Duolingo’s Dynamic Homepage

This week I thought I’d highlight something interesting that I noticed on Duolingo’s homepage—something that I’ve actually never seen before.

The vast majority of companies treat their homepage like a static resource. That means that no matter who you are and no matter which stage of the user lifecycle you’re in, you’ll see the exact same page.

Duolingo does something different. Check it out: Here’s what their homepage looks like when you go there for the first time:

Continue reading Duolingo’s Dynamic Homepage

Content Gating Example Code (HTML, CSS, JS)

Last week we looked at the best implementation that I’ve ever seen of content gating on the First Round Capital blog.

This week I’d like to take a stab at reproducing that example in simple HTML, CSS, and Javascript. The goal for this week is to give you a head start should you decide to ever experiment with gating on your blog.

Let’s dive right into the code.

Continue reading Content Gating Example Code (HTML, CSS, JS)

Complete Novice to Full-time Product Designer in 1-2 Years

In this post, I’ll talk about the path that I would take to go from a complete novice, to a full-time product designer—all within a year or two—and land a job that pays at least $90,000/yr.

A few disclaimers:

  1. This isn’t a life hack article. Below, you won’t find a list of hacks, but a list of real work that must commit to.
  2. I’m not trying to sell you anything. This post is not the intro to some paid course that I’m trying to up-sell you on. I don’t want/need anything from you in return. (That said, if you do end up becoming a product designer, I’d love to hear your story).
  3. The path outlined below offers the fastest way (that I know of), for anyone to change careers, and become a product designer. Follow these steps, and you’ll save a great deal of time, and money with your transition.
  4. This is obviously not the only path, but this is the path I would take if I were starting over from scratch, with zero experience as a designer.
  5. Paying for education to become a product designer is NEVER something that I’d recommend. This statement will likely offend some (especially those who have paid for design school), or those who sell expensive design courses, but please trust me when I say that you do not need a degree to become a product designer. We’ll talk about this in more detail below.

Continue reading Complete Novice to Full-time Product Designer in 1-2 Years

The Startup Playbook – Book Notes


The Startup Playbook, is a book that I really enjoyed. Here’s a list of the quotes that I found most interesting:

  1. Intro – Building a startup will be the homeownership of the next century.
  2. Intro – Ruthlessly focus on your biggest ideas. While you might think keeping your options open creates added opportunity and paths to fortune, it actually does the reverse.
  3. Intro – Ultimately, you are trying to unlock your product-to-market fit equation as quickly as your talent and capitalization will allow. It is critical to select your problem well, focus intensely, and crack the code.
  4. Intro – Be 10 times better than your competitors. You cannot Be incrementally better. Incrementalism kills companies. Radically differentiate your company by being 10 times better than anyone else in the world.
  5. Intro – Be a monopolist. Few entrepreneurs think as boldly as they need to from the very beginning. Yet, this type of thinking needs to be woven into the fabric of the company’s psyche from day one. We are only limited by the scope of our vision.
  6. Intro – The entire company and its ultimate outcome are a reflection of your ability to set the foundational purpose, beliefs, and focus to contribute to a lasting organization that effectively solves a major market problem.
  7. Intro – We have a responsibility to take great risks because in truth, we have few true risks at all. I believe a life fully lived should be lived boldly, loaded with chances to push yourself to the greatest extremes of your abilities.
  8. Intro – Don’t suffer from the sin of comparison. Follow your own path. Trust your gut, focus on the voice of your customers, and move forward on a committed, decisive path.
  9. Intro – I feel one of my most important jobs and my companies is to give my teams the ability to take Great risks without fear of failure or peer contempt. Don’t hide failure. Admit it, address it, learn from it, and then forgive it and move forward.
  10. Intro – Start ups are stupidly hard. The decision to pursue them is irrational.
  11. Chris Anderson – If you can’t define your brand in 3 to 8 words, you’re doomed.
  12. Chris Anderson – Build your reputation through transparency.
  13. Charles Best – Users will reward you for being transparent and giving them choices.
  14. Charles Best – Learn to utilize crowd sourcing on both the front end and the backend of your business.
  15. Sara Blakely – Money is a magnifying glass. It makes you more of who you already are.
  16. Steve Blank – Populate your board with dinosaurs.
  17. Steve Blank – Make “good enough” daily decisions. If someone comes into your office with the question, they should leave with an answer.
  18. Steve Blank – When you run the startup, you’re breaking every rule, shattering every piece of glass, punching through walls, and leaving rubble along the way. It’s like being a platoon commander.
  19. Matt Blumberg – You have to be the most optimistic person in the company and the most pessimistic person company at the same time.
  20. Rodney Brooks – Fire people when they lose faith in your ideas.
  21. Jeff Bussgang – A fatal mistake that some people make is either to ignore data or actually deny what the facts are presenting. It’s easy to fall into that trap at a startup because you’re constantly getting barraged with imperfect information. You shouldn’t let that paralyze you.
  22. Jeff Bussgang – Build a love driven culture.
  23. Jeff Bussgang – Be a mentor. If your not mentoring someone, you’re missing out on something special.
  24. Jeff Bussgang – Don’t neglect the contract with your family. Your strongest as professional and as a person when you have a strong family foundation to rest on.
  25. Steve Case – Change the world. The key driver for me is finding businesses that change the world. These are businesses that empower consumers in new ways, giving them more choice, giving them more control, giving them more convenience in important aspects of their lives.
  26. Steve Case – Focus on people, perseverance, and passion.
  27. Steve Case – We have a great need for people focused on the bigger ideas. Entrepreneurs are the change agents that need to take the lead in building iconic, lasting companies that will improve peoples lives.
  28. Steve Case – Be an attacker, not a defender. What people underestimate is how risky it is to operate in a stable business as a defender rather than an attacker.
  29. Steve Case – Be loyal to your team, but make changes as you scale.
  30. Steve Case – Once you have found the revolutionary idea that you are ready to start a company in pursuit of, you need to be sure you survive to see it through. Occasionally there is an overnight success, but more often it is a marathon, not a sprint.
  31. Steve Case – Set direction and step aside. If you are a really great CEO, you should wake up in the morning and have nothing to do.
  32. Steve Case – Don’t build companies. Build industries. One way to identify entrepreneurs or companies that will change the world is by finding startups that are trying to create an entire industry rather than just build a company. That ambition is the foundation of lasting, iconic, platform companies.
  33. Marc Cenedella – Use passion as your filter. Realistically, there won’t be 100 things or 1000 things that you could execute on as an entrepreneur. At some point, you have to pick one and go, and it has to be something you have a passion for.
  34. Marc Cenedella – Show up and don’t quit. The once you say, “You know what, I didn’t quit”, there’s really deep wisdom in that.
  35. Marc Cenedella – Over-communicate in a crisis.
  36. Marc Cenedella – When you have 50 to 60 hands working on your business, you need to step back from tactical issues and focus on strategic life or death decisions.
  37. Robin Chase – Be frugal, personally and professionally.
  38. Chip Conley – The most neglecting fact in business is that we’re all human.
  39. Chip Conley – When you start, you have no idea what you don’t know. If you keep your business small in the beginning, your initial mistakes are going to be small and you can use them to create a better product.
  40. Jeff Dachis – Build backward from a future state. The issues I tackle are often wildly complex and years into the future.
  41. Jeff Dachis – When you first enter a marketplace, you’ll get laughed at and ridicules and have tomato thrown at you. It’s difficult, but it’s the only way to see if your arguments stand up.
  42. Jeff Dachis – Only take risks when you can affect the outcome. Focus on eliminating risks.
  43. Jeff Dachis – Don’t get lost in lists.
  44. Jeff Dachis – Build solutions, not features.
  45. Kevin Efrusy – Don’t clutter your time. You make your best decisions, when your time isn’t cluttered with a bunch of random stuff.
  46. Caterina Fake – Make something people want to use every day.
  47. Caterina Fake – Working on the right problem is more important than working hard.
  48. Caterina Fake – As a leader of a team or company, you will always have to deal with anxiety. You cannot let those anxieties spread out past you.
  49. Mitch Free – Bootstrap your business for as long as you can. If you can prove that customers are willing to pay money for your offer before you raise money, you’ll get a much higher valuation.
  50. Mitch Free – A great salary on day one often means significantly less upside later on down the road.
  51. Mitch Free – Recognize the life cycles in your team. Not everyone will transition as your business scales.
  52. Mitch Free – The bigger an organization gets the more important it is for you to explicitly communicate with your team.
  53. Mitch Free – share the blame when letting people go. It’s never, “screw you you didn’t work out”, but, “I’m sorry that we didn’t assess the fit properly”.
  54. Tom Gardner – Defined the perfect outcome. You have to nail down what outcome you are seeking.
  55. Tom Gardner – Recognize your actual revenue streams and diversify them.
  56. Tom Gardner – Create an environment that people wouldn’t make sacrifices to join.
  57. Tom Gardner – Deploy a capital like an investor.
  58. Tom Gardner – There is almost always a better option than taking on another full-time employee. The keyword is almost.
  59. Eileen Gittins – It’s through telling stories – about the business, the founding, the customers – that people take on the spirit of the company.
  60. Eileen Gittins – Leadership is, in part, the art of storytelling.
  61. Eileen Gittins – Ineffective team members cause more harm than terminations.
  62. Eileen Gittins – Grant here employees autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
  63. Seth Goldman – The challenge, as I see it, is not, “How do you sell products?” Its, “How do you communicate your beliefs to people and make them into believers?”
  64. Seth Goldman – You want employees to care about the long-term performance of the company, so you should give them as much control over their part in the business as you can.
  65. Scott Harrison – Everything that you do must express your passions and your purpose.
  66. Reid Hoffman – Execute on your biggest idea. Building up a small idea is as much work as building up a big one in the first phases, so you absolutely want to execute on the biggest possible idea that you can.
  67. Reid Hoffman – The only competitive differentiations that matter are ten-times-greater differentiations.
  68. Jeffrey Hollender – Radical transparency and authenticity should dominate your brand and culture.
  69. Ben Horowitz – People are fundamentally lazy, and they’re not going to adopt something unless it’s at least 10 times better than what they are ready have.
  70. Ben Horowitz – You always want to build monopoly because that’s where you’ll get outsize returns.
  71. Tony Hsieh – Be humble. The people in overly proud companies start believing their own press releases and feeling like they can do no wrong.
  72. Tony Hsieh – Giving early managers and executives top-heavy titles inhibits growth.
  73. Cyrus Massoumi – Most startups do A/B testing. But we A/B test everything.
  74. Cyrus Massoumi – Keep your entire company aligned to the core mission. Our goals aren’t centered around money or valuations.
  75. Jim McCann – Managing in underfunded startup is terribly exhausting.
  76. Jim McCann – Cultivate an alumni. If someone leaves on good terms, give proper notice, and treats everyone with professionalism and integrity, we want them to be one of our alumni.
  77. Elon Musk – Impact the future of humanity. I’ve always tried to be involved in things that will impact the future of humanity and have a good impact on the world.
  78. Elon Musk – The most important thing an entrepreneur can do is focus on making a great product or service. Stay very close to the product and be hell-bent on making it as good as it can be.
  79. Elon Musk – Make sure people know exactly why somebody was fired.
  80. Elon Musk – Run your company for as long as you reasonably can. You should only consider passing over the reins to somebody as good or better than you are at creating great products.
  81. Adeo Ressi – Start with multiple ideas and kill them off. It’s much easier to kill an idea when it’s not yet a business.
  82. Adeo Ressi – Conserve dollars in every way you can.
  83. Kevin Ryan – Get to market. In the beginning, you have no way of knowing if you have the right design, or if it’s going to work. There are a lot of things you don’t know. You just have to get out the door and find out.
  84. Jeff Stewart – A business isn’t one big invention. It’s hundreds of small inventions.


I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at its@davemart.in.

Test Your Designs

Every public facing design you push live – which has the potential to affect core metrics – should be A/B tested. Period.

But, why?

A couple of reasons:

  • Data helps you make informed decisions.
  • You test to learn. You’ll find out what works, and what doesn’t. You can then share what you’ve learned with others, and apply what you’ve learned to future hypotheses.
  • As much as you’d like to think that you can predict success, humans are terrible at it. There are no exceptions to this statement. That’s not to say that you don’t have a wealth of knowledge and experience that you can leverage. You’re always going to be fairly confident that each test you run will lead to an increase in your core metrics (else why would you run the test in the first place). But just understand up front that half of the designs you release are going to be a bust. That’s just the nature of the game, and if you’re not testing, you won’t know which half.
  • If you launch 6 new features in a month, and as a result, a month later you start to see a slump in your core metrics, which of the 6 features do you attribute the slump to? Or is it something else completely? If you don’t test everything, you’ll be in the dark.

Continue reading Test Your Designs

“Creativity Inc.” notes

“Creativity Inc” is a book that I absolutely adore. It’s written by Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney animation. I highly recommend grabbing a copy. Here are a few of my favorite highlights:


  • What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all our energies to solve it.
  • Continue reading “Creativity Inc.” notes

Avoid Bandwagon Wisdom

Bandwagon Wisdom
Strongly held, one-sided opinions on complex issues, often openly communicated with very little reason, personal research, experimentation or data to back them up.

The power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.

The problem

Bandwagon wisdom is a plague in our society. It’s unhealthy, and it appears to be growing in popularity.

Continue reading Avoid Bandwagon Wisdom

I’m a Mormon

First, a few disclaimers:

1. If this topic is of no interest to you, don’t read it.

This is my personal blog, The vast majority of posts that I write will tend to be about design and startups. Occasionally I’ll deviate to cover a topic that is as important, if not much more deeply important to me personally.

2. This post is meant to be 100% informational. My hope is:

A) That by the end of this post, Mormonism will seem like slightly less of a cultish mystery to you, and

B) That at a bare minimum, you’ll be able to at least say to yourself, “I honestly don’t believe anything that dude believes, but I now at least think I understand why Dave Martin is a Mormon”.

3. I posted a link to this article on FaceBook, as that is where all of my closest friends and family are. I didn’t tweet this post out. I didn’t push it to LinkedIn. I’m not preachy by nature. Not in person, not on this blog, not on FaceBook. For the most part, just know that unless you ask, I’m probably not going to bring up religion with you, ever.

4. I’m in no way perfect. Not even close. I fail, and make mistakes all the time. I don’t write any of the following to set myself up on a pedestal in any way.

5. My intention in writing this is not to persuade. I’m not trying to turn you into a Mormon by reading it. Whatever your beliefs or religious affiliations may or may not be, however you choose to live your life, whatever things you value, I love you as you are. For those of you who know me closely, I hope that this sentiment comes through as genuine.

There’s a lot to cover. I’ll do my best to keep everything as concise as possible.

Here are the reasons why I’m a Mormon, ranked in order of importance (to me):


Our official church name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That’s a mouthful, so most people just call us LDS (Latter Day Saints), or Mormon for short.

Our religion is 100% centered around Jesus Christ, his ministry on earth, his atonement and resurrection, and his ministry in these latter days.

Christ stands at the center of our religion. Without him, I believe that quite literally I’d be lost.


Life on earth can be lonely. It can be scary. It can be tough. Christ’s love helps me feel at peace, in both the good times, as well as the bad.

I pray for this peace daily, and find refuge regularly in the comfort it brings.


Some trials in life feel too great for me to bear alone. In Christ I am strengthened. He helps shoulder my burdens. He’ll also help me turn my weaknesses into strengths.

I’ve witnessed this strengthening effect in my life numerous times.


The world can be a dark place. I’m mortal. I make mistakes. No matter how good of a person I am, while on this earth, I’m not immune to temptation, which leads to sin, which leads to unhappiness.

After I was baptized, I received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, which serves as a constant protection to me, as long as I’m worthy of it.

I receive additional protection (from temptation) by doing things that bring additional light into my life. Things like: fasting monthly, praying daily, reading scriptures daily, going to church weekly, and through regular temple service.


I was married to my wonderful wife in the Palmyra NY Temple. We were sealed for time and all eternity. Not just till death do us part. Our children are also sealed to us for eternity.

I take great comfort knowing that I can be with my amazing wife, and wonderful children forever.


Christ said, “Ask, and it shall be given you”. I take this quite literally. Whenever I am unsure about something, I:

A) think about the question myself

B) come to a decision on my own

C) seek conformation from God that my decision is according to his will

Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

I do this with bigger issues (should we move to a new house), as well as with smaller issues (how can I best solve this tiny problem). It’s like having a magic 8 ball that actually works. It’s pretty amazing.


The LDS Church is established the same way Christ’s church was established when he was on earth. We have a modern day Prophet. We have twelve Apostles.

Twice a year we have “General Conference”, giving us a chance to hear from our Prophet, Apostles, and other church leaders.

I consider this a great, and fairly unique blessing.


The LDS church is a lay-ministry. This means that no local or regional leaders are paid or compensated for their service. Additionally, no one vies for office. No one is voted in to a church calling. Service callings are always extended through inspiration.

My wife serves in the primary presidency in our local ward (“ward” is the term we use for our local congregation). She helps lead the youth. I serve as the Elders Quorum President of our ward. I minister to the middle aged brethren in our congregation.

On top of everything else in our busy lives, it can be hard at times. But it’s service, as such, it can be very, very rewarding.


With the restoration of the church in the 1830’s, came a restoration of the Aaronic, and Melchizedek Priesthoods. The same Priesthood that the Apostles of old used to bless the people of their time.

I’ve personally seen the priesthood work miracles in my life a number of times.


About seven years ago when my wife and I moved to The Sutherland Shire (just south of Sydney Australia) for work, all it took was a single visit to the local LDS branch, and we were accepted into the congregation immediately, like we were family.

This happens anywhere you move. The exact same thing happened when we then moved to North Carolina two years later.

The church is global, but it’s like one big family.


Having grown up in the church, I saw first-hand how much it shaped who I am today. The doctrine of the Mormon church is strict. I wasn’t always fond of that, but today (especially now that I have kids of my own) I absolutely see that as a good thing. It served as a spiritual anchor for me growing up, and I hope that it can provide the same solid foundation for my kids.


The Mormon church offers answers to many of lifes greatest questions. Questions like:

– Who am I?
– Where did I come from?
– What’s the secret to real happiness?
– Why do bad things happen to good people?
– What happens when I die?


I thrive when my life is in order – when things are organized. I can’t really think of any other organization (public, private, government, you name it) that is more organized than the Mormon church. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.


The church operates it’s own welfare system, both internally for members, and externally as humanitarian aid. My family was blessed multiple times by the church welfare system while I was growing up, as such it’s also been something that has meant a lot to me personally.


I’m Dave Martin.

I’m a husband

I’m a Father.

I’m a designer at Help Scout.

And I’m also a Mormon.

These are my personal beliefs.

Mormonism is tightly woven into who I am. It’s helped me become the person I am today, and it pushes me to always want to be better.


I don’t do comments on this site, but if you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. You can email me at its@davemart.in.

Intentionally Tiny Side Projects

For the longest time now I’ve been fond of indie businesses.

Most of my friends don’t even know this, but the first real company that I ever started on my own was called SimpleStartup.

It was a web app written in PHP that helped single person companies create a website, charge money for their services, and track finances:

It took me about a decade to realize that I don’t really want to be a start up founder. Up until that point, quitting my job, and launching a startup had always been in the back of my mind. It was an obsession that plagued me.

Continue reading Intentionally Tiny Side Projects

Finding Balance

Between having a young family, working a full-time job, serving at church, and side projects, my life can feel pretty hectic at times. Finding balance in life is a constant obsession of mine.

My ultimate goal is to live a boring, perfectly scheduled, monotonous life. Turns out, that’s harder than it sounds… 😛

There are 5 areas that I care about maintaining balance in:

Continue reading Finding Balance

Be Gut Driven, But Data Informed

Many organizations are either all in on data driven design, or zealots about listening to their gut. It’s natural to feel polarized toward one side or the other.

You already know from the title of this post where I stand. I believe pretty strongly that there’s a sweet spot, and I don’t think it lies at either end of the spectrum.

In my experience, the sweet spot comes when a designer primarily trusts their gut to design, but also allocates some time to collect data, and to do some testing. These last two things are key, because they help you validate your assumptions, and they add clarity to your design process.

Continue reading Be Gut Driven, But Data Informed

Start Each Design from Scratch

Let’s say you’ve done a little research, you sit down at your computer, and you’re ready to start a new design.

What’s the first thing you do?

Well… If you’re like a lot designers you immediately head over to Dribbble or some other site for inspiration.

Trust me, you don’t want outside inspiration at this stage

Continue reading Start Each Design from Scratch