Excellent design always starts with an understanding of the target and users
New York, Dec 18th, 2018
Based in New York, Blue Fountain Media is a digital agency that merges imagination with technology to deliver human-centric digital experiences that move brands and businesses from now to next. Its main experience is on B2B and B2C website design and development, integrated marketing solutions and branding for the modern era.
The agency, part of the global organization Pactera Digital, has worked for a wide array of clients such as Baldor, CDK Global, Peterbilt, Workfront, Service King and Bowlero. Behind a large part of the work is Bryan Colosky, the lead UX designer at Blue Fountain Media. In an interview with TIA, Colosky gave us an inside look on the agency’s UX work and strategy.
Could you describe your career path so far?
My degree is in Architecture and Environmental design, which to large degree is based upon designing and guiding experiences. This foundation provided me with a digital skillset upon which I was able to leverage an internship within the university’s admissions office. I then spent an entire summer slogging through outdated HTML/CSS and creating various digital assets and graphics to support the university wide website redesign. I was lucky enough to then be brought onto the team as a sort of frontend developer / graphic designer.
Upon graduating, I went to work at an architecture studio, but most spent my time optimizing digital workflows, design tools, and collecting occupant research. After one year, I updated my resume to emphasize my web development and digital experience and moved to New York City. I was lucky to land a hybrid creative director / frontend developer / UX designer role at a tiny company that serviced various clients within the risk management and insurance industries. I spent two years there creating various data and mapping systems for several high-profile risk management companies.
How did this lead to your position at Blue Fountain Media?
My current position at Blue Fountain Media came about when I no longer felt I could contribute knowledge to the risk management industry, and the lack of emphasis on user research within my previous company. Blue Fountain Media initially hired me as an Information Architect, and over the last three years have involved me in some of the agency’s most technically demanding client projects. I have since been given the opportunity to serve as Lead UX Designer, and to guide a team of user researchers and information architects.
How do you define UX/design? What are the most important parts of it?
I personally define UX as the culmination of several disciplines including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design working together to create singular or accumulated interactive experiences.
How do you prioritize which product features to keep or discard?
There are lots of different ways of prioritizing features. Before any product features are decided, I first develop a clear understanding of the business goals and user needs. I then use the following criteria to determine the prioritization: business goal, user needs and technology requirements. From here, I consider which needs from each of these criteria intersect. Which business goals aligns with which user needs? Which technology requirements align with the business goals and the user?
Once the right priorities have been determined, I can further break down what will be possible typically by the following: feasibility, desirability and viability.
How do you work design taking into account your target and users?
Excellent design always starts with an understanding of the target and users. Understanding users is the most crucial factor for being able to select the correct design elements, such as typography, color schemes, layout, and navigation. All of these elements affect how users interact with a product. As soon as possible, I begin to ask who are they? What drives them? What are their beliefs and values? Which other companies are they buying from? What products do they use?
From these answers, I then create user personas for each type of user who’ll be using the product and then I map out some real-life scenarios. From this information, myself and other designers then can make the right choices when it comes to typography, color schemes, layout, and navigation.
How can you create new user experiences with the new technologies available?
Technology is always going to be advancing in many different ways. Right now, big data and marketing technologies are driving much more personalized and customize user experiences across multiple user touchpoints and contexts. Each one of these touchpoints and contexts create opportunities for original and new experiences for businesses.
What would you say will be the next big trend in the UX Design industry?
I think completely AI or algorithmically generated experiences will be very interesting. This combined with the way digital and physical are combining will continually require even more disciplines and industries to be included in the definition of UX. This will involve more and more conversations about design and UX ethics.
What are the current challenges that you face in UX design?
It seems that there are an ever-increasing number of services, platforms, and channels being developed every day and more and more products rely on these integrations and microservices. Orchestrating unfragmented and consistent end-to-end experiences, especially based around trust and loyalty, can be daunting when dealing with so many moving pieces and environments. This combined with ever-rising user expectations is one of the main current challenges UX designers face.
What piece of advice would you give a recent grad looking to work in digital industry?
Often as UX designers we often have to navigate numerous real and perceived constraints. Unfortunately concepts such usability, accessibility, and semantics are often pitted against visual design as constraints on creativity. Embrace these constraints.
Short anecdote: In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. Among a number of new compliance standards, the law required reasonable accommodations for public entities. It was controversial as numerous organizations and businesses were required update facilities, and the individual standards were perceived as sweeping accommodations for a very minor population; those with a disability. Initially, architects and design professionals castigated the standards as constraints upon their individual creativity.
Today, we now recognize that accommodations like automatic doors and corner-curb cuts actually benefit the entire population. Who wants to push open a hefty door with arms full grocery bags? Who wants to jump a curb every corner when pushing their children’s stroller? So, embrace constraints. It’s not a hurdle to jump, but a universal benefit to adopt.
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