Colorado, please let me know! Also if you attend any of the events listed, I would love to hear from you!

I have a break in my courses at Regis until January. I am using that time to work on my own projects. During this break I am focusing on learning UX design and how to implement it with my website. You can find all my updates on my website design project here.

Learning UX Design: Design

The goal of designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

My third and final week of studying the basics UX design is making me realize how much I am just barely scratching the surface of this subject. This week is about the design phase. Everything up til now has been research and planning. The design phase is where we finally get to start creating our project after wireframing and testing again.

Wireframing

In the Strategy Phase we created prototypes to test user interaction. Wireframes take these prototypes one level further. At least that’s the way I’m going to look at it. Prototypes, wireframes and mockups are tools to quickly design and test ideas. How you use them will depend on your methods and preferences. They should provide just enough detail for the front-end developers and visual designers to do their thing. At this stage, the wireframe should have enough detail to show developers how your site or app will look and interact on various devices. It should also have enough detail so that you can get feedback from the developers on how to improve usability and visual design.

When designing, you’re trying to make something unique yet easy to use. It needs to be different but recognizable at the same time. It seems that UX is a field of informed contradictions. One great way to make sure your design is recognizable and easy to use is with design patterns. Design patterns are common, proven assemblies of interface elements that already feels familiar to users.

Create. Test. Learn.

Ever notice that all the best repeatable instructions come in threes? “Wash. Rinse. Repeat.”, “See zombie. Run. Hide.”, etc. How often and how quickly you create, test and learn during the UX design process will depend on your project management strategy. We won’t quite get into that yet though. Regardless of your management principles always remember to stay on track by keeping your goal in mind with every decision.

Once you have a wireframe, test it with your users, stakeholders and developers to get feedback. Repeat until you have a wireframe that meets your core goals.

Develop and Launch

Once you have a design that’s good enough, your developers and visual designers have all they need to make it happen. it’s time to develop and launch the project. Don’t wait until your design is perfect because if you’re anything like me, it will never be perfect. The purpose behind this process is to create a project that works and that achieves your goals. Don’t be afraid to create, test and learn after launch.

There is so much more for me to learn about UX design and I have enough links, articles and book recommendations to spend the next year reading all about it, but that’s not going to help me learn. It’s time for me to put these practices to use and design my website. Next up, implementing the discovery phase.

Learning UX Design: Strategy

The goal of designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

My second week of studying UX design, I focused on the strategy phase. Last week in the discovery phase, we spent time learning about our goal, our audience and our strengths and weaknesses. The Strategy phase is when we get to combine those things into something useful.

Prioritizing and Brainstorming

The journey map is going to tell you where your problems lie. Now it’s time to figure out which problems are a big deal and which ones can wait until later. Remember to keep your goal in mind when prioritizing.

Once the problems are prioritize then it comes the fun part: brainstorming. Remember to only brainstorm. Come up with as many answers as you can to the problems regardless of their feasibility. Ask questions like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if <persona> could… ?”

Storyboarding

Storyboarding is like waterboarding, but instead of using water you tie your subject down and bore them into submission with crappy stories. No, wait…

Storyboarding is actually drawing out what would happen if your personas used your brainstormed ideas. Do this until you have a story that you believe your personas will like being involved in. If able, talk with users that the personas represent and get their opinions on the stories.

For more about storyboarding, check out this series on Storyboarding and UX [Part 1], [Part 2] and [Part 3].

Prototyping and Testing

Now we’re at the point that we have good ideas that our personas like so we have to figure out the best ways to make those good ideas happen. This is not the time to make your perfect solution. It’s not the time to make wireframes. It’s quick and dirty prototyping time! Do enough to make it work then test it out then fix the things that don’t work until they do work. A great way to make sure your prototypes are quick are to set a time limit. One way is to spend 5 minutes coming up with 6-8 concepts. After that find someone to critique your idea then narrow down your prototypes to 2-3 good ideas (http://www.uxapprentice.com/strategy/)

As much as I love my technology, I will probably use paper prototypes because it’s easier to quickly come up with ideas.

Site/App Map

With prototyping done, it’s time to set out the plan for your project. If the project is a website, this is when you come up with your site map. Since you want to create the most important, goal oriented parts of your project to happen first, it’s important to highlight the pieces needed for your minimum viable product (MVP). Your MVP is your barebones product. There are no bells, no whistles no extra offers, just the basic parts.

The strategy phase is all about finding out what you want to do to fix your problems and make your personas happen. We’re not fixing things yet, we are just finding out the best ways to make those fixes.

Next week, getting down to business with the Design Phase.

Colorado Tech Weekly #22: Thank you from a veteran

Colorado Tech Weekly Binary FlagColorado Tech Weekly brings you the top 10  technology stories of the past week and the best upcoming local events every Monday morning!

 If you know a veteran, you will probably tell them “Thank you for your service” today because you’re awesome and they will probably mutter a “You’re welcome” in a way that says “It was no big deal” because they’re awesome. See, we are uncomfortable with the attention because we didn’t join the military for attention or glory. We joined because of a sense of duty, family tradition, or because it sounded easier than getting into college. Those who did sign up for the glory of it soon found out that glory comes with too high of a price.

When I think back on my time in the Marine Corps, I think of trying to get out of barracks duty, hung-over Company runs and buffing floors. I don’t think of it as me being brave, selfless or in anyway better than my friends that didn’t join the military. Most veterans will probably tell you close to the same thing.

On Thursday, my daughter’s school had an assembly to recognize the veterans that are in students’ lives. After having each student introduce their veteran the principal told all the students to cheer for the veterans. Oh man did they cheer! It felt amazing. If I did something that can make an entire school of elementary students cheer, I must have done something pretty cool. I know it sounds silly, but thank you for saying “thank you”.

Local News

  • DigitalGlobe rejected more money from Longmont [DBJ]
  • How Colorado voted on fracking, schools, broadband, pot, Boulder utilities [DBJ]
  • Longmont-based Lassy Project focuses on child safety with smartphone app, GPS and “village” community [InnovatioNews]
  • Developing A Spirit of inspiration and collaboration at the Internet of Things Hackathon in Boulder [BuiltinColorado]
  • OpenWorld Learning (OWL) Gala and Silent Auction “Writing the Code for Success” raises more than $133K to support OWL students [OWL]
  • LUCAN Technologies launches $500K Indiegogo campaign for PC aimed at reducing e-waste [InnovatioNews]
  • Hip to be cubed: Modular Robotics raises more Than $56K via Kickstarter [Xconomy]

National News

  • KitKat’s WebView is powered by Chromium, enabling Android app developers to use new HTML5 and CSS features [TheNextWeb]
  • New API Commons Platform Allows Developers To Share APIs Under Creative Commons Licenses [TechCrunch]
  • ‘Vets in Tech’ expands its work helping veterans find tech jobs [SiliconValley]

Upcoming Events

Thank you for reading!

If you know of any other good news stories or sources about tech in Colorado, please let me know! Also if you attend any of the events listed, I would love to hear from you!

I have a break in my courses at Regis until January. I am using that time to work on my own projects. During this break I am focusing on learning UX design and how to implement it with my website. You can find all my updates on my website design project here.

Colorado Tech Weekly #21: No such thing as too many “helps”

Colorado Tech Weekly Binary FlagColorado Tech Weekly brings you the top 10 information technology stories of the past week and the best upcoming local events every Monday morning!

I backed my first Kickstarter project this week. It’s an online edu-tainment (that’s education and entertainment mashed together) game called BotLogic created by Arvada developer Brad Wedell. Help me help him help kids learn the fun of programming. Was that too many “helps”? Probably. But is there really such a thing as too many “helps”? I say there is no such thing. Just check out all the helpful events this week that has developers helping developers.

Local News

  • INterview with New Tech Boulder-Denver-Fort Collins organizer Robert Reich [InnovatioNews]
  • Broomfield-based Webroot Secures Future by Moving Consumer Anti-Malware Suite to Cloud [Xconomy]
  • Boulder-based JumpCloud hosts first DevOps conference, defines DevOps through conversation [BFeld]
  • Denver-based cloud service provider Virtela changing hands for $525 million [DBJ]
  • Colorado Technology Association reaching out to Springs companies [CTA]
  • Loveland-based Madwire Media introduces UXi software platform to give customers more website design control [InnovatioNews]
  • Defrag Conference returns in Broomfield with underwater “DIY” robots, user-friendly Skynet [Xconomy]
  • Boulder-based SolidFire announces the Cloud Builders Channel Partner Program [BuiltinColorado]

National News

  • HTML5: From Facebook disaster to a potential rival mobile-gaming platform for iOS and Android [VentureBeat]
  • Gucci organizes hackathon to inspire mobile app solutions [LuxuryDaily]

Upcoming Events

Thank you for reading!

If you know of any other good news stories or sources about tech in Colorado, please let me know! Also if you attend any of the events listed, I would love to hear from you!

I have a break in my courses at Regis until January. I am using that time to work on my own projects. During this break I am focusing on learning UX design and how to implement it with my website. My latest update is about the Discovery phase of UX design. You can find all my updates on my website design project here.

Learning UX Design: Discovery

The goal of designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

During my first week of studying UX design, I focused on the discovery phase. The discovery phase is all about finding out what your goals are, who your audience is and what your strengths and weaknesses are. It’s all that business stuff that everyone is told to do, but few actually do it correctly.

Setting Goals

I wrote in a previous blog post my feelings about the importance of having a solid purpose when working on a project. This attitude is reflected in UX design. One of the first things that should be done in the Discovery phase is stakeholder interviews. Stakeholders are anyone with a vested interest in the success of the project (boagworld.com). In a business this would include department heads, executive staff and employees. The stakeholder interviews help designers come up with a solid goal for the project.

A solid goal is at SMART goal. A SMART goal is:

  • Specific (and strategic): Linked to overall mission. Answers the questions of who and what.
  • Measurable: How do you know you’ve achieved your goal?
  • Attainable: Realistic and achievable within the time frame.
  • Relevant: Aligned with current tasks and projects and focused in one area.
  • Time-framed: Have a clearly defined time-frame or deadline.

Download a SMART Goal template

Knowing Your Audience

Your stakeholders are people who care about the success of the project. Your audience are the users of your project. They are as important, if not more so, than your stakeholders. In UX design, personas are the most common tool to find out about your users. Personas are fictional characters based on real data. They describe what a user needs as well as their limitations. (ux-lady.com)

Finding Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths and weaknesses are often found using a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis helps an organization find their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. When looking for these from a UX design point of view it is important to look at it from the user’s point of view. Remember UX stands for user experience. They are the reason for the process. UX designers use experience maps (also called journey maps) along with personas to find these things from a user’s perspective and present the information in a much easier to understand format than the 4 squares of a SWOT analysis. (ux-lady.com)

So there we have the basics of the Discovery phase of UX design. I would say the discovery phase is the hardest and most important phase of design because everything else is built off if this phase. By knowing your goals, your audience and your current state of affairs you can start a successful project.

Next week, the Strategy Phase.

Colorado Tech Weekly #20: Please excuse my bad dancing

Colorado Tech Weekly Binary FlagColorado Tech Weekly brings you the top 10 information technology stories of the past week and the best upcoming local events every Monday morning!

Half of this week’s stories are either about business funding or acquisitions, but I’m not getting ahead of myself. This IS a tech blog! These business stories are about local tech companies. As I found out during the  recession, it’s important to consider a company’s health when seeking employment. It’s not enough just to apply to work for companies that do cool things, you need to apply to companies that will stick around.

You’ll notice that I have no national news this week. This isn’t because nothing cool happened outside of Colorado. It’s because SO MANY things are happening here! This is the second time this has happened since starting this blog and I get all happy-dance excited when it happens. I also get all excited when I hit a milestone. 20 in a row! Please excuse my bad dancing.

Local News

  • JobZology and Colorado Job Base partner to provide one-stop shopping for job seekers [InnovatioNews]
  • Ad Tech Startup, Integrate, raises $7M from Foundry, cable companies [Xconomy]
  • Denver-based Shopventory raises $1M in seed round, launches new business inventory management platform [Xconomy]
  • Denver’s Convercent closes $10M Series B round led by SAP Ventures [Xconomy]
  • Datalogix expands Westminster HQ by 20,000 square feet to accommodate rapid growth [InnovatioNews]
  • Longmont-based UQM PowerPhase motor helps set two new Guinness World Records at California air show [InnovatioNews]
  • Denver-based NewsGator Acquires business productivity company Sitrion [BuiltinColorado]
  • Highlands Ranch-based Zen Planner beefs up with $10M investment [BuiltinColorado]
  • Union workers ratify CenturyLink contract [DBJ]
  • War of robots: Student teams vie for Colorado supremacy [Denver Post]

Upcoming Events

Thank you for reading!

If you know of any other good news stories or sources about tech in Colorado, please let me know! Also if you attend any of the events listed, I would love to hear from you!

I have a break in my courses at Regis until January. I am using that time to work on my own projects. During this break I am focusing on learning UX design and how to implement it with my website. You can find my updates on my website design project here.

Creating Content and Learning UX

The goal of designing my own website is to create a website for anyone interested in my professional achievements and goals that is simple to update, worth reading and easy to look at on any device in any browser. All updates to this project can be found on the main project page.

Focusing on content

As much as I want to jump into learning code and modifying my website, I need to keep in mind why I want people to visit my website. I want people to read about my professional goals and projects. In order for people to read about these things, there needs to be words (Crazy, I know). So I spent my first week focusing on the content of my site. I also spent some time focusing on my social media profiles such as LinkedIn because I know that if someone is looking to learn about me on this site, they will also probably check out those sites as well. My online presence isn’t just this site.

Jumping into UX design

With my basic content laid out it’s time to jump in to learning about UX (user experience) design. Even though my goal is to become a software developer, I think it’s important for me to learn UX because I want to create software that people actually want to use. I could come up with the best way to sort and categorize data, but if no one can figure out how to use it then there’s not much point in creating it. I want to learn UX design because I’ve always wondered how people decide where to put buttons and fields in apps.

I am going to spend 3 weeks drilling down on the basics of UX design using UXApprentice.com as a guide. I will also use tutorials from HackDesigns.org, free local seminars such as the “Design Research to Experience Roadmap” I went to on Thursday hosted by Slice of Lime at Galvanize, and a great list of links from helpful, local designer/developer Alex Hoffman (Follow him on Twitter, he’s a nice guy). After those 3 weeks I will attempt to make use of my newfound knowledge and use it to design this site.

Next week I’ll focus on the discovery step of the UX design process.

The 2 Essentials to a Successful Project: Purpose and Basic Skills

I am just about to embark on my first project to show off on my site, but before I do I need to remind myself of the two things I need to do to make sure my projects are successful.

Remember the purpose of the project

If you’ve been involved in planning any project, you’ve probably experienced “feature creep”. Feature creep is the ongoing expansion or addition of new features in a product or event. If left unchecked, you can find yourself stressing out over unnecessary features until your hair falls out, your purpose is lost and you give up on the project.

The Feature Creep (http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2001-02-05/)

Keep on track by remembering the purpose of the project. Write down the project’s mission statement or purpose and keep it in a place where it’s hard to miss. Staple it to your forehead, write it in permanent marker on your arm. Just keep it somewhere so that you can always be reminded to ask “Does what I’m doing contribute to the purpose of the project?

Basic skills are important

It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, it’s important to know the basics. You can’t score a goal in hockey without being able to skate. You can’t write a cool new program if you don’t know the syntax of the language. It’s important to learn the basics of whatever it is you’re doing. They’re called the basics for a reason!

Always keep the basics in mind as well. Even if you’re comfortable with your skills and you’re trying to do something new and improved, the basics will help you. Keep the basic knowledge of your craft nearby.

These 2 things will improve your chances of completing a successful project… or at least that’s the idea. Good luck!