The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Product update: Introducing The Fetch’s new design and newsletter — September 16, 2015

Product update: Introducing The Fetch’s new design and newsletter

We can’t believe believe that so much time has passed since we successfully funded our re-launch on Kickstarter, helping us bring The Fetch to you lovely folks everywhere. Today, we’re excited to share our progress so far – along with a first look at what’s coming next!

A refreshing, new look

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We kicked off efforts by updating our existing style guide and re-designing The Fetch’s homepage. Designed to make submitting and finding events easy, we focused on simplifying the site to surface information Fetchers will need. You’ll see simple, clean pages in our signature, city colors – a fun, streamlined experience. If you want to secure your username aka vanity URL – make sure you head along to register now!

More focused media

In the new and improved version of The Fetch, we’ve separated local events and media. Dedicated to doing both things well, we’ve created a global reading list in addition to the regular, local event-based email (coming soon). The weekly global reading list will give you much of what you loved in former The Fetch emails: top stories, inspirational professional profiles, and all of the can’t-miss things that caught our team’s attention during the week. Haven’t subscribed to the new reading list yet? Join us here!

An incredible, updated curator community

Just as before, our curators remain an important part of The Fetch community. We’re grateful for amazing representation in the first of our five re-launch cities: Sydney, Melbourne, New York, San Francisco, and Berlin. We’re still taking applications, and would love to hear from you if you know what’s on and think your city needs The Fetch!

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What’s next

Now that we’ve made it possible to submit events on site, we’re heads down on the next few major milestones:

  • Local events digest: We’re so close to bringing back the local events digest for our first five cities, which will feature the best happenings from the new platform neatly rolled into a weekly email and sent to Fetchers who live there. Our curators will begin testing this week, so expect to see local events in your inbox soon!
  • Individual event pages: Tell or learn more about an event with a description, image, and tags. Each page will have space for an image, along with social sharing functionality and calendar integration. Get a sneak peek here.
  • Event search functionality: From community breakfasts to programming workshops, you will be able to find events by type, category, or skill level.

Our goal is to help you crush your work-life with the best events and great reads with each email, so please continue to share your feedback as we move along. Thanks for your continued enthusiasm – we love hearing from you!

Web performance is everyone’s problem: why it matters and how to help fix it — August 28, 2015

Web performance is everyone’s problem: why it matters and how to help fix it

Not long ago, websites were usually simple affairs. Some text, a few images, a little interaction, the odd form and some quick audio or video. Over the last five years, however, even the simplest site has become bigger. A lot bigger. According to the HTTP Archive, which has been tracking this sort of thing for half a decade or more, the average ‘page’ at a major website is now heading towards 2MB. And well-known websites can have pages weighing in as much as 14MB in size.

As a bit of background, page load performance isn’t just about how many bytes a browser needs to download, it’s also about how many individual files go into making up that page. As the typical high profile website approaches 200 individual files, this has become a particularly costly problem over even the shiniest 4G mobile network. 

More than a developer’s dilemma

While there are things that developers and DevOps professionals are doing to tackle page load times, this problem is more than a developer’s dilemma. Reason being that it’s often the strategic and design decisions as team makes that contribute to increased load time.

Think of it like this: just as building new roads increases the amount of traffic on them (ironically increasing overall trip times), increased network performance has encouraged bigger, slower sites.

Why is this a problem? In addition to providing a poor user experience on any large site, research shows that slow page load can be incredibly costly for retailers. Walmart, for instance, has seen the impact of a page that loads a second slower at 2% of their total e-commerce sales. Additionally, other e-tailers have measured and reported far worse outcomes. With these learnings, we’ve proven that even the slightest page load increase can contribute to a noticeable decrease in earnings, along with other key engagement metrics.

However, there’s a surprising upside to such great losses. A company’s ability to decrease page load time not only offers a very competitive advantage, but isn’t as difficult to execute as one may think.

You are part of the solution

To begin solving today’s page load problem, we need to first stop ignoring our role as designers and decision makers. We must make a mental shift to begin seeing performance as everyone’s problem. 

As a new rule, remember that every single image, font and font weight will incur a performance cost. Social media buttons can add 10 seconds or more per page load. Third party ads, analytics, and user trackers will also incur considerable costs, depending on how they’re implemented. 

Moving forward, take a few extra minutes to choose the right format and optimize images before handing them in. Make it a point to help your developers to the best of your ability. Invest in learning about what different aspects of a web page cost in terms of performance. Talk with members of the Development and DevOps teams to decide what’s necessary and what’s extraneous. Together, be mindful of all costs.

Website performance is one area where there are clear, measurable returns on investment, and where most sites really aren’t yet paying enough attention. But that will change — so you can get onboard now and get ahead of your competitors, or wait and play catch up.

Recommended reading

  • While more for designers and developers, Etsy’s Lara Hogan has literally written the book on designing for performance.
  • The performance team at Etsy also brought together some thoughts on performance for that company, with some good rules of thumb.
  • Some real world numbers to convince your client, team or boss about the real cost of website performance that focuses on the bigger picture.

About our writer // John Allsopp, co-founder of the Web Directions conferences, is widely recognized as the originator of the concepts behind Responsive Web Design, and his ideas helped form the foundations for Typekit. Find him on Twitter @johnallsopp.

10 incredible Instagram accounts to follow right now — August 7, 2015

10 incredible Instagram accounts to follow right now

65% percent of people are visual learners, so it’s no surprise that brands, companies, and communities have taken to Instagram to share inspiration and information in engaging visual formats.

Eye candy with a bit of brain food is hard to resist, so we’re sharing ten incredible Instagram accounts that offer both. Follow along to fill your feed with new learnings and beautiful imagery daily:

  1. NASA

    NASAA feed that’s literally out of this world, NASA showcases planets, new technology, and all things celestial. Explore the universe through incredible videos and photographs while learning about each item shown.

  2. I Have This Thing With Floors

    ihavethisthingwithfloorsThoughtful design is everywhere — even under your feet! This insanely popular account features photos tagged with the signature hashtag, #ihavethisthingwithfloors. Photos of the gorgeous surfaces serve as a reminder to stop overlooking beauty (no matter how small) around you.

  3.  From Where I Drone

    From Where I DroneThis drone photography and cinematography offer striking, unseen perspectives of beaches, buildings, and people around the world. Are you a digital nomad or remote freelancer? Use these extraordinary images as inspiration for a future global work location.

  4.  Adventure Patch

    Adventure PatchGo to some of the best-known parks and places (with patches of each destination, held up ‘Dear Photograph’ style) with Keegan Jones, a talented Product Designer and adventurer who curates tagged images from the community.

  5.  Hand Drawn San Francisco

    Handdrawn San FranciscoA global tech community and adored travel destination, this brilliant account features drawings of some of the city by the bay’s most popular sights. Additionally, discover lesser-known places and hidden gems, as loved and sketched by artist Thomas Leach.

  6.  Folk Magazine

    Folk MagazineFolk Magazine inspires followers to live an authentic life. See beautiful environments as shown by the people who call them home, including ‘story-telling ramblers’ and millennial wanderers.

  7.  Coffee Cups of the World

    Coffee Cups of the WorldFolks around the world love coffee, as evidenced by the massive presence of the caffeinated beverage on Instagram. More than the lattes and cappuccinos, however, are the eye-catching cups the coffee is served in. Don’t miss the quotes, puns, brilliant business logos, and a medley of day-brightening patterns and colors.

  8.  Escape Your Desk

    Escape Your DeskYou’ll never want to break free of your office more than after looking through images posted by this account. Captures include creative workspaces, coffee shops, parks equipped with Wi-Fi and more. Get out there!

  9.  Breakfast in Sydney

    Breakfast in SydneySnapshots of Sydney’s best breakfasts may inspire you to prepare a delicious plate of your own. Arguably the most important meal of the day, breakfast will provide you with all of the energy you need to knock tasks off of your to-do list.

  10.  Passion Passport

    Passion PassportFollow some of the globe’s most active adventurers who capture breathtaking shots daily. Your next project may be your Everest, but you’re sure to find inspiration for accomplishing whatever you set your mind to after scoping out these photos.

Coffee talk: Cap Watkins, VP of design at BuzzFeed — July 27, 2015

Coffee talk: Cap Watkins, VP of design at BuzzFeed

Cap Watkins has an impressive professional background. Before joining the BuzzFeed team as VP of Design, he held roles at Etsy and Amazon, helping create user experiences that people still love today. Cap is also a keynote speaker at this year’s upcoming Web Directions Conference where he’ll talk about building a design-driven culture.

Today, Cap tells us what he loves (and fears) about his current role, what he looks for when hiring designers, and exactly how BuzzFeed creates such addictive media experiences.

How did you get to where you are today?

I wonder this a lot, honestly. I think a lot of it has to do with being able to identify roles that will push me to learn more and then, at the same time, not being afraid to go all in, even if I super mess up. When I moved on from startup life in San Francisco to Amazon in Seattle, that was pretty scary: it was a big company with lots of bureaucracy to navigate (compared to a five-person startup). When I moved from Amazon to Etsy, being a first-time manager was incredibly frightening and challenging (not to mention figuring out New York). And now, as VP of Design at BuzzFeed, having a more nebulous role with influence over the organization definitely keeps me in a consistent state of “holy crap, am I doing this right?”

I think if your current job isn’t challenging you or freaking you out (at least a little), you should look for a new gig. Fear = growth. It also means that you’ll be conscientious about the job you’re doing, which actually puts you in a better position to succeed. Embrace the fear.

Finally, and I can’t stress this enough, identify people who are way smarter than you and engage with them regularly. At Amazon, I met Aaron Donsbach — and it was immediately obvious that he was the best designer on the entire team. We weren’t sitting in proximity to one another, but every day I made sure to sit down at his desk and just talk with him about what he was working on and ask for help with what I was working on. Eventually, we became pretty close and he became my manager. He taught me so, so much about design and how to think more deeply, as well as how to successfully navigate design discussions with the executive team. We’re still in touch to this day, and I still think of him as the best mentor I’ve ever had. He really shaped who I am now.

What’s a ‘typical’ day as the VP of Design at BuzzFeed like? What has been your biggest challenge in the role so far?

I’m sure this is no surprise, but “typical” isn’t a word I’d use anymore for my day-to-day. I could be recruiting folks to work for us, or meeting with the Design Directors in Editorial, or giving feedback on some Product Design work in Basecamp, or discussing organizational issues with the rest of our Tech Leadership team or even prototyping a new idea I have.

What I really love and fear about the role I’m in now is just how flexible and fungible it is. It’s really up to me to make it whatever I want it to be.

No one is stopping me from doing stuff and, in most of the cases, I’m enabled to do more. For instance, I thought it might be a good idea to do a Hack Week, so I suggested it. It’s been a couple of months and we’re just now finishing up our very first Hack Week. It’s kind of insane and great.

I’d also say this is the biggest challenge so far. BuzzFeed is a gigantic place with a ton of different versions of what “design” means. I’m trying to tie as much of it together as possible, but it’s nebulous and requires a bit of patience and long-term strategic thinking. It’s a process, and you have to look back and take stock of what you’ve accomplished every so often. Otherwise, it’s easy to get discouraged.

You’ve helped shape some incredible media experiences at companies like Etsy and Amazon. How often do you draw on previous experiences and learnings in your current role?

All the time. At Amazon, I learned a lot about systems-thinking and deep UX processes. Etsy was a crash course in using both quantitative and qualitative data as part of the product process. I think about these things all the time at BuzzFeed, and advocate as much as I can for us to adopt the learnings from those previous experiences. Obviously, holistic UX thinking and using data to drive work is valuable regardless of what company you’re at.

A lot of folks ask me what it’s like going from a couple e-commerce companies to a media company, but the truth is that the differences aren’t that big when you abstract them out. We still need to ship good products that measurably improve the user experience. And whether that’s for an online store or a publication, the methodologies are the same.

BuzzFeed is one of the most engaging and addictive media experiences out there. Which critical components are required to keep a visitor’s attention?

Good content. That’s it. We could design the most beautiful and usable experience in the world, but if the content isn’t great, our work doesn’t matter.

Our editorial staff is the real engine that drives BuzzFeed and it’s up to the product team to support our editors in experimenting with new formats and ideas, as well as create a reader experience that set that content up to be as successful as possible.

How do you help build a design-driven culture?

Transparency and collaboration are two primary focuses for us lately. You can’t be design-driven if design is secret alchemy owned entirely by designers. I think that’s a mistake a lot of designers make – they think they need control, when they really need to give it up.

If we can get engineers and product folks to contribute to the design process, and if we can contribute to the product roadmap and code, then whoa, now everyone is a designer/engineer/product person.

What, if any, intentional process do you use to hire designers at Buzzfeed?

We have a pretty straightforward recruiting process that starts with sourcing as owned entirely by the design managers. I love our recruiters to pieces, but I discovered at Etsy that our hit-rate was way higher if we owned sourcing and driving the process as much as possible. Here’s the short version of our process:

  1. A design manager finds/reaches out to a candidate.
  2. First phone screen to talk generally about the candidate’s process, the role and BuzzFeed.
  3. Second screen to walk through a couple projects in detail. Looking for process artifacts and asking questions about what worked/didn’t work.
  4. Interview Loop: meet with a couple designers, a product person, an engineer.
  5. That’s it!

What qualities and skills do you look for?

Critical thinking, collaboration, and curiosity. I find that people who possess all three of those things tend to have the hard skills to get done what we need to get done. We require that all our designers write their own html and css, but that doesn’t mean we require all our candidates to be masters at it. We do an html/css live-coding session with one of our engineers during the interview loop, regardless of the candidate’s skill level. The engineer who runs the session is obviously looking at the candidate’s current skill set, but more importantly their ability to learn. We’ve seen these sessions turn into basically the engineer teaching the designer how to write their very first html and css – and then we hire the designer. The enthusiasm and curiosity are critical.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in design and media experience over the last year? Over the last five years?

In design, I feel like I’m seeing more and more people call themselves “designers” while only focusing on making things look good. I think Dribbble and Behance are good things, generally, but their emphasis on visual design has made a lot of young designers think that’s what matters most. I’ve interviewed a lot of folks whose work is beautiful, but falls apart under even the lightest of UX examinations.

My concern with the trend is that I remember our discipline spent years and years convincing our industry that we’re not pixel-pushers, that we should be a part of the entire process. The re-focus on just making things look cool may wind up biting us in the ass at some point (and may already be). It certainly isn’t helping the perception of design, in any case.

What about BuzzFeed do you find most exciting?

The types of content we design for at BuzzFeed are just so varied that I still have trouble wrapping my head around it. When I tell people that the BuzzFeed Videos we make have over a billion views a month, they’re blown away. Or, and I didn’t know this before I started, we have Pulitzer Prize-winning editors on our News staff who lead long-term investigative journalism. And we just built a test kitchen for our Life editors to shoot original recipes and cooking tutorials. It’s a pretty awesome time. Most people think BuzzFeed is all Lists and Quizzes (which we also love!), but it’s so much more than that and you’re really going to hear more and more about those things in the future.

Where can we find you in New York City?

Mostly in Brooklyn (I work in Manhattan, but it’s really not my scene). There are a lot of great restaurants and bars my neighborhood. On a hot summer afternoon I dig hanging out at Gowanus Yacht Club or Swan Dive. For everything food, Frankie’s, Prime Meats, and Buttermilk Channel are my go tos.

Last, how do you like your coffee?

Soy cappuccino all day.

Web Directions is Australia’s longest running digital design, product and engineering conference. Learn more about Cap’s upcoming keynote and register for this year’s event here.

The four types of personalities and why empathy matters when designing for habits — April 8, 2014

The four types of personalities and why empathy matters when designing for habits

personality

If you understand yourself, what motivates you, what barriers you struggle with, you will know how to help yourself or your user build better habits. Laura Pereyra explains.

As human beings, we create habits to build healthier behaviors and more efficient lives. We make it a habit to wake up at 6am to work out or we intentionally block our email or social media through freedom to stay focused at work. Habits are the heuristics of the mind. They just help.

But what might help us build better and healthier habits? The answer is having the empathy to understand yourself or the user for whom you are designing a habit forming product for. It may also be about being empathetic towards yourself as well.

Think about it. There are apps like Facebook, which you check more than you check the weather. There is WhatsApp, which you constantly use to communicate with family and friends. And then there are apps like RunKeeper that work to help a user stay on track with training. All of these apps leverage the motivations that drive people. Using empathy to understand these motivations is something we take for granted but it is crucial to designing better and healthier habits.

At this year’s inaugural Habit Summit, Gretchen Rubin gave a great framework to understand the secret for making and breaking habits. Specifically, she mentions four types of personalities that respond to expectations in their own very unique ways: the upholder, the questioner, the rebel, and the obliger. According to Rubin’s observational and anecdotal research, most people fall into the questioner and obliger types. Some even have a mix of two of the general categories. Which one are you? Or which type of user are you trying to build a habit for?

1) The upholder

This is the user who is motivated by getting things done. They dislike letting other people down or letting themselves down. I can vouch for this type of personality because I have a tinge of upholder tendencies. If I set a goal for myself, I want to accomplish it.

For example, I used RunKeeper to help me keep track of my marathon training. Not only was I internally keeping myself accountable but I had an app that was reminding me every Saturday that I had to go on a 17 mile run (the external motivator). When you are building for upholders know that you may already be building a product that has very ambitious users.

2) The questioner

This kind of user likes to question everything. No really. They want good reasons for why they should do something and if they don’t agree with it the don’t give it the light of day. An app that feeds into this certain persona is Twitter. Why should you follow someone or a conversation? People follow funny celebrities because they say funny jokes or they follow CNN to stay on top of the latest news. There is a clear reason. If it’s worth it, there is the motivation to act and build a habit.

As a person who always questions why I should do things, I can relate because as I watch political conversations on Twitter, I want to know why I should follow certain politicians. Are they representing my state? Are they providing me with valuable information?

If I’m getting valuable information then I want to engage. Otherwise the habit to look back into a conversation is futile. Give these users a reason to engage in the habit that you want to form.

3) The rebel

This user is looking to defy rules and is motivated by their sense of freedom and self-determination. A great example is Apple. This company gave people the freedom to create by being the first personal computer. They wanted to bring computers into the home of the regular Joe and tell everyone that if they wanted to make something happen all they had to do was use Apple. It’s inspirational to the rebel motivations. If you don’t believe me, just rewatch the 1984 ad.

4) The obliger

Obligers like to be accountable and not let other people down. Facebook is a good example of a platform that helps people build habits because it creates an external accountability factor with friends. You announce that you want to have a goal and your friends can help keep you honest.

In fact, so many people have developed a habit of sharing and exploring their friends’ lives on facebook that a lot of people become afraid of checking it for fear of missing out.

Keep in mind that all of these examples are not based on hard science. However, it’s worth thinking about how being empathetic to the type of ways you or your user responds to expectations can help you design better.

As Nir Eyal puts it: “When you design for everybody, you end up designing for nobody.”

You have to build a habit or habit-forming product for a persona and have the empathy to understand what the barriers they face are and how they look for solutions.

So as you’re designing and building a new product or building a new habit, ask yourself, “what kind of motivators am I trying to satisfy? Where does the user I’m trying to help build a great habit go to solve their problems?

Whether a user is an upholder, a questioner, a rebel, or an obliger, learning how to be empathetic and knowing what motivates each personality can definitely help build better habit forming products.

About our ambassador // Laura Pereyra is a communications manager at a digital design agency in San Francisco. She loves connecting her love for politics, design thinking, tech, and women leadership. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. Follow her on @laurapereyra7.

Image credit: Alvaro Tapia Hidalgo

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