Denver Startup Week

What a great week!

Slice of Lime sponsored Denver Startup Week last week and had a wonderful time giving talks, participating on panels, and partying with the 5,000+ people in attendance. With so many events to attend, it’s impossible to do everything. Here’s a rundown of our week and the fun that we had:

We Pre-Partied

Some people couldn’t wait until the actual event, so for those anxious souls there was “Startup Bash”

bash

We Had Lunch with Seth Godin

The Denver Startup Week Luncheon had incredible local speakers as well as nationally celebrated Seth Godin to share their wisdom on startups and entrepreneurialism.

luncheon

We Partied

Tech Cocktail was a great way to end the first day of the week and also sent the best pitch of the night, CampusScene, to Vegas!

techcocktail

We Dropped Some Knowledge

Slice of Lime was seen speaking throughout the week on topics like “Disruptive Innovation Theory”, “Mobile UX”, “How to Hire a UX/UI person”, and “Startup Cribs.”

disruptive

We Rapid Prototyped

Things got messy as we led a work session around rapid prototyping, tearing into cardboard boxes, string, tape, and bubble gum to create new prototypes every 5 minutes.

prototype

We Hired!

Slice of Lime brought on two new people this week! We all went out to lunch at Pints Pub to welcome them and celebrate. As a surprise, everyone got the brand new Sphero 2.0!

pints

We Celebrated

We ended the week with a gigantic party right outside of our office at Galvanize. As the sun set, the music kept going and happy Denver Startup Week people danced into the night. Thanks Denver Startup Week for an excellent and well run event. We were proud to be a part of it and even more proud to be part of such an awesome startup community!

party

Telling Stories

One of the biggest strengths we carry at Slice of Lime is our ability to be ‘in’ our projects. We find the best way to produce solid, relevant, high-quality work is to know our clients inside-and-out. Our company is built on creating amazing experiences, and we believe the best way to create amazing experiences for our clients is to understand who they are, who they aren’t, and who they want to be. We believe in this so much, that we go to great lengths to make sure it happens. We spend extra time visiting our clients in person, touring their offices/facilities/factories/quarries, meeting their teams, and getting out of our designer-selves to see, first-hand, the problems we are trying to solve. We use their products, research their competition, get involved in their conversations, and listen to their customers and fans.

Once we begin crafting a User Experience Strategy and putting our thoughts together, it’s important for us to consider the challenge in articulating solutions back to the client. Some of the client teams we work with are dedicated to the project (which is great!), but others are also focused on handling the day-to-day intricacies of running a company. While our teams may be 100% dedicated to a project, our clients may not be, and that’s ok. Here’s how we make sure we stay in sync while building amazing experiences:

We tell stories.

Part of what we do early in the process is to learn about and expose ourselves to the stories that exist within the project. Is the shopping cart abandonment rate high because of a technical issue, or are customers just not confident in the order process? Are new customers really overwhelmed by the complexity of your application, or are they simply having trouble knowing who you are? Questions like these produce narratives that can be pieced together to form a clear picture of the problems at hand. With enough research and digging, the stories really start writing themselves.

IMG_4702

The journey map.

Something we use at Slice of Lime to help us build and refine these stories is a Customer Journey Map (or “User Journey Map”). This is the framework we use to craft the overall story. It describes the main characters (user-types), the various landscapes (tasks involved) and the challenges the main characters face along the way (what’s working and what’s not). What’s great about this approach is that it provides us with a holistic narrative that allows us to spot inconsistencies.

To bring the story to life, we use tools like InvisionApp or Solidify to help us “narrate” while allowing us (and our clients and users) to click-through user-flows in real-time. Since all of our wireframes and UI designs are part of a larger story, it’s easy to build and test a working user-flow that is analogous to the final, working product. This approach also has the added benefit of allowing us to gather feedback on the spot, limiting the time needed for revisions and approvals.

If you haven’t taken a story-based approach to UX, we suggest you try it. Don’t be afraid to start small. Let your research and creativity narrate the solutions you are presenting and don’t be afraid to tweak the story a bit to make it more effective. Storytelling has been a natural way of communicating ideas for thousands of years. We hope it becomes a natural part of your UX strategy as well.

We Heart Denver

It’s been about 6 months since the opening of our second office in Denver. We love it.

We’ve setup home within a suite inside the incredible Galvanize co-working space, which has allowed us to easily meet up with a growing number of Denver clients. Galvanize does have about 10 conference rooms, a bar, and a cafe, after all.

We just wrapped up our Gold sponsorship of Denver’s 2013 TedXMileHigh event, a “showcase of Colorado’s maverick thinkers and doers, risk takers, professional athletes, entrepreneurs and innovators, humanitarians, creative performers and many more extraordinary people.”

Right now, we’re working with Governor Hinkenlooper, helping to create a website that describes and supports the new state of Colorado branding initiative. We’ve been honored with an invitation to the Governor’s mansion for a private dinner next week!

And next up, we’re sponsoring (and hosting some events for) Denver Startup Week, a celebration of everything entrepreneurial in Denver.

Denver’s an eclectic, electric, and highly creative place – we couldn’t have picked a better city for Slice of Lime’s second “home.” Nothing describes this sentiment better than Air Ball Creative’s “Breathless” video that was played at this year’s TedXMileHigh. Enjoy:

Amazing Team Experiences

At Slice of Lime we talk a lot about “Creating Amazing Experiences.” This applies to the work we do as well as the way we want our clients to feel when working with us. It also means that we fill our year with unique and amazing experiences for our team. Earlier this year, we all went and visited with Conan O’Brien in the green room.

But, we haven’t stopped there. Here’s just a few more things we’ve done this year as a team:

1) We were all high rollers in our own, private VIP suite at the last Avalanche game of the season. 

Avs

2) We were fast and furious racing in performance go-carts at about 45 MPH at Unser Racing.

unser

3) We were dizzy as we climbed over 14,000 feet to summit Quandary Peak to soak in the views.

quandary

Here’s to creating some more “amazing experiences” in 2013!

And hey, want to join our team? We’re hiring! We’d love to meet you!

Nike+ Accelerator and Lean UX in a Day

A few weeks ago, Slice of Lime was invited to speak at the TechStars-powered Nike+ Accelerator in Portland, Oregon. The accelerator’s purpose is “to allow companies to leverage the Nike+ platform, and NikeFuel, to build offerings that inspire and assist people to live more active, healthy lifestyles.”

We held office hours with the teams and gave a presentation on “Lean UX”, stressing that user experience can be done quickly and effectively without investing a lot of time and money. In fact, it could be done for free within one day’s time.

In the Nike+ Accelerator, ten startups receive $20,000 to build an application over a three-month period. With a tight schedule, and a relatively small budget, each startup needs to iterate quickly and be willing to pivot when necessary (which is often). For many startups this is easier said than done. It’s hard to get through a large queue of ideas quickly while also allowing for customer feedback.

At Slice of Lime we don’t start a project without knowing how we will be getting feedback and validation on our work. We use a variety of tools to get feedback from our client’s users. We typically start by sharing our own internal sketches, move to high-fidelity wireframes, and eventually show designs and functioning code.

As an early-stage or pre-funded startup, working with a UX Design agency may not be in the budget. And that’s OK! It’s still possible to integrate a smart user experience into your workflow.

To demonstrate this, we came up with our own Nike+ Accelerator startup, and used it as a case-study.

Enter “Gut Check,” a conceptual iOS app based on the Nike+ API. The idea is simple: after checking in to one of Portland’s many great breweries (Foursquare, Facebook), Gut Check prompts the user to enter how many beers they’ve consumed, then calculates an activity that will burn off those extra (delicious) calories. Once the activity is complete, some clever calculations are done, letting the user know if they have kept off the beer gut.

How long did it take us to develop a basic idea like this, sketch out a few prototypes, AND get user feedback? Five hours. That’s right. Less than a day’s worth of work.

The only bit of technology we used is POP App (free on the Apple App store). A couple pieces of paper and some pens and we were on our way! Here’s how it works:

  1. Sketch out the idea on paper.
  2. Snap a photo of the paper using the POP App.
  3. Add some tappable areas and link them to other “pages.”
  4. Grab someone to test on.
  5. Push play!

It’s pretty simple, and was actually quite fun. The best part about this approach to an idea is the ability to rapidly iterate and adjust based on feedback. A tester doesn’t like one of the navigation labels? Change it, and test again.

Here’s some video of one of our test sessions below.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Get feedback, and get it early.
  2. Don’t worry about making the sketches perfect. They are going to change.
  3. Have fun!