On the weekend of the 7th to 9th, I spend two days and an evening in an old renovated wheat storehouse that is the digital hub.  The two days were part of the 54hr start up weekend, hosted by the NDRC

1. Come with your machine setup.

I forget that I had previously installed Windows 7, and had not reinstalled Adobe Creative suite onto my laptop.  Lucky the location at the NDRC the internet connection was great (2mb download!), so it didn’t take long to get the latest CS5 demo onto my laptop.  I was presently surprised with the latest CS5 updates, and especially liked the new tab feature in Dreamweaver CS5. The added time left more time sketching, and doing all the important non-computer needed work.

2. Be prepared to “make it pretty”.

I’m often referred to the guy who makes stuff pretty, and while interaction designers do like to ‘find the right design’ before “getting the design right”. There was little time to really do any research, personas, and wire-frames were created on napkins and whiteboards by the whole team.  I’m a great believer in getting everyone to the white board and think prettying up wire-frames in blasiq is something you do to get clinit sign off. Spending time making wireframes is a waste of time in 54hrs, and doesn’t really help much to the development team. The process of creating wireframes on the white board, is better than the end document.

Once we had the design; I quickly started to explore logo options and colour schemes with the whole team. By involving everyone in the sketch, then to a fluid flash sketch stage, then finally in Illustrator. Logo ideas can be quickly iterated and everyone feels part of the process.

Once we had the final design, I had to draw it again in Illustrator.  This cleans the logo up, and the team we very happy with the transformation.

3. Use a CSS framework.

A CSS framework means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I’m a fan of Blueprint, but have used grid 960. Blueprint allows a designer to quickly add into a smart grid, that is cross browser compatible out of the box.

4. Go beyond the 216 present of web colours.

Modern browsers can support 16,000,000 colours, Don’t pick #556 ( bright yellow) with #666 just because it pops out.  Geodealio used a colour pallet from Kuler, this creates a pallet of 5 colours to help give a harmonious scheme to our app.

5. Be able to convert a PSD to CSS/HTML to Template.

Be aware that working with django monkeys, you are going to have to take sexy photoshop and make it work. You need to know the whole process of cutting up images, creating CSS and then finally adding it the template files via SVN. This means your code needs to be clean and usable, so try to start with a good naming convention for you CSS classes. Adding HTML comments with a visual guides also allowed developers to more easily implement the ‘look and feel’ in hard code.

Bonus Tip 1. Have Fun, and share knowledge.

One of the best aspects of the start-up weekend is that you can ask stupid questions about the back-end or iPhone application and the wonders of the django framework.  It was a great event and working around a round table made working as a team very efficient.  You will be respected as the graphics guy, and they will quickly notice that an interaction designer can bring more than flows, personas wire-frames and really deliver on a project.

Bonus Tip 2 – Turn UP!

Unfortunately there was only 4 User Experience / Interaction Designers at start up weekend, compared to 30 odd developers.  Its a shame to see so few designers take up the quick challenge,  design and development doesn’t have to take 6 month cycles and start-up weekend proved this. If your a UX designer in Dublin, join the IxDA Dublin to keep up to date with the latest Ux and IxD events.

I dedicate this post my team (@godealio), who won the Dublin Start up weekend.

geoDealio is a service that provides real time, location based deals.  Four of the team are moving the project forwards, and there will be a beta released very soon.

I would like to thank Sean, Amy, and Clint.  The sponsors for hosting such a great event, it all went very smoothly, and the food was good. With some of the best muffins and doughnuts I had in a while. The whole event had a great vibe, and I met many cool people.

I have posted my photos to my Flickr Account.