Sam Brown

To Bumper or not to Bumper, the iPhone 4 Question

Pre-ordering the iPhone 4 from the Apple Store website on June 15th was a must for me and it is fair to say the process was not as smooth as it could have been, but after a solid 45 minutes of trying I managed to get my order in. Fast-forward 9 days and UPS arrive with my NewShiny™.

I’ve had 3 iPhone’s over the years, the original first generation silver-backed iPhone, the plastic backed iPhone 3G and now the iPhone 4. Due to the duration of my mobile contract the 3GS never quite fit and thus I skipped this model. My clear favourite out of all the iPhones was the original silver-backed 1st Gen. The plastic back of the 3G & 3GS I never really liked and got seriously scratched to bits. I cringed every time I saw someone place their iPhone glass-side down on a table to protect the plastic back, I never felt comfortable with that.

When I heard the iPhone 4 was going to have glass on both sides I was both pleased and worried, pleased that it would be more scratch resistant but naturally worried it would be even more delicate and it is safe to say that my concerns were just.

The iPhone 4 looks amazing, without a shadow of doubt a superb piece of industrial design. It feels heavy and solid in your hands even whilst being thinner. It feels like a rock-hard piece of metal and glass. The previous version felt light and throwable, something you used all the time but didn’t worry too much about, this one however feels different. There is little grip and the coated surfaces front-and-back do little to help you. The sides are sharp, rounded yes but still slightly uncomfortable.

Diesel Hastings Pouch

Diesel Hastings Pouch

I have never owned a case for any of my iPhone’s and I have never full-on dropped one or cracked a screen (touch-wood), but last year I purchased the Diesel Hastings Pouch – and loved it. It protected my iPhone in my pocket from keys or coins and placing it on a table was no longer a worry, I only wish I had purchased it much much earlier.

My plan was to use the same pouch for my iPhone 4 however due to the thinner body the device slips right out of this case at worrying speed. My previous iPhone fit snug. So I had a quick scout around but couldn’t find anything I liked for the iPhone 4 and decided to give one of the Apple iPhone 4 Bumpers a try.

iPhone 4 Bumper

iPhone 4 Bumper

Fitting the Bumper was easy enough and the combination of moulded plastic with rubber edges feel great and most importantly offer masses of grip, be it in your hand or on a surface. The metal buttons for volume and power are a nice touch, if only the silent switch had an accompanying one. Sadly the bumper doesn’t quite fit the phone, likely only due to the need to get it on and off with relative ease. Every now and again pressing the power button you can feel the sides of the bumper slide up and down the device, if only by a few millimetres.

Another major downside to the Bumpers is that it now makes your iPhone 4 look like a 3G with a case, which may have it’s benefits to some but with the gorgeous new looks of the iPhone 4 it to me is slightly disappointing. I really love the new look iPhone.

A major upside to the Bumper is that it does do one vital task very well and that is helping you not cover The Spot which if covered kills the 3G signal. /via Daring Fireball.

I plan to soldier on with the bumper attached for now even though I really don’t like it, I feel the lack of overall grip of the device is so low that I fear I’ll drop it at any moment. Hopefully some nice pouches or cases are in the works and will be out in the near future that will suit my taste, but for now the Bumper will have to do. I already miss my NewShiny™.

Endorse - What it is and what it is not.

Endorse – Helping people connect through friendly recommendations.

I get a fair amount of request for work each week and I simply can not take on all of these jobs. I’ve been talking about and threatening to build a tool that allowed me to find out who was available for work and what they were good at, so I could pass on these excess job requests for a long time now. Yesterday Mike and I released a beta of said web app to a limited following.

Endorse

We hope it will allow you to easily find people in your immediate and extended networks who have availability, and likewise, if you are indeed looking for work allow you to connect with others, promote your skills and hopefully increase your work load.

Search is Key

It might not seem so now as we build a user base but it will be, believe me. You can already begin to see this in action. Perhaps a client requires a copywriter, I personally don’t know any brilliant copywriters but using Endorse I can search both my 1st and 2nd degree networks for available talent.

Endorse search first crawls your network and then your networks network. If for example Mike is endorsing a copywriter the chances are I’m going to trust Mike’s recommendation as much as one I would have made myself. We are trying to give you access to an even larger pool of talented people.

Wise Words

“I think http://endor.se will be truly useful & successful if we honestly only endorse those we’d recommend, not reciprocal back-scratching.” – @simoncollison

“Sorry folks, I can only endorse people I know and have worked with. Otherwise it’s meaningless innit?” – @Hicksdesign

Simon & Jon are right. We have built this app as a tool to help people connect with other talented people. Of course everyone is going to use it in a slightly different way but the premise is you are recommending your network of talented people to another. If a previous potential client of yours does some work with someone you have frivolously endorsed and has a bad experience, that could reflect badly on you. Hopefully that never happens and you are only endorsing people you would genuinely recommend to others based on your experiences with that person.

It’s an evolving concept and we are already seeing some interesting use cases.

Launching Soon

We are still in beta and this is not a closed, private or invite-only network for the webs elite. We need to scale. We did limited testing behind closed-doors to iron out any bugs and now we are trying to iron out any bottlenecks and get people on-board.

To be completely honest we can’t afford to let everyone have at it at once. We are running on Heroku and were constantly having to increase capacity, so much so that for most of yesterday running the site was costing us personally, more than $500USD/m – we need to limit that.

We will be letting anyone and everyone get access to Endorse, but we have to stagger the influx so as not to bankrupt ourselves or ruin the overall experience. This is a completely self-funded app just now while we explore some possible partnerships.

Hopefully now that you know all of this, some of these quotes will make for some jovial reading:

“http://endor.se will do nothing more than support the sycophancy that plagues our industry.”

“I’m totally on board with the “Designers really love each other” motif Dribbble has, but endor.se is taking it a little too far.”

“Another popularity contest?”

“Will http://endor.se/ be the next exclusive web designer site, I’m surprised they don’t just let you use your dribbble login!”

and my personal favourite:

“Endor.se was probably built by nerds who felt it necessary to contribute to the social media circle jerk symposium. Therefore it will not matter. I give it six months and yes, I’m being waaay to generous here.”

Brilliant.

If you are interested in getting involved and using Endorse as soon as possible then following our Twitter account @EndorseApp will help you find out when and how. We will be launching completely openly to everyone soon, when the time is right. I hope people genuinely find it useful and would again like to thank everyone for their kind words yesterday.

On Competition and Recommending Others

The industry that we work in is a popular and crowded one which has multiple levels of separation. There are those that can build websites for next to nothing in their spare time competing for jobs with people who are working their socks off doing this as a full time job day in day out. I think that’s great and there is definitely room for everybody in this space, the caveat being of course that you get what you pay for.

I was sitting with Elliot, Sarah and Jason at an event last year where one of the other patrons at our table was bemused to find out that we were in fact all freelancers competing in the same industry for the same types of jobs, sitting side by side. It came as a bigger shock to him to find out that we are all great friends who meet up regularly in both a professional and social setting.

This is one of the many reasons I love our industry, I’m not sure there are many other industries where competing individuals are so open, friendly and engaging towards each other.

Over the years I have competed for jobs with many of my friends and colleagues, lost some and won others but there is definitely a great level of respect between those involved. If I am too busy to take on any new projects I will 9 times out of 10 forward that potential client onto one of my extended network, this has been reciprocated many times too.

The biggest issue I have is that there is a great wealth of undiscovered talent out there, I’ve been posting shots of upcoming projects to Dribbble which in-itself has turned out to be a superb place to source super talented individuals.

Keeping track of people to pass on work to has become increasingly difficult: Who to recommend? Who is good at what? Who has the availability? More often than not I have been forwarding potential clients onto others that are just as busy as myself leaving the clients scratching their heads. Now, I’m going to scratch my own itch.

Along with my good friend and mighty fine developer Mike Singleton we have been building an app in our spare time that will help people connect through friendly recommendations.

Endorse will allow you to create a profile where you can list all of the people you would personally recommend to others and what you would recommend them for. That’s it. It is really that simple.

Endorse

It will become an even more powerful tool when you and your extended network list your availability, areas of expertise and desired URLs – not only allowing you to pass on work to your contacts but your contacts will be able to easily and better recommend you to potential clients.

We will be launching Endorse soon and if you are interested in helping test the app, in it’s infancy, in the very near future be sure to follow along on Twitter for updates: @EndorseApp.

Competition is healthy, it pushes you stay at the top of your game and encourages you to continue learning and building on your skill sets. We hope that Endorse will further help you and potential clients find the right people for the right jobs.

The difference between a graphic designer & interface designer

“Interface design is when one is designing something that will be used by humans. The understanding of how a user thinks, learns and adapts is important knowledge.

I’m not down playing graphic design in any way, it’s just different. For example, graphic designers have the intention to grab an emotional response visually. While Interface designers have the intention to grab a logical response mentally.”

I really like The distinction between interfaces & graphics by Michael Dick in his latest blog entry, on his rather lovely redesigned site.

Personally I am working on a client project that I have yet to publicly mention that was designed entirely by a Graphic Designer. This Graphic Designer is a very very good designer with bags of talent and a lot of the site and associated materials are fantastic but as an interface designer myself I have a lot of differing ideas on how to implement and direct the users experience and design on the website.

It’s interesting to note the differences and is likely something I will write about in the future when the time is right.

Empowering Users with Two-Sided Incentives

Drew Houston the co-founder and CEO of Dropbox gave a talk at Startup Lessons Learned in San Francisco on the 23rd of April and he spoke about the Customer Development Case Study for Dropbox. I highly recommend you go and watch the video, it’s interesting and inspiring.

What was particularly fascinating to me was their switch in strategy from using paid-for advertising such as AdWords to a referral system that actually worked. Their referral program rewards not only the person who is sending out the link, but also the person who signed up because of clicking on the link. Both parties receive an extra 250MB of space. It’s proved to be such a success for them that it has permanently increased their signups by 60%!

My Dropbox Referral URL looks like this for example:

https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTI0MTQ5OTk
Dropbox

So often I see spammy looking referrer URLs just like the one above that people link to and 9 times out of 10 I’ll copy the URL and remove the referrer code. The biggest issue I have is the random unfriendliness of these links, my username or email address instead of the garbled noise at the end would probably work out even better for Dropbox!

I think more companies running referral programs need to start empowering their users and rewarding customers the way Dropbox has. Imagine if for example clicking on an Amazon affiliate link to a product not only earned the referrer a little extra coin, but gave you the customer a slight discount as well. Win win.

Should Website Budgets be Required Info

A while back I got asked for my thoughts on whether having a field for Budget on your websites contact form was a good idea or not. The indecision stemmed from the fear of scaring away potential clients versus the crap information clients might actually list in this form field. It is something I have been conscious of for a long time, I have a Budget field on my contact form and it is a required field. Do you?

Budget Form Field

Not that long ago my good friend Elliot decided to amend his contact page with the note that:

“In most circumstances, I’m unable to take on projects with a budget lower than £5000.”

This of course wasn’t the first time someone had listed a minimum figure but it continues to generate some interesting discussion on the topic. Very few freelancers, small businesses or big agencies list their prices and it’s probably the most secretive aspect of our otherwise very open industry. Some sites do list rough pricing guides, like Elliot does, some offer drop-down options with ranges of budgets to select from, and some don’t require this information up front at all which I find rather worrying.

I think the Budget field is the most clearly identifiable sign of whether a potential client has truly and completely thought through what they want done and the possibility of having you work on it with them.

The clients that fill in this field with an actual amount, or even a rough estimate of what they expect it will cost them are the best clients to have. They have clearly gone to the trouble to evaluate what they need done, who they want to do it and how much they have to spend on it. Of course, you need to make sure to discuss the scope of their project in detail with them, but actual numbers in this field make for happy days. These are the clients you want to be working with.

“Negotiable” or “You tell me!” means an extra round of discussion to coax their likely budget out of them and even then you will likely have a client that has little concept of the work they want done and what it will truly cost them. A simple solution is to respond with your rates and await the inevitable non-response.

At the end of the day I don’t think there is a right answer, should you display your rates, offer a multiple choice of possible budget ranges or simply leave it open to interpretation? I don’t know. But either way, you should definitely include a Budget field on your form as it’s a sure fire way to find out if the potential client has a $500 budget that you can’t work with, $15,000 budget that you can consider or whether you are going to have to dedicate your unpaid time in finding this information out.

Hi, I'm the VP of Design at Foursquare in New York City.

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