Over an 18 year career, I've designed and led dozens of app projects focused on helping people.
I've co-founded a few startups, most recently with Apple Design Award winning Flixel. These days I'm helping families and directing design at CareGuide.
Wanna chat? Email is still a thing.
Without further preamble, here's a reverse-chronological rundown of my favourite past projects!
I’m currently leading design at CareGuide, which has a suite of matchmaking products for care services. From nanny care all the way up to elder care, CareGuide helps people...help people! I just made that up now.
We recently launched Nanny Lane, a platform that helps families find affordable childcare. This includes nanny sharing: helping families find other families to share a nanny with. Each family pays less, nannies get paid more, kids make new friends, it's wins all around!
Knowing basically nothing about parenting, nannying, or how this would work, the first project I gave myself at CareGuide was to talk to a bunch of parents and nannies. After a short interview about their background and thoughts on childcare, I asked them to try a beta version of our product. Not only did we find and fix issues before launch, I also learned a lot about real family problems and how they're being solved.
Since launch, we've continued to evolve the product based on a steady stream of qualitative and quantitative data. From reading and responding to support tickets to looking at analytics, there's never enough to know about how to make people's lives easier.
I also lead a great team of designers, some working on other CareGuide products that I can't really take any credit for here...so I won't. I did, however, work on a machine learning algorithm to detect online scammers, which sounds pretty cool so I'll mention that here because hey - portfolio.
I spent 18 months contracting as a Senior Interaction Designer for Telus Digital, leading design for over a dozen projects. Here are the three most impactful projects I led:
The VP of Telus Digital recruited me to lead design for a ground-up rebuild of the Telus My Account app, which is used by millions of Canadians.
This project was the result of a highly data-informed process, making heavy use of analytics, user research, and testing to help drive and validate design decisions. In addition to bridging the gap between dev teams and Telus stakeholders at every level of the company, I also guided the efforts of white-labeling the design for Koodo.
Accessibility is a core principle of this app - both in providing easy access for anyone to manage their account, and also in being a completely WCAG AA compliant app. Designing apps with high contrast and legibility isn't just for people with vision impairment - it also helps them stay usable on dimmed screens and on sunny days. When designing an app that'll be used by millions of people in any kind of situation, accessiblity comes first.
I led the redesign efforts for telus.com/travel, analyzing customer behaviour and running moderated testing sessions on the existing page to find and remove friction points along the customer journey. This also included introducing ‘Easy Roam’, an entirely new kind of travel option for customers.
After simplifying the page design to make it easier to compare options at a glance, I also shortened the purchase flow from 12 steps to just 3. The result of these efforts led to a 30% increase in conversions.
The credo I used to guide this travel page was similar to the one I’d been using to guide the overall design of the app: identify the most important pieces of information people need, hide the smaller details, but make those details easy to find. This simplified design and purchase flow has also led to a 5% increase in online purchase share (vs costly call-in purchases).
Telus was changing technology vendors for their online chat system, so that provided an opportunity to redefine the existing experience - from discovery, to triage, to the chat system itself.
With the new chat project, we built a platform that was responsive, easy to find, and easy to use. The initial customer triage survey was simplified from multiple fields down to just one required dropdown selection. Since implementing the new global chat, the abandonment rates have dropped by a factor of 5.
To see the global chat in action, you can visit telus.com/travel again :)
I worked on Nectar remotely while preparing for a sailing trip. CanaFlora, a Canadian flower delivery company, was looking to create a modern brand and mobile app.
Customer research identified a major pain point when people consider buying flowers: uncertainty about what to choose. To make the purchasing decision easier and a little more fun, Nectar shows each month’s flower arrangements along a colour/mood spectrum that ranges from cheerful to passionate to somber.
Nectar's purchase flow is a simple 3 step process, and I designed a birthday/anniversary reminder system to go along with the one-tap repurchase option.
In addition to the app, I also came up with the 'Nectar' name and brand, which the client liked so much he extended to his online business as well.
Just capture a short scene, then paint the area to animate. Cinemagraphs combine the best aspects of photo & video.
The first version of Flixel was designed as a mainstream toy, and earned praise from FastCo Design. We realized that the app had more potential as a tool for pro photographers, so we rebuilt it from the ground up - just in time for its primetime debut on America’s Next Top Model. Flixel has also been used in campaigns for Macy’s Marilyn Monroe clothing line, Kraft, Panasonic, and more.
As the Design Co-Founder, I was responsible for all aspects of the app’s design, from interactions & layout to asset creation & production. I also did copyrighting, front-end web development, business development & strategy, content curation, quality assurance, customer support, and research. That’s startups for ya!
I was a founding partner at the relaunched Endloop Mobile app studio. I worked on 12 projects; here are my favourites:
SoFit is a social fitness app that lets you compete with friends while raising money for charity. It was the official app chosen by the US State department for the 2012 London Olympics 'Walk a Mile' campaign.
I kicked off the initial design for SoFit with a 3 day strategy session where we covered the walls in ideas. This was followed by 2 days of cuts, eliminating the unnecessary & crafting a single cohesive product. The app has continued to evolve under different development teams, but I've stayed on as a design advisor.
For this project I spent 2 months working onsite with Tribal DDB, not only designing a responsive interface for the customer-facing site, but also an administrative backend & a triage system for handling questions.
The goal of the campaign was to provide some transparency by answering questions about McDonalds food quality. Sharing these concerns, I pushed to create a system where tough questions couldn't be swept under the rug. To McDonalds Canada's credit, they agreed to venture outside their comfort zone instead of just playing it safe. The gamble paid off - people got answers to their questions, McDonalds Canada learned more about people's concerns, and the campaign was considered a huge success.
Endloop Mobile's first project was building the Your Man Reminder app for Rethink Breast Cancer. The app provides regular reminders for women to check themselves for breast cancer, as well as directions on what to look for. The reminders are given by 'hunky dudes', which added some humour to things & helped it go viral on YouTube.
I moulded an existing concept into something that would work on iOS, fixing existing assets & creating new UI elements that fit with Rethink's brand. It was a little weird creating UI assets of shirtless dudes...but hey, it was for a good cause!
Guardly is a mobile safety platform designed to help in case of an emergency. Launching the app starts a countdown timer which (unless cancelled) sends an alert to all emergency contacts via email, phone call, and text message. Responders are able to log into a web interface to see the location of the emergency, and can communicate using voice & text.
As Guardly's sole designer I was responsible for designing the iOS, Android, and BlackBerry versions of the app, plus overseeing its port to Windows phone. I also designed the web interface used by first responders, and designed & coded the first version of the website. With Guardly we created a comprehensive yet nuanced safety system that takes full advantage of modern technology.
TweetAgora was the first iPhone-based Twitter client to provide filtering (the ability to mute people & keywords). There was no official Twitter app back in those days, so I partnered up with a developer to create a client for power users that focused on Twitter's signal-to-noise problem.
TweetAgora let you filter any feed by tweet type (links/photos/retweets), provided a 'most relevant' view using Cadmus, and even let you scan people's profiles for questions they'd asked (not unlike Biz Stone's latest project). In addition to filtering, TweetAgora also had a powerful aggregation system called 'Agoras'. An Agora was basically a custom feed of people, keywords, and Lists that could be followed in a single stream.
As the app was nearing completion we flew down to San Francisco for Chirp, the 'first annual Twitter developer conference'...it was also their last annual developer conference! The day before it started, Twitter announced its acquisition of Tweetie as the new official Twitter client. From that point on the writing was on the wall: 3rd party Twitter clients were on the way out. It's disappointing that Twitter didn't see the value in the app ecosystem that helped them grow...but life goes on. Although we did launch TweetAgora and update it a few times, Twitter's gradual crackdown on 3rd party apps was too frustrating for continued development. It's unfortunate how things turned out, but as my first iPhone app it was a great learning experience.
I came up with the idea of a rhyming haiku or 'rhymeku' during my first brief stint as a freelancer. I'd just finished a year-long sailing trip with my family, and moved to Toronto right around the time Twitter was starting to gain traction there. It was a great way to meet new people, and since the 140 character limit was still a curiosity, haikus were popular (or at least common). I decided to raise the level of difficulty by writing haikus that also rhymed every line - thus the rhymeku was born.
I was still just getting comfortable with creating custom Wordpress sites, so I decided to hone my skills with a personal project before selling my services to others. I picked some of my favourite rhymekus from my growing list in Evernote, matched them with appropriate typefaces, and learned enough about building Wordpress sites that could go on to create them for others. Although this one isn't technically an app, it's still one of my favourite little side projects.
I got my first 'real job' in the tech industry at an IBM-owned company called Careerware, based out of Ottawa. Careerware made career education & planning software for students, and was #1 in North America in that category. Soon after joining, the company was acquired by a Kelowna-based company named Bridges, which rebranded as "Bridges.com" pretty much the day the bubble burst.
One of the many lessons I learned was that having '.com' in your name back in 2001 was a surefire way to tank a stock. I survived each subsequent round of layoffs until I was one of just three people left working remotely (another lesson: be indispensable!). While it wasn't exactly a seamless acquisition, I learned a lot during my time there. As part of the core design team, I was responsible for transitioning Careerware's suite of desktop products over to the web. After Bridges was acquired by Xap Corporation, I was part of the team tasked with designing a new blended product offering.
Checkmate was our fourth year Software Engineering project at the University of Ottawa. It was also a labour of love; a game concept that we developed & refined for years before actually making it.
The game was a chess-based twist on first-person-shooter team deathmatch. Each team had one King, and everyone else started out as Pawns. Pawns accumulated points by killing other players, and those points could be used to respawn as other classes (3pts for a Knight/Bishop, 5pts for a Rook, 9pts for a Queen). Each class had unique weapons, skills, and properties based on their chess equivalent. The goal of the game was to kill the other team's King, at which point the round would end & each team would start over with new Kings.
Checkmate was built as a modification of Unreal Tournament 2003, and was a runner-up & honourable mention in Epic's "Make Something Unreal" contest. It had over 10k downloads, distribution on several gaming magazines, earned us an A+ in the course, and most importantly it was a blast to play.
In the wake of the dot-com bust, six of us decided to throw caution to the wind & start an e-commerce site. Tradebug was a site for bartering; unlike Ebay's auctionhouse model, TradeBug was a flea market. People could post things they had as well as things they wanted, and we created a messaging system so they could negotiate.
While it certainly wouldn't win any visual design awards today, I still think TradeBug was a good idea. In hindsight we should have started out with items of similar value (games/books/dvds) before branching out - that strategy worked pretty well for Amazon. TradeBug was acquired by UsedOttawa.com for ‘an undisclosed sum’...but let's just say none of us went on to buy an NBA team. Nonetheless we had a lot of fun making it, and learned a lot about the realities of building & running an e-commerce business.
My first app was a Turing program I wrote in Mr. Shaheen's grade 10 class. Sadly I don't have a copy or screenshot, but it was pretty sweet. We only knew how to manipulate text characters, so I made a game where you controlled a '☺' character, which started at the top left corner of the screen. The goal was to use the arrow keys to guide him down to the bottom right corner of the screen to rescue his unicode princess ('☻'). The rest of the screen was a minefield of randomly distributed unicode ‘bad guys’, who would naturally kill on contact. Moving Mr ☺ caused each of the other characters to move in pseudo-random directions (generally based on which direction you moved). The game was impossibly hard, and therefore way more fun than it had any right to be. Most importantly, it made Mr. Shaheen laugh, and kept me occupied while everyone else was still working on the regular assignments.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had Mr. Shaheen as a teacher for all of my computer classes in high school. He always instilled the value of sketching ideas out on paper before touching the keyboard, which is a lesson I've always kept with me. Thanks to Mr. Shaheen, I went on to get a degree in Software Engineering at the University of Ottawa. Although I ultimately found my calling on the design side, the foundational concepts he taught have made me a better designer.