Dr. Smarty or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bot?

By on in Culture, Development, Everything Else

 

Twice a year, all of the Carbon Five offices congregate for our company-wide Summit. One of the funnest parts of these all company trips is the Codeo, which we have been running for the last few years and they have become an integral part of our DNA.

For those that don’t know, our Codeo (short for “Code Rodeo”) is a 2-day internal hackathon. The goal of the Codeo is to have fun creating a product with people you haven’t had a chance to work with in a while (or maybe ever).

The teams are made up of mixture of office locations and cross-functional groups so that everyone has a different role to play (developers, designers, product manager, and operations). The focus of this Codeo was “Slackbots” with the overall goal to create something that helps out our co-workers and/or Carbon Five as a whole. The only rule was to use an existing internal Slack channel as inspiration for the project.

Here is a snapshot of each team’s Slackbot, as told by the team. Continue reading …


Founder Five: Pete Shalek and Steve Marks from Joyable

By on in Everything Else, Startups

We’re catching up with some of the most inspiring founders we’ve worked with to share insights and advice from their experience of starting and growing businesses. Recently, we worked with the Joyable team on their iOS app, and we were inspired by their customer-focused mindset. For those who are not yet familiar, Joyable offers an online Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program to help individuals overcome social anxiety. Every decision made by Pete and Steve from the outset was validated by real consumer experience.

We also published an extended version of this interview on Medium.

1) What was the “aha moment” that motivated you to start Joyable?

Pete: I knew I wanted to do something in healthcare, and I wanted to see problems on the ground [and] do some customer development work. So I convinced some doctors at Stanford Hospital, where I was in business school, to let me shadow them. I followed doctors in the emergency room for eight hours a day. It was fascinating and really fun. As anyone who works in a hospital will tell you, there are many things that can be improved in hospitals— even at great hospitals.

That hit me really hard. This idea that someone was in bad enough shape that they went to an emergency room, and they were being told to wait three months. – Pete Shalek

PeteShalekSteveMarks

Continue reading …


ES6, ES7, and Looking Forward

By on in Development, Everything Else

After attending Allen Wirts-Brock’s presentation on ES6 and ES7 at ForwardJS last week, I asked him if there was more momentum in shaping the JavaScript language recently. ES6, or ECMAScript 2015, has only just been released and shall soon be followed by ES7, or ECMAScript 2016. And what is ECMAScript, you may ask? ECMAScript is nothing more or less than the standard that defines what JavaScript is. With the last major release of ES5.1 back in 2011, and two new releases two years in a row, it appeared to me there was new momentum put into evolving this incredibly popular language. This blog will give you an overview of how JavaScript is being shaped over time and give a high-level look at ES6 and ES7.

Shaping JavaScript

Allen famously created the JavaScript language with Brendan Eich in just 10 days in May of 1995. He points out that while that statement is true, the reality is that there was a lot of thought preceding those 10 days about how the language would be shaped. After initially creating the language, it was picked up by two different companies who were trying to develop it independently. That is when the standards committee was developed. Technical Committee 39 (TC-39) of ECMA International now sets the ECMAScript standard. The standards committee is headed by pioneers in the business: Mozilla, jQuery, Meteor, Salesforce, Internet Explorer, Intel, et al. Continue reading …


It’s a Mobile App Life (in China)

By on in Culture, Development, Everything Else

This week I returned from a 2-week trip through 4 cities in China. I was born there, spent a fair amount of time there growing up, and I also lived there for a year on a Fulbright fellowship after college. Today, I work as in San Francisco at Carbon Five as a product manager, helping startups and tech companies turn their ideas into software.

Although the purpose of this trip was family-based, and though I’ve been there before, seeing China’s adoption of mobile technology completely blew my mind. The growing differences between U.S. and China mobile applications made my stay pretty difficult in ways I hadn’t experienced or expected. While I missed my American apps, the sophistication of extremely powerful Chinese apps also took me by surprise, with just a handful of many-featured, multi-purpose apps dominating my usage.

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

Blocked Apps

Some of the apps that – straight up –  will not work:

  • Facebook (blocked by the government for not censoring content and providing access to user data after the 2009 Xinjiang riots)
  • Instagram
  • All things Google (including web browsing, gmail, drive and google maps)

What do I mean by not working? It’s not like you’ll see a notification like this:

Notification

It’ll look more like this:

slack_loading

Never have I ever upgraded so many Apple native apps out of my Appleware folder as I had to in China. But let’s move on to the good. Continue reading …


Top Five Questions Founders Ask – Part 4

By on in Everything Else, Partner Interviews

As a full-service software consultancy, we at Carbon Five get lots of questions from clients past, present, and future. We’re passionate about sharing our industry knowledge, so we sat down with our leadership team and got some advice for aspiring founders and product leaders as part of an ongoing 6-part series. You can see all the interviews here.

Here in part four, we asked Partner and Director of Design David Hendee to talk to us about costs, operations and the big brand.

Should I work with an outside design agency? Do I need a branding firm?

Carbon Five is an action-oriented consultancy. We are passionate about putting product into market, not just having great ideas. The question does come up: how much design do I need to get started with Carbon Five? The real answer is none. You can come with just an idea. On day one, we’ll talk about the people your product solves a problem for, what you think the problem is, and how you think you’re going to solve it. That’s a great starting point for working with us, because we can do both design and the first version of your brand. Our clients work with our in-house designers, but sometimes we’ll partner with outside agencies, which can be great as well.

david

More important, I think is do you have a team that can solve a problem and has the grit and wherewithal to take the money and actually do something effective with it?

Continue reading …


Establishing Culture? Get Outta Town!

By on in Culture, Everything Else

As Carbon Five grows, we experiment with different ways to define, elaborate, and communicate our company culture. One thing we do is organize semi-annual retreats, we call them summits, that rotate between our two main offices in San Francisco and Santa Monica.

These events are, first and foremost, about people. They are a way for our employees to establish a more personal connection with each other even though our offices are geographically separated.

The summits aim to be fun, light hearted, and not take themselves too seriously. We aren’t looking to hand down a set of values, guidelines, and rules that Carbon Five employees must follow. Instead we encourage people to discover and define our shared values by talking with each other: What is going on in the different offices? What is emerging across our design, development, and product management practices? What are the things that make coming into work every day enjoyable and inspiring?

We’ve been organizing company retreats for three years now. We thought it was time to share what what’s worked and what we’ve learned.

Continue reading …


Top Five Questions Founders Ask – Part 3

By on in Everything Else, Partner Interviews, Process, Startups

As a full-stack software consultancy, we at Carbon Five get lots of questions from clients past, present, and future. We’re passionate about sharing our industry knowledge, so we sat down with our leadership team and got some advice for aspiring founders and product leaders as part of an ongoing 6-part series. You can see all the interviews here.

Here, we sat down with Courtney Hemphill, partner and technical lead, to give us some insight into keeping your startup lean and functioning smoothly.

How can I find great developers to hire?

There are a couple things that I’m seeing right now that I feel like are smart plays to finding great developers. I think great developers are not people that are created in 12 weeks at a Bootcamp, I think they’re people who are really interested in solving problems, and they’ve just found that their modus operandi for solving problems happens to be in code. The equivalent holds true for design. They’re just solving problems through a visual experience versus code. Finding those people is what you want to do. That doesn’t really answer the question though so I would say that code languages are something that people get really interested in. Meaning that new languages are coming out and each of those languages can solve specific problems. Courtney Hemphill

I think great developers are not people that are created in 12 weeks at a Bootcamp, I think they’re people who are really interested in solving problems, and they’ve just found that their modus operandi for solving problems happens to be in code. The equivalent holds true for design. They’re just solving problems through a visual experience versus code.

Continue reading …


Iron Gaming Launches Rezli

By on in Everything Else

Our client, Iron Gaming, announced the release of Rezli today at the 2050 Events Daytona Conference. Iron Gaming is a major player in eSports tournaments, offering live streaming of gaming events that have developed a massive following in the gaming community. They came to Carbon Five looking to develop an online product that would suit the needs of their existing user base. Rezli fills that gap by connecting gamers to each other and gaming organizations, much like LinkedIn does for job seekers.

Continue reading …


Best of Strange Loop 2015

By on in Announcements, Development, Events, Everything Else

strange_loop_logo_final_color

Several members of the Carbon Five team were in St. Louis this past weekend (9/24-26) for Strange Loop. The conference focuses on the intersection of computer science and industry. As usual the conference is committed to delivering tech-focused, fantastic content which has all been made available online.

Before you start wading through all those videos, however, we thought we could offer up a few of our favorites to share.

Propositions as Types by Philip Wadler

Dr. Wadler gives a lively overview of the history of computation and formal logic. Using this history he showcases how a deep understanding of the nature of the universe can be used to discover new programming language designs.
Continue reading …


Flexing the Rules of Material Design

By on in Design, Development, Everything Else

About a year ago I worked on my first Android app at Carbon Five. Having been an Apple junkie for years I decided to take a deep dive into the Android world. I switched up my phone to a Moto X (which I’m still sporting) and spent some time reading the Material Design guidelines.

Man bending backwards

I immediately fell in love with the guidelines because you didn’t need to be a designer to understand them or apply them. The digestible explanations of the fundamentals of design like grid systems, typography and color theory made it simple for our team to understand the behavioral and visual design used by comparing elements of our digital product to physical objects and how they would behave in relation to objects around them.

 

But, as a designer with a past in branding and advertising I had to step back and ask, If I’m following these guidelines word for word, how will I allow my brand to look and feel like itself rather than Google? I knew I had to answer this question before visually designing for the project I was working on and the best way to do that was find out: how other apps were using material design, who was getting recognition for using it well, and why?

 

After looking at dozens of apps I started to realize most apps were and still are using the guideline as a coloring book. They are grabbing elements off of the stickersheet that Google provides as a resource and changing up the colors of elements like buttons and cards to match their own brand colors.

 

However, the ones who are using it well and are getting recognition for it were flexing the rules to leverage their own brand identity. New York Times was awarded for “elegant use of typography” by Google in their Material Design Awards and they were hardly making any use of Roboto. Weather Timeline was recognized for “crafted simplicity” and were using four primary colors as opposed to the prescribed 1 primary and 1 secondary palette. AirBnB was featured on Play Store’s editor’s choice list and completely broke free of burying navigation in the NAV drawer.

 

3 Android apps and 1 talk at Droidcon DE later, having seen the good and the bad, I’ve created a 5 step process to help make sure we always maintain the identity of the brand while using Material Design.

Step 1 Reset Your ThinkingStep 1: Reset Your Thinking

If you’ve been working on your app for a while, reset your thinking. Try and look at it like you’re on boarding to the product team and ask yourself and your team members these questions:

  • Who is your product for? Who is your Primary customer?
  • What’s the primary function? What goal is your customer trying to accomplish?
  • Why does your customer need your product? Is it addressing a pain point that they have?
  • How will it be used? In what space/context is your customer using this app?

Knowing what your product communicates to customers and potential customers and what people see, hear and think about your brand is a great way to identify what parts of your brand makeup are core to your visual and verbal identity.

Here at Carbon Five we have devoted project rooms to put up our product artifacts. I recommend you grab a role of tape and put up your findings from this step in your workspace. Surrounding yourself with artifacts that form your knowledge of a product will help engrain your findings in both your team’s understanding of the product and your own.

Step 2 Grumpy Cat

Step 2: Work With What You’ve Got

As designers on a product team we commonly inherit existing designs whether it’s a marketing site or a logo on a business card. Most often than not we have to incorporate some of these elements. Start this step by creating a minimal style tile of assets your brand may already have like logos, emblems, images, fonts and colors.

Again put up your findings in your workspace and identify what makes you unique when compared with Google’s Material Design Guidelines. You’ll also want to ask if your current visual esthetic communicates the tonality and context you identified in Step 1. If the answer is no, identify the minimum visual changes you can make to your brand to be on equal planes of communication visually and strategically.

Step 3 Rules to FollowStep 3: Rules to Follow

As you approach visual ideation and adding Material Design into the mix consider a few recommended rules to follow:

  • Respect Ratios
    The incremental growth that Google uses both within their design grid and typography is a great rule to apply. It helps set up a level of hierarchy in your app that is fundamental to any good design navigation.
  • Use Shadows
    Remember Material Design is a physical way of viewing digital objects and physical objects always have shadows.
  • Pattern is Language
    Apply as much of the visual pattern as you can because it’s the language your customers’ speak.

Step 4 Minimum Viable Design CustomizationStep 4: Minimum Viable Design Customization
If there are 2 things you can do quickly to customize your android app from out of the box Material Design it’s this:

  • Customize your color palette:
    This is the step everyone seems to be applying.
  • Customize your font:
    Customizing your font is the quickest way to making your brand feel more like you and less like Google. Roboto is a system font and it’s not necessary for it to be your font.

Step 5 Sketch It OutStep 5: Sketch it Out
Keeping in mind everything you’ve learned about Material Design and your brand gather your team and ideate on paper how you can establish your own look. Sketch out basic UI elements like buttons, icons and cards and see how you can make them unique to your brand. Six up sketching is a great way to ideate this without getting stuck in the visual design phase too early.

Put these up along with your other artifacts and see what feels right for your product. Maybe it’s just as simple as rounded corners don’t match my branding or the system icons are too cute for my brand’s tone of voice. The goal here is to identify what changes/additions you can make to quickly identify your own look and feel.

Ultimately you want to be compliant, but not a copycat. Material Design guidelines may seem prescriptive but they’re really meant to be adapted for your brand. By getting to know your brand you can pick and choose what parts you should apply strategically.