Category: News

Recap: March 2011 Demo Night

For our March meeting, Refresh Detroit held a demo night where we invited anyone to show off their work, the work of others or anything really that others can learn from. We had four demos:

  • Stephen Sadler from Buztweet
  • Brent Mitchell talked about Web Fonts
  • Mike Evans talked about Forrst
  • Thomas Hunter talked about NeoInvoice

Below are my notes from each demo.


Stephen came from a background of selling traditional software in a box. As the web became more popular he started to transition the sales online. He found he was spending a lot of money on Google Adwords and wasn’t getting the results he expected. He started moving into the social space with Twitter and Facebook and found that his sales skyrocketed.

What he discovered is a lot of users are searching Twitter every day and as tweets find their way into those conversations, they get click-throughs. The problem he discovered is Twitter moves fast, depending on the conversation each tweet may only get a few seconds of attention. His decided to create a solution he calls BuzTweet.

What BuzTweet does is take a URL and a message and automatically creates a custom message per discussion and custom URL for each tweet. The tweets are then scheduled to go out on a predetermined basis.

The result is a “campaign for Twitter” which keeps the specific product or service in the forefront of user searches constantly. It alleviates the need to write hundreds of tweets by hand about the same topic. Since each tweet has its own URL you can see which messages converted the most amount of users and get insights to refine your campaign.

Web Fonts

Over the past year web fonts have become a buzzword on the web. What are web fonts? They are thousands of web-safe fonts that you can now use without hacks.

What took so long?

  • Poor browser support
  • Lack of standards
  • Bandwidth

Some early resources included sIFR and Cufón. But they have since been loosing support for the “@font-face” CSS rule. The solution is simple but there are a few gotcha’s.

The first is there is no real standard, WOFF is a sub-standard. Each browser uses different font files, the solution is to have three different font files per font and the browser will use the most appropriate one. Font Squirrel offers an @font-face generator to help with the process of generating the font files.

The second gotcha is that download speeds for the fonts are slow so the defined fonts don’t show up right away. Each browser displays the font differently, Firefox uses a base font first then loads the special font, IE waits for the font to arrive then displays it. Both display methods can be annoying but Google has published a script to make Firefox act more like IE when rendering fonts. The best approach is to make sure you are using a good “font stack”. That means using your custom font but having the fall backs be as close to the desired font as possible from the closest looking to the furthest and most standard. A great resource for creating font stacks is

So where do you get fonts?

Paid vs. free fonts

  • Paid tend to be better quality
  • Paid are stored on the cloud
  • Some are paid per access
  • Some paid have separate licenses for using the fonts on the computer



Mike Evans, who is based in Detroit, was kind enough to demo the company he works for, Forrst.

What is Forrst?

Forrst is a community of passionate developers and designers focused on helping themselves and others get better at their craft, providing thoughtful critiques, and sharing their knowledge to build better applications and websites.

Mike was kind enough to share some of his insights into the management of the community and podcast. The staff is only four people spread through New York, Detroit and Chicago. Every post is hand-vetted and suggestions are made to meet the quality standards of the community. Community members use the site for inspiration and ideas for their own work, you can think of the site as “an art class and you are looking for a critique”.

The Forrst podcast is a daily audio podcast produced in Mike’s home in Detroit covering the awesome Forrst community as well as the rest of the Internet and all things that are good in design and development. In order to keep the topics organized for the show Mike created a tool called Lovegames.

Lovegames is a web tool that isn’t available to the public (yet) but it allows podcasters to collect and create stories for the shows. Each story has the ability to add URL’s which automatically pull in information about the site to reduce the amount of work needed to create a wrap up post.


Thomas Hunter creator of NeoInvoice gave us an overview of the web app and how it was created. NeoInvoice is an online tool that allows individuals and small businesses to keep track of time, bug/issue tracking, creating and sending invoices, recording payments and collaboration.

The software has the ability to include clients, teammates, automatically send emails and generate PDF’s. It makes managing client work easy and gets out of the way so you can concentrate on doing great work.

The interface looks more like a desktop client, the UI was built on the Mocha UI library. It makes interacting with the site consistant and fluid. The site was written on open source software, PHP and CodeIgniter.


We want to thank Quicken Loans for hosting us in their awesome space.

Joomla! and its Candyland of Extensions

Refresh Detroit! joined Joomla! Detroit for its November meeting. Here is a recap of a few highlights of this information rich meeting.

The meeting opened with Shane Sevo, the leader of Joomla! Detroit giving an overview of Joomla and discussing how it compares to the other big open source platforms – Drupal and WordPress.

Shane began looking at different opensource content management systems several years ago. At the time, what drew him to Joomla! was the commitment by the worldwide Joomla! community. Any question he had he could get an answer for it. Continue reading “Joomla! and its Candyland of Extensions”

Remote Usability Testing Experience – Generating Actionable Recommendations

Mark Thompson-Kolar’s summer was a little different than most. He spent it at Cengage Learning as an intern doing usability testing. He shared his experience and what he learned from it with the Refresh Detroit audience.

Mark isn’t your typical student. He’s been a newspaper editor, designer and manager for 18 years at daily news media companies in Michigan and Indiana. He’s currently a master’s student at the University of Michigan in the School of Information studying information architecture, interface usability and content strategy. Continue reading “Remote Usability Testing Experience – Generating Actionable Recommendations”