Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe. Follow @RianVDM
About this site
This is a blog with links and longer reflections on technology, design, and software development. My background in sociology also comes through quite strongly, because what I am most interested in is how all of the stuff that we make fit together to tell us something about who we are, and where we’re going. My hope is to write this site in the spirit of the Swahili word elezea, which means to elucidate, explain, clarify, and relate
What I do for a living
I am passionate about designing and building software that people love to use. After spending several years working in Silicon Valley and South Africa I am currently a Product Design Director at Jive Software based in Portland, OR.
Here’s what I spend most of my time on:
- User experience strategy (Product Discovery, Design thinking, etc.)
- User experience research (usability testing, ethnography, personas, customer journey mapping, etc.)
- Content strategy and Information Architecture (content audits, content mapping, site structure planning, copywriting, etc.)
- Interaction design (wireframes, prototypes, concept development)
- Product Management (product planning, execution, and marketing)
- Product strategy consulting (setting up effective teams and processes)
For more information, you can:
- Look me up on LinkedIn and check out my portfolio.
- Take a look at my book on product management.
- Read my article about Product Discovery on A List Apart.
- Read things I’ve written in other places.
- Have a look at my talks on Slideshare. More about my speaking engagements here.
If you’d like to discuss working together, or would like me to come do a talk somewhere, you can send me an email.
My full story
My professional story starts in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where I completed degrees in Engineering and Information Science, and caught the internet bug after seeing a full color photo of a mountain slowly come up on the screen through the dial-up connection in our Engineering lab.
After my initial studies I moved to Perth, Australia to complete a Ph.D in Internet Marketing and pursue this Internet thing all the way. I did my dissertation on Social Network Theory and its implications for Marketing and the Web. I met a girl while I lived in Australia, so after completing my studies there I moved to California to pursue her (no it’s not as creepy as it sounds, and yes we eventually got married).
I spent the next 6 years working in Silicon Valley: first at market research firm Survey.com, followed by 4 ½ years in eBay‘s User Experience Design team where I got infatuated with the theory and practice of all aspects of Design. My last position at eBay was as Senior Manager of Product Strategy, where my responsibilities included leading a team of strategists who worked with various parts of the organisation to develop and guide product roadmaps and requirements that meet user needs.
I then joined South African startup Yola.com in San Francisco as a Senior Product Manager, where I was responsible for the product vision, strategy, design, and development of a variety of areas of the Yola user experience. In March 2010 our family moved back to South Africa where I established and grew the Product and User Experience teams at Yola’s Cape Town office. In December 2010 I moved to build and head up the Product & User Experience Design teams at online retailer kalahari.com, where we built the team from 4 to 14 designers and product managers. I decided to move into full-time consulting with Flow Interactive in June 2012.
At the beginning of 2014 our little family packed our bags for Portland, OR, and I joined healthcare transparency startup HealthSparq as Director of Product in April. In July 2014 I published a book on product management called Making It Right: Product Management For A Startup World. In October I moved to Jive Software where I’m happily spending my days doing product design.
User experience design and software development is my obsession, and I’m excited about the great opportunities ahead in this space. I blog and tweet regularly about these and other topics, and I enjoy the speaking circuit, so let me know if you’d like me to do any of that.
I use the following tools to make this site:
- I use a 13″ Retina MacBook Pro.
- I write in Markdown with nvALT and MarsEdit.
- I use a custom theme called Day Walker (developed by Alex Maughan) on the latest version of WordPress.
- The site is hosted on (mediatemple), with a little help from CloudFlare.
- My RSS feed is hosted on Feedpress.
- I use Coda for all custom coding.
- I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without Pinboard and Instapaper, so I am a paid subscriber of those services.
Disclaimer: You know this but I’ll say it anyway. The opinions in this blog are my own, and does not reflect the views of my employer.
Elezea is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial – ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In short, you may reproduce, reblog, and modify my content, but you must provide proper attribution.