Project Planning

Creating “Letters”

I’ve been thinking about starting up another podcast (I had four of them in back in College) and after setting a personal deadline of the end of January, I finally got it together!

You can learn more about the podcast from visiting the site or listening to the introductory episode, but basically it will have a different topic in each episode and feature opinions, perspectives, and thoughts from other people.

Since all the podcast stuff has its own home online, I’d like to briefly share my process for getting everything set up here:


1. Site & Hosting

This was the easiest step for me, because I already have hosting (thanks Dreamhost!) and a domain name set up. I might buy a unique domain name for the podcast, but that’s a bit premature right now. For the time being I set up a sub-domain (anything prefixing the main domain) as letters.robrogan.com.

If you don’t have any of the above, you’ll want to shop around for some affordable hosting and a domain name. Both of these should be super easy to find with Google and I don’t feel like writing a tutorial. ;)

2. Setting up the CMS

A CMS is yet another tech acronym for Content Management System. You’ll have lots of content—blogs, podcasts, etc.—and you’ll want to manage it. WordPress is by far the easiest to set up in my opinion so I’m using that.

With WordPress, you can quickly get it set up to distribute your podcast with a single plugin. There are a few to choose from but so far I recommend: Seriously Simple Podcast. What a godsend. Literally all I had to do was fill in the title of my show, author, description, and a few other pieces of info and it was good-to-go.

There are a few other details that I put into my WordPress, but you should set it up however you like. I’m trying to find a balance between practical, low-maintenance customization with just a dash of unique design. Using the plugin Easy Google Fonts I changed the typeface to a much softer sans-serif called Nunito. Note: I would not recommend using more than one or two web fonts as each font file increases the loading time for your site.

3. Making the Podcast

Well this point could be all sorts of things, but let’s just say that at some point you’ll have to sit down and record some audio, then edit the track, save it as a reasonably sized *.mp3 and upload it to your blog’s “Media” (if using WordPress).

In my case, I have a USB microphone (even a cheap one is a lot better than the built-in source) and I recorded with Adobe Audition. If you don’t have Adobe then Audacity is 100% free and gets the job done. Podcast editing a pretty big topic that is covered elsewhere better than I could here, so I’m not going to go into detail.

4. Album Art, Finishing Touches

People can agonize for hours—nay, days—trying to create the perfect artwork for their show. Right from the start I told myself that it will never be perfect, and it’s not going to ooze symbolism either. Erring on the side of simplicity, I just typed up the podcast name in a few fonts and colors and went from there.

I ended up using a strong serif font for the base, and then I masked-out most of an ornamented font, retaining just a few interesting characteristics, and overlayed that in a bright color. I think it has an interesting effect, so that’s good enough for me! Lastly, I needed something else to give it a bit of weight and not feel like a word just floating in the middle of a square. In addition to adding the two lines (reminiscent of lined paper), I added a thick border so that the light background didn’t get lost in the mix of a white web design or podcast app.

Letters podcast artwork

5. Now It Really Begins

So, setting up all of this was a bit of a chore, but in reality it’s just the beginning. I think the interesting challenge remains in creating each episode, especially if I require the participation of other people. I hope it turns into something great, but if not, it’s been a fun design and build process.


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Project Planning

Concept sketch

I took a Friday off from work and honestly it’s hard to get my head out of work, and although I might still be thinking of interfaces, I’m playing and attempting to abstract.

I have been trying out some of the new Adobe apps for iPad and I’ve thus far created one sketch of a UI for work purposes, but attempting to come back to the Sketch or Line apps as a utility has been difficult – it’s just not quick enough for sketching and hardly flexible enough for real work. This doesn’t mean the apps are pointless, however. I think they’re a great place to let your mind wander, and without any specific objective, letting the unique toolkit shape your imagination can produce something unexpected. I think it’s impractical for productivity, but sufficient for creativity.

I’ve recently returned to my chrono-map concept – definitely needs a real name – and I’ve been encouraged by some new sources of research. This afternoon in a calm, but rhythmic Swedish café I aimlessly sketched and it surfaced an initial outline of how I want the service to look.

A simple place of pure fiction

chrono-map concept sketch

Emphasis on map. Subtle timeline, yet hinting at how much change or how many events occur along the line. Brief (optional) background info cards. Option to add new data point, or edit existing moments. Open wiki style sourcing of content.

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Project Planning, Reblog, Work

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
Life’s Little Instruction Book, compiled by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Making Time for Side Projects

By Rachel Andrews on An A List Apart
Rachel Andrews shares some tactics for finding time to dedicate to additional projects, and the motivation to actually work on them.

Make time

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Musings, Project Planning, Work

UX Myth #1

People read on the web ux myths

UX Myth #1


Source: UX Myth #1: People read on the web

I love the UX Myths blog; both as a user and as a User Experience Designer. There are pithy observations about our common behaviors as we interact with the internet, and all of it is supported with research – yay science! I’d like to feature a visual version of each of these excellent “UX Myths” to help promote it.

less than 20% of the text content is actually read on an average web page
Nielsen Study, via UX Myths

In my own work this is something I’m always conscious of during content planning and wireframing. Perhaps I don’t give text enough credit, as I design smaller and smaller areas for copywriting to live on web pages, but for the most part I believe that people honestly want to skim, look at pretty pictures, and get to the important information. This is reflected in my work for Mount Gay Rum. I designed their new site to have collapsed content sections and only display the headers. The headers and curated photography are enough to get branding (history, artisanal, sailing, etc.) across, but if you happen to be interested in one of the topics on the site (doubtful), you can click to read about it – otherwise, keep skimming! I operate on the assumption that people will skim, and I seek to facilitate that.

I’m doing that again with a global brand’s new site template that has to adapt to a variety of markets, some with a lot of content, and some with very little. In either case, these collapsed headers facilitate skimming so you can get to what you’re looking for faster.

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Musings, Project Planning

Making better use of better tools

I got a lot of milage out of the phrase “this gig wouldn’t be any fun if it were easy” this year.

When I was in my early twenties and just learning carpentry, all of my tools were terrible. My hammer bent nails, none of my saws ever cut in a straight line, and my tape measure always managed to be off by just a little bit once everything was said and done.

Let’s be honest: responsive web design isn’t easy when you’re just getting started with it. It calls for some major changes in both thinking and process. You start out clumsy at first, like with any new tool; maybe you even find yourself cursing it out from time to time. Thing is, once you’ve struggled through it and you stand back to admire what you’ve built: yeah, maybe you can see a couple of seams and maybe you could have done a few things better, but you’ll know those mistakes before they happen next time. When we move on to the next job our tools seem a little lighter, sharper, and more accurate than they did on the last one, because we got better with them.

This year we all started getting the hang of an incredible new tool. Next year we’ll get even better with it.

We’ll probably still do a fair amount of cursing, though.
Mat Marquis, designer/developer, Filament Group, and technical editor, A List Apart

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Project Planning, Wireframes

I just might have to get this!

Thanks to one of my favorite blogs on art and design, Abduzeedo, I came across uxpin.com, which has a solid product offering. At the least, this blend of sticky notes and wireframing is pretty awesome! I suppose I could get some full-page label paper and print my own, but these are snazzy, come with a booklet to plan out your problem, solution, audience, etc., and (although they’re not clear) it looks like those little black bits on the stickies will scan in with their iPhone app and give you a digital version right away!

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