Good morning!

I've been thinking about this topic for about a week now.  On July 2, Twitter updated some of its display requirements for tweets.  (These can be found here - https://dev.twitter.com/terms/display-requirements).  The main idea behind this is to allow for a more fluid user experience between Twitter and other sites using their API.  That's not a bad idea, right? Well yes and no.  

If you are going to make requirements for the displaying of your tweets, I believe you should be responsible for providing the information for those tweets.  For instance, one of the guidelines is to make every hash tag and username in a Tweet clickable.  Not tough, Twitter does this for you right.  Nope.  Not when using their API.  They return a string (message) with no html to you.  No links, no method for converting the links, nothing, nada.  They expect the developers using their API to do all of this processing on their own.  In other words, here's some more work for you to do if you want to use our product.  I'm sorry but that is pretty lame.  You already have the programming set up in your system.  Just return the string with the links already provided! It's not like I'm asking for anything difficult here!

Another requirement is to have the intents (favorite, retweet, follow, reply) links available.  They don't have to be shown immediately, but must be available to the user upon some action (hover, click, etc).  Cool. Great idea. NOT! Again more programming that they don't provide and what if I don't want people to reply from my site.  What if I'm using my Twitter account more as a news feed for my site, such as when this is done:

Well basically this is a no go.  It breaks the guidelines because it has no intents and links in its has tags, and user profile name or picture linked to the account.  Say what?! I also have to have my Twitter profile pictures and account name on there! And there are restrictions on where and how I can place these items too!  But what if I'm only displaying tweets from my account.  This is absurd.  If I want people to get to my Twitter account, I will link them to it with the little bird.  

This brings me to my next point on the guidelines.  No changing the color of the bird.  I really don't have a huge beef with this one as it is their logo and you are not supposed to change logos, but the unintended effect will be ugly Twitter icons that do not match your site design.

Yes a white bird would have technically worked in this feed, but it would not have been near as eye pleasing as one that blends flawlessly into the design.

And finally there is the whole date issue.  They have specific ways they want you to display the times.  That's great, but please provide a way to do so!  Don't make the people who are making you the platform to go to, do more work.  On top of that, it increases the chance that people may display them improperly.  

I rate these changes right up there with how I feel about Facebook changes.  And that's not too high.  I understand wanting a more fluid experience but sometimes not squishing people back into the box is the best way to make your product the number one item in your industry.  If you want everyone in a nice neat box, provide the packaging matterial to do so.  Don't make me go out and build the box that I am supposed to be shoved into.  If you are going to provide me with an API to get info from your site, let me do what I please with the info.  If not, don't give me access.

Twitter, do you feel these changes are really going to help your product?  I feel you are just hurting the people that helped you build your empire.  Are you really going to try to enforce these policies you are making?  If not, call them recommendations, not requirements.  And if you do enforce them... well expect to see a lot feeds disappearing from sites.  

So to recap, say goodbye to feeds like these and say goodbye to creativity:

RANT OVER!

 

UPDATE:

I just wanted to let you all see what the new stands look like when all the tweets come from the same account.

I'm bad at directions.  This past week, I've been vacationing at a condo in Siesta Keys where the friends I'm with became familiar with the area after the first day.  They jump in the car and easily find the grocery store, restaurants and the airport when I would have to get out my phone to figure it out.  I know the reason I'm not good at this is because I don't always pay attention to the details.  When they drive they make note of things they passed, remember the street names, etc. while I just enjoy all of the fun things that are happening around me.

There are always fun things going on in our daily lives, so imagine trying to sell someone like me a ticket to a sporting event.  How do you get my attention long enough to give me the details I need to make a purchase?  Giving me a long, detailed brochure is great, but then I need you to break it down for me too.  I want to be able to reference that brochure when I have questions, but if you want to actually sell me something, I need it presented in small, digestible chunks.  

And sadly, I'm not the only person like this.  Give me a visual or tell me a story and I can spit back that information perfectly, so that's why I love infographics.  If you're trying to tell a story that people will remember, they are amazing.  Even if the story isn't flashy, you can make it look fun.  For example, last year when I was working from the Miami campus, I found out that one of the most confusing processes for the fans was printing their tickets at home, so together we made this infographic:

When you're running a new contest with the goal of collecting fan data to make a sale, an infographic can show people why it's worth giving their contact info and they can easily share this contest with friends and family across the social media platforms.  The reach is much bigger when you create something your fans want to tell their circles about.

We saw the power of the people in Pulaski, Tennessee in 2011 when we created a social media campaign for James Justice to win the fan vote into the NCAA Slam Dunk Contest.  He's 5'9 attending a school of less than 800 students in a town of less than 8,000 people and yet, his story spread across the state to beat out guys at schools ten times the size of his. 

When he won the fan vote, Athletic Director, Jeff Bain, then came to us and said, "well, now we need to raise the money to actually send him to New Orleans!"  Using the t-shirt we designed, we continued the campaign to turn these voters into donors, which we did.  The best part of the story is that with this opportunity he went there and won the dunk contest!  It still gives me chills to think about it.  I've never met James Justice, but getting to know him through this campaign is by far one of the best experiences I've had working in college athletics.  How can you not love this guy?

 

So if you're wondering if infographics can help tell your story to generate national brand recognition, as well as generate revenue for your programs, the answer is yes.

Without them, I have to rely on other people to get me where I'm going.

 

I don't have a ton of memories from spending time with my father growing up.  He was in a car accident when I was 6 that nearly killed him and for a couple of years, he was incapable of doing much in the way of the typical father-son things.  And even after he had fully recovered, he was never the type of father to sit down on the floor with me and play a game.  He worked hard all week and then on the weekends he worked harder (I grew up on a farm).  This is not to say that my father failed in any way.  I think he still spent more time with me and my siblings than a lot of fathers do.  And he was a great dad.  I'm just saying that due there wasn't just a ton of one-on-one time.  Therefore, the memories I do have of time with my father are held very precious to me.  Three to four times per year, he would drive me the hour-long trek from Guthrie, OK to Norman to see the Sooners play football.  It was the Switzer era and there was no bigger fan of Brian Bosworth than I was.  I was equally as excited to go to the 2-3 OU men's hoops games each season.  Wayman Tisdale, Mookie Blaylock, Tim McAlester...  All my heroes.  But I don't think anything was better than when he'd take me to Stillwater to see OU play Oklahoma State in basketball.  Gallagher-Iba Arena held all of about 37 people back then and there were typically 4 OU fans in the entire crowd.  I was one of them for about 8 years in a row.  I'll never forget those times and because of those moments, I have passed that along to my own sons.  I want them to have those same memories I have.  

Years after I started Old Hat, I finally decided to sit down and figure out our mission.  What is our purpose?  Why do we do what we do?  I had pondered that many, many times and for some reason it was never obvious to me.  But all at once it became very clear why we are here and why I started Old Hat to begin with.  Almost every person I speak to, whether they are sports fans or not, have some memory of a sporting event that they will never forget.  Whether it's just driving to track meets with their dad, attending the World Series or simply playing little league, I've never met a person that didn't have a great sports memory that nearly brings tears to their eyes thinking about.  And those people ALWAYS remember exactly who they were with.  

Sports brings people together.  It provides opportunities for fathers to create lifelong memories with their sons.  It allows people to share great moments with their brothers, sisters, mothers, friends, etc.  And we get so wrapped up in it that the emotion often turns into embraces and tears of joy.  And all of the stresses of life are temporarily invisible.  

THAT is why we do what we do.  At Old Hat we have the opportunity to be a part of that.  We can amplify that experience for people.  Whether it's helping get people in the seats to begin with or making they experience better once they arrive, we are a part of creating memories for literally millions of people every year.  I take great satisfaction in that.

About six months ago Old Hat Creative was approached by the team at Operation Hat Trick for a little help with their website.  I had heard of the organization before but did not really have any idea of what they did.  It is a great organization and you can find out more about it here.  

In the past, Old Hat has done Mayham, Humayliation, and this year our Super Fan 5k to help raise money for good causes.  Since I have been here we have not had an opportunity like this and it was something I was excited to play my part.  The request was simple enough, help us redesign our website and make it look professional.  

When we started, the site looked like this….

There are a couple of issues with the look, but all in all, it really just needed a face-lift.  Our interactive team jumped on a conference call with everyone involved.  When we first look at a site, it is easy to tell what can be changed and what should be fixed.  However, it is not until you talk to the people involved that you really get an idea of what needs to be done.  Amber Lilyestrom was great to work with on this project.  She has a passion for her work and this organization that you feel when talking to her.  Once we heard what she had to say, it was a lot easier to come up with the changes.  Here are a couple of looks at the changes.

 

It is always a process doing a project like this because we were not going to develop the site.  Normally, our designers work hand in hand with our programmers to make sure the site design will function properly, and more importantly can actually be coded.  The programmer for this site is someone I have only met through email and that leads to even more emails.  

Relaying the functionality of the design, as well as the specific items that the client needs, requires a lot of emails and discussion but in the end, it came out right.  The site looks great, the programmer did a great job of making our design come alive, and the client is happy with the work.  

Operation Hat Trick is a great organization and one I would encourage you to support. 

http://operationhattrick.com/landing/index 

As a guy who designs posters for a living, I can't help but notice them everywhere I go. I see them in restaurants, on the street corner and even my kid's school (comic sans anyone?). Most of the time I hardly pay any attention to them because they all look like this.

   

 But when I go to the movies, I always make a point to stand outside the theater and look at all the posters for the movies showing inside. In the past, movie posters were vibrant, unique pieces of art. Each one had the potential to become as memorable as the movie itself. Posters designed by Saul Bass (Vertigo) and Greg and Tim Hilderbrandt (Star Wars) are now considered classics of cinema. 

      

However, these days the folks that design movie posters have gotten lazy. Instead of creating an imaginative, engaging poster to advertise the movie, these designers re-hash the same old poster over and over again. For every type of movie there is, it gets the standard Hollywood poster design to go along with it. 

 

What's that? You need a poster for a super hero movie? Ok, how about the hero standing on a ledge? Maybe over looking the city he's sworn to protect? Not moody enough for you? Ok, how about rain? Yeah! Lots of rain!

 

Oh, your movie is a "buddy comedy"? Ok, how about the stars standing back-to-back with goofy looks on their faces? Because nothing screams "We're in this together" like that!

 

Hmm. You’re making a quirky, independent movie? Ok, that's easy. Those are supposed to be yellow.

 

These are just a few examples. There are tons more here http://www.buzzfeed.com/pauljamez/15-common-movie-poster-themes-2kjh

I know how hard it can be to design a memorable poster. It's not as easy as it looks. It takes a lot of creativity, talent and work. Movie posters today seem to lack even the slightest bit of creativity. They're boring and unimaginative and rely too heavily on cliché design motifs and templates. However, there is a small movement among artist and graphic designers to re-imagine the movie poster, to give them new life. The folks over at Alternative Movie Posters http://www.alternativemovieposters.com/ are artist in the true sense of the word (not just some dufus playing around in Photoshop, like me and probably most of the movie poster designers). These artists are able to distill the essence of a movie into just a few iconic images. They're fun, creative and interesting to look at. It's a far cry from the same poster you've seen over and over again at your local movie theater.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Know what's difficult?  Running a business.  Raising children is tough, sure.  But the results of your failures aren't quite as immediate.  If you screw up in raising your kids, you probably won't realize it until they're meth addicts or shooting at people from a clock tower.  Running a marathon is difficult.  But it's difficult for 18 weeks leading up to it and then for 4 hours during (or if you're a complete stud like me, 3 hours and 35 minutes).  Running a business is always difficult.  It never gets easy.  No matter how well things are going, there are always new challenges.  Back me up here, Trip Durham!  And if you screw up, people lose their jobs.  If you screw up BIG, you lose everything.

Off-Season Preparation

One of those difficulties we face every year is how to be properly prepared for the onslaught of "busy season" for the upcoming year.  Right now we're in our "dead season" which doesn't mean that we don't have lots to do.  It just means that compared to August, September and October, the spring months are a breeze.  But Old Hat has been around for 9 years and each year we have seen exponential growth in the amount of work that we have coming in.  And it seems like each year we are understaffed through those busy months.  What I am faced with each spring is making sure that we are properly staffed for that time period but not OVERstaffed.  We don't want to be put in a position where we have to lay-off someone after the busy season ends because we don't have enough work. We also have to decide when to bring in new people in order to train them and have them ready for busy season.  If we hire too soon, we're putting money toward an unnecessary payroll expense for someone that doesn't have anything to do.  If we hire them too late, busy season comes and they aren't properly prepared.  So every May/June, we have to decide who we're hiring, how many people we're hiring and when to bring them on.  Hire too many and we spend too much on payroll and profits suffer.  Hire too few and everyone is miserable all fall because they're working too much.

Painful Growth

Growing is painful at times.  And even though you can analyze past successes and failures, study your numbers, etc... it's all just a big guessing game.  Sometimes I guess right and sometimes I guess wrong.  I've gotten better at it over the years but last year we had the biggest jump in growth we'd ever had and there was no way to know it was coming.  It seems to have just happened.  Do I prepare this year for that level of growth?  Or do I prepare for what we had typically done in prior years?  Or is this the year where it all levels out and we hardly grow any?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Last weekend we all got infected here at Old Hat Creative.  Staff infection is a point in the year were we all gather to discuss what has happened, what needs to happen, and what will happen in the coming months at Old Hat. Along with a little bit of painting!

This was my second staff infection at the company and it is something I value quite a bit about working at Old Hat.  Zac takes the time to let us know where he sees the company going and to listen to what we have to say.  

This year was different in the fact that we broke up into small committees to discuss the issues facing Old Hat.  In fact, each committee took it one step further, solutions had to be offered.  Each committee addressed the problem and came up with a solution to implement.  

As a whole group, we discussed the problems and the solutions.  We all know what we need to do to improve and we all know what our goals are for the coming busy season.  It should be an interesting year!

My life literally revolves around websites, well at least my work life.  Everything we do is working towards our next project.  The processes we have built are setup to make us better at our job.  The funny thing to me is we established the processes based on websites we have built for everyone but Old Hat Creative.  Now it is time to build a site for Old Hat…

Project Initiation:
To me this was the most interesting aspect of building our new site.  The last Old Hat site was completed before I worked for the company, before a lot of the people who now work here were here.  Everyone who has any stake in the site, had an opinion about what it needed or did not.  Features that were important (Random Animal Noises) and those that were not (I know he is disappointed but we did remove the Date with Geoff from our store).  My job going into this is to be able to listen to what everyone wants and turn it into what everyone needs.  Each division needs the website for a different reason and all of Old Hat needs it for the same reason.  

Information Gathering:
At this point we have heard a generalized description of what everyone wants.  We know what is most important as a whole but need to drill down to why.  Why does our CMO want to be able to send people directly to a page with our entire on site photo shoots?  Why does my developer want to change the way we input and organize our client list?  Why does Zac love those animal noises?  

Within each change there is a goal that someone has in mind.   My developer wants to change how clients are organized.  Our CMO wants to be able to market easier.  She wants to have a list of products we have easily accessible with quality images that explains why YOU might need that product.  She wants us to be able to sort everything we do, quickly and easily. Zac really just likes animals… I guess.  

As I mentioned before each request has an end goal.  We may not always be able to give them exactly what they want but we can give them what they need.  Maybe we do not give each product a page but give each page a sorting option.  Allow people to pick and choose how they want to sort things so they can easily find the examples of products they need.   Change the way we input content and clients so it is easier to build the database to hold all of that information. 

Presentation of Concepts:
Now that I have listened to everyone, it is time to start building this out.  Dustin is incredibly important in all of this.  He is THE web designer and had the opportunity to listen to what everyone wanted as well.  He now has to turn all of these requests into something pretty.  

This is where decisions start to get made and requests start to get culled.  Some things are over kill. Why do we need to link to twitter four times and have a feed on the home page?  Dustin is great at visualizing the site as we have these conversations and always produces something amazing.  Unfortunately, his amazing design is not the end of the road because regardless of what he designs it still has to function.  After he completes every design we sit down with our developers and walk them through how we envision the functionality.  

This is the part of the process where there is the most give and take.  We want it to look this way but it will hurt the functionality.  Developers think in terms of programming and functionality, not always design.  Development is always a chore and we want to make sure the design we use makes sense to the users, while functioning like everyone needs it to.  In the end however, this is a project that we all get excited about.  Rarely do we get the opportunity where our developers can do fun things.  If you are reading this blog, you know Old Hat and you know that we have fun but a site like this is fun because it challenges our team.  It gives them the opportunity to do something they never get to do and if there is a new programming technique that most website budgets cannot afford; they might get the chance to do it.  Our developers always want to do something awesome but some times they have to be realistic.

Every website is different.  No matter what, there is some different aspect that will change with each site. This is a big reason why we use Drupal.  It is an open source CMS and allows our developers to build custom modules or take existing ones to make changes. 

After the brainstorming, the planning, and debating it is time to present the first drafts of the site to everyone involved. 

Revisions:
I have a love/hate relationship with this step in the process.  We talked with the stakeholders about what they wanted and planned for their requests.  In a perfect world, we nail it, and there are no revisions.  Pigs also fly, there are never tornados in Oklahoma, and Robert’s hair looks like that as soon as he wakes up.   

Back to reality, there are always revisions, usually, about two rounds of revisions. Everyone has a vision of what their requests will look like and those visions may not match Dustin’s.   Sitting down with the stakeholders at this point is good for everyone.  We will walk them through the design, explain the functionality, and make sure we have included the important elements.   Once we go over it, we take their revisions and go back to Photoshop.

Production of Deliverables:
After we have concluded the revisions stage and have received the design approval, it is time to start programming.  Before we start programming we usually sit down with the developers to map out how we will program the site.  Talk about what aspects are most important and look at the time frame we have.  

Programming for most websites is a four-week process.  Programming for the new Old Hat site has been a seven-week process.  Typically other projects come up in the middle and our developers have to bounce around but big projects always mean someone may be working on the same site for the next two months.  

Once we finish the initial build it is time to start testing.  There are entirely too many web browsers available.  Of course there are the major players; IE, FF, and Chrome but then there are many other obscure browsers out there.  We only test the two most recent versions of the major browsers.  Fonts render differently in each browser.  There are a few standards but you never know what IE is going to present you with.  There is a reason you will NEVER catch a developer using IE.  We still have to look at the site on different computers, browsers, and devices to make sure it looks good.  We also have to go through the entire site on those other browsers to make sure the important content is available no matter how you look at the site.  

Once the testing is done and we have checked for other errors we send the link to the client and have them go through the site.  This usually causes us to go into another testing phase as we try to recreate any issues the client is seeing on their end.  

Delivery (TODAY!!):
Old Hat Interactive mostly delivers its products to the web.  Launch day can be both exciting and nerve racking.  Typically, I wake up at least once in the middle of the night before launch day, worried about some aspect of the site I forgot or we did not build.  It is always a challenge to keep myself from calling a developer.  That is part of the excitement of launch day.  We get to help our clients display a new website to the world.  Something we built will be visited by 100’s of people that day and our work will be tested throughout that time.  We work with our clients to determine a time for the launch and make sure everything is setup properly. 

Today we launch the new Old Hat site.  It has definitely been a process.  In the end we created something that should help everyone on our staff as well as our clients.   Take a look around, see what you can find, and let us know what you think. 

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