For sale: baby shoes, never worn

Unraveling the dismal science of my Facebook moms resale group recently discovered one easy trick to make money from home! Well, “easy” is relative and “make money” is also kind of debatable, but I definitely have not left my house.I’ve been in decluttering mode for the last couple weeks and have become super active with my local moms resale group on Facebook. For those of you not deep into Suburban Mom World, these are private groups of parents (almost entirely moms) who are buying and selling things—mostly kids’ stuff, but also adult clothing and kitchenwares and furniture. Laura Hazard Owen has an superb write-up of how these groups work. She’s in the Boston area and I’m just outside Chicago, but the mechanics are the same: Members put up a photo, price and description of the item they’re selling and interested buyers comment on the post to claim their place in line. Pick-ups are typically done via porch—that is, sellers leave their goods outside and buyers swing by to get them at their convenience, sticking cash in a mailbox or under a doormat. It is a remarkably efficient system and very addictive. I once almost commented “Sold!” on a friend’s photo of green tea Kit Kats before realizing it was a regular post in my News Feed.The overachiever in me wanted to become the mogul of my Facebook resale group, and the business journalist in me wanted to figure out which items sell and why. Sitting in my basement among plastic storage bins filled with my daughter’s outgrown clothing and baby gear, and perhaps inspired by Jason Fried’s advice that you should practice making money, I set out on my little sales experiment. Here’s what I learned.Items awaiting pick-up on my porch.Copywriting Doesn’t MatterI was led astray by early success in offloading my DVD of Pride & Prejudice for $3. Here’s what I wrote:It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of even a tiny fortune must be in want of this movie. Show how ardently you admire and love Colin Firth emerging from a lake wearing a clingy white shirt! This is a two-disc set. I just upgraded to Blu-ray so I don’t need the DVD anymore.Not only did I have a taker within the hour with three more buyers commenting “Next,” but I also got 16 Likes and inspired a mini discussion about how much everyone loves the movie. You are surely made of hardier stuff than I am, but I was powerless to resist such social media affirmation.I knew I couldn’t match the wit of my favorite salesmom, a woman who’s elevated the For Sale post to a kind of performance art (here’s one: “Crushed purple blazer. Small tear in armpit which can be easily fixed, unless your armpit is a size 8. I shoplifted this from Saks 12 years ago. It’s beautiful and I’m probably going to hell.”) But I was convinced I’d have to pen Jane Austen-level copy every time. So for a Little Mermaid hooded swim cover-up in 2T, I wrote, “Thingamabobs? You’ve got plenty. But do you have this adorable Little Mermaid cover-up?” I listed it for $2 and no one bought it. Meanwhile, other items whose posts were written in the sparsest language (3T shirt, VGUC, lots of life left, sf/pf PPU*, $3) sold just fine. I stopped being cute and just started listing the basic information. Of course, there are lots of sales scenarios where copywriting matters a great deal, but my weird bubble of a Facebook group did not appear to be one of them. I moved onto price.(*very good used condition, smoke free/pet free, porch pick up)Pretty Much Everything Costs Five DollarsThe Boppy is a U-shaped pillow designed for nursing. Mine was in good used condition and I also had two covers, one with a small tear in the seam. The pillow retails for around $30 new. One day, I saw a mom selling her Boppy and cover for $3. It was claimed almost immediately and then another woman commented “Next,” so I messaged that person and asked if she’d like to buy my Boppy and two covers. She asked how much I wanted for it and I hesitated. Three dollars seemed low, especially because I had an extra cover. But one of my covers had a tear. I didn’t know how to justify charging more than the other mom, so I said $3. She picked it up that afternoon.The next day, a mom listed a Boppy and cover in the same condition for $2. Later that day, another mom listed her Boppy for free. Free! The local market for used Boppy nursing pillows had somehow collapsed entirely within two days.I have no idea whether those second-day Boppy sellers even saw the earlier sale posts, let alone based their pricing on them. But I noticed that in my resale group, pretty much everything converges toward the $5 mark, regardless of original retail value. As Laura Hazard Owen notes in her essay, price and size tend to have an inverse relationship, resulting in a market where “you can sell a Jumperoo for maybe $5; you can sell two used pairs of Hanna Andersson baby socks for $5.” This is absolutely the case in my Facebook group. Even in cases where you can price items higher, the economics are hilariously skewed. I sold my daughter’s old crib and mattress for $30, a price so low that I’m not sure my husband feels fairly compensated for the time he spent looking for the hardware and instructions, not finding the manual either in the house or online, and then printing instructions off the Internet for a different crib model from the same manufacturer and carefully annotating them. I, on the other hand, felt fantastic about getting the crib and mattress out of the basement. And that brings me to the last thing I learned.It’s Not About MoneyIn this mini economy, the value of a transaction is measured in something other than money. It’s about community! Oh barf, I know. But it’s true. As the seller, I accept a price below fair resale value for my daughter’s gently used dresses and bibs because it is a luxury to be able to private message my address to someone I’ve never met and trust that the money will simply appear under my doormat, without anyone getting scammed. I don’t use Craigslist anymore, but if I did, I would probably ask to meet in a McDonald’s parking lot or the lobby of my local police station (which specifically makes its lobby available for Craigslist transactions). It just feels too big and scary. And despite Facebook’s badgering, I have no desire to try their Marketplace, where you can post your items more publicly to people in your geography. The thought of complete strangers being able to see my name and profile photo is terrifying, and besides, the moms in my resale group who’ve tried Marketplace say they get bombarded by people who want to haggle. (I still haven’t worked out why I feel okay with dozens of Lyft drivers seeing my address and photo.)On my resale group of 2,000-some people who live within a seven-mile radius, I feel safe. These are women that I know from my daughter’s preschool, my exercise studio, and the playground. Many of us are also members of two other Facebook groups of local moms that have become an indispensable source of hyperlocal news, recommendations for babysitters/handymen/birthday party venues, and general bonhomie. The resale group feels like an extension of that community.I thought that I was providing something of value to the moms buying my used stuff. It turns out I get way more out of these little transactions as a seller. My husband and I had always planned to have more than one child. We recently, reluctantly changed our plans for a number of reasons, one of them being that my uterus seemed to have very different ideas about what the size of our family should be. I’ve been using the resale group as a kind of reverse retail therapy, a literal letting go of the idea that I should be keeping the nursing pillow and crib for a second kid. There are days when this turn of events makes me so sad I don’t want to leave the house. But I don’t have to! I go down to the basement, find something cute in a storage bin, snap a photo and post it. If I’m lucky, someone will buy it. I private message her my address, put the thing in a plastic grocery bag labeled with her name and leave it on my porch swing. Then I retreat to my office and listen for the sound of the porch door squeaking open. I pretend I’m not home. After she slips a few bills under my doormat and leaves, the door banging shut behind her, I feel a little lighter. Like I said before, it’s not easy and I’m not making much money. But I’m gradually feeling better. Very good condition, lots of life left.To hear insights on making money from people who have been doing it for a long time, check out Basecamp’s podcast The Distance, featuring the stories of businesses that have been running for 25 years or more. New episodes every other Tuesday.For sale: baby shoes, never worn was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: 37signals

Web 3.0

Whatever happened to Web 3.0? What was it? Did it ever happen? I’ve seen multiple attempts at definitions. Things about artificial intelligence. The semantic web. Social networks.One thing I remember about Web 2.0 was that 37signals (the original company behind Basecamp) was labeled as a company who was very “Web 2.0”.I’m not sure that was true.Are those grapes? No, coffee beans. Coffee beans aren’t actually the chocolatey looking things we usually see until they are roasted. And even as recently as 1850, folks were buying those green beans and had to roast and grind them by hand at home.Along came William H. Bovee in 1850 who figured there had to be an opportunity here. He came up with an idea to roast the beans, grind them himself and sell the product in cans to consumers — making coffee much more convenient.He also hired a carpenter, named James, who took a lot of interest in the coffee business. James eventually became William’s partner and later bought the entire company for himself. Williams company, originally “Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills” was then renamed after James’ own last name: J.A. Folger & Co. What we now call just “Folgers”.William and James ushered in what many coffee historians refer to as the “First Wave” of coffee.The First Wave of coffee was mass production. Bringing convenience to consumers. Making sure everyone who wanted coffee could get it. Maybe not the best or freshest quality, but an easy source of caffeine nonetheless.Then came a Second Wave. It started with three friends from college, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegl and Gordon Bowker, who opened up a store to sell their own roasted beans and coffee. They scoffed at the idea of selling fancy lattes that were being sold in Italy. But one of their employees couldn’t resist the urge to transform the company to sell the fancier beverages. So that employee, Howard Schultz, bought their small chain called Starbucks and transformed it into the mega-success it is today.Starbucks is the exemplar of the Second Wave. The Second Wave was coffee becoming a first class citizen of retail. You went out to have coffee. It was no longer just something stuck onto breakfast or dessert. The customization options were infinite.The Third Wave of coffee is where we are today. Shops like Intelligentsia and Stumptown realized coffee still had another level of appreciation. Not about: “What country was this coffee from?” but: “Which farmer grew these beans?”Earth’s highest coffee farm at IntelligentsiaIntelligentsia connects the consumer to the minute details and people making your beverage.The Third Wave is about coffee becoming… artisanal.Once you see these waves with coffee, you start to see these waves everywhere. Beer is now in its third wave with all of the microbreweries. There are reality TV shows about bakery artisans. Everything at the grocery store seems to have gone from: laborious to convenient to mass produced to “locally farmed and sourced.”Was Web 1.0, 2.0 the same thing?Craigslist is the perfect example of Web 1.0. Here were “things that you used to have to do laboriously by placing ads in newspapers, or hanging up flyers in your neighborhood” now online. It looked (and still looks) terrible. Had plenty of issues and navigation problems. But quality didn’t matter. It was online and you’re never going back. It was ground beans in a can.A key component of Web 2.0 was usability. Convenience wasn’t enough anymore. Things had to work well and be easy to use. It was about the “end user’s experience.” Reminds me of a Starbucks cafe.37signals launched Basecamp back in 2004. Many lobbed them into experts at Web 2.0. Afterall, they spent so much time on design and making sure their products were dead simple to understand and use.But when Basecamp launched I found myself not just interested in the product, but the makers. They opened up their process, their philosophies, even their morning routines and which pens they used.You got to connect with them on a level that seemed unheard of for people making software. And it created an audience around them that loved to use and spread their products.I think 37signals/Basecamp wasn’t another example of Web 2.0, but like Intelligentsia, they ushered in a third wave. Jason, David, and the 37signals crew created artisanal software.What’s funny to me is that even though they were doing this since the early oughts (I just had to find a reason to use the word ought), I feel like few others have understood how powerful this was and utilized it for themselves.Today’s typical company blog is glorified “press releases” no one gives a shit about (features launched, new hires, self-congrats on raising money or business acquisitions). Or the blog is “content marketing”, where hired freelancers spin out countless articles with hopes Google will bless them.Now, don’t get me wrong: company news isn’t a bad thing, SEO and helpful articles on how to use your product isn’t a bad thing. But they pale in comparison to trying to connect as humans with the people who come across your work.And it’s been a huge inspiration in how I run things over here at Highrise. Newsletters I write share something about our life and kind. My welcome email to new customers mention our current weekend plans. And my vlog opens up our process in taking over and rejuvenating Highrise and the crazy life of raising a toddler balanced in. I’ve enjoyed the results: huge open/click rates to things I send, email replies about customers own lives, and support for all the decisions we have to make and figure out.So if you are in a spot where you’re building a business or trying to grow attention to what you’re doing, take a minute to consider… Are you still trying to mass produce something that’s already been mass produced? Or are you focusing on ‘user experience’ as your main goal, when no one else disagrees anymore that ‘user experience’ is important?Or is it time for you to try connecting? Is it time for the Third Wave?P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please help spread it by clicking that ❤ below. And if you are interested in more, you should follow my YouTube channel, where I share more about how history, psychology, and science can help us come up with better ideas and start businesses. And if you need a simple system to track leads and follow-ups you should give Highrise a look.Web 3.0 was originally published in Signal v. Noise on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: 37signals

Snapchat is the Donald Trump of UI Design

A few days ago, I enjoyed reading Carmel DeAmicis’ article on Medium, Did Snapchat succeed because of its controversial UI? If you haven’t read that article yet, you should stop now and give it a read, but the general argument is this: Snapchat breaks all the rules of conventional usability, yet it has been widely adopted in part because of this rather than in spite of it.
I was intrigued by the article's points about why this might be, but I want to add another perspective. As I read the article, there was a particular analogy that I couldn’t get out of my head: Snapchat is the Donald Trump of UI design.
Let me explain. Every once in a while, a truly disruptive event comes along that challenges things we thought we knew about the world. Within a few hours on Election Night 2016, the world realized in unison that rules of electoral politics that we thought mattered – polls, campaign infrastructure, party orthodoxy – actually didn't.
What Trump has done to our received wisdom about electability, Snapchat has done to designers’ convictions about the importance of usability in design. UX designers in particular regard intuitive design and usability testing as core threads of our intellectual lineage and professional identity. And yet here is Snapchat, a $28-billion marvel of unintuitive design.
It can be deeply troubling to see our pillars of conventional wisdom demolished. We wonder, how could we have been so wrong? What else have we missed? We also tend to overreact. If we could be so wrong about this, does anything really matter?

So what can the rise of Donald Trump teach designers about the perplexing success of Snapchat’s unconventional UI? Here are a few thoughts.
Don’t mistake luck for genius
As DeAmicis notes, it’s not clear whether Snapchat’s UI design is the product of visionary foresight or just an accident that worked. Josh Elman’s concept of “shareable design” as a successor to “intuitive design” is a compelling idea, but I'm doubtful that it was an operating philosophy in the early days of Snapchat (but I could be wrong!).
To their credit, Donald Trump's campaign developed a strategy that was ultimately successful, but the early months of the campaign were by all indications a sustained improvisation. Trump never expected to stay in the presidential race past October 2015, much less make it all the way to the White House. He listened to what made his crowds cheer, and then he said more of that stuff.
Both hit on a powerful idea at just the right time, but that doesn’t mean that anyone else will be able to replicate their successes by following the same playbook.
In both of these cases, ascribing some kind of genius vision to Snapchat and Trump ignores the role that happenstance played in both cases. Both hit on a powerful idea at just the right time, but that doesn’t mean that anyone else will be able to replicate their successes by following the same playbook. (After all, lots more bullies and weirdos lose elections than win them.) On the bright side, you don’t need to be a genius with a fancy concept to introduce your strange new idea into the world. Just put it in front of people, listen, and iterate.
Value is bigger than presentation
An intuitive digital interface is only one part of what makes a product valuable. A slick UI isn’t even necessary to make a product great: just look at Craigslist. By making its photos self-destruct after sending, Snapchat encouraged a new type of user behavior and then benefitted from the network effects of a growing user base. Then it released its amazing filters, and its value multiplied further.
During the election, Trump’s value was his message, which was basically “F**k you, Establishment.” This message was catnip to a plurality of the Republican base. Trump said things no other politician would say: build a wall, ban Muslims, lock her up, etc. Unburdened by the usual political constraints of feasibility and tact, Trump said exactly what his base was already thinking. After all, he watches the same TV shows.
Snapchat’s features and network and Donald Trump’s message are so valuable to their audience that matters of presentation are basically irrelevant by comparison.
The point is that Snapchat’s features and network and Donald Trump’s message are so valuable to their audience that matters of presentation are basically irrelevant by comparison. While it might be true that a certain amount of esotericism may be appealing to its youthful audience, Snapchat’s filters would be a killer feature no matter how easy or difficult they are to find in the app. As important as design can be to the success or failure of a product, Snapchat’s value comes from its function, not from its design.
Similarly, the power of Trump’s message allowed his supporters to overlook massively dissonant aspects of his persona. It’s why evangelical Christians supported a guy who bragged about sexual assault, and why Rust Belt workers voted for a billionaire playboy. In the general election, not being Hillary Clinton proved valuable enough to mainstream Republicans that they could overlook their grave doubts about his fitness to serve. When people find something valuable, they’ll do anything to get it.
Changing priorities, changing tactics
Being weird and unconventional is a good way to build a niche, but widespread adoption requires a more inclusive approach. What both Snapchat and Trump have been really, really good at is speaking the language of their target audiences. But now that Snap is a public company and Trump is commander in chief and leader of the GOP, their constituencies have changed, which means new tactics are needed.
For social, tech-savvy millennials, spending time fumbling through an app may be no big deal. For those users, the Snapchat UI’s hostility to older users is a feature, but the market will most likely judge that to be a bug. I would be surprised if we don’t see usability improvements start popping up in Snapchat almost immediately. Who knows, there may even be a menu bar by the end of the year.
Now that Snap is a public company and Trump is commander in chief and leader of the GOP, their constituencies have changed, which means new tactics are needed.
If you think that these types of changes would detract from what makes Snapchat special, you're going to be in for a lot more disappointment as it makes the inevitable Facebook-like shift to mainstream adoption. Hiding a few easter eggs in the UI is one thing, but no product seeking a large user base would dare to release something as unusable as Snapchat in its current form. Expect post-IPO Snapchat to be thoroughly focus grouped and user tested.
Similarly, the game has changed for Trump. As a presidential candidate, being loud and accusatory is a great way to stir up GOP support, but as a president, it’s a great way to get yourself investigated and spend your term mired in scandal. Time will tell whether Trump’s administration learns to play by the rules of Washington’s entrenched power dynamics or tries to steamroll the whole thing. Whether either course will be to the benefit of the American people or the world is another story, but learning to moderate his impulses would certainly allow Trump to get more accomplished.
This is happening, whether you like it or not
No matter how much you may dislike Snapchat’s janky UI or our unprecedented new president, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Ignoring or discounting the remarkable successes of these two American phenomena is not an option.
Before being too snobby about Snapchat’s design choices, we should remember that design conventions don’t emerge from thin air. The hidden gesture control of today may become the recognizable interaction pattern of tomorrow. For better or worse, expect to see more products mimicking Snapchat’s UI, and the gradual convergence on new design conventions that will result.
For better or worse, expect to see more products mimicking Snapchat’s UI, and the gradual convergence on new design conventions that will result.
In the same way, Trump has changed our cultural and civic playing field irrevocably. We will never be the same country we were before Trump. And as much as many of us may struggle to remind ourselves that this is not normal, norms change.
As citizens, we can play a part in shaping those norms through vigilance, education, and activism. As designers, we can do our part by designing products that are intuitive and accessible to everyone. Sure, there is more to design than usability, and bold new ideas help move our practice forward. But no matter how trends change, usability isn’t going out of style any time soon.

Source: VigetInspire

How Do You Hire a Designer?

My friend Jeff just asked me this question. He was looking for a designer for a one-off graphic design job. He had the project all scoped out. He just didn't know how to do it. He's not a fool; he web searched around for stuff, but what you find doing that is a confusing mess with plenty of results that don't feel right.
I figured I'd document that journey here, and contrast it hiring an electrician. A trite comparison, perhaps, but as the light switch in my bathroom doesn't work right now and I'm actually in the process of hiring an electrician, it seems apt.


To set the stage more accurately, this is what Jeff asked me, verbatim:
I have a conference in a month that my boss wants some roll-up banners and data sheets for. I can write OK, but don't know squat about design. I've tried a few things, but are I'm under a bit of a deadline.
The ol' College Try
First, Jeff tried designing the banners himself. That way they could maybe be used directed, and if not, they would give a new designer very specific direction.

I'm impressed by this as work from a complete non-designer. I've certainly seen "professional" design work worse than this.

Jeff Finds Fiverr
With these in hand (he thinks of them as mockups), he finds Fiverr, which is a marketplace of sorts for design (and other services).

He says:
I took these mockups and sent them to some Fiverr designers and basically said, "Make something like this but good; you know, like how a designer would do it".
The results?
That did not produce anything useable.
That's just one person's experience of course, but it seems to jive with what is often said about these types of sites. They turn design into a commodity. Nobody is getting incredible work, but incredible work isn't what the people who use this site want. They want affordable work. "Five dollar work," is the implication.
Unfortunately affordable, in this case, resulted in unusable.
Other Options
Upwork, Craigslist, word of mouth? I really have no idea how to hire somebody for a short term project.
I think Jeff was asking me, because I might have known some other resource for hiring designers that is like, "Oh, don't mess around with those other sites, here's the one you should be using that will be perfect for you."
I couldn't give him that because I just don't have enough experience in hiring designers at this scope to know.
I know there is a site called Thumbtack for hiring professionals. In a web search of mine, I was able to land there and poke my way through a "wizard" about what I wanted for a design.

This was specific to web design, not trade show banner design, but they likely have stuff for all kinds of design services.

I hired a chef one time on Thumbtack, and it worked out OK. The way it works is that people get in touch with you after you post what you're looking for, giving you an opportunity to vet them. Upwork looks pretty similar.
There is also 99designs, in which you select a package which apparently directly affects the quality of design you get back:

Something about getting 30-50 designs back feels awkward to me. That's a ton of people doing work for nothing (they know what they are getting into, but still.) And that's a lot of design for me to sift through when it's done.
I'd rather see three designs and go through a couple of rounds of feedback. Apparently, you can ask for revisions (while the "contest" is "open"), but that's all I know. I would think the designer is incentivized to do revisions because they would stand a higher chance of that design getting picked as the winner. Only the winning designer gets paid.
Seems like a slightly higher-brow Fiverr. The kind of site that designers turn up their noses to and write Medium articles about the death of design, but that also make a zillion dollars and have a bunch of satisfied customers.
My gut instinct is that Jeff would have had better luck slightly on 99designs that Fiverr, but that's only based on the look of the site and the pricing.
It kind of makes sense there are sites filling the pricing tiers in the market. Fiverr is apparently holding down the low end with $5 pricing. 99designs lists their Bronze package for "Poster" at $199. Then there are clearly more high end market places like Sortfolio (specifically for web design) who's lowest price tier is "$3,000 and under".

Word of Mouth
It sounds like the thing that worked was:
I ended up going to our printing company and being like "Y'all know any designers?"
Even Silicon Valley, with all those busy minds trying to solve problems for the common citizen and make the world a better place can't beat the ol' "just ask someone who probably knows".
Contrast This To Hiring An Electrician
The world has got hiring an electrician licked. Using the web, this is my go-to:

I know a lot of people have luck on Angie's List, including me:

They still make the Yellow Pages, at least where I live, so even that's a possibility. Hiring an electrician is downright easy.
My World
I struggled to find any answer at all for Jeff because my world is so weirdly different. I know a bunch of designers, so I can just reach out to them for either the work directly or referrals. I've hired designers by looking around Dribbble and reaching out to people who's work I like. I can ask around on Twitter and probably find someone. My mom sells printing for a living and knows a ton of local designers. I can reach out to people I've worked with or hired before.
Aside from Dribbble, not much of that is useful for Jeff. It's just my life and industry experience.
It's no wonder companies are trying to commoditize design. They see opportunity in making it as easy to hire a designer as it is to hire an electrician. It's no wonder people use those companies; they look amazing compared to the spammy garbage it's so easy to find in web search results.
I bet there are a lot of people here reading this who are designs who want to be found. They don't want to be a part of a commodity site and don't think of their work as a commodity. Word of mouth works pretty well for them, but that feels like a risky foundation for business.
Jeff wants to find you, you want to be found, and I don't really know how to tell him where to find you.

How Do You Hire a Designer? is a post from CSS-Tricks
Source: CssTricks

Sell Your Swag on Facebook Marketplace

If you're looking to sell your stuff online, the first place you'll probably go to is Craigslist or Ebay. But you might want to consider Facebook Marketplace.

Facebook Marketplace has been around for awhile. Originally launched in 2007, it's inception was a bust because the site never really caught on among users. The site was re-launched early last year after Oodle (a growing online classifieds service that organizes millions of classified listings from across the web--say that three times fast) gave it a makeover. By taking online classifieds social, Facebook is hoping to give Craigslist a run for it's money. Read more