Like any budding developer, I’m always looking for new projects to build up my skills. My fiancee, knowing this, and being the savvy woman she is, challenged me to build a custom website for our wedding.
I thought this would be a good project for me as I haven’t done much front-end design and development with Cody. While I appreciate HTML’s logical structure, I find few things more painful than working in CSS, and well, I guess I wanted to see if I could get past that.
While I’m still not a CSS fan by a long shot, I had a lot of fun with this project which was pieced together over a few weekends. You can check out the site here: http://www.niroshaandpejman.com
Our wedding is being held in Seattle, and with most guests coming in from out of town, we wanted to use the site as a chance to showcase the city.
One fun way I did this was in developing a mark for our wedding. You might recognize this as Foursquare’s Seattle icon. I basically took it, flipped out the colors and put our initials into it. When you’re new to design you have to be scrappy :)
I also tried to achieve this with the use of full-screen background images of some of our favorite places in Seattle.
The final design is responsive (adapts to Desktop, Phones, and Tablets). Here’s the homepage on desktop, and the same page on my iPhone.
One of the challenges I faced was showcasing the photos while still simultaneously presenting information about the event. This was mostly solved through a semi-transparent background which the text would sit on top of. For example, here’s our Travel page:
Still, I kept finding myself wanting all the details to go away, so that a guest could just experience the photos. I thought about putting in a toggle button or something more complicated, but finally ended up with a “slideshow” mode on the homepage.
I restricted this slideshow mode to bigger resolutions (desktops), as I found it impossible to position the photos just right on mobile and tablet.
Text Message: The Least Common Denominator
Early in the design process, I wanted to extend our web presence beyond just a static site that guests look at once and then forget. The web is best when it is fresh and participatory.
I started dreaming up all sorts of integrations using Facebook, or Twitter, or Pinterest. Things got really elaborate but each time I had one of these ideas I hesitated as I thought of our “audience.” I knew that many of our guests are not social media-savvy and the last thing I wanted was something that would alienate some and confuse others.
The solution I came up with was to leverage the most frictionless and real-time medium in wide usage today: text messaging. Nirosha and I realized this would be a great way to connect with our guests throughout the weekend. We could send out little notes on things like the behind the scenes preparations or photos of key moments. It’s kind of like a wedding twitter feed, but without us having to teach our aunties how to use Twitter.
I built this using Twilio. Guests simply sign up with their phone number and they are subscribed to receive our notes:
I referenced a lot of tools, tutorials, etc. in building this site. Here’s some links in case you’re interested in exploring further:
Twitter’s Bootstrap: For the base CSS and responsive scaffolding
Chris Coyier’s Background Image Tutorial: On setting up full-page, responsive background images
The site still isn’t officially launched to guests, so knowing me, I’ll keep tweaking it. Ideally I take some time to templatize it and throw it on Github for anyone that wants to use this as a framework on their own wedding site, but you’ll probably have to bug me about it before I do that :)
PS - A special thanks to Paul Javid, who snapped all the photos on the site! Yes, we collaborate on everything.
Originally published in Geekwire
Entrepreneurs have an interesting perspective on decision-making. For one, they do a lot of it. But moreover, I believe they tend to think about opportunities differently than most people.
This applies to the big decisions that make or break a company, as well as the day-to-day decisions that we all face.
In this post I’d like to use one small decision my fiancee and I recently faced to highlight some of these differences. I hope you find the lessons useful, and even start thinking differently about some of the decisions you face in your life.
Originally published in Geekwire
My fiancee isn’t the jealous type but she likes to joke that I’m already married to my co-founder. Paul and I are three weeks into working full-time on our startup (details TBA), and we’re spending a ridiculous amount of time together. We’re bootstrapping, so that means working everyday out of his living room. We buy groceries together, we cook for each other, and so in a funny way she’s kind of right.
The co-founder relationship is an intense one. You are together for long stretches, working under high levels of uncertainty and risk. Stress levels are high, but I couldn’t imagine going at it alone. A good co-founder, like a good spouse, is a balancing force. But just like getting married, it’s not something to just rush into.
In this post I’d like to share some of things I’ve learned about finding that special someone — your co-founder.
For those keeping count we just finished Week #2 of our startup adventure. Plenty to share regarding product soon (we’re really not trying to be stealth), but for now I wanted to write about fundraising.
Paul and I had an interesting discussion earlier this week. We asked ourselves what kinds of things would motivate an investor to back us. Our answers ran the gamut, but at the end of the day they could all be grouped into one of three buckets: team, product, or plan. Depending on the investor and the stage of investment some combination of these three things need to be proved.
PROVE THE TEAM
Investors like to bet on people. Early investments, in particular, are made with very limited information. The thing that’s most tangible are the people sitting across the table (that’s you). So how do you build confidence in your team?
Paul and I do a reasonable job at maintaining a sense of priorities and focus with our day-to-day work on the startup. Right now we’re fairly heads down on product, prototyping and building for our next pilot. As a result we’re taking big strides in this area every day, but it also means we may potentially be putting on the blinders to looming issues just down the road.
There are a host of other things that we need to do in preparation for the pilot launch. Things like developing a strategy for user acquisition, designing a brand identity, socializing our plan with advisors and potential investors, finalizing legal activities like trademark and contracts. The list goes on and on.
The key, we’ve found, is to resist the temptation to take these things on serially. In other words, don’t wait until you are completely done with your product to start the next set of tasks like hiring a design firm or setting up meetings with advisors. I say this for a couple of reasons:
My co-founder and I have recently been spending a lot of time on our product name. We thought we had one, hit some issues, and had to revisit things. As with all problems, we’ve been talking to a lot of people and finding great advice online. I thought it would be useful to share some things here.
First, when it comes to the name, we found it helpful to grade potential options using well defined criteria. Otherwise it becomes much too subjective. Using criteria to set constraints helped make the problem more approachable.
Paul Graham has a great article on this where he uses the “Nominology” framework to evaluate startup names.
Nominology has you grade names across seven dimensions:
For example, here is PaulG’s grading of “Google”:
Student loans. To me they are akin to the bar tab. They give you access to a really awesome experience, but at some point reality sets in and you’re facing a big bill and a hangover.
Loans are what hold a lot of people back from pursuing their startup ambitions. A big loan payment due each month makes the risky proposition of a startup even riskier. That’s why the Obama administration’s Startup America initiative is such a big deal.
I’ve been traveling for the last week and a half in Cambodia and Vietnam. I literally left the day after turning in my badge at Microsoft; life is feeling quite surreal right now.
I’m traveling with my fiancée, Nirosha, and one of the things we’ve been talking about is this concept of adaptation. It’s miraculous how quickly human beings get accustomed to new surroundings.
We were stunned by the tight, busy streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter our first day there. The parked motorbikes literally take up the entire sidewalk, and the streets are packed with cars and more motorbikes whizzing by; there’s basically no place for pedestrians to walk. We struggled that first day to just cross a few city blocks.
By the third day, while I’m pretty sure the locals were still laughing at us, we were way more confident. We’d step right out onto the street and tactfully maneuver our way through traffic. The anxiety of reaching an intersection was more or less gone.
This has played out in a number of ways throughout the trip. I think we forget at times how quick we are to learn and adapt. Taking those uncomfortable first steps and sticking with it are the key.
Today was my last day at Microsoft. I spent the last 18 months as a Product Manager at Bing, launching products like Bing for iPad and Bing on Xbox. I got the chance to work with a lot of great people, and I believe I grew a lot from the experience.
I’m leaving to start a new company, and while I’m not yet ready to talk about that, I did want to share something related to my decision.
Recently my mind turned back to a memory I had all but forgotten. I was 19, a sophomore at Berkeley, and early one afternoon I was riding the BART. I remember being engrossed by something I was reading, when the man sitting next to me struck up a conversation. As often happens in the Bay Area the conversation quickly turned to politics, and I don’t remember what I said but suddenly the man began laughing at me. He chuckled, and then, and I remember these words distinctly, he said: “When people are young they are naive and think things are easy to change, but as they get older they become more cynical as they understand how the world really works. You will see, it will happen to you too.”