2015 — A year in review

I’ll tell you honestly — I have mixed feelings about writing a “year in review”. Often times it feels like a boasting competition. Who collected the most miles, lectures, awards or crossed off bucket list items. On the other hand, it’s extremely healthy to stop, reflect, recap and honestly, just remember the good (and less good) times one had during a year. I wrote one last year, and there were again some incentives (Tobias van Schneider) that inspired me to write one for 2015.

Design Spri… Marathon

First thing’s first: design. I’m not quite sure how the titans of Design Sprint do it (I’m all ears Daniel Burka), but after a while it stops being a sprint. Imagine having 3 workshops in a month. Basically back-to-back highly intense on-site workshops that include traveling, wacky time zones, completely new collaborators, being away from home and trying to do as much as humanly possible in this very limited time frame. It stops being a sprint and starts being a marathon. I know the practice and dedication that goes into preparing for a marathon (thanks to Viktor Marohnic) but also the appreciation that comes out of it.

Only this year, I’ve successfully led 10+ design sprints for clients ranging from pre-seed startups to Fortune 500 companies. Our team at Five led even more and we’ve successfully implemented this process throughout the company. If you’re interested and have time — here’s a recent video of me presenting Sprints.

Some of the lessons I’ve learned or confirmed:

  1. It works. It really works.
  2. Sometimes success is measured by getting the right people in the same room. Everything else is “easy”.
  3. You definitely need chocolate.

I’ve spent more than 110h with users in testing sessions — learning about existing products, new prototypes and how different experiences compare. The key was to learn, really really fast. By listening, observing and really understanding how the people interact with the product we were able to make some conclusions and changes very early on in the project.

I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to conduct user testing with an extremely interesting palette of people: from ‘Bama freshmen, Arizona retirees to paraplegics navigating the prototype with external help.

A one day conference to celebrate the new Shoutem and Five offices.

2.0.1.five

Overall, Five has done amazingly well this year. Well, not really a surprise considering more than 90 bright, young, talented and hardworking people made it all possible. We’ve tackled projects bigger and better than ever:

  • delivering the new experience for Steven Hawking’s iPhone application
  • designing the first ever mobile experience for an exciting CSA startup Farmigo (operating in New York, SF and Seattle)
  • helping Choice Hotels completely overhaul their mobile experience
  • thinking about where to take news, learning and entertainment in a mobile context in 2016. Results to follow.
  • Shoutem is on a path to conquer the world as the mobile builder for the 98% of them. Watch out!

I’ve spent great times this year across our offices and on the road with Viktor Marohnic, Luka Abrus, Andrej Radišić, Darko Skulj, Davor Culjak, Zoran, Boris and domagoj kapulica working on those projects.

Location: irrelevant

I’ve given a few talks this year: At Booster Conf in Bergen (Norway) I was one of the few designers speaking at a software conference. In Belgrade (Serbia), a design hub Nova Iskra invited me to speak about products in a lecture I titled “What is product design and how it’s (not) related to physical products”. In Riga (Latvia) I was the opening speaker at Wildcard Unconference.

In the States I had the honor of speaking at Future Insights in Las Vegas and a couple of weeks after that on home territory in Brooklyn at QCon alongside crazy talented engineers tackling big issues like streaming at Netflix.

PS. It’s rewarding to see incremental changes happening on a day to day basis in the world of mobile products, especially the ones I mention in my talks.

I’ve ended the year with a very special talk I gave at our own event called #izsvesnage (eng. Full throttle). This event was put together by a small team from Shoutem and Five to commemorate the opening of our headquarter spaces in Zagreb. We were lucky enough to find an industrial space, gutted out, which over the course of 6 months we designed to serve as a new home for our European office. We were joined by presenters from USA Today, Gannet, New York Times and Meetup — thank you to Farah Assir, Eamonn Bourke and Scott Stein. My talk was focused on Design Sprints, but was really an reflection on how products are designed in 2015 and why Five’s expertise, culture and processes help us excel.

Alongside those, I was also invited to speak but unable to attend Full Stack (Toronto), Mobile App Europe (Berlin) and Interaction South America 2015 (Argentina).

Personally, the year was challenging. There’s no need to go into details, but let’s say I was on the road a lot. We moved three times and finally switched continents. Our family, friends and a large sum of memories were left back home. For the promise of a bright future. Of our bright future.

M&me did spend a couple of special days in Portugal in May which we made into a cute little photo diary. The entire experience was enriched by making some exciting new friends.


Fun and short

  • Not a desert person. Definitely a dessert person.
  • Beds made from cardboard are much more stable that you’d imagine.
  • San Francisco is intriguing. Thanks V.
  • Auto-belaying is fun. Outdoor belaying is scary. But fun.
  • Despite everything, I still love and use Foursquare. I’ve had 
    963 check-ins with JFK coming on top with 18x.
  • We’ve moved to the 37th floor. Wow.

Regrets

They say never have regrets but I feel it’s important (and very much human) to state things that could be improved. I need to have that in focus heading into the new year.

  1. Not spending enough time with my loved ones.
  2. Not communicating enough with fellow coworkers.
  3. Not being able to connect with friends at Interaction15 & ISA15.
  4. Not writing more.
  5. Stopped teaching.
  6. Pacing one self.

Thanks

To Matea Bronic for being there for us even when I wasn’t. To my family and friends for being supportive to the max. To Viktor Marohnic for always pushing the extra mile (no pun intended:) To Luka Abrus for making sure we can run that mile. To Marko Dugonjić & che for being amazing support all around. To my team for keeping me straight. To Vladimir Koncar for running IxDA Croatia while I was away. To Vedran Kasap for taking care of School of Design. To Birgit Geiberger for inviting me to help out with a very special IxDA project. To Boon Yew Chew for showing new interaction tricks.

To everyone, that helped with the visa process this year. To many others that have been involved in my life, I wish there was more time to spend together.

2016

Talk to you soon. There’s much more to share. Stay healthy and happy!

Keep on exploring!