Sam Brown

What I learned sharing daily on Instagram

An account of how I faired with my under the radar Project 365

See all photos on my micro-site: sambrown.me/2016

At the beginning of the year I challenged myself to share more of the content that I was creating. I take a lot of photos, all of them on my iPhone, but I was rarely sharing them. I wanted to change that.

Sitting in Ground Support cafe drinking an iced coffee on New Year’s Day, @becky and I were discussing what we wanted to accomplish in 2016.

For me, one of the things that I wanted to do was share more of the great things we were seeing, places we were going, and experiences that we were having living in New York City.

The easiest format I found to do that was by choosing to share a photo, every single day, publicly on Instagram.

My motivation was primarily to share more, to catalogue with tags, research the items I was shooting, and to create memories of the things we saw, and the places we went.

New York City is packed with stories, full of hidden gems in plain sight, just waiting to be shared.

Why Instagram?

I’ve been an avid Instagram user since the very early days, I loved the square post format, and I loved the early constraints. Remember when you could only post photos taken from within the app itself? I believe that the team at Instagram have done a really fantastic job of staying true to a lot of their original values whilst evolving the product over the years.

The feature set has changed and expanded dramatically, but the pure focus on content first is still inspiring. I considered a few alternatives, but as a daily user, and someone who uses their phone as their primary camera, it made the most sense.

What went well:

  • 97.3% completion rate, I missed 10 days for a couple of sound reasons.
  • I took a lot more photos because of this, different types and styles, and I have a huge library of great photos that I hope to share more of one day.
  • Shooting more photos is the one true way to improve your photography, I definitely noticed that personally.
  • A couple of months in I started shooting a daily one second video as well (using One Second Everyday), these make for a different take on your life, and more so saving precious memories of our daughter growing up.
  • I never really told anyone I was doing this, but many friends would often comment about enjoying seeing all of my photos. I also must thank them for their patience as I’d stop to take a quick snap on our walk to lunch. Worth noting, I shared all of my photos from Instagram to Facebook too.
  • I made it to the end of the year! If you attempt to do this, my best advice that I kept repeating to myself over-and-over, “just take one more photo… and post it, tomorrow it will be easier”.

Interesting things, by the numbers:

366

Turns out I had chosen a leap year to do what is commonly referred to as “Project 365”. :)

356

The actual number of days I ended up posting a photo. I purposefully chose not to post on the day of my grandmothers funeral in February, and I missed a few days in November for the birth of our daughter, Effie. (You bet I have photos for those days though!)

5,088

Photos shot with my iPhone in 2016, 25% of which were shot after Effie was born! Averages out to around 14 photos per day.

72.5%

Almost ¾’s of my photos were tagged with a location, I’m surprised it was this high honestly. Admittedly I am biased here, but the Facebook Places location database… really isn’t great. Moving away from the far superior Foursquare places database made sense from a business perspective, but the impact it has had on the user experience makes me sad.

167

My Instagram User ID. I was an early user, but this really surprised me.

158

Blocked users. Using hashtags to keep track of the types of photos I was taking had one little downside, lots of “FOLLOW BACK FOR 5K NEW FOLLOWERS” comments. I reported a lot of the spam comments in a fun game of whack-a-mole, and I have to say, Instagram does a really good job handling this. I very often got updated reports in under 24 hours.

102

Unique hashtags. The main use case here was to catalogue the places and types of photos I was taking. NYC has a lot of great architecture, and I found myself often times taking photos of buildings and places, then doing research into the interesting backgrounds and stories.

4

You can’t really have enough backup methods, seriously. My setup isn’t perfect by any means, but it works. iCloud Photo Library, Dropbox backed up Photo Library, external HDD versions of all photos, and of late I’ve been using Google Photos too. The latter is an amazing resource for searching back across all of your photos.

3

Snapseed, VSCO, and Darkroom are my photo editing apps of choice. I’ll oftentimes under-expose my photos (because of direct sunlight or reflections) and Darkroom’s levels feature is absolutely first class. Snapseed, also a Google product, is full of great editing and tweaking features.

2

iPhone’s used through-out the year, my trusty iPhone 6s for the majority of the time before I upgraded to an iPhone 7+.

The 7+ easily has one of the best camera systems on it that I have ever used. The dual camera lenses are great, the 56mm especially for slight telephoto opportunities, but the best feature in my opinion is the optical image stabilization. It’s worth the price of admission, especially when shooting video.

Portrait mode has also lived up to my high expectations, while slightly gimmicky, I’ve shot some really great photos with it.

1

Non-square photo posted. I’m sucker for the original true Instagram format.

A project 365 was a fun creative outlet that forced me to explore and discover new places and things. I enjoyed the urge of pushing myself to go out and find something new worthy of capturing, of researching it, and of sharing that story.

It’s rewarding to look back on all of the photos that I’ve taken over the past year, and while my Instagram profile immortalizes these photos reasonably well, I wanted to put together a micro-site to better showcase everything I shot, take a look: sambrown.me/2016

Questions? Drop me a line about anything, anytime: sam@massiveblue.com

This article was originally posted on Medium.

Designing the new Foursquare

On Wednesday August 6th we released the latest version of Foursquare to the world. We crafted, designed and engineered this version from the ground up, and today you can download it.

I thought I would write up my thoughts on the journey of leading the design efforts, with a truly great team, for our biggest launch to date.

Earlier this year we sat down as a company and looked at all the amazing pieces of technology we had built. Foursquare then had two distinct use-cases — keeping up and meeting up with friends, and finding places to go — and we’d tried just about every way possible to have them live together in a complementary way. We came to the conclusion that there were millions of people that want a better and more personalized search experience than currently exists, but are averse to check-ins and location sharing.

After much deliberation we decided it was time to take the next natural step and separate those use-cases into standalone apps with their own branding, marketing, feature sets, and interfaces that clearly served their distinct needs.

The overarching document that outlined the issues and solutions was aptly titled ‘Batman and Robin’, and those two names would go on to be the internal code names for our two apps.

Foursquare (Batman) and Swarm (Robin).

Research, wireframe, prototype, repeat

Our research team started out doing research with outside participants while the design team quickly got to work looking at what was out there to see what was being done well, what we thought we could do better and defining an early style guide for the new Foursquare. The initial version of our style guide was a lofty moodboard, it talked about how we wanted the app to feel: “intelligent, relevant and useful”, “magical and fun”, “trustworthy and highly-regarded”. It showed some fun directional color schemes as well as laid out much of the groundwork for our overall information architecture and navigation.

We spent much of the early days talking, sketching, wire framing, and prototyping ideas and directions for the new version of Foursquare. We had regular meetings with all of the stakeholders involved, where we presented our progress, refined our ideas and honed in on what everyone was feeling strongly about. We threw away 90% of the work we did. No idea stayed sacred for too long.

At times, that was hard to stomach. We had worked hard on something, and felt strongly about it. But, ultimately, it’s pushing through those barriers as a designer that results in some of your best work. The regeneration of ideas born from past experiences provides some of the best output.

One of our first big research projects was on a quickly built working prototype on Android and our research team was off to work. We felt good about the direction, even when there was a lot of polish missing. Doing research on a working prototype with real people who would use the app was invaluable. We got great answers to behavioral and UX questions relating to some of the new features, and evaluated the effectiveness of the different ways to find places to go that our initial prototype proposed.

We took the results of the research and did a lot of iteration and refinement on some of our initial designs and assumptions. We used everything from Sketch and Keynote to Flinto and Skala, web-based prototypes and hacked together builds to get things in front of employees and research participants in search of answers. We did this multiple times over until we got to where we are today, and even now we have more research slated for straight after launch. We are committed to never resting on our assumptions.

Rebranding

From the beginning we had planned to rebrand Foursquare. With a new and improved app direction should come a new and improved logo. The old app icon was a checkmark which was so closely associated with checking in, and the word mark itself felt like a relic of a bygone era.

The new logo and word mark were designed in conjunction with Red Antler to represent something bigger, something new, to be a combination of map pin icon and superhero emblem. We’re really stoked with the outcome. From mood boarding and ideating with them in their offices, to having their designers work out of our own, it was a fun and rewarding experience.

Endless visual design explorations

We had a really great mix of designers working on the new Foursquare, from those people who specialize in IA and UX, graphic design and branding, to visual design and prototyping. The best process for experimenting with different visual design directions for us was to start as broad and wild as possible, narrowing down into something that was universally loved. That took time, a lot of time, and a lot of versions.

Once we had locked down features and softened out any of the complex areas, we were heads down in building out our visual system. That started with the creation of an internal style guide that covered everything from color, iconography, type styles, how to use imagery, button use cases, and reusable components. Laying that foundation allowed us to move together in unison, multiple designers working on different aspects of the app design with ease and efficiency that resulted in a single uniform design style app-wide.

The standout color scheme that had evolved from our branding work really started to shine when we began working it into the app. It didn’t take long for everyone to fall in love with the pink — watermelon — color. The tastes feature of the new Foursquare is such an interesting and unique data set to get to design around, and was quickly adorned with our punchy new color. Tastes and personalization have a unique look in the new app, allowing you to quickly spot out those results. Why should you get the same results as someone else when searching for something, our results are for you.

The last throes of any big project like this evokes feelings of excitement, anxiety, nervousness and euphoria. We’ve felt them all. It took a lot of time, love, care and attention to detail to get both our Android and iOS apps ready to ship. We poured our hearts and souls into this version, and the team around me is the best I’ve ever worked with.

It’s really fun looking back over the past 8 months, the amount of effort and work that was put in by everybody at the company to get us to where we are was phenomenal. This is the beginning of a new chapter for Foursquare.

On December 10th of last year, we showed this slide at the company meeting. It said, if we aren’t so fucking excited, we’re not launching. Today as you finally get to play with it, our entire team believes in and is behind the new Foursquare. We are so fucking excited.

If you like what you see and are interested in knowing even more about design at Foursquare, or perhaps, you don’t like something and think you can help us make it even better, you should get in touch. sam@foursquare.com

This article was originally posted on Medium.

Designing for better first impressions

First impressions are everything. Whether it be another person, product packaging or a digital interface, we judge things almost instantaneously forming a mental image and opinion that we carry forward with us.

With that firmly in mind, today we rolled out new venue detail pages on the Foursquare website. The goal of this project was to re-imagine how these pages looked and were organized to give visitors a better first impression of the places we visit every day, based on all the knowledge and data Foursquare has compared to other services out there.

At Foursquare, we think about our check-in data as PageRank for the real-world. Importantly, our data is based on people actually visiting these locations, those are explicit signals that live in our ecosystem and can be combined with all of the other data we have to provide visitors with a legitimate and truthful view of a business.

Our venue pages are some of the most heavily trafficked pages on foursquare.com seeing 50 million visitors per month. We wanted to make sure that visitors were able to understand what they were seeing on this page after only a few seconds, find the information that they needed to help them form an opinion of that place and then act on that knowledge.

Peels - Foursquare

Visual design was a big component of this project but it was being smarter with the data we have at hand that was the biggest challenge here. Deciding the information hierarchy of almost 50 unique data points on this page took the most effort while still adding new unique and useful features.

Now our venue detail pages showcase smarts like similar places to the one you are looking at and places people go after visiting this venue, a personal favorite. All the while doing a better job at laying out all of the data in an easy to digest format that’s both familiar and understandable.

The logged-in version of our venue pages are significantly more personalized for each user, our Explore engine can help justify why a place might be worth visiting for you. Perhaps it’s that brands you like have left pro tips, sushi connoisseurs go there regularly or that it’s new in the neighborhood. We also showcase which of your friends have been there, whether they liked it or not and some of the content that they might have left in the forms of photos and tips.

All of this together will hopefully give visitors to the page both a greater impression of the business and what they offer as well as showcasing the power of using Foursquare for local discovery and search.

The challenges of working remotely

I get asked about this a lot. How does it work? Do I enjoy it? Am I more or less productive? I have had many conversations about working remotely over the years. I felt compelled to write some thoughts and tell you a little about how it works for me. In doing so hopefully expelling some myths and answering some oft asked questions.

Working from home is something I have been doing for the past 6 years. The majority of that time I was self-employed working with clients from all around the world (Fun fact: I had 2 local UK clients in 5 years). This last year and a half I have been working for foursquare based in New York City. I make regular trips to our New York headquarters but 90% of my time is spent in my home office just outside Edinburgh Scotland.

Home Office Photo

Get dedicated and be flexible

Working from home is a constantly evolving challenge and is not easy. Distractions come in all shapes and forms, you will get everything from noisy neighbours and home renovations to personally having to deal with deliveries and the chores of running an office, just on a slightly smaller scale.

Funnily, the first distraction everyone thinks will hit you hardest is sitting around watching TV in your pyjamas. While that may be true when you have a day off from work that certainly isn’t true of someone working from home. Getting showered and dressed are pivotal moments in the day, as is having a proper sensible working environment which I will touch on later. Getting out of the home office for short walks and lunch breaks also helps break up the monotony.

Being flexible to your client or employers needs is key. Be sure to let them know exactly what to expect from your situation, what hours you will be working and what hours you will not. Replying to emails and communication outside of your normal office hours is tempting and is likely to lead to you being expected to reply at those times always. Do not fall down that rabbit hole. My normal office hours are from around 10am-7pm.

Home Office Photo

Using Time Zone’s to your advantage

Surprisingly this is one of my favourite reasons to work remotely. The New York office is 5 hours behind me, this means that when I start work in the morning nobody else is online. I usually have a mountain of emails and things to work on for half the day before anyone comes online.

We then get half the day online together to talk, discuss and move forward with projects before I then go offline. The second half of the day in New York – that I am offline – often leads to even more work for the next day. Turning what sounds like an awful 5 hours time difference into an amazingly productive work feedback cycle.

Office Setup

More important than you at first realise is a proper working environment, a desk and office setup that is only used for working is ideal. Having somewhere that is solely used for working will help you focus on just that and not having you think about other things. I try not to use my home office outside of my office hours, using my iPad on the sofa in the evening to actually “surf the internet”, read and see all those funny cat pictures you have posted to Twitter is something I relish.

Home Office Photo

Communication tools

Having great communication skills and good personal relationships with the people you are working with is going to play a big role in how successful you are at working remotely. Email, Instant Messaging, Campfire, Video Chats, you have to always be ready and prepared at a moments notice. We use email as our main communication medium backed up by video meetings and discussions. Instant messaging to quickly grab some information or chat with someone and Campfire as an additional group/team chat tool.

One year of remote meetings

Believe me, I have tried every single form of video communication tool over the course, nothing is perfect, nothing is full-proof and I am continually striving to find the best solution to this.

Below is a short video of around 150 screenshots from stand ups, 1 on 1’s, product reviews, team meetings, white-boarding sessions with Dens and Mayor Mike Bloomberg visits that I have taken over the past year of working at foursquare.

View the video on Vimeo

Fancy working alongside these fine folks at foursquare? We are hiring! foursquare.jobs

Working remotely is both a pleasurable and productive way to work but do realise it absolutely has some downfalls. It is lonely. It is challenging. It is something I am constantly striving to improve at. I would love to answer any questions or hear others peoples experiences, please do leave a comment.

The redesign of foursquare.com

One of the primary reasons I wanted to work at foursquare in early 2010 was to have the ability to work on one product alone and continue to improve that over time. The majority of my freelance projects never lasted more than 3 months, once a site had shipped I had very little to do with it and would move onto another project. Being able to rapidly iterate on a single product over time and see real measured improvements has been massively satisfying.

When I started working at foursquare we had two designers, a visual designer and a user experience designer. Both working across all aspects of the product on everything from web and iOS app design to communication materials and graphic design. A grand task for just two and thankfully the team has grown to almost 10 since then with a mix of visual, interaction, ux and web ui designers.

At foursquare we see the website as an integral part of our product and getting the chance to redesign this from the ground-up was a great opportunity, one that the small redesign team has slaved, sweated and poured a vast amount of our effort into over the last few months.

The new foursquare site is a breath of fresh air compared to our old utilitarian and generic 2009 website. While we continued to push amazing new features and projects to the site, we have always felt constrained by it’s abilities and style. Today we launch a brighter, fresher and more flexible design that is not only a huge improvement visually but lays the groundwork for new features and projects that are coming down our road map in the very near future.

foursquare.com

Gone are the days of content-in-a-blue-box and in moves the era of easier to digest content, interactivity and discovery. With easier navigation, even more photos & comments, and clearer venue details to interactive maps, venue recommendations and list discovery we hope that foursquare.com becomes the destination site for people looking to keep up with their friends, discover what’s nearby, save money and unlock rewards.

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.

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.

Massive Blue - My Realigned Portfolio

I last relaunched my portfolio site in May of 2009 and I was very happy with the improved direction and look then, however things have changed somewhat over the past year and I felt that I needed to try and better convey my interests and my clients work in a realign of my portfolio site for 2010 and beyond. The new Massive Blue:

Massive Blue

Transparency, RGBA & CSS3

While it is my portfolio site, like my blog it is a playground and experiment of myself, my style and what can be achieved in modern web design. Webkit users are treated to a colour-cycling effect on the homepage background which extends to the background of the logo as well through some tricky PNG transparency. Each individual portfolio entry is also colour-treated to match the primary colour of the work done, and almost all of the content is coloured with RGBA.

Minimum Requirements

Because of some of the techniques I have employed on my site a few people may experience some technical issues, I do apologise for this and hope that it isn’t too bad. Like my 1080px grid explanation from my May 2009 redesign post, it is also a good barrier for entry.

Thanks

I would like to extend a few thanks – Rogie King for the lovely Browser Chrome that I hear is soon be released as a downloadable package – Jason Cale for helping me with the Grid Overlay jQuery (check the link in the footer), to the Dribbble community that commented and praised my preview shots and to all of the lovely comments I have received on my Twitter stream @sambrown, thanks so much!

Look out for some new and exciting portfolio entries very soon.

Sam Brown co-founded Iterate, and was previously VP of Design at Foursquare. Based in NYC.

DribbbleEndorseFacebookFoursquareInstagramTwitter