You’re just going to have to take our word that we’re working on cool stuff around here. After working at XOXCO for a little over a year, I’ve realized we can legally talk about only about 20% of what we’re working on at any given time. Such is the nature of working on R&D projects for big organizations, I guess.
Details of the “Grande Burrito” project have admittedly been vague on this blog. It’s essentially just a [redacted] project for [redacted]. We’re excited that things are moving forward, but [redacted] and [redacted]. Regardless, the work continues, and we press on.
We’re also excited to announce that our project for [redacted] has launched and is now [redacted]. The team at [redacted] is one of the most forward-thinking groups we work with, so this project was a pleasure for us. We have since started on a new, similar project for [redacted]. Damien and Michael are hard at work building Autobot next, which will include Deploybot and Repobot.
This week, we started working a new project with Dark Rye that we will be excited to unveil soon. In the meantime, you should check out the Art issue this is now available in the App Store. You can download it here for free.
Cult of Mac has been using Packagr to send “Weekender” emails using MailChimp. Their newsletter is a weekly edition of their most popular articles. This is a use-case we imagined at the beginning of Packagr’s development. Check out their Weekender email here.
Progress with Packagr moves along, albeit slower than we would like. Our efforts are mostly focused around tightening our marketing efforts for our Confab HigherEd sponsorship. It’s pretty cool having Bushra working on it though. She’s made a 1:1 scale model of our table and banners in Cinema 4D so we can picture everything together. Very neat!
Interested in a glimpse into the future of content management technology? If you have a second, vote for Ben’s SXSW presentation, titled “Leave Your CMS Alone!”, to be included in the conference. You can check it out over at the SXSW PanelPicker.
XOXCO’s Bushra and Michael will be at next month’s Refresh Austin on September 9th. Bushra will be giving a presentation on Sketch, and Michael will be on a panel discussing the state of front-end development. RSVP for this (free!) event here: http://www.meetup.com/Austin-Web-Design/
Things We Read Last Week:
Major Security Vulnerability in Wordpress, Drupal via Mashable.
Email Is Still the Best Thing on the Internet via The Atlantic.
How to Be Polite by Paul Ford via Medium.
Kerouac’s Belief & Technique for Modern Prose via UPenn Writing.
Today marks a big milestone: the Grande Burrito project is officially finished! However, we’ll still be working on it part-time in the next few weeks. We’re also starting two new projects in August.
In the meantime, we’ll be taking the next couple of weeks to do some internal team review and see what we can learn from the last 16 (busy) weeks.
Bushra has been working on infographs and videos to demonstrate the new Packagr editor. She made this intro to the videos in AfterEffects!
Ben started work on a really important app. MORE DETAILS TO COME SOON. But here is a preview:
Vox Media put out a summary of the first SRCCON (“a conference for developers, interactive designers, and other people who love to code in and near newsrooms”). One of their big discussions centered around making long-form storytelling scalable. They tackled a lot of the questions we’ve been thinking about while working on Packagr:
How can we help users create a storytelling experience for their audience?
How do we create templates that emphasize but don’t diminish the actual content?
How do we create templates that are reusable but still unique to each publication?
I think we’ve done a pretty good job in finding solutions to those questions and see a lot of potential for Packagr to contribute to the storytelling space.
Find out how the spinning beach ball of death was made in The Origins of Common UI Symbols.
We celebrated a very specific anniversary this week:
A lot of the team has been traveling (or having a baby!!!) over the past couple of weeks but almost everyone is back now. We’ve been pushing like crazy on “El Grande Burrito” and we’re now THREE WEEKS out from finishing the project.
We welcomed our newest team member, Paulette, this week. She’s going to be project managing, kicking ass, and keeping everyone on track.
Eric was a writing machine this week. He wrote a great article on the differences between a product and project manager. He spoke at Refresh Austin on the same topic, and submitted a panel idea for SXSW 2015. (There are only two weeks left to submit ideas!) And in between all of that, he’s been transitioning our clients over to the newest version of Packagr.
AngularJS wowed the team again this week with its form validation tools. Like many other things that Angular just does for us, its form validation tools are built-in and active by default, and provide most of the functionality we need. So by using Angular, we get sensible, useful form validation that not only works but provides a clear path to future functionality that’ll be coming to browsers in the near future.
If you didn’t see Eric’s post earlier this week on the team building a pixel derby taco truck, you should see the pictures!
For Packagr enthusiasts, check out this article on using the Craft CMS Matrix to design custom fields for longform content.
It all started with an email. SiteGoals contacted us out of the blue asking if we would like to participate in a friendly pinewood derby race with other local creatives. There was no way we could refuse!
When thinking about what our car would look like, we naturally gravitated toward food. (We’re the type of people that hack lunch and build coffee-locating software, after all.) It only took about two seconds to determine what we should build.
This is our favorite taco truck, El Primo. It sits right outside our favorite coffee shop on S. 1st Street and has some of the most delicious tortas in the city. We can see it from our office windows.
With most of the team grinding away on “The Grande Burrito” client project, Bushra and Eric took point on getting the truck constructed and painted before the races.
I know what you’re thinking. We build software for a living, okay?
After a final construction and paint party, we secured everything best we could and left it to dry overnight. In the morning, we were pleased to find that our efforts stopped the walls from warping.
On race day, we took the car to El Primo to show the guys and order some tortas. They were extremely pleased with it, and made us the largest al pastor tortas we’ve ever seen.
Finally we arrived at SiteGoals to check-in to the races. As much as we had tried, we had little hope that our entry would pass the inspection. The variety of the cars was impressive. Teams from T3, SXSW, Rackspace, R/GA, YETI Coolers and many more were represented here.
We could have removed the protruding A/C unit and open doors/windows to qualify, but ultimately agreed that we couldn’t compromise the integrity of the design. We were disqualified from prizes, but still allowed to participate in the races.
Finally, it was our time to race and put our design to the real test.
As you could imagine, we didn’t get first place. To our surprise, the car didn’t explode crossing the finish line. We count it as a victory, nonetheless. The real trophy, after all, is having a miniature version of your favorite taco truck to look at in your office.
Many thanks to Sweet John Muehlbauer, Jenny Magic, and everyone at SiteGoals for putting on this great event and thinking to invite us. We had a great time participating in the inaugural Pixelwood Derby!
Ben spent ten hours in meetings this week with our client working on “The Grande Burrito” project. As we’re nearing the big launch, we’re seeing that the work for this final push to get it launched is just as difficult as all of the work leading up to it.
Other big news: the upcoming version of Packagr will allow you to “browser wank” your project all you want! Previously, we’ve been focused on the actual device previews so you could see what your project would look like on an iPad, a laptop, a phone, etc. Ben created an option that makes the content preview more like a traditional word processor so you can resize your window to whatever size you want.
Bushra has been fine-tuning the new Packagr UI and she and Eric have been working on theme creation. They’ve looked at real-world examples of publications we like and found what makes those styles readable and aesthetically pleasing. One that we all agree is great is the Harvard Law Review. Their aesthetic is beautiful and clean, and clearly meant for reading.
Eric met with Joel Goodman from Bravery Media to talk higher ed. Joel has been working in the higher ed tech space for several years and shared his insight of the industry. We see some great applications for Packagr in the higher ed space and are preparing to demo Packagr at some conferences later this year.
Lots of stuff to share this week!
The Great Discontent has a new look that we’re big fans of: http://thegreatdiscontent.com/
The NYTimes shared some tidbits about their CMS tool, SCOOP.
And finally, a couple of #longreads that are totally worth diving into. A beautiful article on how designing for the ideal solution worked at Bell Labs in the 1950s and an epic post on the new “coding literacy” can be found here.
This week has been insanely busy here at the XOXCO office!
On that note, we’re at the tail end of a development sprint with the latest version of Packagr! I got to play around with the updated UI and the new editor, and it’s so simple to use. Bushra has been working on establishing that UI by problem solving in some really interesting ways. For example, she asked herself this week if she could walk someone through using Packagr by verbal instructions alone. She also played around using iconography vs. text for visual cues and testing which works better.
Eric also got to play around with the new UI and editor, and used it to validate our approach by re-creating some Vice articles. Using Packagr’s RSS feed importing feature, and matching the styling through CSS, he was able to recreate the existing look and feel in our more flexible format.
The team’s other big effort this week has been on a “the Grande Burrito,” a big, ongoing client project.
With a dozen pages, each with multiple screen sizes, there are now hundreds of comps to show. Bushra has developed a good organizational system using Sketch and InVision to present at design reviews, and leave behind with the client.
The client wants a way to make their web experience tell a story that their customer relates to, so Bushra has been thinking about that strategy as well. That narrative can really determine a customer’s perception of a business, the quality of their experience, and whether or not they buy.
"You can only use so many pictures to tell the story," said Bushra "I’ve been trying to use the other tools I have to make the voice of the company personable on the web."
Our friend Dave Rupert was kind enough to give a Packagr shout out on the latest episode of his Shoptalk Podcast. Thanks, Dave! Be sure to check out next week’s episode, which features our good friend Sam Kapila.
There’s also a really great design prep class that Bushra’s sister, Sidra Mahmood, put together. The resources in it are excellent: http://bitmakerlabs.com/design/prepwork/
XOXCO’s Eric Soelzer will be demoing a new version of Packagr at TechBreakfast on Thursday, April 10. The meetup is held at Capital Factory starting at 8:00am. Only a few spots are left, so RSVP fast.
We are also hosting the first Austin Digital Publishing Meetup at our office tomorrow evening starting at 7:00pm. Come meet local bloggers, content strategists and designers who are interested in the future of digital publishing. Everyone is welcome. Come have a drink and let’s talk!
More details and RSVP here: meetup.com/publishnow
The popular design and marketing site PSFK has posted an article with a large section about Packagr, our multi-format publishing tool.
One can easily say that Packagr enables a publisher’s editorial vision to more easily live in new realms, giving it a longer shelf life and enabling publishers to use curation as a tool to create new products out of their current material.
Read the full article, "How 3 Companies Are Changing Content Marketing Through Data" by Macala Wright.