WordPress-Powered App The Walking Dead StorySync® Nominated for Emmy

The 2013 Emmy nominations have been announced and included among the nominees is the Lift-built AMC The Walking Dead StorySync®, which is nominated in the Outstanding Interactive Program category. We are extremely proud this nomination, as it validates the idea that a WordPress-powered web app can go toe-to-toe against native iPad and iPhone apps and be one of the most successful, innovative experiences in television and interactive media.

When we were first approached by AMC to develop The Walking Dead StorySync®, we never dreamed our work would be nominated for an Emmy, let alone win a Social TV award and receive two additional nominations. Yet, we are extremely proud of our team for building apps that have made a massive impact on the way people watch and engage with television shows.

The Walking Dead StorySync® is powered by WordPress, which allows users to access it from any device and content producers to manage content quickly and flawlessly. Choosing WordPress was easy because it allowed us to tap into a powerful, easy-to-extend platform that can be accessed by anyone with a browser. Rather than building a series of native apps, building a fun interactive app with WordPress appears to have been the right choice with The Walking Dead StorySync® having already won 2 awards with an Emmy nomination as the cherry on top.

Are you looking to change the game? Contact us to learn more about what we can do for you.

The other nominees can be viewed here


The Second Screen: Is It Time?

There’s been talk for a while about second screens. After all, now that all the data is in, it seems that interactive TV is not so much about developing interactivity on the big screen, but on secondary devices within arms reach. In terms of trends, I think this will be a good one to watch with a lot of start-ups and companies jumping at the bit to provide the best service first. 

Some key trends to look out for:

  • Video fingerprinting. All video is going to have fingerprinting information in time. Fingerprinting allows the systems showing the video to know and understand what information is on-screen at a particular time. That means interactive content on the phone can know what is on-screen and serve up the appropriate content automatically rather than needing to be programmed.
  • Virtual MSO. Many believe that we are close to seeing a new option for consumers in the pay-for-TV space. A “virtual” MSO would be a partner that had the content deals with all of the channels and couldoffer live TV packages, but without the infrastructure of cable to the home, satellites in the sky, and the like. By using an all-Internet solution, they have much greater potential to link the primary and secondary screen. Sony, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and others are well-positioned to try it.
  • Use UI to predict the winner. Content is king, but the user interface (UI) is queen. The data proves what we’ve intuited for years: to catch on, experiences need to be seamless, easy to learn, and easy to use.
  • Ad auctions. We’ve started to see auctions come on strong on the web in the last couple of years and they are now taking up 20 percent of online inventory. The second screen is the perfect place for ad auctions because knowing what the user is watching provides the context that advertisers are going to want to compete for space in real time.

 for more on this topic check out the original article here

[Image: Brisbane/Shutterstock]

You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.

Dale Carnegie, from Alex Godin’s post Stop Hustling, Start Listening. (via jonathanmoore)

Narrowing Focus

It’s been a long 8 months. Many hours of blood, sweat, and tears—yes—tears have been spilled. But today, I have good news. It’s live.

For the past few years, we’ve been building things for TV networks that we’re extremely proud of. As one of the leading second screen app development companies, we’ve built award-winning social apps for audience-loved TV shows like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. Our goal is to heighten engagement for and deliver tremendous value to TV and movies via the web and mobile devices.

There aren’t many companies dedicated to the second screen. Today, we’re publicly announcing our dedication to building incredible apps and sites for movies, sports and television. This isn’t anything new but it’s what we love. We’re excited about the future of Lift and can’t wait to see what new adventures we find.

A Fresh Take

Any designer or developer will tell you working on your own site can be the hardest thing you ever do. It’s, like, really hard. So hard, in fact, we needed to call in our go-to content strategist and copywriter friend: Carolyn Wood.

Carolyn has worked with some of the most influential folks in our industry, helping make all types of companies look good and fantastic authors seem more intelligent than they already are. Along with revamping a large portion of the copy across our new website, she also helped provide critical creative direction that ultimately elevated things to the next level, connecting our message to the illustrations used throughout the website.

Having Fun

We’re a family-oriented company with deep roots in TV, film, sports, and video games. As a team, we wanted our new website to be something our children could enjoy, as well as anyone in television and media. We’ve packed a few Easter eggs into the site and also have a few free mobile wallpapers available to download.

We hope that you enjoy the delightful parts of our website and that it leaves you with a feeling of satisfaction. There is definitely a very specific audience for this website, but one of our primary goals is to delight everyone through tiny details.

It’s Not Responsive

I know there will be plenty of people asking, “Why isn’t your new website responsive?” The answer is simple: it doesn’t need to be. We built the site for a very specific audience, and that audience doesn’t generally browse our site on a mobile device. 

We typically build websites with responsive design in mind. For this project, the negatives of responsive design outweighed the positives. We wanted to be agile, creative, spend less time on browser support and pour lots of time into making sure we meet our needs for our intended audience. Then launch. We have an urgent message to deliver to the world. There’s no time to waste.

We may spend some time working on a mobile version of the site, something that can be easily shared with a co-worker or boss, but we’re extremely happy with the results so far and look forward to evolving the new site as we move forward.


So, tell me, what do you think of the new website? Tweet at @liftux and let us know what you think!

If you want to learn more about Lift, follow us on Tumblr or twitter at @liftux.

A Big Announcement

A little while back, I received a Skype call from Drew Wilson – the creator of the Internet. Well, at least the creator of a lot of things that make up the Internet. Drew came to me knowing that Lift is one of the best WordPress companies around, having a long history of building great sites and web apps like The Next Web, IFC.com, The Walking Dead StorySync, Breaking Bad StorySync, and WE tv SYNC – some of the first and best second screen apps. Some of our projects even won a few awards and we’re super proud of that.

So anyway, Drew called and asked if we had any interest in becoming the development partner for The Industry, a hub for design startup news. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity. After meeting Jared Erondu (teen Internet prodigy), we discussed terms, met with our lawyers and signed on the dotted line. 

That means in 2013, we’ll be helping construct an all-new website for The Industry and will be pulling out all the stops. We want to make sure this is the ULTIMATE website for designers. Drew has been working on some killer design ideas for the new site and our team is already collaborating on ideas for the new site and how it functions.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for the new site, we want to hear them. Tweet at us and let us know what you want to see from The Industry! 

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My custom iPhone cases I made for @casetagram are now available to order at http://casetagram.com/kylesteed

Web Tools & Services for a Virtual Development Company

I read a post by Coyier outlining the web services he pays for accompanied by a neat little table outlining his monthly expenses for each. I wanted to respond to that post outlining the services we subscribe to for comparison.

Quickbooks Online ($29.26/mo)

For a small company, QBO is a huge help. We run all our accounting, invoicing, payroll, and tax payments through this service and it’s one of the most inexpensive services we pay for. My favorite part is the fact that you just have to input all your pertinent information and QBO will provide you with all the tax forms you need to file as well as prepare all your estimated tax payments for you. You simply click a button or two to run payroll and pay your taxes. Pretty sweet for a small company.

Dropbox for Teams ($795/yr. for 5 users)

Dropbox is a rather important tool for a virtual company. Our team is distributed across the country, so using tools that sync our team up is a no-brainer. Dropbox for teams offers a crapton of storage (like 1000GB) and allows our team to access important, non-repository-based files.

Harvest ($864/yr.)

Harvest is an indispensable tool for us. It allows us to track our time spent on projects and keep our finger on the pulse of our budgets for clients and internal projects alike.

Github ($22.00/mo.)

Github is a pretty obvious one. We have a ton of repos and I’m not sure why they only charge us $22/mo. It feels like I’m stealing value from this awesome company. Maybe it’s due to the fact that one of our employees bribes one of Github’s employees with swedish fish. Who knows?

DeployHQ ($38.51/mo.)

Where Coyier uses Beanstalk for deployment, we use DeployHQ. It’s very similar to Capistrano, but your deployment configuration data is all hosted with DeployHQ. One of the awesome integration features we take advantage of is using deployment hooks with Github, allowing us to deploy code to production any time we push code to the master branch in one of our repositories.

Even if one of our non-technical team members needs to perform a deployment or rollback, there’s a nice web interface that makes it easy for anyone to use. I highly recommend.

Treehouse ($183.75/mo.)

If you haven’t heard about Treehouse, it’s an awesome way to learn new stuff. Awesome video training mixed with interactive quizzes and real-life problem solving. I also love that you can compete with the rest of your company by earning badges and pumping up your street cred.

Campfire ($24.00/mo.)

Campfire is one of the most critical tools for our virtual company. It’s what ties our communication together. Within Campfire, we have deployed hubot (which we named Levo after our UpThemes mascot) to offer some automated tools and services inside our company chat room. We have scripts that provide information for certain clients and servers as well as scripts that post inside joke memes that we’ve created over the years.

Here are a few (notice they’re all of @imbradmiller, not sure why but he’s great meme fodder):


Get to da choppa!


Basecamp ($49.00/mo.)

We use Basecamp mainly for interaction with clients and contractors. For internal projects, we typically focus our conversation around Issues in Github, but for clients, they’re not always using git and sometimes we’re working on design-only projects, so Basecamp makes a lot of sense in those cases. The ability to loop in someone via email even if they’re not a registered Basecamp user is a nice feature and the real-time communication tools are getting better and better.

BrowserStack ($49.00/mo.)

We started using BrowserStack back when it was pretty new and put it on the shelf because they didn’t offer VPN support that we could use. Now, that’s all changed so we’re back on board and subscribed to the small team plan for 5 users. 

Gotomeeting ($49.00/mo.)

We use Gotomeeting as a reliable videoconferencing tool (over Skype) because we can reliably pull in meeting attendees without worrying about crashes or poor quality video/audio. It’s been such a great tool that even our clients have asked if they can use our meeting rooms for their internal meetings! We love that, because it means A. our clients are comfortable enough with us to ask us for something like that and B. they see the reliability and usefulness of the meeting tools we use with them every day.

The Resumator ($49.00/mo.)

When it comes to hiring, nobody wants to manage or enter in applicant information from hundreds of emails that may or may not have a Word doc résumé attached to them. The Resumator has been particularly useful for us because we can review applicants, update their status quickly, track any communication with applicants, and easily see a snapshot of the applicants that we think may be a good fit for an open position. Not to mention we get applicants from other job sites all the time even though we may not have time to actively promote each opening via social media.

Firehost ($198.00/mo. free)

OK, so this is a pretty sweet deal for us. We love secure hosting and require a PCI-compliant host for UpThemes because we process credit card payments securely on our website. Firehost approached me a few years ago about becoming a sponsored hosting client and since then, I’ve never looked back. In fact, I’ve been so satisfied with Firehost that I moved every website I own over to them. Their support is second to none and their products are always up-to-date with security standards and industry best practices. Love it.

Authorize.net ($64.00/mo.)

As mentioned above, we process credit card payments through UpThemes.com and our payment gateway of choice is Authorize.net. Yes, we know, there are some really innovate companies in this space and Authorize.net isn’t exactly the most progressive one. For us, we love the fact that they’re widely known and used and have many years experience over other payment gateways. Add in the fact that they integrate with almost every piece of e-commerce software ever made, and it makes it super easy for us to pick them again and again.

Adobe Creative Cloud ($32.46/mo.)

Another one of those no-brainers, I said goodbye to paying $400+ for a new copy of Photoshop every couple years because Creative Cloud gives me access to every major Adobe application any time I want. They also offer a cloud hosted file server that allows you to share your work with co-workers and clients (though I personally prefer Shipment).

Campaign Monitor ($129.00/mo.)

We send out lots of emails. At least 13,000 per month. That means we need a reliable third-party email service that has a track record of not sending spammy emails out and great tools for tracking conversions. Campaign Monitor is one of the best in the business and we’ve been extremely happy with them to date. In fact, they even dropped their prices recently to be competitive with the Mailchimps of the world.

MyFax ($10.00/mo.)

OK, so this one is sorta lame, but we have lawyers, medical offices, and accountants that like things faxed to them, so we use MyFax by Protus for this. It’s a small price to pay for being hip with the technology of the 90s.

The Total Bill

In total, we pay a $927.23/mo. for our suite of web tools and services. It may seem like a lot to some, but for a virtual company with an e-commerce presence, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the value it provides us.

Regarding Agencies and Pricing

I recently read a nice article regarding pricing and we’ve gone through a few different methods of pricing here at Lift. I wanted to share some of our secret tips and tricks that we use to trick convince our clients to pay us well.

Step 1. Decide on One Hourly Rate

I’ve honestly never worked at an agency that had an a la carte menu for each type of work, but I’ve also never heard of confusing the crap out of the people you’re trying to work closely with. Apparently, confusing your client is pretty common, because a lot of agencies do have various hourly rates for various people within their company to work on your project.

I understand the concern here. If you have people in your agency that suck at life, how can you justify charging the client $150/hour for their time? This method may not work for agencies that have sucky people. However, this definitely works for agencies that have extremely talented people. So maybe try that business model instead if you feel “one price to rule them all” doesn’t apply to your company. We bill projects on a monthly basis and it works out very well because it’s easy and straightforward.

Step 2. Bill Up Front for the Last Invoice

My business partner, Brad, stole gleaned this valuable tidbit of information from Chief Keeper Upper at Ngen Works, Carl Smith. Bill your client a deposit that goes towards the final invoice for the project. Why? Because it makes more sense than charging a deposit for the first part of the project and you don’t have to wait around for a month and a half while your client drags their feet paying the last invoice. You can essentially bill the client for your billable time like you normally would. Then at the end of the project, you can simply deduct the deposit from the amount owed by the client and gather a small amount as final payment, rather than a large amount that could take forever to show up in your bank account.

At that point, you can cut the proverbial umbilical cord and ride into the sunset with your brand new mini Porsche and eat Dippin’ Dots ‘til you puke. Or whatever you’re into.

Step 3. Use ZenCash

ZenCash is an awesome way to let your clients know that they have an outstanding invoice and also thank them for paying invoices on time. You can even send a gift card for iTunes or Amazon for clients that pay within the grace period. They offer the ability to place phone calls, send notes, and even send stupid clients to collections, if necessary. It’s a pretty sweet way to automate your accounting department if you’re like me and don’t have the luxury of a giant team of payment chasers.

Step 4. ????

Let’s be honest here, step 4 is not necessary, but I felt like we should at least add another step to make this article seem more interesting.

Step 5. Profit

Once you’ve completed all these steps, you can now make more money than Honey Boo Boo at a glitz pageant. You’re welcome!

ZenCash – Get Paid on Time.

ZenCash – Get Paid on Time.