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Welcome to the Hardin DD development team’s blog! We’ll make posts periodically with our thoughts on the software industry, good UI design, and whatever else strikes our fancy. Feel free to follow along and comment!

Amazon Coins – Will Amazon’s Virtual Currency Succeed?

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Amazon is in the works to launch a new way to purchase apps, games and in-app items to their Kindle Fire products, dubbed “Amazon Coins”. The company plans on releasing tens of thousands of free Amazon coins to customers as a way to promote the use of their coins and to boost app sales within the Amazon Appstore.

How are the coins used? One Amazon coin is the equivalent to $0.01 USD, meaning that if your app costs $2.99 USD, it will cost an Amazon customer 299 coins to purchase it. Developers are then paid their same 70% revenue share they currently receive for their app in actual US dollars, regardless of how the customer pays.

By only allowing Amazon Coins to be spent on items within the Kindle Fire digital universe (customers cannot use the coins on other products sold on Amazon) Amazon ensures that money will recirculate within its digital universe.

Amazon is making an effort to ease any fears of any app developers too. Developers don’t have to modify their apps to be sold using the Amazon Coin-system, they simply submit the app to the Appstore as they always have, and as long as it meets the Amazon Kindle Family standards, no additional modifications are needed.

The question still remains though, what incentive does the customer have for using Amazon coins versus their credit card? Clearly customers will be drawn to using Amazon coins initially using the free giveaways coins promised by the company, but I have to wonder why anyone would use the coins in lieu of real money if they didn’t have to. Since the coins cannot be used for other Amazon products, why bother? Amazon might have to consider making their coins more advantageous for customers in the future (perhaps a discounted price for an app when coins are used) to ensure that their coins stay relevant and don’t suffer the same fate as Facebook Credits.

For more information about other types of virtual currency,  The Economist recently wrote an interesting article about the topic called, “Mining digital gold” which features a nice overview of how Bitcoin, a growing virtual currency,  is affecting the financial world. While the two virtual currencies aren’t easily compared (one being used as  ubiquitous currency and the other currency is used only for specific products),they are both very interesting  movements  to follow in the ever expanding world of virtual currency.



User Experience 101 – Amazon’s Dropdown

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Dropdown menu navigation can be tricky especially when unleashing it upon millions of people, you need to take into account intent, not just strict HTML guideline functionality.

The basic problem is maintaining a quick response time while maintaining the correct dropdown menu the user is intent on, this closely borders on programming to read minds.

An example of the problem with a strict dropdown menu. It is very responsive but there is no intent so the user must follow a determined path with their mouse or the dropdown instantly disappears.

An example of the problem with a strict dropdown menu. It is very responsive but there is no intent so the user must follow a determined path with their mouse or the dropdown instantly disappears.

Amazon seemingly solved this with a plugin called jQuery Menu Aim. What this plugin does is triangulate the path a user’s mouse would take from the parent dropdown item, to the child dropdown list itself, thus not switching or removing the open dropdown list if a user quick hovers over another parent item on their way to the children.

Mouse triangulation. Incredible User Experience improvement

Mouse triangulation. Incredible User Experience improvement

Like all good design, this probably goes unnoticed by the user but it sure would be noticable if it didn’t exist.

Credit: Ben Kamens – Khan Academy

5 Great Apps Created Using Open Data

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bright red and orange open sign

The city of of Madison launched it’s open data portal this week, and boy are we ever excited here at Hardin Design and Development! Madison, if you can believe, is only the second city in the country to pass an open data ordinance.


You might be wondering what the buzz is all about concerning open data and the Wisconsin State Journal has a great in-depth article explaining the concept, but basically it means the public will now be able to use data collected by the city to develop an app of their own design – for free.


With the copious amount of city-data now posted online developers will have plenty of information to dig and sort through to create an app, but where to start? To help fuel the creative juices we found five great apps created from open data portals from cities around the country to inspire the Madison area developers.


1. BusRadar (http://busradarapp.com/) Madison

A locally produced app that simplifies your bus experience. Allows users to see what buses will be arriving at any stop in the Madison Metro system. Tremendously useful to any seasoned or first-time bus rider.




2. Don’t Eat At_____ (http://donteat.at/) New York City

An app used on foursquare that allows users to receive an alerts when they check into any NYC restaurant that is at risk of being closed for health code violations.




3. Chicago Works (http://www.2pensmedia.com/) Chicago

Graffiti on your store sign? Abandoned car outside your apt? This iphone app that allows Windy City residents to submit and track reports to the 311 Chicago city services department.



4. MomMaps (http://mommaps.com/) (Originality San Fransisco, now over 30 cities)

Helps parents find kid-friendly locations (children’s museums, indoor play areas, kid-friendly restaurants etc.) while on the go.




5. Ottawa Biking Problems (http://ottawabikingproblems.ca/) Ottawa

A mapping website that allows cyclists to share information with the entire cycling community. Users provide data on specific locations in the city such as road work, busy intersections, poor bike lanes and more.



To get started on your exciting pathway to open data app development click the link to the official City of Madison Data Portal featuring all of the current datasets available to the public. We can’t wait to see what our fellow Madisonians are going to develop using our great new resource – we do know that will be great!

2012 in Review

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Hardin Design and Development would like to wish all everyone happy holidays! Below is a summary of our company’s highlights in 2012, thanks to all who helped make them possible and we look forward to 2013!

The year of 2012 was a year of expansion at Hardin Design and Development. We finally had a chance to settle in to our new office in Verex Plaza and were able to focus our energy into advancing, improving and refining the company. We grew the staff by 40%, adding talented core members to our team who will push the company forward in developing web and mobile apps for our clients. We also now have enough staff in the office now to play each other in baseball, hockey, basketball or rowing (we can be a bit competitive). Furthermore, Hardin experienced a steady steam of work this year, acquiring new clients including Toshiba and Nick at Nite, and continued strengthening our client relationships with our well established clients such as FedEx and many others.

The leaders of Hardin have been especially busy this past year, accumulating awards and working hard for their money. Jon and Scott had the honor of receiving UW-Madison Alumni Association’s “Forward Under 40” award this year, given to UW grads who are making an impact on the world by living the Wisconsin Idea. Jon was also named one of the “9 Young Entrepreneurs to Watch in Chicago” and one of the “130 Young Entrepreneurs to Watch in America” by Under30CEO all while adding the title of CTO/CIO of Fischer and Company to his accomplishments.

All and all, its been a fantastic year here at the office and we couldn’t be much happier. As Hardin Design and Development looks forward to the new year just around the corner we are edgar to further develop out team dynamic to provide top-rated products for our clients. We are also looking to expand the company, both in the physical and business worlds, in order to meet new and exciting folks in the tech/start-up world. Above all, in 2013 the staff at Hardin wish continue our passion for creating unparalleled mobile and web applications, and working with such talented and interesting people – and really, what more could we ask for?


Hardin Design and Development

Jon Hardin Recognized in the 2012 Under30CEO Awards


Under30CEO recently named our own CEO Jon Hardin as one of their “Nine Young Entrepreneurs to Watch in Chicago”!  The goal of Under30CEO’s search was to find the movers and shakers, innovators and game-changers from ten cities across the nation and Jon’s hard work, dedication and innovation in his company certainly fulfilled their criteria.

Congratulations to Jon from all of the staff at Hardin Design and Development!

The Under30CEO article can be read here.


Redesigning Outdated Android Apps: Not As Hard As You May Think

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In response to the negative feedback of the Microsoft Outlook App, our WordPress Developer and Android aficionado Aaron Heinen has provided some sound advice on how to easily revamp android apps.

First, is an article referencing how to do a quick re-design of an outdated app by following the Android Design Guidelines, in this case it is the same Outlook App that got horrible reviews.

By now the mighty 30 percent of users who are running Ice Cream sandwich and up have become accustomed to standards in their interfaces. There is a great article written about the Aesthetic-Usability Effect which summed up states that “people inherently believe well designed things function better”.

If your app is task oriented, it should use the font Roboto. It is the standard and Google provides it for free. Any other font will feel out of place to an Android user. The same goes for common UI features: Actionbar back button, Tabbed Navigation, List Navigation, even Text Input has a standard design that should be matched. Why? Users now recognize these designs and sub-consciously link the design to functionality, so it will just confuse them if your app tries too hard to be different and implement these standard features another way.

Another great example of an app that neglects the Android Design Guidelines comes from no other than ESPN.

The overall design for the Fantasy Football 2012 app  doesn’t necessarily hinder it’s functionality but the outdated gradient based buttons and the rounded corner interface screams Android 2.3.

So, next time you are developing an app, or critiquing a design of one, follow Aaron’s advice and avoid bad app aesthetics.

Happy designing!


Meet the Newest Hardin Employees!

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Welcome to Daniel and Anousone!

We just hired two new employees to  join Team Hardin! Get to know a bit more about them, in their own words, below!

Daniel Litvak

Daniel Litvak was born and raised in Los Angeles, Ca and moved to Madison in 2011. Daniel has been working as a web developer since 2008 and is excited to get started on project in the office.  When not at HardinDD, Daniel has a wide range of hobbies from rooting for the Dodgers and Lakers to Fly Fishing in the Sierra Nevadas.

Anousone Bounket

Anousone was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is interested in mobile applications and the growth of the mobile industry. He enjoys cooking, playing video games, nerf wars, tennis, chess, football, fist-pumping, and watching movies and states that, ” I have a low standard for movies, so I pretty much enjoy every movie I see. unless it’s a random sci fi movie like Sharktopus.” He also once feed a banana to a tiger in Thailand.


Venture Draft: St Louis 2012

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The first annual Venture Draft Conference was held in St Louis this weekend. The mission of the conference was to bring professional athletes, venture capitalists and technology experts face-to-face to create business opportunities (aka allow entrepreneurs to mingle with and teach current and former NFL players about technology). A tip of the hat to the Brandon Williams Economic Development Corporation: the Venture Draft was a success.

Rarely do I experience a “wow” moment at a tech conference. However, this one was different. Maybe it was the personality of the highlighted speakers (who attended every event) or the charm of St Louis, but there was something special about Venture Draft.

My “wow” moment came right after I had the opportunity to bounce business expansion ideas off keynote speaker Henry Wong of Garage Technology Ventures at a local cigar bar. As I was walking out of the bar to a sponsored after party, Jim Sorgi struck up a conversation about his future with the Colts and time on Gilman Street. Wow, this conference was pretty cool.

I was not alone. I was one of twelve who drove to the conference from Madison, WI (6 ½ hour drive). Our entire contingency felt the same. Maybe it was watching Yao-Hui Huang of the Hatchory bust a move on the dance floor or experiencing the humble nature of Daymond John of ABC’s Shark Tank, the conference was a positive experience for those who attended.

The city also played a positive role on conference experience. The food was fantastic and nightlife a great change of pace. Since many of the keynote speakers were from out of town, their attendance at post conference social events added a new dynamic to the event. I’ve never been to a conference that had the opportunity to chill with the CEO of FUBU overlooking the Arch. Usually the keynote speakers are back home or quickly jet setting to their next event. This would have been a very different experience if the conference was held in New York or Las Vegas.

Brandon set the bar high for the Venture Draft. I was glad to attend the first annual, and excited for the second.

Daymond John with Madison’s Portable Scoreboard team


Adobe Shadow


Gone are the days of the tedious workflow to test websites on a mobile device.

Before the workflow was

  1. Save and upload your (updated) files to a web server
  2. Navigate to the page from your mobile device, usually taking ~30 seconds to type in the URL every single time
  3. Check and wonder why things aren’t showing up correctly
  4. Fight off the urge to throw your device through a window
  5. Make some minor CSS tweak that probably isn’t the root of the problem
  6. Re-upload
  7. Re-Navigate
  8. Re-Check
  9. Re-Fight off the urge, etc.

The new workflow (after you have Shadow setup) is

  1. Save and upload your (updated) files to a web server
  2. Navigate to the URL from your desktop and have it automatically load on every device you have Shadow running on
  3. I only have to load the webpage on my laptop and it automatically updates WHAAAAA!!!??!?!

  4. Inspect the source of any device directly from your laptop
  5. “Inspect the element from your PC and your mobile device updates as if it were on your PC. BAM TECHNOLOGY

  6. Make Changes from within the developer tools and see them update instantly on your device
  7. Go golfing with all that extra time and headache you just saved yourself

How does it work!?

You need the Adobe Shadow “server” running on your PC.

You then need to download the Chrome extension to install and manage your clients from

Last but not least you need to download the “Adobe Shadow” App on every device you will be testing from. Once it is downloaded and the Server is running your devices will recognize the computer and give you a passcode to connect. 

Enter the passcode into the extension

and BINGO. You are now a wizard.



It doesn’t work locally. – I can’t hold it against it but for all you CSS Wizards out there:

ICS ContentResolver Sync Changes and Fix

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Nowhere in the Android documentation could a fix be found for the issue we were encountering on Ice Cream Sandwhich, Android OS 4.0

We got feedback from a user saying upon the first login the app would not stop syncing, even after he let it sit for 30 minutes. However, Once the app was closed and re-opened it synced perfectly.

The app would hang here making the user think it just took forever to sync when in reality it was just hanging because the account did not have sync permission


We were able to narrow the problem down to the account not having the sync settings turned on even though in older versions of Android it worked properly.

Dialog when Sync button was pressed

The Account was added to the sync settings but not activated

The code we were using to start  the sync was simply

ContentResolver.setSyncAutomatically(application.getUserAccount(), MyStyleProvider.AUTHORITY, true);

This, strangely enough, worked fine on all Android Phones that did not have Ice Cream Sandwhich. We searched and searched but could not find an answer. We tried adding more permissions to no avail. The fix came on a whim when I saw there was a MasterSync property. I could not find any documentation to back that this needed to be true for ICS phones but setting it to true solved the issue and the sync works great!


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