Archives for July 2015

July 25, 2015 - Comments Off on Designer Insight for Developers: Know Thy People

Designer Insight for Developers: Know Thy People

A series of tips to help developers improve their interfaces.

Being the sole designer in a company 50ish developers can be a daunting task. With 100’s projects, I’m not always able to jump in and help when there are interface woes. I’ve been wondering for the past several months how I can make a bigger impact without going thru the awkward process of cloning myself.

After our company meeting, Unplugged, it came to me. I needed to take the approach of working smarter rather than harder. In this instance, it means I need to share more of my knowledge, rather than piling on more projects. So this post marks the beginning of my knowledge transfer to developers who want to enhance their interface design skills.

Know Thy People
Typically, this is called “Know Thy User”, but I’ve changed it to people. I believe using the generic term user removes emotions from the equation, which is wrong. People use our applications and people are emotional creatures. It’s in our best interest not to forget this crucial point.

You need to get an understanding of the people who will be using your application by any means possible. Conduct interviews. If you can’t talk to people in-person or via phone, talk to someone who can give some insight. Some information, even secondhand, is useful. Gather whatever data you can find. Be it Google Analytics reports, 3rd party resources, or internal analytic reports. Perform user tests. If a system already exists, gather some users and run them through some of the core tasks the application does. This can be done in-person or remotely. There are several tools out there that can help you out with recording sessions remotely and locally so you can share with a broader group.

If it’s a new application, get wireframes in front of the people, so you can get feedback as soon as possible. The sooner you catch issues, the easier and cheaper they are to change. Don’t worry about things being polished. People like to be involved in the process and see their feedback acted upon.

After all of this curating, you should have a better understanding of how your people differ, what their goals are, what their needs are, how they think, and how they feel. You will begin to see trends/similarities between them, which will provide you with natural groupings. By having these groups to design for, this allows you to focus on the important features that meet the needs of the group instead of random individuals. This makes your job easier.

You maybe be uncomfortable with conducting interviews/talking with strangers and tempted to skip this part, please don’t. You will end up creating something that you “think” is what they want, but the flaw there is it’s your thoughts not the people who will be using the application. So boldly go where you haven’t before and get out there and talk to people!

Originally written for

Don’t make something unless it is both necessary & useful;
But if it is both necessary & useful, don’t hesitate to
make it beautiful.


– Shaker Philosophy, #

July 4, 2015 - Comments Off on File Cabinet to Modern Planter

File Cabinet to Modern Planter

File cabinet turned modern planter

I've always loved simple modern planters, but I don't love the price tag that is associated with them. I just can't seem to part with my $200-$500 to put something outside that just holds plants, no matter how lovely it is. There had to be a way to pull off the look without making my wallet cry.

After a little bit of time on Pinterest, I stumbled upon the idea of taking a file cabinet and converting it to a planter. It was the perfect, economical solution I was looking for! Now, I had a plan and I just needed to dig up the materials. Not having an old file cabinet, I bounced down to the local consignment shop to see what they had. After perusing their shelves of treasures, I came across a 2 drawer file cabinet stuffed in the corner and long forgotten. $10 later, the file cabinet was mine.

While I was wrestling the cabinet into the car, I noticed that the bottom was open which would make it extremely difficult to hold any dirt. Not a problem though, I could handle it. I swung by Home Depot on my way home and picked a piece of sheet metal. Since I was there I snagged some paint to updated the look of the well worn cabinet.

At home, I pulled the drawers out and flipped the cabinet on it's back so I could see what I was dealing with. Only things I needed to do was attach the metal and paint it. Pretty simple stuff! After measuring the bottom to see what size I needed to cut the sheet metal to, I put the metal on a flat hard surface and placed a straight edge on my cut lines. There are all sorts of ways to cut sheet metal, so I opted for the low tech version, a sharp utility knife. Since the metal was thin enough, I was able to get away with this method. I scored the metal 7-10 times and then bent the metal at the score to snap off the excess. Once I got the metal cut to size, I attached it to the cabinet with a bead of silicone and sheet metal screws.

After the silicon was set, it was time to beautify this now planter. I scuffed all the surfaces with sandpaper to remove some rust and tape from the cabinet and to give the paint something to stick too. Then it was time for paint. It took 2 spray cans of paint to get the finish I wanted, but it was worth the little extra time.

Overall, I think the piece turned out great and best of all it was easy on my wallet. I've got about $50 invested in this planter and couldn't be happier with way it turned out.


From file cabinet to planter.