Grow your store with our weekly podcasts, videos, and letters. JOIN NOW
Ethercycle logo
For years, the pen tool taunted me. It sat in my toolbar, mocking me with its steep learning curve. Finally I mastered the tool with a simple exercise. I signed a sheet of paper with a large marker, scanned it in to Illustrator, and spent two hours forcing myself to outline it using the pen tool. I faced my fear, and you should too:

Skip ahead to 3 minutes for the basics.

Card sorting is a straight-forward approach to include your client in the information architecture phase of the website design process. A card sorting exercise will allow you to form the structure of a website, organize it logically, and even determine labels.

It works amazingly well, physically mapping out the geography of thought processes is super productive.

There are two kinds of card sorting: open or closed. In open, participants sort cards in to related categories, and are then asked to give each category a name. In closed, participants sort cards into existing categories. When starting a new site, we use open. Closed is good for testing existing labels.

Running your own card sort is easy:

  1. Make a list of the top 100 most important content in the project: pages, topics, & features. Everything if necessary.
  2. Label index cards with each topic from that content inventory list.
  3. Include blank cards for new (or missed) topics.
  4. <
  5. Shuffle the cards, then spread them out on a large work surface.
  6. Ask participants to sort the cards in to related groups.
  7. If this is an open card sort, ask the participant to label each category.
  8. Photograph the results, reshuffle, and repeat as necessary.

According to usability guru Jakob Nielsen, you must test fifteen users to generate statistically reliable results.

To make our work accessible to the widest audience, we've begun collecting and testing on a wide variety of devices.

We want to explore how our products perform on the widest variety of form factors, screen sizes, performance, operating systems, display densities, and screen conditions.

If you have a device that you'd like to recycle, let us know, and we'll send you a box to donate it.

Presently we have two Android devices in the collection. Based on our analytics data for mobile usage, we think it's important to add the following devices:
HTC Droid Incredible I, II
Samsung Galaxy Nexus, S II
Sony Ericsson Xperia arc
Over the years, we have noticed a disturbing flaw among new entrepreneurs and start-ups: You have an aversion to planning or critically thinking about your idea in general. That leaves us, your partners, and sometimes even your customers in the awkward position of figuring out how your business works for you. Asking yourself tough questions will prepare your business for success.  

Write a business plan. It's an important thought exercise to put your ideas on paper and help you think through things you might not have otherwise. It is not a set of shackles that will prevent you from ever changing your business ever. You can deviate it from the plan, it's okay. The Small Business Administration has an online walkthrough for writing a basic business plan.

Determine and be willing to discuss your budget. Entrepreneurs seem not only tight-lipped about their budgets, but downright ashamed to even talk about money. Stop it. Cash is the lifeblood of every business. While it's rude to ask strangers their salary, it is vital to your business to estimate start-up costs, operating expenses, and projected cash flow.

Determine how people will hear about you. We can tell you how it won't happen. It will not go viral on social media, bloggers will not give you free publicity, and no one will just find it on Google through the magic of SEO. You like these things because they sound sexy and you think they're free. Partnering with other businesses, give-aways, networking, and Pay Per Click advertising are realistic marketing channels that everyone can use. Your budget and your target market should determine what marketing channels are best for you.

It's your business, if you want to succeed, put in the sweat equity that other successful businesses have. Don't start by sketching a logo on a bar napkin, start by asking yourself the tough questions. You will run in to problems, planning ahead will help prepare your business to get ahead.
Our graphic design intern, Sam, has been making some impressive things in our studio. We love his first project here: a concept showing what a mobile ecommerce site for the fictional conglomerate Buy-N-Large (from the movie WALL-E) might look like.

To see what else Sam is working, follow him on Dribbble.
Mobile operating system:
iOS - 75.61%
Android - 21.41%
BlackBerry - 2.14%
Windows Phone - 0.72%
SymbianOS - 0.09%

The single most used Android device is the SonyEricsson Xperia Arc with an unusually high 3.5% usage. The other top Android devices were the Samsung Galaxy S II, HTC Incredible (1 and 2), Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Motorola DroidX, and HTC EVO 4G, each with a market share below 1% of mobile usage.

This report is based on 249,747 US visitors to during May 2012.
When someone bookmarks a website to their homescreen, iOS creates an icon for it. The most direct way to accomodate this feature is to create a larger version of your favicon. iOS will look for one of four different file names in the your root directory depending on the device:

apple-touch-icon-114x114.png (114px x 114px)
apple-touch-icon-72x72.png (72px x 72px)
apple-touch-icon-57x57.png (57px x 57px)
apple-touch-icon.png (57px x 57px)

When you save them to web & devices in Photoshop, use 24bit PNG, non interlaced. You shouldn't add any effects or even rounded corners, just square. iOS will add rounded corners and a gradient on its own.

If you need to store the touch icons in someplace other than the root directory, you can specify the new location in your metatags.

The iOS developer library has more information on specifying icons

In April we launched The site features pictures of sea cows with inspirational captions presented in typical LOLcat-style. It started as a Friday afternoon joke sparked by a misunderstanding between "matinee and manatee" on Twitter.

In its first 30 days, it had over one million page views. The site has been tweeted by Peewee Herman, and we've even been interviewed by the Huffington Post about it. What did we do to promote it? We tweeted it. Once. That's all. It’s giving us a lot of insight into the power of social media and how we can leverage it.

What we learned about going viral:
  1. If something is compelling enough, people will share it. You can't force people to share crappy content.

  2. Enable frictionless sharing. Simple buttons with recognizable icons is all you need. No need for obnoxious pop-up windows.

  3. Facebook drives more traffic than any other social network. Seven times as much as Twitter.

  4. While all of the manatees have ended up on Pinterest, Pinterest drives the least amount of traffic. It's drive-by pinning.

  5. If you want to be social, you have to be mobile friendly. 1 in 5 visitors are using a mobile device. Over half of these are iPhones.

  6. Be prepared for the traffic. CloudFlare, our content delivery network, allowed our VPS hosting to easily keep up with the sudden popularity.