2015: projekt202’s Year in Review

It was another big year for projekt202 and our ongoing mission to deliver better experiences for people everywhere. As the leader in experience-driven application design and development, projekt202 unveiled our latest innovative resource -- the new Usability Testing Lab in Dallas (pictured below) -- in 2015, while also reporting outstanding growth, with a 66-percent revenue increase and 162-percent increase in profits.

In 2015, the projekt202 team was honored to be named one of the Best Places to Work (Dallas Business Journal), a Top Place to Work (Dallas Morning News) and one of the top software development firms (Austin Business Journal). Also, for the fourth year in a row, projekt202 was named to the Dallas 100 list of fastest-growing private companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth region.

projekt202's professionals were in high demand for speaking engagements and presentations. Our experts shared their insights at forums such as the Big Design Conference, DX Summit, Front Porch Conference, Gartner ITxpo, Dallas Startup Week and CEDIM, among many others.

We covered the media landscape in areas such as TV (with Jeremy Johnson and Chelsea Maxwell participating as judges on the new “Expose UX” show), radio (CEO David Lancashire’s interview on the “PlayMakers” business program) and print (including Co-Founder and CXO Peter Eckert's column on user-centric mobile strategies in "Mobile Commerce Daily" and Kelly Moran’s “Methods and Tools” article on an ethnographic approach to software).

At projekt202, we love what we do and we have fun doing it. Enjoy this look back at 2015 and join us in looking ahead to a successful New Year.

Getting to Know Thyself with Better Fitness Apps

By Kijana Torres

What if you could know – really know – how getting only five hours of sleep a night affected your productivity at work? Or, if you could get an affirmation that yes, “this is why you’re fat”? Today, there are numerous gadgets, apps, and services available to the average consumer for collecting everything from vital signs to how many calories were in that Starbucks latte. Personal tracking has grown tremendously popular in recent years and companies such as FitBit, Jawbone, and Nike have made great advances in increasing awareness and making sense of everyday activities. The most effective systems would have to hit the sweet spot – the overlap of data gathered and experience offered in order to give users the best picture of their overall health.

At projekt202, several of us track our sleep and steps with FitBits or apps such as RunKeeper, our meals with LoseIt or MyFitnessPal, and log our workouts through a myriad of apps. Some of us also rely on Facebook groups to share workout progress, recipes, and encouragement. Recently, some of us at projekt202 labs asked ourselves, “What if there was a system that ‘knew’ us and could help us be better?” We could see two initial problems. First, despite the fact that there are so many devices and apps, no one system has successfully pulled all the data together in a way that tells a compelling and motivating story. For example, as I log my sleep hours with a FitBit, I rely on my Polar heart rate monitor for an accurate snapshot of a morning workout. I can’t easily overlay these two data streams and see trends or patterns that might help me adjust my lifestyle in order to reach my goals. Second, in order for any system to tell a good ‘story’ that would have an impact, accurate detailed input is required. Data entry is so painful and tedious in current devices and apps that keeping up consistent records are demotivating. While most modern meal tracking applications allow users to select from a large (and growing) database of foods, entering a meal can be frustrating if the exact food isn’t in the database. The ability to scan barcodes of packaged foods is a brilliant feature, but (hopefully) we don’t only eat packaged foods. In my own experience, I often found myself guessing and making up food data when the correct choices were not present. LoseIt’s analysis was only as good as the data I seeded it with and I knew it wasn’t accurate. After a while, I finally gave up in disgust because the app was telling me one thing but my reflection was showing me something else.

As we often see when another floodgate of information is opened (in this case, health information that was previously only accessible in the domain of a hospital or doctor’s office), it’s not long before the user is drowning in data. After pooling our collective experiences and looking for evidence of a possible savior, we realized we weren’t the only ones intrigued by this problem. Far from it. The Quantified Self movement (formalized in 2011) seeks to gather data from daily life (food, activity, mood, etc.) via technology. Nicholas Felton has been charting his stats in Personal Annual Reports and has made Daytum available so that others can visualize their own data. As projekt202 labs, we decided to tackle a bit of this quandary ourselves. Perfectly accurate data entry is one of the holy grails, but we see an opportunity dig deep creatively and invent a system to deliver simple, elegant, fun, and useful data visualization and storytelling. To that end, we’re going to devote some of our cycles to bringing out what our brains already know but aren’t telling us and displaying this in an easy to understand way. The great part is that as a projekt202 labs project, we are starting from scratch and asking ourselves, “What do we want this to be?” The sky is the limit and we’re set to imagine and create something that is both useful and amazing.

Read more:

projekt202 Labs: Die Tur

By Mark Power-Freeman

We’ve assembled quite the collection of powerful minds here at projekt202, and, as the air finally starts to cool down in Texas, we’ve tapped into that power to launch an in-house innovation generator called projekt202 Labs. The projekt202 Labs initiative aims to give everyone at the company — not just the user experience design crew — a creative outlet to propose solutions to user experience problems without the constraint of platforms, code, materials, or devices. Two words sum it up best: What if…?

Although we have only the sky as a theoretical limit on the output of projekt202 Labs, we brought along our proven user-centered design research process for our first endeavor. You must start with what you know to go beyond what you know. So after gathering some generative research from the putative user base, we ideated, sketched, wireframed, applied visual design, and then presented to our target audience. For our first Labs project we decided to investigate whether there was a better way to manage conference rooms. In a nod to the origin of our company’s name, our answer to this particular What if is: Die Tür.

Before going into details about Die Tür, let’s rewind a few ticks of the clock. Like the Brady Bunch (or Voltron or The Avengers – take your pick, based on your preferred cultural milieu), we had to come together as a unit first and decide on a mission objective.

We see a lot of bumper stickers here in ATX exhorting us to keep things local. We took that to heart and thought about both our office and the general urban area when brainstorming world-changing ideas. Among the considered topics:

  • Traffic help – alternate routes to get around heavy traffic; solutions to company parking lot woes
  • Homelessness – providing/communicating services to the homeless; community partnership to end homelessness
  • Encouraging personal responsibility - Dirty dishes in the sink; stinky fridge syndrome
  • Improving plant health – Right time to water, fertilize, trim, etc.
  • Grocery – “Best-path” for grocery shopping (multiple stores, specialty items, etc.)
  • Street parking – finding parking spots; better ways to pay
  • Noisy neighbors
  • “The Gauntlet” – dangerous crosswalk in front of the Austin p202 building

Any of those would have made for a fun and exciting design challenge. But as the crew bandied ideas and proposals about, we noticed that the issue of room reservation and management seemed to elicit the strongest responses. We put it to a vote, and the room management issue won with a significant plurality.

We could have moved immediately into ideation from this selection. This was, after all, one of those rare situations where we could both design a solution and benefit from the solution as users. One of the strengths of the lab initiative, however, is that we drew members from across practices, and with Design Researchers on board, we thought it would be cool to use a simple survey to get some good old-fashioned user input from people who weren’t directly involved in the project. We also “observed” some of our office mates selecting and reserving rooms.

The survey results and direct observations both confirmed what we’d believed: nobody was happy with the way rooms are managed, labeled, and reserved…in any of our p202 office locations! Common responses included: not knowing which rooms were which, not knowing who had a room or for how long without having to go back to one’s desk to look it up in Outlook, and not having any idea about the suitability of the various conference rooms for the needs of a meeting.

We took these responses into account when we moved to the next phase: brainstorming solutions.

Which begat a presentation to our “clients” – in this case, the rest of the office. But we didn’t just want to put together the all-too-typical deck for this presentation. Since once of the directives of projekt202 Labs is “Have Fun”, we put together a film to showcase both the process and the solution, and we think it’s ready for Cannes and Sundance:

So far, the most common response to the video is “Can we have this right now?!” We researched the materials needed to bring something like this to life, and…who knows? Maybe the next effort from the Labs crew will be to build this and market it.

In any event, we enjoyed having this opportunity to stretch our minds a bit, and we’re confident this is only the first of many exciting and envelope-pushing ideas that the Labs initiative will produce.