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How to shake up stagnant industries using UX

New York, July 30th, 2018

Ruckus is a full-service boutique agency specializing in three main verticals: branding, web design & development, and marketing campaigns.

The company was founded in 2004 by Josh Wood, who currently leads a team of 20 along with President Alex Friedman. Ruckus commits itself to provide “Expertly Crafted Disruption” leveraging a team of industry leaders to build brands, platforms, and campaigns that stand out in even the most crowded spaces.

The name of the company means row or commotion as Ruckus’ mission is to market in ways that stand out and shake up stagnant industries, its name is very suitable.

Business has been good from the start and things continue to look up for Ruckus. In three of the last four years, the agency has been listed on the Inc. 5000 List of the fastest-growing private companies in America.

Its team has been constantly growing. So much so that the company has recently moved into a new office doubling its staff capacity.

We had the chance to catch up with Madelene Eng, Lead UX/UI Designer at Ruckus, who gave us an insight into the beating heart of the company.

Madelene was born and raised in Singapore. Seven years ago moved to the New York to go to college and in this short time has climbed to be UX and UI lead designer at Ruckus.

I come from a teeny tiny country that’s approximately a 24h flight away. I came to New York for college and have been here ever since,” Madelene says and ads “Needless to say, I don’t get to see or be with my family as much as I’d like, and they don’t come out here often as well so that blows.. but I’ll eventually head back at some point because Singapore’s home!

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

For me, the big three ingredients are research, content and simplicity.

Firstly, and most importantly, every project should begin and end with research. Initial research to guide the designs, and end research to support it. I have come to realize in my past experiences that what often seems obvious to one is most often not to another. Research allows for deeper understanding in user behaviour, wants and needs, leading to a more successful outcome for both parties of user and product. All that being said, despite being the trademark of quality UX design, research is often the first piece to get axed when projects are given inadequate time or funding – A real shame if you ask me.

Quality content of relevant and engaging substance plays a huge part in a successful user experience. Though it doesn’t usually come from the UX designer per se, it is a crucial piece in the formula. Without quality content, no matter the quality of the site’s design, the product will ultimately underperform in achieving its end goal. As Bill Gates once said, “Content is King”.

Simplicity, simply put, serves to minimize user friction. A product that is minimal isn’t necessarily simple. Simplicity aims to eliminate any unnecessary complexity that interferes with the user’s ability to achieve his/her desired goal. The simpler the product, the more usable it is, the better the overall experience.

Do you work in the area of natural language processing or NLP?

No, but I’d definitely be open to it.

How does UX integrate with NLP?

Products and/or services utilizing NLP are now increasingly being developed to better cater to users’ wants and needs, and needless to say, interacting with these products (like any other product) creates user experiences too.

That being said, though the development of NLP products are definitely growing at a steady rate and the overall user experiences have been improving immensely, the technology is still relatively new and there are still many who have not fully (or at all) adopted it. At present moment, with NLP, I believe a majority of the user experience still stems from the reliability of the technology. Till that advances to being essentially foolproof (and it will), improving on other aspects of it will be relatively ineffective.

Can you tell us about a project you worked on that was especially successful?

I led UX/UI for the NYC Ferry platform developed in 2017. Since that platform was built for the government, designs had to abide by certain rules and regulations that I would otherwise not attend to specifically if otherwise.

The end result led to a platform that successfully sold millions of tickets in its first year, and user reviews contained no comment on the usability of it; which I take as a compliment because people generally really only think to comment when they have a complaint to make.

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

In my eyes, UX design is a field that people are increasingly giving the appreciation it deserves as they recognize its potential ROI.

I think the field will expand to the point where everything, and I mean absolutely everything, is designed with UX in mind. It is crucial to understand that UX doesn’t just refer to the time a user spends interacting with a product or service; it’s the entire experience between a user and a company/brand. It starts from the very first moment a consumer hears of the company and lasts well beyond their actual interaction with the product.

For example, if a customer is shopping on an E-Commerce website, UX isn’t just the structure of the website that guides her to her purchase. It’s the confirmation email she reads, the boxing of the product, the customer support she receives if she calls to change the delivery location. All of these elements come together to create a relationship with a company that can have substantial value over a lifetime.

Name a challenge your team is currently facing.

We are growing pretty fast. That’s a good thing, but it certainly comes with strains as we scale up. We’ve become more selective in the creation of new client relationships and have actively worked to ensure that our creative processes don’t get trampled by an influx of new projects.

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

Assuming you studied UX in school, took some sort of UX course or read a whole bunch of articles on UX processes, you should know that a lot of the stuff you learned or read won’t work out exactly like they said it would.

The formulas you learned won’t always work and/or apply to every project you come across, and constant innovation makes any design trend temporary. In the professional world, utilizing your expertise to adapt to and manage each client’s unique needs is key and something you will unfortunately have to get used to.

How did you get started in the industry?

I applied for a Summer internship with Ruckus in the Summer of 2015. I started as a general intern and ended up discovering my natural skillset in UX/UI by futzing around with the Adobe products and other design platforms.

They eventually offered me a position as a Creative Designer and I have since advanced into the company’s UX Lead Designer in approximately three years.

I studied Strategic Design & Management, which is actually a business degree (BBA) but taught with a design perspective. I actually never wanted to be a designer but sort of fell in to it when I came to Ruckus and I am loving it.

What do you love about your job and what do you hate?

I love that it’s always different and I hate that it’s repetitive. Let me explain – It’s different because we often get clients from all industries with different wants and needs, but at the same time, we also often get clients that are very similar and have essentially the same wants and needs. Catch my drift?

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

Medium has a heap of worthwhile design articles. I also peruse sites like Webdesigner Depot and WebDesigner News pretty often. Seth Godin is pretty amazing. I subscribe to his ultra-digestible daily blogs and you should too. Tina Roth Eisenberg of CreativeMornings is also an industry leader I admire.

Thanks Madelene!

By Geny Caloisi.

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