• Joe & Rachael Projects

    Design! Surveys! No more ampersand!

    A month ago I set up a reader survey through Google Forms. My readers are not commenters. They are emailers. They tweet well. They text me in the night. They write sweet facebook messages and tell their friends. They nudge me on the street and tell me what they thought. That’s very nice, but it can make a girl confused about what’s working and what’s not.

    Google forms was lovely to use. I liked a couple of the theme options and I loved how all the responses were immediately put into a spreadsheet for me. 

    The survey itself was a delightfully successful project for me. It affirmed things that some part of me knew, but a large part of me had never quite accepted. Things I like about ED (writing longer pieces, dallying over tiny aspects of life that preoccupy me, keeping the design simple, updating here and there when I have something to say) the respondents also liked!

    While this may be obvious to you,”oh your readers like what you write?” It’s not. If there’s one thing the blog professionals are always encouraging new bloggers to realize, it’s that their unique voice is the most important thing about them. As I know personally, writers have a tough time accepting that and imitation and emulation dangerously abound. (Hence the remarkable habit of great writers to avoid their peer’s work altogether.)

    This one was really helpful: majority of my readers use an rss reader to follow ED! Using an rss reader (like googlereader, which will tell you when a blog has updated) is perfect for ED because I update so randomly. I hate the idea of readers checking every day and being disappointed. I have developed (totally unfair) click-disappointment vendettas against bloggers who I love and check obsessively even though I know they probably haven’t posted.

    Here’s the fun one:

    talking about design! As you can see, majority liked the simple design, which is great. I like the simple design too. However, we aren’t total purists: people want larger photos and a bio on the side. I think of the side-column bio and photo as a back-of-the-book necessity. When I’m reading a book, I flip to the back to examine the author’s photo at least 10 times. It’s how I relate to them, listen to their voice, interpret my ideas. There are formal critical approaches to reading that are deeply against this type of thing. I don’t care. It’s human nature, why fight our natural urge to relate? Of course it’s the same with blogs. Why are blogs so successful? Because we love love love to learn about each other. And we feel welcomed when the author introduces themselves right away.

    And larger photos, well, welcome to 2012, right? Photos are getting larger and better all the time. I’m all for it. I love to see photos on the blogs I read, so of course I would want the same for things at ED.

    Joe is guiding changes around here and I’ve got a mental love-list that I hope we can execute; but I was ready to get things officially switched. So…welcome to my redesign! And thanks for your help.


  • App Reviews,  Using technology

    Favorite Travel Apps

    We spent a long weekend in Philadelphia, meeting up with Joe’s family and several good old friends who have settled there. With just three days, we had lots we wanted to do, eat, and see! Here are my favorite apps that helped make a fantastic weekend:

    LevelUp. We all know the future is paying with your phone and leaving that silly wallet behind (except we would still carry our purses because we love them so much, obviously). If you too want card-free transactions, imagine having a baby in your arms and a diaper bag on your shoulder: Suddenly you want it 100x more, right? I love that LevelUp is a pay-with-your phone option at most of my favorite spots in Boston, and it is Philly too. Because they give you credit for your first visit to most places, my afternoon macchiato at the lovely cafe down the street from my hotel was free!

    LevelUp is in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Philly, San Diego, Seattle, and lots more cities! It’s a free app, but if you sign up with my code 65582, we both get a $5 credit. bing.

    Best Parking. Is there a more confusing nightmare than parking garage signage? I think not. Especially if you’re a deal hunter, a street full of  garages all offering different rates is terrifying! I used Best Parking (which is in loads of cities) to sneak out the best overnight rate near our hotel. It’s intuitively designed (it’s owned by a twenty-three year old!), and can use either your address or your location to help you find parking.

    Yelp-the Bookmark List. Don’t worry, I too have thoughts about how much therapy most Yelp users need. Especially when they use a restaurant review as a place to complain about their waiter. But! Yelp on your browser and on your phone make it easy to “bookmark” places you want to go. Then you can pull up the app and see where those places are on a map, and hunt them down.

    This is super helpful if you’re chatting with someone and they’re like, “oh try this spot! and check in there! and make sure you have oysters over there!” and the names are flying past you and you’re just nodding along, wishing your dictation secretary was around. And, not to be a complete nerd here, but the user experience on Yelp is way better than Google maps. For one thing, it searches businesses more quickly and more accurately. For another, the labels on the map are movable, so they don’t obscure whatever you’re trying to look at (hint hint Google Maps!).

    Venmo. Joe and I took advantage of the grandparents in the city and went out to all sorts of fun drinks spots with friends. But then the bill shows up at the end, and turns out everyone ordered different things: a salad here, a water there, three cocktails over here (who could have ordereed those??). Venmo makes it easy to let one person pay the bill and everyone else pay you back on the spot. Because we know those promises of “oh, I’ll get the next one!” never really work out.

    What about you? Any apps you’re loving on the go these days?