Welcome Yossi!

Reflecting Back

March 9 2011 with the ChowNow Team

March 9 2011 with the ChowNow Team

We started Iteration Group back in March of 2011 with our first client, ChowNow. I was “in between gigs,” kicking around ideas for my next startup, when I met the ChowNow founders. They were two non-technical guys, extremely bright, and a bit over their heads building an online ordering system for restaurants, from scratch. It just so happened that I knew the online ordering space very well – months earlier I had explored a way to scale online ordering to the tens-of-thousands of restaurants in the U.S. and beyond. Well, we hit it off, Iteration Group helped ChowNow for many months until they gained a solid footing, raised additional capital, hired a terrific technology team, and were on their way.

Like that, Iteration Group kind of happened by “accident.” Over time, several more startup founders and company executives came to us asking if we could help them nail their product vision and distill their rough product ideas into concrete product designs.

Since that time, I’ve been looking for a counterpart here at Iteration Group that could run the shop “day to day.” I needed someone who, like me, has a deep passion and interest in software design, human-computer interaction, usability engineering, and all things user-experience. Also, this person needed to have a wide range of experience – managing multiple teams of folks, working on startups, working on large enterprise projects, and more.

 

Welcome Yossi!

I’m really proud to announce that Yossi Langer has joined Iteration Group as Principal. Yossi will be directing all of the work we do for our clients (in fact, he’s already started).

Yossi himself

Yossi himself

complementing my almost complete startup focus). We’ve opened up a new office in Santa Monica to be closer to our clients and prospective team members.

Yossi is a world-class expert and leader in the field. He’s held various product-development related roles at Viacom, Fotolog, AOL, and American Express. He will be cultivating our staff, work

ing shoulder-to-shoulder with our clients, and ensuring that our research, wireframing, designing, building, and other activities are of the highest possible quality.

I met Yossi almost one year ago at a UX Happy Hour event, put on by my friend (and longtime designer) Kai Gradert. We immediately hit it off, stayed in touch, and started collaborating on a few side projects. Right away, it was clear that Yossi had the perspective, experience, passion, and attention-to-detail that we were looking for.

Looking Ahead
Today we enter a new phase. We’ve tremendously increased the breadth and depth of our capabilities. We’ve already, for example, started doing more extensive research than we’ve ever done (user interviews, task analysis, etc) under Yossi’s direction. We’ve got more big-company, big-data, and enterprise experience (complementing my almost complete startup focus). We’ve opened up a new office in Santa Monica to be closer to our clients and prospective team members.

We’re extremely excited about the road ahead and we have big plans to further integrate ourselves within the LA Tech Community (and beyond) to help folks build great products.

The Press Release

Iteration Group Appoints Yossi Langer as Principal to Meet Customer Demand
Boutique Product-Development Consulting Firm Iteration Group
Expands Management Team to Build on Leadership Position

 

SANTA MONICA, CA – March 26, 2013 – Iteration Group today announced seasoned media and technology executive Yossi Langer as Principal, expanding its management in support of the company’s growth. Langer brings an extensive career of product design, product development, and user interface design experience to his role, where he will oversee mobile, web, and other interactive software projects for Iteration Group customers.

Previously, Yossi was at Viacom Media Networks, where he was responsible for search, content recommendations, and machine learning initiatives for over 100 digital properties. While there he founded the ground-breaking Lean Testing Lab.

Yarone Goren, Founder and CEO, Iteration Group, said: “Yossi is a world-class expert and leader in user experience design, usability, and human factors. He will work side-by-side with our customers to conceive, design, and develop innovative mobile and web products.”

Yossi has led product development at early-stage companies and established enterprises including AOL and America Express. He was Co-President and Chief Product Officer of Fotolog, an online social network with 30 million members worldwide, where he managed day-to-day operations, long term strategy and increased membership by 33%.

At AOL, Yossi ran mobile content strategy for AOL’s Europe, Canada, and Latin America offices. At American Express he led product development and editorial strategy as Online Editor of Travel + Leisure magazine.

Yossi Langer said: “I am thrilled to join the talented and innovative Iteration Group team. There is a tremendous need for expert product development services in southern California. This need is evidenced by the growing investment in technology projects, the proliferation of software into all industries, and the increase in non-technical startup founders and business leaders. Iteration Group fills this gap, enabling its customers to design, build, and deliver beautiful and functional products.”

More information:

ABOUT ITERATION GROUP

Iteration Group is a boutique product-development consulting firm with offices in with offices in Los Angeles and New York City. The company works side-by-side with startup founders and business leaders to help them nail their product vision, distill their rough product ideas into concrete product designs, create wireframes, create final designs, build prototypes, and more.

Iteration Group is privately held and is headed by Yarone Goren, a passionate expert in software product design and co-founder of multiple venture-backed startups, including Academy123 (acquired by Discovery Communications) and Zumbox. Longtime technology and media executive Yossi Langer directs all work as Principal.

Since its launch in 2011, Iteration Group has designed mobile, web-based, and desktop software products for social networking, productivity, online ordering, online marketing, ecommerce, and other applications.

For more information, please email info@iterationgroup.com or visit www.iterationgroup.com.

Media contact: Ashley Moje +1 818 851 1080 Skype: almoje42 ashley@iterationgroup.com

Video 4 of 4: Strategies for Early Stage Companies to Be Successful at Trade Shows & Conferences

I was recently invited by the team at Docstoc to participate in their “expert” video series, meant to help small business owners, entrepreneurs, and individuals. This is part 4 of 4.



In this last video, I bring up ways for startups to be effective at trade shows:

  • Don’t get a booth.  Expensive: space, booth itself, manning it, etc.
  • Find out who will be there; identify those who you’d like to meet
  • Craft a persuasive e-mail asking to meet briefly.  Make it personal.
  • Private room, Coffee shop

Video 3 of 4: Difference of Business Development Responsibilities During the Early Stages of a Startup

I was recently invited by the team at Docstoc to participate in their “expert” video series, meant to help small business owners, entrepreneurs, and individuals. This is part 3 of 4.



Here I talk about the difference in biz dev responsibilities during the beta stage and growth stage of a startup:

  • In the early stages, it’s the responsibly of the founders.  Sell the vision to prospective customers.  Refine the product as necessary.  Get the first few deals done yourself.  Figure out how to sell the product into what markets.  You’re the passionate visionary – you’re the heart and soul of the company.  You can’t possibly expect an outsider to be able to jump in and start selling.  And if you can’t sell it yourself, don’t bother hiring.
  • In the later stages, bring in folks into biz dev and tell them exactly what to do.  Here’s what works, here’s what doesn’t, here’s what to say, here’s what not to say – all informed by the other deals you’ve already done.  The general sales process will be in place, the legal documents will be in place, the rollout plans in place, etc.

Video 2 of 4: How to Validate a Business Idea Spending Minimal Time & Money

I was recently invited by the team at Docstoc to participate in their “expert” video series, meant to help small business owners, entrepreneurs, and individuals. This is part 2 of 4.

Here, I talk about how to test a business idea:

  • Throw something in front of customers. Create minimal marketing materials and present them to customers (in person, via mail, via search, etc). Don’t need a lot. 500 visitors or 10 in-person consultations will probably get you 90% of the information. (See: Jakob Neilsen, Hallway usability testing).
  • Gauge the response. # of folks who provided email address, # of survey respondents, what they said, etc. Some of this is not scientific. Hopefully you will have verified some of your hunches. Perhaps you’ll hear something that you didn’t expect.
  • Refine or drop the idea. Proceed with confidence, or, further dig into some of the concerning pieces. Better to work hard at this, up front, and be honest with yourself (vs. spending lots of time and money building stuff folks don’t want).

Video 1 of 4: Four Steps to Build Great Software Products, A User Centered Approach

I was recently invited by the team at Docstoc to participate in their “expert” video series, meant to help small business owners, entrepreneurs, and individuals.

In this first video, I describe the software development process I like to follow. I think that it optimizes for the end user.

It requires a lot of focus and energy, up front, iterating on the user interface in each phase:

  • Wireframes
  • Design mockups
  • HTML / CSS / Assets
  • Development

The product person remains as the primary advocate for the user – nothing rolls out until they approve.

Lots of stuff can get lost in translation from design to development. Lots of really important nuance can be lost. Development is hard. Help the development team by clearly and consistently communicating to them what you want.

WinDirStat – See treemap of your file system, easily find big files

WinDirStat is still a really great tool, even after all these years.  Very useful!

I don’t know of any other way of quickly and intuitively finding out what’s taking up my disk space.  Perfect use of the treemap visualization.

Excel “Comment” Bubbles Need to be Improved

It’s about time that Microsoft improve the “Comments” functionality in Excel:

Wow. Just plain ugly. Shooting from the hip:

  • That shadow technique (angled lines) is a bit…dated.
  • Square corners? Rounded would be much better, especially given the grid-like nature of Excel. Rounded corners would create a nice contrast to the rest of the display.
  • 8 ways to tug / pull / stretch?  Totally unnecessary.  Why should this be resizable to begin with?
  • Default size: about four rows of text high.  Doesn’t automatically resize.

Stop Using Lorem Ipsum!

I think I’ve discovered a handy way of summing-up how I think about designing user interfaces: No Lorem Ipsum!

 

A Symptom of a Bigger Problem: Lazy Product Design
Lorem Ipsum isn’t always bad. It’s often useful in “marketing pages” – places where you want to indicate there will be a few paragraphs of text here, a sentence or two there, etc. But when designing interfaces? No way. Use Real Data. Text that represents, you know, what the user might actually see.

Designing and building great software is hard. You’ve got to put yourself in the shoes of the end user, try to understand their needs and motivations, and try to create a tool that’s really useful (and hopefully fun and interesting too). You’ve got to sweat the small stuff. Every screen. Every permutation of every screen. Every label, every text box, every error message. It’s the accumulation of thousands of design decisions that makes something great.

Using “Lorem Ipsum” or “Menu Item 1” or “Product 1” (or whatever) makes it harder to design great software. What happens when “Product 1” becomes “How to Be Funny: The One and Only Practical Guide for Every Occasion, Situation, and Disaster (no kidding)”? Find out early so you can design accordingly.

“The problem is we don’t understand the problem”

Aza Raskin, the talented user interface designer (and son of the original designer for Macintosh, Jef Raskin), shares a really insightful short story that suggests how we should go about tackling “deeply difficult challenges.”

Aza goes on to talk about a man named Paul MacCready who sought out to build the first human-powered airplane. From the article:

The problem was the problem. Paul realized that what needed to be solved was not, in fact, human powered flight. That was a red-herring. The problem was the process itself, and along with it the blind pursuit of a goal without a deeper understanding how to tackle deeply difficult challenges. He came up with a new problem that he set out to solve: how can you build a plane that could be rebuilt in hours not months. And he did. He built a plane with Mylar, aluminum tubing, and wire.

I think this perspective is useful when thinking about technology-based solutions to K-12 education. Modern instructional formats (like Academy123 and Khan Academy) afford scale, “failing quicker”, and iterating toward success.

Imagine “a process of ongoing improvement“:

  • 100,000 mini-videos, 2-3 minutes in length, in one subject (say, algebra).  For each specific topic (say, simple factoring), videos are recorded in dozens of different ways (teacher A, B, C. Easy, Medium, Hard. Instructional method X, Y, Z).
  • Each student is prescribed a customized path through those videos. The prescription changes on-the-fly.  Some students, for example might respond better to a male teacher, a female teacher, a young teacher (peer), and older teacher, etc.
  • Hundreds of videos are re-done each week, based on student results, attention data, and other analytics. The content gets better over time.
Click to Play

Click to Play

 

Scaling teachers using technology

Issac Asimov, the famous Science Fiction writer, wrote an amusing short story (below) that describes a highly individualized and customized learning environment, while at the same time, reminds us how our existing education system is so outdated and inneficient (textbooks that students don’t read, 35 kids in a class, students grouped by age and not by ability, etc.).

Has technology advanced enough such that we can approximate, with sufficient “fidelity”, a real flesh-and-blood teacher?


Isaac Asimov – The Fun They Had