Writing I don't do it often but when I do, it's here.

Case Study : 52Adventures Club

52Adventures builds and delivers customized travel plans & ideas for subscribers every week. Each is unique, and built for the individual member. I designed and concepted the site & the backend tools to enable the service to run efficiently and effectively.

52Adventures was a blast to work on. Building completely from scratch, I created not just the acquisition site, but also the backend tools to allow new adventures to be found & generated for each subscriber quickly and easily.

Design Process

Travel is a highly sensory and visual experience, so the site needed to reflect that with evocative imagery representative of the service. We opted for a strong header, bold introductory text, and focus images for examples of the service. We followed that with a brief Q&A section and two clear & actionable call to action sections on either side of the Q&A.

On the backend we leveraged the Shards Dashboard HTML5 Bootstrap template to keep costs down. This proved to be an excellent choice as it was very flexible and has been well received.

Platform

52Adventrues backend is powered by Node, Mongo, and Express. It taps into the SkyScanner & Momondo APIs and scrapes data from AirBNB, Google & Wikipedia to build adventures quickly and easily. Essentially it pairs the best deals on flights with the best potential adventure and accommodation options meeting a user’s preferences, then generates a selection of trips that are then sent to the user once a week.

Wrap Up

Absolutely a fun project, this 52Adventures challenged me to manage data in a number of new and potentially unique ways and I learned a lot while building this out!

Skipper 2 Coming October 18!

I am so excited to announce that Skipper 2: The Magic of Memory is coming to Steam on October 18th! PS4 & XBOX One releases will follow in the first quarter of 2019.

Building the first Skipper was a last minute, completely unplanned thing. I designed, built, and released in ~ 2 weeks to test data and availability on Steam on a whim.

The game was reasonably well received and sold well enough to validate the idea, and so a proper full sequel is in progress and officially has a release date.

I enjoy Skipper every time I play it, and am super stoked to see how this new Skipper with improved visuals, game play, and story sits with puzzle game fans.

Case Study: Octopus Agent Realty Marketing Platform

The Montiel Organization came in with a unique problem; they had an existing platform at the MVP stage that needed to be completely replaced, while adding a handful of new features; and they needed it in 7 weeks from first contact.

Octopus Agent Website

The complete project featured redevelopment of their entire MVP from scratch, and consisted of six primary components:

  • complete user-facing CMS
  • top-level admin panel
  • email marketing drip feed
  • pressed article content build
  • three bespoke user customizable CMS templates
  • splash micro-site for marketing

Research and Sketching

Octopus Agent & The Montiel Organization help real estate agents & brokers market themselves and their listings quickly and easily. This hands-off & largely autopilot approach to online marketing allows the agents to focus more on their in person sales and worry less about their site, email campaign, and so on.

Given the tight timeline for the project, we bypassed sketching and grey boxing for the backend, and focused on the primary templates in use for the agent sites. A handful of sketches to start for each site included an index layout, listing page, and textual content layout was sufficient to gain an idea of what layouts would work best.

Grey Box in the Browser & Design

Again keeping with our time line, we went right into the browser for greyboxing. This allowed the templates to be built much earlier, improved out iteration time for adjustments, and gave us a huge jump on the final design once the greyboxes had been completed.

Moving on from the final greyboxes we added color, iterated over layout adjustments, typography, etc, and ran a set of user testing sessions to ensure that users were interacting with the individual sites the way we anticipated.

Development Stack

The existing MVP was built on an aging PHP framework that was at end of life. Our solution builds on Node with Express, using Cloud Storage for the database engine on the backend. We opted for custom markup without a framework on the front end, complemented with Handlebars and LESS for templating and styling.

By minimizing the tech stack we accommodate the needs of the client to keep their in-house support team small, and leveraging Firebase Cloud Storage will enable them to scale easily as they continue to grow.

Wrap Up

Working on Octopus Agent was absolutely a privilege, and it was a delight helping a non tech company build and found their first tech product. In the 8 weeks since launch, they’ve grown to over 7,500 users, and the platform hasn’t broken a sweat.

I’m looking forward to seeing them grow, and helping them again along the way as they do.

Octopus Agent Website

Running React Native With Expo Offline

As you may or may not know, my wife and I are spending the year traveling around the world with our kids, having left on our journey in December ’17 intending to return in December of ’18 having completed a full circumnavigation of the globe.

This nearly constant state of travel leaves me with a spotty connection at times. As you can imaging, this poses an issue for projects built with the always-on Expo. If you’re not familiar with Exp, it’s a great tool set to get up and running with React Native apps more quickly (there are some limitations but that’s a story for another time).

Completely undocumented, and unknown to the Expo community at large, is the ability to run Expo offline. One would think passing the flag --dev --lan to Expo would provide exactly what it indicates, dev mode over lan, but it does not. You need to pass the super obvious --offline flag instead, which does exactly as it suggests, runs Expo completely offline.

A blast from Shopify past

Today I was pitching a Shopify based redesign for a fairly large components distributor and after the call we got to talking about early work and careers and so on. I started thinking back to the very early days with Shopify, and remembered Tribble.

I built it in 2008 and it was released on the Shopify themes page (before they had a theme store), as the first theme available there that was made outside of Shopify. It’s a bit dated now, and was released just months before media query support hit the major browsers so sadly it’s not responsive. But all in all it held up really well being 10 years old!

It’s taken me aback a bit to realize I’ve been using Shopify for over 10 years – the first site I built for it was in 2006! That’s just crazy. A lot has changed since then, and Shopify is huge now, but it’s still the best hosted ecommerce platform. 12 years is a long time to hold that crown though…

Skipper out now on Steam

I’ve just released Skipper on Steam and Itch.io.

Skipper is a lowpoly atmospheric puzzle game built in Unity, written in C#. The 2d art was created in Photoshop, while the 3d geometry was made inside unity using the wonderful Procore toolset.

Development on Skipper started September 9th, it was completed on October 6th, and released on October 18th to Steam and Itch.io. Skipper was then released on Facebook Gameroom on October 24th. iOS, tvOS, and Android releases are all hitting in November.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, I encourage you to do so. It’s a fun, very challenging game, and a great example of what can be done in a short time with the right tools and a disciplined development approach.

CodeFort – Learn to Code in Idaho Falls

This was a pretty fun project. I designed CodeFort to be a clean and light experience, built with completely custom HTML & CSS with LESS, and powered it with WordPress.

CodeFort is a new coding bootcamp in Idaho Falls, that offers two development tracks, front-end web development and mobile game development.

Checkout the site or just have a gander at the screen grab attached here.

Prospecting on Intagram

If you’re freelancer or a small business that provides a service, Instagram is the holy grail for prospecting.

Prospecting is the step before you begin the sale, where you find the client/user/etc that you will eventually sell to. And right now, Instagram is the single most useful tool in the soloprenuer or freelancers arsenal. Unlike Facebook it’s actively used for new content outside of a friend list, and unlike Twitter it continues to grow organically.

The interest, eyeballs, and visibility you can gain on Instagram is greater than anywhere else. And it’s short form focus on the visual lends a direct in to any brand/freelancer/soloprenuer smart enough to take advantage.

Mindset

To successfully prospect on Instagram you first need to get into the mindnset. You’re not going to see a value return on your time unless you treat every use and interaction like a conversation. When you have a conversation with someone you pay attention to what they have going on, their needs, and how they respond (both verbally and otherwise) to what you are saying. Inauthenticity is spotted instantly in the real world, and Instagram users are no less expectant than any one else you’d have a conversation with.

Getting Started

You need to build a complete and active Instagram profile. Take a couple days and fill your feed with Real Content. Remember mindset? That honesty in conversation starts here. Make your Instagram a honest, if curated, version of yourself/brand. Write a catching and honest profile intro, and link it out to your website.

Do this. It’s not hard, but somehow this is the step that kills most people who could otherwise be killing it on Instagram. If you don’t get started you have no chance, so take the step and push out your profile.

Method

This is so simple. Let’s say you are a beautician

  1. Hit the search button up top, and go to your local place
  2. Browse through the posts, click the interesting ones from women
  3. Browse the profile, and if it has something that stands out, hit “Follow” and then “Message”.
  4. Say something like “Hey! I love the picture of you diving in the Bahamas, looks alike a blast! If you’re ever looking to get your nails done stop by my shop I’ll hook you up with a Beach Girls discount!”
  5.  Head back to the local list and repeat.

There is another method too, but not everyone is comfortable with it. Hit that local tab again, but instead of looking for people to connect with, look for competitors. Hit their images, and look at the comments. These people are ripe for prospecting. Hit their profiles, and follow the steps above.

Follow Through

Do this for an hour, at least, Every. Single. Day. Every. You’ll reach hundreds of potential new clients every week, for just a bit of time every day – let’s be honest you were probably going to spend an hour on your phone wasting time anyway, right?

Don’t forget to keep that profile active. You need to be keeping it going, and fresh, every day. Most of the messages you send won’t get a response, and more of the people you reach out to will follow you rather than immediately decide to come down and get their nails done, but that’s the point. You are now in their feed, showing off your awesome content, every day, to people already primed to love it. And it’s free.

This is the map to prospecting on Instagram. Commit to it, stick to prospecting at least an hour everyday, and keeping your profile fresh and on brand, and you’ll reap the benefits.

Starting a Vlog

I started a Vlog recently. The first five episodes were standard Youtube fare, but I realized one day that no one was doing a proper vlog on Instagram. So now I’m doing the vlog in 60 seconds and that is tough.

Most days there isn’t anything interesting or story driven enough to put in a vlog, but when there is, telling a story in 60 seconds that means something is a real challenge. And I like that, it gives the vlog some spice and constraint that keeps it interesting.

Right now my goal is 50 episodes before we leave on the trip in December, but we’ll see how that pans out.

Free tile set from SDB

Here is a free tileset created a while back for a prototype rogue-like platformer that never materialized. They’ll make a solid start for a little platformer or other pixel art game.

scene

They are free as in freedom, use them however you like.

Download this free tileset.