Katie Holmes

First Impressions Officer

Chocolate Paleo Cake for a REAL Snack O’Clock

I started this job a few months ago, and everyone kept talking about this blog, ”Snack O’Clock.” I thought to myself, “I LOVE SNACKS, this is perfect!” I was a little disappointed so see so few posts on actual snacks. I mean, it is called Snack O’Clock. Then JP approached me to write a blog post about one of my cakes. And I thought, “this is awesome”!

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging, technology, baking and how they all fit together in my new role as First Impressions Officer here at Matrix Group. As a proud Millennial, I’ve blogged for most of my opinionated adolescence, (Shout out to all the Live Journal users out there!) so I’ll keep the angst to a minimum here. I have also become an avid baker/pastry chef in the past few years. I love trying new things in the kitchen, and, above all else, I am a huge fan of eating. Not in a gluttonous, frenzied way, but in a savoring experience of flavors, textures, and ideas. Food is nourishment for the body, and for the mind.

Last week, we put together an office party to celebrate those who had birthdays in January. I was tasked with the party planning. I asked those with birthdays what kind of cakes they wanted as part of the celebration. There was a request for a banal red velvet cake, then a more adventurous chocolate and mint flavored grasshopper cake. And then something amazing happened. Elaine asked for a dessert either gluten-free or under the Paleo diet umbrella.

“WHAT? No gluten? No flour? No sugar? No dairy??? How does that even work?! I must find out!”

I accepted the challenge, dusted off my trusty Google search engine, and went to task. I learned that the followers of the Paleo lifestyle diet focus more on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins. More of what our Paleolithic ancestors would have eaten. The focus is on nutrient rich eating, real food, and natural foods.

Now the real question, “How does one make a cake without dairy, wheat, or cane sugar?”

I found the answer in the most feminine and beautiful niche blogs. The Urban Poser is a delightful baking blog with amazing recipes which all fall under this Paleo umbrella. Her “Cherry Chocolate Naked Cake” was so striking that I absolutely needed to make it. Immediately.

After gathering the ingredients from three different stores, I was ready to commit to this nontraditional lifestyle cake. (Have you tried Ghee (clarified butter)? No? Well you should. Put it in everything. You can thank me later.)

The basics of this cake were some kind of fat (palm shortening or ghee), the coconut flour, a binding natural starch flour like arrowroot or potato, cocoa powder, coconut milk, eggs, and honey. I was SO SURPRISED to find that when the cakes were finished baking they looked, smelled, and tasted like cake! Not some weird crumbly mess I’ve made of vegan variety, but honest to goodness cake. This was like having a decadent piece of chocolate cake without that saccharine punch in the teeth. I did, however, have issue with the recommended whipped coconut cream frosting. Once I added the recommended amount of cocoa powder, the cream seized up making it look a little less than appealing. The next instructions detailed how to cover the cake in halved ripe cherries saving the cake from some kind of aesthetic failure.

This cake was what we call in my house slammin’ jammin’. This cake was a hit in the office, and a hit with the resident Paleo follower. It’s easy to reject new things because they take you out of your comfort zone. It’s even easier to buy cakes ready made from the supermarket. However, it is most important to live fully. Or with a full belly.

To see the full recipe and fall in love, visit the Urban Poser’s blog. You really need to try this cake for yourself!

What new challenges have you taken on in 2017? 

Alan Gunn

Programmer

Search Results Pagination Look Odd? Try Pagination with Sortable Headers

I recently came across some client reports that, when initially run with search criteria, looked correct and displayed properly. However, that all changed once a user selected pagination. book turning pages

The search results soon began to look like nothing I’d searched for, and after a few clicks of Next and Back I could produce errors. When I drilled into the code, I found that the results were ordered by date, but the pagination used the ID of the record. Using the record ID would have been fine if we were only displaying a dump of the data and ordering it by ID, but to have a functioning useful report, this did not work.

I needed a way to order by any report column header, and for the pagination to keep intact the ordered by results as a user moved between the pages. After some quick research I came across the SQL Server function ROW_NUMBER(), used in conjunction with OVER(). This was exactly what was needed to accomplish the report column sorting and the pagination honoring the order throughout the pages.

The result: Users were now able to paginate results, as well as sort by column heading, making for a logical display.

Have you found any tips or tricks for search results?

Elaine Heinzman

Content Strategist and Information Architect

3 Last-Minute Holiday Tech Gifts

We acknowledge that it’s late in the gift-buying game, so if you procrastinated on your shopping for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and/or Three Kings Day, Matrix Group has got you covered with three options for the gadget geek in your life.

Nixplay Iris digital picture frame

The Nixplay Iris is a sleek, high-resolution digital picture frame that you can update from your smartphone. It connects to Dropbox as well as the major social-media and photo-gallery platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Picasa, Flickr).

If your parents love to see the most current photos of their grandkids, you can use the Nixplay Mobile app to update the images they see on their Iris. Bonus: Click the Nixplay link above for a voucher code to get free delivery in time for the holidays.

 

Nonda ZUS phone charger and car locator

The Nonda ZUS looks more like something out of the new Star Wars film than a phone charger, but it has another, even better superpower: It automatically saves your car’s location whenever you park.

Are you the kind of person who can’t remember where you left your car? Use the ZUS app to find your vehicle, and connect your phone to the ZUS so your phone can recharge. 

Rocketbook WaveThe Rocketbook Wave is a traditional spiral-bound notebook with some pretty unconventional twists. It comes with a Pilot FriXion pen, which you use like a regular pen to take notes (and which you can buy in office-supply stores everywhere). The Rocketbook app lets you scan those notes and upload them to whichever cloud service you use (Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud, Evernote).

The coolest part: When the Rocketbook Wave is filled up, you microwave it to clear out all the pages and use the notebook over and over.

Elaine Heinzman

Content Strategist and Information Architect

3 Must-Haves for Creating Content That Counts

4 reasons why content mattersI love content in all its forms and formats: Video, audio, animation, news articles, op-ed pieces, how-to columns, tweets, Facebook Messenger, and so on. And I love working with clients to help them surface the best of their content, from the newest publications to trusty standbys that members always need to access.

Along with Matrix Group CEO and Chief Troublemaker Joanna Pineda, I recently co-presented a webinar about content marketing. Content is so crucial to connecting people to your organization and brand that we wanted to share a quick-hits list for those who didn’t attend the webinar.

  1. Insight sets you apart.We talk to a lot of website and mobile-app users across industries, from longtime association members to disgruntled former members. These users keep telling us that they want insight: Insight into the future of their particular industry, into how the industry interacts with consumers, and into trends currently affecting your organization and industry, including legislative and market forces. You can best serve your members if you provide them with regular, thoughtful analysis to help them learn, grow their businesses, and stay out of trouble.
  2. Video gets people’s, and platforms’, attention. Inc. reports that people are 85% more likely to make a purchase after viewing a video about the product, and posts with images get 650% higher engagement than text-only posts. About two-thirds of U.S. adults are on Facebook, where image- and video-focused posts appear more prominently. So there’s no excuse not to incorporate more video into your content strategy. It’s as simple as shooting a 30- to 60-second how-to video or interview with a conference attendee on your smartphone. Also make sure to post plenty of member photos on Facebook, and tag the people in them.
  3. Plan it out. You need an editorial calendar to produce and publish content throughout the year. You can establish content themes by month or by quarter, depending on how much content your organization is able to create. If your industry or organization publishes a trade magazine, you can follow that editorial calendar.The content schedule also depends on what I call “the best talkers”: These are employees and members within your organization, along with your industry’s leaders, who are knowledgeable, opinionated, and skilled at explaining things in an engaging and easy-to-understand manner. Get those people to blog, shoot video, or record podcasts for you. If they don’t have time to do so, interview them and ghost-write a piece for them.

When interacting with your organization, members want to know: “What’s in it for me?” Your website content answers that question by showcasing what you know and why it matters. It reinforces your mission to members, and to the search engines they rely on to find your site. Content allows you to demonstrate why your organization helps members and the industry do better and be better.

What tips and tricks do you have for creating content? Where do you feel you need help with your content strategy? Tell us here or talk to us on Twitter (@matrixgroup).

Elaine Heinzman

Content Strategist and Information Architect

World Usability Day 2016 is All About Sustainability

World Usability Day logo

www.worldusabilityday.org

The intersection of sustainability and user experience (UX) is where you’ll find the theme for 2016’s World Usability Day: Sustainable, or green, UX. Green UX involves creating the best experience for people in ways that make the most efficient, environmentally friendly use of products, services, and processes.

The WUD 2016 sustainability theme dovetails with the public and private sectors’ work on 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Established last year, those SDGs include benchmarks to be met by the year 2030 “to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.”

Regardless of scale, any kind of UX work has to be rooted in user-centered design. This means getting into your users’ environment, daily routines, and thought processes in order to provide practical, viable solutions to their problems. Effective green UX should make eco-friendly behavior easier and more affordable to incorporate into your life. It’s better living through recycling, reuse, and redesign.

So how do we unite these UX principles with these green/sustainable ideals? It’s a complex question, but here are a few thoughts:

  1. Make it easy for the disadvantaged to get a seat at the table of policy decisions, especially when outsiders are tempted to prescribe their own remedies. Those living in the communities of need know what they need best and have a greater understanding of their communities’ habits, knowledge, and biases. This insider knowledge about problems on the ground lets these populations determine what solutions and ideas are possible – and sustainable.
  2. Make it easy for those affected to be informed. This could mean mobile campaigns that engage the Opera-only users in Central Africa, for instance, or campaigns based on SMS technology or messaging apps. Focusing on available and commonly used technology makes it easier to educate communities about the policy decisions that affect them. What about ways for those users to speak up? They need to know about public meetings and online surveys, as well as ballot measures and pilot programs, that give them a voice.
  3. See how far you can push ideas and technology in a green or sustainable direction that, in turn, doesn’t make it harder for people to use what you create. This is crucial among populations that, say, rely on fossil fuels or mining for their livelihoods and to provide energy to their communities.

These three points only scratch the surface, and that’s what WUD2016 is about – discovering the meaning of sustainable UX and learning how stakeholders and makers can work together on real-world applications of sustainable UX practices.

Check out this database for global World Usability Day events and other info about how to get involved in bringing usability practices into your work.

Have any ideas of how the user experience can go green? Share here or mention us on Twitter (@matrixgroup) and be sure to use #wud2016.