Hello, I'm Tai. I am a natural creative with an intuitive eye for design and detail, a front-end coder with solid technical know-how, and a seasoned leader with extensive experience solving real business problems. I love working with interesting people on innovative ideas at the intersection of business, technology, and design. Curious about more?
Biddenly Real Estate
Front-end development (web & mobile)
Biddenly, an apartment rental start-up in San Francisco, fired an important first volley last year by re-imagining the ubiquitous Craigslist housing posting. I worked with one of the founders to help launch the real estate division. It was my responsibility to envision what a for-sale listing might look like by applying the same fundamental principles of clean, informative design and to develop a minimum viable prototype to facilitate conversations with realtors and customers during our feedback gathering phase.
Anyone who has ever shopped for a home with a realtor has suffered through the barely comprehensible data dump that is the MLS listing. Our goal for the design was to dramatically improve the user experience by presenting a clearly structured, information-rich interface that captures what the ideal home sales listing might look like. Despite the density of information that home listings entail, the design should still feel clean and minimal, with the most important facts presented first. The landing screen should quickly allow users to decide whether to explore further or move on. Lastly, we really wanted to capture the experience of physically touring a home.
Present the Right Information at the Right Time
At the very top are the key facts that allow someone to make a quick judgment about the home -- Can I afford it? Is it big enough for my family? What does it look like, inside and out? Less important details are collapsed in the default view to draw emphasis to the ones that are more likely relevant -- for example, the type of basement is usually more important to a homebuyer than whether there is an attic, the parking structure and number of spaces matters more than the driveway material, and utilities information tends to be similar for homes in an area and don't provide meaningful differentiation.
Provide Multiple Entry Points
Calls to action on the initial view invite the user to explore more pictures or get in touch with the seller. Nearly every element in this view is clickable and reveals additional detail by linking to another section of the page. Under Home Details, School and WalkScore information serve as entry points to more information. Floorplans within each room allow easy navigation to other parts of the tour.
Adapt Flexibly to Information
A thoughtful design is flexible to varying amounts of data. Sellers are given the space to call out features on a room-by-room level, but the design works just as well without it. I envisioned a way for sellers to add a rough floorplan of their home by creating draggable shapes for rooms that have dimensional information. The design emphasizes relative size and location without burdening users with excessive detail.
Design for Mobile First
The growing array of screen sizes ranging from 3" mobile devices to 30" monitors requires that companies be increasingly thoughtful about how customers will view their content. With a mobile-first approach in mind, the desktop version is responsive down to 640 pixels wide, and a version optimized for smaller multi-touch screens takes over when viewed on a mobile device.
Unanimo.us (working title)
Founder & concept development
Most social networking platforms are designed with the goal of connecting existing friends. Considerable thought goes into presenting and filtering content to maintain a profile appropriate for an audience that consist of friends, family, and coworkers, often obscuring our genuine selves in the process. The underlying concept of Unanimo.us hinges on the theory that engaging people with insightful questions will tell a better story about who they are than the image they choose to present. In doing so, it aims to create new type of social network that helps like-minded strangers connect.
Meeting like-minded peers can be challenging during our adult lives. Compared to our formative years, we meet fewer new people on a regular basis, and the likelihood of becoming close with these people is even further reduced as a result of disparities in age, lifestyle, and background. As social circles shrink due to relocation, marriage, and other life changes, the prospect of meeting close friends diminishes dramatically. How can technology solve this problem?
The crux of this project is to provide a new way to answer the question “I wonder who else is like me?” At its core, it aims to create an engaging platform that utilizes anonymity to encourage honest responses to user-submitted questions. In a way, the site will become an organically evolving “personality test” with content that is upvoted and moderated by the community to promote high quality. Users will be anonymous with no names or photos, and their profile will show the questions they've answered along with graphical representations of where they fall along various personality metrics. An initial set of basic functionality will allow users to find like-minded people in their area and contact them.
The process started from a few simple sketches on paper that were then transferred to wireframes in Fireworks. They were initially stitched together to create a simple interactive flow using Invision. While this proved to be a great start without much upfront cost, the limitations of the software resulted in a great deal of redundant effort when it became necessary to make changes or show diverging flows. Rather than continuing to refine static mockups, it made more sense to move directly to building an HTML prototype early in the process using CSS3 flexbox to rapidly lay out content. Browser support is currently limited as a result, but the intent so far is to have designs that can be shown in a controlled environment.
tai zhang | photography
Photography portfolio refresh
Originally developed in Flash a few years ago, my personal photography portfolio served as a great candidate for an update using HTML5, CSS3, and jQuery. I recreated all of the animations and interactions of the Flash version while making a few improvements to make it easier to add new galleries. A more extensive update down the road will involve redesigning the layout to be responsive and mobile-friendly and utilizing pure-CSS transitions on modern browsers.
Min & Tai
Web & print design
My wedding provided a unique DIY opportunity for some more casual creative work, so I created both the website and day-of print materials including the program, menus, and seating lists. The photo gallery is the most recent part of the website and uses Brandon Aaron's jQuery Mousewheel plugin to create a one page horizontal slideshow. I recently updated the CSS to be fully responsive across all resolutions.
McMaster-Carr Supply Company
I was part of a highly selective rotational management program at one of the leading suppliers in the $100 billion/year Maintenance, Repair, and Operations (MRO) industry. This program is designed to develop executive leadership skills through exposure to a wide range of operational competencies and business areas. During my time here, I've worked in leadership roles within Information Technology, Merchandising & Publishing, Supply Chain & Logistics, and Finance.
Finance Manager - Accounts Receivable and Credit Risk
2012 - 2014
Led a team of 2 supervisors and 23 account managers and credit specialists to establish strategies to reduce aging debt and limit financial loss.
Achieved a reduction of 25% in bad debt loss from 2012 by establishing strategic credit lines.
Reduced daily work carryover by 65% to the lowest level across the company and improved customer correspondence response times by 80% by reforming employee development and hiring to increase performance and productivity.
Warehouse & Logistics Manager - Parcel Packing
Oversaw a department of 15 employees who assemble and pack over 10,000 daily shipments.
Introduced new box sizes that reduced wasted space by 60% from the existing box selection and lowered annual costs for packing materials by $150K.
Product Manager - Customer Correspondence
2011 - 2012
Improved customer communication and simplified their internal workflows by redesigning McMaster-Carr’s system-generated documents for order confirmations and quotations.
Led the development of a new document generation system to be used for all automated documents, saving $1MM between labor and postage costs.
Advised executives and project teams across the department on information design strategies.
2007 - 2011
Managed the creative department consisting of 20 print and web content creators, photographers, retouchers, and CAD developers.
Provided design direction and strategy for Product Line Managers to create presentations that clearly illustrate the features and benefits of complex industrial products.
Oversaw the digital and physical production of the company’s 3,800 page catalog and graphic assets, ensuring high quality work while adhering to weekly production deadlines.
Product Manager - Web Development
2006 - 2007
Formulated technical and business requirements and led a team of developers in architecting and implementing a new web application framework for McMaster.com.
Redesigned how customers retrieve and interact with their order history information to utilize the framework’s strengths, including asynchronous data retrieval, clean URLs, and master pages.
Interacted with customers in the field to understand use cases, formulate business requirements, and conduct A/B interface testing.
2005 - 2006
Designed solutions, implemented code, and analyzed usage data to improve various ordering, security, and account features of McMaster.com.
Conceptualized and led a team in the planning, creation, and presentation of a Rube Goldberg machine to showcase the uses of various industrial products for the company-wide Product Show.
For the sake of continuity, much of my previous work can be found on my now rather ancient and outmoded Flash portfolio (circa late 2004, yikes). It was my first Flash project and, I'll admit, created with far more emphasis on flair than usability. Needless to say, it now represents quite a departure from modern norms. Fortunately, both technology as well as my design sensibilities have evolved significantly since then.
Bachelor of Arts, College of Arts & Sciences
2001 - 2005
Information Science, concentration in Human-Centered Systems
Cornell's Information Science major combines interdisciplinary coursework from the fields of Computer Science, Psychology & Cognitive Science, Communications, and Sociology to examine human-computer interaction, the effect of technology on the lives of individuals and social groups, and how people can use technology to shape new developments.