Live On Deck: Spring 2019

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love seeing live music. Thankfully, with five major music venues, three annual music festivals nearby, and a multitude of bars that dish up local acts several nights a week, Charlottesville is a small town with a big music scene. And only an hour away is Richmond, which over the last ten years has seen its music options increase with the opening of new venues. As a result, more and more acts are coming through Central Virginia.

Music has always been at the core of our culture at Storyware. I used to work in the music industry and we continue to do work with customers in the business. So, our team decided it was high time to put together some playlists that focused on the music coming to Central Virginia. On this first day of spring, we are excited to release our first playlist that showcases 12 acts coming to Central Virginia this spring. Enjoy!

Page’s Picks

SOJA — “I Don’t Want to Wait” (3.29, The National)
 I sang Karaoke with one of the vocalists from SOJA after seeing them in Honolulu.

The Word Alive — “Red Clouds” (4.18, The Canal Club)
 Solid blend of vocals and screaming. Not my girlfriend’s favorite music when we’re in the car.

Listener — “Pent up Genes” (5.10, The Canal Club)
 I discovered Listener a year ago when they opened for Hawthorne Heights in RVA. When you see them live, they’re really really loud and intense, but in a good way.

311 — “Beautiful Disaster” (5.18, Innsbrook After Hours)
 I’m still salty that I didn’t see 311 play with Snoop Dogg a few years back, so I won’t be missing this show.

Megan’s Picks

Mountain Man — “Ring Tang Ring Toon” (3.27, Richmond Music Hall)
 I was in college the first time I heard Mountain Man — probably listening to the Oh Brother Where Art Thou Pandora station — and have been hooked on them since. They surprised everyone by coming out with their first album in seven years in 2018 and announcing a tour. If you love feminine vocals and heavenly harmonies, this is the trio for you.

Leon Bridges — “Bad, Bad News” (4.10, Sprint Pavilion *Sold Out*)
 The most difficult part of making this playlist was deciding which Leon Bridges song to feature. This is a toe-tapper I don’t hear much on the radio, but could honestly listen to the entire album on repeat.

Tallest Man on Earth — “The Gardener” (5.11, The Jefferson)
 Just this weekend I found a playlist I made in Early Spring 2016 with Tallest Man on Earth track, Love is All. I guess something about his music says winter is over, and I’m ready for sunshiny road trips with the windows cracked.

Colter Wall — “Codeine Dream” (5.31, Friday Cheers)
 If you like a gravely voices or cowboy ballads (or Sturgill Simpson or Willie Nelson or…) you might just like Colter Wall. I have to credit my boyfriend with this find, and was psyched to see someone I’ve been hoping to catch live on the line-up for my favorite riverfront series.

Wick’s Picks

Caamp — “Going to the Country” (3.23, The Jefferson *Sold Out*)
 Unfortunately, I won’t be going to this one. I was a little late to the game and just started listening to Caamp while putting together this playlist. Such a good find and hopefully I’ll catch them next time they come through!

Alabama — “Mountain Music” (4.6, John Paul Jones Arena)
 When I saw this on the schedule this spring, I knew I had to add it to the playlist. I have vivid memories of my Dad playing Alabama (along with the Oak Ridge Boys, Juice Newton, and Eddie Rabbit) on the stereo every morning as he would drive my sister and me to school.

Sister Sparrow — “Mama Knows” (4.13, Tom Tom Festival *Free*)
 Sister Sparrow makes its return to the Tom Tom Festival after headlining it two years ago.

Lord Huron — “Harvest Moon” (4.16, The National)
 Lord Huron has been on my list of “must-see” acts for quite a while now. Here is a cover of a Neil Young classic, whom I crossed off my “must-see” list about a decade ago, also in Richmond.

Follow us on Spotify for future playlists.

Originally published at Storyware.

Five Years on Slack: Notifications that Inform Instead of Distract

This month marks five years since Storyware started using Slack. It has been a game-changer for our internal communication. Email traffic between our team is down to almost zero since most of our communication occurs in Slack or our task management platform, Of course, this isn’t that surprising. It’s the main reason Slack is so successful. Over the next few months, I will outline how we use Slack, what works and what hasn’t.

As a productivity nerd, I’ve also spent a lot of time sampling automated notifications within Slack. For those of you who have not used Slack, it enables workspace administrators to install applications and integrations that trigger Slack notifications from other platforms. They are designed to publish this third-party content and data into Slack so you have all the info you will ever need right within Slack. While that sounds divine, quite a few of the applications and integrations that I’ve tried create a lot of noise. This noise creates distractions, which is the #1 issue with Slack. Even still, I’ve created several Slack notifications using their applications and integrations that are useful, informative, and create little interruption.

Here are our top five Slack notification integrations:

5. Google Calendar (application)

Google Calendar notifications on Slack

We use Google Calendar for not only our individual calendars, but for team calendars. For example, we have one calendar to track PTO and remote work, another calendar to schedule production releases, and a third to communicate various professional development and networking events that occur around Charlottesville.

Every morning, Slack’s Google Calendar application will update our main team channel of today’s events giving us a nice snapshot of what’s on tap for the day.

4. Envoyer (integration)

Envoyer notifications on Slack

Storyware uses Envoyer to deploy code changes for our WordPress applications. Using Slack’s incoming webhooks application, we have created Slack notifications for each Envoyer project when a release occurs. These notifications occur within the appropriate Slack channel, which you have to manually set up in Slack. But once there are set up, then with each release, Envoyer will alert Slack when a release finishes along with a release status (success or failure). This is a great way to automatically inform the team when a release is occurs.

3. Stripe (application)

Stripe notifications on Slack

Our invoicing platform uses Stripe for credit card and ACH payments. Every time a client pays a bill using one those methods, a message is posted to a private Stripe channel. Who doesn’t like being notified when money has been added to your bank account?

2. Google Drive (application)

Google Drive notifications on Slack

Google Drive is our file storage platform and with the Google Drive Slack application, you can be notified within Slack when someone responds to your comments or assigns a comment to you. As an added bonus, you can grant others access to your Google document right within Slack.

1. Uptime Robot (integration)

Uptime Robot notifications on Slack

Our most useful notifications come from Uptime Robot. Uptime Robot is a site monitoring service that will alert us when a website is down. Similar to how we set up Envoyer notifications, Uptime Robot notifications are created using Slack’s incoming webhooks application. With the Slack phone app, we are alerted at all times of the day, which results in quick resolutions and shorter outages.

Honorable Mention: The daily forecast using IFTTT

Using IFTTT and Slack to provide the next day’s forecast

One of the first notifications that I set up in Slack was a daily notification with tomorrow’s weather forecast. Using IFTTT, it goes out every weekday at 4:30pm ET.

Of course, I’m always looking for more useful Slack applications and integrations. Do you have any recommendations?

Check out our blog for more UX, design, and development content and give us a shout.

My 2018 in Live Music

27 live acts seen in 2018. Not too shabby for a 47 year old, father of 3 (thank you, Lisa). That’s down from 33 last year. Almost half of that 27 came from the LOCKN’ music festival, which I don’t go for the music anymore. LOCKN’s is too much jam, not enough rock for me, but it’s a fun time hanging out with old and new friends every year down at Oak Ridge farm.

Sons of Bill, 12/23/18

Speaking of old friends, I did catch Phish again for the 45th time. That number is pretty small compared to many, but those 45 shows have occurred over a 22 year period. I’ve managed to catch Phish every year (they’ve toured) since my first with one exception in 2012. This year’s show took me back to the mothership, Hampton Coliseum, where I caught them in 1997, 2003, 2004, and 2009. The show I caught on 10/19 was the best Hampton Phish show I’ve seen since those legendary shows in ‘97.

Even though it was great, that Phish show was not my favorite of the year. That award goes to Dr. Dog. Actually that entire evening was fantastic. It began with a free private show at The Southern sponsored by New Belgium Brewing who were promoting their new Hemperor HPA. Willie Watson performed and several Hemperors were sampled. The night ended with the sold out Dr. Dog show at the nearby Jefferson Theater. It had been at least 10 years since I saw Dr. Dog last and I left that show underwhelmed. I don’t listen to Dr. Dog as much as I did when I saw them last, so I came in with low expectations. That resulted in a really fun show with tons of energy and solid musicianship (or maybe I had just the right number of HPAs).

Unfortunately, I did not catch a show out of state or in a new venue. That’s certainly not normal for me and I’ve already made plans to correct this in 2019 by clearing my calendar on the first weekend in May to attend Jazz Fest.

Below is a list of the musicians that I saw live in 2018 with favorites in bold and first-timers in italics.

  • Camper Van Beethoven — 1/15, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Cracker — 1/15, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • The Wood Brothers — 1/25, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Marc Broussard — 02/08, The Southern, Charlottesville VA
  • Drive By Truckers — 03/26, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Willie Watson — 04/20, The Southern, Charlottesville VA
  • Dr. Dog — 04/20, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Shakey Graves — 05/10, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Trey Anastasio Trio — 07/05, Sprint Pavilion, Charlottesville VA
  • Umphrey’s McGee w/ Jason Bonham — 08/24, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • George Clinton & P-Funk — 08/24, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Widespread Panic w/ Margo Price — 08/24, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Big Something — 08/25, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Keller & The Keels — 08/25, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Foundation of Funk — 08/25, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band — 08/25, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Dead & Company — 08/25, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Spafford — 08/26, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band — 08/26, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Dead & Company — 08/26, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit — 09/30, Sprint Pavilion, Charlottesville VA
  • Phish — 10/19, Hampton Coliseum, Hampton VA
  • moe. — 10/26, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Chris Robinson Brotherhood — 11/08, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • I’m With Her — 11/15, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Billy Strings — 12/20, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Sons of Bill — 12/23, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA

Previous Years

2017 | 2016 | 2015

My 2017 in Live Music

Below is a list of the musicians that I saw live in 2017 with first-timers in italics and favorites in bold.

Wilco @ The Beacon Theatre, 3/21/17
  • Kurt Vile & The Violaters — 01/26, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Spafford — 02/12, The Southern, Charlottesville VA
  • Jeremiah Tall — 02/15, Ruby’s, Harrisonburg VA
  • Wilco — 03/21, The Beacon Theatre, New York NY
  • The Bright Light Social Hour — 04/28, WNRN Studios, Charlottesville VA
  • The Head and The Heart — 06/14, Sprint Pavilion, Charlottesville VA
  • Gary Clark Jr. — 07/14, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MD
  • My Morning Jacket — 07/14, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MD
  • The New Pornographers — 07/19, Sprint Pavilion, Charlottesville VA
  • Spoon — 07/19, Sprint Pavilion, Charlottesville VA
  • Phish — 08/01, Madison Square Garden, New York NY
  • Phish — 08/02, Madison Square Garden, New York NY
  • Portugal. The Man. — 08/21, Sprint Pavilion, Charlottesville VA
  • Greensky Bluegrass — 08/26, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • John Butler Trio — 08/26, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • John Fogerty — 08/26, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Widespread Panic — 08/26, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • The Revivalists — 08/27, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Phil Lesh & Friends w/ moe. — 08/27, LOCKN’ Music Festival, Arrington VA
  • Dave Matthews (solo) — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • Cage The Elephant — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • Chris Martin and Jonny Buckland (of Coldplay) — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • The Roots — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • Brittany Howard w/ The Roots — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • Pharrell Williams w/ The Roots — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • Chris Stapleton — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • Ariana Grande — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • Dave Matthews Band — 09/24, Concert for Charlottesville, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville VA
  • Spafford — 09/27, The Southern, Charlottesville VA
  • Chris Robinson Brotherhood — 10/08, The Jefferson, Charlottesville VA
  • Los Colognes — 12/01, Marathon Music Works, Nashville TN
  • St. Paul & The Broken Bones — 12/01, Marathon Music Works, Nashville TN

Previous lists

2016 | 2015

A Preview of the Gutenberg WordPress Editor

There were two hot topics at WordCamp US in Nashville this past weekend: hot chicken and Gutenberg. Hopefully the former needs no further explanation, but the latter might be new to you.

Gutenberg is the code name for the longest-running feature release that the WordPress team and community has ever worked on. Development on Gutenberg began in January of 2017 and the production-ready release (WordPress 5.0) is targeted for April 2018 (fingers crossed).

While there was plenty of chatter about Gutenberg in the halls of the Music City Convention Center, there were only two talks about the project during WordCamp US. The first was at the end of day one and the second was the closing keynote, State of the Word (given annually by WordPress founding developer Matt Mullenweg) on the final day of the conference. This year’s State of the Word included a demo of Gutenberg.


Before we get to the future of WordPress, let’s take a step back. Twelve years ago, WordPress released its current WordPress Visual Editor, which was just about when I started working with the software. Unless your site is using a plugin or has been customized, the WordPress visual content editor is a big empty text box with a toolbar that can be used to add/style text and upload/insert media. There are very few options to alter the layout of content unless you know HTML and CSS.

Since the WordPress visual editor was released in 2006, many elegant and user-friendly editors have been released by competitors including Medium, Squarespace, Wix, and Tumblr. And while WordPress currently powers 29.1% of all websites, and has sparked a multi-million dollar industry focused on extending the software through themes, plugins, and services, Gutenberg is WordPress’s attempt at catching up with — and hopefully moving past — the competition.

Content Blocks

In short, Gutenberg is going to fundamentally change the way users assemble and manage content in WordPress. It’s designed to simplify WordPress content, including custom post types, shortcodes, widgets, menus, and more, into one concept: content blocks. Content blocks are like digital legos that you can move and stack on a page to create a variety of layouts that are unachievable within the current WordPress editor. These digital legos can be made up of any type of content — image galleries, text areas, section headers, event listings, video — making the possibilities for page layouts limitless.



At Storyware, we’ve been building all of our WordPress sites with our own content block system for the last two years, so the Gutenberg concept is not new to us. However, Gutenberg will provide us with a brand new solution to work from and extend as part of the WordPress core platform, ultimately introducing significant changes to the websites and applications that we will build on top of WordPress in the future.

Not surprisingly, Gutenberg has a lot of developers, small business owners, and companies worried. This was evident after Matt’s talk when he fielded questions from the audience. Change is never easy and we all want to know how the introduction of Gutenberg will affect existing WordPress sites, themes, plugins, and other customizations. The best way to find out is to get involved. Help the WordPress community test Gutenberg: install the Gutenberg plugin and provide feedback. Read the documentation (when it’s available). If you are still not ready for Gutenberg when it’s released, WordPress has already introduced a classic content editor plugin that will override Gutenberg.

While you won’t need to adopt Gutenberg immediately, I wouldn’t recommend waiting. Much like the visual editor has impacted content management within WordPress for the last 12 years, Gutenberg is likely to have the same impact on WordPress for the next 12 years. In fact, its impact may be even greater. With a plan is to extend the block concept to other elements of the page, such as the header, footer, or a sidebar, WordPress may eventually move beyond the modern desktop and mobile viewport, implementing a content block system to manage content and layout within VR applications.

Clearly, the organizers of WordCamp US were saving the best for last with the State of the Word. We left WordCamp US after Matt’s keynote with a lot of optimism about Gutenberg and how Storyware can build upon it to improve the WordPress user experience. There was really only one thing that could top it — a trip to Hattie B’s for some hot chicken.

Watch the 2017 State of the Word

Gutenberg Resources

Originally published at Storyware.

Improving the Web Design Process Through Style Tiles

As a veteran (translation, old man) of the web design business, I can confidently say that one of the most stressful points in any project is when new design concepts are revealed to stakeholders. Back in the old days, web design projects would begin with a kickoff meeting that would focus on gathering design direction from your stakeholders. They would show you some websites they liked and didn’t like. And then the designer would go off and bury her or himself in Photoshop for weeks until the big reveal — all with very little stakeholder interaction. (Note, content was rarely, if ever discussed at these kickoffs, another issue with the old school web design process).

After basically being invisible to our stakeholders for weeks, we would reconnect at the largest and most anticipated meeting of the project to reveal our webpage concepts. While the feedback might be positive (thanks mainly to our talented designers), the list of changes was usually long. Often times, the stakeholders would want to mix the elements between concepts, taking the header from Option A, the footer from Option C, and the typography from Option B to create Option Hell No. Hopefully, this does not describe your current web design process. But if it does, don’t fret. You can change it.

Several years ago, designer (and all-around great person) Samantha Warren created a new web design deliverable, style tiles. Style tiles are intended to show stakeholders specific elements of a web design before any webpage mockups are designed. These elements are typically fonts, colors, and certain interface elements. The purpose is to get feedback sooner, crucially before spending long hours creating a pixel perfect website or application. As Samantha puts it …

Style Tiles are similar to the paint chips and fabric swatches an interior designer gets approval on before designing a room.

An interior designer doesn’t design three different rooms for a client at the first kick-off meeting, so why do Web designers design three different webpage mockups?

Teachstone Style Tile

Style tile for

We started using style tiles at the beginning of 2015 and it has significantly improved our web design process. Here’s how:

  • Style tiles help form a common visual language with our clients, which is then used throughout the rest of the project.
  • Because they are less time intensive than full website mockups, style tiles enable designers to share their ideas with stakeholders fast.
  • Style tiles can be modified quickly based on stakeholder feedback.
  • Style tiles set clear expectations and eliminate surprises, minimizing the risks and decreasing time associated with the webpage mockup reveal.
  • Last, but not least, style tiles are easy for stakeholders to understand and process.

Tera Think style tile

Style tile for

Adding style tiles to your web design process is not entirely without its complications. Here are a few tips we’ve learned along the way:

  1. Style tiles should not be used to define page layout. Leave that to wireframes.
  2. Once a style tile has been approved, it should lead to only one webpage design concept. One of the goals of style tiles is to decrease time spent on webpage mockups. With an approved style tile (coupled ideally with a wireframe), you should be able to put together one solid home page design concept that contains very little surprises.
  3. Stakeholders might like what they see so much that they want to see more. Remember, stakeholders are used to webpage mockups. Remind them that those will be coming, but the scope of style tiles is limited to specific elements.

Style tile for Stop Texts Stop Wrecks

Style tile for

Once you and your client are fully up to speed with what a style tile offers a project, these issues are easy to avoid, especially when you combine style tiles with other UX deliverables, including wireframes and webpage mockups.

Once this happens, style tiles will help you decrease time, minimize confusion, and clearly set expectations with your stakeholders during the web design process.

Originally published at Storyware.

It’s Tom Tom Week!

It’s the week of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, which means the Tom Tom Founders Festival is back. Tom Tom is a week-long celebration and collision of music, art, innovation, and food in Charlottesville, Virginia, which is just a few miles from where Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia.

Enough about history though. We are excited about the future, specifically the immediate future. Today is the first day of Tom Tom, and the festival continues through Sunday, April 16th.

There is so much that goes on at Tom Tom: it’s like SXSW before it jumped the shark. In order to get a full picture of everything that’s going on, spend some time on their website in the next day or two. Shameless plug: Storyware designed and built it. In the meantime, here are our can’t miss events:

Future Forum, Wed 4/12 (6–8pm), The Paramount Theater

For anyone passionate about the Future of Charlottesville — its economy, culture, and community — this forum is for you. The region’s most visionary leaders share what they see for the future of the city and how to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship for the decades to come.

RSVP on Facebook

Modern Web Design Using Sketch and InVision, Th 4/13 (4–5 pm), Studio IX

Learn tips and tricks to save time and create better designs with Sketch and InVision. Page Wood and Todd Wickersty from Storyware will walk you through the modern web design process, starting with content and ending with clickable prototypes.

This is a workshop aimed at UI designers or graphic designers who want to work more on the web and mobile.

More Info + Tickets

Founders Summit, 4/13–15, The Paramount Theater

Hear from over fifty inspiring speakers at Innovations in Energy, Innovations in Democracy, all day at the Founders Summit and the keynote workshops.

Use our exclusive code STRYWRE to take $80 off tickets.

Design + Branding Luncheon, Fr 4/14 (12–1:45pm), Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar

Craig Dubitsky, founder of eos Lip Balm and Hello Products, was such a great speaker at last year’s Tom Tom that he had to be brought back. Join Craig, graphic novelist, Roye Okupe, and Storyware co-founder, Todd Wickersty, over lunch at the Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar. We will be chatting about the art of delighting (not disrupting) an industry from the friendliest founders and firm believers of beauty in the mundane.

More Info + Tickets

Tech Mixer, Fr 4/14 (5–8pm), Lee Park

Have a beer with Storyware at the Tech Mixer in Lee Park. It’s the perfect way to start your Tom Tom weekend. Meet up with our entire team at our tent, and did I mention beer?

More Info

Originally published at Storyware.