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Calling All Nonprofits: We're Taking Applications for This Year's ZURB Wired

Ryan wrote this on August 27, 2014 in . It has 86 reactions

ZURB Wired — our yearly design sprint to help one nonprofit though a marketing campaign — is around the corner. This year's event is on September 18th. And we're ready to take applications from interested nonprofits.

photo of people sketching ideas during ZURB wired 2014

Just as we gear up for this year's event, we want to give a special shoutout to our friends at Rebekah Children's Services, who just redid their site on Foundation for Sites. They were 2011's Wired nonprofit and they took what they learned from working with us, and used that knowledge when it came to their website refresh.

In every Wired event we work alongside the nonprofit's team, teaching them how do more with less using Design Thinking and a feedback loop. And it's satisfying to see that our previous nonprofits continue to take what they learned and keep winning.

(Design) Thinking It Through

When we first helped Rebekah Children's Services, we built their site on Foundation 2. It was one of the earliest sites built on our framework. So it was understandable that they'd need a refresh on the site.

screenshots of the new Rebekah Children Services Site, its sketch, prototype and wireframe

From prototype to page: our original RCS site.

Director of IT Scott Olsen told us that ZURB's Design Process came in handy when doing the redesign. He said they were able to think thoroughly through this update. They used the process to identify key areas — such as typography, top visited pages, use cases and calls to action — to optimize.

screenshot of the new Rebekah Children Services site

RCS's new site.

They also used Foundation for Sites to prototype layouts and menu options, which came in handy for their A/B testing. According to Scott, off-canvas was the clear favorite so that's what they implemented. But they weren't satisfied with testing only. As Scott said:

Along the way, we gathered feedback from people to ensure the design was on the right track and adjusted accordingly.

But implementation wasn't the only thing RCS learned from Wired. The first website taught them a lot about the usefulness of analytics, the potential of social media and the importance of responsive design, said Scott. And, of course, keeping their audience in mind.

A Design Process Makes Nonprofits Think Strategically

Last year, we helped Rebuilding Together Peninsula, to create a marketing campaign that celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2014. The Design Process got them all on the same page as to the exact look and feel they wanted to represent their organization.

screenshot of the new Rebuilding Together Peninsula site

The site we built for RTP's Anniversary.

More than that, the Design Process really pushed RTP to think more strategically about what the message they were trying to convey, said Associate Director Carilee Peng Chan. As she said:

Conceptually, it makes sense, but living it for 24 hours with the ZURB team really drove the message home with our core team. By working with us to redesign our core communication and marketing assets, I feel like ZURB really gave us an incredible foundation to build on.

RTP has continued to refer to the material we created for them. Cari said that those materials continue to be their starting point when evaluating what and how they need to communicate their message. Executive Director Seana O'Shaughnessy added:

We were really inspired by the entire process and have used it as a touchstone in our decision-making throughout the year.

Become This Year's Wired Nonprofit

We are now accepting application for this year's Wired. The deadline is . If you're a nonprofit that's interested, here's what your proposal needs to have:

If you're a nonprofit that needs help getting over a hump, here's what your proposal needs to include:

  1. Inspire us with your organization's mission.
  2. Name three teamwork tactics that will make your organization a perfect fit for ZURBwired!
  3. Describe a clear goal that your entire organization wants to accomplish.
  4. Say which team members will be committed to participating all day and night.
  5. Name one or two people from the team who are capable of making executive decisions on the organization's behalf — there's no time to consult with the board at two in the morning!

Over the next couple of weeks, we'll be reviewing submissions and picking one nonprofit to work with. So what are you waiting for?

Submit Your Nonprofit's Proposal


Mobilizing Nonprofits Through Design Thinking: Announcing ZURB Wired 2014!

Ryan wrote this on July 28, 2014 in . It has 94 reactions

We're gearing up for our seventh ZURB Wired event, where we work alongside a nonprofit to get over a design hump. The catch: everything has to be done in a 24 hour time crunch.

We've worked with a number of nonprofits over our 16 years. We've noticed that an inspiring mission wasn't always enough to propel a nonprofit to success. For nonprofits, that mission is half the battle. The other half, however, is volunteers.

Volunteers come and go, like the ebb of a river, because life gets in the way. Nonprofits are constantly competing for a volunteer's free time. There are a dozen distractions that can get in the way. So it becomes very hard for nonprofits to mobilize their volunteers and get stuff done. Projects can linger and it seems like nothing will ever move, especially web-based projects. Everyone loses focus and sight. Priorities shift. A web project can be put way down on the list as nonprofits have to reallocate resources elsewhere.

Worse, if an organization is wildly inefficient or disorganized, then it's likely to see a quicker volunteer exodus. One of the recommendations to prevent volunteer burnout (and thus departure) is better project management.

Mobilize in Shorter Bursts

The solution: leverage those volunteer skills for shorter periods of time. Mobilizing teams in a tighter time constraint keeps team members focused. Which is what we at ZURB do for every client project we have, and it's a skill we pass on to the nonprofits that participate in our annual ZURB Wired event. We've been doing Wired since 2006 and helping nonprofits accomplish a specific goal — such as an entire marketing campaign that includes print and web materials — within a 24-hour sprint.

The timebox — an ultimate one of 24 hours — we're able to keep the nonprofit fixated and move quickly through decisions. Instead of waiting for every decision to be thought out and validated over the course of weeks, months, years — it takes mere hours as we move through our entire design process from ideation to prototype to implementation.

Do More With Less

We also work in smaller teams, doing more with less. A common problem faced by nonprofits is throwing too many bodies at a problem and not everyone can contribute. Smaller teams allow us to move quickly through iterations. What gets us moving fast is the design feedback loop.

ZURB feedback loop

Our Design Feedback Loop at ZURB.

The design feedback loop is the cornerstone of ZURB Wired. We work side-by-side with the nonprofit, teaching them design thinking and coaching them through the feedback loop. More importantly, we involve the stakeholders at every stage of the game, getting their feedback so that we can validate ideas quickly and get to the right answer.

Last year, we worked with Rebuilding Together Peninsula. They needed help creating a campaign — including a new website and a video — for their 25th anniversary. We began by exploring many options, either through brainstorms or sketches. We broke up into specific teams: content, print, web and video.

Executive Director Seana O'Shaughnessy jumped from team to team, listening to each team's ideas and giving feedback at each step. This allowed us to cut out the middleman and get direct feedback so that we could move forward.

Stay on Target

But making decisions on the fly isn't always smooth. There are going to be bumps. And as you approach a crucial deadline, there's bound to be panic. One year that's exactly what happened.

Nonprofits are programmed to get every last detail right before taking action. And it can be scary to let things go, which happened when it came to our print deadline. All the print materials, artwork and copy, had to be at the printers by 5 PM. For example, we had a nonprofit's team still fiddling with the copy, even though we'd long agreed on a direction and had it proofread. They floundered a bit on what we had written. But it was too late — the copy had already been sent to the printers. We had to reassure them that we were on the right path. It also helped that one of the nonprofit's manager loved the copy that was written. And he was the one person the nonprofit said we'd have the hardest time getting approval from. He actually felt at ease with the process and moving through fast decisions.

In these moments, the best advice comes from "Star Wars" — stay on target. Remember the end goal and don't allow yourself get caught up in minutiae. Focusing on the goal helps push through anxieties and create amazing work.

Want to Participate in Wired or Know of a Nonprofit?

If you're a nonprofit or know of a nonprofit that needs help mobilizing its team, we'd love to hear from you. You can email us at [email protected] or you can give us your email and we'll reach out to you.


Want to be the next Wired nonprofit or know of a nonprofit?

'Happyimadesignr' Joins the ZURBians

Shawna wrote this on July 22, 2014 in . It has 20 reactions

A 'happyimadesignr' isn't a strange creature from a strange land. It's actually the screen name of our latest designer, who joined us this week.

So without further ado, let's introduce —

Jennifer Tang, Designer

Jennifer Tang, designer

The nickname of 'happyimadesignr' came about after Jennifer designed her first website, and it perfectly describes the excitement and satisfaction she felt in that moment. And while she's designed other things, her passion is for interaction design and the web. That makes her the perfect addition to our wacky team at ZURB.

Believe it or not, Jennifer did have a life before ZURB. Born and raised in San Jose, Jennifer's desire to create came from her great-grandmother's side, which is full of artists, and her grandfather, who is a renowned painter. You could say that creativity is in her blood. She's always crafting small art projects, but didn't discover design until she started blogging and customizing her blog. She then designed websites and flyers for her church — and that was it, she was hooked!

Jennifer got her BFA in Graphic Design from San Jose State. While she pulled many all-nighters at SJSU, Jennifer made some great friends. Now she's joined us at ZURB to do what she does best — use her skills to solve problems and create beautiful, smart designs.

Using technology to create something that is both visually engaging and also solves problems excites me. I love how design works to communicate a message.

When she's not solving tough design problems, she's spending time with her husband and their pets, a black cat named Sammy and a border collie/springer spaniel mix named Jojo. She often runs the Los Gatos Creek trail and gets her workout on at the gym.


Create Blurred Images With HTML5 Canvas

Geoff wrote this on June 20, 2014 in . It has 278 reactions

We love experimenting with emerging features of CSS3 like gradients and shadows. Today we're releasing another slick effect onto the Playground that follows the spirit of those effects and lets you create a blurred background like the ones you see on Rdio.

Our new Image Blur Texture tool takes a photo, blurs and enlarges it, and turns it into an abstract yet appealing background texture. You can use it on any block element — it stretches to fill any space just fine.

Using HTML5's Canvas or CSS3's filter effects, we take any old image, stretch it and blur it, to create a nice mottled texture effect. We've written a CodePen with all the code you need to mess around with it yourself. And look no further than the next iteration of Forrst, which will use image blurs in its headers.

Blur Your Images


A Designer With a Head for Business: Introducing Our Newest ZURBian

Shawna wrote this on June 18, 2014 in . It has 20 reactions

Imagine it's your first day on the job. You stroll into a new environment a little bit nervous. New faces want to shake your hand. Then, the coffee machine explodes, spewing coffee all over the kitchen floor. That was Keri's first day as our new Business Designer. You can say we certainly made it a day to remember for her.

Every moment for Keri is her favorite moment, and the coffee machine exploding is now among them. If you're going to leave an impression, either go big or go home, right? Well, enough of that, let's introduce you to Keri!

Keri Fullwood, Business Designer

casual photo of Business Designer Keri Fullwood

Before exploding coffee makers, Keri bolted from her hometown of LA to study Marketing and Business at a computing/video game school in Scotland. To make her way through school, Keri worked as a freelance designer and web developer for local papers and magazines. She gained some valuable on-the-job experience that she'd later use in life (like here at ZURB).

Keri stuck around Scotland after graduating, working for a security software company managing accounts. Because Keri's also a bit of a shutterbug, she created a small photography team as a side project. But nine years of sideways pouring rain eventually drove Keri to move back to her native home of California. So we have the rain to thank for having Keri on our team!

As our new Business Designer, Keri's design background will help her work closely with our clients and customers to figure out ways to better solve their problems. And she can't wait to get to work on our annual 24-hour design sprint to help a local nonprofit, ZURB Wired.

I'm only new, but I'm really excited about Wired mostly because if I have one skill, it's staying awake for unnecessarily long periods of time.

When she's not solving problems in technology and design, or watching Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad, Keri snaps pictures and goes on adventures! So please everyone welcome Keri!


Design, Pizza and Cats. Introducing Our Newest ZURBian

Shawna wrote this on May 29, 2014 in . It has 25 reactions

The title says it all. Those are the three things that roll around in the mind of our former intern turned full-fledged ZURBian. It's all he thinks about. After all, aren't those the only things that matter in life? We think so, which is why we asked him to come back. OK, that wasn't the only reason. He's a really talented fella.

So it's our pleasure to introduce you to …

Geoff Kimball, Designer

photo of Geoff

We've missed Geoff since his internship ended last year, so it's nice to have him back! It's also nice to have another Hoosier in 'da house.

Raised in the quiet suburbs of Fisher, Indiana, Geoff fell in love with technology at an early age — way back in the dark days of dial-up modems. His love grew to include design while studying at Ball State's Emerging Technologies department.

As he told us:

I developed a fascination with how people interact with technology and incorporate it into their lives. By the time I graduated high school, I knew design was in my future.

He even got to tinker on websites and apps for the university, Ball State's first National Science Foundation grant and even the Indiana state government. So you could say, he got a little experience before coming to ZURB as a summer intern.

From Intern to ZURBian

When it came to applying for a ZURB internship, Geoff didn't just send his resume. He actually built a website to show us why he was the right guy for the job! Unfortunately, the site is no longer up. But trust us, it was impressive and got him the gig.

As an intern, Geoff didn't fetch coffee and answer phones. Nope, we put him to work, tasking him with updating our oldest property — the Playground. It was built on our old code, CSS Grid Builder, which you can consider to be Foundation's ancestor. He took that gnarly code and updated the entire Playground to be responsive. Quite a feat!

He also took a casual idea mentioned in a meeting and, a few days later, came back with a completely new product, Wrangle, which let's you ... wait for it ... wrangle up images using your fingers.

So you can see why we brought Geoff back on board as a full-fledged ZURBian! Now everyone please welcome Geoff!


All Your Mock Copy, Mocked Up.
Introducing Laura Ipsum!

Ryan wrote this on April 01, 2014 in . It has 51 reactions

Just when you thought we were done at Foundation. Just when you thought we couldn't get any better than "Lol and Order: CSS". Now we're mocking ... up your copy.

We're proud to announce, Laura Ipsum, our newest service and the latest in all your prototyping and mock-up needs. We've even hired a Laura Ipsum (what are the odds?). A 20-something with the wit to write all the Lorum Ipsum you ever wanted for your prototypes.

Totes McGoats! Lorem Ipsum is my fav!

Laura will be writing in her own unique voice, from the perspective of a 20-something living in the high-paced, high-tech world of Silicon Valley. Or is it just the Valley? Doesn't matter. It'll be words to tickle your prototype. Here's what she has to say about her new job:

Totes McGoats. ZURB is total amazeballs. So sauceome. Can't wait to do Fireball shots with the ZURBians. OMG. Right? So cray cray. Turn up, a'right. Hashtag twerksies4lyfe.

A recent graduate of Claremont High School, Laura is an expert in all things Lorem Ipsum. She was all A's in her dummy copywriting class. Here's an interesting tidbit: she can type nonsense at 100 word-per-minute. Whew! That's really fast. Only a room full of monkeys can type faster.

Get Laura Ipsum Today!


An Irish Import Who Loves a Challenge
Introducing Our Newest ZURBian

Shawna wrote this on February 24, 2014 in . It has 24 reactions

We don't have to look far for new opportunities here at ZURB. Sometimes they arrive at our doorstep, even from as far away as the Emerald Isle of Ireland.

It's with great pleasure that we introduce you to our newest ZURBian, an Irish import who loves a challenge. Everyone say hello to …

John Leenane, Business Development and Partner

John Leenane

John may have originally come from across the pond, but he's been in the Bay Area for about 14 years. He's worked with companies, big and small (read: startups). He recently founded two companies of his own, but once his path led him to ZURB, there was no turning back.

John's our newest Partner and Business Developer. And he's already gotten his hands dirty, opening up new opportunities for ZURB. He's focused on growing our business and finding new ways to bring ZURB to the next level. As part of our Connections Team, he'll continue to foster relationships, both new and old, sharing our mission of "Design for People" to anyone within earshot. And he can't wait to do so:

I'm really excited about helping all of us at ZURB, our community and all the companies we work with to reach their potential.

Not to worry, he's not all business. John knows how to have a bit of fun. He's a snowboarder, a windsurfer and a concert goer. These days, however, most of his spare time is spent with his wife and four boys — the latter which provides its own unique fitness regime.

Everyone please welcome John to the ZURB team!


How to Lose All Your Content Search Ranking: A Cautionary Tale

Matt wrote this on January 07, 2014 in . It has 121 reactions

Not too long ago we gave our Playground page a brand-new responsive polish. The Playground is one of the last ones we made responsive. And when we finally released its update, something horrible happened — our search ranking evaporated until nothing was left.

screenshot of Google Analytics that shows our search rank dropping off

A screenshot of Google Analytics showing our search rank dropping off.

When launching a new product or a redesign, we usually mind our Ps and Qs. We have a laundry list of things that we check, double check and, sometimes, triple check. Since Playground gets a ton of search traffic, we tripled-checked all the SEO things we knew, such as:

  • Titles
  • Keywords
  • URLs and redirects

We even fixed a number of things broken in the previous site. But that due diligence didn't seem to be enough. Week after week, we watched in horror as our search ranking dropped and dropped and dropped to nothing. We didn't even rank for some of our more well-known Playground pieces, such as Orbit and Reveal. What the heck was going on? Where did we end up going wrong? Was there something we missed? We were scratching our heads.

Whittling Down the Problem

First, we combed Google Webmaster Tools, which showed no errors. Bing and Yahoo still worked as expected. The problem was only in Google (read: the only one we care about). To figure out what happened, we went through all of the things that we could've messed up:

  • Duplicate URLs
  • Broken URLs
  • Bad redirects
  • Cloaking
  • Content being loaded via AJAX
  • WWW vs. no subdomain
  • Page load time
  • Invisible text
  • Service disruptions
  • Bad robots file
  • All of this stuff here from Google

We did all these things. And like we said earlier, we had even fixed most of them with the redesign. We even reached out to Google to figure out what happened, and they finally gave use a short response explaining the problem:

Hello Matt,

Thank you for your email.

It appears that you're serving Googlebot a different content type than you're serving to regular users. This is preventing Google from correctly interpreting your site. If you use the Fetch as Google tool in Webmaster Tools, you'll notice that Googlebot sees pages like http://zurb.com/playground/ajax-upload with "Content-Type: application/zip; charset=utf-8". Googelbot is unable to interpret the content type of your page which is preventing your page from being crawled properly.

What does that mean? Well, the root cause of the problem was that our server was setting a content-type that Google didn't like, so they stopped indexing our pages. All browsers were either not getting this content-type, or just ignoring it and figuring out to us the right one. If you knew exactly what to look for in webmaster tools, you could ferret out that Google was getting this content-type. But no error was reported anywhere. In fact, the page was indicated a "success".

Eventually, the problem was fixed with the correct content-type on our back end code. Everything was back to normal within a week. And Google gave us a curt response to our questions about why this happened in the first place. We asked how do we get the content reindexed now and why webmaster tools didn't show this crawl error.

Hello Matt,

It might take some time for Google to start reindexing URLs on your site depending on a number of factors like how often Google is able to crawl your site. These pages most likely did not show in Webmaster Tools as crawl errors because the pages were live and able to be crawled returning an HTTP 200. However, when Google tried interpreting the data on the page, it was unable to convert the file type and may have chosen not to index a page that did not have any content on it.

A Cautionary Tale

But this isn't about the solution or the resolution. This is a warning. You can't just launch something and not pay attention to your traffic. You might find out something horrible went wrong, long after it's occurred.


Building a Learning Organization: Top 10 Things We Did in 2013

Ben wrote this on December 27, 2013 in . It has 36 reactions

We always look ahead to new ideas, new events, and new ways to help people make great products. But as we close out 2013, we also stop to look back — and what a view it is. This was the year we brought into sharp focus our educational efforts with the launch of ZURB University, a better strong Foundation, new apps and improved ones. So let's take a look at 2013 ...

1. We Acquired Forrst

forrst acquired

The design and developer community Forrst joined our family in January. We acquired this feedback community because we wanted to help people iterate through their work and learn from helping others. We saw an opportunity to build upon what founder Kyle Bragger started and make Forrst a place of active learning.

2. The Smartest Foundation Yet!

Foundation 4

We launched Foundation 4 in February. This was the Foundation that changed everything and helped product designers build responsive websites faster and smartly. We retooled the framework to be Mobile First, made it more semantic and added faster JavaScript plugins.

Yeti Progression

The Yeti also got a makeover this year.

3. Teaching Product Design Through ZURB University

ZURB U

We began holding live, online Product Design training sessions in April. We felt, and still do, that it's crucial for every business to understand product design, especially with the proliferation of mobile devices. We've poured our 15-year experience into each of the ZURB University classes. We've held more than 30 webinars so far, held several in-person workshops and even sent our designers abroad to help hundreds of people learn our approach to better product design.

4. Creating a Library Resource for Product Designers

books

Education as a product designer is ongoing. There are always new things to learn. And we're happy to share our what we've learned, whether it's through a new Playground piece, a new pattern or an interesting factoid. Over the years, we've built several resources for designers, but they'd all been their own separate ventures. With ZURB University, we organized some of our properties — including Playground, ZURB Word, Pattern Tap, Friday 15, Design Quips and Behaviors — into one Library resource. There are also weekly product design lessons. This resource helps product designers learn the many facets of product design under one umbrella.

5. So Long Painful Images Loads on Small Devices

interchange

Images in responsive web design have long stymied designers. Many have proposed solutions, but none quite fit every need. In May, we tackled the problem and released Interchange, our solution for sending the right images to the right browsers. This new technique inspired people to design sites that look great across any platform while saving bandwidth and time for end users. So much so that we took this and baked into the next version of Foundation with some additional changes (see number 8).

6. Beating the Clock for ZURBwired

ZURB Wired

In August, we worked with nonprofit Rebuilding Together Peninsula to create an entire marketing campaign during our sixth ZURB Wired. They learned from our 15 years in a marathon 24-hour sprint. We do this every year to help nonprofits learn the benefits of design thinking and not getting stuck in details. The philosophy behind Wired is that anyone can learn product design to break through barriers and create something wonderful.

7. A Mobile-First Forrst

new Forrst

Eight months after we acquired it, we unveiled the new Forrst site. The focus of the redesign was to make it easier for Forrsters to give contextual feedback and truly make Forrst a place of active learning.

The new mobile-first design makes it easier for designers and developers to give constructive critiques on the go. Notable-style comments help people give contextual feedback on every screenshot. Versions, our most recent feature, helps people see the progress of each post over time. The end result: people can iterate through projects with outside opinions that provide new insight.

8. The Fastest Foundation Yet!

Foundation 5

A new Foundation blasted off in November. The fastest version of our popular framework ever was also the most downloaded at launch. Foundation 5 brought a whole new game with Interchange, which can now work with any type of content, improved speed overall. We also switched from Zepto to jQuery 2 for greater compatibility with the web design world. Designers and developers can now spend more time designing and developing than reinventing grids and UI components, making it even faster for them to use..

9. Strengthening the Foundation Community

Foundation tforum

We also placed an emphasis on faster learning with Foundation 5. Along with that, we launched a new forum for Foundation users to discuss issues, get help, and swap tips. This gives designers a central venue to learn about the CSS framework from each other. Since launching, we've had more than 550 posts!

10. Launching Ink, Our Responsive Email Framework

Ink

We introduced Ink, a responsive design framework for email, in November. We built upon our previous responsive email templates, but this time we created an entire responsive framework not just another series of templates. Why? Because frameworks give you a consistent code structure and styling that makes it easier to modify layouts in the long run. Better than just a single template, Ink allows designers to build complex layouts tailored to their needs.

It wasn't easy to create a framework that works across any email client, but we found a way to create a mobile-, tablet-, and desktop-friendly framework that makes emails look great, even on Outlook. We learned so much from developing Ink that we started an online course to share our experience with others.

2014 ... and Onward!

This was the year we strengthened our education services. From Foundation 5 (faster product development) to Forrst (smarter iterations) to University (formal design education), we've dedicated ourselves to building a learning organization that helps us and others improve their design skills. But our work doesn't end with the year — you can count on more resources and services to further your design education in 2014!



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