How long have I been in the design industry?
A long time. I’ve been doing front-end development and designing on web technologies for close to fifteen years.
I’ve actually been obsessed with UX for the past ten years. During that time, I was focused on optimizing design processes and workflows to help launch user-focused products as fast as possible!
With that goal I ended up focusing primarily on software as a service (SaaS), as I found that to be the most challenging and demanding area due to the many uncertainties and complexities involved with designing SaaS products. And, designing highly complicated SaaS apps actually enabled me to test and evolve my workflow assumptions and perfect my design process over time.
What excites me about the field of design?
Product Design has been a rewarding career for me. Not only does it challenge me to solve complex problems, but it also gives me the opportunity to make real differences in the lives of others.
What led me to become a designer?
My interest in web technologies first began in high school when I developed my first website as a side project. As I continued through school and began learning technology systems and business, I also began to develop an interest in consumer behavior and why certain products and services appeal to different people.
Because of my interest in both web technologies and consumer psychology, UX Design seemed like the perfect role for me. And, I began absorbing as much knowledge and skills as I could from both my personal and professional experiences, including mentorships that helped me understand how design relates to business, as well as world travels that have helped me experience diverse cultures and see the world through the perspective of others.
Fast-forward a few years, and I have helped launch complex enterprise SaaS products, grow start-ups, and design digital experiences for Fortune 500 companies.
What is the value of User Experience?
Good UX highlights the importance of user-centricity, customer empathy, design thinking, and business goals. It applies psychology, research, and logical thinking to satisfy the user’s needs, grow customer loyalty and advocacy, and ultimately increase business success metrics through optimized user experience. By understanding business objectives and how to best serve users, UX designers create memorable product experiences and help increase the profitability of products.
What is the difference between User Experience and other design disciplines?
Don Norman, a prolific UX design writer, says: “User experience encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.”
While User Interface (UI) deals with the visual design elements and assets that users interact with such as colors and typography, User Experience (UX) applies user-centric psychology, research, and logic to provide highly usable design solutions that help users achieve goals. Ideally, both UX and UI will be exercised to attain the final product.
What is my process for designing digital products?
In general, a design process includes three main phases: Planning, Discovery, and Framing. These phases are used to break large projects down into manageable pieces, in order to solve problems and produce valuable design deliverables.
The first phase of the design process (Planning Phase) involves learning and understanding the objectives of the client business. Common practices of the Planning Phase include: stakeholder readouts, outcome oriented product roadmaps, and business model lean canvas.
The second phase of the design process (Discovery Phase) uses various UX research tools to build context for the problems we are investigating, learning more about the product users, and better understand the main concerns of stakeholders. Common practices of the Discovery Phase include: competitive analysis, contextual user inquiries, surveys, heuristic evaluation, and interviews with stakeholders, users, and SMEs.
During the third phase of the design process (Framing Phase), business and user needs are prioritized, decisions on product features are made, and the product is visually framed. Common practices of the Framing Phase include: affinity diagramming, user personas, journey mapping, sketching, prototyping, and user testing.
After the Framing Phase, the product enters implementation. During implementation, the design team should remain in a loop of product evolution, as the product and client business continue to grow and change over time.
While these are the main phases, it is important to recognize that companies and products face different needs. This means design processes often require different approaches and often involve the use of different UX tools and techniques. As a UX designer, I am able to recognize these different requirements of projects and adapt to these differences accordingly.
Do I consider myself a team player?
My job is to spread the value of good design throughout the organization. You can’t do this if you’re a reluctant team player. As a product designer, I frequently collaborate with cross-functional teams, including other designers, developers, product owners, and stakeholders. To uphold these relationships requires me to practice excellent communication skills, efficiency, and an openness to feedback and ideas.
What is my most successful project?
My most successful project was designing a driver-risk monitoring application for SambaSafety, increasing the roadside safety of company drivers and reducing company liabilities. Several factors made the project a success. For one, the design team was and executives were involved, from the beginning, in the planning phase. Having cross-functional teams participate in this early phase helped provide us with the product’s direction, and helped us understand the business requirements and product vision and how it would affect the overall company.
Other factors that contributed to the product’s success were the involvement of users from the very early stages of the design process, excellent collaboration among cross-functioning teams, and a well defined design process with a detailed roadmap for the product execution.
What is my least successful project?
My least successful project was a rushed redesign and launch of CDK Global’s flagship application, Drive Flex. CDK chose to rush the project because the previous version was unable to meet the needs of their smaller dealership clients, resulting in clients unsubscribing from the application’s service.
Because of the limited time-frame, the main focus of the project was placed on modernizing and consolidating the application, with little consideration given to the needs of the users. As a result, there were several issues with the application, including a failure to identify that the application’s current users relied heavily on the use of the keyboard as their primary navigation tool. Discovering this user need late in the design phase resulted in a substantial loss of time and money, as the design team had to back-track and redesign several of the application’s design patterns.
As a result, the team and I learned the importance and usefulness of involving users in the project from the earliest phases of design, and we determined to obtain and apply user feedback from the beginning of the project, starting with validating user needs to using lo-fidelity prototypes before proceeding into higher fidelity artifacts.
Who inspires me in the User Experience field?
UX Design is a rapidly evolving field. The only way to stay on top of my game is by constantly researching and learning. Some of my favorite places to gain design inspiration are:
UX Focused Websites
IDEO / IDEOU – An educational blog known as a pioneer of human-centered design – an approach known as design thinking.
UX Mag – Repository of articles, interviews, events, and job postings for the UX industry.
UX Booth – Focuses on research-driven User Experience articles and interviews.
UX Designers I Follow
Luke Wroblewski – Former VP of design at Yahoo, and has a Youtube series on UX. Follow for spot-on UX critiques of the everyday.
Ratna Desai – Director of product design at Netflix, following a stint at Google. Her curated list of articles is full of must-reads.
Lil Chen – Chen handles UX design at Youtube Live.
What are the keys to success while working remotely?
Integrity – dedication to providing the client with real value and delivering quality products that meet the needs of their users.
Honesty and Transparency – providing the client with invoices and regular reports that clarify my engagement time, work completed, and expenses.
Communication and Team Collaboration – strong communication skills, and the ability to work with others in a collaborative process.
Responsibility – accepting full responsibility for my work, and the results that I deliver.
Availability – maintaining a consistent work schedule in which I am available via all communication channels during working hours.
Time Management – prioritizing tasks and setting realistic work objectives to maintain peak productivity and achieve goals on time.
Project Management and Planning – ability to properly define project requirements and use cases, maintain proper documentation, and build an effective work plan.
What is my strategy for handling problems?
Take time to fully understand the problem – If possible, determine the facts, break the problem down into smaller contributing issues and look at the problem from the viewpoint of everyone involved.
Discuss the problem with those involved – Talk with those involved about the facts and issues contributing to the problem. Be respectful and do not jump to conclusions, make assumptions, or accusations.
Allow everyone involved to have a voice and contribute their ideas – It is important to listen to everyone’s perspective and acknowledge other viewpoints. Don’t rush to present my solution or make suggestions. Active listening allows me to see aspects of the problem that I overlooked or was unaware of.
Present a solution – when presenting a solution, offer an answer to the problem that is beneficial for all parties involved.
Make sure the solution is effective – Give the solution a try. If the solution isn’t working effectively for everyone, go back to the drawing board and look for a solution that addresses each person’s needs.