Firefox 4 Design Challenge – The Home Tab

Mozilla Labs has announced their Winter 2009 Design Challenge. It is focused on improving the starting experience for the “Home tab” for Firefox users.

In the upcoming releases of Firefox, we’ll move the Home button to be a “Home tab” instead. We will keep the existing functionality where you can display a web page of your choice — or disable it altogether — but since we’re moving this page to live in Firefox instead of on the web, there are some interesting opportunities.

This page will have access to a lot more of the user’s information since it never leaves the browser — history, add-ons, bookmarks, and pretty much anything you can see in Firefox at the moment. This opens up a lot of possibilities, and we’d like to see what you can do with this new-found superpower.

I’m thinking this might be a fun design challenge to create a prototype and submit. The challenge has an explicit non-goal that is not to build a clone of My Yahoo/iGoogle/Netvibes, but to look at building something new. Something beyond the thumbnail/speed-dial interfaces we’ve seen in Opera, Safari and Chrome.

An explicit non-goal of this challenge is to design something like My Yahoo, iGoogle or similar start pages that let you put widgets/gadgets. This is not because we don’t think this use case is valuable, but we’re much more interested in what a browser start page can do with full access to the browser. An interesting example is something like the about:me extension, which shows you trends in your browsing habits. Unlike mainstream portals like Yahoo and MSN, the locally hosted Firefox home tab can potentially offer users an experience that is innately personal, and tailored to each user’s incredibly unique personalities and interests.

Around the web

I’m Looking for Design Intern

I’m looking for a young web designer. This is for paid contract work. The position will be to help design and implement the front-ends for a number of web properties including DavidCrow.ca, DemoCamp.com, FoundersandFunders.org, StartupNorth.ca, StartupIndex.ca, StartupIndex.ca, etc. Basically, the majority of the work is visual design and front-end web implementation. The goal is to to help design and build visual presence and update the front-end implementation of these sites. (Yes, I’ve started to look at HayStack and 99designs.com and other sites).

  • The designer needs to have an online portfolio. The portfolio should include examples of both web and mobile-optimized design.
  • Experience creating, maintaining and deploying WordPress/Drupal/Moveable Type/etc. themes.
  • Experience with web standards compliant HTML, xhtml, css, and Javascript implementation (preferably Prototype or JQuery).
  • Experience with skinning/theming hosted online applications, e.g., EventBrite, GuestListApp, MindTouch, etc.
  • Experience implementing front-end code in MVC frameworks, e.g., Django, Rails, ASP.NET MVC, CakePHP, etc.

My preference would be to find a student or recent graduate. I’d like to help find the next Scott Boms, Ryan Feeley, Matt Brett, Dave Shea, Daniel Burka (yep, they’re all Canadian).

So if you’re a young Canadian designer, that is looking for some contract work, fill out the form below.

[gravityform id=2 name=GreatestDesign Intern in the World]

Envisioning

My friend and colleague, August de los Reyes, was in Toronto over the past few days. He spoke at two of our local institutions that have a very strong footing in the design and design thinking worlds (OCAD & Rotman). At the end of his presentation on emotion, August showed a video from the Envisioning project at OfficeLabs.

“Take a step into the future and get a glimpse into how technology may transform the way we live and work in the years ahead. Explore some of our concepts for how leading edge technologies might be used in real world settings – such as health care, manufacturing, banking and retail – over the next 5-10 years.”

I had a similar albeit different reaction than I did to the Aurora project, the Starfire video, or Knowledge Navigator. I think it was related to the lack of a narrator. I visualized myself using the technologies in my own context, the video had a more personal feel for me. Having rewatched the Productivity Future Vision, I’m going to make time to watch the other videos, including:

Whether or not this is the future, I can start to frame Project Natal, Surface, Courier and others.

Netdexterity – UX Designer/Information Architect

Toronto, ON

This position is for an experienced user experience designer and information architecture specialist. As part of our consulting organization, this role is responsible for working with customers to build cutting edge prototypes and user experience designs to meet their requirements. Our focus is on Microsoft technologies, so familiarity with Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics CRM are a definite recommendation.

Must have skills:

  • Ability to define web site goals, user goals and personas
  • Ability to capture requirements through a number of means including:
    • Stakeholder interviews
    • Group sessions
    • Benchmarking
  • Ability to write design briefs that capture the goals as well as the brand of the client
  • Ability to create an information architecture in the form of site maps, taxonomies and wire-frames
  • High fidelity wire-framing and interface prototyping for the purposes of client validation and usability testing (paper, Visio, Balsamiq, or use what works best for you)
  • Ability to conduct usability tests using different techniques ranging from paper prototypes to functional prototypes to finished websites
  • Ability to create of design mock-ups
  • Experience working with developers to build the final product. This includes
    • Slicing images
    • Writing HTML
    • Helping to implement Ajax/DHTML functionality
    • Basically everything required to build the final product

The candidate also would ideally…

  • Have experience working on-site with customers
  • Be confident presenting to customers/participating in meetings
  • Be familiar with business analysis/business process analysis as it relates to UI/IA/UX
  • Have public sector experience (many of our customers are in the public sector)
  • Have experience with Microsoft SharePoint (website content management, intranets, business applications)
  • Have experience with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Our company:

  • Small, dynamic, successful
  • Multiple Gold certified Microsoft partner
  • Focused on business process and information management
  • Core strengths in MS Dynamics CRM, SharePoint, .NET and related technologies
  • Based in Toronto, ON, Canada
  • Current focus areas: public sector and healthcare
  • Builds and evolves repeatable solution frameworks to accelerate solution deployment and increase customer value
  • Performs only project-based consulting engagements.

Permanent or contract. Based in Toronto. We cannot sponsor candidates for immigration into Canada.

Send resumes (ideally with examples of recent work) to info@netdexterity.com. Put “UX/IA Job” in the subject line.

August 2009

Pitching fastballs

Reblogged from StartupNorth

“Do you have some time for a coffee or beer to chat about my startup?” – Anonymous entrepreneur

I’m happy to talk to entrepreneurs, learn about your startup and even help you out if I can. Since I have a bad habit of over committing and taking on too many activities. Let’s see there’s DemoCamp, Founders and Funders, StartupEmpire, my job (yes, I work at Microsoft), and a personal life (think 2 kids under the age of 2). Things are chaotic and busy, I’m starting to ask entrepreneurs to help me. So without more information, the answer to the above question is “maybe, help me understand why we should me”.

This sounds familiar. It’s similar to the problem faced by investors (made more pronounced with time-constrained applications), and journalists, and customers.

“If we get 1000 applications and have 10 days to read them, we have to read about 100 a day. That means a YC partner who reads your application will on average have already read 50 that day and have 50 more to go.” – YCombinator How To Apply

We talk about an Elevator Pitch. Except this isn’t a world where you might have forced my focus of attention by being artificially trapped in an elevator. The goal is like a newspaper headline. It’s to make me read the rest of the story. You need to stand out. You have to be able to simply, clearly convey what your startup is going to do. The YCombinator team do a great job describing what they look for in How To Apply. The initial filtering criteria for a YC application are obviously different than the criteria that journalists use to find stories, and different that what I use when determining to take a meeting or how I can help a startup. But the process is the same.

“What is your company going to make?" This isn’t the question I care most about, but I look at it first because I need something to hang the application on in my mind.

The best answers are the most matter of fact. It’s a mistake to use marketing-speak to make your idea sound more exciting. We’re immune to marketing-speak; to us it’s just noise.” – YCombinator How To Apply

This is about stand out from the pack. And helping the reader/journalist/audience member figure out who you matter to and why. Think of this as demand generation. You’re driving awareness and interest in your company, your team, your solution. The number one key is to be empathetic to the person whose attention and imagination you are trying to capture. Put yourself in the shoes of your intended audience, and help them understand what is special about your company, your product, you.

“Boil down your elevator pitch to one sentence. Tell us what you sell or do in very concrete language. This sets the context for the rest of your presentation.” – David Rose

Here’s an attempt to write that opening description for a few local startups.

  • FreshBooks is a QuickBooks killer. It is a web-based accounting system allows small businesses to have accurate, professional estimates, time tracking, and invoicing.  
  • Well.ca is Canada’s online drugstore. Strong sales growth over past 3 years, raised $1.1M from angel investors in July 2009, technology focused with strong customer service.
  • Rypple is a web application that gathers anonymous feedback from anyone. Peter Thiel is an investor. Founders have a strong track record at Workbrain.
  • Dayforce is an rich internet application and web service that allows managers to visualize and plan their employees schedules and the employees to enter their timesheets. Founders have strong track record including Workbrain.
  • Kiiro is a social project management application built on SharePoint. It uses the web and Microsoft Project to improve collaboration between the project managers and the team on larger projects.
  • CoverItLive is web application for live blogging events. Companies, conferences, individuals can connect photos, tweets, live video, and rich media during events.

This is just the beginning. But that is the point. The goal is to entice the reader to want to know more. Ideally I’d love to see a short description of what you’re building. A clear identification about how you think you’re going to make money. What you think your secret sauce is. And a brief summary of key team members. Sound familiar. It’s very similar to the advice that David Rose provides as a Pitch Coach. The goal is to take basic pitch information and digest it into a smaller, customized components for your audience. It means that entrepreneurs are going to have stop being ego-centric and start thinking about others. You need to understand what is important to the individual that you are trying to reach and to shape your message appropriately.

For me, I want to understand what your company does/builds; the management team; the market opportunity; the business model; the stage of corporate development (pre-funded, funded, pre-revenue, etc.); why you think I care about this; and what your ask is of me. Is that too much to ask?

Open challenge to local startups to “pitch” for a meeting in a 140 characters or less in the comments (more realistically less than 420 characters – basically 3 tweets).

Resources

Teehan+Lax – Senior UI Designer

Toronto, ON

Teehan+Lax is currently reviewing portfolios of qualified Senior UI Designers who will research, architect, and design interactive experiences for web, software and device-based interfaces. We are looking for someone who is passionate about creating experiences that delight end-users and drive business goals: someone who shares our belief that designing great user experiences is as much about evoking an emotional response as it is about providing users with a means to an end. Candidates must be able to show examples of how they solved complicated problems without burdening users with complexity.

Qualifications

  • At least 5 years professional interactive design experience.
  • College or University Graduate in a related discipline (interaction or information design, HCI, computer science, behavioural sciences, etc.)
  • Strong knowledge and experience in Information Architecture.
  • Ability to perform visual design a bonus
  • Strong leadership and people management skills.
  • Proven ability to mentor and develop skills in all levels of designers.
  • Excellent interpersonal and presentation skills, including the ability to communicate effectively in small and large groups at all levels of a client organization.
  • Must live, or be willing to commute to Toronto.

Creative

  • Responsible for the developing of underlying content and functional architecture, navigation systems, interface elements, information design, and screen layouts for Web sites and other interactive applications.
  • Able to perform systematic analysis (i.e. task flow, workflow, technological and organizational implications) and validation (prototyping, user and A/B/multivariate testing).
  • Able to explore and document design decisions in a variety of modes, from high-level sketches to boxes-and-arrows flow diagrams to detailed wireframes.
  • Proficiency with drawing and graphing applications, HTML, interactive prototyping tools.

Management

  • Provide leadership throughout project discovery, Information Architecture, visual concept development and front-end development.
  • Help manage day-to-day operations, including setting priorities, assigning resources and ensuring project goals are achieved.
  • Oversee simultaneous projects from inception to completion, reviewing project plans, designs and deliverables.
  • Identify and implement process improvements to meet project and team needs.

Client

  • Work with Partners and Associates to ensure they are reacting appropriately to the strategic, logistic and creative needs of the client.
  • Participate in the creative role of new business pitches, proposal development and project initiation.
  • Work closely with clients through a consultative, participatory approach. Establish and nurture good client working relationships.

Team

  • Oversee the creative output of your team.
  • Monitor and drive an ideal balance in the available skills and personality of the team towards the needs of our customers.
  • Monitor and drive the team to utilize the best and latest methods and tools to be competitive.
  • Help develop the culture and mindset of the team to ensure they are healthy, happy, inventive, curious, and open.
  • Mentor the careers of your direct reports.
  • Promote a culture of innovation and teamwork.

What’s different about working at Teehan+Lax

We focus exclusively on front end user experience design for the digital channel. There are no back-end build teams, no offline divisions. Everyone you’ll be working with desires to create best in breed user experiences. In fact, 90% of the staff here hold creative positions. That means no Account Managers, no Managing Directors, no Business Analysts. We maintain very little hierarchy. There are two roles at Teehan+Lax: Partners and Associates. The people with the right skills are put on the right projects. We’re small and nimble. There are no pitch teams, no “B” teams. All of our staff work directly with our clients, so if a client has a question that relates to IA they’ll speak to the Associate or Partner who worked on it – not an account manager.

How to apply

If you’re talented, smart, hard-working and dedicated, we’ll enable you to do the best work of your career. Send us a resume and portfolio of your work to “jobs [at] teehanlax [dot] com”. Suitable candidates will be contacted promptly. Please no phone calls.

The greater sum

Connected experiences and devices are finally starting to emerge. For me, it means that I’m starting to see a variety of great connected experiences using a variety of technologies, cloud services and providers. This has been Ray Ozzie’s vision for Software+Services.

“When you combine the ever-growing power of devices and the increasing ubiquity of the Web, you come up with a sum that is greater than its parts."

I’ve really be struggling to understand examples in the wild. The 2 best examples that represent for me connected experiences are:

  1. Exchange + Mobile + Desktop + Web: I don’t think I could live without Exchange. My email, my contacts, my calendar are integrated in a single online spot and it syncs will all of my devices. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close. I use my iPhone, I use my Windows Mobile phone, I use Outlook on 2 PCs, I use Entourage on my MacBook Pro, I use the web interface on my netbook. It doesn’t matter, I just connect to my exchange account using the device in my hands.
  2. iPod/iPhone + iTunes: This was a vertically integrated experience where Apple provided device, the rich client experience and a very limited web experience (it redirects you to iTunes to purchase Apps or media), which continues to shock and frustrate me. However, it does speak to the media management features of iTunes that we’re present long before the iTunes Store and the need for a rich application with hardware access.

The challenge for me is that both of these examples represent relatively vertically integrated solutions. That is, the ecosystem of devices, software and content is controlled by a few key players (Apple + record labels; and Microsoft and OEMs).

New examples continue to demonstrate solutions including:

  • Kindle: Kindle is a hardware + content distribution solution from Amazon. It provides the device and content.  (Too bad it’s not available in Canada!)
  • XBox + XBox Live + Netflix: Being able to stream TV and movie content to my XBox is fantastic. XBox Live allows me to purchase movies to rent. Netflix allows me to stream TV and available movies. (Too bad it’s not available in Canada! Yes I’m familiar with workarounds 😉

I’ve been looking for other examples that show more diversity of the devices, the services, and the software experiences. And I’ve been looking for examples that move beyond media consumption. We’re all familiar with media portability, it is the history of 8-tracks, tapes, CDs, DVDs, BDs and moving between home stereo, portable music player, or car stereo system. While media examples like Boxee are important are great, i.e., more than 1 television per household is not uncommon, it was more important to find new examples to demonstrate the importance or power of both rich clients and web services. 

  • NewsGator + Google Reader: NewsGator had previously built NewsGator Online to allow customers to sync their feeds with NetNewsWire and FeedDemon rich clients. My biggest complaint with Google Reader (even with offline support from Gears) is that it never lived up to the rich desktop experience provided by NNW and FD. NewsGator apps now use Google Reader to sync to the cloud. It provides me great clients on each of my desktops, my mobile device and on the web.
  • Twitter + TweetDeck + Sync: There have been a large number of rich Twitter clients for most desktop and mobile platforms. TweetDeck has continued to round out both their rich clients (desktop in AiR; and iPhone) but has added a compelling feature for users to sync their groups and columns (think TweekDeck customizations) across device. This recognizes the importance that a rich client experience customized for the desktop or the iPhone mobile experience and the importance of enabling users to configure once and run anywhere.
  • Boxee + Online Video + Social Networking: Boxee is quickly becoming my software application of choice for watching television content. It aggregates online video services and social network for content filtering and recommendations. It hasn’t replaced my TiVO, but add XBox and XBox Live to this equation and it’s pretty close.

So who cares? There are a lot of applications that are just web based. But we’re starting to see devices as end points, i.e., the applications provide access to content and networks. Facebook is still Facebook, but when the experience is better on your mobile phone you use it more. The best option is to understand your users, to understand the context that they use their devices, and then try to build a friction free experience to get access to your application, content, etc. Users live in a world that is open and closed, connected and disconnected. It’s about access to markets, to content and building solutions that enable which is important. It really makes me need to spend more time reading and understanding the Business Model Innovation and business model template because they offer a great way to start to map the infrastructure, offer, customers and finances.

Novus Health – Web Designer

Downtown Toronto

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What we are seeking

We’re looking for a junior to intermediate web designer with experience in designing smart and engaging end-user experiences for the web.

  • You will have experience producing visually stunning design plans/mockups working with a web application team.
  • You have demonstrated understanding of graphic design as it relates to users’ needs and modern design standards, as well as success designing intuitive and user-friendly websites.
  • You are expert in Adobe products such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Dreamweaver etc.
  • Good understanding of current web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)
  • An asset if you can build standard-compliant XHTML/CSS templates.
  • You must have a significant design background with at least 2 years of experience.

About this role

Novus Health is an innovative health services company working with many different corporate clients and national brands. You will have an opportunity to be creative and work with some other talented people like yourself.

We have a fun and relaxed environment located near Queen and Spadina. We are seeking someone talented to start right away. This is for a 3 – 6 month full time contract and there are opportunities for full time permanent employment.

Does this sound like you?

Apply in confidence via email at novushealth@gmail.com with your resume and at least three examples of your work that demonstrate your skills. Please refer to “Toronto Designer” in the subject line.

We can only respond to the applicants that provide the above information and only those that we are interested in connecting with. Thank you for your interest!

Hot or Not? – Web Designer

Toronto, ON

The Gig

Want to make a huge difference? Want to work with fun people on a fun product? Then you want to be at Hot or Not!!

Hot or Not has some of the world’s top dating sites:

  • Millions of people date through Hot or Not.
  • Thousands of people find matches every day.
  • We make money and AREN’T advertising supported.
  • Hot or Not is a fast-paced company that measures releases in days not weeks and rewards individual initiative and gumption.

This is key member of the team, and a growth position. You will have your fingers in the entire breadth of Hot or Not’s offerings: our website, social networking apps (Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc) and iPhone and other mobile apps.

You will

  • Design and develop a world class user experience
  • Create detailed specifications, wireframes and visual mockups
  • Execute your designs’ HTML, CSS and JavaScript (as your skills allow) in collaboration with the engineering team
  • Create graphics, logos, and icons
  • Be responsible for all brand-related creative at the company for both print and web
  • Finally, you will likely manage a team of designers as the company’s needs grow
  • The ideal candidate is an experienced hands-on designer who is excited about new concepts and can think in terms of both wireframes and visual designs. You have worked in a product development group for leading brands, websites, and mobile devices. The position requires a strong design background in visual and interaction design and a portfolio of work demonstrating the range of experience.

You need

  • At least four years experience in web design
  • Strong information architecture skills. We would like to see specifications: wireframes, site maps, etc
  • Strong visual design skills with demonstrated ability to create graphics and icons with attention to detail
  • Good understanding of current web technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)
  • Demonstrated ability to design simple and engaging user interfaces
  • Located in mid-town Toronto.

No agencies or contractors please.

Applicants must live in the Greater Toronto Area or be willing to relocate.

To apply

All applicants are asked to build an online profile by clicking on the attached url:

http://tbe.taleo.net/NA12/ats/careers/requisition.jsp?org=IPNETWORKXS&cws=1&rid=39

Make sure to tell us why you think you are a fit and any relevant url’s to your portfolio, blog, work, resume, etc.

Jet Cooper – Web Designer

Toronto, ON

Jet Cooper is a digital experience agency that specializes in building
smart end-user experiences for the web. Based in Toronto, our
growing team has a user-centric philosophy with a sworn duty to inject
some realness into the staled traditional approach.

Description

Jet Cooper is looking for a junior to intermediate web designer in
Toronto with experience in designing smart and visually stunning user
interfaces for websites and web applications. The chosen candidate
will most commonly be producing flat mockups/comps, but an ability to
build semantic and standard-compliant XHTML/CSS templates are an
asset. Applicants must have strong design acumen and a desire to
learn and grow with the agency.
Candidates are being considered for a 3-6 month full time contract.
Pending fit, there are opportunities to extend the contract and scope
of work.

To Apply

Email us at highfive@jetcooper.com with “Toronto Web Designer (WDW)” as the subject line. Please include the following information: (1) Resume; and (2) At least 5 examples that demonstrate skills described above. Serious inquiries only. Candidates will not be considered if these items are missing. Toronto applicants only.