Building Mockups in Keynote

I recently discovered an awesome secret for quickly creating high fidelity product mockups. The secret is Keynote.


Apple’s Keynote is an amazingly powerful tool for quickly creating mockups that look really good. How did I discover this secret?

In the work that I’ve been doing with FamilySearch partners, I received a design completely built in Powerpoint. I was shocked when I clicked on one of the elements and found that the design was completely editable! All of the form elements, the graphics, the marketing copy, everything was native Powerpoint! That’s crazy! Why would you ever want to design products inside of Powerpoint when it is so inferior to all the other design tools out there? Adobe Illustrator is the tool that real professionals use, so why would anyone ever use Powerpoint? Ick!

Well, it turns out that almost everyone that works in an office knows how to use Powerpoint. This includes product managers, engineers, architects, designers, marketers, etc. Almost everyone in the office has Powerpoint installed on their computer—Mac or PC. Documents become very sharable, and if wording or another element on the page should be changed, anyone can change it. This is really powerful. The ability to step through a sequence of screens is also really powerful.

But wait! didn’t you start this post talking about Keynote? Why are you talking about Powerpoint? Well, most of what I’ve stated above is also true about Keynote. It is true that because Keynote is a Mac only product, it isn’t as globally available in the office place, but Keynote allows you to export your presentation into various other formats—including Powerpoint. Keynote is a much better product for laying out page design than Powerpoint.

If you would like to get started building mockups in Keynote (or Powerpoint), here are a few resources to help you get started.

Watch this Presentation! This is what finally convinced me to try this out. There are some really good tips and tricks for speeding up your workflow.

Another article talking about the power of Keynote.

Keynotopia provides standard UI elements for building mobile, desktop, and web applications. You can get the Bootstrap elements kit for free by paying with a tweet. I highly recommend getting the Bootstrap kit if you need to build web user experiences.

Keynote Kung-Fu is similar to Keynotopia in that it provides a bunch of templates for building your mockups.

Watch the Keynotopia Tutorials. Although the tutorial videos are from an older version of Keynote, the videos show how some good strategies for putting together your mockups.

A really large iPhoto library

My cute wife takes a ton of pictures and I’m glad she does because it is really fun to go back and replay events from our last 10 years of marriage. Our iPhoto library has grown to ~70,000 pictures, which is taking up about 350GB of storage on our hard drive. I don’t think iPhoto was built to handle a library that large, because now when we open up iPhoto, the entire machine grinds to a crawl. Here’s what I plan to do to fix this problem.

  1. Buy more RAM. Our iMac is a 2009 model that has only 4GB of RAM. I ran the Crucial System Scanner, which recommends that I can safely upgrade to 8GB of RAM. I think this will make a big difference, because right now the Activity Monitor shows high “memory pressure” when iPhoto is open.
  2. Buy another external drive. I’m not sure which kind, but if anyone else has good experience with any external drives, let me know. I’m considering buying a drive enclosure that would allow me to install a few hard drives and put into a RAID configuration. It would be preferable if it connected via the thunderbolt port, because this iMac only has USB 2.0 support, which is pretty slow.
  3. Upgrade to Aperture. After digging through a bunch of Apple forum threads, I’ve come to the conclusion that I really just need to buy Aperture. Aperture has all the features that I appreciate about iPhoto (iCloud, file system integration, etc.) but brings a bunch of new features that I could really use. It allows you to split your photo library into smaller chunks and to put those photo libraries on multiple drives. This should allow me to “archive” the old photos to the external drive(s) and keep the active library trim, which should allow me to not kill my system’s memory every time I open up photos.
  4. Remove multiple event shots. We usually take about 4 or 5 shots of memory we are wanting to capture. We do this because it is really difficult to capture just the right shot. We haven’t been diligent in removing the unwanted shots, so they have bloated our library. With 70k photos, I’m not sure this is really feasible. Perhaps we should at least do this with photos captured via our DSLR which take up a bunch of space.

I’m going to work through this in order of the items listed above. I think the RAM may cut some of the pain in the short-term. I believe the drives will be necessary for Aperture to really take advantage of splitting up the photo library. Maybe someone will develop an app to help with #4. Google claims to do this for you with its latest Android/Google+ stuff…

The Passing of my Grandfather

I received a text message early this morning that my grandfather passed away around 3am. I was really close to my grandpa. We share the same middle name “Saville.” I’ve always felt a special connection with Grandpa because of this. I didn’t expect to feel so much grief at his passing, but this morning, I found myself crying uncontrollably.

My grandmother died in December, so losing both of my grandparents has come pretty quickly. I already miss them both immensely.

Despite the grief I feel at this time, I feel I’ve been blessed by tender mercies of the Lord.

Last summer, I spent some time with Grandma and Grandpa, going through an old photo album together. I took pictures of the pictures with my iPhone while I recorded the audio of my Grandparents describing the photos. I wish I could have spent more time doing this, but the memories that I captured during that time will always be precious. I learned things I would have otherwise never known about my grandparents.

Less than a month ago, my cute nephew, Dallan, did an interview with Grandpa, asking him all sorts of questions like:  did you have a pet? What is your favorite color? What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? We recorded video from that occasion. It was a very touching experience for me because I was able to watch Dallan connect with his Great Grandpa on things from my Grandpa’s childhood. It was really special.

The Sunday before Easter, my mom brought Grandpa to my house for my birthday celebration. I was able to help carry his wheelchair up and down stairs and to hold him to assist him into the car. The last thing he said to me that day was, “Someday, you will have to come by and teach me how to use my gadgets again.” referring to his iPad mini that he bought last year. He was remarkably sharp when it came to technology—especially considering his old age.

Last night, I had a wonderful dream about my grandparents. I was at Grandma and Grandpa’s house with all of my cousins. I remember some cousins and I were carrying Grandpa through the room, and just felt so much love.

This morning, when my two year old boy woke up, he asked my wife “Mom, where’s Grandpa?” Perhaps Grandpa had come to visit my little Xander. I believe this is very possible.

Easter was a great reminder to me that death is not the end. Jesus Christ was resurrected and because of Him, Grandma, Grandpa, and all of us will be resurrected some day. Life carries on beyond the grave. God gave us a plan of salvation. I’m grateful for the knowledge of that plan. Perhaps that is the most tender of all of the mercies that God has given to me at this time.

Written 23 April, 2014.

Becoming an Expert

A post in which I list way too many things that I’m working to improve in my professional and personal life.

Is calling yourself an expert arrogant? It probably depends on the context of the claim. This is a post in which I detail some of the skills that I aspire to improve. Realistically, I don’t think anyone can become a true expert more than a few things, and one might only achieve mastery in one thing after a dedicated and focused journey.

Here’s my self evaluation of skills I am working to acquire. This will be based upon the Dreyfus model of skills acquisition (Novice, Competence, Proficiency, Expertise, Mastery):

Professional Skills:

1. Web Development. I have been involved in web development for over 10 years. I’ve mostly developed with Ruby, PHP, and JavaScript. I have a good grasp on HTML and CSS. During the last 3.5 years, I’ve been working in a non-programming role, so I feel I’m falling behind in some of the latest web technologies, though I read a lot to keep up on this stuff. I have a good grasp of how Angular and Ember work. I have a thorough understanding of HTTP, and proxies (forward and reverse). I’ve used the Rails framework since the 2.0 release. I’ve done extensive work inside of WordPress. I’ve written a few small apps with Node.js, and I’ve created a few things using CoffeeScript.
Self Rating: (High) Proficiency. Perhaps I could put expertise, but because I’ve been out of the hands-on programming loop for a while, I feel I can’t quite put that anymore.
Goal: Expertise, though my current professional responsibilities aren’t going to get me there. Perhaps my goal should be to maintain proficiency.

2. Writing. I consider myself a pretty decent technical writer. The post that gets the most traffic on this blog is a post I wrote over 6 years ago on creating a SOAP server in PHP. The writing is highly technical, and has been referenced by many people as one of the best guides on PHP SOAP on the web. The problem is that technical writing isn’t the type of writing that I aspire to do really well. I’d like to become a great blog writer. Great blog writers have interesting things to say, show some personality, break scholastic writing rules, and are witty. Their content is fun to read. I don’t feel like I fit any of those things…
Self Rating: Competence (technical writing) Novice (blog writing)
Goal: Expert blog writer. I have a long way to go for this.

3. Public Speaking. This is one that I’ve been working hard to improve. I’ve given many webinars and technical presentations at conferences. I’ve sought out a lot of feedback from peers and mentors in this area. Last year, I decided to break out of my shell and try my hand at speaking on topics for a general audience at genealogy conferences. I discovered that I really like those types of presentations and I felt I performed really well. In fact, at the latest RootsTech conference, two of my presentations made the top 10 based on attendee feedback. My mom attended my last presentation, and filmed some of it on her iPhone. Watching myself present makes me cringe and I notice all sorts of flaws in my speaking (stuttering, umms, intonation, etc,). I think the difference between my presentation and my writing is that I am able to build a connection with my audience. I usually tell personal stories and I’m a pretty good verbal story teller. I’m able to incorporate some humor in my presentations.
Self Rating: Proficiency
Goal: Expertise. This will take many years more practice participating in conferences. I’d like to someday be a keynote speaker at a major conference, which would require mastery.

4. Product Management. My role at work has a lot of overlap with product management. I do a lot of defining direction of integration points between major genealogy software products. I’m getting pretty good at creating user flows, product requirements, writing user stories, etc. I’m quite proficient with office tools, agile methodologies, etc.
Self Rating: Competence
Goal: Proficiency

5. User Experience Design. I list this only because I’m jealous of the skills that great designers have. If I had great design skills, I think I could be an amazing web freelancer, which would be really fun. However, it is unrealistic for me to think I’ll ever be an expert UX designer.
Self Rating: Novice
Goal: Competence.

6. Internet Marketing. I’ve read a ton of material on Internet Marketing. I have a pretty good handle on traffic driving techniques (paid vs natural search traffic). I’m pretty good with web analytic tools and analysis of data. I’m not a good copywriter. I have a lot of interest in this skill because this can make or break a startup company. I’d like to ultimately be a founder of a successful startup. I’ve been a part of several failed startups, and this is an area that I believe we missed terribly.
Self Rating: Novice.
Goal: Competence

Personal or Hobby Skills:

1. Gardening. I’m a total newbie when it comes to gardening. This year, my goal is to eat some vegetables and fruits that I grow on my property. Last year, I planted some seeds in some dirt that I attempted to prepare, but only a couple of carrot greens popped up and my kids pulled them when they were wee bitty roots.
Self Rating: Novice
Goal: Competence

2. Fishing. I’ve never been much of a fisherman. My family would occasionally attempt a fishing trip, and would come away with no fish. My friends who do fish love it, and I’m sure it is because they actually catch fish. Yesterday, my son and I caught our first fish—2 small rainbow trouts. Before that, we had gone fishing three times together with no luck. We’re learning from other fisherman at the ponds and starting to develop some fishing skills.
Self Rating: Novice
Goal: Competence

3. Scouting. I’ve almost completed my first three years as a Scoutmaster. When I started, I was completely overwhelmed, but excited at the opportunity. Now, I’m super busy, but I don’t quite feel overwhelmed. I have tons of room to improve as a Scoutmaster, but I can see big improvements in the way I lead my scouts over what I did 3 years ago.
Self Rating: Competence
Goal: Proficiency

4. Genealogy. I’ve been doing genealogy research for over seven years. I’ve attended a lot of genealogy conferences during that time. I’ve watched a lot of training videos, and I read a lot of genealogy blogs. I have a pretty good understanding of how genealogy is done. I believe this will be a lifelong pursuit. I’ll discover new approaches and methods for my genealogy.
Self Rating: Proficiency
Goal: Mastery (lifelong pursuit)

5. Piano: As a kid, I took about six years of piano lessons. I’m grateful for all of the piano lessons and the ability to read music, but I feel like I’ve lost so much as a busy adult. I’d like to begin playing more. Currently, I can only hammer out a few songs from some Journey sheet music. I love Journey by the way. They are one of my all time favorite bands.
Self Rating: Competence
Goal: Proficiency

6. Drumming: I played the drums through high school and college. At BYU, I played a couple of semesters in their steel drum band. I haven’t really touched a drum set in the last 7 years. I’m hoping to buy one as my oldest boy gets older. I think he should learn to play the piano first though. It might be a while before we have a drum set in the home.
Self Rating: Proficiency (dropping to competence)
Goal: Maintain Proficiency

Okay, so I’ve listed a ton of stuff here. I have all of these skills I’m trying to improve, but I wonder if I’m spread so thin that I won’t make significant improvement on very many of these. Is it bad to have high aspirations for these things? I’m not sure, but writing this post has helped me to see what I’ve been juggling around in my mind. Perhaps I’ll come back to this post every few months to see what I’ve done to improve my skills in these areas.

Snow Caving!

I’m laying in a snow cave that was way too hard to get into. I’m up at Jordan Pines campground with my scouts on a winter camp out. Most everyone is sleeping soundly in a tent, but I wanted to be extreme and sleep in a snow cave.

Most years, we build caves under picnic tables , which works well, but can be a bit cramped. This year, I wanted to sleep in a real, non-picnic table snow cave. The campsite that we were assigned had the perfect setup for this.

Someone had carved out a cave under what appears to be a fallen pine tree! The cave was perfectly dug out to fit one adult. All I needed to do is to dig out the entrance a bit because snow had fallen and filled it in a bit. This was perfect!


So, I dug out the entrance, and set up my sleeping bags outside of the cave. Below is the picture of my setup.

My Sleeping Gear

What you see is several layers of warmth: a fleece liner tucked inside of a backpacking mummy bag tucked inside of a large 0 deg sleeping bag tucked under a blanket, all sitting on top some foam pads sitting on top of a tarp (insulation from the ground).

I slid my sleeping gear into the cave. The dumb thing I did was place my backpack in top of my sleeping gear because I way overestimated the size of the cave. I had crawled into the cave first and was pulling the stuff in. The backpack blocked my way out, so I had to push it out, and I thought I was stuck. After some panicked shoves on my pack, I was able to get it back out of the cave and I realized it was best to leave my pack outside of the cave.

After all of this, I figured that I was set. I laid down some cardboard to stand on while I changed into some set clothes. The problem with the cardboard is that it had nice shiny marketing print on one side of the cardboard, which made it very slick. The number one rule for staying warm is to stay dry. In the process of getting dressed, the cardboard slipped and I managed to fall over in the snow, and got my dry clothes all snowy. So much for staying dry. That was dumb.

Once I was in my new clothes, it was time to get into the cave, a task I underestimated. The entrance was so tight, that I couldn’t just slide in. I ended up getting more wet and stuck, but I finally made it into the cave.

Me inside of the snow cave

Here I am inside of the snow cave.

Very tight space

You can see in this picture that there is not much space above me—less than 1 foot.

My view inside the cave

This is what the cave looks like right above me. I placed my phone as close to my face as possible to take this picture.

Now I’m hearing strange noises outside the cave and am kind of wishing I wasn’t alone in a tiny space of a snow cave. I probably won’t sleep much tonight. I also have no idea how I am going to get out. I cannot put my snow boots on inside of the cave. I can barely move in this thing.

Update: I didn’t sleep much that night. Miraculously, I managed to get out just fine and my boots were not frozen!

I think I will sleep under a picnic table next year. That is if I am still a scout master next year.