NickSchaden

Square

Square

I'm a senior developer and designer for the popular payments service.

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A creative technologist who designs and develops websites.

Over ten years of experience for a lot of cool companies: Square, Gucci, Pocket and more.

Pocket

Pocket

I was the platform lead for this widely used save for later service.

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General Assembly

General Assembly

I teach front end web development and a self-designed responsive web design workshop to future developers, entrepreneurs and designers.

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Gucci

Gucci

I was the front end lead for all design and development on gucci.com, a global e-commerce fashion site, for three and a half years.

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Latest Blog Posts

The Xbox Scorpio gamble

Microsoft’s E3 announcement of Project Scorpio is big news. It’s the first official sign of consoles moving toward a faster, more iterative release cycle. But the announcement is also a big strategic mistake.

Not because of the Scorpio concept itself. Consoles have advantages with a faster release cadence. There’s more wiggle room for innovation and breakthrough gaming experiences. Game compatibility expands; older platforms aren’t immediately left behind.

Yet I see two big errors on Microsoft’s part. They announced Scorpio too early and are targeting a high end, costly specification.

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E3 2016: Microsoft and Sony presser analysis

The maturity of the console market and strong sales clearly rubbed off on the Microsoft and Sony this year. Each had their missteps, but they stayed on message and were the most interesting pressers by each company in several years.

Yet Sony and Microsoft took different approaches. Microsoft knows it’s well behind Sony and wanted to present a wide net for potential buyers. They succeeded; onstage content was bright, fun, and diverse.

Sony had the swagger of being in the lead. While Microsoft went wide, Sony went uncharacteristically narrow and minimalist. PlayStation VR got a mention, but the focus was otherwise all on games, many of them first party exclusives.

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Good UI engineering requires more than tech skills

To become a better web UI engineer, study design, communication, and vocabulary. Even if you cut back on some extra technical training, it’s worth it. That’s because the difference between good and great UI work rarely comes from technical prowess alone. It’s distinguished by creativity, visual insight, and sound organization.

Yes, JavaScript and styling fundamentals are important. You need to understand the tech behind your craft. But the solution to a tech blocker can be a tool or coworker away. And once you learn the basics of one MVC JS framework or CSS coding methodology, you can learn another.

Reusability is a bigger issue. Every time you change styling or write a new UI element, consider its impact elsewhere. Think ahead to where the application will grow and how you can cut repetition. It’s more than an blind grep through the code. It’s finding patterns. And visual patterns or usage trends are especially tricky to detect.

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Uncharted 4 and the blurry line between game and film

Uncharted 4 is the rare example of a action adventure game with emotional heft. It’s one thing to match expectations for pretty scenery, tight gameplay, and big set pieces. It’s another to have UC4 generate the emotions and surprise that I associate with a well crafted movie. Technological breakthroughs push the game into new territory.

That’s not to say story, dialogue and acting isn’t important. But gaming has reached the point where strong narratives are no longer revelatory. In recent years we’ve had the superb Tales From the Borderlands, Firewatch, and the Walking Dead series. Until Dawn and Heavy Rain also have their moments. And The Last of Us has a heartbreaking storyline that works on many levels.

UC4’s story is strong, but isn’t a high point for gaming. Graphics are the differentiating factor this round. It’s all in the faces.

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PlayStation NEO and the Apple connection

An earlier than usual PS4 successor has its benefits. But why is the PlayStation NEO coming now?

Early console releases are usually for companies with lagging hardware and low sales. The news grabs attention, can drive sales, and establish a clean break from the past. Nintendo’s upcoming NX console is a textbook example.

Sony’s the opposite of underperforming. They’ve exceeded expectations: 40 million PS4s sold, over double the Xbox One, and sales are accelerating year over year. And consoles thrive on momentum. Sony’s lead allows them to coast on the PS4’s success for a while; don’t rock the boat and watch profits grow. Yet success also buys the chance to take some costly bets. That’s Sony plan, an investment on the NEO today for the chance to solidify PlayStation over the long run.

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Getting started with Flexbox

Flexbox is a powerful web styling tool, one my favorite recent CSS additions. It’s an effective replacement for hacky, float-heavy layouts. Given its wide browser support and mature feature set, I lean on Flexbox for most project work.

However, I’m surprised many developers stay away from Flexbox. They’re worried about browser support, a big learning curve, or otherwise strange behavior. They shouldn’t. Here’s how to get started.

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PS4 NEO and the shift to iterative console upgrades

Giant Bomb confirmed an upgraded PS4, codenamed NEO, is real and coming soon. There’s still a lot we don’t know, but based on the leaked developer guidelines, I’m cautiously optimistic about this news. However, a shift to a more iterative console isn’t won through hardware or development studio relations. It’s with marketing to gamers and the larger public. And it’s on that angle Sony can turn this into a mess.

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Structuring design teams to maximize cross-team collaboration

I like design teams built around collaboration and transparency with outsiders, especially engineers. Yet that openness has to be balanced against productivity. Even with formalized designer-engineer connections, I still structure meetings to give designers as much uninterrupted time as possible.

An open structure largely derives from designer/engineer ratios. Across technology, from hot startups to well established brands, designers are almost always heavily outnumbered. And given it’s a fairly young industry, design is often underrepresented in company leadership. Granted, with “design thinking” surging in popularity, that’s changing. But across many companies, it’s still an uphill battle. If you box your design team in, you’ll stack the deck against you.

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Nightcrawler: shots that create empathy

Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom

All stills are property of their respective owners and are used here strictly for educational purposes only.

Most critical attention on 2014’s Nightcrawler centered on Jake Gyllenhaal’s lead performance. It’s understandable; Gyllenhaal’s character actor eccentricities gel together in a way we’ve rarely seen before. He’s intense and deeply unsettling as lead character Lou Bloom.

However, it’s smart cinematography that underlines his performance and sets the film’s dark, gritty tone. DP Robert Elswit forces the audience to empathize with Lou’s own sociopathic worldview.

Nightcrawler chronicles Lou’s growing career in L.A. crime journalism. Along the way we get a handful of conventionally filmed conversations with Lou at diners, cars, and TV stations. But crime scenes are the heart of the film and push the story forward. It’s also where Elswit makes many strong and unconventional shot choices.

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Staying productive with Todoist

Capturing and organizing tasks is a highly personal exercise. Some turn to simple tools like pen and paper or a Google Doc. Others prefer complex systems with filtering, contexts, and customization like Omnifocus.

After trying several options, I’ve found a sweet spot between these extremes with Todoist. It provides some structure for work, but remains flexible for whatever flow I’m managing. That said, the basics I outline here should work with most task management systems.

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