AIAIO: Our Blog

AIAIO: Our Blog

The pulse and reviews of Alexander Interactive

Ask Ai: What’s Your Biggest Website Usability Pet Peeve?

Everyone on our team has very unique roles and we all come together to make sure our clients’ needs are met completely. Because of we all have different experiences and skills, we all offer a wide variety of perspectives. Every two weeks we will crowdsource a tech, design, UX, etc style question from the team and share.

In our first ever installment of the series, we asked our team: What website usability issue across the board is your biggest pet peeve right now and why? Here are a few of the responses!

 

AAEAAQAAAAAAAALJAAAAJGE5YmQ4MzgyLWE2OGYtNDVhMy1iNzE3LWFkM2U0MzBlNjQyYgChuck Wells

Copywriter

“My biggest pain point is mobile websites without a quick load time and thumb-friendly navigation as well as mobile sites that don’t recognize that I already have the app installed.”

 

37919d5Catherine DeAngelis

Senior Project Manager

“I like when articles are a long-scroll on mobile, so when I’m brought to a slideshow (that most of the time isn’t working), it’s a poor user experience. I usually don’t read the article when that happens.”

 

1d3f37bRobert Gurdian

Business Strategist

“My main frustration is filling in again something that I already provided to the site. This is particularly frustrating if I provided it in the same visit. An example is when signing in and I get the password wrong, my email should still be filled in after I receive the error.”

 

3a43af4Kate McCormack

Lead Visual Designer

“[I most dislike] websites that have dense and difficult to scan content or service websites that hide their contact information!!!”

 

3bf0618Carolyn Dobbs

UX Lead

“Feature gaps/inexplicable differences in the customer experience across device types irritate me (ahem, Spotify, Hulu, Netflix). Poor interaction support for tablets also burns my hairdo.”

 

257cacbChristina Goldschmidt

Director of User Experience

“The unlabeled hamburger menu, on desktop [is my least favorite]. There are so many great articles out there showing that users don’t realize that all of the important menu items are hidden behind that design element. We’ve seen it ourselves in user testing on projects, yet its still all over!”

 

Do you have any major pet peeves that weren’t mentioned? Comment below!

Uncategorized

Our 10 Favorite Insurance Tweeters Right Now

Getting to know the ins and outs of the industries our clients are a part of is something that is extremely important to us at Ai. One of those particular verticals is insurance. So here are TEN of our favorite insurance experts on Twitter right now in no particular order.

V8W8DIIaName: Shifting Gears – @shiftinggearsio

Followers: 783

Why you should follow them: Shifting Gears is a blog that provides insight on changes to the insurance landscape, innovations in product development, emerging technologies and the world of actuaries. They tweet their own posts along with articles from reputable 3rd party sources like Fortune, TechCrunch and Insurance Thought Leadership among others.

Best Recent Tweet: PSA: You are no longer an insurance agent ‪http://insurancethoughtleadership.com/no-longer-insurance-agent/ … ‪#insurance ‪#innovation

Runner-up: Why Google could be a major force in insurance – insurers should take notes ‪http://insurancethoughtleadership.com/what-i-learned-at-google/ … ‪#insuretech

 

aRMJySEYName: Jonathan Swift – @InsuranceSwifty

Followers: 3,754

Why you should follow him: Jonathan is the director of content for Incisive Media’s insurance division. He has been writing about insurance since 1998 and truly knows the industry inside and out.

Best Recent Tweet: Millennials are key to ‪#insuretech success ‪http://tinyurl.com/j8xwkgm ‪#wakeupinsurance ‪#sta

Runner-up: My list of #insurtech #startup firms who could make waves in 2016 http://tinyurl.com/hfsbfal #wakeupinsurance

 

LtMyFkYm_400x400Name: Deb Smallwood – @dmsmallwood

Followers: 1,178

Why You Should Follow Her: Deb is the founder of Strategy Meets Action, which is a leading research and advisory service firm strictly aimed at the insurance industry. She makes it her business to know the industry inside and out – and it shows on the newsfeed. Some of her best content is

Best Recent Tweet: RT @Insurancethough: How to insure the sharing economy. ‪@monhess ‪#ITL ‪#connected ‪#sharingeconomy ‪http://insurancethoughtleadership.com/how-to-insure-the-sharing-economy/ …

Runner-up: “Want to understand insurance technology priorities and plans for 2016? ” by @dmsmallwood on ‪@LinkedIn ‪https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/want-understand-insurance-technology-priorities-plans-smallwood …

 

SofNxKAFName: Mairi Mallon – @Reinsurancegirl

Followers: 7,714

Why you should follow her: Mairi is a public relations pro who specializes in insurance and risk on a global scale. She engages with people throughout the agency, shares industry articles and promotes events and meet-ups.

Best Recent Tweet: ‪#reinsurance‪ #insurance #ils tweet up in New York – please spread the word and come along! February 25 http://www.rein4ce.co.uk/blog/2016/02/start-spreading-the-news-there-is-a-tweet-up-in-new-york/ … cc@ilsdiva

Runner-Up: RT Global ‪#Reinsurance Outlook “Negative” – Life Reinsurance “Stable” Says ‪@AMBestCo See why ‪@WRINtv ‪http://shrd.by/Cesx3K

 

bW9gd0SjName: Jim Peavy – @ThePeav

Followers: 5,969

Why You Should Follow Him: Jim is a PR/social media/media relations pro in the insurance and reinsurance sectors. He offers interesting commentary on the latest industry trends as well as touching on tech and social media.

Best Recent Tweet: Troubled energy market impacts ‪#insurance via ‪@reutersCarolynC ‪@Noor_ZainabHuss ‪@JGouldReuters ‪@ReutersRachel ‪reut.rs/1TSoXtR ‪ via @Reuters

Runner-up: ‪#Canada‪’s largest life insurer takes C$250 million charge on #oil #investments by @katiadmi #insurance ‪bloom.bg/23YDUPm

 

blog4_big_400x400Name: Emmanuel Kenning – @BrokingBod

Followers: 2,267

Why You Should Follow Him: Emmanuel is the editor of Insurance Age magazine. He covers a lot of insider news about the industry.

Best Recent Tweet: RT @BrokingIda Smaller brokers pushed out of the market because of regulation, says Craig Tracey MP ‪http://tinyurl.com/zvx94ad  ‪#insurance ‪#insurancebroking

Runner-up: Drum roll please… the winner of 2015 ‪#brokerapprentice has been revealed ‪http://tinyurl.com/brokerappwin  check it out here ‪#insurance ‪#broking

 

DVXGZ2E2Name: LearnVest – @LearnVest

Followers: 38.1 K

Summary: While LearnVest focuses on financial planning and making it more affordable as a whole, they spend considerable time on insurance and offer plenty of great insurance resources about the industry as a whole.

Best Recent Tweet: 20 of the best company benefits and perks, rated: ‪http://ow.ly/XUiUU  via ‪@FastCompany

Runner-up: 3 steps to getting the most out of your health plan: ‪http://ow.ly/XJsth  via ‪@MONEY

 

twitterJMName: Jamie Macgregor – @JamieMacgregorC

Followers: 466

Summary: Jamie is an insurance tech and IT strategy specialist out of London. His tweets are informative, interesting and conversational.

Best Recent Tweet: Ouch. Never underestimate the power of regulatory compliance. A lesson for ‪#insurance tech startups from Zenefits?

‪http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/df3caa5e-ceca-11e5-92a1-c5e23ef99c77.html#axzz3zYwtUrvH …

Runner-up: A whopping 43 vendors to choose from in Celent’s latest ‪#insurance PAS report for P&C in EMEA from ‪@cgbeattie. ‪https://lnkd.in/eDjWvcA

 

PC360-no-tag-leftName: Property Casualty 360 – @PC_360

Followers: 20.5k

Summary: PC360 provides total coverage of the P&C insurance market. They tweet often and their content covers

Best Recent Tweet: Why a good ‪#insurance claims experience is so important ‪http://ow.ly/YmlT8  ‪#customerservice

Runner-up: 5 ‪#liability issues restaurant, bar and tavern owner needs to watch out for ‪http://ow.ly/YtGy4  ‪#insurance

 

5efe29807983554210cd2c91e37d06b3Name: Emily Delbridge – @CarInsReview

Followers: 1,156

Summary: Emily writes as an Auto Insurance expert for About.com and Michigan Insurance Review with the purpose of making insurance fun and easy. While her specialty is auto insurance and all that it entails, she also

Best Recent Tweet: Do you have to pay for your own pipes in a frozen pipe home insurance claim? Find out now. ‪http://bit.ly/1dnDLrm  ‪#frozen ‪#home ‪#claims

Runner-up: Curious what is considered to be car insurance fraud? Check it out now! ‪http://abt.cm/1mbTz5g  ‪#insurance ‪#fraud

Uncategorized

High Tech Valentine’s Day Gifts for Everyone!

Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s a holiday you love or hate, it is right around the corner. Sticking with candy and flowers may be tradition, but there is no better time than now to upgrade your gift giving skills to include some of today’s latest in greatest in tech. Here are some awesome ideas perfectly tailored to match your special someone’s interests.

For the hobbyist. If your significant other is always tinkering around and building, the perfect gift might be an arduino board. Whether it’s programming robotics or other projects, this gadget is a great place to start. ($24.95)

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For the sweet tooth. Candy hearts and heart-shaped boxes of chocolates have always reigned supreme on February 14th. If your
tech lover is also a sweet tooth, why not step outside of the box this year?  Who needs heart shaped chocolates when you can get your special someone iPhone shaped chocolate! ($19.90) Double points if you make it yourself!

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For the person who can’t put down their phone. Nothing says “I love you and I accept you (and your phone addiction)” like a snazzy new phone case. What better time than now and what better choice than this perfect Marc Jacobs  option that is covered in hearts? It comes in red, pink or white. ($55)

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For the fashion forward fella. What man does’t look dapper in a suit? Dress him up more in a way that is stylish and functional with stainless steel cufflinks from Adafruit. While both look similar, one opens to reveal a USB with 4 GB of storage. ($29)

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For the music lover. Remember a time when people used to make mixed tapes or CDs for the person they were crushing on? While it might seem like music streaming killed the mixed tape, this gift proves that it is not true! With Sharetapes, you can take your love back to a simpler time. Make a playlist on Spotify, YouTube, Pandora, etc and download it onto the credit-card sized tapes. Your special someone will be able to use the card to play the music. ($9.99 for 5 tapes + cost of music)

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For the person who is always snapping pictures. Does the special person in your life constantly snap pics whether the moment being captured is big or small? The Polaroid Instant Snap Digital Camera might be the perfect gift! This 10 megapixel camera has the technology you are used to from a digital camera while also printing out a cute 2×3 polaroid of the shot. ($99.99)

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For the health conscious couple. Unless a person has been living under a rock, it’s impossible to have NOT heard about FitBit. There is no better way to show someone they have your heart than looking after theirs. The FitBit Charge HR goes above and beyond to measure sleep and heart rate while also allowing food and water to be recorded. Like some other wearable trackers, it allows you to connect with other users and challenge them. How’s that for some friendly competition!

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For the consummate host. Your special someone is the person who loves throwing a party or hosting a dinner. Enter the Bartesian. This gadget allows people to make their own premium cocktails using pods filled with mixer ingredients and adding alcohol. Bottoms up! ($299 on preorder)

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Still looking for a valentine? No worries! Enter The League, a free dating app (iOS) that connects smart, ambitious professionals. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, The League has partnered with BloomThat and Minibar to deliver your potential matches booze and flowers. (NYC and San Fran areas only)

Funny Stuff

Selecting Tools for Moderated Remote User Testing

In my previous article, I spoke about how to prepare yourself for a moderated remote usability test. The tools you use while conducting a remote user test are just as important as being prepared. This article is meant to highlight my experience with tools I’ve used in the past for remote user testing.

Using Ethnio for Recruiting and Paying Incentives

Ethnio is a tool that allows you to create a screener, schedule participants and pay them for their time. When you create a screener, you place their JavaScript on your site. They also provide a mobile-friendly direct link for you to place in your Facebook or LinkedIn ads.

Once the user fills out the screener you can use Ethnio’s template emails to schedule the prospect’s test. Ethnio provides a way for you to show users the open testing spots for their choosing. After conducting your user test, you can automatically send the participants their gift cards by simply inserting the participants email and the amount you’d like to pay them.

Ethnio was quick, convenient, and gave us access to the actual users that use the site, not professional user testers.

Something to keep an eye on are their template emails. In the past, we had to contact each participant on our own since we wanted to send them specific information. Despite this, Ethnio is perfect when it comes to recruiting qualified participants quickly.

Prototyping with InVision

InVision allows you to share functioning prototypes with the participant easily and quickly. It helps simulate how the actual site will work. InVision gives you so much control over your design that you are able to make changes on the fly even in between user tests based on the insights you received.

InVision allows you to quickly create hotspots and hover states on your wireframes so the user can go through an experience. When prototyping for user testing, it’s important to make sure the user can carry out entire flows.

Presenting the site in a realistic context is key. It makes it more difficult to get insights when you’re asking the user to imagine what would happen if they explored a specific area of the site. It also helps to turn off the hot spot hinting and commenting while testing. That way you aren’t giving any misleading direction on how to navigate through the site or giving the participant access to view comments between team members. Below is a screenshot of how to share your InVision prototype with your participants.

Prototyping with invision

Remote User Testing with GoToMeeting

For a recent user test, we wanted to be able to view the participant’s screen and record the session so we thought GoToMeeting would be a good option. In the past we’ve used join.me but we were having some issues with the audio and the screen sharing.

GoToMeeting is simple. The only thing the participants need to do is install the GoToMeeting Chrome plugin and from there all they need to do is access a link for their testing session. It’s easy to record our session and there’s no lag time between what the user is looking at and what I see on the screen which is an issue we had with other meeting software.

GoToMeeting allows you to view the user’s reaction and what part of the site they are exploring simultaneously. It helps gather behavioural insights as if you were in the room with them. You can ask participants to share their screen and if you want to view their actual facial reactions, they can use their webcam.

GoToMeeting Screenshot

These tools allowed me to moderate the test and experience the site with the user. I do recommend these tools but I would also explore other ones out there and see what is best for you. I also recommend trying these tools out before your testing sessions in order to make sure you know how to navigate them flawlessly. Once you do, it becomes easier to moderate and to keep your focus on the testing sessions.  

 

Uncategorized

How to Run a Flawless Remote User Testing Session

A guide for planning and running a moderated remote user test

There are plenty of ways you can run a usability test. Most people would advise you to do them in person; others may advise you to use a service that will automate the test. This may not always be an option for your project, so running a moderated remote usability test is the next best thing!

Remote testing can lead to incredibly helpful insights. You get to experience user’s reactions on the fly; and access your own customer base—not a panel of professional user testers. Just like in-person testing, you need to prepare ahead of time, and that prep work is a little more difficult since technology is involved.

This article is meant to help you prepare for a remote user test by highlighting the key actions to consider:

  • Recruiting your own participants
  • Technical check-Ins
  • Scheduling
  • Managing incentives
  • Getting to know the user

There will be moments where participants may back out at the last minute, you’ll run behind schedule, or your software won’t work they way you hoped it would. That’s okay! Because this guide will prepare you for anything that gets thrown your way.

 

Recruiting Your Own Participants

Before you can run a usability test you need to find qualified participants. There are several ways to find the right candidates for your test: use a professional recruiter; recruit from your email subscribers; asking your Twitter and Facebook followers; or recruiting customers directly from your website.

For a recent user test on a client project we chose to use Ethnio, a remote recruiting tool,because they had a very specific user base and loyal customers that we needed to target. Ethnio allowed us to place a screener on the client’s website and ask questions that would help us rule them in or out.

When determining whether or not a participant is qualified for the test, ask yourself the following questions when evaluating their responses.

  • Does the participant have anything to do with the development or design of what you are testing?
  • Do they represent your personas that you developed or a target audience you are trying to reach?  
  • Are they already familiar with the website and subject matter?

Once you have your participants ready you should plan to conduct a technical check-in.

 

Preparing for Technical Check-Ins

Before you run the usability test I recommend conducting a technical check-in prior to the big day. Asking a participant for an extra phone call prior to the session can be seen as a waste of time. It’s important to remind the user why they signed up and give some details so they know what to expect during their testing session.

In order to make the testing event successful we know we need to do a 15 minute dry run a few days before the test to check the technology. We adjusted the language of our email to let the participant know what we expected of them. Here is an example email template we used for a recent test:

 

Hello [Name],

Thank you for signing up to participate in our research for X website! We can’t wait to hear your thoughts about what we’re working on.

We will reach out separately to schedule your 60 minute research session on Tuesday 12/8. During this session you will explore our site and get a $100 Visa gift card for your feedback.

But first, we wanted to do a quick technical check-in with you in order to test the software we’ll be using for the session. Are you available for a 15 minute technical check-in on Friday, 12/4 between the hours of 9:00am EST – 4:00pm EST?

There are a few things you will need to prepare for this tech check in.

  1. We’d like to make sure that you have access to a web browser like Google Chrome. If you don’t have access to it already, please download it before our call here: https://www.google.com/chrome/.
  2. Once you have Google Chrome installed, please download the following extension so [moderator’s name] can view your screen: We will be using GoToMeeting to share screens. You can go to this link and click “Add to Chrome” to install the extension.

Thank you for your time and feel free to ask any questions.

Best,

[Moderator’s Name]

 

Conducting the Technical Check-Ins

For this testing session we used GoToMeeting to share and record screens. Many of the users weren’t familiar with GoToMeeting. We needed to make sure they had the proper plug-in installed and knew how to share their screen. Taking 15–20 minutes to do this saves time and decreases the chances of things going wrong during the actual testing session.

For those who didn’t end up doing a technical check in, we spent a lot of time trying to make sure the audio and screen sharing was working properly. There were times GoToMeeting just kept freezing or the user couldn’t hear me. During another session, a user didn’t realize that they needed to be on their computer in order to walk through the prototype. Running a technical check-in helps avoid these issues.

If you plan on using GoToMeeting (GTM) for user testing, you can follow these steps during your technical check in.

  1. A few minutes before the scheduled technical check-in time, open the GTM desktop app and log in to the meeting. You have to manually enter the meeting number.
  2. Dial into the audio via the phone then put it on speakerphone and mute the phone to dial-in your audio code. Remember to un-mute when your user gets on the line.
  3. You can see when your user enters the meeting as their name will appear in the participant list in the GTM app. You can also see whether they are connected to the phone or computer audio by the icon next to their name in the app.
  4. After thanking the participant, walk them through the screen share setup if they haven’t connected already.
  5. Press “Change Presenter” in the GTM desktop app. Normally, this will prompt them to download the desktop app, but if they have the Chrome extension installed, they won’t have to. Remind them to share their entire screen, not just the GTM screen.
  6. If you want to also see their face and they’ve agreed to using a webcam, direct them to the camera icon in the GTM in-browser view.  
  7. Make sure their web cam feed and their screen are visible on your desktop.
  8. Send them a URL via the chat function (something neutral like google.com) to make sure they can find and use chat. This way you’ll be able to send them links.

Now that you’ve done your technical check-ins, you can focus on scheduling the actual user testing sessions.

 

Scheduling

You should dedicate entire work days to user testing. That way you get in the flow of testing and won’t get interrupted by other tasks. For one of our projects, I dedicated two days to user testing with four sessions each day. Each session was an hour and I added time in between each session. When scheduling tests it’s helpful to give yourself 15–30 minutes in between sessions for you to debrief with your team. Take this moment to review your notes and figure out if there are any questions you would like to ask differently or explore different task during the next round of testing.

Since you are using an hour of someone’s time to conduct research, it’s important to provide an incentive to show your appreciation for agreeing to participate in your study.

 

Managing Incentives

Ethnio allowed us to use their site to deliver Visa gift card codes to the participants. When it comes to determining the value of the incentive, consider the value of the insights they will give you and how hard it was to recruit participants. If you know that the project you are working on has a very specific and unique user set, you may want to give them a larger incentive. Typically, we like to provide an $50 incentive for 30 minutes; $100 for 60 minutes. Don’t forget to include that incentive in the screener to attract participants.

 

Get to Know the Participants

The participant is going to be nervous. They have to speak to a complete stranger, answer non-stop questions and be recorded for an hour. In order for them to be comfortable and truly say what’s on their mind, the moderator needs to move the conversation past the typical “good morning” and “how’s your day going?”

Have a pre-interview script ready and ask them about  their experiences with the site. Get to know why they were on the site in the first place. Some questions we like to ask are:

  1. Name
  2. Age
  3. Occupation, if relevant
  4. How they discovered the site?
  5. What were they trying to do on the site? Read an article or purchase an item?
  6. What is their level of knowledge of what the site provides?
  7. How often do they go to the site?

Then ask them questions based on their answers. If they mention they were purchasing a specific item, ask them why or for whom. Following up based on their answers can help you figure out what experience the user was having on the site. From there on it becomes easier to walk through the prototype, make a few jokes and really hear about their experience with the design.

Once you follow these steps, and get through the first hurdle of getting to know a participant, you should be ready for testing. Following all of these steps will make your remote user test go smoothly. Now all you have to focus on is developing your script to facilitate the conversation. Good luck and get to testing!

 

UX

New Manager Tools

This article leans slightly towards Technology Management but is applicable across disciplines

You've been a great senior resource, you've lead a team or a project, and you've made the decision, along with your manager to transition to some kind of management role. If you are still thinking about it, or wondering what it will be like, start here: This 90-Day Plan Turns Engineers into Remarkable Managers. This article will give you all of the thought starters your need to decide if management is something you want to pursue.

Below are some required reading to add to your utility belt. Start taking a read through these, and make sure you block off the appropriate amount of time each week to continue your learning! This list is meant to be a starting point for new managers, not an all inclusive list of manager resources

Books

  • Managing Right for the First Time – This book is intended as a field guide for first time managers, or for managers who want to begin doing a better job. David Baker worked closely with 600+ companies and interviewed more than 10,000 employees, then summarized the findings in an interesting and eminently readable form. Read this book and you're likely to understand management and leadership like you never have before, but also learn very practical steps toward becoming a better manager and leader.
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free ProductivityNote: I'm not advocating for using the GTD system. Use what works for you. However, the first half of this book is a gold mine for how to think about planning, resources, and managing your own and other's tasks. I personally do use GTD, but the lessons, and the way of thinking that this book opens up is transferable to any system. It got me thinking about planning and delegating in different and exciting ways. Read the introduction and I guarantee that you'll see scenarios you recognize and want to scream YES, YES I DEAL WITH THIS. I HATE IT! HOW DO I FIX IT?
  • The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business – This book is, but isn't about MBA. It's a toolkit of how to handle various situations and grow your skill set. It's not meant to be read cover to cover, but peruse the table of contents you'll see things you want to read.
  • Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers: The People Skills You Need to Achieve Outstanding Results – Great book on emotional intelligence

Articles to read

Websites to subscribe to

Listening

  • Manager Tools Podcast – A huge library of how to deal with any situation. Skim the list, there will be something in there you want to learn about. Don't forget to subscribe!

If you have anything that should be on this starter list, let me know!

You can follow Tim on twitter.

Business

How to Sync Basecamp Todos to Omnifocus or Todoist

Basecamp is a large part of our process at Ai. It tracks most of our communication (a lot of this has been moving to Slack). Basecamp serves as our system of record for signs-offs and deliverables. We also use it’s “todo” function pretty heavily in the planning stages and tracking client tasks. Once we get into implementation, we transition to Jira, as it’s more powerful. Clients do not have access to Jira.

I don’t have an issue tracking Basecamp tasks. It’s really good at emailing you when something is due. But, as I’ve said before, I’d be even BETTER at it, if the tasks were in my world. My world is Omnifocus, but there is a VERY large contingent of Todoist users at Ai. I am the outlier in this. In the past, my reasons for not using Todoist were I didn’t want Ai tasks and personal project tasks in the same app, the hotkeys weren’t up to snuff, and I didn’t want to pay for premium to get notifications. I’ve since ignored these rules with Omnifocus; It runs everything in my life, it DOES have great hotkeys, and I dropped the $$$ for premium Omnifocus which was more expensive than Todoist premium in the long run. But, this is a topic for another post.

Back on track. How to get Basecamp todos into my system? Again, Zapier to the rescue. Zapier can connect to Basecamp, do some basic filtering to make sure I only get tasks that I care about, and drop them into my Omnifocus inbox. Most of the following steps hold true for both Omnifocus and Todoist

  1. Create a new Zap that triggers when a new Basecamp todo is created. Have it create a new task in your system
  2. Select the appropriate Basecamp account and test it
  3. Select and test your Todoist/Omnifocus account
  4. Choose your Basecamp Account, Project, and Todo list. If you want to filter even more by only items assigned to you, add a custom filter. Do this by either Assignee ID or Name
  5. Match up the Basecamp data to your tool of choice. First is how I send it to Omnifocus. Note, I do need to populate the due date by hand. In both options, I add the url back to the task in Basecamp so I can easy mark it off or comment in it when I’m done. Todoist lets you be a LOT more granular and handles all of the fields so you have no manual intervetntion
  6. My tasks are now in my world. Profit.

 

You can also follow Tim on twitter

Technology

Basecamp 3 is Coming

Basecamp 3 is coming and I’m exited. Below are excerpts from Basecamp’s preview post on what I’m looking forward to most

Basecamp won’€™t send you any emails, push notifications, or in-app notifications if it’s outside your specified work hours. Live a little! Work Can Wait until you’re back at work.

group chat room for quick discussions

This is cool but it came a little too late. We’ve been using slack for project based and individual chat. It has a dedicated app that is easy to cmd+tab to. I see campfire in the browser sitting in an unchecked tab and not being useful

Show someone you care by clicking the Applause button on any message, comment, document, or answer on any automatic question. They’ll get a discrete notification letting them know you appreciated what they said. This is a great way to show your support for someone’s suggestion, idea, or point of view without also sending a notification to everyone else on the project.

e.g. What did you work on today€ or Are you blocked on anything?)

Hmm, I wonder if this could be used for virtual scrum?

@mentions: Psst!

YES, YES, YES, A MILLION TIMES, YES

They’ll instantly get a notification letting them know they’ve been mentioned, along with a direct link right back to where you mentioned them

If you’re not in the desktop app

Buhhh wait what? Ok maybe what I said about the tabs and apps above might not apply

You can bookmark just about anything in Basecamp 3 so you can jump right back to it from anywhere else

This will be handy. Here are always a few key threads I end up digging for. Usually long running threads about key deliverables

At the bottom of every project is a timeline of all activity going back to the moment you started the project

I like this if search hadn’t been improved. This has a lot easier than scrolling through all the lists looking for something around a certain time

So you can make a folder and put a photoshop file, a Google doc

👍🏻

Now you can assign to-dos to multiple people. Now you can set date ranges, not just single due dates. Now you can bulk assign multiple to-dos with a single click. Now you can select multiple to-dos and move them as a group.

😭😭😭

Now you can save any new message or document as a draft before you publish it

Basecamp 3 allows you to see all the work you’ve assigned to other people

You can sign up for an early invite here

Technology

We are honored to announce that Alexander Interactive (Ai) has been named one of The Best Places to Work by Crain’s New York Business.

This coveted award is designed to identify, recognize and honor the best employers in New York City, benefiting the city’s economy, workforce and businesses

There is no doubt that what sets us apart from other companies is the culture that has come to define us. Six years ago the concept of “The Morgan Freemans” was coined to describe the type of human being who thrives here. Passion. Fortitude. Initiative. Resilience. Morgan Freeman embodies the qualities we value most–and the velvety, reassuring voice we all aspire to lead with.

“The values we foster are directly connected to the value we create for our clients, ” said Josh Levine, Ai’s CXO.

Success isn’t measured in deliverables or hours, it’s measured by the problems we solve and the process through which we solve them. This demands people who simply care about the other people we work with and the people we work for. People willing to get their hands dirty and fight the good fight, day in and day out.

“We give a darn about what we produce. We don’t just want to get a job done. We want to sweat and laugh with our team on a hot summer rooftop and then drink beers with the sun on our shoulders and feel like free men.”– Josh Levine, Ai’s CXO

Congrats to all of our awesome people. And thank you for making Ai a company like no other.

You can read the full list of companies here.

CrainsMF

 

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Ninja Productivity Tricks: Lessons learned from 9 years in the Ai trenches

I recently held an AiU session for the company (deck below) focusing on my personal productivity hacks and habits that get me through my day. As a Project Manager, the only constant is change. Even the best-laid plans go awry and even the most proven processes go off-the-rails. The true test of your mettle as a PM is how you respond. In the transcript and deck below I share ways I’ve found to ensure success by turning to a repeatable system that gets better over time.

 

— (Transcript)
 
My Journey: Earning my black belt
I’m going to share a bit about my journey of improving how I manage my day and my life overall.

I played sports growing up and throughout college where time management and productivity was all about my tasks and me. I didn’t have to worry about tasks that others were doing. I didn’t have to set expectations with people about timing (I couldn’t tell a professor that I’d be two days late with an assignment)… It was, here’s your homework, here are your projects to get done, be at the gym for practice at 2pm, etc. The structure was set for me, and I just had to figure out how to balance keeping up with schoolwork, playing volleyball / traveling and having a life outside of both.

I went from a volleyball team in college to a team of less than a dozen here at Ai as an intern in college in our office on Park Ave South. I wore many hats, and the concept of managing time and tasks for others was something I struggled with. I didn’t know how to prioritize, because I didn’t have a full view of what was in the mix. I often stayed late at the office because I didn’t have a system to help me.

Enter the Treo. Alex (our CEO) and I had a system where he would get a new phone, and I would get his old phone. The concept of a digital calendar, tasks always in my hand, rather than a paper notebook entered my world.

Projects grew, teams grew, and responsibilities grew.

Here we are now. Projects grew, teams grew, and responsibilities grew. Over time I developed a system for me so that no matter the size of the team or the project, the principles of managing the associated tasks still applied.

For me, repeatability is key. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel with every project. The process I use to manage work projects is the same process I use to manage trips I take, fundraisers I plan, my wedding, etc.

You need a system in place that allows you to make wiser choices and see the full picture.

So, when you ask me how I can get all of my work done but still make time to be with my friends, family, and workout – the process I follow is how I do it, and you can do it too. I have a system in place that allows me to get stuff done, make priority calls, and still be able to do things I want to do.

Maintaining Control

The second I feel like I don’t have control of what I need to accomplish or what my teams need to accomplish, I freak.

We all go through this; we have a plan for the day, things come up, our to-do list goes out the window, and we end up staying late or leaving early with anxiety.

Maintaining control means I hit deadlines, I can set appropriate expectations, and I can manage my personal time. Everything I’m about to cover allows me to maintain that control.

Meet the Playas

Over the past 9 years I’ve tried a ton of tools. I keep coming back to a core set that work for me so that sense of control and comfort and less stress are real. I’m not looking to have everyone adopt my entire way of working. It’s not the only way, and different personalities and brains think in different ways and need different views, but we all share common needs in terms of things we need to solve.

My GTD Army

I use every single one of these tools daily to Get Things Done:

  • Todoist: This is, by far, the most important tool in my toolbox. Without Todoist, my work would not get done.
  • Evernote: I use this for all sorts of data management. Tagging is key.
  • Dropbox: I use this for file management and to be able to access them on any computer / phone. Dropbox has become my new “local” and what I use to transfer files between my phone and computer.
  • Flickr: I’m the one who always can find that photo. Flickr is my tool for photo storage. It’s the forever home for my photos all placed in albums.
  • Alfred: I use Alfred to access things on my computer quickly.
  • Dashlane: I use Dashlane to save passwords, contact info and credit card info to make logging in and checking out on websites much quicker.
  • Text Expander: I setup snippets once and then type using abbreviations for words and phrases that I use all the time to save time and brain space.
  • IFTTT: I use IFTTT to create recipes for automation to connect systems that I already use to minimize the duplication of effort.
  • Feedly: Feedly aggregates all blogs and sites I want to read from grouped by topics I have created.
  • Pocket: This is where I save things to read for later. My Feedly feeds my Pocket.
  • Pinterest: This is where I save things to buy later or browse later as gifts or for myself.

This may seem like a lot, but most of them are doing the work for me. I set it and forget it.

One Home

There are things I need to manage, and each of these things needs a home – not multiple homes – that’s what gives me the sense of control and relieves stress.

“Hacktics”

Tactics my GTD army and I use to go to battle – i.e. manage my days here at Ai and really, my life.

1: Get on a cycle

I cycle through my Inbox and my Todoist task list multiple times throughout the day, but on my time, not when a notification is telling me to.

As a PM, if I assign a task it is really still on me to make sure it gets done. Trust the people, but trust your system.

Check your calendar before you leave for the day and your to-do list for the next day before you walk out the door. If your calendar “free time” does not line up with the time it will take to complete everything in your to-do list then you need to re-asses and reset expectations. You’re only setting yourself up for failure if those things don’t line up.

2: Set it and forget it

For me, things will happen and get done if I write it down, assign it, and give it a due date, and that’s what my Todoist workflow allows me to do. I have a project specifically for orders that I place online so I can check off that I received it once I do. It is the only project where tasks don’t have due dates because they aren’t tasks, it’s just a list, but a list I want to make sure I’m checking regularly.

For recurring activities, include notes that you need to reference every time when completing it. For example, when I create weekly status reports for clients I reference my calendar, project schedule, Todoist tasks, Basecamp tasks, etc.

3: Implement visual cues

These are equivalent to what we do for users on websites in our UX/Designs to make it easy for them to get done what they are looking to get done.

For example, color code items per project or per client to recognize colors associated with projects (e.g., calendar appointment categories, Todoist projects, physical folders to hold paper, etc.).

Add photos to your Outlook contacts. Make them funny photos if you want. It’s easy to recognize who messages are from at a glance, and it reminds you that there’s more to the message than just the text. There’s a human behind those words!

Visual cues can still be text. For example, I sort my iPhone folders by verb – “watch, listen, pay, eat” etc.

Other examples:

  • Create iPhone alarms based on what you are waking up for and when.
  • Add photos and emoticons to contacts so it is easy to associate messages and calls – e.g., my husband gets a heart and my friend with a star tattoo gets a star emoticon so it’s easy to find them when scanning a list.

Surround yourself with things you love. Visual cues help to get things done but also remind you of things that just make you happy. I surround myself with my favorite color, photos of my family, an image of a kettle bell to remind me to go workout and finish up work so I can – it’s a form of stress relief and constant reminder that things just aren’t that serious.

4: Keep things lean and clean

Anything on my computer desktop is something I’m currently working on. When finished working on it, I place it in the appropriate folder on my computer and on our shared work drive. And, an actual physically clean desk to work on helps too.

5: Take shortcuts

  • I use Dashlane to autofill forms within my browser
  • I use Jira tabs to open all Jira tickets listed on one page in new tabs all at once
  • I use the Google Chrome Bar to set search engines and trigger JS snippets for easy access to URLs I go to all the time
  • I use TextExpander snippets all day every day – e.g., By typing “meetingnotes” I get my template at the start of every meeting to take notes within.

6: Silence the unnecessary

This goes along with minimizing distraction to feel in control. Notifications and badges are only on for things that I want to react to immediately. Otherwise, I’m in control, and I decide when to look and when to respond.

Share the wealth

Productivity blogs to follow:

Have other tips to share? Questions? I’d love to hear them! Comment or holla’ anytime.

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