Archives for November 2011

November 13, 2011 - No Comments!

Why Startup Weekend Is Almost Essential – #swmelb

Last Friday, the 4th of November I attended Startup Weekend Melbourne (Hosted at York Butter Factory). The day before we had just pushed Barkles live to the public. Now why would any entrepreneur go to an intensive 54 hour weekend event the day after launching his own startup? Well, since you asked:

  • Passion
  • Commitment
  • Trust
  • Experience
  • Networking

Passion

I have a passion with the entrepreneurial world. Anyone who can create something from a random idea, get others involved and inspire them to build a business is nothing short of amazing. It is that passion that inspires my mind to keep creating and building everyday. If I have the chance to be around 100+ people doing the exact same thing, I'm going to jump all over it. Startup Weekend brings out the best in entrepreneurs. It forces them to look at their strengths, challenge their weaknesses and work as part of a team. When stress, anxiety, deadlines and pitching plagues the mind, it demands a certain level of focus, something that many of the entrepreneurs were facing for the first time.

To be around other experienced entrepreneurs in that time of need is essential. On the other side they need to be able to see that there is a force of people who want to change things for the better. Who want to challenge the status-quo. Who continually ask why and why not.

Commitment

A month before Startup Weekend I made a commitment to Tyson Lundbech (a good friend and one of the organisers) that I would be attending. I had no idea Barkles would be launched the day before (or that it would be even be ready by then!). When the time came, we launched Barkles - then it hit me. That whole weekend I would be out of action for most of the day and night. Even so, I wanted to stick to my commitment because I truly believed in the experience that Startup Weekend would bring.

Trust

I also knew I could trust Jay Whiting (Barkles Co-Founder and Developer) to hold the fort while I was away. It was a big responsibility, and in hindsight was a brilliant decision. We had very few issues over that weekend, yet we had a lot of activity and an overall great response to the lanch.

Experience

The Melbourne Entrepreneur scene is literally growing before my eyes. There are hubs popping up all around, multiple incubators being launched and many more startups are being built every day. Startup Weekend brings all of those together - A hub of activity over the weekend, 100+ entrepreneurs working together in smaller teams, $5000 winning pitch prize and an opportunity to travel to the JFDI–Innov8 2012 Bootcamp in Singapore including $15,000 SGD in seed funding. Startup Weekend truly is an incredible experience that you should do at least once if you are passionate about entrepreneurship.

Networking

In addition, the mentors, organisers, judges and other workers in the space bring a great level of experience to the table. If I were to give one piece of advice to any entrepreneur it would be "Be seen and heard, constantly". This doesn't mean you should bug everyone you can while they are eating lunch - it's more about paying attention to the advice they choose to share. Ask all the questions you need answered and get to know them. If you meet some amazing people at these events, get their details and arrange a time (yes, on the spot) to catch up in the future for a casual chat. It's these moments when you are in the same environment that will be the easiest to connect, just by pure proximity and similar interests.

The next time Startup Weekend rolls around I strongly recommend you get on the list. It will be an experience like no other, where you will understand a lot about yourself in a quick timeframe. You will meet many other inspiring people, and the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

Like Startups? You should follow me on Twitter.

November 11, 2011 - No Comments!

The UX Behind Barkles UI

Note: This post has been kept up for historic reasons as Barkles is no more.

For as long as I can remember I have questioned why things have been done a certain way and what other approach they could take. In its simplest form UX is just that - questioning why things are done a certain way and making them more fluid for the user.

What Is UX?

User experience as it stands is not just a great UI (User interface) or functionality. It's about the experience for the user as they click-through, try on, purchase, run between and more (Wikipedia - User experience (UX) is about how a person feels about using a product, system or service). It's how they connect. Unfortunately, it's very easy to ignore or overlook a great UX due to:

  • Designer/Developer is too close to the product and can't see it from a new users point of view
  • UX is hard to do correctly based on the many viewpoints
  • There is no manual - it's often just what you feel by using the product
  • User feedback is ignored
  • The developers, designers and general team aren't using their own product

By taking into account the importance of a great UX early on, you can start baking core principles into your design, functionality and concepts. This will help build the foundation of your platform just in the same way Apple represents brilliant design simplicity. At the start of development the UX will be directed to how you feel using your own product.

A Live Example

I always find it important to give a working example to provide clarity to the visual readers. So I will dive into my recently launched startup Barkles and point out a few things I did early on that fed into functionality, marketing and the end result.

Barkles is a side by side platform for debates. The premise is simple - show side by side debating with commenting sections. Based on the simplicity, I wanted the design and functionality to stand out - to be harder to instantly replicate. In that, we also had to build the functionality to the same professional level.

A Barkles Dogfight

As you can see above, the Barkles Dogfight interface is simple. Yet, there is enough functionality to get involved and share your opinion, view Dogtags (profiles) & throw Bones. The design gets out-of-the-way of the user and allows them to get involved in the discussion.

Scrolling Context

The experience with functionality replicates this. The Dogfight Starter that stretches the full width of the centered area follows the discussion. When you scroll down the page it comes with you - constantly keeping the debate in context. This in itself is a powerful UX addition as it keeps the user focused on the point of the debate further they go down the page.

The Dogfight Starter fixes to the top of the browser window

The Quick Scan

The page width also helps out in creating a simpler and more enjoyable UX. We could have easily let the width spread the full side of the page so the responses had more room, but this would have required much more involved left-right scanning of the debates themselves. By keeping it center aligned and focusing on a smaller width it allows the user to follow the debate easily by scanning each side with minimal eye movement. Below is a wider mockup which is uncomfortable to read in comparison (click to view the larger image).

A quick mockup of a larger width area Dogfight

Simplicity With Colour

Other elements that enhance the user experience are the simple coloured lines next to the avatars. These lines reinforce the different sides of the debate. This simple, yet effective addition is noticeable when taken out:

Different coloured lines taken away from each side

As you can see, even with the Agree and Disagree buttons labeling each side the lack of coloured lines blurs the lines between the sides. It's only a subtle difference, but enough to 'feel' confusing or messy as the user scrolls down the page. The colours also break up the grey/blue themed page and add some character.

Try The Functionality

Now, while this article focuses mainly on design aspects, it's important to note the underlying functionality that supports the UI/UX. The quick loading and simple interface functions well, and great care has been taken to enhance the experience of adding an opinion. From text-shadow, input box drop down to hover box-shadow, everything has been put in place for a stronger (and easier) experience for the user.

While I could talk about the functionality for a while, it's better for you to get a hands on feel of how it works. View this Dogfight and get a feel for the experience we have crafted - http://barkl.es/tdSLU8.

I hope that these insights have given you a few ideas or at least an in-depth look at a Barkles Dogfight and the UX behind it. In future articles I will go into more detail about other pages of the Barkles platform.

If you have any questions just give me a shout me on Twitter.