General Assembly, Author at General Assembly Blog

What Is Front-End Web Development?

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Name: Nick Schaden (@nschaden)
Occupation: Web Designer/Developer

1. In 140 characters or less, what is front-end web development, from your experience?

A mix of programming and layout that powers the visuals, interactions, and usability of the web.

2. If a website were a house, front-end web development would be ______?

Front end development would be the pretty exterior that gives the house character, or the host that invites guests in and makes them feel at home.

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What Is: Digital Brand Strategy

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Faris Yakob is an award winning strategist, creative director, writer, public speaker and self-proclaimed geek.

Name: Faris Yakob (@faris)
Occupation: Strategist, Creative Director, Public Speaker, Writer. (Formerly Chief Innovation Officer of MDC Partners and founder of Spies and Assassins, a creative technology agency)

1. In 140 characters or less, what is Digital Brand Strategy?

How to deploy finite assets, budget, behavior & brand, to achieve predetermined business objectives, w/ digital platforms & customers.

2. What problem is a digital brand strategist solving? Why are they sitting at the table?

Strategy shouldn’t be fragmented into endless fractal versions of itself. All strategy is holistic, the direction of the whole towards the objectives of the whole.

Brand strategy, then, is a subset of strategy already, which takes business strategy and looks at how to best leverage the key intangible asset of the company – its brand.

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5 Steps for Getting Started in User Acquisition Marketing

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Keep your goals in sight. You’ve made your resolutions — we want to help you keep them (at least the ones that aren’t food related). That’s why we’ve put together five simple things you can do to get started in User Acquisition Marketing.

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5 Steps for Getting Started Designing and Building a Website

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Keep your goals in sight. You’ve made your resolutions — we want to help you keep them (at least the ones that aren’t food related). That’s why we’ve put together five simple things you can do to get started with Front-End Web Development.

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5 Steps for Getting Started Coding a Web App

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Keep your goals in sight. You’ve made your resolutions — we want to help you keep them (at least the ones that aren’t food related). That’s why we’ve put together five simple things you can do to get started in Back-End Web Development using Ruby on Rails.

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What Is: User Acquisition Marketing

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Name: Anna Lindow (@AnnaLindow)
Occupation: General Manager – Campus, General Assembly

1. In 140 characters or less, what is user acquisition marketing?

The science that complements the art of building an audience and a brand. A quantitative approach to marketing with a specific goal of gaining customers.

2. If a website were a for-sale house, user acquisition marketing would be ______?

The real estate agent. A very data-savvy real estate agent.

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3 Things to Remember when Designing Mobile Apps

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At the risk of stating of the obvious, a mobile phone is not a laptop computer.

So when you are designing a mobile app, keep in mind that your users may not be sitting at a desk, but rather, they might be wedged between two people on a train, balancing themselves with one hand and using their phones with the other.

Coming up with an idea for you mobile app is just the first step; creating a user experience that brings your idea to life in the hands of your users is a much more difficult challenge.

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A Case Study on Getting Started with Lean Startup Methodology

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The Lean Startup method to build products

The lean startup methodology is not a skillset you can learn all at once. Like yoga, it’s a practice you must develop and apply over time in order to get any value from it.

In a nutshell, lean offers a validated way to learn about your startup. It answers key questions like: Is there a market for your business? How can you gather key information about the features and functionality of a business concept?

Lean will help you practice identifying your market and developing product-market fit. It’s a process can be applied to any product concept — here’s how you get started.

Step 1: Choose and validate an idea.

One word lean practitioners rely on heavily is “validate,” and GA’s learning experiences are designed to help people understand what it means to validate an idea or product.

In one of our workshops, instructors provided the class with an app idea and walked them through the process of determining whether or not it would succeed. The app was called Cut the Line, and the concept was a mobile app that helps you skip the line at restaurants and other popular attractions. The idea drew inspiration from Disney World’s FastPass and applied it to all of New York City. Imagine being able to skip any line anywhere … for a price.

“Yes, that would be awesome,” was the response we got from most people when asked whether they liked the idea.

Step 2: Define the assumptions.

Before committing to the business idea as we had originally conceived of it and investing precious resources to build the “perfect” product, we challenged the class to identify whether there was a market for Cut the Line, and if so, the bare minimum feature set — or the minimum viable product (MVP) — people would actually pay for. Our class mapped out the idea’s riskiest business assumptions to reveal the bare minimum facets of the business (consumer behavior, pain) that must truly exist for this business to work.

  • Assumption #1: Patrons would pay to skip lines.
  • Assumption #2: Restaurants would accept payment for allowing some customers to skip the line.
  • Assumption #3: There is a large enough market for this product to build a sustainable business.

Step 3: Validate your assumptions.

After mapping the riskiest assumptions, we took to the streets to meet real, live potential customers and observe their behavior. Our learning exercises started with offering strangers money for their spot in line in efforts to define if we could pay to create a spot online. We experimented with a range of price points; if they refused a small sum, we countered with a higher offer.

Step 4: Analyze lessons learned.

Our experiments highlighted one key fact about consumer behavior: While you can gain some valuable qualitative information about your customer through conversation, people are generally terrible judges of hypothetical behavior. The only reliable way to test whether someone will pay for something is to actually charge them for a product.

  • #1 Lesson Learned: Patrons felt paying to skip the line was unfair to the others in the line. Many patrons refused the offer to pay us to Cut the Line. When we asked why, we got an interesting array of responses that included: Parents with children said that waiting in the line was a part of the “sight seeing experience.” Tourists enjoyed waiting in line because the longer the line, the better the restaurant. It was how they judged if a restaurant was good. One surprising exception: A man on a date paid to skip the line.
  • #2 Lesson Learned: Restaurants did not want to let some clients to skip the line. Restaurants did not want to seem unfair giving certain customers special treatment. They were afraid that any additional revenue generated by the FastPass would be offset by losing the business of irritated potential customers.
  • #3 Lesson Learned: Our target market significantly narrowed as we spoke with potential customers. The class expected the average patron waiting in a long line would be willing to pay to skip to the front. And with the refusal of venues to allow some patrons to skip the line, we were left wondering, was there an opportunity for this product at all?

Step 5: Identify flaws in the experiment and consider next steps.

There are some natural limitations to any experiment. Some potential issues that may have influenced our learning and warrant further exploration:

  • We looked very “unofficial,” approaching patrons at restaurants in line wearing street clothes.
  • Our small data-set was geographically limited to Times Square.
  • Our pool of potential customers was predominantly limited to restaurants, so a person’s level of hunger may have forced a different behavior.
  • Lastly, a digital solution such as a mobile app would have increased anonymity; in the in-person setting, we expect some would-be customers felt peer pressure to not cut the line.

Had our class extended beyond three days, our next step would have been to explore those learnings further and to address some of those limitations.

Step 6: Decide whether or not to proceed with the idea.

After three nights of validated learning inquiry into Cut the Line, we didn’t feel confident that there’s a market for the product; at least not with the implementation that we had envisioned. Our student who did make a sale had a brilliant customer development hack: He put in his name to get a table for dinner at the Hard Rock Hotel, waited 30 minutes until his buzzer would be called next, and then sold his spot in the line to a patron who had only been waiting five minutes (a gentleman on a date).

Key Takeaway

There are a number of other factors to consider as well, but social factors like “perceived fairness” and peer pressure are clear barriers to successfully monetizing the business idea. The biggest lessons we hope our students took away, though, is that just because people say, “Oh yes, I would pay for your product,” doesn’t actually mean they will or that there’s even a market for it. Uncovering insights and understanding the nuances of a potential customer’s behavior is key to learning whether there’s a market for your business idea.

Learn to Create Products People Will Love

The Unique Benefits of eBook Publishing for Businesses

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At the Digital Book World conference in January 2012, Forrester Research revealed that 25 million people in the U.S. now own an e-reader and 34 million have a tablet of some kind. They also predicted that 40 million people in the U.S. will have an e-reader and 61 million will have tablets by the end of 2012–a number that surpasses the population of many European countries.

For those writers who used to pursue having their books stocked at one of the major booksellers in the U.S., Canada, the UK or Australia, now the race is on to get your ebook distributed on as many virtual shelves as possible including your local library, bookstore and other alternative venues.

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Movin’ on Over to the West Side…of the Street

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We opened our campus last year to create a place where New Yorkers could collaborate and learn together. We adore our space at 902 Broadway, from the chalk art to the Craft Coffee station. But, as anyone who has ever rented an apartment in New York City knows, whatever space you have never ends up seeming like enough. Such is the case for GA, and so we are expanding.

Rather than struggling with a cramped kitchen or limited closet space, though, we’ve come upon the challenge of not enough classrooms for all the classes, workshops, and programs we’d like to offer. S0, we’re taking up a beautiful space at 915 Broadway, view of The Empire State Building and all. Unfortunately, common sense and city ordinances will prevent zip lining from one side to the other, however, we do anticipate a fully wired for a tin can phone system and, of course, lots more space for students.

For more info, check out these blog posts from Untapped Cities and Business Insider.

We hope you’ll join us, at least on one side of the tin can.

Questions? Feedback? Thoughts? Tweet us @GA