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How to bring wireframes to life

Manhattan Beach, August 31st, 2017

Los Angeles based agency Isadora’s mission is to change the way brands engage and connect with audiences, guided by human behavior and emerging technologies.

Founded in 2009 by web designer Isadora Marlow-Morgan, the digital agency provides transformational visual identity, enterprise web products and digital marketing for B2B and B2C enterprises. Isadora has crafted award winning digital experience for clients such as Dow Jones, News Corp, Belkin, McKinsey & Company and Logitech using progressive development and user-cantered design. 

Richard Chen, User Experience Strategist at Isadora, is a fervent believer that UX cannot be effective unless the unique factors that operate in the human mind are taken into account.

It all started with a simple fascination for the human brain,” recalls Richard “I took a Biology course in a community college near home during the summer before my junior year, and was instantly captivated with the mysteriousness of how the brain works. I quickly switched my major from computing and the arts to cognitive science the following year, and was introduced to human computer interaction“.

This was my foot into the world of user experience design. In graduate school, I worked on developing an app for depression and mental health that called on my UX research skill set.”

Richard has recently finished his masters on Information Management Systems, User Experience Research from UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Now, working at Isadora he can put all of the tools on his skill set and dive right into practice.

In your opinion, what ingredients are key to create a successful UX design?

There are many ingredients, but the most important ones are empathy and an open mind.

Empathy is a skill that allows you to visualize and feel other people’s experiences through their shoes. This was what drew me to the field of UX design in the first place.

As a cognitive science major with a deep curiosity for human psychology, I wanted to know how I could tap into other people’s minds and grapple with the emotions they felt.

An open mind is important because you learn early on that the nature of this field is iterative. There are so many elements dictating the direction of UX work, and there are always improvements that can be made. You can never allow yourself to become too attached to an idea.

Our founder and President Isadora Marlow-Morgan has over 15 years in the industry, her expertise provides tremendous insight is actively involved in the day-to-day and influences the creative direction of our strategic partner solutions.

Could you share what methodologies from the ones you use more often and which ones give you a greater insight?

I would say that for discovery and strategy, stakeholder interviews, sitemaps, and flowcharts are the most important methodologies for me.

Stakeholder interviews allow me to tap into the minds of our clients and their users; I get to hear about people’s pain points and struggles (as well as what they love) through their own words.

From there, sitemaps and flowchartsforce me to start thinking about the new web experience both (sitemap) and on a user-specific level (flowcharts). All three of these methodologies are crucial for setting up perhaps the most important things that I create as a UX strategist – wireframes.

How do you work out your design considering your target audience or users?

I draw from a toolkit of UX methodologies that serve to help me better understand our users’ pain points and struggles. Simply having the ability to empathize is not enough – our innate biases and assumptions are so deeply ingrained in us that they often dictate our thinking on a subconscious level.

These methodologies force me to step out of my own circle. As a project progresses, I often find myself reciting what I have learned from and about the user.

Another important thing I keep in mind always is that what our users want is not always necessarily what they need, and this means that each decision I make must undergo a deliberate thought process.

Which are the most important web tools that you use?

Sketch App, Word Doc, Asana, CloudApp, InVision, Skype

Can you tell us about a project you worked on (a case study) and that was especially successful?

We recently launched a new web experience for Barnum Financial Group, an industry leader in tailored financial services. With an influx of ‘one-size-fits-all’ financial applications, it was important that we focused on the personalized solutions and customer relationships provided by Barnum’s experts.

We asked ourselves why are people really looking for Financial Advisors? The answer was simple; to improve their financial health and way of life.

With this as our guiding directive we crafted an experience using a storytelling approach to speak to audiences on a personal level, that is both informative and relatable.

The homepage for example, is structured like a timeline with common life experience visuals and high value financial insights, ultimately guiding users to an interactive conversion form.

Throughout the services pages for instance, we introduce real life use cases and expert tips to further connect with visitors, trigger an emotional reaction, and compel them to convert.

Within three weeks of the new launch we saw an increase of over 30% in online conversion. We are continuing to monitor user interaction and enhance the experience to further drive conversion!

How do you imagine the UX concept to work in the future?

I do not have any prophetic foresight to share, but I do strongly believe that the concept of UX will continue to make its way into all domains of life.

I see the UX skill set as one that can be applicable anywhere. The beautiful thing about this field is that it can instantly – I mean instantly – bring value to any project, team, company, in any industry or field. I think people are starting to realize this more and more, so I can only imagine that there will be a greater proliferation of UX professionals in the future.

Name a challenge your team is currently facing.

We are currently working with a client whose primary audience are children and teenagers. Designing for this age group – as with any other age group – has its own unique factors that we must consistently place at the forefront of our thought processes.

With this client, we are also starting with mobile design, which has a different set of rules from desktop.

What piece of advice would you give a recent grad looking to work in digital marketing?

The fast-paced nature of this field can be daunting and overwhelming. Don’t fall into the trap of forcing yourself to learn as much as possible about everything only to realize that you don’t fully understand anything that you are doing.

You cannot rush UX work – you are responsible for establishing a strong foundation both individually and for the project(s) you work on, and this can only come from honouring and trusting the strategies you implement over time.

Are there online publications, professionals, industry leaders you follow?

Baymard Institute for e-commerce UX research, Nielsen Norman Group, UXmatters, uxdesign.cc, Usability Geek, to name a few.

Please list a few of your favourite digital brands:

Fitbit, Bose, Shazam, Vent, Yelp, Pandora, Spotify, Apple, amongst others.

What do you like doing in your free time?

I love working out and the natural high that it gives me. When I’m not in the gym, you can find me doing pull ups and push ups at any random location.

I am also in love with rap music. If it were not for UX, I would have taken a stab at becoming billboard hot 100 artists.

Thanks Richard!

By Geny Caloisi.
genyc@topinteractiveagencies.com

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