What? How? I probably don’t want to know.

We live in a multi level home which is great for keeping track of the kids and not feeling left out when you’re in the kitchen. This morning, I was looking down at the kitchen when I glanced at our dining room fixture.

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In one of the lights, I saw a bit of orange. Curious as to what it was, I sent Emma up on the table to pull it out. This is what she found.

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A dried bit of orange peel. I don’t know how one could possibly manage to get orange peel six feet in the air while peeling. Was someone playing real life fruit ninja? Were they badly startled while peeling and all the peels flew up in the air like popcorn on a sitcom? Did they decide to have a party and need a substitute for confetti? Were they creating their own potpourri warmer with orange peels and light fixtures? So far, no one has confessed. The mystery continues.

Why do you think there was an orange peel in my light? What strange findings have you made in your house?

Posted in Family Updates | 5 Comments

Stuff you get when you’re a business

I went through the hoops to make Logan Apps an Limited Liability Company (LLC). There’s a few reasons to do so, but I won’t bore you with those. To do this, you basically file some forms with the Secretary of State and that’s it. Of course, your filing is a matter of public record, so you get on some mailing lists. And people love to sell to new businesses. Here’s a sampling of what I got:

  • Check blanks – My business doesn’t do a lot of spending.  I’m not paying for goods every single week. And if I was, would I be paying for them with a check? Probably not.
  • Internet service offers – Charter doesn’t get the fact that it’s a home-based business and that we already have Internet through them. Of course, Charter and I have different definitions of “Important Message”.
  • Credit card merchant accounts – This is what you need if you’re a business that accepts credit cards.  All of my credit card transactions are handled by Google or Apple, so again, this isn’t necessary.
  • Shipping supplies – Again, I’ve always been about free delivery for my apps. Always have, and always will.  No need for Google Play Signature Edition.

  • Fraud offers – Did you know that “Yellow Pages” isn’t trademarked in the US? Nor is the logo?  This means that any company can call themselves “Yellow Pages” and try to get people listed in a online-only directory? I feel really bad for the companies that fall for this.  I could see someone who really needed Yellow Pages listing (like yard services) not read the fine print and be out $400.

What weird offers have you received in the mail?

Posted in Family Updates | 2 Comments

Building my brand

There’s been a lot of talk about “building your brand” as a company as well as an employee, but I’m extrapolating this today. I’m talking about building your brand as a mom. Whether you are trying or not, your kid is making generalizations about the kind of mom that you are. I want to be making intentional choices so that I’m leaving the legacy and building the reputation that I want instead of what just happens when I’m sleep deprived.

Many places will tell you to identify your core values, your mission, your passions. I would say, “What does the mom you want to be look like?” and “Can you realistically deliver on that?” and “How do you need to change your priorities and commitments to come in line with your vision?”

What does the mom you want to be look like? This is an important question. We have a lot of pressure to be EVERY perfect mom ever. We should be baking elaborate treats, throwing awesome parties, sitting at the sidelines of a multitude of activities, creating our own fantastic learning experiences at home, planning trips that will enhance their life experiences, being their shoulder to lean on at all times, creating great craft ideas to let them express their creativity, etc. I could really go on and on here, but no one can do all of that at once, and maybe no one can even do all of that. So what are your priorities? Most brands are famous for doing a few things well. What do you want to commit doing really well as a mom? My priorities are to build my relationship with my kids through intentional conversation, to understand how they best learn and be the best teacher I can for them, and to treat my family with my creative outputs (generally in the form of food and sewing projects). Yours will be different. When kids say, “My mom always did . . . ” or “My mom always made the best . . .” or “I remember Mom was always there for . . . ” What do you want those statements to end with? And conversely, what are you OK with not being there? My kids will never say of me, “My mom went to every single one of my practices and games.” They won’t say, “Remember when Mom took a whole week off school to have Craft Camp?” I don’t do that stuff, and I’m OK with that.

Can you realistically deliver on that? If I could do all of the things on that list and enjoy them, that would be awesome. But I can’t, and neither can you. No one likes a company that promises something and then isn’t able to follow through on it. And while our kids are probably more forgiving, I don’t want to be a mom that is forever promising things and not delivering on them. Our family gets busy, so I try not to put a date on anything that I may not be able to deliver then. And, when things come up unexpectedly, I make sure to apologize even if no one’s really sorry. This weekend, I was supposed to help Emma work on sewing skirts for an hour. They played outside and then we went for a walk as a family. She had forgotten all about it, but I still wanted her to know that I remembered that she had wanted to sew together, so I apologized before she went to bed that we hadn’t been able to get to it. In addition to unkept promises, I don’t want to be the mom who is forever stressed because she is not measuring up to the list of “shoulds” in my head. I cannot enjoy my kids and they cannot enjoy me if I am always thinking about all the things that I “should” be doing or “should” already have done. When I put those kind of restraints on myself, I invariably end up upset at my children because if they had done everything perfectly then, of course, I would have done everything perfectly, and everything would be perfect. Except I don’t have that guarantee because even if my children were perfect, that wouldn’t make me perfect or the circumstances around us perfect, and who says perfect is all that great anyway? :) Maybe some of us were meant to have a few adventures in our lives.

How do you need to change your priorities and commitments to come in line with your vision? Building your brand, leaving your legacy, this stuff takes TIME. I can’t bake cookies once and expect to be remembered as the mom who always had warm cookies and warm hugs waiting when my kids came home from school. I have to invest my time and my energy into making this happen. I am the CEO of Mom, Inc. I’m the worker who needs to make this happen. I’m the one who needs to do the reorganization to meet my goals. If I want to build those relationships, I may have to give up some of my “me” time. If I want to teach my children to the best of my abilities, my house will not always be clean. If I want to give the fruit of my labors to my family (and have them like it), I need to create things that they will enjoy which means I need to know them and listen to them. Good thing building relationships is on my priority list. You will have to sacrifice something to create your vision. It will be worth it.

So, I’m pretty sure my mom logo would involve people talking and eating cookies. What would your logo look like?

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Burgundy or Not Burgundy, that is the question.

Spoiler Alert: Besides this sentence, this post has nothing to do with Anchorman.

I have a small collection of polo shirts.  Well, not “real” polo shirts with the guy on the horse or an little alligator or anything, but you get the idea. My polo shirts can be divided into two categories:

Burgundy and not burgundy.

How many burgundy polo shirts do I have? One. How many “not burgundy” polo shirts do I have? 4. According to Amie, they are blue, navy, blue-green, and green. For me, they all blend in together into their own category. I have no idea if I should call it blue/green, bleenish grue, gruish bleen, or what. Actually, I do have an idea what to call them: Not Burgundy.

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Is the burgundy polo my favorite shirt? No. But for some reason, when I decide to wear a polo, my decision tree starts with “Burgundy or Not Burgundy”. And due to the abundance of “Not Burgundy” shirts, I usually head down that path. I have no idea why I just don’t think “What color?”, but my mind simply jumps to the question of burgundy. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Do you have any weird thought processes when making decisions?

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Pizza Hut’s Mobile Site is Awful

Amie went to a crafting night, so the girls and I decided to pick up Pizza Hut for dinner. I’m documenting the experience to educate people on UX process.  UI is how stuff looks.  UX is the broader experience.  For example, even if stuff looks like, if you have to click something 5 times, that sucks for the user.

OK, so first thing I do is search for Pizza Hut on my phone and call the number.  I get to an automated system where I have to press “1″ for English. And then another question comes if I want to place a new order (Press 1) or update an existing order (Press 2). I’m assuming that in either case I get transferred to someone.  Unless the “Update Order” throws me to a separate “Order Update” team or some completely automated system, don’t ask a question if you’re not going to do anything with the answer.

The guy asks for my phone number. Because apparently your phone service doesn’t include Caller-ID. You may want to invest in that.

So the guy on the phone asks me which location I want to order from. You know what location I want to order from? The one I called. I don’t care if you have some central ordering system, I’ve indicated my preference via the number I called. You’re asking me a question you should already know the answer to…..like Caller-ID.

So I tell the guy, “The location on 52″.  Now, if you’re local, this is obvious. “Oh! Highway 52″, the guy responds. Yes. But you know what’s bad about this? There’s many ways to refer to this Pizza Hut.  I could say, “The one on 19th Street”.  But guess what? It’s not on 19th St. But it’s close enough and that’s the exit you’d take to get there, it would make sense to the locals.  Or if I referred to it as “The one next to McDonald’s.”  Would your agent be able to handle this?

So I’m told this location is under going remodeling and I’d have to order from somewhere else. So I get a location and the guy checks to see if it’s opened.  It’s 5 PM on a Saturday, I hope the location is opened.

So he asks what I want to order and I say, “Did you have a Stuffed Crust for $10?”  He says that it’s $12. I mentioned I thought I saw it online for $10. He says, “Yeah, it’s online for $10, but if you order on the phone, it’s $12.” So I hang up on the guy. Onto the mobile site!

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So I’m on the mobile site and get the “Medium or Large Pizza for $10″ special. It’ll be a large pizza and have 3 toppings, so I’m expecting it should be $10.

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I select “Stuffed Crust Pizza”.  There’s no indication there’s an additional cost here, so I figure I’m good.

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Next, I get to the “Cheese” section.  Now I’ve selected two toppings and I have three.  I know most places count “Extra Cheese” as an extra topping. So I should be good.  Now, there’s an indication here that Extra Cheese may have additional charges. That means there’s some condition where they won’t apply.  I’d assume that condition is when I have extra cheese as one of my toppings. NOPE! It seems like it ALWAYS applies. So Pizza Hut’s definition of “any” means “some” and it’s definition of “may” means “always”. Maybe extra cheese is free depending on the phase of the moon.

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So we place the order and we’re at the review screen. Is this pizza large or medium? The review screen, where I’m suppose to be able to review my order for accuracy, doesn’t give me the information to do so.

So when I get the order, and it’s a medium.  Experimenting with the site later, there’s some scenarios where it’ll change that Large to Medium when editing the pizza (which is frequently due to the misuse of “any” and “may”). Now Pizza Hut, maybe there’s a lot of people out there that go, “You know what, I don’t want leftovers. I’m on the road, have no fridge, and would feel awful if I just left the leftovers on the table.” Everyone else is going to choose “Large”. I’m guessing those that get “Medium” usually do it by accident. If they’re like me, it’s going to leave a sense of frustration with you. The money you save by having someone accidentally select “Medium” is probably greatly countered by the fact they’re less likely to order from you again.

There’s actually even more bad UX examples I found during the ordering process, but I’m not going to point them all out because this post is already long enough.

So there you go folks, that’s some UX feedback for Pizza Hut.  What other bad UX have you experienced?

Posted in Technology | 9 Comments

Taco Bell Breakfast

No Disclaimer: This post is by us, we paid for the food. Taco Bell didn’t sponsor anything.

Taco Bell has a new breakfast menu.  For the sake of blog research, we decided to give it a try.  So this morning, I ran to Taco Bell and we picked up the following:

  • Sausage and Egg Burrito ($1.89)
  • Sausage Waffle Taco – no cheese ($1.99)
  • A.M. Crunchwrap – Sausage – no cheese ($2.59)
  • Cinnabon Delights – 12 pack ($4.49)
  • A.M. Grilled Tco – Bacon ($1.00)
  • 3 Hashbrowns ($1.00 x 3)

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The total was $16.06. Here’s our evaluations of things:

Waffle Taco – I enjoyed it. The waffle was a little bit greasy, but it tasted very buttery. Amie thought the waffle was spongy and too greasy. Hannah gives the Waffle Taco a “Just Fine”. Emma says it’s pretty good and she would eat it again. This probably isn’t a car-friendly food.

Sausage and Eggo Burrito – This was Amie’s “main dish”. I tried a bit and it was good.  One thing I noticed is that when I picked it up, it was nice and solid.  It wasn’t a wimpy burrito. It’s better than breakfast burritos I’ve had from other places. It was not spicy which is a bonus if you’re feeding little kids or people from Minnesota.

A.M. Grilled Taco – They accidentally gave Hannah a Bacon A.M. Crunchwrap instead.  This item is only $1, so it might be a great budget item.  No idea what it’s like, but it seems like a good amount of food for younger kids.

A.M. Crunchwrap – This was good.  The price of it was about the same as a McDonald’s Sausage and Egg Biscuit.  I ordered mine without cheese because I don’t like cheese on breakfast food.  I was caught-off guard by some sort of spicy sauce they had on this.  At the end, the spice was too much for me and I had to wipe off the excess. It was extremely filling, more so than a McDonald’s breakfast biscuit.

Cinnabon Delights – Emma said these were really good and she liked the frosting on the inside. Hannah thought they were really good, but they were hard to eat because all the frosting would fly out at you.  I thought they were good. I would definitely have them again.  At $4.49, they were the most expensive item on the menu, but there were 12 of them.  The other choices were 2 and 4.  I feel like 6 would be a good option for this.

Hashbrowns – Everyone enjoyed the hashbrowns. At $1, they’re the same price as McDonald’s, but I think they’re bigger. Amie thought that they could use more salt.

Overall, it was a good breakfast.  The cost for this meal was a bit high, because we  probably wouldn’t have gotten 5 main dishes or two of them would have been $1 tacos and/or the Cinnabon could’ve been split between two people.  Everyone was full.

We did a poll: If you had to choose between breakfast at Taco Bell and McDonald’s, what would you choose? The results were 4-0 in favor of Taco Bell.

Posted in Fun | 10 Comments

Just do that and you should be done

Amie and I were talking about Wes Molebash. Wes draws cartoons.  In fact, Wes is the guy that made this:

BLOGGING-ALL-STAR-CHALLENGE-2013Wes has recently decided to shift from making a web comic to making a children’s book. He’s documenting the process and had one post where he drew the same character over and over again. Amie commented that she never thought about if you were making a book, that being able to draw the character consistently from all the various angles would be necessary.

When people don’t understand about how something is made, they have a tendency to oversimplify it to basic components.  And for some reason, mobile apps seem to have it really bad.  Here’s why:

Usually when someone comes up with the idea for an app, they can state it in one or two sentences. But those sentences usually infer stuff that, unlike literature or a song, they must be done.  If they say “download from the Internet”, that means something has to serve up the data.  If it’s not something that already exists, then it requires that the server part be written.

And then there’s all the stuff that has to occur when stuff doesn’t work. On occasion, I’ve whipped up some applications over the weekend as a proof of concept. What I do with these is I’m usually the one demoing them, and I show how the app functions when it behaves properly. For the purposes of the demo, some things are faked.  Other things I know won’t work, so I avoid doing them.  But there’s so much to consider on the error path for a real application. What happens if I can’t send something? Should I try to do it automatically later? Or will doing it automatically later not make sense?  What if it’s optional to do it later?  Then I need to provide an interface so that the user can choose to do it later or forget about it.

And interface design is tricky. In PTO Tracker, people email me often for things that are specific to their company’s policies.  I never knew how vast PTO policies could be.  But with these requests, I need to find a balance somewhere.  Can I make the app handle everything? Yes, but that leads to a complex setup where 100% of the users have to answer a ton of questions just so that it functions perfectly for 0.1% of users. The balance here is to forget that 0.1% so that it’s better for the 99.9%.  Of course, I don’t always take the easy path. It depends on the impact for that 0.1% user. Is it something that won’t occur often anyways? Or if it does, is it just annoying? And if you’ve ever had to do 10 clicks to do something, you know how an overly complex design can be awful.

Do you do something that seems to always get oversimplified?

Posted in Apps | 3 Comments

Maybe we need to work on hospitality

Micah has a Little People house left over from the girls. He likes to push all the buttons on the house and make the baby bed say “mama”, the phone ring, and the toilet flush. The girls and I will put the Little People throughout the house, in the bed, in the bathtub, on the roof. Micah likes to play a game where he opens the front door and throws the Little People out of the house. He will keep doing this as long as you will put them in the house. The game never gets old really.

Have you ever thrown anyone out of your house?

Posted in Family Updates | 4 Comments

Why buying babies toys is superfluous

The other day, I was contemplating, once again, turning our piano bench into a storage bench, so I had turned the bench upside down and was inspecting it. Micah climbed into the bench seat, and I whooshed him around the living room a bit.

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He liked this, and then decided to use the bench as a walker.

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Then, the girls turned it into a carriage for them.

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This is pretty typical for us. Micah likes to play with

  • flashlights
  • coasters
  • mugs
  • nose suckers
  • paper
  • tissues
  • water bottles
  • toothbrushes and tissue boxes
  • plastic hangers
  • broom and dust pan
  • handheld vacuum
  • rubbermaid tubs and lids
  • slippers
  • socks
  • bookmarks
  • boxes
  • large pots and pans
  • spoons
  • filing cabinet

The girls were the same. While they did play with their toys, not toys were just as exciting.

What not toy did your kids love?

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The awful black stapler

This was Hannah’s suggested title. She cannot even stand to look at the black stapler because of how it betrayed her.

I was enjoying a shower, alone while the girls got ready. Suddenly the door burst open with much yelling and shouting and crying. Hannah had a staple in her finger. I removed the staple, finished my shower, disinfected and bandaged the wound. Then, I got the back story.

It seems that the stapler was malfunctioning that day. It’s a little standard stapler, and Hannah was trying to put a staple through about 12-16 pieces of paper and two pieces of card stock. She was making a book. Since the stapler wasn’t working, she decided to investigate. Low and behold, once she removed the burdensome paper load, the stapler magically started working again going through a few layers of finger skin like they were butter.

Thankfully, the staple-ectomy was successful and the wound does not appear to be fatal. By evening, it did not even need it’s bandage.

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FROM BRYAN: I figure now might be a good time to share my stapler story. I was working at Little Caesar’s.  People would frequently pay right away, and then go shop in Kmart for 10-15 minutes while their pizza was cooking.  So we’d staple the receipt to their yellow receipt, because that’s the kind of security protocols we had. Security theater if you ask me. Just between you and me, lean against that bar in the front, and when we ask “Dave?”, just say “Yup” and act like you know what you’re doing. Anyways. A customer was taking a long time, so I was fiddling with what I could.  Holding the stapler to make the important security attachment…..and stapled my finger.  There’s a lot of nerves in your fingertip. But this, along with the dentist story, leads me to believe I have a huge pain tolerance threshold. I didn’t say anything, just thought to myself, “Congratulations, you stapled your finger, you idiot.”

Have you ever needed a staple-ectomy?

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