Don’t Let the Buzz Fool You: Trends May Not Be Your Friends

Every year, articles appear in the blogosphere touting new UX trends or technologies. Some trends have merit and value. Here at The Nerdery we love to constantly push boundaries. However, sometimes when companies implement a trend, they put the cart before the horse. No matter what tactics you choose to employ, it’s always best to start with defining the problem you need to solve for the opportunity at hand.

Many of these trends appear engaging and beautiful on the surface. Designers and stakeholders may have the best of intentions when implementing the latest trends. However, blindly implementing trends can also fail miserably without a sound strategy.

Here are examples of trends or tactics that may have their downsides:

Parallax Scrolling

Parallax scrolling is a technique used where background imagery moves at a slower speed than images in the foreground, creating the illusion of depth. It can be very successful in the right situations and when implemented well.

User Experience Design considerations:

• If users need to find content quickly, scrolling through large volumes of content may deter impatient users. The Crate and Barrel parallax site requires users spend about 15 seconds browsing Christmas tree ornaments.
• If there is a large volume of content, it may be difficult to find hidden content and it may be difficult to search the site.
• If users are unsavvy, they may also be confused by the moving parts and animation.

Technical considerations:

• Content may take longer to load, if developed on one page.
• Depending on the way it’s built, parallax sites may limit search engine optimization.
• Parallax sites add a level of complexity for responsive design.

When Parallax works:

Parallax sites can be effective if you are providing users with linear experiences like stories or walking through a process. It’s also important to include sticky navigation to allow users to skip ahead to topics of greater interest, if applicable.


I love games and appreciate how they can be used to engage users. However, Gamification is not as simple as slapping on badges, leaderboards, points and “gamifying” your website with rewards. Some big brands have failed using gamification and companies continue to waste money while providing poorer user experiences.

Audiences and customers vary in their contexts, motivations, interests and desires. People are complex. Without user research and a sound strategy, you may be designing a product that users will not find valuable or impactful.

Oftentimes, games are built with the goal to increase user engagement. But engagement can be achieved in a variety of ways.  Games are just a means to an end.  We must first justify the means.

Think about the Harry Potter books. There are no badges, leaderboards, nor even pictures, yet children and adults spend countless hours of engaged reading.  It’s due to the story, relatable characters, themes and other content that conjures emotions. Engagement can come in many forms.

It’s critical to understand what drives people.  What are the things they need to learn and do?  How are they motivated?  What drives their behaviors?  After a thorough discovery process we can better determine if a gamified system is actually the best tactic to achieve your goals.

Strategy Before Tactics

In general, any tactic without a sound strategy has a greater potential to fail.  It doesn’t matter if it’s mega menus, blogs, social media tools, or infographics – it’s best to begin a project with a discovery process and user research to help align business goals with user goals.

At The Nerdery, we create strategies that help identify and prioritize business goals and user goals. Our discovery process may include workshops, stakeholder interviews, analytics evaluation, user research, surveys, contextual inquiry, personas, and many other methods to create a laser-focused strategy for your business or organization.

Design for People First

It’s certainly important to understand what new technologies and trends are being implemented.  However, instead of designing with the tactics and technology first, we should first consider the people and their motivations and goals. Ultimately, we are designing for people—people who happen to use technology.  If we begin with a solid foundation and target goals, we have a higher likelihood of achieving those goals.

How Games Can Engage Users and Impact Real Business Objectives


At The Nerdery, we are technology agnostic, meaning that we do not advocate for a particular platform or technology.  Instead, we begin by researching and defining user goals and business goals and then determine the platform or technology solution.  If the goals are to track user performance or change behaviors, consider using games as a vehicle for change.

Some may ask, “Don’t games just waste time?  How do games actually help with my business objectives?”  Consider the engagement users experience with challenges, achieving goals, advancing to higher levels, and learning new skills. These are all desirable objectives for business.

Gallup reported that 70% of workers are not engaged in their jobs, which costs businesses billions of dollars every year, so finding new ways to engage people is even more important than ever. Continue reading How Games Can Engage Users and Impact Real Business Objectives

Tips & Tricks: Creating Efficiencies For Your Development Projects

Ryan Carlson Employee Photo

As referenced in Episode #7 of the NerdCast, “Launching Successful Agency-Partner Projects Under Pressure”, our guests discussed a lot of things that can be done when partnering with a development company to help projects go a lot smoother. These are efficiencies that can directly impact projects on tight deadlines. Below are tips and tricks that can be employed by anybody that is engaging a development partner like The Nerdery.

Highlight Reel:

  • Developing a partnership versus a vendor-client relationship. This allows for building new process and workflow dynamics. Partnerships are built on trust and working around one another’s processes. Vendor-client relationships have a tendency to suffer from a lack of communication or a lack of understanding of the creative and development process on both sides of the fence.
  • Continue reading Tips & Tricks: Creating Efficiencies For Your Development Projects

Nerdery Partners LBVD’s website is Communication Arts’ Web Pick of the Day

Mad props go out to Nerdery Partner Lawler Ballard Van Durand (LBVD) whose new website was chosen by Communication Arts as today’s Web Pick.

The site was built using WordPress and HTML. If you want to get the inside scoop on this project & LBVD’s objectives, take a look at the Project Case Study. The site was also featured on Cool Home Pages.

Facebook breaking change to launch October 1

Facebook’s recent changes have been all over the news and the Internet, and while most Facebook users won’t care about the change coming on October 1, it does effect those of us who develop Facebook Apps.

On Saturday Facebook is upgrading their SDK for PHP and JavaScript to use OAuth 2.0, a new and more secure version of the OAuth platform. This is also what’s called a “breaking” change. That means all existing Facebook applications using the previous 2.1 PHP SDK and JavaScript need to be upgraded to the PHP 3.1.1 SDK or your Facebook App will no longer work after October 1.

One of the big effects of this is upgrade is the change to how apps access Facebook user information, which means that all Canvas and Page tab apps must convert to process signed_request (fb_sig will be removed).

Two other things to note:

  • Apps that have been built using the Facebook PHP SDK 3.1.1 do not need to be changed.
  • Apps that are using the old JavaScript library for authentication need to modify their code.

If you’re need to get working on these changes before anything breaks you can follow the steps from Facebook to make the upgrade.

Sevnthsin garners Webby honor for JCPenney Weekly Deals mobile ap

A boatload of congratulations and mad props to our pals at Sevnthsin whose JCPenney Weekly Deals mobile apps were named an official honoree for the 2011 Webby Awards! Being an honoree is quite the achievement. Of the 8000 submissions to the Webby Awards fewer than 15% are recognized with the Official Honoree designation.

Also, we have to thank them for the shout out. We’re happy we could help them on their way to nabbing such a great honor.

Tech Tuesday: Development for (and getting our Nerdery hands on) the Apple iPad

By now, you’ve read all about the Apple’s new tablet, the iPad. You’ve watched the videos. You’ve maybe giggled about the product name; let’s be honest though, the Nintendo Wii’s name hasn’t hurt its popularity. You’ve either dismissed it as a big iPod Touch that won’t go anywhere, or, you’ve already smashed your piggy bank and have money in hand. Regardless, Apple has a pretty good track record with their latest products (iPod, iTunes, iPhone) and we don’t want our ad and marketing agency partners to be the last ones to the party.

First, the iPad debut doesn’t mean that our agency partners should stop making iPhone applications. All iPhone applications will work on the iPad out of the box.

But how does the iPad affect our agency partners who have already created applications for iPhone and now also want to take advantage of the bigger screen of the iPad? Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as hitting an Easy button (trust me, I have one) and magically all your applications are reformatted for the iPad. The user interface will have to be redesigned to support multiple resolutions. It’s also not just relaying out the design for the larger screen; it’s also understanding what the iPad is, and designing an amazing user interface to take advantage of the new user interface features.

When looking at creating a new iPad application, our agency partners really have two options: target just the iPad or target the iPhone and the iPad.  Targeting the only the iPad should have a similar development cycle and cost as developing an application just for the iPhone. If the choice is to target both devices, there will be some design layout changes, but the core of the application will stay the same. There will also be some additional time for our crack Quality Assurance team to make sure we release a great application.

If you don’t think the iPad is going anywhere, I present Steve Ballmer.

Then again, if you think Apple is infallible, I present the iPod Hi-Fi.

Either way, The Nerdery is ready to help you create great applications, no matter the platform.

Flashbelt Day 1: Quite the Canvas

I’ve just finished up day one of the Flashbelt conference here in Minneapolis. Flashbelt is one of the premier conferences in the country oriented around Adobe’s Flash player. The conference is aimed at animators, designers, developers, project managers, ad agencies and so on; pretty much anyone who is involved with creating content for the ubiquitous Flash player.

Flashbelt attracts a lot of well known speakers, many of the “heavy hitters” in the Flash scene – guys like Seb Lee-Delisle, Dr. Woohoo, Minneapolis’ own Danny Patterson, and so on. These names probably don’t mean much to the uninitiated, but if you’re into the geekiness like us, these people can almost be rock stars. I’m one of the Flash developers at the Nerdery, so myself and a few others from the Nerdery are at the conference checking things out.

The day started with a keynote by Richard Galvin and Paul Burnett from Adobe. These guys have intimate knowledge about Flash; they mange the Flash product lines. They talked about where the Flash platform is at currently and where it’s going.

Perhaps the most interesting point was how Adobe really wants to move the current Flash player to more devices than just computers, like TVs and mobile phones (Flash for iPhone anyone? We Flash devs can dream). Getting Flash onto these devices is the logical next step, and would be a boon for getting interactive content to more people.

The rest of my day was spent in sessions dealing with the more nerdy development side of the Flash world. I’ve gotta make sure to give mad props to our own Chris Black and Minh Vu, who gave a presentation about their experiences developing Skimmer, Fallon’s “lifestreaming” application. Chris and Minh did a great job presenting, and demonstrated that they really know their stuff.

The day ended with a session by Joel Gethin Lewis, who I’m not even sure does Flash development. Instead, Joel works for a firm in the UK that puts together real-world “interactive experiences,” things like using laser pointers to “paint” projected artwork onto buildings or making interactive stage lighting for the band Massive Attack.

It may seem odd to have a session that isn’t directly connected to the Flash platform, but apparently this is what they always do at Flashbelt. It shows that Flashbelt is about more than just coding or content production. It’s about being inspired and seeing what’s possible.

And I think if I had to sum up this first day of Flashbelt, it would be just that: be inspired. There was plenty of technical mumbo-jumbo to go around at Flashbelt, but the fact is that Flash transcends its technical backing (which has come a long way, I might add). For many years now, Flash has been arguably the most ubiquitous platform for serving up interactive experiences.

Think of this: Flash is the technology enabling YouTube and all other video sharing websites, which is changing the way we consume long entrenched forms of mass-media. Or imagine you’re an artist with an interest in the interactive-type things. You can make something for Flash, and suddenly your art can potentially be seen by millions of people who have the container waiting to show your art. The install base for Flash player is in billions of machines – that’s quite a canvas!

So it’s a good thing for all developers to remember as we come up with solutions for our clients: be inspired, think big, think of unique things, think of what people are going to want to use. Flash is one of the technologies we can use to bring the content and experiences that people are looking for.

Oh, and the worst part of Flashbelt so far? Having to endure the hokey smooth jazz that is always playing over the restroom speakers.

BooneOakley hacks YouTube

There’s a lot of good things about working around The Nerdery (free crack/energy drinks, four-legged vacuum cleaners, rad people, etc.), but my new favorite perk is learning about the population that lives in
agency world ecosystem.

From my naive vantage point, agencies fit into one of two silos: those that take themselves way too seriously, or those that have a goofy amount of fun with their job and push the interactive agency space into cool places. Guess which one I like working with?

Enter: BooneOakley.

On the scene since 2000, these guys just launched a YouTube site. No, I’m not saying that like “they’re on The Facebook.” They literally launched a YouTube site, powered by YouTube, and getting ALL traffic
redirected from

Here’s the real fun. It’s functional. Fully. Functional. Leveraging embeddable annotations, you can fully navigate through different parts of the site. And you should, especially the bios with the pooping dog.

These guys get it, have fun with their work, are pushing it ahead, and hopefully will return my phone calls. If there’s one thing nerds like, it’s partnering with agencies that get it, have fun, and do innovative

Dig it? Get up in their tweets, or leave them a YouTube message.

Matt Albiniak is a Sr. Account Nerd at Nerdery Interactive Labs. Learn more about him on the Periodic Table of Nerdery.