New project: User research for the OM Sanctuary website

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for new projects!

My latest is streamlining the information architecture of the website for the OM Sanctuary, a retreat center in Asheville, North Carolina. This is one of my favorite places on earth. We’ve stayed there three times and plan to go back again. However, I definitely love it in spite of their website, not because of it.

Read on for more about my process of user testing to identify areas for improvement.

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5 things I’m trying to remember during my job search

Now that I’m finished with my Code Louisville classes, I’m starting to hit the job search a little more seriously. For the last few months, I’ve been applying here and there, but now I’m really polishing up my resume, practicing my interviewing skills, and doing the networking thing. And it’s hard. I don’t think anyone loves searching for a new job. (If you do, please, please, please tell me how you do it.)

It’s hard to put yourself  — in the form of your resume and cover letter — out there and be met only with silence, or auto-reply emails. Even when I do hear back, every part of the process is nerve-wracking. The phone interview, the in-person interview, the questioning, the waiting for some kind of closure.

The whole process can leave me feeling pretty bad about myself sometimes. With that said, here are a few things I’m trying to keep in mind:

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Wrapping up ButterBox, my JavaScript React project

The JavaScript React class I was taking through Code Louisville ended a few weeks ago, so I guess it’s about time to post a wrap-up. This class was a huge test of my development skills, and my ability to remain patient while learning something challenging. I had to constantly ask myself the question, “Am I uncomfortable because this is hard, or do I actually hate doing this type of work?” The answer was always the former, but it’s easy to tell myself I don’t like something, or I’m not good at something when my limits are being pushed.

Anyway, I ended up being quite proud of my final project, and of the crazy amount of work I put into it. Here’s a look back at the project’s evolution:

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Overcoming tech fears: Working with WordPress and its API

I have a long history with WordPress. Almost 10 years ago, I started a blog on the platform as part of a college class. (It’s long been deleted, btw.) Five years ago, I was part of a local blogger group and I heard about this thing called WordCamp. My first thought was, “Getting together with a bunch of WordPress bloggers to talk about blogging? That’s so cool! Where do I sign up?”

I found out where to sign up, and I signed up. But I must not have read many of the actual details of the event, because if I had, I would have known that there’s a whole other side to WordPress: the developer side. I walked into the event all excited, but within the first 10 minutes of the first presentation, I realized I didn’t understand a darn thing they were talking about. I walked out after maybe an hour. I felt defeated, embarrassed, intimidated, and I assumed that those people were just smarter than me.

At that point, I hadn’t heard one of my favorite Moth stories. I highly recommend you listen to it, but here’s the quote: “I don’t think that smart people are smarter than me, I think they read a book I didn’t read.”

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That time the universe decided to give me a pep talk

Oh, hey! It’s been a little bit. To be honest, I’ve been wrestling with some major issues of self-confidence and self-questioning for the last few weeks.

A few things have happened:

1. In September, I started a class where we’re learning the JavaScript React framework, and the first five weeks or so were a huge struggle train. I fell into the trap of questioning my general intelligence and overall worth just because there were programming concepts that were difficult for me, as a visual learner, to grasp. I think I’ve finally pulled myself out of that trap by coming up with a React project that I’m excited about, but it was tough there for a bit.

2. I fell into the rabbit hole of looking at other peoples’ LinkedIn profiles and online portfolios, and comparing myself to those. I’ve been cautioned against this so, so, so many times over my years on social media, and I did it anyway.

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Latest project: Iroquois Hill Runners website redesign

If you talk to me for like 15 minutes, you’ll probably learn two things: I love running, and I love my neighborhood. So I was super excited when the board members of Iroquois Hill Runners, my neighborhood running group, asked if I’d like to redo the website.

Here’s a quick before and after:

IHR

The existing website was made with a free WordPress It had been a few years since the site was created, so it was in need of a facelift. Here’s what I did:

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User experience of the week: Treehouse online learning platform

Now that my General Assembly class is over, I’m looking for ways to continue learning how to create great user experiences. Being able to articulate strengths and weaknesses from a UX perspective is something I’m working on, so I decided to try a new thing and see how it goes. Each week, I’ll do a short post about a great (or not so great) experience I had as a user and talk about what made it that way.

So I’ll start with a good one. I haven’t counted how many hours I’ve spent on Treehouse in the past year, but it’s a LOT. In case you’re not familiar, Treehouse is an online learning platform, and they offer classes in all areas of tech, from basic computer literacy to Python, JavaScript, and C# development. A lot of learning for Code Louisville is done via Treehouse, which is how I got introduced to it.

In my opinion, intuitiveness is what makes Treehouse a really good experience. (By the way, nobody’s giving me any incentive to say any of this.) I never had to read a manual on how to use Treehouse, or consult any FAQ section. The visual cues on the site were enough to show me around the first time I visited the site. Here are four other navigation elements that make the platform enjoyable to use:

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