Our company's mission is to design delightful digital experiences for purveyors of joy.

How the Thrill & Create site was built

Recently, I made several big announcements on this blog. One was that the company is now called Thrill & Create LLC, and another is that the company’s new website is now online at AmusementUX.com.

The previous site

The initial work for AmusementUX.com, internally abbreviated AUX, started almost two years ago. The company’s old website, at DalandanConcepts.com (pronounced “dah-LAHN-DAHN”), was the first new website I had designed or developed in about 9 years. (I had built several music-related websites, which are mercifully no longer online, over the 5 years before that – using a very old Mac version of Dreamweaver.) The Dalandan Concepts site was entirely hand-coded HTML and CSS using the now-deprecated 960 grid system. In other words, it was intended to only look good on desktop computers: not a good selling point since I was trying to sell usability consulting services using that site. Last year, I would take part of a weekend to make the site responsive so that it would be at least somewhat usable on mobile devices.

Preparing for Project: Amusement UX

I started planning the site’s replacement almost as soon as I launched it. While researching hundreds of amusement-industry professionals on LinkedIn, I generated a persona spreadsheet. This was relatively preliminary user research compared to what I do now, but this spreadsheet informed the design of the rest of the project.

I initially knew the site as “Dalandan V2” (version 2). I began by developing a desktop-first wireframe and later replaced that with a mobile-first wireframe. Fortunately, I was then busy with client work for a while. Many incoming phone calls during that year, in which people mispronounced “Dalandan” showed me that Dalandan was not a good word to use in the company’s name, whether I had nice pictures of dalandan (a type of fruit which I ate in Southeast Asia) to use for the website or not. Ultimately, what the site needed to sell was design services, not food.

So aside from making the existing site work on mobile devices, buying AmusementUX.com, and identifying a WordPress theme, I did not do any additional work on replacing the company’s site in 2013. I decided to shelve the project until mid-January 2014. Another big decision was to use a daily Scrum process (adapted for a Scrum team of one) in order to design and develop the new site.

Amusement UX: design and development in full swing

The project’s overall structure, including both design and development, consisted of some preparation work, 7 iterations, and 4 spikes.

Iteration 0

This was a brief iteration before work on the Thrill & Create site truly started. I installed a Coming Soon page and wrote some brief copy describing our business. Design work during this phase was fairly minimal.

Iteration 1

During this iteration, I performed my first round of ideation. Hundreds of ideas were then pared down to a much more manageable set that fit the site’s primary personas, and I did sketches and wireframes. My tool throughout the wireframe/prototype process was Axure RP 7. I also wrote preliminary copy for several pages. On a client project, I would have wanted to do a round of testing with users at this point.

At this stage, the homepage was much longer than it is now. Services, blog posts, and the About section were described on the homepage. An initial Process page, not yet reviewed with fellow designers, was already part of the site.

Iteration 2

Iteration 2 fleshed out more of the ideas for the site’s Services page, Process page, and the homepage. The homepage, at this stage, really aimed to establish the site as an authority regarding usability and user experience. It also did more to sell users on responsive design.

By the end of iteration 2, I had made medium-fidelity prototypes of most of the pages in the site. I had also run through Zurb’s Design Triggers list and incorporated many of those ideas. This iteration ended with a round of short usability tests to gauge users’ first impressions of the site.

Iteration 3

The first impression tests told me to revisit the layouts of the homepage and its hero area. I generated 4 hero area ideas and 8 homepage layout ideas and created wireframes and medium-fidelity prototypes of each one.

Spike 3.5

I then ran a survey wherein I paid many users to tell me what homepage layouts provided the strongest, most professional first impression. I chose pairs of ideas to compete against each other in this. Two out of four pairs did not have a clear winner, so I created layout ideas 9 and 10 as hybrids/replacements of these 4 other ideas.

Iteration 4

Iteration 4 incorporated feedback on the hero area surveys and a next round of homepage layout surveys. These resulted in some modifications to the hero area and the homepage. At this point, I ran a set of longer usability tests on the prototype and triaged their feedback. During this stage, I was also working on some business strategy options related to my usability evaluation service offerings.

Iteration 5

The longer usability tests gave me a wealth of valuable feedback. Among other changes, I continued to sketch new ideas for the homepage layout and created new variants of the hero areas. I also created new ideas for the Process and Services page, wrote their copy, and created two more comprehensive prototypes of the Why User Experience Design Instead of Web Design? article. During this stage, I was also making preliminary choices for the site’s typography.

Spike 5.5

Several users in this round of usability testing did not like the color palette which the site was using at that time. Since changing the entire color scheme of a site involves widespread changes and it is not (as of this writing) a simple process in Axure RP, I created a separate sprint spike to work on this. By then, the site was already well into its development process. The Axure RP prototype with the new color scheme gave me a reference for how the site was supposed to look after my code changes.

Iteration 6

Iteration 6 began in early May with adding content to the site, which was still hidden by the Coming Soon template. I started writing a custom CSS file, which eventually grew to well over 4000 lines of code. I spent most of this iteration working on the custom CSS and its associated work items. There was also a support issue with a vendor which took weeks to resolve. It pushed back the launch of the site due to the issue’s severity and the amount of development effort I had to expend to formulate an acceptable solution. Business owners wear many hats, indeed.

Spike 6.5

Spike 6.5, which didn’t meet a standard Scrum definition of a spike as well as I wanted it to, was mainly used for fixing bugs with the site which I had found on mobile devices and for starting trials of the fonts I was going to purchase, in advance of testing the site again with users.

In Spike 6.5, I created Axure prototypes of the homepage’s layout at more widths to show what a working version of the site would look like at those widths as I worked through the bug list.

Iteration 7

At the end of iteration 6.5, I conducted another round of long usability tests, including several tests with other UX designers. This, again, resulted in much valuable feedback.

At this stage I implemented an element collage to ensure a more consistent look and feel across the site. Element collages are now an artifact I produce much earlier in my design process.

I created five new hero area ideas in response to user feedback. The homepage, portfolio items, process page, and services page also received significant changes, for which I created sketches, wireframes, and prototypes.

In development, iteration 7  also involved making sweeping CSS changes because I changed the site’s font pairing in response to user feedback.

Spike 7.5

Spike 7.5 included more mobile bug fixes and many deployment tasks. This spike ended on August 21, 2014, when I soft-opened the site that you see today with a placeholder company name. After more branding surveys, I began the process to officially rename Dalandan Concepts to Thrill & Create.

Next on the agenda

Here on the Thrill & Create site, you may find information about who we are and what projects we are doing. Our Facebook and Twitter pages will have further, more frequent updates from the intersecting worlds of user experience design and amusement.

We would love to work on more user experience design projects and usability evaluations in the amusement space. Please contact us via our contact page or info@amusementux.com.

Daily Scrum for Freelancers

Daily Scrum for freelancers and other teams of one

Thrill & Create does user-centered digital product design for the amusement industry. In other words, we design websites, microsites, apps, and any other digital products with a view toward making these products easy to use and enjoyable for park guests, business partners, and any other prospective buyers in the amusement industry.

Although we work hard not only on design but also on running our business, we also endeavor to work as smart as we can. We regularly see how we can improve our process.

My background in work processes

As a former software engineer for large, mid-sized, and small companies, I was able to ship products successfully in each setting using widely varying processes.

The large company, a multinational corporation which had a team in the hundreds for our project, used a traditional waterfall process. The requirements team handed off their work to the logical design team, which handed theirs to the physical design team. The waterfall proceeded to the development teams and to the test teams before it was turned over to the customer. Meetings and signoffs abounded, and going back to a previous step was largely impossible. To speed up the schedule, the project team was split in half, with each half of the team working on a separate release. While with this company, I started becoming very interested in software development processes and read my first several books on agile.

The mid-sized company used a team in at least 3 states and a spiral development process. They, likewise, had separate people working on each step: requirements, design, development, quality assurance, and integration testing. But the teams staggered their work so that each group could stay one step ahead of the next group.

The small companies used geographically distributed teams and agile processes. I was generally responsible for working on individual features and bug fixes and carrying them through to completion through design, development, initial testing, and supporting quality assurance engineers or systems engineers as they tested my work. Our teams would have daily stand-up meetings and twice-weekly calls with team members in other locations. In each stand-up meeting, members would answer three questions:

  1. What did you work on yesterday? (or on the most recent work day)
  2. What are you working on today?
  3. Are you blocked, or stuck, on anything? (Are you waiting for anything to happen which is keeping you from being able to finish your tasks?)

The advantages of agile

First published in 2001, the Agile Manifesto lists 4 core tenets:

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  4. Responding to change over following a plan

While agile teams still value the items on the right, they value the items on the left more. Agile processes allow companies – particularly smaller companies – to respond quickly when their clients want something changed. They also tend to minimize, but not eliminate, paperwork.

1. You spend more time doing design, development, or testing.

I was surprised at how little time I spent writing code at software development companies that used a waterfall process. Other team members and I spent many weeks between development iterations writing comprehensive documentation and waiting for other groups in the project team to hand off their deliverables to us. In the agile shops, I wrote code nearly every day.

Designers in an agile project can spend more time designing. Developers can spend more time developing. And testers can spend more time testing. They all become better at their crafts faster. No more sitting around for weeks with nothing to do while you wait for another group to get their work done. There is generally a lot less waste in agile processes.

What that means for you: Agile gives us more time to master user experience design, so that each new site, app, or other digital product we ship is noticeably much better than the previous one. It allows us to become UX experts faster.

2. A product’s users are more likely to end up with a product that they want.

The Lean Startup movement emphasizes the notion of the minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP has only the features that allow a product to be launched. Typically, the MVP will be deployed to only some of your customers: those who are likely to be more forgiving and more willing to give helpful feedback on the product. With fewer features to work on, the project team can focus on making each feature exactly right.

MVP helps companies to understand what customers want more quickly and to focus on developing the right product ideas for serving them best. Later releases of the products can include more features and a wider release.

What that means for you: You’ll know very early in our design process what your users think of our designs. We start our testing with users far before the first release of a product. Many products can be tested with users starting with as little as a sketch. We will use test users who represent your target market well (verified with user research), so that we will take your digital products to market with greater certainty that they will want them.

3. You can ship (and make money from your product) sooner.

This is tied to the minimum viable product (MVP) strategy from the previous point. Because an MVP has fewer features, it does not require as much time to design or develop. This allows the product to be released and sold (or used to help sell other products) much sooner.

Scrum, a widely used agile method which I have also implemented at Thrill & Create, organizes work into a product backlog. The backlog is a list of requirements (features, bug fixes, user test comments, non-functional requirements) that the project team maintains. After the product owner identifies which items need to be in a shipped product, the team needs to work through items on the backlog in order to be able to ship the product. Story points help us to estimate how long everything will take.

What this means for you: If your website, app, or other digital product does not need to be launched in an all-at-once fashion, we can release it in stages. This helps provide you with a fast return on your investment before our team is even done with design and development.

4. Problems are easier to identify and fix early.

Design and development are not exact sciences. User research can help us anticipate what users will want. However, it doesn’t absolutely ensure a correct design. And many software development projects encounter problems that require extensive rework to fix properly.

Fortunately, the Agile Manifesto emphasizes working software and customer collaboration. At a development level, this means that as early in the process as possible, there is always a version of the product that they can ship to customers at a moment’s notice. That version keeps receiving updates as the developers continue to deliver work. At a design level, we test designs with users at many stages to identify problems with their usability and validate which design directions are correct. This allows us to avoid wasting budget developing solutions that do not work.

What that means for you: Your budget will be used more effectively because we won’t spend it going far down the wrong path in our designs.

5. It is easier to allow customers and users to change the product without having the product ship late.

One of the main reasons why agile processes were developed was that waterfall processes respond to change poorly. Waterfall projects often use slow, involved approval processes in order to have changes approved. Teams often have to work at an unsustainable pace in order to ship changes without slipping the project schedule – if that is even possible.

Agile – and in particular, Scrum’s story point system – makes responding to changes easier. Scrum iterations have a fixed duration and a fixed number of story points or hours available. With a fixed timeline, we can use these estimated task durations to determine what makes it into each sprint: new features, bug fixes, testing, and any other work items. Changes that happen often result in lower-priority tasks being removed from the sprint and either deferred to a later sprint or removed from the project. The ship date is only pushed back if the changes do not result in existing tasks being removed from the project.

What that means for you: While we are the designers, we collaborate with you consistently to make sure that you are getting what you and your users need. We are able to accommodate changes in a project in a way that does not jeopardize ship dates as long as our overall project scope remains the same.

How Thrill & Create implements Scrum

At Thrill & Create, we have had different ways of working with our project teams.

When I worked on the Coaster Crew projects, I had one primary and one secondary point of contact with the other Coaster Crew staff. My main point of contact was their webmaster, who also handles the back-end development for their sites. I sent him a weekly status email which detailed what I was working on and whether I was blocked on anything. On tasks that required more involvement from him, we would communicate more frequently via email or Facebook chat. I handled project management and usability test triage using an Excel spreadsheet, which was mainly for my reference.

My secondary point of contact with The Coaster Crew was their vice president of membership. The webmaster and I interfaced with him for more directional-level decisions and budget approvals. Beyond this, I was also able to ask questions or post comments for the rest of The Coaster Crew’s staff to answer.

When I worked on a redesign for a local nonprofit, I initially had a project team consisting of myself as UX designer/PM, a graphic designer, a developer, and an idea guy. We met weekly over dinner to discuss our project and move the project forward. This project was done in a more waterfall-like setting. Due to multiple factors beyond our control, I ended up completing the development myself using a daily to-do list for project management.

I decided to make the rebrand from Dalandan Concepts (pronounced “dah-LAHN-DAHN”) to Thrill & Create a purer application of Scrum processes.

But how do you do daily stand-up meetings as a team of one?

Partway into the project, I created a Daily Scrum spreadsheet with the following columns:

  • Day of week and date
  • What I did yesterday
  • What I still need to do from yesterday (if anything)
  • What I’m doing today
  • What my main project for the day is
  • What iteration I am on in my main project
  • What my second and third projects are (if any)
  • Am I blocked on anything?

I’ve added an entry to this spreadsheet each day since then. Typically, I begin the day by checking my email and doing any other administrative tasks unrelated to my main project. After a break for breakfast, I fill out my Daily Scrum spreadsheet for the day and get into my main list of tasks.

Often, my tasks for the day in Daily Scrum come from my master to-do list. This makes the Daily Scrum process very easy.

Early iterations would be focused on preliminary design tasks, such as user research, persona generation, brainstorming, and sketching. After that, my iterations would usually take the following format:

  • Work on design for items in the iteration
  • Work on development for items in the iteration (Note: For multi-person teams, UX design authors have advised making the design team stay 1-2 sprints ahead of the development team)
  • Draft a list of tasks for user testers
  • Run a round of user testing
  • Write down feedback from each tester, including some metadata indicating which users were closer to our target persona
  • Triage feedback from each tester based on the item’s priority, severity, and level of effort. (Items that multiple users cited and items cited by users with characteristics closest to our target personas’ were given a higher priority.)
  • Determine what would go into the next iteration.

However, my role for the Thrill & Create site was bigger than design. I was also responsible for the site’s development. This made estimation more of a challenge. Several iterations had spikes, shorter timeboxed periods for researching concepts or creating a simple prototype. (Some spikes, such as the ones I did, do result in more features and bug fixes being delivered for the product.) This is why my Daily Scrum spreadsheet has some days listed as Iteration 3.5, 5.5, 6.5 and 7.5.

I also use task breakdowns fairly extensively in estimating the duration of a task. Task breakdowns enable more accurate estimates because they force thinking about the details of finishing a task. Agile methodologies encourage further breakdown of any task estimated to take longer than two days. Incidentally, my biggest lesson learned from the Coaster Crew launch was to not assume that migrating the site from a prototype to WordPress was a short task. Initially, I had estimated it to take 3 days, but the extensive development required for the migration added weeks of work to the project.

The way I do triaging is somewhat different from the story points method in classic Scrum. With the Thrill & Create site, I assigned the effort of work items on a more relative scale. My spreadsheet, then, had columns for priority, severity, effort, and priority times effort. That helped guide me through selecting work items to include in sprints.

The priority and severity scales I use are based on several I found in this Interaction Design Association (IxDA) forum thread. Thank you to Jim Drew for these scales:

  • Severity: Critical: a crash or data loss; users are blocked unless they restart the app or reload the webpage. UX issues rarely reach this level.
  • Severity: High: A major feature is broken and can’t be used fully, or a minor feature is either too broken to use at all or not present
  • Severity: Medium: A major feature can’t be used fully, a minor feature is blocked, or a feature is broken but has a workaround.
  • Severity: Low: The problem doesn’t affect (or only lightly affects) users’ ability to use a feature. An example of this would be poor message wording, or color contrast that meets WCAG AA but not WCAG AAA.

The priority scales I use are based on the following. I adjust them according to how many users are reporting a problem and how close those users are to our target persona:

  • Priority: Critical: This needs to be fixed in this iteration, or other items (priority high or medium) cannot be addressed until a fix for this one is complete.
  • Priority: High: We need to fix this item in this iteration, or at least before we ship the next release.
  • Priority: Medium: We would like to address this item in this iteration or release, but we might not get to it.
  • Priority: Low: We are likely to not do this work item; we only have it in the spreadsheet so that we can track the issue.

As a bonus, here is how I scaled the required effort for a task for the Thrill & Create site:

  • Effort: Extreme: Significant increase to the project scope. Feature is either impossible to build or would require significant development effort or substantial budget/travel to build. For example, one tester on the Thrill & Create site did not like the fonts in several portfolio items. To change this honestly, I would have had to essentially redesign the typography of sites I had already delivered to other clients.
  • Effort: Very High: Bugs that are probably fixable but have a great deal of uncertainty and/or require testing in many configurations. New features that require a great deal of thought and care and/or a full design process to implement properly. For example, comments concerning the overall mood of a site require a thorough review of many aspects of a site to identify the best solution for changing the site’s mood.
  • Effort: High: The work item requires extensive, well-thought-out changes to implement properly and may require new sketches, wireframes, and/or prototypes. For example, when we are asked to change a site’s color scheme, we research new color schemes and test them out in prototypes. High effort could also mean that a bug is affecting different kinds of devices in different ways. For example, the How Can We Help? buttons on the Thrill & Create homepage were displaying unusual behavior around some breakpoints and had to be tested extensively on multiple devices since they essentially required a partial rewrite of a grid system.
  • Effort: Medium: The fix seems simple, but dependencies make it so that we have to make sure it doesn’t break anything else in the site. For example, if the site’s grid system on one page needs more padding at tablet widths, we need to make sure that changing it will not cause undesirable effects on other pages.
  • Effort: Low: Bugs that I already know how to fix when I see them or features that only require a few lines of code to implement. For example, during the Thrill & Create site’s development, the text on the Send Message button was too small. This was relatively high priority but a very simple fix.

Tips for freelancers and teams of one who are considering implementing Daily Scrum

Maintain a Daily Scrum spreadsheet which says what your current projects are, what you did on the previous work day, what you are doing today, if there was anything from yesterday you didn’t get to do, and if there is anything blocking you from finishing today’s tasks.

  • Make it daily: Set a reminder every morning (on work days) to update your Daily Scrum spreadsheet
  • Consistency: Don’t worry if you miss a day. Just make sure you get back to it.
  • Billing: If you do not bill hourly or use value pricing, bill in iterations.
  • Schedule: Timebox the length of an iteration. In other words, if you say at the beginning that an iteration lasts for 3 weeks, keep the length of an iteration at 3 weeks. Don’t go over.
  • Clear communication: Especially if you are remote, always be clear with your clients on what you are working on and whether or not you are blocked on anything.
  • Collaborate: Make sure to collaborate with your clients, especially with your main point of contact. “Here’s your assignment, now go do it and give it back to me when you’re done” is not a way of thinking that Scrum encourages.
  • Minify?: The optimal size for a Scrum team is 5-9 people. If your team has 1-3 people, consider a process with less overhead by replacing some of the meetings with less formal sessions.
  • Remember what it’s for: Use it to stay accountable (to yourself and your client), productive (the point of any good work process), and happy (probably one of your reasons for being in business for yourself).
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Thrill & Create rebrand: taking amusement’s thrills to users’ devices

For Immediate Release

Thrill & Create is a user experience design consulting company focusing on digital products for the amusement industry.

Gambrills, MD (September 3, 2014)—Thrill & Create LLC, a user experience design consultancy specializing in designing digital products such as websites and user interfaces for the amusement industry, today announced its new brand identity. The company unveiled its new name, website, and design process.

Established in 2012 as Dalandan Concepts LLC (pronounced “dah-LAHN-DAHN”), Thrill & Create is the first user-centered design company focusing on digital products for primarily the amusement industry. Companies in the amusement industry which have worked with local, national, or global web design firms before now have a new option: a user experience design firm which only works in their industry, is passionate about their industry, and truly seeks to understand their business and their customers.

“Amusement parks, and theme parks in particular, have been masters of guest experience for many years.” said David Parmelee, Owner & User Experience Designer. “In the physical world, every aspect of their interaction with guests is designed. Users are now expecting this more and more in digital products. The Thrill & Create rebrand and the rollout of our formalized user-centered design process position us to help amusement parks and other amusement companies with user-centered design for their digital products.”

Using user-centered design, Thrill & Create produces designs which focus primarily on helping users accomplish their goals using a park or company’s website, microsite, app, or other user interface. The new design process begins with systematic user research and in-depth evaluations of a company’s existing product designs. After presenting a summary of review findings to clients, it proceeds through multiple iterations of ideation, sketches, wireframes, and prototypes before a product is translated into code and launched. Many rounds of testing with users and detailed post-launch analysis helps ensure a successful product launch. The process emphasizes, “It’s not done until it’s usable and it brings value to your business.”

“Rigorous user research and frequent user participation throughout our design process gives our clients a sturdier foundation for their users to market them via word of mouth.” said Parmelee. “Our use of quick iterations—Agile UX—comes from the software industry and applies naturally to design. It permits us to eliminate or mitigate users’ pain points early in the design process. That would ultimately allow our clients to keep customers engaged digitally with their brand, save support costs, and save expensive and substantial development rework.”

Thrill & Create also provides usability and user experience evaluations as separate services to amusement-industry companies seeking feedback on their existing digital products. Offered at several price points, these evaluations combine technical analysis of a digital product’s usability with feedback from real users.

Additionally, Thrill & Create reimagined their main website and moved it to http://AmusementUX.com. The new website features streamlined porfolio samples which walk readers through their design process on several projects. It also describes the company’s service offerings and aforementioned new user-centered design process in greater detail. Incorporating feedback from hundreds of users, the Thrill & Create website is the most recent result of the company’s user-centered design process.

The new brand identity will be implemented and rolled out across numerous touchpoints, ranging from social media to business cards.

For more information about Thrill & Create LLC, please visit http://AmusementUX.com. Or contact info@amusementUX.com for a free consultation.

About Thrill & Create LLC

Founded in 2012 as Dalandan Concepts LLC, Thrill & Create LLC offers user experience design solutions for digital products, such as websites and apps, to the amusement industry. Thrill & Create’s service offerings range from new designs and redesigns to usability and accessibility evaluations. Years of previous experience in software testing and development influence Thrill & Create’s design process. You can learn more about Thrill & Create by visiting http://AmusementUX.com.

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Some big announcements

I have several big announcements to make.

Let’s begin with the company’s story.

Dalandan Concepts (pronounced “dah-LAHN-DAHN”) has been around since April 2012, and it has been Dalandan Concepts LLC since June 2012. It began as a company which drew upon my passion (usability and user experience) and background (software testing and development). Initially, it was marketed as though it were two companies under one roof: user experience design and software quality assurance. The company began bidding on projects, mostly user experience design work for small businesses in a wide range of industries.

In my past workplaces, I was known as someone who spends most of his vacation days at amusement parks. During the amusement industry’s largest trade show in November 2012, I happened to be in Orlando. While I was there to work and did not get to attend, I kept up with several major industry blogs as they covered the event. I flew back from Orlando wanting to have been there.

That trip sharpened my focus for the business’s service offerings. Shortly thereafter, I stopped offering software quality assurance services in order to concentrate on user experience. I was going to be the founder of the first user experience design consultancy for the amusement industry. This truly represented doing what I love for the industry that engages me the most.

(Later, I would find out that other user experience design companies, which work with physical environments, do work with the industry. To my knowledge, my company is still the only one which does user-centered design for digital products for the amusement industry.)

Within weeks, I had several prospects in the industry. I started our first amusement project in 2013, soon after the first of the year. Throughout 2013 and the early part of 2014, I worked on design projects for the amusement industry and a local nonprofit.

After I finished that work, I turned my effort toward replacing DalandanConcepts.com with a new site for the company: a responsive site using WordPress, like many of our other recent projects, so that I could update it easily with new articles and new portfolio entries.

However, analytics data showed us that few people were finding DalandanConcepts.com. Those who found the site often found it because they wanted recipes for dalandan, a tropical fruit in Southeast Asia which had inspired the company’s name. The site was providing very few inbound leads for design projects.

I had read an e-book about “pretotyping” (note the spelling). The main premise of pretotyping is, “Make sure you’re building the right it before you build it right.” Dalandan Concepts, as a company name and as a web address, was clearly the wrong it. I began designing and developing the company’s new site under the name Amusement UX – just a placeholder name which says what the company does and for whom.

So by now, you would know my first announcement.

This company has a new name: Thrill & Create LLC.

Thrill & Create is the winner of hundreds of name ideas that came from a variety of sources: friends, clients, and hundreds of poll participants. I polled hundreds of people regarding their first impressions, word associations, image associations, and competitor/product associations with each of my favorite names among the suggestions. I also tested how well people could recall the names and how easy or hard it was to spell the names properly.

(For a baseline, I included Dalandan Concepts in one of the surveys. Everyone spelled it wrong. If you did too, don’t feel bad! 🙂 )

These polls and surveys took place in several rounds throughout the Amusement UX design and development process.

So, why Thrill & Create?

“thrill (verb): to suddenly excite someone, or to give someone great pleasure; to (figuratively) electrify; to experience such a sensation”

(from Wiktionary)

“Thrill” shows that we focus on the amusement industry. The amusement industry is in the business of providing a great guest experience to a very wide range of people. The attractions and the atmosphere of each park, zoo, or aquarium are designed to thrill the guests. But each guest is different. For some people, a good thrill means an adrenaline rush riding the most extreme rides in the park. Others prefer more relaxed rides, shows, or just taking pictures while others in their party have fun on thrill rides.

“create (verb):

  1. to put into existence.
  2. to design; invest with a new form, shape, etc.
  3. to be creative, imaginative”

(from Wiktionary)

“Create” makes it clear that we focus on design. Designers become known for what they create.

Someone suggested to me the name Thrill Creative. “Creative”, as it turns out, gives a connotation in company names that we don’t want. “Creative” de-emphasizes the fact that design is a trade. So I call myself a designer, not a creative.

Several of our other suggestions also had the word creative. I was wondering what I could do with the idea of creating without positioning myself as a “creative”. Ultimately, I chose a company name based on verbs: action words; forward-thinking. Thrill & Create. That went into the last two rounds of surveys and did the best of each remaining name.

My next announcement:

The company has a new website, AmusementUX.com.

You can now find Thrill & Create at AmusementUX.com. ThrillAndCreate.com will redirect there in the future. I chose Amusement UX because this company does digital user experience (UX) design for the amusement industry.

That was simple. What’s the next announcement?

The company now has a more formalized design process.

Our first UX design projects went according to a partially waterfall process: usability evaluation, requirements, design, development, launch.

But clients and users were rightfully pushing back on some of the design ideas presented to them. We realized that trying to do everything in one iteration and then move on to the next step was not going to work for every client.

To work smarter, I decided to implement a new process inspired by agile development on projects in which the process is up to me. The new process builds in multiple iterations of design and development. The number of iterations varies from project to project. And the process is more user-centered than ever before.

So, how is this process going to be carried out?

The company now has a new strategy for growth.

I started my business over two years ago with no background in running my own business, and I had a lot to learn. Since then, I have taken courses taught by established consultancy owners, read numerous blogs, read books, and listened to many business podcasts.

But as Dalandan Concepts, I consistently found much of the development and deployment work – and, in some projects, all of it – falling on me. I was wearing so many hats: business owner, designer, developer, and deployment engineer. I wanted to spend more time designing, and I had ideas that users loved which had to stay on the drawing board because I did not have a full-time developer on my projects.

So as Thrill & Create, I am seeking to grow the company while limiting my roles to Owner & User Experience Designer. Not by hiring employees, but by building dream teams on a per-project basis. This is also called the Hollywood Model. “This project needs a developer? A deployment engineer? An illustrator? An animator? A virtual assistant? Great, let’s find people who can do these jobs best and hire them as subcontractors.”

I want that to be my mindset: when clients do not have a team in place, I can build one, so that we can provide the best products we can for our clients. And concentrating on what we are best at will help us to deliver these products smarter and faster.

Thank you, and may we continue to spread the joy of amusement.

—David Parmelee

Owner & User Experience Designer, Thrill & Create LLC.

Work with Thrill & Create

If you would be interested in having us work with you and your users on a new design, redesign, a website, a microsite, an app – or if you want me to have users test your site or take an in-depth look at how well your site is doing at usability and user experience – please feel free to contact me (David Parmelee) at info@amusementUX.com.

Join a Thrill & Create project team

If you’re passionate about amusement and creating great user experiences and you would be interested in joining one of my project teams, I’d love to hear from you and find out whether you may be a good fit. Please email me at info@amusementUX.com.