The Official OpenRoad Blog


Goodbye Cyberspace, Hello Code/Space at the 2015 BC Library Association Conference

Every year the BC Library Association gathers its members together to discuss the evolving role libraries play in our cities and communities across BC. This year, I was honoured to receive an invitation to speak at the annual conference.

I’ve always been a big fan of libraries – from a child who visited regularly, to a university student who camped out in the stacks researching and writing essays, to now a parent returning to the children’s collection on weekends. I’ve also had the pleasure of working with librarians: I helped redesign the Vancouver Public Library’s website back in 2007, have done a lot of work in the public legal education and information space with the team at Courthouse Libraries BC, and currently I’m serving my second year as a Trustee of the Board of the Vancouver Public Library.

Libraries are truly a part of an informed, engaged, and connected city – to quote VPL’s vision for the library. And I’ve always felt a healthy deal of rapport with librarians, their values and their commitment to intellectual freedom, learning and curiosity. Not to mention their burning desire to organize massive quantities of information.

This year’s BCLA Conference theme was Creative Communities. From their website:

“The theme focuses us on the power of creativity in both the library and the world around us. It emphasizes how we use creativity to seek new ways to collaborate with and serve both existing and new communities. The theme Creative Communities will bring us together to highlight and reflect on our practices and profession.”

My talk belonged to track on how space and place figure in affording community. More from the BCLA Conference website:

“Learning space, maker/hackerspace, community space, physical and online space– the library as place of cultural and intellectual meaning is in a period of renewal. We are reconfiguring our spaces to be flexible and in many ways undefined. What are we learning about public space, user needs, and libraries as places?”

As someone who loves good theory, but loves the application of that theory in the real world even more, I decided to focus my talk on the theoretical constructs of “code/space” and “coded-space” proposed by UK geographers Rob Kitchin and Martin Dodge in their 2005 journal article “Code and the Transduction of Space” and their 2011 book Code/Space; Software and Everyday Life. 

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 10.39.59 AMIn their writing, Kitchin & Dodge describe two types of spaces that occur when software is present and being used by people: code/space and coded spaces.

A code/space is a space which is dependent upon the functioning of software to realize its purpose. If the software stops, so too does the space. Think of an airport: if the baggage, ticketing, and security software stops, so too does the airport as space and place. It ceases to work.

A coded-space on the other hand is where software brings to life a new possibility when it is present in the space; but if it were to stop working, the space could continue to function essentially as designed or intended. Think of a coffee shop: wifi, tablets, mobiles, and laptops turn the space into a temporary office for the mobile worker, but if that software ceased to work, we could hopefully continue to pull espresso shots and foam milk for our cappuccinos.

These concepts were set up against a day-in-the-life scenario of my own personal visit to VPL’s Central Branch in order to highlight the seemingly obvious and banal interactions we have with software everyday. And intertwined with a healthy dose of Kitchin & Dodge’s theoretical language: technicity, transduction, and ontogenesis to name a few $12 words to impress your friends and play in that next Scrabble match.

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 10.43.53 AMThe big question: are libraries code/space or coded spaces? If code were to stop working at your library, code’s productive capacity to do things in the world is no longer, its “technicity” rendered mute, would your library still be able to fulfill its purpose or mandate?

With that question, we had a great 20 minute discussion. Librarians are an intelligent and reflective bunch and the room came alive with insights, opinions, and pointers to science fiction works that have contemplated the “what if it all stops working?” scenario in a more total sense.

And before I knew it it was time to head off to lunch and prepare for my appearance on the Oh Glorious Failures! Lightning Talks on How to Succeed Through Failure panel that Beth Davies of VPL had organized. I was proud to share with my other esteemed failures how we (designers at OpenRoad) fail regularly and encourage it through the practice of usability testing (sanctioned, early-stage failure in order to learn and make our digital experiences better before they get out into the world in their final form).

And then it was off to Wayde Compton’s remarkable closing keynote on Diversity and Affect that wrapped up the conference.

A big thanks to the BCLA organizers, Kate Sloan from Courthouse Libraries BC, Beth Davies from VPL and all of the brave souls who came to listen to some software theory right before lunch on a Friday… It was a wonderful day to be a part of, from both sides of the podium.

See you at the library.

Gordon Ross is the Vice President and Partner at OpenRoad.

We’ve been running the Sun Run for over 16 years.

The Vancouver Sun Run is one of OpenRoad’s longest-standing employee events: we’ve been running it since 1999! This Sunday will be our 16th year participating in the popular 10-kilometre race run.

Post-Sun Run, 1999.

Post-Sun Run, 1999. Nice shorts, Gord!

Since the acquisition of design agency Mod7 in 2013, our T-shirt logos received a big upgrade. We revealed our first ever designer-made logo last year, which our runners wore proudly. This year (more…)

Kaitie Bakker

A talented, multidisciplinary designer, Kaitie plays a pivotal role in maintaining the quality of design in all areas of ThoughtFarmer—from product design, to marketing, to helping our customers bring their individual intranet brands to life. She takes pride in creating solutions that improve the day-to-day work of employees, whether the result is obvious or subtle. With a keen eye for detail and an empathetic approach, Kaitie collaborates with the product development team to create elegant, functional touch points along the user journey.

Kaitie studied graphic design at Langara College, held several in-house design positions, and later worked for Langara assisting the coordination of the Continuing Studies design programs. Her work has been featured in HOW Magazine. Before she walked through our front door, Kaitie was a designer at Cedar Made Design where she worked with clients like Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation, 6S Marketing, TransLink, David Suzuki Foundation and the University of British Columbia.

In her down time, Kaitie can be found hiking the trails of North Vancouver, running along the seawall, or climbing rocks, often with her adorable deaf dog, Finn, loving life right along side her.

Kaitie Bakker's Full Profile

Beyond Competency Tests & Riddles: Hiring People with Real-World Skills


The topic of hiring is frequently discussed in the tech community. It’s a seller’s market, where talent is in top demand. It’s also a position of great responsibility where someone who’s mediocre can become an albatross on the team’s neck. Stories are common about days-long interviews with multiple rounds meeting different groups of people.

When I came to work at OpenRoad, my interview was nine months long, and involved a major project for one of our biggest clients.

Fortunately, it was paid work, and it was ideal from a hiring perspective: OpenRoad had an extended period in which to evaluate me: they received real code from me, they interacted with me as part of a team, and they saw how I handled deadlines and project pressures. When they hired me (more…)

Congratulations CBC Transmission Team!


We’re pleased to announce that the responsive website we designed and built for CBC/Radio-Canada Transmission has won Best Broadband Website in the 2014 Davey Awards! Congratulations to our talented team of project managers, designers, and developers, and a special “thank you” to our client, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The CBC Transmission website drives revenue by enabling potential clients to easily find out more about CBC/Radio-Canada Transmission. Whether they’re in the office or out in the field, potential clients can use the new website to easily learn about specific CBC towers and service offerings.


Toddler First Usability


Got a mobile app? Test it on your toddler first.

I know you’re not really supposed to give your toddler an iPhone or iPad, but, really—it can’t be helped sometimes.

Before I had a kid, I’d judge parents who would give their child an iPhone. But now that I’m a parent, I totally understand. Parenting is hard, and parents are usually exhausted. Sometimes it’s the only way your toddler will stand in that Santa lineup for 20 whole minutes.

If you’re a parent and you haven’t given your child your smartphone or tablet, that’s great! I envy your discipline. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that screen time should be avoided for children under the age of 2. I agree with them. My toddler only gets my iPhone occasionally, not all the time, everyday.

But for the purposes of this post, let’s assume it’s more than likely that your toddler is going to get their hands on your mobile device sooner or later. (more…)

James Young

James Young has more than 10 years of experience in software development and quality assurance. Before coming to OpenRoad in 2014, James worked with BC Housing where he was responsible for writing and executing complex test cases and verifying the functionality of its web-based applications. Previously, he consulted on Siebel CRM implementations for clients such as Marriott International and DishNetwork. At OpenRoad, he has tested web applications and worked with the development teams for Clicklaw, TI Corp and Pokemon projects.

James has a Bachelor and a Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering from the University of British Columbia. Outside of work, he can be seen playing basketball and badminton or working out in the gym.

James Young's Full Profile

Jessica Evans

Jessica is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with diverse experience as a project manager and project coach. As Director of Project Services, Jessica spearheads all areas of OpenRoad’s project management, bringing an eye for the big picture and the ability to balance a project’s technical and creative needs to meet business objectives.

During her career, she’s managed CMS portal implementations, rebrands, online video games, software implementation, and website builds. She’s worked closely with both small businesses and Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola UK and Pfizer, along with the U.S. Department of Energy, to name just a few.

In her spare time, you’ll find Jessica outside: climbing boulders, snowboarding, and riding bikes.

Jessica Evans' Full Profile

The Inaugural Vancouver User Experience Awards


The UX community in Vancouver creates some of the best-designed experiences in the world. As founding members of VanUE (the Vancouver User Experience Group), we were thrilled to co-present the inaugural Vancouver User Experience Awards on November 26, 2014.

Back in 2003, a handful of user experience practitioners met, hoping to find a way to connect Vancouver’s burgeoning UX community. Since then, the resulting organization—VanUE—has grown organically over the past 11 years to over 1400 Meetup members today, with a great lineup of monthly UX events.

This year, for the first time, we set out to celebrate and recognize the great work being done in our own city. (more…)

Avoiding Spinny-itus – Making Load Times More Bearable

My name is Dave Kachman and I have an iPhone 4. I’ve never met Siri. I type in a 4-digit password instead of scanning my thumb. I have never experienced LTE.

Most times, I despise the “spinny”.

Spinny Loading Indicator
Figure 1 – Animated GIF image of classic “spinny”

The “spinny” is an animated GIF image that is commonly used to indicate when a web application is loading something in the background. As users of the web, we started to see our beloved “spinny” in many websites when AJAX was introduced (which allows websites to asynchronously take actions without reloading the entire page). These actions could sometimes take a fair bit of time, so there was a need to inform users that the site was doing something in the background.

This is all well and good, but only if the wait time is reasonable. As I have witnessed over the last couple of years, adding a “spinny” whenever AJAX is used is not enough for all users. This is especially important for those not using the latest and greatest technology or those in areas with spotty network coverage.

The idea of “reasonable wait times” is not new. Jakob Nielsen posted about reasonable wait times in his article from 1993. He notes that the human attention span drifts after about a second of waiting, which means progress feedback must be given to the user if they must wait longer than 1 second to finish. The human attention span begins to drift again with delays longer than 10 seconds, after which Nielsen recommends updating users more frequently with updates on how the task is going. (more…)