Tiny Homes: My Favorite Episodes

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Intro for Living Big in a Tiny House

A Review of Eight Tiny Homes

My last post on the topic of tiny homes introduced the concept of tiny homes and why I think they’ve become so popular.

This first post of 2020 includes 8 of my favorite episodes from the YouTube series, Living Big in a Tiny House.

 


1. Disability / Mobility / Elderly Friendly: A home to grow old in.

I’m really glad this home was included. It shows that tiny homes can be for everyone and can be an option for people as they grow older or people who have or develop mobility difficulties. My favorite features of this home are the single-level floor plan, the wide hallways, the screened in and open porch-like front room (veranda), and the ramp. It also features non-slip floors, soft-touch openings, and an induction stove which is a little safer than gas.

This home consists of a tiny home which essentially has a heavily outfitted covered porch in front, which they call a veranda. The bed is on a motor that comes up and down. I think the bed is clever, but I suspect that makes a bit heavy on the budget. I’d probably prefer an analog mechanical solution, rather than digital. The tiny home cost about $85,000, the veranda cost about $15,000, and the high-end blinds cost about $6,000-7,000.

The elderly homeowner is also so charming and pleasant. It’s clear this home means so much to her. She even manages to out-charm Bryce!

2. Clever Space-Saving and Room Separated Flat

This couple live together in a converted flat. The building used to be some kind of warehouse or work house, which is why the ceilings are so high. They used that feature in their design. In their home design, they created kind of a tunnel effect, with a foyer/desk area, a white and almost Space Odyssey: 2001 center storage area, and then an very open kitchen and living area. The cleverness of this tunnel effect is a separation between the different areas of the apartment, and that feeling of being welcomed into the living area. The storage in the white closet-tunnel is pretty impressive, so that’s why I’m including it.

The downside of this build is that the bedroom is in a hidden loft and there are some I-beams going across that I know I would hit my head pretty frequently. I am also not sure how fire safe that bedroom is, either. Aside from that, I think it’s a pretty clever design. Their interior design tastes are pretty fancy.

3. Minimalist, Small-Space Philosophy

This home was designed by the owner, an architect. He imbued a lot of ideas from minimalism, and ideas about transitioning in space. He also lives in a city, similar to the two guys in the video from above.

He had some interesting design ideas about contrasts: dark vs light, contrasting textures, small vs large sizes. His red grout + black tiled bathroom looks very cool, almost Tron-like. I also took note of some of his book titles! 🙂

4. Clever Sun Cover, Massive Cat Run and Exquisite Craftsmanship

A cat run is one of my top requirements given my cats are very important to me. This home also features hidden under-lighting on the stairs, a lovely feature. In addition, this is also one of the few tiny homes with a strong railing for the stairs and loft area, so it seems a lot safer going up and down.

I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I’m not sure I would choose this home for myself. Maybe it’s just because it seems so masculine, ha!

Regardless of style and trimmings, this home has so many wonderful features. I do love the cat run, the hidden lighting, the semi-covered porch. The loft area design runs front to back and allows you to fully stand up, though I would also prefer more horizontal railings on the loft itself, to avoid accidentally slipping through.

Beautiful craftsmanship on flooring

The male homeowner builds bathrooms for a living so the craftsmanship throughout the home is exceptional. For instance, around 10:58, the homeowners discuss the transition between the kitchen and bathroom, using a beautiful tiling pattern. Needless to say, the bathroom in this home is spectacular.

5. Garage Doors with Porch and Trailer Home

This home has really tall ceilings and a bedroom that isn’t in a loft. The garage doors are a great idea to bring in a lot of light and open up the space, especially with that big porch.

Cost would be the big downside for most people for this home. As a successful musician with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, she probably has more income available for building than many other people. Having said that, her home looks so quaint and I love the traveling micro- music studio and the fantastic porch.

6. Double Train Car Home

It’s really hard to beat the charm of these old railcars turn into tiny homes. This is such a clever idea, and the fact that she has 2 of them, with one as a guest house/room, is even better.

She estimated $50,000 as a total cost, but I think that is a very generous guess for this home, because she’s spent over 5 years building it. In addition, at the time of the video she wasn’t living there full-time so it’s hard to say how well it works as a primary living space. The other downside is she’s very remote so (internet and phone) connectivity is spotty.

7. Full-Bath and Standing Room Bed, with Greenhouse Complex

Aside from the home for a resident with mobility issues, this home is also one of my favorite-favorites! I love the full-size bathtub and the beautiful tiles she installed. I especially like her layout which allows her to use a small staircase to enter her bedroom, which has a ceiling that allows her to stand up.

Many tiny homes have lofts and a half-height ceiling. So there’s a lot of bending. I also a fear of slipping or falling, because many tiny homes do not have full or secure railing. She does have a loft in her living room, but it’s not meant for sleeping.

She says her home cost between $90,000 to $100,000, not including the domes. The enormous greenhouses are also interesting, although that’s kind of outside the scope of my interests at this point.

8. Micro Home in Japan

Finally the smallest, but not the least, is the smallest home I’ve seen featured. The storage, modularity, and multi-use aspects of this home make it worth checking out. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly one feature that makes this home ideal. One of the design inspirations was remaining connected to nature, which is also an inspiration in traditional Japanese architecture. All of the storage and configurations available make this seem like a home that folds in on itself. One smart feature is the use of hollowed out wood panels, for the table and seating, which helps keep the all-cedar home very light. I think a lot of these tricks could be used in many tiny homes.

One major downside: This home does not have a bathroom! For my needs, it wouldn’t work as a full-time residence — at least not in the United States. It works for these two, and one reason for that is those famous Japanese hot springs (onsens) and public baths (sento). For them, there is relatively easy access to bathing, although not on demand. For using the toilet, they use a portable toilet with a biodegradable bag and a powder. They also said there are many places in Japan that accommodate travelers.

The owners said this home cost about $30,000 US.

To clarify, there are 2 videos for this home. One is a tour with the homeowners and the other is a tour with the craftsman. I recommend checking out both, because the craftsman discusses his design inspiration and the homeowners show how they live. Based on the finish of the outside panels, it looks like the craftsman walkthrough comes later.

Walkthrough with Craftsman


My final post will have a few more tips, plus a summary of features for my ideal setup.

This Blog Post Does Not Exist…Or Does It?

A quick overview of generative adversarial networks (GANs) — a type of artificial intelligence that are capable of generating, among other things, pretty realistic looking photos of humans that do not exist.

Shout out to those hard-working generative adversarial network (GAN)! Ok, I don’t really know about hard-working, but it is pretty cool. Let’s review.

Intro to GAN

GAN technology came out in internally at Nvidia, the computer graphics company, in 2014 and released publicly in 2018 (as StyleGAN). The studies are linked.

I’m not going to pretend I understand the details of either study. But based on the Wikipedia article linked above, what I can explain is that a GAN is the result of two neural networks that compete against each other, in one of those mathematical, strategy “games” researchers like to play.  The networks study photographs (or text) and then decide which elements to use to generate something new.

I think some people will find it creepy, but I think it’s cool. For the human photos, it’s hard to not project a humanity into the faces, even though, logically, these are people that have never existed. The generated fake people seem, somehow….special.

Here’s a quick intro to some GAN and some links to explore. Enjoy!


Explore Some Fake Stuff

As I said above, one of the possible outputs of a GAN can be a surprisingly realistic looking photographs. View some of them at thispersondoesnotexist.com. Every time you refresh, you get a new person that has never existed. It’s like dreaming for computers.

This github repository has a list of a few more websites of GANs that generate photographs of humans, fake rental ads, articles, anime, and more results that don’t exist. There are fake cats, but computers seem to have trouble with animals. I suggest not looking at them. (They’re creepy.)

Test Yourself, Human!

Some of these faces look pretty realistic. For instance, the image above-left is an “image of a young woman generated by StyleGAN, an generative adversarial network (GAN). The person in this photo does not exist, but is generated by an artificial intelligence based on an analysis of portraits.” The ad on the right is fake, too. Could you tell?

If you want to really test yourself, the website Which Face Is Real throws up 2 side-by-side images.

Catching up with Friends.

Unless you’re a dog cat on the internet, you can probably tell the difference (and probably even especially if you are a cat). The fake images have a few tell-tale signs like smudged backgrounds, odd looking teeth, unusual wrinkles, and some of them just don’t seem right.

You can also test yourself with the fake poems at Bot Poet.

Offshoots

Composites – There are some offshoots of the original technology, like this github repository which shows an example of a composite generated image using a StyleGAN image + an image of the Mona Lisa.

Digital “models” – I wouldn’t say these examples are quite the same, but there are already digital “models” on Instagram and in advertising campaigns. Lil Miquela has over 1.5 million followers on Instagram, and there’s a modeling agency specializing in digital “models”.

Video – The one below is uses around 8 frames of video to train their neural network, resulting in a real-time talking head model. It could be like one of those “deep-fake” videos, except the new heads are people that don’t exist. And you can kind of tell, if you watch the video below, human, the new heads do not really look too realistic (yet).

Few-Shot Adversarial Learning of Realistic Neural Talking Head Models

Statement regarding the purpose and effect of the technology
(NB: this statement reflects personal opinions of the authors and not of their organizations)

We believe that telepresence technologies in AR, VR and other media are to transform the world in the not-so-distant future. Shifting a part of human life-like communication to the virtual and augmented worlds will have several positive effects. It will lead to a reduction in long-distance travel and short-distance commute. It will democratize education, and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. It will distribute jobs more fairly and uniformly around the World. It will better connect relatives and friends separated by distance. To achieve all these effects, we need to make human communication in AR and VR as realistic and compelling as possible, and the creation of photorealistic avatars is one (small) step towards this future. In other words, in future telepresence systems, people will need to be represented by the realistic semblances of themselves, and creating such avatars should be easy for the users. This application and scientific curiosity is what drives the research in our group, including the project presented in this video.

We realize that our technology can have a negative use for the so-called “deepfake” videos. However, it is important to realize, that Hollywood has been making fake videos (aka “special effects”) for a century, and deep networks with similar capabilities have been available for the past several years (see links in the paper). Our work (and quite a few parallel works) will lead to the democratization of the certain special effects technologies. And the democratization of the technologies has always had negative effects. Democratizing sound editing tools lead to the rise of pranksters and fake audios, democratizing video recording lead to the appearance of footage taken without consent. In each of the past cases, the net effect of democratization on the World has been positive, and mechanisms for stemming the negative effects have been developed. We believe that the case of neural avatar technology will be no different. Our belief is supported by the ongoing development of tools for fake video detection and face spoof detection alongside with the ongoing shift for privacy and data security in major IT companies.


Slightly off-topic, there’s a new Frontline documentary on AI. It’s 2-hours, so it’s a commitment. It doesn’t really go into the GAN-side of artificial intelligence, but it does discuss automation, privacy, and surveillance.

In the Age of AI FRONTLINE, from PBS. [1:54:16]

The documentary provides many reasons to be afraid of AI, particularly with regard to surveillance and use of AI by governments. We can’t really predict what governments will do, but if behavior control is a goal of AI there’s a natural user group: people who have trouble controlling their behavior. This would be people who have or have had issues or struggles with:

  • substance abuse
  • memory loss
  • chemical imbalances in the brain
  • adhd
  • neurological damage
  • loss of motor control

Or even just reminding people to eat better and go outside more. I’m sure there are more. Anyway, that’s my thought. Seems fair to be afraid, but also there are some opportunities that shouldn’t be overlooked.


And now on the cultural side : the trailer for Her. I don’t know if it’s possible to have an OS this advanced, but there are some interesting fantasy explorations in this movie.

My Tachyons Portfolio

A review into the current state of my portfolio and thoughts for the future.

My last blog post was an account of what I have accomplished in my portfolio journey and ended with some ideas about next steps.

Sample Tachyons page, on github.

At the time, I said I would try and create a design using Tachyons, a lightweight CSS framework. That sample page, pictured, is available on github.

I also wrote about fears using vanilla HTML/CSS, related to updates. I ended up going with DIY anyway. I still have that fear. I also wrote about using WordPress as a portfolio. I considered I installing WordPress in multiple folders and testing out different options.

 


Current State of My Portfolio

My portfolio is still at the same domain, but now it’s at a subdomain: alliwalk.com/ux. The reason is it gave me more navigation options rather than putting everything on the homepage.

I ended up using Tachyons for the entire site. It took a while to get decode the classes, which are a bit cryptic. I wrote some CSS, but not that much. I kind of missed writing it. But it was also a very interesting way to implement styles. And it looks pretty clean.

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the long-term strategies I had in mind for the site was to create more than one portfolio for my different interests, blogging, art/design, and UX. I got the idea of multiple portfolios after watching a YouTube focused on PDF portfolios for graphic designers.

This video is linked to the appropriate moment in time, or you can watch the relevant 40 seconds here

To alleviate one of my fears about updates, I created a landing page with nav links to each of my three interests. Now I can modify the link destinations, if I need to take a portfolio offline for some reason.

And finally, I did test a WordPress option, but it’s never as quick and easy at it seems. My portfolio went through a few versions, including PDF and a test in WordPress.

PDF Portfolio

Strategy: Some designers create their portfolio as a PDF to supplement their online portfolio. I’ve tried this before and I did not have good results. However, I thought that using my new font and style would help created compelling layouts. Plus, I needed something to point people to while working on updating my website.

Actions: I went through several iterations. I created PDF versions, which I created in Google Docs and Sketch. I attempted to use the J. A. Van de Graaf canon, popularized by Jan Tschichold, to lay out the content. I referenced the book Grids, by Gavin Ambrose and Paul Harris, for inspiration.


Aside: I could write a whole post on page layout, Tschichold, Van de Graaf, but instead I’ll just share a few short videos.


Review: I shared both versions as direct links or by uploading to Behance. I used both for job applications. Neither got me very far. So essentially, my previous experience was the same as it is now. However, creating them helped me later on when I was testing out my blog/website. And I now have portfolios available for future discussions, that I can present and discuss on the phone or in a group.

Quantitative Research and Analysis

Strategy: As per my previous post on portfolio resources, I found that although I had a lot of summary and raw data on portfolios, I hadn’t fully analyzed it. My strategy was to thoroughly research the portfolios listed in one of my linked resources. I wanted to answer questions like:

  • How many portfolios are from students and do they seem different?
  • What types of profile images to designers use of themselves?
  • What is the most common greeting on portfolios?
  • How many designers use their own domain?
  • What do most people use to create their portfolio?

Action: It took a while, but I completed a significant amount of quantitative research. I have not yet shared my report, but I’ll probably post it on SlideShare and link to it. I hope to present it at a UX related talk.

Review: My research clarified many questions about portfolios and helped answer questions on how to design specific areas of the site. For instance, previous reviewers suggested using my own domain (vs using cargocollective). I didn’t understand why this was so important until I concluded my research, which showed the vast majority of designers used their own domain.

The reviewers also made comments related to not getting a sense of who I am. I always find this difficult to articulate, but the research helped again. Ultimately, I decided that this blog would be able to serve as a supplement for anyone to learn more.

The research also helped guide my headlines. Most designers used a very similar type of greeting on their site. I chose to use something that stood out a little bit more. I also used yellow on my landing page, to help people remember that yellow site, if they enter from that page.

WordPress or DIY

My research revealed that most designers, about two-thirds, use a CMS to build their portfolios. The 2 most popular are WordPress and Squarespace. The rest, or one-third, use a DIY solution.

Initially I thought WordPress could be a good option. It’s free, I’ve used it for many years, I know how to install it. I decided against using this blog as a combo portfolio+blog website. I’ve been using it as a blog for too long. And also, I wanted to keep the size of the database down. I considered installing a WP blog into a subdomain.

Free or Paid Themes. Many of the popular WordPress themes, such as Semplice, are not free. But found a solution. As I wrote previously, WordPress Twenty Twenty will be based on the free Chaplin theme by Anders Norén who leads WP 5.3 development. I went to Anders Norén’s lovely website and found multiple free templates.

I created a test site, uploaded images, and added some write-ups. At the same time I was also created some test pages using Tachyons. Ultimately I decided against using WordPress. Anders Norén’s templates are beautiful, but I felt that in order to have a portfolio that could compare to the portfolios I reviewed in my research, I would need to still need to make a number of customizations. DIY was simply more fun and enjoyable.


Present and Future

The site is basically done, but there’s still room for improvement. I plan to implement image zoom using one of the JavaScript resources I listed in my post on portfolio resources. I also plan to make changes with image optimizations and swap out a few images. I want to update a few of the descriptions, perhaps adding another project or two.

And, I have some ideas about updating the layout of the yellow landing page. It might give me a chance to use more of my own CSS.

Maybe one day I’ll use one of the templates on Anders Norén’s WordPress theme site for this blog.

Alternative Portfolios

I’m still using the cargocollective account, but I’ve re-repurposed the site and it’s now back to showing creative/art/design projects. If that site gets too full, maybe I’ll create another portfolio focusing on one or two of those interests.


The next time I write about this, I hope it will just be about my research. Because on this, I’ve written a lot!

For now, I’m happy to be done writing with this topic. Plus, I’ve written a number of other posts that are waiting in drafts to get posted.

Portfolio: Polya Principles Applied

Revisiting my portfolio again, this post is a structured account of the work I’ve completed in updating my portfolio. And I have some nice photos of the East River. 🙂

Time to circle back on some portfolio stuff. For the most part, I’ve finished updating my portfolio. Done enough to publish, ask for more feedback, and start collecting analytics.

But before I get too far into where the portfolio is now, let me jump back to a few weeks ago, and pick up from when I wrote about George Pólya and his book on problem solving…

Applying The Pólya Principles

In the middle of my updates, I had a conversation with someone about my job hunt. I had paused the job hunt to more finish analyzing UX portfolios. The person I spoke with did not understand why I had paused my search. Why was I analyzing portfolios, not fixing my own and getting on with the search.

Thinking back on that conversation, the problem was in how I was communicating. I was only explaining what I had recently done, not what I had already achieved before that point. Much of story got skipped.

When I came across that question on FreeCodeCamp about logging development progress, and the ideas in Pólya’s book on problem solving, I thought I should take the time to write down all the steps I’ve done. It would help provide a comprehensive and structured account of what I’ve accomplished and why.

My strategy is that it will help me organize my thoughts and resulting actions. My hope is it will help me either solve my problem(s) or cross an strategy dud off the list.

Skip to below…


 

And that’s what I did — I wrote an analysis of my main problem, broke down the steps, and listed what I’d accomplished. I also included some images of my favorite park — sunny days and bike rides, sacrificed to finish up this project.

I have more to add about the present state of my portfolio. That will be in the next post. So two posts: one on the past and one on the present.

Check out the rest of this post below. Keep in mind, it was written several weeks ago, in reverse-chronological order. The next post will be on the present.

 


Continued from above….

For the rest of this blog post, that’s what I’m going to do. It’s just going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness, so consider yourself forewarned!

Main Problem: All of the portfolio problems I’ve been trying to solve for is directly due to job hunting. I’ve been so focused on my portfolio because of the feedback I received related to that, and I simply haven’t finished making updates.

Breaking this problem down into sub-problems has led me to spend time improving my resume in the beginning of the year, and now I’m focused on improving my portfolio. I don’t truly know if my portfolio is a contributing reason for any job hunting difficulties, but my research has indicated it is incredibly important. And since it’s under my ability to make changes, I’m making updates to see what works.

Although I got some portfolio feedback, I still wasn’t exactly sure how to improve my portfolio or the best tool to use for it. But the information I’ve gathered about portfolios has been helpful to help me narrow my options down.

Pólya Analysis

Sub-Problem: Which tool is best to rebuild my portfolio
  • Option 1: DIY is a common option and I recently discovered Tachyons.io CSS framework.
  • Strategy: Explore Tachyons.io as a DIY option, vs Bootstrap which I have used before. 
  • Actions: I learned that the default WordPress 2020 will be using the typeface ‘Inter‘. From the Inter website: “Inter is a typeface carefully crafted & designed for computer screens.” When I looked at some of the samples, I saw these Swiss style posters.
https://rsms.me/raster/examples/poster.html
labs.jensimmons.com

The posters reminded me of Jen Simmons who uses a similar style for her site labs.jensimmons.com, which explores experimental layouts.

There are a few Swiss poster-inspired websites and articles exploring experimental web layouts:

Anyway, because of CSS grid + the Inter font (which is free), and GridbyDesign.com, a site providing InDesign grids, I thought: Wow I could really create a unified online and offline experience based on the Swiss poster style!

Outcome thus far: Tachyons classes are a little cryptic because they’re meant to be applied one at a time. The other problem is that I don’t really have a design in mind (a sub-sub problem?) so it’s a little difficult to evaluate whether this is a viable option. (A sub-sub-problem I experienced was using BackgroundSync, which I couldn’t initially get to work. I find sub-sub-problems often come up in coding.) Ultimately, I might be better off using a CMS, like Squarespace, to solve the online portfolio problem / job hunting problem, which is more critical than a unified user experience at the moment. WordPress can be free/cheaper and it can be installed on a subdirectory. Squarespace and other CMS tools can only be installed on subdomains or the central domain.

Sub-Problem: How to improve my portfolio.
  • Strategy: Use quantitative analysis to uncover what specific elements make a top UX portfolios. And then replicate those elements on mine.
  • Actions: I started a quantitative analysis of a list of 80-90 UX portfolios to find out what makes them so great. For example, in the portfolio guides I read through, they suggested spending time making images look good. But I realized I didn’t really have a clear understanding of what this meant. And given that I’m an exceptionally private person, I also realized I didn’t really know what was appropriate for an About page. And I was curious to learn what most people used to build their sites. So essentially, I set about answering these questions, to help me put together the pieces for my own portfolio redesign.
  • Outcome thus far: Although DIY makes up a sizable portion of portfolios, I’ve been surprised to learn how many people use paid CMS tools for their portfolios. I’m trying to learn a little more about the backgrounds of the DIY authors, like are they students, who have time to build a DIY site, or developers who do it all the time. But now that I’m writing this down, I think I need to think a bit more about CMS options.
Sub-problem: Feeling overwhelmed with the amount of resources and need a place to put them all.
  • Strategy: Make an orderly list of resources that have been influencing my portfolio revisions and/or could serve as a resource in the future.
  • Action: I created a list of portfolio resources, of guides and websites, JavaScript libraries and CSS tools, and a short list of portfolios that might hopefully come in handy. That list is here.
  • Outcome thus far: Creating this list has led to more investigation on how to create a portfolio. I’m starting to see some overlap and understand more meaning in the portfolio suggestions.
Sub-Problem [Hypothesis]: Online portfolio projects weren’t showing my work and myself as a designer as well as they could.
  • Strategy: Go with a temporary PDF portfolio, and remove all projects from my website. Re-evaluate all online materials.
  • Actions: I removed all projects from my website and put in a message to contact me for sample work. My concern was that my website was a) out of date in both style and programming [Bootstrap 3]; b) didn’t represent me well in part due to A. I also took screenshots of all my online portfolios, at Behance, Cargo1, CarbonMade, and Coroflot, to view how I was really representing myself online.
  • Outcome thus far: Coroflot is still available, but I don’t link to it from anywhere. CarbonMade is online and I also don’t link to it from anywhere. The different sites have slightly different visual expressions and the experience using them can be different and limited based on the way that the site works.
  • Reflections: On her website, which is built with Kirby, Jessica Hische provides the following advice for getting freelance work:

Have a website.

This might be a no-brainer, but a ton of young people looking for work don’t have a functioning website because they’re still struggling to build some crazy flash bonanza themselves. STOP. Unless you want to do web work for a living, sites like cargo collective, indexhibit, and carbonmade are perfectly fine ways to make portfolio sites. Many professionals use them as they are easy to update, which you will learn is THE MOST important trait a portfolio website should have. Illustrators, this goes for you too.

I read this advice a while back and I think I may have misunderstood a little bit. While using a CMS is important, such as cargo collective, it’s apparently MORE important to have your own domain than it is to use a CMS like cargo collective.

Sub-Problem: Without an online portfolio, I need a way to share my site. Also online portfolios might be showing too much, leading to more opportunity for criticism.
  • Strategy: Use large, static images on Behance, rather than a true online portfolio. I attended a virtual portfolio session with Google, where a portfolio from a UX designer and a Visual designer were reviewed. The UX designer was Simon Pan and his Barclay’s bike project. The visual designer’s work was shared on Behance. The visual design project we reviewed was essentially a series of very long images that appeared to be created for Behance. I figured that if Google’s recruiting team was showing us this project as a viable format, it could potentially work for me. I could draw pictures and tell a story vertically, like the Behance version.
  • Actions: I chose to create 4-5 projects in Sketch, for the purpose of sharing on Behance. I figured I could use them as slides for an offline presentation if needed.
  • Outcome thus far: I put them up, but they did not receive wide spread acclaim; like 4 appreciates. And the one recruiter I shared them with for a freelance gig didn’t get back to me, and the “views” didn’t increase so I’m not sure what the response was; my assumption is negative. Reflection: Simon Pan uses a custom WordPress theme. My assumption is that it would be significantly work to customize than even a basic site. But maybe this is an opportunity to use one of Pólya’s heuristics, the inventor’s paradox:

The more ambitious plan may have more chances of success […] provided it is not based on a mere pretension but on some vision of the things beyond those immediately present.

Maybe I should start with BlankSlate and customize the heck out of it.

Sub-problem: Fixing my Cargo1 (Cargo Collective) portfolio and website.

I’m writing these all under this one heading for brevity and also because they’re related.

Strategy to focus my website on only UX: Some of the feedback I got on my Cargo1 portfolio was that other links related to coding and design should be removed. I didn’t ask why, but my guess was they were either not interesting or not very good. When I tried taking a more objective view of my website, I felt that the code examples, which were set in a list, weren’t presented well. I chose to update my website to remove references to code examples. There were still 3 projects available, with individual pages for each.

Having more than one portfolio. I didn’t include this video in my other post on Portfolio Resources, but I came across a YouTuber discussing design portfolios. A point he makes is that it’s OK to have more than one portfolio. For some reason, it seemed revolutionary and I remembered labs.jensimmons.com. I can include my code examples, but I can put them on another site/portfolio that presents them more appropriately and doesn’t confuse an audience looking for UX projects.

Strategy to take my Cargo1 site offline to address negative feedback. I spent a LOT of time writing a significant amount of custom CSS for my Cargo1 site.  I also watched a video on web writing to focus on improving how I explained my projects. It’s a good video; I recommend it.

Despite all this work, I got plenty of feedback. To be honest, the feedback shocked me. I wrote about that in an earlier post.

I did attempt to make many changes back on feedback received — such as describing myself/who I am; improving the writing. I unpublished my entire portfolio of projects at cargocollective.com. I did not want to use the Cargo1 template and site as-is serve as my homepage. This would mean changing my DNS to use the Cargo1 site as my domain. This decision was driven by the design heuristic to not show anything you don’t want criticized. Given the feedback and feeling that my attempts to improve it wouldn’t be enough, I chose to unpublish it entirely until I settled on another strategy for my UX projects. At that time, I can use it again to show my ITP projects.

Strategy to narrowing down projects from 7 to 3. At one point, alliwalk.com had 6-7 projects and an About page with logos of companies and brands I had worked for in the past. But analytics showed that no one was viewing the About page. Actions: I removed the About page because it seemed useless. Meanwhile, the few people that did come to the site in general only viewed a few projects. I decided to remove every project except for the 3 most trafficked, which I re-ordered according to popularity.

Interestingly, one of the projects was a series of experience journey examples, not an actual project. Despite this, visitors were visiting the page. I’ve followed the lead from the analytics ever since. Those 3 projects, including the experience journeys, have always appeared first in their specific order, anytime my projects appear online. Ironically, some of the feedback I got from my acquaintances was that I had too many projects. :/

 


Reflections

Something I haven’t talked about is how many weekends of beautiful weather I’ve missed trying to solve this main problem and all of these sub-problems.

One of my favorite activities is riding the ferry around NYC or riding my bike to my favorite park. I’ve missed at least a month of weekends and ridden my bike about twice in 3-4 months. It’s really been a heavy feeling to see the sun shining outside and feel so much pressure to complete this project, yet not knowing the right way to solve this problem. We only get so many days on this planet and each day is unique.

Here are some photos from some sunny days.


Next Steps

Writing blog posts takes time but I find writing helps me organize my thoughts. And this exercise has been helpful to review and take an account of what I have already accomplished.

Given everything I just wrote, I’m going to try and create a design for Tachyons, or at least a layout for a portfolio. Or, I should say create a design again – when I reviewed all my other websites, I found a design that I put together a few years ago!

Regarding DIY with vanilla HTML/CSS, I know that there are static site generators people use, but I don’t really know about using them for my own domain. It’s a bit of an esoteric problem that I’m not sure I want to get into yet. Maybe this knocks DIY off the list, since not using a CMS makes updating kind of painful.

I also want to look into some of the themes I found for WordPress. Probably not BlankSlate, but the guy who is leading the design for WordPress 2020 created a free theme called Chaplin. (Although he uses a theme called Harrison that’s not on his site.) Chaplin has 9,500 downloads. Maybe I’ll look into that. Since I have my own site, I can install WordPress in multiple folders and test out different options.

I think it’s also worthwhile exploring Squarespace (again), at least temporarily.

And maybe I’ll go take a walk while the sun is shining.