Posts About ZURB
Posts About ZURB
We looked high and low, and after a long search (OK, maybe not too long) we found her: a fantastic Operations Administrator to keep the engines of our HQ purring so our team can focus on designing. So without further ado, say hello to …
Nathalie Smith, Operations Administrator
Our newest ZURBian was originally from nearby Los Gatos, and then Carmel, but spent most of her early years growing up in mysterious (and hot) Las Vegas. There she watched movies, went bowling, hiked through mountains, watched movies again — there's only so much a minor can do in "Sin City."
Yep, she's our youngest ZURBian to date — fresh out of high school, class of 2014, which she said was an amazing experience. She wishes she could go back — except that she found ZURB.
The chance of expanding her skills in a real office environment was too good to pass up, and now she's helping to make ZURBians' lives a little easier. Soon, we hope, she'll earn her driver's license and be able to run errands. Meanwhile she's learning what makes a company tick — not just their services, but the important (if unsung) administrative tasks. Although office admin might not be her career — she's studying both business and communications at West Valley College — she said ZURB ought to give her experience that no college class can.
I want to learn how a business runs from an operational point of view. If I ever start my own business, I want to know what makes a business work daily.
Nathalie had been in the Bay Area for two months — collecting sea glass and sand dollars, and starting college — when someone she knew suggested she apply for our Operations Administrator job. She applied, we hired her, and now she's with us three days a week getting the "real world" experience she wants. The story of Nathalie Smith has just begun.
You're a designer ready for the next big thing in your life. Maybe you just finished school or a boutique training course, or maybe you're ready to move on to a new adventure. Whatever your reason you're fresh on the market and you're ready to crush it! That's all well and good, potential employers like people who are excited. The problem is that excitement alone doesn't always get you very far.
We've learned something from 16 years of hiring designers. And we have a few tips for you to amaze a person looking to hire their next designer. After all, you're just one drop in a sea of drops. You have to stand out! Let's take a look at a few ways you can do that and what we tend to look for in a candidate.
Wow Them at the Start
Your email/cover letter has to be unique for every place you're applying to. It doesn't have to be amazingly complicated. The reality is, less can be more. We have a great formula for your first steps to get noticed:
Catchy Subject Line
This screams "LOOK AT ME!" But don't be obnoxious. Why? Because you don't want to appear to be too arrogant. HR people are privy to physiological cues, stating "I am the Droid You're Looking For" may not get you the result you want. Remember you want to join the team, not necessarily the other way around. Be humble.
Let's take a look at an example from Brandon, who knew us for a long time, coming to our events and using our stuff. He was hired as a designer sometime back and is now one of our design leads. When Brandon applied for the designer position, he sent us a letter that caught our eye. His catchy subject line: "Let's make the web simple."
The subject line is specific and gives us a sense of what Brandon hopes to accomplish with us. He followed that up with a short introduction: "Hi, I'm Brandon. I'm looking for a career as a designer at ZURB."
Your Top Three Skills
What are you good at? Is it your ability to code? Are you awesome at coming up with lots and lots of ideas? What can you bring to the team you're trying to join? Whether it be an actual skill requested in the job post or that little something extra, let us know. Be focused, don't make blanket statements. If you're 'Great at talking to people,' what does that even mean? Teams will appreciate that you're an awesome conversationalist at lunch but won't be too enthused with you if you're not comfortable talking to customers.
Back to our example. Brandon outlined his top three skills right after his introduction, and highlighted things we were looking for:
- "I come Foundation ready" — It was important to know that he was familiar with our responsive framework, Foundation, and had used it on a variety of projects.
- "I work for humans" — This was important to know because our motto is "Design for People," and we look for people who are like-minded.
- "People skillz that make people feelz" — In this section, Brandon lets us know his skills at working with others as well as representing his work with clients.
Your Best Teamwork Tactic
The way this question is answered gives us HR Wizards some insight on how you solve problems and the role you take in a group. Depending on how this question is answered we figure out if you take charge in a group, go with the flow and follow along, consider other teammates suggestions to solve problems or are capable of solving the problem on your own and guiding the group to that conclusion. And there are no 'wrong answers' here.
Back to Brandon. He stated his teamwork tactic as one thing: "Yes, and — " Which is an improv technique that helps focus build on ideas, very important in collaborative work.
Why Do You Want to Work for X
OK, Jeopardy question. Did you do your homework? This is the part of the cover letter that isn't necessarily all about you. It's telling the story of the company you want to work for and how you fit into their story. It's the difference between doing a book report after reading the whole book or just reading the cover. You won't fool anyone by repurposing some of the companies catch phrases/mantras and stringing them together in paragraph. Also, there's no love for convenience either. Companies don't get excited that they are within walking distance of your house. We want to see your value, not how we can make your commute more enjoyable.
One last look at Brandon's letter. Here's how he ends it:
You guys have taken the process of web design and turned it into product design. I'm looking forward to prototyping ideas, testing them, and then improving upon them. Simply put, ZURB doesn't just make the lives of consumers easier, but the lives of designers and developers easier as well. I'd love to be a part of it.
And that's what got him his job. :)
Impress With Your Personality and Your Work Too
So your catchy subject line and email got you noticed! Awesome. Now it's your time to shine. Your resume will most likely be viewed next and you have less then 10 seconds to impress. Yep, we're fast. Because we know what we're looking for in a resume. And if it doesn't have the right things, we put it aside.
Your resume should be readable. Let us say that again: your resume must be readable. Use visual hierarchy and keep in mind you have less then 10 seconds. If your resume isn't easily scannable that may be the end of the road for you. So what is it that we're looking for? Let us show you.
We're looking for:
- Your Personal Info — Your name, address, phone number, email address and portfolio link.
- Employment History — Your most recent or current employer and the dates and previous employment.
- Education or Skills — Depending on the company, they'll look at your highest level of education, especially if it's listed in the job post or your skills.
Avoid visual styling or pictures, save it for your portfolio. You want to avoid any chance that your resume will be discarded. And make sure you provide the information we're looking for and ask for in our job listing. For example, people have become reluctant to provide phone numbers on their resumes. The reality is, if we can't easily call you, we're not going to. Fact.
Once we've scanned your resume for all the vitals, we'll actually digest the contents. The truth is: how you word things is really important, and honesty is key. Again, no blanket statements. If you 'oversaw the launch of a new product,' briefly explain what that entailed. Give the recruiter something they'll want to ask you more about during a phone interview. We love that stuff.
Don't be negative in your tone either. Don't say things like you "dealt with customers." That's negative. Keep things positive, such as you "assisted customers do x."
Finally, your portfolio. As a designer, you need a portfolio and you should build it yourself. This is where we want to get a sense of who you are and what you're about. I want to be able to work with you and be excited about the things you get excited about. Your portfolio puts you as well as your work on display. And if you don't have a lot of work to show, put some extra work in and create something. You can't hide behind an NDA because there is a wealth of talent here (in Silicon Valley) and we can be selective.
Here's what we're looking for in a portfolio site.
- Can you build on opportunity? Do you seek out how to solve problems, do you try something new and take risks? We want to know what you've tried to do. Show us a project that was hard for you. Tell us what you did to solve it.
- Can you stay open-minded? Are you open to trying new things? Can tackle a problem that you don't have the answer for?
- Can you fail? Remember that thing you tried. Did it work out? We want to know if it didn't and want to know what you did differently. Tell us how something didn't work. Show it to us, then show me what you changed and tell me what you learned.
- Can you be a coach? Have you ever worked in a group? Like a hackathon what was your role? How did you contribute?
Your portfolio tells the world who you are. Please don't just show us the pretty end results to projects with three-sentence blurbs about the tools you used. We want the nitty gritty. We want to hear about the struggle. Give us your story. Please don't just link to your social networks for us to get a sense of who you are. Don't just tell us you have a passion for design. Show us.
Give Yourself the Edge
Interview processes are hard, and can feel like gauntlets. The best thing to do is to give yourself an edge on the competition and don't get discouraged if an opportunity doesn't pan out. Have a reason for applying, find a few things that get you genuinely excited about each potential employer and take notes. If you're ever asked 'Why do you want to work here?' Please don't ever say 'Why not?' and leave it at that. Now all you have to do is practice and it just so happens that we have a few opportunities available. And we look forward to learning more about you ;) .
Design is hot. Design executives are being tasked with being design-driven, but don't have the tools or processes to sustain this effort. They embrace design thinking, but it's unclear how their companies will embrace its ideas. VC's are telling founders to hire a design leader, but it's not clear who this mythical, unicorn person is who will drive the design approach across the company. It's entirely possible to grow this person in an organization, but not likely to be someone who comes in with magical fairy dust to make everything Apple-esque.
Design thinking is a broad term with no specific directives. It's open to a lot of interpretation. It's too big and too lofty for most businesses to embrace. Throw in a couple inexperienced designers who are students of the idea and you've got yourself a mess. Most designers don't have the authority (nor desire?) to take on all the crap necessary to change an organization to be more design-centric. That's a shame because design can truly transform the way companies solve big problems.
The Problem with Design Thinking
Design thinking has its detractors for a good reason. We've all been in lamestorming meetings looking for aha moments that suddenly produce a clear path forward. Businesses struggle to function with 'sorta' answers — they need clarity to build confidence, which can be found in spreadsheets, science and engineering. PRDs and MRDs are great for covering your ass, but won't produce a great result without a build and test model that brings in the best practices and knowledge of a cross-disciplinary group. The processes and methods of design thinking cannot easily produce the straightforward answers that businesses want, even if those same answers are not what they need.
In some ways, designers and design managers have shot themselves in the foot — design thinking neither negates nor replaces the need for smart designers doing the work. And because design thinking has many paths through parallel phases, it seems fuzzy compared to the process of creating code. Compared to analytical thinking or science, our industry still doesn't have a consensus on what design thinking means. Most designers couldn't tell you what it means.
It's been 20 years since I was ingrained with the concept that the designer mind could think much differently than a marketer, engineer or the guy in a suit-and-tie. Yet, for all its power and inspiration, I still don't completely understand the meaning of design thinking. Should we abandon the concept? Absolutely not. I use the methods and ideas that it espouses daily. I believe we just lack some of the tools necessary for the practical application of these methods to stick within organizations.
What I Know About Design Thinking
A significant portion of the term "design thinking" can be traced back to Stanford. I was fortunate to study and work with two of its biggest proponents in the Stanford product design department. Ralph Faste, who was my adviser, taught and expanded on Robert McKim's ideas as a method of creative action. David Kelly, who was an adviser and also my boss when I taught in the program, expanded the commercial opportunities through IDEO (where I also briefly worked). David went on to start the dSchool at Stanford, which has truly created an opportunity for fertile, cross-disciplinary studies.
At ZURB, we embraced design thinking very early on in our web work when most people were still trying to create digital brochures in 1998. It made for many awkward meetings and arguments with clients — some of which still happen today :). Yet, it's helped our company create an identity around problem solving by using design as a business tool. Our approach makes us ZURB. It's unique to us. However, design thinking is not a panacea for every company as many people have discovered.
Most recently you've seen us write about, "What Are You Even Designing?", "Designers, You've Made It to the Table. Don't Screw It Up" and "How Designers Do Dumb Design and Why Design Presentation is Your Deliverance." These ideas stem from our desire to seek design truth, to understand why what we do works for ZURB. Hopefully our thoughts illicit a strong reaction and a desire to also explore the fringe of design. If you've taken our class on Mastering Design Feedback, many of these ideas have been synthesized into a process. Our approach utilizes the concepts of design thinking, but it's still ZURB.
Looking for a Practical Starting Place
Design Thinking is actually less about thinking and more about doing. It's not something you have, it's something you do. With digital development life cycles moving faster than ever, it's incredibly important to put an emphasis on output. But that output needs to address the endless array of devices and contexts that come with designing products in a digital environment. At ZURB, we have a five-step process that addresses many important aspects of design thinking.
Yet, 250 startups later, our Studios group has taught us that it's not just our process that produces the magical results, it's the combination of our methods and culture that propel companies forward. Our work wasn't easily 'summed up' into a replicable design thinking process.
That left us with an opportunity. We asked ourselves, what if we could simplify and condense the most practical aspects of our process, methods and culture? Instead of defining design thinking, we've identified the core components of our work that resonated with practitioners of design work. We're excited to introduce progressive design.
Progressive Design Defined
Progressive design uses the principles of design thinking while providing a simple and robust design feedback loop that drives work forward. It places an emphasis on doing and driving work forward. Progressive design is making a lot of small decisions that together move people-centered design work forward. It's active participation and iteration with a goal. This isn't lean, or agile, or some magical customer exercise. Progressive design optimizes for results, not production sprints or a MVP product. Iterations don't need to be time-based or feature constrained. It can move fast or slow or varied. It's a user-focused approach that embraces business goals while addressing the technical feasibility.
Progressive design incorporates a design feedback loop that's practical and easy for an entire team to participate in. It requires the expertise of a design practitioner, but it becomes easier for non-designers to drive design work forward because the steps are well defined and it utilizes a simple feedback loop. It amplifies the work that team members produce. It works for a small project, but works just as well for a larger project that requires hundreds of iterations.
It's meant to create design momentum. Here's how it works:
- Design work: The foundation of a solid design process is high-level execution of design work. This could be need-finding, wireframing, prototyping, coding, etc.
- Design presentation: In a traditional business presentation, we might just throw work into a PowerPoint presentation, but in design thinking we need ways to carry conversations toward possibilities. Linear presentations are often too stiff to illicit the type of feedback that is necessary to create something truly amazing.
- Design feedback: The collection of feedback can be exciting or belaboring. But it needs to happen and designers are in a position to drive this across in the design process. Soliciting and giving feedback can happen across your team, customers and users and your target audience.
- Design iteration: Driving design work forward happens when ideas are synthesized. If overlooked, the entire loop completely falls apart. When all parties are happy with the result of the design work (or some other constraint limits time), it's then possible to move on to another phase or method.
Making Design Thinking Actionable
Design thinking is a great concept. It's full of potential, but it also lacks the foundational pieces that make it something that can be easily reproduced in an organization. We're suggesting an approach that makes it easier to get started with more clarity.
Progressive design is a design thinking building block to drive design in your organization. Based on our experience, teams need to believe in an approach that they can get buy in from across an organization. Progressive design provides an easier tactical approach to problem solving instead of shifting an entire organization. It's easier to train teams of people to work together with tangible tools and it has a lower cost/downside of trying to change an organization.
Over the next few months, we're going to release services and products that support this vision so teams can reach their potential and embrace design to build better products for their customers.
We're experiencing yet another growth spurt here at ZURB. This month we're boosting our Design Apps team with not one, but two new ZURBians — one engineer and one customer advocate! So without further ado, let's meet…
Bill Tran, Rails Engineer
Bill grew up copying comic books because he wanted to draw like a comic book artist. Yes, he was that kid who who drew Bart Simpson and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles everywhere he could find a place wide enough to fit "kowabunga!" As a teenager he taught himself how to breakdance, draw graffiti art and, best of all, to customize cars. That's when he found his calling.
Bill's interest in cars, especially building custom vehicles, revved his career in prototyping. He fell in love with industrial and automotive design, dreaming up ideas, iterating through designs and building the real thing. So he spent the last 10 years chopping things up, machining raw metal and plastic, designing 3D parts with SOLIDWORKS, and painting the final objects with aesthetic flair. He spent a few years building prototype cars with Honda, and a few more with 5 Axis Models who built concept cars for Toyota Scion and Lexus.
But computers, it seems, were inevitable. Bill had been around them since the old Mac Classics in elementary school, and he'd built a few of his own custom PCs for fun. And as the auto industry began to lag in 2008, he decided to trade aerodynamics for streamlined user workflows, and began to teach himself Ruby on Rails.
But it's not all cars and code. Bill is also a family man: husband for eight years before joining ZURB, and the proud father of two girls, both under ten, both makers in the making.
Bill's career steered him to join ZURB as a Rails Engineer shortly after his first ZURB Wired event — one of the fastest prototypes he's ever been involved with.
Nic Edwards, Customer Advocate
Nic has a history of escaping to foreign lands and picking up new languages, including French and Japanese. He also loves cooking so much that he graduated from the Professional Culinary Institute. Nowadays he's fairly adept at cooking large pieces of delicious pork.
In 2013, Nic took a General Assembly design crash course — and got hooked. When he learned about ZURB through Louis, his predecessor here and high school friend, he knew working here would be a great learning opportunity. So far, he says, he was right. "It's the perfect place" to achieve his ultimate goal of designing great products.
According to Netflix, he's a daily binge watcher. And while he hasn't sportsballed, he's handy with a fencing sabre. Sometimes you'll find him rowing or pushing his limits in CrossFit. To that end he's taken on a weekly role — a cinnamon roll, that is — to get swoll in all the wrong ways.
His travels have brought him almost full circle back to Campbell, just a few miles away from his home town of Los Gatos, CA.
Everyone please give a warm welcome to our new ZURBians!
With the clock ticking last Thursday on our seventh ZURB Wired, the day began with intense brainstorms. It ended with a visual direction, print materials and a tone for a website. During the night, we toiled in code, creating a brand-spanking new site for nonprofit Sacred Heart in 24 hours. Today, we're officially launching that site redesign — the culmination of our work to mobilize the nonprofit for its upcoming holiday campaign.
We worked alongside Sacred Heart in a coffee-fueled 24 hour frenzy — and snapped 500 photos of our time together — to create an entire marketing push for their campaign that provides food for individuals and gifts for children during the holidays.
We guided Sacred Heart through the same design process and methods we use in our Studios work. Our goal with Wired: to help nonprofits, such as Sacred Heart, learn how to do more with less and mobilize in shorter bursts. When you work in smaller teams and in short bursts, you can accomplish amazing things. Which is exactly what happened during Wired.
We had smaller teams — web, print, engineering and content — all working in concert through the day and throughout the night. At the end of it all, we were able to accomplish a staggering amount of work.
Here's a complete look at we created in that 24 hour time crunch.
Posters, Brochures and Cards ... Oh My!
Our focus in the first half of the day was print. We had a tight deadline and our print team hustled to get the brochures, posters and thank you cards designed. Along the way, we got feedback from Sacred Heart, quickly iterating on our designs.
Here's what the design team produced:
- A 8.5 X 11 poster
- A 12 X 18 poster
- A trifold brochure
- A 'thank you' card
But once the print deadline was met, the team didn't stop. Over the course of the night, they also designed a few other items, which we handed over as digital files. Here's the additional material we created:
- A poster for their donation barrels
- A drive kit for corporations
- A promotional building banner
- A sponsorship brochure
A Brand-Spanking New Website
The web team drew from the visual inspiration of the print team. While the print team was focused on their deadline, the web team created sketches and wireframes, before they moved into code. During the night, they coded furiously to get the site shipshape. Their work included:
- A comprehensive content overhaul
- A new custom WordPress theme
- Custom fields for page headlines specific to their design
- A calendar/events manager
A New Promotional Video
As if we didn't have enough to do, we also did put together a new promotional video for Sacred Heart. The two-minute video promotes the upcoming holiday drive — calling on folks to volunteer or donate food. All of this centered around the story of Erica, who works for Sacred Heart and whose own family was once helped by the organization.
The changes aren't just for this holiday campaign. Sacred Heart hopes to use what they learned for many years to come. As Jay Pecot, Director of Development and Communications says:
Even with an improved economy, more people than ever before are seeking Sacred Heart's help. That is why Wired was such a tremendous experience for us. This year, because of ZURB's help, we are ready for our holiday fundraising campaign celebrating our 50th birthday with a comprehensive set of paper and electronic communications.
During Wired, we watched carefully how ZURB's staff took us through the design process. We are going to do the same for our next big campaign. And most importantly, we will set aside time to build the campaign together, rather than fitting it in-between other tasks.
Thank you, ZURB.
Thank you, Sacred Heart, from all of us at ZURB. We can't wait to see what Sacred Heart creates in the future.
We're counting down the hours to tomorrow's ZURBwired event, our yearly design sprint to help a nonprofit through a marketing campaign. And we couldn't be more excited to work with Sacred Heart, this year's nonprofit! We want to thank all the nonprofits who sent in so many excellent proposals!
The timing couldn't be more right for Sacred Heart. This year, they're celebrating 50 years of their mission — to help struggling families get food and gifts for their children they need during the holidays.
Not only did the folks at Sacred Heart have a strong mission, but their team had the magic mix of energy and clear goals we look for in a nonprofit. And they're willing to lose an entire night's sleep to get things done.
We're impressed with Sacred Heart's overall mission: end poverty in the community they serve. They help more than 75,000 people and families that struggle to make ends meet. They have a small staff and an army of volunteers, so they know how to work together to get results. And they're ready to get to work on this year's Wired:
We are psyched and ready to work with ZURB for Wired this year. Thousands of families will turn to Sacred Heart Community Service this year in order to celebrate the holidays with food and toys. Redesigning our holiday campaign will mean we can reach throughout Silicon Valley and engage the community in this effort.
—Jay Pecot, Director of Development and Communications
We'll help them with the marketing campaign for their holiday push and 50th anniversary. We'll work on a brand strategy and designs for their holiday campaign, including a website, brochures, posters and other goodies.
All of this will be done in a tight 24-hour timebox using our our design process and goal-oriented teamwork. Our goal with Wired is to educate nonprofits to do more with less resources. And we'll work closely with Sacred Heart so that they can continue building great things for years to come long after Wired is done.
Wired gets underway tomorrow, Sept. 18 at 8 AM and goes until Sept. 19 at 8 AM.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Inspire us with your organization's mission.
- Name three teamwork tactics that will make your organization a perfect fit for ZURBwired!
- Describe a clear goal that your entire organization wants to accomplish.
- Say which team members will be committed to participating all day and night.
- 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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Read up on the latest