What’s in my bag – June 2017 edition

A few quick notes:

  • Laptop stand – Ergonomics are important. After years of using a laptop at a desk and bending my neck, I decided to elevate the laptop and buy a keyboard and mouse. It’s made a huge difference! This stand will elevate the laptop up to 11 inches off the desk.
  • iPad stand – The main thing I use the iPad for is sketching. After looking around a ton (and reading reviews from Ben Brooks) I decided to grab this stand. It’s perfect. It tilts the screen up a few inches and offers a great angle for using the Apple Pencil.
  • iPhone stand – Sometimes I prefer to use my iPhone for video calls. This stand works pretty well to elevate my iPhone off the desk so I can actually look into the screen when I’m on video calls.

AirPods

I’ve been curious about AirPods since they came out. I finally got my own (Father’s day gift from my wife) and have been using them all day. I love them! My previous favorite headphones were the Jabra Move Wireless (recommended by The Wirecutter).

  • The fit – I’ve never had a problem with Apple earbuds. As such these fit just fine. They don’t fall out of my ears and I’ve been walking around all day wearing them.
  • Volume – This one annoys me a bit. I love that I can double tap to pause/play, and I am glad I was able to disable Siri (I’ve had a love/hate relationship with her for years), but not being able to change the volume without talking or using my iPhone is annoying. As someone who is constantly changing between audiobooks, podcasts, and quiet/loud music, I need to be able to manage the volume. Even with an audiobook the environment I’m in will dictate how loud or quiet it needs to be. This means I’m usually raising or lowering the volume by  one or two notches every few minutes. Having to talk to Siri or use my phone to do this feels like a waste. I would love to have some way to do be able to touch the AirPods and have the volume go up and down.
  • Size – I love how they just get lost in my ears. I barely notice them. This is a huge win.
  • Auto pause – Being able to quickly pull one out and have the music stop is great. The Jabra didn’t have this feature and I’ve have to remember to press the pause button or risk having my audiobook go forward a few minutes without me.

In short I’m liking these already and plan to use these exclusively.

Deep Work – Social media break

Last month I finished reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work.

One of the things I decided to try as a result is a 30 day social media fast. On June 22 that time will be up and I’ll log back into each of my social media accounts.

Here’s a few things I’ve noticed:

  • Habit breaking – For most of the past decade I’ve had the habit of regularly checking my social feeds. At first it was Facebook (and for a while Path), then it grew to include Twitter and Instagram. I’ve now gone nearly a month without pulling to refresh. That feels freeing! I’m curious if the habit will come back quickly.
  • Awareness – I’m missing out on things that are happening with my friends and family. By default any interesting activities that people are doing will make their way onto a social network. My wife has asked me several times if I knew about something that happened in one of our friend’s lives. There’s been a few small things I just didn’t know about until she told me.
  • Facebook is big – Facebook, and everything it owns controls a lot of the internet’s time and attention. It’s been fun to know I could completely disconnect from it and the world would still continue. For a fun experiment checkout this article.

Before this I’d been working to reduce the reach of social media in my life. I unfollowed everyone on Twitter. That effectively made me stop using the service.

Facebook was a little harder, unless I want to delete my account it doesn’t make sense to unfriend everyone I know. Instead I unsubscribed from everyone on my friends list. This meant if I wanted to see an update I’d have to go to each friend’s profile. That quickly limited how much time I was willing to spend.

Overall I’m really happy with the experiment. I’m not sure of my next steps though. The main reason I want to use Instagram and Facebook is to share photos of my kids. Without that I have little reason to use them. I’ve been thinking about switching to some form of a blog and posting more curated photos of our lives. Not sure yet.

iPad Pro 10.5″ designer mini-review part 2

This is a 3 part mini-review of the new iPad Pro 10.5″. Read part 1 and part 3.

Another day, still trying to test out the new screen and see if it will work for what I need.

My biggest challenge is that I’m coming down from a larger screen. There’s a huge gap between 12.9″ and 10.5″. Over the past 6 months I’ve grown accustomed to the large real estate for sketching wireframes.

Here’s one example of how I like to use it using Fifty Three’s Paper app. I think I just need to keep playing with it for the next few days and see how it feels. I have a feeling that once I get over the feeling of losing so much space, I can then re-normalize mysel and see what makes the most sense.

So, purely looking at things from the perspective of which is better for sketching/wireframing interfaces, I’ve assembled a pros and cons list:

Pros

  • Easier to carry around – I actually find myself being ok with transporting this around the house. With the larger iPad I’d rarely move it. It belonged on a desk. This one truly feels portable, like I’d carry it with me wherever I go and be ok with using it away from a desk.

Cons

  • Sketching feels more cramped – The larger screen feels like I’m sketching on a full size piece of paper. With the 10.5″ screen I have to zoom in and out more.

This doesn’t account for the question of whether the iPad Pro could/should become my primary machine. I’m still on the fence about whether a 10.5″ screen could do that. I have more confidence that the larger one could.

I’m hoping I’ll have more clarity by next week.

Drawing and sketching apps for iPad

After nearly six months of using the iPad as a sketching machine, I’ve settled on my favorite sketching app.

I’ve tried every single one I could get my hands on, probably close to a dozen of the most popular ones (Everything from Adobe, Linea, anything from Autodesk, anything that shows up in the App Store with the word sketch, and anything I could find from searching for drawing app reviews).

In the end the one that won was the simplest. Paper from FifyThree just works for me. It only has a few drawing tools, and it’s surprising robust for appearing to have so few options. Here’s a few things I like about it:

  • Constraint in pen sizes – I’m forced to choose from a thick marker or a thin pen for my lines. And that’s it. I can’t change the opacity or thickness of the pen tool, so I’ve learned to work with it. In fact, I’ve used it so much that I know exactly what’s going to come out of the pen line. At first I thought it’d be too constricting and I tried a bunch of other apps. But at the end of the day the constraints won.
  • Simple copy and paste – Thanks to a new update, and signing up as a patron, it now supports copy and paste. Yay!

I also love the watercolor brush, fill tool and scissors.

At the end of the day I’ve grown very fond of the app, and consider it the best for what I do every day, which is sketching and wireframes. Here’s a quick sketchnote I did a few months back.

iPad Pro 10.5″ designer mini-review part 1

This is a 3 part mini-review of the new iPad Pro 10.5″. Read part 2 and part 3.

Over the past few weeks I’ve scoured the internet for reviews of the new iPad Pros.

Last week Apple announced a new 10.5″ screen size, along with an updated version of the 12.9″. Over the past few weeks I’ve scoured the internet for reviews. Thanks to a bunch of different opinions (especially Brooks Review), I decided to try out the new 10.5″ size.

I went ahead and sold my 2015 12.9″ iPad Pro model and, with cash in hand headed to the Apple Store to pick up a new one.

Here’s a few things I noticed as I looked over the different iPad models at the store.

  • Screen size – At first I was taken back by how small the 10.5″ screen was. I thought I was looking at the iPad minis. I think I mentally imagining a bigger iPad. Yes it’s bigger than the 9.7″ sizes, but I’m coming down from a nearly 13″ screen. I had to try out a handful of apps, including split screen, to see if I could go down to something this small.
  • ProMotion – After testing out the Apple Pencil one the Notes app (the sketching part) I quickly decided that the 120hz was worth it. It’s pretty amazing! I’ve been using the older iPad Pro almost daily since January for sketching and could immediately tell this would make a difference. There’s almost no lag. This could make a huge difference for me.

After having second thoughts about the screen size that felt smaller than I was used to, I started to look again at the 12.9″ models. I went back and forth and finally decided I’d try out the 10.5″ for a few weeks and see if it worked for me.

I’m now writing this mini-review on the new iPad. I love both new models, and since the main thing I used the iPad for was sketching, I’ll have to try it out for a few days to get a better sense.

Note: Paper from FiftyThree.com doesn’t yet support the new screen size. The interface seems to be thinking I’m coming from a 12.9″ and is cutting off some of the UI elements. I’ve sent them an email asking if they can get it fixed. Since Paper is the number #1 app that I use it’s imperative that this start working as soon as possible.

Embracing New Life and Enjoying the Summer

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Wow, what an amazing and fun filled year this has been. I haven’t added a post to my blog since last September. I’ll see if I can blaze through and share what has been happening in the Wold family in a few words.

As of May 15, 2013 my beautiful wife and I were extremely blessed to welcome the newest edition to our home. Ethan Wold was born at 9lbs 13oz at 11:43am. He has brought such joy into our lives ever since. Attached to this post is a picture of him at about 10 days old. Thank you Mary Banducci for the photo!

We’ve also moved to beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The decision was made after much research and soul searching on the part of my wife, Monica, and myself. We wanted to move to an area that would match what we wanted as we started to raise our family. In hindsight I don’t think we could have picked a better place. While I can’t foresee the future, I see no reason why we would ever have to leave this place. Idaho is such beautiful country with the mountains, evergreens, and beautiful lakes.

This past weekend I was able to join friends and family in hiking with the sunrise over the lake, kayaking, jumping off rocks, watching the sunset, and just enjoying the long days of Summer. I’m extremely blessed.

I’m also busy with projects of all types. I’m looking forward to the next year and all that is in store!

How to Ensure Your Work as a Web Designer is Successful

Have you had experiences where your website designs, designs that you thought were perfect, were flat out rejected by your client? Yeah, that’s happened to me. As a result of some painful experiences I’ve had to learn to adapt. Now I do things differently.

Do you want to know my biggest secret for getting my web design projects accepted by my clients? I show them what I’ve got, often. The answer may seem counter intuitive, but follow along.

Instead of hiding out in a cave with your laptop for a month and creating a masterpiece, which you then present to the client in expectation of immediate praise and acceptance, try something different. Every step of the way get feedback. Make sure you and the client are on the right page.

Get a written scope of expectations at the beginning of the project. Then, start working, and check in with your client often. Have you developed a site map? Make sure it still fits with what your client needs. What about wireframes? Send them, and send them early. The more involved the client is in the design process, the more likely that the result will be something that’s not only good, but is something the client loves.

Now, there is a warning. You’re still the designer, the client came to you because they can’t create this website by themselves, they need your help. Your expertise is still extremely important, you’re not there to just push pixels.

I’ve identified three reasons the client doesn’t value your opinion.

  • The quality of your work just isn’t there.
    Maybe you’re new? Maybe you are rushed for time? Whatever the case may be, sometimes the client doesn’t like the project because the quality of your work isn’t as good as it should be. If that’s the case then that’s your problem, not the clients.
  • The client is a psychopath
    Ok, honestly this just isn’t the case 99% of the time. But sometimes the client can be a pain to work with, if that’s the case then it’s still your fault. You need to pick better clients next time.
  • You’re just not communicating well enough
    This is most often the case. You’re a good designer, and they are a good client, but somewhere in the middle the conversation isn’t going both ways. If you find yourself in this situation, double up your efforts while you still can and make the project a success. If you’re about to start a new project, put in the effort to make communication a priority.

The perfect project is where the client’s customers, the client, and you, all love the end result. The only way you’re going to achieve those results is if you’re willing to effectively communicate each step of the project. Make sure your scope outlines all the steps, and as you work through the project clearly explain what it’s going to take to move from step 1 to step 2, and so on.

If you take it upon yourself to over communicate every step of the way, getting feedback and making changes as necessary, you’ll come up with a project that is a success.

6 Tips on Becoming a Better Designer

  1. Be curious. Let your curiosity inspire you to learn and grow. You’ll go a long ways if this is your attitude in approaching new projects and technologies.
  2. Have fun. Continue to play around with designs, getting feedback, and always revising.
  3. Look at what other awesome designers are doing. Dribbble.com is a great site to find inspiration.
  4. Steal. Don’t be afraid to rip off ideas wherever you see them. Ok, I say that with a disclaimer. Make sure the final product is your own and is unique enough that it will not be confused with something else.
  5. Pick a design program and get really comfortable with it. My personal suggestion would be to get used to Photoshop or Illustrator. Either will work fine for web design. I personally use Illustrator, but it’s just because of what I’m used to.
  6. Read books on the topic. Use Amazon as your friend. I did this when I was learning web design.
  7. Develop a thick skin. Ask for feedback from those that will actually give it, and let them know up front that you want their honest opinion. Find a few trusted friends that will regularly give you feedback on your work.

Ready to Create a Website? Don’t bother.

If you run a small business, or a ministry, and want to beef up your web presence, don’t bother. Don’t have a website yet? Good! Have you setup a Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus account yet? No? great!

What about RSS, email subscriptions and newsletters, an awesome mobile design, an iPhone app for your business, commerce, or a killer content management system? Oh, haven’t gotten around to all that? Or, haven’t perfected it yet? Good! Don’t bother.

Your website is going to suck. Your Facebook fan page will have nothing but self-endorsements, on Twitter you’ll be constantly begging for people to buy your stuff. Before you get pulled into doing this the wrong way, just stop before you get started. Or if you’ve started, quit now before you get too far in.

What you’re about to unleash, or already unleashing, on the internet is junk. You’re about to make the internet a worse place for having set your virtual footprint on it. Your great idea for marketing your product or service online is horrible. Just stop. Don’t bother. Quit while you can.

Unless.

Unless you’re actually going to do it right.

Most business owners approach the internet with the wrong mindset. They ask, what’s in it for me? What can I get out of it? If you’ve created a Twitter account and left it untouched for six months, or have a Facebook fan page that has nothing but countless self recommendations, then you’re only adding to the garbage and noise on the internet.

Now, there is a time and place for all of the technologies mentioned above, although I’m not sure about Google Plus yet. If you start out on the right foot your website, social networks, email lists, and much more, can change the lives of your customers for the better.

But almost everyone gets it wrong. From the mom and pop shops all the way up to large corporations. Websites are created and social media accounts are setup, all with the intent of adding spam to the world.

The conversation goes something like this. “Let’s get going on this Twitter service, and tell everyone about our amazing products and services, all the time. Surely the world is just waiting to beat a path to our door and buy our stuff.”

The problem is no one cares about your stuff. We don’t care what you’re selling, what services you’re offering. For all we know you’re one more person trying to rip us off and steal our hard earned cash. In this world it’s hard enough to keep hold of our precious money.

If you really want to make a difference in this world, if you want your web presence to add a level of impact and change to the world, then you need to do one thing. You need to earn my trust. You need to spend the time showing that you care about me, that you have something that can make my life better.