a-z-guide-to-launching-your-digital-product

The fact is, your digital product launch strategy should be a core part of your original product design and development plan. That’s partly why the legendary Seth Godin said “you can no longer say marketing is what I do at the end. It is what you do at the beginning.”

That may explain why (from my experience) many experienced founders now try to imagine the entire process that’d go into their digital product evolution. They try to observe trends/behaviors and gather as much data/details as they can, before taking any serious action towards product development or promotion. 

As an emerging founder, you’ve probably imagined that you’d need to research your target market. Size up the competition. Assemble a team. And, finally, create your product. Awesome! Now, what next?

Develop a product strategy that’d minimize risk, improve viability and impress the target audience

Credit: Adam Fard

I’ve found that many aspiring/new founders assume that they’d only need to start thinking about product strategy (and launch strategy) after they’ve finished developing their products. This could be counterproductive. The best time to develop your product strategy (including your product launch strategy) is before (not after) you finish developing your product.

A product strategy is the evolutionary vision of the product. Whether you’re building a new product from scratch or enhancing an existing one, a well-defined product strategy helps you make better product decisions, promotes consistency between teams and ensures that the product will bring real value to the market. In essence, your product strategy needs to outline what your product is, where it’s going, why users need it, and how you will promote it to users. This is where the product launch strategy is usually birthed.

Without a clear product strategy in place, you risk giving the product a bunch of unnecessary features, replicating other products on the market, and/or putting stakeholders’ wishes above users’ needs. Basically, the lack of early product strategy may increase the odds of launching a product that’s bound to fail. Fortunately, a sound product/product launch strategy is not beyond what any aspiring founder can put together. 

Four actionable steps to building a useful product strategy framework

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” — Benjamin Franklin

As I already explained, having a product strategy in place is pivotal to the creation of a viable product that would stand the chance to remain in the market for the long term. Thus, to develop a solid product strategy framework, you need to:

1) Clarify your business objectives

Conduct stakeholder interviews to learn more about the digital product you’re creating. Find out about any conflicting views, possible constraints, and practical solutions.

Questions to ask: Why are you building this product? Who is it for? What problem(s) does it solve? How is it different from other products? How will you profit from it? What is the ultimate goal that this product is designed to fulfill?

2) Get to know your competitors

Discover direct and indirect competitors who are attempting to solve the same problem. Analyzing the competitive landscape will help you understand the product differentiators and achieve unique positioning in the market.

Questions to ask: Who are your competitors? What features do they offer? How much does their product cost? What are the key differentiators? How are they promoting their product?

3) Get to know the intended users

Understand who your users are so you can shape your product to their needs. You also need to know where they are in the digital world, the common digital products they typically use, and the kind of influencers and digital tribes they generally belong to. Try to validate your assumptions by conducting user research, which should involve speaking to prospective users or users of your competitor’s products (more on this later).

Questions to ask: Who are your target users? Where can you find them online? Who do they listen to? How do they behave? Which similar products (direct or indirect) do they currently use? How do they typically use those products? What problems and frustrations do they currently have? How can your product help them?

4) Be sure to document your findings

Gather everything you’ve learned about your business, competition, and users, and document it. This way, you and your team will always have something to fall back on for clarity and direction.

Questions to ask: What have you learned from the findings? How will the findings help you improve the product? Are there any unsolved constraints? 

*Note: The product strategy framework (at this stage) should not impose specific/final solutions. Instead, it should serve as a reference point to help teams prioritize tasks, assist in the decision-making process, and strengthen consistency among teams/units. Thing is, there’s still a need to go the extra mile in user research before making concrete decisions on strategy. 

Conduct user research to gain valuable insight into the behavior/motivations of your primary target audience 

Credit: Adam Fard

You might think you’ve got an awesome product idea. But how certain are you that people need it, and will be willing to pay for it sustainably? No matter how good a product is, it’s useless if nobody wants it.

“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.” Seth Godin

Again, it’s vital to conduct user research early in the product development phase to determine what users want and more importantly, need from your product. This way, you can make quality decisions regarding your digital product.

Four effective user research methods any aspiring founder can deploy quickly

Ready? Try one or a mix of the following user research methods to help you better understand your target audience:

1) Create user personas

User personas are a representation of your target user group. They are a valuable research tool to help you understand how to build — and market — your product to a specific group of people. The aim of personas is to prioritize problems and solutions by predicting user behavior. 

A good user persona incorporates the ideal user’s demographic profile, professional background, motivations, frustrations, and goals.

2) Conduct user surveys

User surveys are a good way of collecting quantitative data about your users before a product is designed or released. To carry out a survey, develop a list of questions that validate or refute any of your assumptions.

If possible, reach out to existing users or find survey participants via social media and online advertising. Just remember not to get too carried away with your questions or else people will skip the survey.

3) Hold user interviews

In-person interviews let you gather qualitative data about your users, their thoughts, and experiences. Since interviews are more flexible, you can delve into more detail about how users interact with your digital product and the quality of their interactions.

To get the most useful information out of interviews, avoid leading, closed, or vague questions that only elicit “yes” or “no” responses. This way, you will extract more useful information from users.

4) Observe people using your product

Another effective way to understand user behavior is to watch how people use your product. The goal of this research method is to observe how users navigate their way toward the successful completion of the task at hand. Therefore, this method is also ideal for testing the proficiency of your UX design.

To make the most of this user research method, ask users to perform specific tasks and encourage them to talk you through the process. For accurate results, keep any interference at an absolute minimum.

Also, again, you want to get as much information on your competitors as you can. What trends are they following, how are they promoting their products, and what features do they have? Looking at how your competitors are positioning themselves in the market is crucial to launching and positioning your own digital product. You may also use this new information to update/validate your initial product strategy framework. 

Once your product strategy framework and user experience research are in place, the next thing is to design a process that would ensure that legendary user experience and enviable customer experience are a core part of your product delivery.

Define and communicate product value through an impeccable UX and CX process

You cannot launch a digital product without first laying the foundations for great user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX). Providing a seamless UX and CX will increase product value and make it easier to achieve your business goals. Therefore, you should work hard to fine-tune both your UX and CX strategy before launching your digital product.

But aren’t UX and CX pretty much the same? No, they’re not.

UX looks at how users interact with a specific digital product and their overall experience using it. Specifically, UX deals with the design of a product’s interface in terms of usability, navigation, predictability, visual hierarchy, and information architecture.

On the other hand, CX has a broader scope and looks at how users interact with all aspects of a brand — including products, customer service, sales process, advertising, brand reputation, and pricing — and how the user feels about them.

Now that you know the difference between UX and CX, you probably want to improve yours as soon as possible. 

Five actionable keys to awesome user experience

For awesome user experience, you should pay attention to:

  • Consistency Ensure that customers will have the same experience across devices
  • Simplicity Remove any unnecessary steps in the customer journey
  • Flow — Allow customers to smoothly navigate their way across touchpoints.
  • User control — Give users the ability to use the product independently and efficiently
  • Accessibility Make your product easily accessible to as many customers as possible.

Five actionable keys to awesome customer experience

For great customer experience, you should focus on:

  • Communication — Simplify communication processes for easier, real-time interactions
  • Personalization — Let users personalize aspects of their experience
  • Customer centricity — Put your customers first at every stage of the customer journey
  • Speed Respond to customers’ needs and requests as soon as possible
  • Proactivity — Be proactive rather than reactive when dealing with customers

Once you’re done with the preliminary product/competition/user research, you’d be able to formulate a clear hypothesis regarding your product’s viability and the potential impact it would have on the market. Now it’s time to prove/disprove that hypothesis through prototype testing.

Build a prototype of your intended product and test it

Credit: Adam Fard

A prototype is one of the best ways to demonstrate the value of a product to prospective users. Releasing a prototype of your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) before the official launch date helps paint a clearer picture of how users can use and interact with your product.

Just think about how much easier it would be to sell a product that you can actually show to users. It requires less imagination and getting a sneak-peek of the product scraps any doubts that potential users may have about buying it.

Draw on your findings from your market research to build a prototype, and then conduct beta testing on real users. Beta testing lets you confirm launch date readiness, evaluate customer experience early on, and more importantly, build product awareness. By doing so, you can identify any problems and solve them accordingly. 

If your earlier hypothesis is disproved, a flaw is discovered, or something is found to be wrong during the testing period, it’s all good. That’s the time to go back and fix the problem (hopefully) without a monumental liability. But if all goes well, then you’re all set to launch. But, between the period of successful prototype test and the official launch date is a period that can be used for pre-launch activities. 

Use the pre-launch period to build strong anticipation for your product launch

Credit: Adam Fard

This stage focuses on what you need to do in the time leading up to your official digital product launch — which is usually weeks (and sometimes months) in advance.

The pre-launch stage is the perfect opportunity to stir the waters, spread the word, and prepare your audience for what’s coming. If you have done a good job from the onset, you’d find it easier to capture the attention of your target audience (and their influencers); and credibly spread your product’s uniqueness (and value) on the right media platforms/channels.

The idea is to create a massive buzz and anticipation that builds up to the official launch date. At a bare minimum, you need to deploy a mix communication tactics strategically in order to have a successful product launch.

Seven pre-launch tactics you can use to generate buzz and build anticipation for your digital product 

You can have a super cool product, but without promoting it, no one will hear about it. Generating buzz is one of the most important elements of taking your product to market.

“You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.” Beth Comstock

Depending on your existing clout, budget and overall marketing strategy, below is a non-exhaustive list of some effective pre-launch tactics you can use to promote your product leading up to the big day: A strategic mix of all the entire tactics may create more buzz.

1) Build landing pages

Create a landing page with key information about your product. Add a countdown timer to generate extra anticipation.

2) Set up a pre-orders system

Set up a separate landing page where users can pre-order your product. Offering the option to pre-order will tell you if people are actually interested in your product.

3) Use email broadcasts

Send out a set of email campaigns to your audience. Partners/influencers may also be engaged to do this as part of the overall strategy. Use emails to inform people about what your product is about, when it will be released, and how it will benefit them.

4) Distribute press releases

Write a press release and distribute it across different news outlets. This way, you can increase your exposure and outreach.

5) Publish blog series 

Create shareable content about your product and related topics. This will bring traffic to your website and increase your visibility.

6) Post social media updates

Establish your presence on various social media channels to create even more noise about your product and upcoming launch.

7) Offer the early adapters an early bird deal

Offer a discounted price for early birds interested in your product. This pricing tactic can significantly drive sales at launch. But, even after the official release, strategic pricing models can be used to either drive or control sales at post-launch phase.

Review your metrics and reevaluate your methods at the post-launch phase

Credit: Adam Fard

After you have officially launched your product, you should focus on user evaluations and gathering feedback.

Here are the questions you should ask yourself post-launch:

  • How many conversions did I get from my website? If the number is not what you anticipated, review your UX design to identify any obstacles in the customer journey.
  • What feedback did I receive from users? Take the positive and negative feedback you receive from users and use it to refine your UX and CX.
  • What can I do to increase conversions and generate new leads? Think of new ways to reach out to users, such as free trials, demos, resources, and product videos.

Speaking of conversions and leads, one tried-and-tested way to capture new leads is to use a conversion-centered design.

The seven main principles of a conversion-centered design include:

  • Encapsulation — Use a tunnel-like effect to guide users’ eyes to your CTA
  • Contrast — Make your CTA stand out by using a color that contrasts with the background
  • Directional cues — Place arrows or pathways to direct users to your CTA
  • White space — Use plenty of white space to make your CTA button easier to spot
  • Urgency and scarcity — Compel users to make faster purchasing decisions with triggers
  • Try before you buy — Allow users to try your product before committing to buying
  • Social proof — Gain trust from users by displaying testimonials or ratings from other users

But don’t stop here. Continue to look at your metrics and analytics to understand user behavior. The data you collect will help you tweak your product and drive even more conversions further along the road.

The bottom line

Launching a digital product is nothing short of exciting — or terrifying. This is why it’s essential that you plan accordingly and execute effectively. 

The future of your digital product depends on what you do now and the choices you make to improve your UX. So, make your actions count and stay ahead of the curve.

Published October 21, 2019 — 11:00 UTC

an-entrepreneur?s-guide-to-copenhagen?s-thriving-startup-scene

This September upwards of 7000 startup enthusiasts, founders, investors, and representatives of the world’s biggest tech companies flocked to Copenhagen for TechBBQ, the crown jewel in the Danish startup event calendar. 

The event is now heralded as the biggest startup and innovation summit in the Nordic region but began with humble beginnings back in 2012. While tech events tend to flower from the ecosystems around them, in Copenhagen the opposite seems to be true. Grassroots nonprofit organizations like TechBBQ and Copenhagen For The Win (CPHFTW) played a key role in laying the seeds for the strong ecosystem which has flourished, to make the Danish capital the ‘unicorn factory’ it is today. 

But while CPH might be great at launching billion dollar companies, it has traditionally struggled to keep a hold of them. Zendesk, Unity, Sitecore, Tradeshift, and Trustpilot have all jumped ship, and while they are are estimated to have created more than 14,000 jobs, only 700 of those jobs are in Denmark today. 

But today, a number of exciting new initiatives have their sights set on providing the capital and talent needed to stop Danish unicorns from flying the coop. I recently had the opportunity to connect with a number of local players and ecosystem builders in the city to discuss the advantages, and limitations of launching a startup in Copenhagen: 

The roots of the ecosystem

Despite global organizations like StartupBootcamp being present in the city since 2010, Camilla Ley Valentin, CCO, and founder of Queue-it, told me that looking back to the start of this decade, there was not much of a cohesive startup community to speak of. VentureCup, a competition designed to showcase innovation from Danish university students, was launched as early as 2000, but it wasn’t until much later when a real startup cohesive community began to emerge.  

In 2012 a group of local entrepreneurs including Klaus Nyengaard the former CEO of JustEat, Pia Elmegård co-founder of Nordic.AI and Growth Tribe Academy, Martin Bjerregaard, founder of Rainmaking and serial entrepreneurs Daniel Laursen and Esben Gadsbøll, started to organize ‘BYOB’ BBQs in Kongens Have park. The first event was attended by about 150 people, and was organized to bring entrepreneurs together to discuss achievements and challenges in their own projects. 

Around about the same time, Thomas Madsen-Mygdal, Martin von Haller, Michael Reibel Boesen, and others co-founded Copenhagen For The Win (CPHFTW). Both TechBBQ and CPHFTW were self-funded and began to scale their communities, and also to create newsletters, social media groups, and meetups to allow members to share news, and cooperate on projects. 

Both organizations were also integral in bringing together local Angel investors, and inviting international investors from more developed ecosystems to get involved in events, and meetups, and engage with local founders. Around about this time, a number of local startups starting to raise big rounds started to bolster the confidence and enthusiasm of the emerging community. 

Credit: TechBBQ

Support organizations 

Today there is a surprising wealth of different coworking spaces, and startup hubs to choose from for a city of only 600K people. 

Located just across the canal from the Christiansborg palace is Matrikel 1, a beautifully designed coworking space founded by serial entrepreneur and ecosystem builder Tine Thygesen. Amongst other projects, Thygesen is the founder of The Creators Community, a network of coworking spaces which also includes Founders House and Startup Village within Copenhagen. Other notable coworking spaces include Republikken, duop which offers access to workshops for product development, and co-work slash art gallery Nomad Workspace

For those looking for more support, Talent Garden Rainmaking offers workspace, events, and mentorship to 300 entrepreneurs, and also runs an ‘innovation school’ program for members. For startups working in the fintech space, CPH Fintech Hub is a no-brainer, offering affordable office space, as well as various programs such as a two month Nordic Fast track program to help startups launch in the region, a global scale-up program and access to a global network of mentors. The Copenhagen Fintech Accelerator founded by Copenhagen FinTech, Accelerace, and The Danish Industry Foundation is backed by two of Denmark‘s leading financial institutions Nykredit and Danske Bank. 

There is no shortage of accelerator programs in the city either. Accelerace offers a number of niche programs focusing on IoT, cleantech, fintech, and food tech amongst others, tying in well with the key startup trends in the region. International accelerator Rockstart runs an AgriFood program supporting agritech and foodtech startups with acceleration and also co-investing in participating startups up to Series B.

For startups working in sustainable energy and cleantech, there are the EIT Climate-KIC cleantech accelerator and the Greenhouse pre-incubation program. For pre-seed projects, Katapult and Danske Bank have partnered behind the impact Accelerator!. For those working in health tech, Health Tech Nordic brings together 200 startups with key local institutions and mentors. 

Events and startup organizations

Danish Startup Group runs regular events, and support for first-time entrepreneurs, and students interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. A browse of Meetup or TechStars Startup Digest reveals an abundance of developer meetups and niche groups like ProductTank which holds regular meetups for product managers and Women in tech DK. For those working in AI, check out AI Copenhagen and Nordic AI

Louise Ferslev, CEO of Mymonii and co-founder of Women in Tech told me that while the group started off only targeting female founders, it has since broadened its net to founders of any gender from underrepresented demographics. September is a busy month in Copenhagen. Aside from TechBBQ, Tech Festival is also held in Copenhagen’s iconic Meatpacking district bringing thousands of innovators together around the theme of human-centric to technology. 

In November GoTo Copenhagen delves into the deeper themes in developer culture, such as quantum computing and AI ethics. In April, NDC Copenhagen will bring thousands of developers together under the same roof to co-create and discuss key industry themes, and in May Denmark Demo day offers Nordic founders searching for pre-seed and seed funding the chance to pitch an elite group of international and local investors. 

On a similar thread, Investor Series brings local 40 selected local startups together with 40 investors four times a year, but with an interesting twist. In this event, the investors reverse-pitch the value they can offer. In June, the Nordic private equity summit organized by the Danish Venture Capital and Private Equity Association will bring hundreds of engaged investors to the city. 

Talent 

2018 saw record-breaking employment levels. Denmark‘s economy is the fifth-most productive in the world, despite ranking for the second-fewest actual hours worked globally, leading some Danish companies to experiment with a 30-hour work week

For a small city, Copenhagen is home to a lot of high quality universities, including the University of Copenhagen, the Technical University of Denmark, Copenhagen Business School, and the IT University of Copenhagen. Le Wagon , a 9-week Ruby on Rails focused coding bootcamp is also available. 

Some local universities are already acting as a funnel directly into the local tech scene, such as the Technical University of Denmark, which owns PreSeed Ventures, Denmark’s largest early stage investor and innovation incubator. 

But with upwards of 80 active high growth technology companies working out of a small ecosystem, competition for talent is extremely high. Andreas Cleve, CEO of Corti.ai told me that while his company had managed to hire senior AI developers, finding VP level talent, with experience scaling businesses, was much trickier. 

Current VISA restrictions make it very hard for employers looking outside of the local talent pool. Tony Beltramelli, CEO of Uizard told me that even a three months summer internship requires a VISA application process that can take up to two months. 

To get the people they need, Mik Stroyberg, CEO of Good.Monday says local companies need to go near-shore, offshore, and look outside from the get-go. To keep a hold of talent, companies need to behave like global companies, and roll out international offices quickly, to emerge employees in ‘high pace’ startup environments, but also to get access to foreign talent. 

Credit: TechBBQ

Government support 

Denmark has consistently been voted one of the best countries in the world for entrepreneurs by the World Bank, and the lack of red tape when setting up a business has a big part to play in this. It takes less than 24 hours to set up a company in Denmark.

There are government backed programs in place to help startups. InnoFounder, an incubator owned and financed by Innovation Fund Denmark, offers 12 months of funding, as well as an experienced business mentor, free workspace, and access to workshops. The Danish Business Authority also offers resources, and guidance to allow founders to ‘soft launch’ their businesses locally. 

Initiatives such as Startup Denmark aim to attract foreign founders to the region with residence and work permits which are valid for two years, and access to a toolbox of resources for early stage startups including educational programs and access to mentors. 

Vækstfonden is the Danish state’s investment fund, and works closely with leading financial services and local and international investors, to fund local projects, and help local enterprises along their journey from seed round to IPO. 

However, Erdem Ovacik, CEO and founder of sustainability focused bike share startup Donkey Republic, told me that while generally local authorities in Copenhagen make it as easy as possible for businesses to launch, there is room for improvement when it comes to regulation.

Ovacik argues the city will most likely be the first European capital to roll out smart mobility regulations, but notes that the process has been slowed down by the Danish government, and particular politicians with vested interests in holding back the growth of this industry. 

Access to funding 

Since the startup community unified post 2013 and more local success stories have emerged, there are now a number of key Angels groups like DanBan – Danish Business Angels, Switzr Midt/Nordjylland, BAN InVest Østjylland, and BA-Syddanmark which are very active, and whose members regularly attend local events, and meetups. 

And for those startups which want to look for seed investment remotely, there are a number of different homegrown funding options like Valuer.ai, investment platform Funderbeam, or crowdfunding platforms like Lendino

There is no shortage of VC firms to choose from in the city. Seed Capital is the largest, and probably most active early-stage fund, NordicMarkers have a large number of unicorns on their portfolio and Nordic Eye Venture Capital was recently crowned national winner at the Nordic Startup Awards

There are also a number of more niche funds, such as Blazar Capital (e-commerce) Heartcore capital (life sciences), Northcap (B2B and B2B2C), North-East Venture (fintech, e-commerce, sustainability, AI and VR/AR, and Sortedam Ventures (web and mobile). 

A recent report from the Vækstfonden ranks Denmark at around the fifth best in Europe for startups seeking seed- and early-stage investments. However, raising growth capital locally can be more challenging. A recent Forbes article highlights that more than half of investments in Danish startups are now coming from international investors, with relatively little coming from Nordic investors. 

But one local organization wants to change this. In 2017, 50 influential local founders from across the Nordic region including founders of some of the region’s biggest successes such as Skype, ZenDesk, Kahoot, Unity, Sitecore, and Vivino, came together as limited partners under a new €100M early-stage VC fund called ByFounders

Ida Åsle from ByFounders says the fund was born out of an urge to provide expert mentorship, and scaling capital locally so that homegrown startups in the region did not have to follow suit with the previous seven Danish unicorns in relocating abroad. Described as a fund ‘for founders, by founders’, members can also take advantage of the business networks, connections, and expertise of ‘the collective’

Credit: Byfounders Collective

Conclusion

The bridge to Nordic region from Europe, Copenhagen, has all the key components for a strong, stable ecosystem. However, if it is going to keep its unicorns closer to home, there needs to be more scaling capital and senior talent available to facilitate growth from startups into international enterprises. 

But with a new leftist government formed this June, local entrepreneurs are feeling positive. The last government was was mostly supportive of boosting innovation and entrepreneurship, and the new administration has already proposed policies which would make it easier for Danish firms to attract and recruit more skilled labor. It has been suggested that immigration policy changes could lead to 10,000 extra people being employed in 2025. 

While the Danish — and Scandinavians in general — are not known to shout about their successes, they are quick to focus on the areas to be improved. But with events like TechBBQ and organizations like ByFounders leading the way, international investors, and talent are sure to continue flocking to the region over time.

Published October 18, 2019 — 07:00 UTC

a-guide-to-new-and-experimental-css-devtools-in-firefox

About The Author

Victoria Wang is a Portland-based UX designer at Mozilla who works on Firefox Developer Tools.
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Ever since releasing Grid Inspector, the Firefox DevTools team has been inspired to build a new suite of tools to solve the problems of the modern web. In this article, we’ll learn about all 7 tools and take a peek at potential future projects.

Over the last few years, our team at Firefox has been working on new CSS tools that address both cutting-edge techniques and age-old frustrations. We’re the Layout Tools team, a subset of Firefox Developer Tools, and our quest is to improve the modern web design workflow.

The web has seen an incredible evolution in the last decade: new HTML/CSS features, browser improvements, and design techniques. Our team is devoted to building tools that match that innovation so that designers and developers can harness more of the efficiency and creativity that’s now possible.

In this guide, we’ll share an overview of our seven new tools, with stories from the design process and practical steps for trying out each tool.

Editorial Design Patterns

By naming lines when setting up our CSS Grid layouts, we can tap into some interesting and useful features of Grid — features that become even more powerful when we introduce subgrids. Read related article →

1. Grid Inspector

It all started three years ago when our CSS layout expert and dev advocate, Jen Simmons, worked with members of Firefox DevTools to build a tool that would aid users in examining CSS Grid layouts.

As one of the most powerful new features of the modern web, CSS Grid had quickly gained decent browser adoption, but it still had low website adoption. There’s a steep learning curve, and you still need fallbacks for certain browsers. Thus, part of our goal was to help popularize Grid by giving developers a more hands-on way to learn it.

An example of the Grid Inspector displaying an outline of the grid layout
Grid Inspector (Large preview)

The core of the tool is a grid outline, overlaid on the page, which helps devs visualize how the grid is positioning their elements, and how the layout changes when they tweak their styles. We added numbered labels to identify each grid line, the ability to view up to three grids at once, and color customization for the overlays. Recently, we also added support for subgrid, a brand new CSS specification implemented in Firefox and hopefully in more browsers soon.

Grid Inspector was an inspiration for all the tools that followed. It was even an inspiration for a new team: Layout Tools! Formed in late 2017, we’re spread across four time zones and collaborate with many others in Mozilla, like our rendering engine developers and the good folks at MDN.

Try Out The Grid Inspector

  1. In Firefox, visit our Grid example site.
  2. Open the Inspector with Cmd Shift C.
  3. Turn on Grid overlay via one of three ways:
  • Layout Panel:

    In the Grid section, check the checkbox next to .content.grid-content;
  • Markup View:

    Toggle the “grid” badge next to
    ;
  • Rules View:

    Click the button next to display:grid; inside #page-intro .grid-content;
  • Experiment with the Grid Inspector:
    • Change the purple overlay color to red;
    • Toggle “Line numbers” or “Extend lines infinitely”;
    • Turn on more grid overlays;
    • See what happens when you disable grid-gap: 15px in Rules.

    Since Grid, we’ve been seeking to expand on the possibilities of what a browser CSS tool can be.

    2. Shape Path Editor

    The next project we worked on was the Shape Path Editor: our first visual editing tool.

    CSS Shapes allows you to define shapes for text to flow around: a circle, a triangle, or a many-sided polygon. It can be used with the clip-path property which allows you to trim elements to any of those same shapes. These two techniques together open the possibility for some very unique graphic design-inspired layouts.

    However, creating these sometimes complex shapes can be difficult. Typing all of the coordinates manually and using the right CSS units is error-prone and far removed from the creative mindset that Shapes allows. Therefore, we made a tool that allows you to edit your code by directly clicking and dragging shapes on the page.

    This type of feature—visual editing—was new for us and browser tools in general. It’s an example of how we can go beyond inspecting and debugging and into the realm of design.

    Try Out The Shape Path Editor

    1. In Firefox, visit this page on the An Event Apart website.
    2. Open the Inspector with Cmd Shift C and select the first circular image.
    3. In Rules, click on the icon next to the shape-outside property.
    4. On the page, click on the points of the shape and see what happens when you drag to make the shape huge or tiny. Change it to a size that looks good to you.

    Visual editing is an example of how we can go beyond inspecting and debugging and into the realm of design.

    3. Fonts Editor

    For years, we’ve had a Fonts panel in Firefox that shows an informative list of all the fonts used in a website. In continuing our theme of designing in the browser, we decided to turn this into a Font Editor for fine-tuning a font’s properties.

    An example of the Fonts Editor index of fonts and variable fonts editing
    Fonts Editor (Large preview)

    A driving force behind this project was our goal to support Variable Fonts at the same time that the Firefox rendering engine team was adding support for it. Variable Fonts gives font designers a way to offer fine-grained variations along axes, like weight, within one font file. It also supports custom axes, which give both font creators and web designers an amazing amount of flexibility. Our tool automatically detects these custom axes and gives you a way to adjust and visualize them. This would otherwise require specialized websites like Axis-Praxis.

    Additionally, we added a feature that provides the ability to hover over a font name to highlight where that particular font is being used on the page. This is helpful because the way browsers select the font used to render a piece of text can be complex and depend on one’s computer. Some characters may be unexpectedly swapped out for a different font due to font subsetting.

    Try Out The Fonts Editor

    1. In Firefox, visit this variable fonts demo site.
    2. Open the Inspector with Cmd Shift C and select the word “variable” in the title (the element’s selector is .title__variable-web__variable).
    3. In the third pane of the Inspector, navigate to the Fonts panel:
    • Hover over the font name Output Sans Regular to see what gets highlighted;
    • Try out the weight and slant sliders;
    • Take a look at the preset font variations in the Instances dropdown menu.

    4. Flexbox Inspector

    Our Grid, Shapes, and Variable Fonts tools can together power some very advanced graphic design on the web, but they’re still somewhat cutting-edge based on browser support. (They’re almost there, but still require fallbacks.) We didn’t want to work only on new features—we were drawn to the problems that most web developers face on a daily basis.

    So we started work on the Flexbox Inspector. Design-wise, this has been our most ambitious project, and it sprouted some new user research strategies for our team.

    Like Grid, CSS Flexbox has a fairly steep learning curve when you first get started. It takes time to really understand it, and many of us resort to trial and error to achieve the layouts we want. At the beginning of the project, our team wasn’t even sure if we understood Flexbox ourselves, and we didn’t know what the main challenges were. So we leveled up our understanding, and we ran a survey to discover what people needed the most when it came to Flexbox.

    The results had a big effect on our plans, making the case for complicated visualizations like grow/shrink and min/max. We continued working with the community throughout the project by incorporating feedback into evolving visual prototypes and Nightly builds.

    The tool includes two major parts: a highlighter that works much like the Grid Inspector’s, and a detailed Flexbox tool inside the Inspector. The core of the tool is a flex item diagram with sizing info.

    An example of the flex item diagram and sizing table
    Flex item diagram and sizing (Large preview)

    With help from Gecko layout engineers, we were able to show the step-by-step size decisions of the rendering engine to give users a full picture of why and how a flex item ended up with a certain size.

    Note: Learn the full story of our design process in “Designing the Flexbox Inspector”.

    Try Out The Flexbox Inspector

    1. In Firefox, visit Mozilla’s Bugzilla.
    2. Open the Inspector with Cmd Shift C and select the element div.inner (just inside the header bar).
    3. Turn on the Flexbox overlay via one of three ways:
    • Layout Panel:

      In the Flex Container section, turn on the switch;
    • Markup View:

      Toggle the “flex” badge next to
      ;
    • Rules View:

      Click the button next to display:flex.
  • Use the Flex Container panel to navigate to a Flex Item called nav#header-nav.
    • Note the sizes shown in the diagram and size chart;
    • Increase and decrease your browser’s width and see how the diagram changes.

    Interlude: Doubling Down on Research

    As a small team with no formal user research support, we’ve often resorted to design-by-dogfooding: basing our opinions on our own experiences in using the tools. But after our success with the Flexbox survey, we knew we wanted to be better at collecting data to guide us. We ran a new survey to help inform our next steps.

    We crowdsourced a list of the 20 biggest challenges faced by web devs and asked our community to rank them using a max-diff format.

    When we found that the big winner of the challenges was CSS Layout Debugging, we ran a follow-up survey on specific CSS bugs to discover the biggest pain points. We supplemented these surveys with user interviews and user testing.

    We also asked folks to rank their frustrations with browser developer tools. The clear top issue was moving CSS changes back to the editor. This became our next project.

    5. Changes Panel

    The difficulty in transferring one’s work from a browser developer tool to the editor is one of those age-old issues that we all just got used to. We were excited to make a simple and immediately usable solution.

    An example of the diff view provided by the Changes Panel
    Changes Panel (Large preview)

    Edge and Chrome DevTools came out with variants of this tool first. Ours is focused on assisting a wide range of CSS workflows: Launch DevTools, change any styles you want, and then export your changes by either copying the full set of changes (for collaboration) or just one changed rule (for pasting into code).

    This improves the robustness of the entire workflow, including our other layout tools. And this is just a start: We know accidental refreshing and navigation from the page is a big source of data loss, so a way to bring persistence to the tool will be an important next step.

    Try Out The Changes Panel

    1. In Firefox, navigate to any website.
    2. Open the Inspector with Cmd Shift C and select an element.
    3. Make some changes to the CSS:
    • Modify styles in the Rules pane;
    • Adjust fonts in the Fonts pane.
  • In the right pane of the Inspector, navigate to the Changes tab and do the following:
    • Click Copy All Changes, then paste it in a text editor to view the output;
    • Hover over the selector name and click Copy Rule, then paste it to view the output.

    6. Inactive CSS

    Our Inactive CSS feature solves one of the top issues from our layout debugging survey on specific CSS bugs:

    “Why is this CSS property not doing anything?”

    Design-wise, this feature is very simple—it grays out CSS that doesn’t affect the page, and shows a tooltip to explain why the property doesn’t have an effect. But we know this can boost efficiency and cut down on frustration. We were bolstered by research from Sarah Lim and her colleagues who built a similar tool. In their studies, they found that novice developers were 50% faster at building with CSS when they used a tool that allowed them to ignore irrelevant code.

    An example of an inactive CSS tooltip warning
    Inactive CSS tooltip (Large preview)

    In a way, this is our favorite kind of feature: A low-hanging UX fruit that barely registers as a feature, but improves the whole workflow without really needing to be discovered or learned.

    Inactive CSS launches in Firefox 70 but can be used now in prerelease versions of Firefox, including Developer Edition, Beta, and Nightly.

    Try Out Inactive CSS

    1. Download Firefox Developer Edition;
    2. Open Firefox and navigate to wikipedia.org;
    3. Open the Inspector with Cmd Shift C and select the center content area, called central-featured;
    4. Note the grayed out vertical-align declaration;
    5. Hover over the info icon, and click “Learn more” if you’re interested.

    7. Accessibility Panel

    Along the way we’ve had accessibility features developed by a separate team that’s mostly one person — Yura Zenevich, this year with his intern Maliha Islam.

    Together they’ve turned the new Accessibility panel in Firefox into a powerful inspection and auditing tool. Besides displaying the accessibility tree and properties, you can now run different types of checks on a page. So far the checks include color contrast, text labels, and keyboard focus styling.

    An example of the Accessibility Panel’s auditing feature
    Auditing in the Accessibility Panel (Large preview)

    Now in Nightly, you can try the new color blindness simulator which harnesses our upcoming WebRender tech.

    Try Out The Accessibility Panel

    1. Download Firefox Developer Edition;
    2. Navigate to meetup.com;
    3. In the developer tools, navigate to the Accessibility tab, and click the “Turn on Accessibility Features” button;
    4. Click the drop-down menu next to “Check for issues” and select “All Issues”;
    5. Take a look at the various contrast, keyboard, and text label issues, and click the “Learn more” links if you’re interested.

    Next Up

    We’re currently hard at work on a browser compatibility tool that uses information from MDN to show browser-specific issues for a selected element. You can follow along on GitHub to learn more.

    The Future

    We’re committed to supporting the modern web, and that means continuously changing and growing.

    New specifications get implemented by browser vendors all the time. Guidelines and best practices around progressive enhancement, responsiveness, and accessibility evolve constantly. Us tool makers need to keep evolving too.

    And what of the long-lived, ever-present problems in creating the web? What everyday user interfaces need to be rethought? These are some of the questions that keep us going!

    What about a better way to navigate the DOM tree of a page? That part of DevTools has gone essentially unchanged since the Firebug days.

    We’ve been experimenting with features like back and forward buttons that would ease navigation between recently visited elements.

    A more dramatic change we’re discussing is adding a compact DOM view that uses a syntax similar to HTML templating engines. The focus would be on the most common use case—navigating to CSS—rather than viewing/editing the source.

    A mockup of the simplified HTML Outline View
    HTML Outline View (Large preview)

    We’ve also been thinking about a better element selector. We know how it can be more productive to work inside the page, with less jumping back and forth into DevTools. We could make the element selector more powerful and more persistent. Perhaps it could select whitespace on a page and tell you what causes that space, or it could shed light on the relationships between different elements.

    A mockup of element overlay with collapsed margin
    Visual Element Selector (Large preview)

    These are just two of the many ideas we hope to explore further with the help of the community.

    We Need Your Input!

    We want to keep making awesome tools that make your life easier as a developer or designer.

    Here’s an easy way to help: Download Firefox Developer Edition and try using it for some of your work next week.

    Then, tell us what you think by taking our 1-page survey.

    We’re always interested in hearing ideas for improvements, particularly any low-hanging fruit that could save us all from some regular frustration. We do our work in the open, so you can follow along and chime in. We’ll keep you updated at @FirefoxDevTools.

    Thanks to Patrick Brosset for his contributions to this article.

    Smashing Editorial(dm, il)

    gv’s-guide-to-ux-research-for-startups

    How to learn more faster

    Michael Margolis

    Since 2010, we’ve helped hundreds of GV startups (like Nest, Foundation Medicine, Flatiron Health, Slack, Gusto, Lime, and Uber) use UX research to answer critical business questions and to build more successful products. We’ve shared our lessons on Medium and in the GV Library. This table of contents will help you quickly find everything you need to learn more faster about your customers, your ideas, and your designs.

    1. UX Interviews

    What equipment do you need?

    Recruiting participants

    Drafting interview guides

    Interview techniques: Getting the most out of conversations with customers

    Observing interviews

    2. Surveys

    3. Online Research

    — — — —

    Please leave a comment or tweet @MMargolis with suggestions for other topics you’d like to see here.

    GV Library

    Advice, lessons, and tips from GV partners and our community of entrepreneurs.

    Michael Margolis

    Written by

    UX Research Partner at GV (fka Google Ventures). Advising, teaching, and conducting practical research for hundreds of startups since 2010.

    GV Library

    Advice, lessons, and tips from GV partners and our community of entrepreneurs.

    Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage – with no ads in sight. Watch

    Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

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    a-guide-to-implemen­ting-dark-modes-on-websites

    Previously I wrote about how to decide to add a dark mode to a product and what to consider when designing a dark mode. I made some comments about how I implemented it on this website. I made several improvements after that, so I’m sharing my learnings here.

    Adding a dark mode is basically adding a theme. The principles are the same for adding a light mode to a dark website or alternative styling based on user-defined variables, the time of year or holidays.

    I added theming with a mix of Javascript and CSS. In this post I’ll go step by step into the details of how I did it and what I learned.

    Setup

    The themes are activated by CSS classes on the root element, . When the page is loaded, I want to apply the theme that most likely suits the visitor (you!) best. After all, most people don’t like configuring websites before they can read a blog post, so the the whole theming feature would likely remain unused otherwise. So I have to make a guess about what the visitor wants and expects. I do that in this order:

    1. I assume people don’t want the theme to change when they navigate between pages. So if the page loaded isn’t the first page they visit, I want to use the theme that was used before.
    2. If it’s the first page they view on my site, their browser may be able to tell their preference.
    3. If no preference is available, we can base the choice based on whether it’s day or night.

    I also want to react to changes:

    • When the theme is changed in one browser tab, all other tabs with the website should change with it
    • When visitors change their OS from light to dark mode or vice versa, the website should react to that.

    Turning that logic into Javascript:

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    (function initializeTheme(){
      syncBetweenTabs()
      listenToOSChanges()
      enableTheme(
        returnThemeBasedOnLocalStorage() ||
        returnThemeBasedOnOS() ||
        returnThemeBasedOnTime(),
        false)
    }())

    Of course, visitors should be able to manually select a theme if my guess is wrong. Finally, I added a transition for when the theme changes. This is also done with a CSS class added to the root element.

    That’s the basic setup, now let’s dive into the details!

    Saving and loading state

    When a visitor navigates from page to page, the theme shouldn’t change. That’s why I save the state of the theme selection, so it can be loaded by the next page. After having considered some alternatives (see below), I’ve landed on saving the selected theme to local storage.

    Every time a page is loaded, in the current or a new tab, it checks if a theme was set previously. Because the preference for a light or dark theme can change during the day, with every change, I add a time stamp to the saved setting. Only when the state was saved less than two hours ago, it’s applied:

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    function returnThemeBasedOnLocalStorage() {
      const pref = localStorage.getItem('preference-theme')
      const lastChanged = localStorage.getItem('preference-theme-last-change')
      let now = new Date()
      now = now.getTime()
      const minutesPassed = (now - lastChanged)/(1000*60)
    
      if (
        minutesPassed < 120 &&
        pref === "light"
      ) return 'light'
      else if (
        minutesPassed < 120 &&
        pref === "dark"
      ) return 'dark'
      else return undefined
    }

    When the visitor manually changes the theme in one tab, all other tabs should change with it. To achieve that, I added an event listener for changes to local storage. The cool thing is that that event listener only fires in other tabs. Browsers assume that the application is aware of changes in the active tab already. Thanks for pointing that out, Max Freundlich.

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    function syncBetweenTabs(){
      window.addEventListener('storage', (e) => {
        if (e.key === 'preference-theme'){
          if (e.newValue === 'light') enableTheme('light')
          else if (e.newValue === 'dark') enableTheme('dark')
        }
      })
    }

    Discarded solutions

    We could use URL parameters to save the state, but that would mean the selected theme would be passed on to other people when links are shared to the pages. OS-level preferences are ignored when pages are opened that way, or via bookmarks.

    The simplest solution for saving state during the session only is using the browser’s session storage. It’s the less known variant of local storage, except that it’s cleared when the session ends. The drawback of that is that if a page is opened in a new tab, it doesn’t know about the previously used theme.

    Check for OS-level preferences

    If we can’t choose a theme based on a saved state from a recent visit, we can check the OS’s setting. We can use the CSS media feature prefers-color-scheme. It can have one of three values:

    • dark
    • light
    • no-preference

    As far as I know, the easiest or only way to check the visitor’s preference with Javascript is to test if one of the values matches:

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    function returnThemeBasedOnOS() {
      let pref = window.matchMedia('(prefers-color-scheme: dark)')
      if (pref.matches) return 'dark'
      else {
        pref = window.matchMedia('(prefers-color-scheme: light)')
        if (pref.matches) return 'light'
        else return undefined
      }
    }

    Choose a theme based on the time of day

    The prefers-color-scheme feature has solid support on the evergreen desktop browsers and iOS 13 but Edge and several mobile browsers don’t support it yet. As a fallback, I want to apply the dark theme between sunset and sunrise. According to my analytics, most visitors comes during office hours, so I didn’t want to make this too advanced and just assume the sun sets at 20:00 and rises at 5:00. Every day of the year.

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    function returnThemeBasedOnTime(){
      let date = new Date
      const hour = date.getHours()
      if (hour > 20 || hour < 5) return 'dark'
      else return 'light'
    }

    Let visitors manually choose a theme

    Despite my best efforts, my guess for what theme visitors want may be wrong. So I added a button for each theme to my page template. Because I only have a light and a dark theme, I hide the button of the currently active theme.

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     class="theme-light">
       class="theme-selector">
      
        aria-label="Enable light theme"
        aria-pressed="false"
        role="switch"
        type="button"
        id="theme-light-button"
        class="theme-button enabled"
        onclick="enableTheme('light', true)"
      >Light theme
      
        aria-label="Enable dark theme"
        aria-pressed="false"
        role="switch"
        type="button"
        id="theme-dark-button"
        class="theme-button"
        onclick="enableTheme('dark', true)"
      >Dark theme
      
      
    

    To make sure the buttons aren’t shown where Javascript is not supported, they’re hidden by default. My Javascript then unhides it on page load.

    As you can see, there are two ARIA properties to make the buttons accessible. To be honest, I’m not sure how useful they are. The theming is all about styling that is irrelevant to most people with vision bad enough to need a screen reader. Then again, I can imagine that there are people with a visual impairment who do have a preference for one theme or the other and use a screen reader to compliment their visual abilities.

    Style the page based on the selected theme

    So I apply the theme by changing the classes on the root element, but what does exactly happen in CSS? I found that using CSS variables are great to make that switch. That way, I can change the variable once and have many components react to it. Combined with SCSS, you get something like this:

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    $light-theme-text-color: #111;
    $dark-theme-text-color: #EEE;
    
    @mixin color($property, $var, $fallback){
      #{$property}: $fallback; // This is a fallback for browsers that don't support the next line.
      #{$property}: var($var, $fallback);
    }
    
    p{
      @include color(color, --text-color, $light-theme-text-color);
    }
    .theme-dark{
      --text-color: #{$dark-theme-text-color};
    }

    In this example, the light theme is used as a default. The interesting part is that when the CSS variable --text-color is not set, the fallback for it is used. When the class theme-dark is added to the root, the variable is defined and applied. Of course I didn’t come up with that trick myself. I recommend taking a look at Andy Clarke’s article about dark modes
    and this theming example for more details. There’s also also Wei Gao’s interesting approach to create a dark mode with blending modes.

    Transition between themes

    A transition between the themes makes switching less jarring. That can be straight-forward, but I already had elements with transitions. Their transition-durations are much shorter than the duration of the theme change. When elements change color at different paces, that looks almost as bad as without a transition. I described my workaround in Dark mode design considerations, so I’ll skip it here.

    The actual theme switching

    Putting all of the above together, I wrote this function for applying a theme:

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    function enableTheme(newTheme = 'light', withTransition = false, save = true){
      // Collect variables
      const root = document.documentElement
      let otherTheme
      newTheme === 'light' ? otherTheme = 'dark' : otherTheme = 'light'
      let currentTheme
      (root.classList.contains('theme-dark')) ? currentTheme = 'dark' : 'light'
    
      // Transitions aren't added on page load
      if (withTransition === true && newTheme !== currentTheme) animateThemeTransition()
    
      // Set the theme
      root.classList.add('theme-'   newTheme)
      root.classList.remove('theme-'   otherTheme)
    
      // Update the controls
      let button = document.getElementById('theme-'   otherTheme   '-button')
      button.classList.add('enabled')
      button.setAttribute('aria-pressed', false)
      button = document.getElementById('theme-'   newTheme   '-button')
      button.classList.remove('enabled')
      button.setAttribute('aria-pressed', true)
    
      // Save the state
      if (save) saveToLocalStorage('preference-theme', newTheme)
    }

    Browser support

    The solutions I described above use modern browser features, most notably the media query for prefers-color-scheme and CSS variables. I’ve also used some modern style Javascript. The CSS variables are key. Current browsers that support it, also support the other essential features. I added a CSS media query to only show the theme selection buttons in browsers that support those:

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    .theme-selector {
      display: none;
    }
    @supports ( (--a: 0)) {
      .theme-selector {
        display: block;
      }
    }

    It’s not a perfect check, because Safari started supporting CSS variables in version 9.1 and arrow functions only in version 10. We’re at version 13 now, so that’s not really an issues for my small audience.

    Putting it all together

    Because of the manual and automatic ways I want to support theme changes, the script got a bit larger than I expected. It’s not that complicated though—the real effort to implement a theme is still in designing it. So, again, make sure you really need a dark mode before adding it and that you have a well-made design ready.

    You can find my complete script on Github.

    a-simple-guide-to-what-investors-usually-want-to-see-in-a-pitch-deck

    Raising money for your startup could be difficult. Every investor wants to see a solid pitch deck, but what exactly do they want to see? We’ll cover all of that for you in this article!

    If you’re raising money for your startup, having an amazing pitch deck is a major component of fundraising. A great pitch deck can make a potential investor interested in your ideas and engage them in a conversation about your company, hopefully leading towards them offering to bankroll it.

    For this guide, we’ll be going over what should be included in your pitch deck to properly excite the investors.

    Several authors, venture capitalists, and start founders have built their version of what they consider important elements to successful pitching presentations.

    We’ve found that the following format works best for most companies and is more likely to cause interest from potential investors.

    Reason for making this pitch deck

    When making a pitch deck the reason for its creation shouldn’t be to raise money. While this may sound like strange advice, the real reason why you are making a pitch deck is to get to the next meeting. You need to keep in mind that your pitch deck and the presentation for it will most likely be the first thing an investor is seeing to learn about your company.

    Furthermore, because investments rarely conducted after a single meeting. The main objective here is to stir interest in your business. You want the investors to ask for more once they’ve heard your pitch and not turn you away.

    The main reason behind a deck is to get to the next part, which is getting another meeting and a request for further details.

    Slides to include in your pitch deck

    Here’s where we reveal what investors want to see on your pitch deck.

    The Problem

    The slide covering the problem should be used to explain what gap you are trying to fill in the market. This part needs to be a problem that people can generally relate to and that investors would not have trouble understanding and sympathizing with. Additionally, you are only resolving a single problem. Not multiple ones. You need to come across as someone prepared to resolve this situation.

    Just keep in mind, don’t spend to much time on the competitive landscape for this slide, you’ll be able to do that on a later slide. If possible, try and tell a relatable story when you are explaining the problem. The more you can make the problem as authentic as possible, the more your investors will come to understand the business and its goals.

    image5

    Airbnb pitch deck reveals the problem they were trying to solve with their business.

    Keep in mind when investors decide to get involved with your venture it’s likely because of one of the following reasons:

    1. They have experienced similar issues in the past.
    2. There is a clear sense of ROI in the future for them
    3. Their professional expertise makes them understand the issue.

    The solution

    The solution needs to be done concisely and clearly. Especially if the startup your pitching is tech-related, your solution needs to be scalable. Scalability is the function of the system to increase its total output under an increased load when resources ad included. This is what investors want to see. A company in which they can invest so the wheels can run quicker.

    Furthermore, it does make sense on the solution slide to outline why it makes sense. As you may have become aware, timing is vital in the business world and being at the right time in history is what matters the most. Being too early or too late to the market has to lead to failure for most startups. Make sure to avoid any statements such as you being the only one doing this, you being the leader and so on. Many other entrepreneurs have already come up with this idea before you and other companies that may be tackling the same problem with their approach.

    image3

    Airbnb shows a clear example of how they decide to solve this issue for travelers who were struggling to find themselves a place to stay.

    The Market

    This slide should be used to expand on who your ideal customer is and how many of them exist. What is the total market size and how do you position your business in the market? If you can gather the data, investors will want to know how much people or companies currently spend in the market to get an idea of the total market size. This is the part where you tell the story about the scope and scale of the problem you are trying to resolve.

    If it fits properly for your business, you’ll want to divide your market into segments that you will address with various kinds of marketing and perhaps a variety of product offerings.

    image4

    You need to be careful with this slide, though. The temptation to try and define your market to be massive as possible will linger in the back of your head. Investors will want to see that you have a very specific and reachable market. The more detailed you are about it, the more real the pitch will feel.

    Product

    This slide will be all about showcasing screenshots of your product in action. To make it stronger you may wish to include some description about the product itself and some quotes from any existing clients commenting about how much enjoy the product.

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    Airbnb perfectly shows off their available listing from various cities.

    image7

    While this one shows a listing of homes and a review system with their price tags.

    image8

    Lastly, the booking page, where people will be able to reserve the date they wish to stay at their chosen location. At the bottom, there’s a comment section for people who’ve stayed and left a review on how the experience went for them.

    Business model

    Now that you’ve described the product or service your offering, you need to discuss how to make money. What do you charge and who pays the bills? For some business, advertisers are paying the bills instead of users, so it’s critical to elaborate on the details.

    It’s also possible to reference the competitive landscape here and talk about how your pricing fits into the larger market. Is the business a premium, high-price offering, or a budget offering that undercuts the current solutions on the market?

    image2

    Airbnb shows how their business model works, with them taking 10% commision on each transaction.

    Traction

    This slide should be used to show the month over month growth of the business. If you already have any sale or early adopters using the product, talk about them here.

    Investors will want to know that you have proof to back up the claims of your business model as that reduces risk, so any proof you have that validates that your solution does work to solve the issues you have discovered is incredibly powerful.

    Another thing you can touch on this slide is your milestones. What major goals have you managed to achieve so far and what are the major next steps you plan onwards? A product or company roadmap that outlines important milestones can help here.

    If you are still in the early stage or your growth is not that interesting, it would be advisable to avoid including this part. To give you an idea, accelerator programs such as Y Combiner expect a minimal amount of 15% month over month growth.

    Marketing Strategy

    Explain how you are planning to attract customers attention and what will your sales process look like. This slide should be used to outline your marketing plans.

    You’ll want to detail the key strategies that you intend to use to get the product in front of prospective customers.

    Finding and winning over customers can sometimes be the most difficult challenge for a startup, so it’s important to show that you have a solid hold on how you will reach your target market and what sales channel you are planning to use.

    If your marketing process is different than your competitors, you should highlight it on this part.

    image6

    Airbnb shows how they plan to have people adopt their platform as their choice of booking room during their travels.

    Financials

    Generally, you want to shoot for at least a three-year projection. Some investors may even ask for five years of projection but in my experience, these investors tend to be less skilled.

    This slide is the most important one in your pitch deck. When you first meet with a potential investor, they will ask for your pitch deck.

    During the next meeting, they will ask you where things are currently and then they will make a decision. With this in mind, it’s always a great idea to be more on the conservative side and over-deliver.

    The worst thing that could happen is for you to miss out on the benchmark and underperform. But, for your pitch deck, you shouldn’t go in-depth with a spreadsheet that will be difficult to read and understand in a presentation format.

    Limit yourself to charts and show sales, total customers, total expenses and profits.

    image12

    Competition

    Every business has competition in the market. Even if you are opening up an entirely new market, your potential customers are possibly using an alternative solution to help them with their problems.

    Here you should describe your fit into the competitive landscape and how you’re different than the competitors and alternative that are currently available to the market.

    What main advantages do you have over the competition or is there some “secret technique” that you have and others don’t?

    image1

    The main idea here is to explain how you are different than other players on the market and why customers will choose you instead of the other competitors on the market.

    image10

    Team

    The team is another important slide that needs to be added on any pitch deck. The investors want to be aware of who is in charge of the bus and what makes them unique to execute on that mission and vision.

    The best way to showcase the team slide is by simply describing the members of the leadership team (Ideally co-founders). List in bullet points that have been a few achievements from each member and the key expertise that they bring to the table.

    image11

    Even if you don’t have a full team at the moment, identify the key position that you still need to fill in and why those positions are vital for the company growth.

    Investment

    Lastly, it’s time to ask for the money. You need to explain why you need the amount of money you are asking for and how you plan on using this money. Investors will want to be aware of how their money is being used and how it’s going to help you achieve the goals you are setting out for your company.

    Here’s an example:

    Q: How much do you need for validation of your business model?

    A: We are requesting $200,000 at $1,000,000 pre-money valuation to fund our business strategy and product roadmap. This will allow us to have 18 months of runaway to repeat and scale our business model.

    Q: What are you going to spend it on?

    A: We are spending the first 100k on hiring one back-end developer and a customer success person. This team should help us get to problem-solution fit and help us validate our acquisition channels.

    For those of you who already have some investors on board, this is the time when you should be talking about those other investors and why those decide to invest.

    Conclusion

    There you have an in-depth guide to help you properly build a pitch deck for your upcoming investment meeting. If you are serious about your pitch deck it’s not a bad idea to ask someone with a greater understanding of sales analysis to take a look at your deck.

    Some tweaks to images, placement, and words can make a huge difference when pitching your business.

    Looking to double your organic traffic and sales? Grow your audience, your email list, and customer-base with done-for-you content by SumoDash

    Want to learn how to improve your site’s traffic and awareness for free?

    We’ll send you regular tips and action steps on how you can improve the performance of your website’s traffic. Subscribe below!

     

    an-idiots-guide-to-life-in-a-digital-design-consultancy

    Steve Nicolaou

    Earlier this year, as a mate was applying for jobs, he asked for any tips I might have about working in a design consultancy. I’d had a few glasses of plonk (Berry Bros’ Good Ordinary Claret, if anyone is feeling generous…) and gave him a brain dump.

    He suggested I share it a bit more widely, because he found it useful.* As I’m about to leave the world of consulting (going to an agency, so not exactly going far) I thought now is a good time to see how other people’s experiences might compare.

    A little context

    In September 2017 a fun n feisty little family called SPARCK took me in as a UX Design Consultant. Wholly owned by a much bigger tech consultancy, SPARCK is the gobby younger sibling of BJSS.com, doing design in fresh and interesting ways. There were less than 10 designers when I joined. There are nearly 50 now.

    Exactly two years have passed and I’m now leaving/left the SPARCK family. Feels a little like I’m off to university — scary, sad, exciting! But here’s a few things I learned about digital design consulting along the way:

    I make no apology for this pun
    1. Understand the stakeholders.

    Find out who does what, meet everyone, understand what motivates them and how they are connected. Put together a stakeholder map so that you/the team can see the stakeholders. Plot the egos.

    You’re going to be working with them daily, probably at their place most of the time. This helps navigate your way around, because you know where to go to get things done — whether it’s getting some post its, booking a room or leaning on the legal team.

    2. Explain what design thinking/HCD/UX is. And what it isn’t.

    Really important to do this. And probably before the project starts with the person who sold the project. And then with the client. You need to know what was sold so that you understand expectations. And then during project planning reiterate what you are there to do, and what you cannot do. And repeat this during the project, almost daily.

    The more your client understands what you’re there to do, the more they can see the value of what you do, and appreciate all the extra bits you can do. It also helps that in doing this you’ll also be broadcasting to the rest of your project and the wider client business too.

    A unicorn, yesterday

    3. Have some boundaries.

    Clients are paying top dollar for your time, so they will expect you to be a unicorn that shits lucky charms. You have to manage this, but do it in such a way that they don’t care you if you only shit Rice Krispies, but they still think you’re a unicorn.

    You are expected to be omnipotent. But even a deity has some rules and boundaries, just don’t be a dick about them.

    4. Add value.

    For example, on my last project I made it clear I’m not a coder or graphic designer, I was there as a UXer. However I put together the project videos; I facilitated the marketing and comms; I coached everyone through the big presentations; I designed all the decks. So always look for where you can add a bit of value. If you can knock out a bit of code, then do it; if you love a spreadsheet, then get stuck into excel. Even if it’s simply attending dull meetings and writing them up, whatever it is, add value.

    This is basically just good manners. You’ll also learn loads by getting involved in stuff. And because you’ve managed expectations, anything extra feels special.

    5. Be the expert.

    Or at least pretend to be until you get the chance to google it — know where to go to become the expert. This is quite important. The client is paying a lot for your time (see boundaries and unicorns). You don’t know everything but you do know lots about lots of stuff. And you learn quick. And this is what makes you good at what you do. For example, we decided that Axure was the right prototyping tool for a project. But I’d never used it before. So someone at work spent 30 mins showing me some basics, I read a bit of the getting started guide, I asked a few questions on Slack, I used google.

    As far as the client was concerned I just ‘spent a couple of hours re-familiarising myself after recent updates’. They knew I wasn’t an expert, but were confident that I would quickly be more than good enough for what they needed.

    Pointy hair

    6. Keep your cool.

    The client WILL be a dick. Repeatedly. Because they think they own you. And they do. So take it on the chin. Be thick skinned. Get used to saying things like — “yeah, interesting point, you might be right. We need to test these ideas with users and iterate on feedback”. Always point to the research that backs you up, or the best practice principles.

    Don’t defend your ideas when they’re criticised rather than critiqued. And they will be. Avoid — “I did this quickly because we didn’t have much time” or — “yeah, but obviously we did it like that because you told us to”. It’s better to say “this is the first draft” or “let’s re-evaluate the brief”.

    And remember, your client probably doesn’t mean to be a dick — they have pressures you don’t understand and will most likely be shielding you from all sorts of ridiculous. So don’t be so judgey wudgey. Buy them a coffee and cake.

    7. You are in charge of design reviews and workshops. Literally, it’s what you’re being paid to do. So you’re in control when people walk in that room. You’re the expert, remember? Set the principles and boundaries for the session. Ban laptops if you have to. Write on a wall how feedback needs to be delivered. Call it out when someone says “I like blue, can the button be blue?”

    One of the most powerful ways you can assert your value to a project is in a design session. It’s your domain. It’s where your understanding of client egos will come in; where you set the boundaries; where you prove you’re a unicorn; where you most need to keep your cool.

    8. If you say you’re gonna do it, do it. Might sound patronising, but a client never makes a happy face if they don’t get what they expected. Never do this, unless there’s a bloody good reason. Under promise (a bit) and over deliver (a lot).

    After a while, you can start to feel that you’re on a project of mixed skills and abilities, all pulling together as a tight knit team. And this is true. Until the client doesn’t get what they expected.

    And that’s it folks. The sum total of my knowledge. Everything I’ve learned about design consultancy in two years.

    Some might be helpful, some might not. Hopefully interesting at the very least.

    ps. Powerpoint. Seemingly every client expects all your brilliance to be committed to powerpoint. Yes, it’s annoying. And no, of course it’s not the best way to communicate your revolutionary thinking.

    * He didn’t get the job. Not my fault.

    a-beginner’s-guide-to-scrollytelling

    Scrollytelling transforms a longform story into an interactive experience. Audio and visual content adds a deeper layer of meaning, communicating what can’t be captured with words alone. Scrollytelling rolls out the details of a story in an engaging way to keep people reading. It uses what’s great about the web to tell compelling stories.

    Scrollytelling: when you want to tell a story rich in details

    Scrollytelling is especially well-suited for a story with a distinct chronology. As events unfold, you can use the design to make the who and what come alive. Scrollytelling can heighten a story and hook you into its narrative. Borrowing from one-page and landing-page layouts makes the details dance and prompts you to scroll further.

    We’ve gathered some of the best examples of scrollytelling and resources to help you create your own.

    Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

    snow fall new york times


    Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek is a scrollytelling masterpiece. It’s the harrowing tale of a Washington avalanche in 2012. Each part of this story has its own individual page, broken into manageable blocks.

    It’s a compelling read with accompanying audio and visual media to offer a much bigger picture of what happened on that tragic day. Not only do we get to read the stories of those involved, we also get to learn about the terrain and weather conditions that led to this avalanche. 

    It’s a multimedia approach to storytelling that unpacks what went wrong and what pushes thrill seekers to careen through untouched powder, despite its dangers.

    avalanche at tunnel creek


    Millennials are screwed

    millennials are screwed huffpost


    Okay, Gen Xers. I know we’ve all made jokes about millennials — avocado toast, Coachella, and the word “literally” all make for easy fodder. But this generation actually does face some heavy challenges. Millennials are screwed shows us the world through the eyes of this younger demographic to get a clear picture of what they’re up against.

    Told by a millennial himself, the story combines humor with concrete information about the financial struggles they face. There’s plenty of humor combined with the sobering realities of this generation. 

    The story is told with the help of nostalgic video-game animations, pixelated graphics, and other wacky visuals. It captures the quirky sensibilities of millennials while remaining accessible to those bewildered by SpongeBob SquarePants memes. 

    One can’t help but have more compassion for millennials after reading this essay. It’s a good example of using smart, interesting web design to connect with a larger audience.

    huffpost millennials are screwed gif


    UTC is enough for everyone… right?


    For most of us, the subject of universal time codes (UTC) isn’t a particularly compelling topic. But Zach Holman created a website explaining how they work and the complexities of programming with them. His site includes plenty of wit and the occasional, creative use of profanity. 

    There are pleasing shifts in color and monochromatic background videos that break up the content. It’s offbeat, but not off-putting. The mesmerizing clash of colors grabs your attention and keeps you wondering what dazzling visuals will come next.

    Anyone who’s read any sort of technical programming piece has probably been lulled to sleep. This essay proves that creativity and great storytelling can bring even the driest of topics to life. For those not interested in programming, the information on time is a fascinating read.

    zach holman utc


    Web design and art history

    web design art history


    Scrolling through our very own Web design and art history piece is like spending time at a museum. Each section is like a gallery branch, curated works showcasing the breadth of a given art movement. Here, the evolution of art is explained. 

    Since web design and the visual arts share a common language, a familiarity of art history can inspire and inform your own work. We went all out writing informative content and including beautiful visuals and animations. If you’re interested in art and design, this essay is a fantastic primer.

    webflow web design art history gif


    The History of the Web: Interactions 2.0

    interactions 2.0


    Scrollytelling breaks away from the confines of traditional storytelling and uses good web design to get creative. 

    Our Introduction to Interactions 2.0 takes you from the beginnings of the web to “a 100% visual way to build animations and interactions for the web, pushing the limits of what can be built without code.” The site includes so many delightful, cheeky references to Geocities. Oh, how far we’ve come!

    interactions 2.0 gif


    Time in Perspective

    time in perspective


    Scrollytelling is the perfect medium to tell a linear story — and what’s more linear than the march of time? From 24 hours to the end of the universe, the scroll triggered animations in Time in Perspective stretches the timeline, reveals milestones, and shows how each era fits into history. This is a great example of using web design for more than just marketing. Design is a powerful tool to educate in innovative ways.

    time in perspective gif


    If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel 

    if the moon were 1 pixel


    If the Moon were only 1 pixel is a horizontal scroll that rockets you through the vastness of the universe. Josh Worth made the site after struggling to explain to his daughter how long it would take to get to Mars, wondering if he could use a computer screen to map out space. The site does a beautiful job of focusing on the emptiness of space, helping us understand just how far-reaching our universe is. Josh used a single pixel to represent the moon and shows everything in relation to it. 

    This project is another brilliant example of how good design can make learning engaging.

    Josh worth moon gif


    Islamic State Tracker

    Washington post islamic state tracker


    There’s so much news that comes our way. And with this mass of information, it can be hard to stay current. The Islamic State Tracker from the Washington Post shows the history and current developments of the Islamic State.

    The right side of the screen scrolls through a timeline of stories while a map on the left side of the screen highlights where they happened. Clicking points on the map brings you to the specific story of that location. Mapping the location to each event gives a more in-depth picture of each region.

    Washington post islamic state tracker gif


    Ali Wong Structure of Stand-Up Comedy

    ali wong stand up comedy


    Mark Twain may have famously said, “Explaining humor is a lot like dissecting a frog, you learn a lot in the process, but in the end you kill it.” But sadly, for old Samuel Clemens, he didn’t get to see the digital age.

    We talked earlier how scrollytelling can be used for stories that have a strong timeline. A comedy performance is a narrative where pacing and buildup matter as much as the actual jokes.

    Ali Wong Structure of Stand-Up Comedy is an analysis of Ali Wong’s recent comedy special, Baby Cobra. It’s analyzed moment by moment, joke by joke, to show where the biggest laughs are. It’s a fascinating study in how timing and set up are key to land effective punch lines, and gives us insight into what makes Ali Wong such a brilliant writer and performer.

    Scrollytelling tools

    We’ve seen how scrollytelling can be used to tell different types of stories, and some of the design practices they incorporate. To help get you started with your own scrollytelling, we’ve gathered some tools to help you out. Webflow is the perfect choice for your design work if you wanted to try it out while you’re at it.

    Parallax movement on scroll

    Elements that move at different speeds as someone scrolls is a way to create the illusion of depth. Parallax is a simple effect to create dimensionality and movement in your story, prompting people to keep moving.

    We used parallax scroll for these geometric shapes in “Web design and art history.”

    parallax movement on scroll


    Check out this parallax tutorial to get started on your own.

    Scroll progress indicator

    scroll progress indicator

    Using a scroll-triggered progress bar in your design is a way to show people where they’re at and keep moving them forward. This blue progress bar stays anchored to the top of the page with a smooth animation that stretches out from 0 to 100% of the layout. It adds motion to the design and makes for better navigation.

    Check out our scroll progress tutorial to learn how to create your own in just a few steps. 

    Reveal elements on scroll

    When a design has too much static content, it can be tiring to read. With scrollytelling, where longform stories are being told, animations offer a nice break from text and photos. The fade of visual elements adds a burst of motion.

    The effect can be applied to text or visuals. We use this effect in our Graphic design archive, signaling the beginning of a new block of content.

    webflow graphic design archive


    Should you reveal elements in your own design work? Definitely! Check out our tutorial to learn how.

    Horizontal movement on scroll

    horizontal scroll webflow tutorial


    Whenever you have a design element that’s sitting idle on the page, like a title, why not give it some pizazz? Horizontal movement wakes up these sleepy design elements and gives them purpose. Take the above example above from our tutorial. The horizontal movement signals the start of the story and makes “Let’s Go Outside” have more of an impact.

    It’s easy to do — check out our tutorial on creating your own horizontal movement effect.

    Horizontal scrolling

    Horizontal scrolling can be a nice change. It brings attention to your content and breaks free from a typical vertical layout. 

    Proud and Torn, a website about Hungarian history uses horizontal scrolling to highlight the different eras it covers.

    proud and torn homepage


    And to refer back to our own art Web design and art history piece discussed earlier — we use horizontal scrolling as another way to keep people active and engaged.

    webflow art history


    Our tutorial on horizontal scrolling will get you started on using it for your own design.

    Position sticky

    the pudding position sticky


    From the Pudding, the same website that created the Ali Wong comedy piece, comes this tutorial about creating a position sticky effect. Position sticky takes an element and stations it in a design temporarily, bringing attention to it. After a bit more scrolling, it’s then released from its position. We’re fans of tutorials that break a process down in an easy to understand way. And it’s all done through scrollytelling.

    position sticky effect

    Creating a sticky sidebar

    Okay, so we just talked about a position sticky. But what about making a sticky sidebar? 

    After a bit of a scroll, the sidebar takes a set position. You could use it to contain navigation to other parts of a story, or to different parts of the website.

    Transforming a sidebar into a sticky sidebar isn’t too complicated. Take a look at this quick tutorial to put the power of a sticky sidebar into your own designs.

    Web design lets you tell a story in more imaginative ways

    The web has transformed storytelling. With animations, visuals, and interactivity, reading a story no longer needs to be passive. Scrollytelling is a multimedia experience, provoking deeper thought and understanding. It illuminates what can’t be communicated by words alone and makes the reader an active participant.

    Inspired to tell a story of your own through scrollytelling? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

    the-designer’s-guide-to-netflix:-12-must-watch-shows-and-movies

    Aside from being a go-to source for procrastination, Netflix is also a treasure trove of inspiration for designers. With their library being updated almost daily—remember when Orange is the New Black was the hot show?—it’s hard to keep up with what’s really worth watching.

    From neuroscience to documentaries to lost footage, all of these shows will spark your imagination and leave you amazed at what the human mind can accomplish.

    If you decide to binge them all in one week, don’t blame us for falling behind on your projects.

    1. Abstract: The Art of Design

    Created by: Scott Dadlich

    Seasons: 1

    Episodes: 8

    Runtime: 42-48 minutes

    This Netflix original docu-series, created by former WIRED editor Scott Dadlich, is a global sampler of the men and women who animate everything from screens to shoes. Each episode stands as its own documentary film, highlighting design visionaries like Nike designer Tinker Hatfield. Abstract isn’t just about storytelling, though: it illustrates the intent behind the amazing objects around us—which many take for granted—and the decisions from which they originated.

    Our favorite episodes:

    “Paula Scher: Graphic Design” — Abstract documents the work of Paula Scher, an American graphic designer who served as the first female principal at Pentagram.

    “Christoph Niemann: Illustrator” — Over the past two decades, Nieman has sketched everything from New Yorker covers to Google’s “Doodle of the Day.” This episode is a window into the mind of one of the world’s most successful illustrators.

    2. The Creative Brain

    Directors: Jennifer Beamish, Toby Trackman

    Starring: David Eagleman

    Runtime: 52 minutes

    To some people, creative genius might appear to be a superpower reserved for an elite few. But David Eagleman makes it his mission to dispel that myth in his documentary The Creative Brain

    Eagleman, a neuroscientist and professor at Stanford University, taps into the minds of creators like prolific architect Bjarke Ingels and musical artist Grimes to unravel their thought processes and explore how each of us can unleash our own creative breakthroughs.

    Eagleman’s premise is that being original isn’t about pulling ideas out of thin air: it’s about cobbling together existing ideas to create something remarkable. 

    3. The Pixar Story

    Director: Leslie Iwerks

    Interviewees: Steve Jobs, Tom Hanks, Michael Eisner, and more

    Runtime: 88 minutes

    In the mid-1980s, a trio of Bay Area idealists combined their talents in art, science, and business to launch a company that would define entertainment for the foreseeable future. Those three people were Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, and Steve Jobs. Their company was Pixar.

    The Pixar Story takes viewers behind the scenes to witness the creative struggle and determination that fueled the next-level animation technology which revolutionized Hollywood. The film stitches together never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews with pivotal people including Tim Allen and Tom Hanks to chronicle Pixar’s journey from startup to paradigm shifter.

    4. Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer

    Director: Vlad Yudlin

    Starring: Jeremy Scott, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, ASAP Rocky, and more

    Runtime: 108 minutes

    How do you go from farm boy to creative director of one of the world’s most prestigious fashion brands? Just ask Jeremy Scott.

    Growing up in rural Missouri, Scott had dreams of becoming a fashion icon. But before realizing that dream, he would endure constant rejection, ridicule, and even homelessness before his crowning achievement: becoming Moschino’s creative director. This rags-to-riches documentary encapsulates the grit required to carve a name for oneself as a creative, with fascinating detours into the minutiae of the fashion industry.

    5. The 100 Years Show

    Director: Alison Klayman

    Starring: Carmen Herrera

    Runtime: 29 minutes

    Carmen Herrera sketches every morning beside the window of her New York City apartment. A world-renowned painter, her minimalist works are on exhibit at major institutions such as MoMA and Tate Modern. London’s The Observer dubbed her the “discovery of the decade.”

    The craziest part? She’s 104 years old.

    Born in Cuba in 1915, Carmen Herrera is the oldest contemporary artist on earth. However, her work was stifled until the early 2000s. She didn’t even sell her first piece of artwork until she was 81 years old. The 100 Years Show chronicles the misfortune of Herrera’s talent being overlooked because of her gender and nationality—but the story is undeniably inspiring as it illustrates Herrera’s creative endurance and the power of art to sustain itself for a lifetime.

    6. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

    Director: Morgan Neville

    Starring: Orson Welles, Frank Marshall, Peter Bogdanovich

    Runtime: 98 minutes

    Orson Welles was dubbed Hollywood’s golden boy after directing Citizen Kane. A perfectionist and cinematic visionary, Welles was held to a higher standard than any other director of his time. After struggling to uphold his reputation, The Other Side of the Wind was poised to redeem his career, but he died before completing it. The incomplete film remained locked in a vault for nearly four decades—until 2018.

    They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is a riveting snapshot of Orson Welles’ creative genius and his attempt to create a genre-bending film, or what he called “a departure from [traditional] movie-making.” If this documentary doesn’t give you an appreciation for Welles’ creativity, it’s certain to instill a sense of urgency to act upon your own creative impulses.

    7. Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World

    Director: Barry Avrich

    Starring: Marina Abramovic, Katherine Arnold, Amy Cappellazzo, and more

    Runtime: 84 minutes

    How does talent find an audience? How does power decide access? What—if anything—is a fair price tag to place on creative ingenuity?

    These are the questions Blurred Lines explores through the eyes of renowned artists such as Julian Schnabel, and the powerful players who propel the commercial art industry: insiders from MoMA and Art Basel, gallerists, traders, and more. If you want a candid, amoral look inside the cut-throat business of elite art, grab some popcorn and press play.

    8. 44 Pages

    Director: Tony Shaff

    Runtime: 90 minutes

    For more than seven decades, Highlights has shaped the lives of kids from the baby boom generation up to today’s digital natives. The family-owned magazine is an anomaly, with its print edition thriving since 1946 without having sold a single advertisement.

    This heartwarming film documents the decisions that go into designing, writing, and producing each 44-page magazine as well as how Highlights is transitioning to the screen while preserving its tradition. Despite the lighthearted tone, the film is packed with insights into product-market fit and how to create work that stands the test of time. 44 Pages oozes nostalgia, so get ready for a trip down memory lane. 

    9. Print the Legend

    Directors: Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel

    Runtime: 99 minutes

    Since 1986, 3D printers have built engine parts, braces for teeth, and even artificial human organs. But now, well into the 21st century, 3D printing is ramping up to be the next wave of the technological revolution. It’s a gold rush, but the question remains: which creators will come out on top?

    Print the Legend looks behind the scenes at four competitors—3D ystems, Stratasys, MakerBot, and Formlabs—as they race to elevate 3-D printing from a fringe, tech-nerd niche into a mass-market consumer product that anyone can have on their desktop.

    10. Have You Seen the Listers?

    Director: Eddie Martin

    Starring: Anthony Lister

    Runtime: 86 minutes

    Anthony Lister was destined to be an artist from childhood. Growing up in Australia, he reveled in the street art that surrounded him, and his parents encouraged him to draw whatever popped into his head. Lister quickly became an international icon, selling his works for five-figure checks and rubbing elbows with celebrities such as Paris Hilton. But as Lister built his career, his family life crumbled.

    In Have You Seen the Listers? Anthony opens up about his complicated relationship with fame, his inner demons, and his struggle to subvert conservative Australian culture through art. The film is a must-watch for up-and-coming creatives to see the flip-side of stardom.

    11. Floyd Norman: An Animated Life

    Directors: Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey

    Starring: Floyd Norman

    Runtime: 94 minutes

    When Floyd Norman was a kid, he heard he could never have a career at Disney’s studio. “They don’t hire blacks,” is what his peers told him. Norman wasn’t having it though, and within a few years, he was animating The Jungle Book as Disney’s first black employee. During his tenure working under Walt Disney, Norman floated between animator, layout artist, storyboard artist, and writer until he was let go in 1965. But his creative tank was far from empty. 

    This documentary blends interviews and archival footage to tell the fascinating story of Floyd Norman the animator, but more importantly, the story of Floyd Norman the man—who paved a path for black creatives in show business.

    12. She Makes Comics

    Director: Marissa Stotter

    Starring: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Karen Berger, Jenette Kahn, and more

    Runtime: 70 minutes

    It’s no question that female creatives have been—and often still are—overshadowed by their male counterparts. But one niche industry in which women’s creative achievements are most impressive yet vastly underappreciated is comic books. 

    She Makes Comics is comprised of eclectic interviews including underground comic artist Joyce Farmer, Comic-Con administrator Jackie Estrada, and a host of writers and critics. Uplifting, thought-provoking, and fearless, this documentary adds an important perspective to the conversation about gender equality in the creative field.

    Got more suggestions for us?

    We could spend all day exploring Netflix’s library, but that’s a dangerous rabbit hole to go down. If there’s a Netflix show or movie that designers need to watch, let us know on Twitter @InVisionApp.

    Want more resources for designers?

    by Dominic Vaiana

    Dominic Vaiana is a writer, marketer, and bibliophile based in St. Louis, Missouri. His articles and book recommendations are at dominicv.net.

    an-insider’s-guide-to-inviting-new-designers-to-dribbble

    Since Dribbble’s inception in 2009, the invite system has empowered millions of talented designers to foster the best creative community in the world.

    As new designers are constantly entering the field, we believe that our community is best equipped to identify talented creatives who will make Dribbble an even better platform. In this spirit, each Player, a designer who has accepted an invite to share their work on Dribbble, is empowered to use their Dribbble invitations to bring aboard talent from all walks of life and design disciplines – this makes for a thriving, vibrant, and inspired community. There’s no better time than the present to put your invitations to use and bring deserving designers into the Dribbble fold!

    Getting Started

    First, how many invitations do you have to share? If you’re signed into your account, take a gander at your avatar in Dribbble’s main navigation. In the dropdown, you’ll see how many invites you have available. You can also head to the Invites section of your Dribbble account settings to get a count.

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    Provided you don’t have a laundry list of friends who’ve been hounding you for an invite (if not, be sure to hit up your inner circle to make sure), here’s a quick guide on the myriad of places where you’ll be able to locate designers who might be interested in joining the Dribbble community.

    Keep in mind, we want to keep the invitation process authentic and personal—invitations should not be used as a prize giveaway for contests, or trying to gain followers, but rather given genuinely based on your interest in following someone’s work and making the Dribbble community more vibrant. Be sure to consult our community guidelines for rules of the road when it comes to giving invitations.

    Scouting Prospects

    In the Dribbble community we have both Players and Prospects. Players are full-fledged members, while Prospects are designers who have not yet been invited. While Prospects are able to build out their basic profile and upload a number of limited-visibility Shots, we rely on Dribbble Players to extend invites to those whose work would be an asset to the community.

    Drafting is the official process of extending an invitation for somebody to become a Player on Dribbble. The Dribbble Draft page is the landing page where you can browse all Dribbble Prospects awaiting invitations. Have somebody you’d like invite who’s not a Prospect? Use the fields at the top of the page to invite them directly via their email address.

    You’ll notice that the page also features search fields, which you can use to filter Prospects by keywords—such as design disciplines—or seek out draftees in your own city or neighborhood by searching via location. You can use any combination of keyword and location to narrow down the pool of current Prospects to find somebody awesome to draft.

    Forget the cat memes and the latest trending hashtags for a moment, friends. Get out there and use your social networks to do some community building. In reality, sometimes all you have to do is to put the word out. It’s easy to work your social media game to seek out folks who might be interested in joining you on Dribbble to share their work—Tweet from the proverbial design hilltops, and often eager up-and-coming designers will answer.

    Even if you don’t know somebody personally, if somebody’s portfolio is high-quality, shows promise, or is downright interesting—give them a chance to show more!

    Design Groups

    Are you a member of a local design organization chapter? Are you friendly with the creative practitioners in your area? Maybe you’re part of a regional Slack group. No matter how formal or informal, you can use your professional and extracurricular networks to see if there are any talented designers who might benefit from sharing their work alongside you on Dribbble. Dribbble can be an excellent bridge that ties your various design affiliations together—it’s a place where you can show off what you do, and continue to talk shop with designers around the globe.

    Meetups & In-Person Events

    Similarly, in-person events—be it a design-related conference, workshop, or even a Dribbble Meetup hosted in your town—can be excellent venues for seeking out new Dribbblers. While you’re exchanging business cards or Instagram handles with folks, you can always ask if they’re on Dribbble, and if not, if they’d be interested in joining the Dribbble community to keep the conversation going.

    Schools Student Bootcamp Networks

    Dribbble is the place where talented designers of all skill levels have an opportunity to share the spotlight. If you’re a design student—in a full-time design program, bootcamp, or workshop setting—your classmates might be excellent compatriots to share invites with as you start showing your work on Dribbble.

    Conversely, if you’re a teacher or mentor, empowering students or mentees to post their work amongst a robust design community is an important step to foster burgeoning design talent. Dole out some invites and let new practitioners rise to the occasion!

    Underrepresented Designers

    Like all healthy communities, Dribbble is most vibrant when a diverse array of experiences, talents, and points of view find camaraderie. We want to make sure that all talented designers have a shot to be part of this community. If you know folks from underrepresented groups or geographies who would like to be part of Dribbble, please help them to become Players—our community will be that much richer for it. Sites like People of Craft or Women Who Design can help you find talented designers from underrepresented groups, and even those who might be your neighbor. Help us make Dribbble an inclusive, lively forum for all designers.

    Good luck in your search, and thank you for helping to build the Dribbble platform into an even more diverse, robust community where great designers can showcase their best work and find the best design inspiration. We couldn’t do it without you!


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