Kevin Tomko

Project Manager

Everything Is Going Live

periscopeDid you read about it in the newspaper? Already old news.

How about on Twitter? Soon to be old news.

All information, including news, entertainment, sports, concerts, interviews, etc., will eventually be accessible in real time on your mobile devices.

You can already see it happening. We watch live sporting events on phones and get up-to-the-second stats on smartwatches; we are able to get live streams on our phones to see what’s happening in our homes with security cameras.

When I heard about the wildfires in Canada, I thought I’d jump on Periscope to see if anyone was reporting anything. I watched thirty minutes of live coverage from a local news station showing the fire, people evacuating, etc. It was so interesting to see it live. As I was about to hop off, I saw a Scope that had 18,000 viewers, so I checked it out. I then began to watch the AC/DC concert live from Portugal with Axl Rose from the point of view of someone in the very front row. It was so cool.  I immediately Air Dropped it onto my TV and watched the last hour of the show. It was awesome!  Fire!

Needless to say, there are a lot of mundane Periscoping out there. Like high school kids geeking out about how many hearts their scope is getting or John Smith scoping his commute to work.

All of this got me thinking about what we do, what our clients do, and how can we best use this technology.

  • How are you using video now on your site?
  • How are you disseminating news?
  • What about your social media strategy?

Could you replace any of these with something as easy to use as Periscope or Facebook Live Video? Pretty much everyone of us is carrying a camera-equipped mobile device in our pockets – what’s stopping us from taking video right now?

Think about how powerful that could be during an annual conference! You could stream the keynote speech on Livestream. The staff could run their own live “Man (or Woman) on the Street” series between sessions and events. Attendees could share their Scopes with the same hashtag on your Twitter feed, and suddenly your event can have thousands of viewer hours.

Here are just some examples of live streaming outlets:

Can you imagine what else will be possible? I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to find out.  Hmmm?  Maybe I should have live streamed me typing up this blog about live streaming?  JK, no one wants to see stuff like that!

Are you using live-streaming video now? What platform are you using? Let us know in the comments!

Rethinking the Way We Work

officespaceMatrix Group could be going through big changes in the near future. Our lease is almost up, so we’re up against a major decision: to move or not to move? This decision has gotten us thinking a lot more about how we work and interact with each other throughout the day.

We recently switched over to to Slack, a messaging app for teams that is making us rethink the way we communicate with our colleagues. So far, in my opinion, it has made chatting with people throughout the day a lot easier and way more fun. With animated gifs, emojis, personalized commands, and – more importantly – easy file and screenshot sharing, do we even still need email for internal communication?

The impending potential move also has made us reassess whether or not our physical space is still working for us. Physical environment plays a big part in keeping people happy throughout the day. Do we need more space per person? Less space? More natural light? Private work space for concentration? War rooms to cram on major projects? Flexible meeting space? It’s a lot to think about.

Another thing we’re contemplating is whether or not to switch entirely over to laptops. Currently everyone, with the exception of PMs and directors, has workhorse desktop systems with multiple monitors. This is great for productivity but also completely inhibits moving around to collaborate with each other. Being tied to a desk can get you pretty stuck in a rut at times. It would be great to move to a different part of the office at points throughout the day just to get a change of scenery and shake things up a bit.

A big trend in office design at the moment is the concept of “neighborhoods.” Instead of having large work stations filling the entire floor, you would have smaller pod areas for specific teams. These could either be stationary or modular, enabling you to roll your desk closer to whomever you may be working with on a project at any given time. It’s an interesting concept, though we’re not sure how practical it would be for us.

Either way, at the very least, we’ll be making a few upgrades to our current office space.

What do you like or dislike about the way your company works and communicates with each other? We could use some tips!

Sketch v Photoshop

ps_v_sketch_smThese days designers are being bombarded with a ton of tools to help us with productivity. New apps and plug-ins for prototyping, iconography, photography, background patterns, content creation, templates, etc. are being thrown at us every day, so much so, that it’s sometimes hard to choose which one to go with. After weighing your options, sometimes you just have to close your eyes, click “download” and cross your fingers.

When it comes to deciding on a tool for actual design creation, however, we still only have two main options: Photoshop and Sketch. This small pool helps make the decision much easier.

Old School

Photoshop is the grandfather of UI design. It’s so old it wasn’t even created with user interface in mind; it was created with photography in mind (in 1988!). As the digital design industry evolved, designers needed a tool to get the job done, and Photoshop became that tool of choice, for better or worse, because it was the only tool on the market. And without any competition in the market, it has stayed fairly the same all these years, bloated with photography tools and not logically set up for UI. In Photoshop’s defense, it was never meant to be a tool for UI. It’s still great at editing photos.

Up-and-Comers

Sketch is the cool new kid on the block. Within the past few years it has been gaining significant traction within the industry. In 2008, the guys at Bohemian coding looked at the UI-design pain points with Photoshop and decided enough was enough! It was time to thoughtfully develop a tool specific to UI design. So they set out to make a better product, and the industry has responded by overwhelmingly switching over to Sketch. If you build it, they will come…

We started using Sketch at Matrix Group a few months ago, and it has considerably increased our design productivity. If if doesn’t do something we want it to, 9 times out of 10, someone else thought the same thing and developed a plug-in for it. It also integrates with other amazing apps as well, Zeplin being Matrix Group’s favorite. Zeplin is a designer/developer hand-off tool that has completely streamlined this process by importing designs and out-putting styling, CSS snippets, dimensions and assets – all right at the fingertips of the developers without them ever having to open a file, let alone a whole program.

Sketch still has a few downfalls compared to Photoshop, handling of typography being one, but for now we are totally on board with being a Sketch shop. That being said, I’m still 100% keeping Photoshop around for whenever I need to edit photos. And I’ll absolutely be checking out Project Comet when its released. Yay competition!

Have you used Sketch? Do you prefer it over Photoshop? Or are there other design tools that you like more than Photoshop and Sketch? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

At Work, Where Blabbing is a Good Thing – We Think

Screencap of Blab conversationYou know, one thing we like doing at Matrix Group is trying out new tools. Our front-end developers and programmers are always finding new ways to make writing code more efficient, version control more effective, and implementations smoother. In short, they keep finding things to make your projects go live quickly and correctly.

Let’s be honest: sometimes we like playing with stuff for the sheer joy of it.

We also like finding ways to make our internal processes and meetings better. For a lot of reasons, this all boils down to teleconferencing software and applications. (C’mon, how many meetings are – at the same time – brief, effective, and fun?)

So, have you heard of Blab?

It’s a conversation and broadcasting platform that’s been likened to Periscope, but for more people at once. Unless you want to be nothing but an observer, you’ll have to log in with your Twitter account. Then you really get to interact, either as a host with a chance to speak onscreen or through the chat and Q&A functions. It’s in beta right now, so there may be some quirks, but we had fun playing with it.

There are some who have played around with the tool longer, and we look forward to finding out what they’ve learned and how many things we can do with it.

Meanwhile, here we are, being cute as buttons, amirite?

Have you tried out Blab? What about other, competing tools have you discovered recently?

Alex Pineda

Creative Director

&Andi Simons

Design Trends for 2016

It’s that time – time for me to pull out the crystal ball and predict what will be the big trends that are going to hit the design world next year. 2015 was quite a year, and as we all know, the pace of change only accelerates. So here is my forecast for what we will see, design-wise, in 2016:

Mobile First

2016_trendsTraditionally, given that we are predominantly a web design agency, the very first thing we design is the homepage desktop view. The responsive and mobile user interface (UI) was something that usually came towards the end, after we had addressed the desktop experience. This has been how the industry as a whole has always done business, even though all of us have been talking “mobile first” for some time now.

But lately, we’ve been receiving projects where our clients are getting in on the trend and want us to consider the mobile experience first. Based on analytics analysis, we are seeing an exponential growth in mobile traffic, even from what we could consider a more conservative, office-bound audience. So now we have the data and the mandate, we need to switch gears as an agency and carefully consider the needs of our customers in a mobile context and design accordingly.

More Video Content

After the redesign of our company website, we again took a look at our analytics to see what people were clicking on. What we learned is that people love our Matrix Minute videos more than our static content by a pretty big margin.  We also learned that video content does not have to mean slick, well-produced motion reels, but rather, small, intimate, focused clips. The rise of video usage on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc., certainly points to an audience that would rather watch a video than read five paragraphs of text.

So for our clients, rather than thinking of all the copy you will need to write for your next website or blog post, think instead of what video you will shoot.

Wearables Are Here

The wearables market has been around a few years, with early adopters being Pebble, Fitbit, Nike and others. But now that Apple jumped into the wearables market with their Apple Watch, a lot more attention has been paid to what is still a fairly untapped, undeveloped space. What does this mean for our clients?

In the same way that smartphones have changed the way in which customers interact with brands and services, wearables will soon have a similar impact. The way in which your content is constructed will have to change and adapt to this new, and very intimate, platform.

Micro-Interactions

Somewhat related to the wearables trend, there will be an even greater focus on micro-transactions. We do micro-interactions all the time, when we “like” something on Facebook or even turn off the alarm on our phone. Apps, and now wearables, are designed for multiple “touches”, where we:

  • Communicate a status
  • Give feedback
  • Manipulate anything to trigger an action

While we tend to do these actions somewhat automatically or even unconsciously, they are important interactions with your services and brand.

So, rather than thinking of a user engagement as a long, involved session that lasts for hours, think of these micro-interactions as “touching base” with a user on a constant, consistent basis.  We need to plan for, and design, these “touches” with care, and integrate them into an overall engagement strategy.

Natural Motion Interactions

We have lived with the keyboard and mouse for decades now, and we have suffered the consequences: carpal-tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress injuries, and the like. Hopefully for not much longer! With VR headsets like Oculus Rift, hologram-based systems like Hololens, and gesture-based controllers like Leapmotion finally getting ready to go mainstream, we hope we can finally toss our keyboards into the recycling bin.

What this means is that now we have to take into account and design for new ways that customers will interact with content. From full, 3D, immersive environments to speech and natural gesture based systems (think Iron Man and Jarvis!), our user interfaces will be even richer, more complex, and engaging.

Animation to Strengthen Brands

Animation is going to become ingrained in more and more brands and their respective style guides. Many major brands like Google, Microsoft, and IBM already have strong animation rules in place – IBM’s animation library is a great example. We’re going to start seeing these practices trickle down to a wider range of companies now that they’re more accessible and easier to develop.

Adding simple animation transitions is a great way to add more personality to an already established brand, strengthening the message you’re trying to convey. Say you want your site to feel friendly and welcoming; you might want to add a subtle bounce effect onto page elements as they load. Or, if you want a calming, tranquil vibe, perhaps you’ll have images slowly fade in and drop down. At Matrix Group, we’ve been making heavy use of animate.css on our client sites and can’t wait to take things even further in 2016.

What design trends do you think will take center stage in 2016?