Cropped is coming and you should, too

I believe everything thing I read in The Minneapolis Egotist – especially when I’m their trusted source for today’s story on Cropped. We’re indeed hosting the Twin Cities debut of this deadline-driven competition pitting designer against designer. We met Cropped creators (DSGNX) at TEDx Fargo and have since plotted to lure their friendly competition to The Nerdery, and now the design field is set for Thursday, Jan. 30, 5:30-8PM. Please RSVP to join Cropped festivities and help judge the competition.

Here are the four designers competing at Cropped:

  • Lori Anderson from e10

  • Eric Drommerhausen from Periscope

  • Andrew Herzog from Olson

  • Jeremy Krzmarzick from Curb Crowser

Here’s how the friendly competition at Cropped works. Round one starts with four designers from four different ad/design agencies. Two will be randomly picked for the first head-to-head, single-elimination, 30-minute match, after which the audience votes on whose design composition best conveys the pre-determined theme while utilizing the given font (one) and images (some). One designer moves on to the finals, and the other gets Cropped (because, well, that’s the name of the game).

Next, the other two competitors get new design specs and have at it – wash, rinse, repeat (wash/rinse optional). Lastly, the two winners compete for Cropped glory (same as the first verse, but different font, theme and images). One designer gets Cropped. One becomes Cropped champion. Then, we all hug it out.

Besides being the Super Bowl of spontaneous design, Cropped will also be the social event of the ________ (sorta variable, depending on your social life). Be here, but for the love of party-planning please tell us you’re coming by registering (it’s free/quite simple) at

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.

Nerdery Development Project for Hunger Games Wins a Webby Award


It was recently announced that the Hunger Games: Capitol Tour website was awarded with a Webby in the Movie & Films category. It beat out some big competition by going head-to-head with interactive websites the likes of Wreck-It Ralph, Frankenweenie, ParaNorman, and others. Ignition Interactive was the Agency leading the project and The Nerdery provided development talent on a project that inspired developers and won over the Webby Awards.

When first released the Capitol Tour received media coverage in praise of the cutting-edge use of HTML5 technology and the partnership with Microsoft in promotion of Internet Explorer 9.

The Project:

Curious about what the Hunger Games: Capitol Tour was all about? Check out the behind the scenes tour about the project.

NerdCast #7: Launching Successful Agency-Partner Projects Under Pressure


In this special Valentine’s Day edition of the NerdCast, we share strategies with our agency partners on how to help their next rush interactive project flow smoothly. With perspectives from our sales, project management and front-end development Nerds we explore what makes rush projects successful contrasted with common mistakes.

Have a pressing project? Need to start immediately? We’re ready.

Host: Ryan Carlson / Guests: Eve Poeschl (Solutions Engineer), Charlie Kandiko (Project Management), and Jason Dicks (Front End Developer)

Relevant Follow-Up Blog Post: Tips & Tricks: Creating Efficiencies For Your Development Projects

Listen Now:
Running Time: 0:34:39 / Subscribe on iTunes


Favorite mobile site of the day

We were pleased as punch to see Eat Like That Guy You Know, a Wieden + Kennedy project we helped out with was named Favorite mobile site of the day by FWA. Sweet!

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.

Props from ±rad32 on Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition Official Website

Like Matt, aka @the_nerdery, said “How could we say no to ±rad32 when they asked us to help develop a site for the MythBusters,” especially when they wrote such nice things about us:

“So in true MythBuster spirit, we did our homework to make sure we could pull off the experiment. Just as the MythBusters turn to professional explosives experts, academics and stunt people for help, when it came to developers, we turned to the best in the business—the Nerdery. Together, we put on our safety goggles and jumped in with both feet, immersing ourselves in the wild, wacky world of Adam, Jamie, Kari, Grant and Tory and their adventures in debunking popular myths in the name of science.”

Read the entire post to learn more about the project and get links to see the official website.

Intro to User Research Recap

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.

Facebook webinar: Go see it

“The Social Network” beat our Facebook webinar at the box office last week – it really wasn’t even close. The flick also jumped out to an early lead in terms of Oscar buzz, but time will tell. Either way, our Facebook webinar accomplished exactly what all our monthly agency primers set out to do. Below, you’ll find slides of our presentation, along with a bootleg video of Facebook 2: Electric Boogaloo. Go see it.

Facebook Webinar from The Nerdery on Vimeo.