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What I Learned in 17 Years at Interactive Agencies (EuroIA 2013)

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My lightning talk at Euro IA 2013, about the lessons I learned in my career as a designer of interactive systems and design processes. The lessons include: …

My lightning talk at Euro IA 2013, about the lessons I learned in my career as a designer of interactive systems and design processes. The lessons include:
- Break Bread
- Don’t over-design a process
- Government work is not boring
- Be ready to talk about money
- Meetings make the team
- Legal document =/= briefing
- It takes a lot of work to work
- Office Managers rule agencies
Enjoy!

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  • 1. what I learned in 17 years at interactive agencies Peter Boersma @pboersma EuroIA 2013 Hi. I am Peter Boersma and I am OLD, AND I am a great believer in giving back to the community. In this case that is YOU, the community that helped me during my 17-year long career at Interactive Agencies.
  • 2. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius I want to walk you through the companies I worked for and share the good & bad things I encountered and share ONE lesson per company.
  • 3. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius Let’s start at the beginning...
  • 4. 1995-2000 - General Design Company profile: - Dutch startup that grew from 3-30 people - made interactive sites for small & large brands My responsibilities: - in the beginning: everything - from interface design - via software programming - to sales and project management General Design was a spin-off of a scientific institute and grew fast over the course of 5 years. I was a generalist at first, and then became a project manager “because I had worked there for a while”, NOT because I was good at it.
  • 5. These were the early days of the internet: I designed the first website of the ABN Amro bank. And yes, every screen was 640x480 pixels.
  • 6. General Design GOOD BAD * gave me broad experience * mix of academic research and practical focus * time to discover what I like (not project management) * being project manager & UI designer on 10 projects * leading to a short, 4-week burnout Working at General Design was a great first job, allowing me to work on many different things. But I had a hard time when I was asked to be designer AND project manager for 10 projects at the same time
  • 7. and since you cannot do a presentation these days without a Breaking Bad reference...
  • 8. Here’s a lesson called “Breaking Bread”: share a meal with the people you work with! It helps!
  • 9. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius In 2000, General Design was bought by Satama Interactive.
  • 10. 2000-2002 - Satama Company profile: - Finnish web-and-mobile agency going global - General Design turned into Amsterdam office My responsibilities: - Consultant User Understanding - concept design, IA, IxD, usability tests - for the first time: process designer We became the Amsterdam office, and I got my first experience with working internationally. I also was introduced to the idea of documenting your design process.
  • 11. This was the state-of-the-art back then: the Nokia WAP site for use on mobiles.
  • 12. We designed so many sites for Nokia.com that we needed to develop a styleguide. This diagram was the core of the styleguide framework. It laid the basis for...
  • 13. Martijn van Welie’s Interaction Design Pattern Library (Martijn was a colleague at Satama).
  • 14. Another thing we did was document our way-of-working: it was modelled after the Rational Unified Process, so we called it the Satama Unified Process. It was extensively documented. (maybe a bit too much...)
  • 15. Satama Interactive GOOD BAD * mobile experience: designed WAP sites, and created a mobile portal evaluation tool. * process focus: I managed a 2-year program to document the Satama Unified Process. * I wasn’t considered a good fit for consultant team * leading to a long, 8-month burnout So Satama helped me get my first Mobile experience AND my first process design experience. Unfortunately, I also suffered a burn-out. It took me 8 months before I was back to 100%...
  • 16. Lesson learned: You can over-design your design process: SUP wasn’t used, and SUP-Light was created to fix that A lesson here was that SUP had become SO prescriptive, that people felt it was useless, (much like the Useless Box).
  • 17. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius In 2002, I was headhunted and moved to EzGov:
  • 18. 2002-2005 - EzGov Company profile: - software & consultancy for online transactions - between governments and citizens/businesses My responsibilities: - Information Architect - Also: usability tester - And: process designer EzGov had developed software that enabled online, form-based transactions. The British tax office (the Inland Revenue) was our biggest client. I was a senior Information Architect and couldn’t help but suggest to define our process...
  • 19. For one project, I was sent to Jamaica to do User Research at a local tax office...
  • 20. ...which would allow me to design these prototypes for the Inland Revenue Tax Portal.
  • 21. Back in the Amsterdam office, we played a lot of games...
  • 22. EzGov GOOD BAD * good cooperation with development and PM * developed in-house tools (J-flow) * spent time defining design process (StUX) * styleguides made visual design work boring * org. overhead made our work expensive ...which helped build a great team and foster smooth co-operation with other departments. Unfortunately, our organization had a lot of overhead so we were quite expensive.
  • 23. Lesson learned Government work is not always boring: I performed a usability test at a sea-side cricket club and did user research on Jamaica. So, in this bar of the Kingston Hilton, I realized that Government is not always boring.
  • 24. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius Still, in 2005, I quit my job at EzGov and looked for something else.
  • 25. 2005-2006 - User Intelligence Company profile: - small usability company that expanded into design - founder was looking for a business partner My responsibilities: - User Experience Consultant and Manager Design I ended up working for 7 months at User Intelligence, talking to the founder about becoming a Managing Partner, while helping to grow the company’s Design practice. The talks didn’t go well, and my biggest lesson was:
  • 26. Lesson learned don’t postpone talking about money
  • 27. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius So, I left after 7 months and joined Info.nl...
  • 28. 2006-2010 - Info.nl Company profile: - very Dutch agency ("normal is crazy enough") - founded in1994 and still going strong My responsibilities: - senior interaction designer - Also: restructured department & renamed job titles - Also: attempted to document design process info.nl!FULL!SERVICE!INTERNET!AGENCY!! ...which was a very Dutch, full-service internet company. During my job interview I noticed that the titles of departments and roles needed some work.
  • 29. Life Play Learn Buy The largest project I did for Info.nl was the redesign of the public website of a large Dutch bank. This diagram shows the conceptual model...
  • 30. ...that was translated - via sitemaps, screenflows and wireframes - into the final design.
  • 31. I discovered that for this project, I had created all of the deliverables that Dan Brown talks about in his book “Communicating Design”, so I presented that case at the IA Summit in Vancouver.
  • 32. Info.nl GOOD BAD * cooperation with developers * sales reached out to sell UX * management lacked vision about process * sales defined projects: teams designed to budget What worked at Info.nl was the cooperation with developers, some of whom came from our department.
  • 33. Lesson if you don't have meetings, do you still have a team? But due to the lack of meeting rooms, teams didn’t really work well together.
  • 34. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius And then, at the end of 2010, I was asked to join Adaptive Path...
  • 35. 2010-2012 - Adaptive Path Company profile: - small San Francisco agency came to Amsterdam - defined User Experience as we know it - designers run Adaptive Path My responsibilities: - Experience Designer - design, lead projects, sell projects - teach workshops, host UX Week A lot of you probably know Adaptive Path. I was their first Dutch employee, and worked in their 7-person Amsterdam office for 2 years as an Experience Designer.
  • 36. I got to teach Adaptive Path’s UX Intensive workshops, and improve the materials for its Information Architecture Day.
  • 37. Adaptive Path GOOD BAD * designers lead projects from sales to delivery * many internal discussions about the field * time to teach back to community * 13 hour workdays due to time zones * European sales handed over to America What was fantastic at Adaptive Path was that Designers ran the projects. When they broke that rule (by allowing Sales to control projects at-a-distance) we stopped getting clients.
  • 38. Lesson learned Designers’ proposals were translated by Sales into a Statement of Work with a lot of legalese. We had to go back to the original proposal to kick off projects with the team. In general, Sales made the Designers’ lives hard by transforming our project proposals (our so-called “Narratives”) into legal documents that were not usable for project teams.
  • 39. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius When Adaptive Path retreated from Europe, I decided to try freelancing for a while.
  • 40. 2012-2012 - Freelance Company profile: - me :-) - interaction designer & design process consultant My responsibilities: - set up the business, pay tax, do sales & PM - define processes and design concepts for clients I decided to turn my hobby of Designing Processes into one of my services, besides designing interactive systems. Since it was just me, I had to do all of the meta-stuff too.
  • 41. Amongst other things, I developed this Conceptual Model for a music-startup’s mobile app, using Post-It notes (of course)...
  • 42. ...then sketched screens around the content & functionality that the owner and I identified... (and note that Post-It’s are perfect for sketching mobile screens!)
  • 43. ...and slowly but surely it turned fro sketch to wireframe and into a real application.
  • 44. For a client, the German online marketing agency Deepblue, I interviewed members of their staff in order to map their existing Design Process and identify common issues (marked in red).
  • 45. ...here’s an example of responsibility-issues around the creation of wireframes by both Konzepters (Concept Designers) and Information Architects.
  • 46. Freelance GOOD BAD * freedom in deciding when to work * freedom in deciding how much to work * freedom in deciding for whom to work * office/tax/legal stuff is hard! * no team = no feedback * no idea if I was at good at freelancing The good thing about being a freelancer is all of the freedom, and the bad thing (at least for me) is that you’re ON YOUR OWN a lot.
  • 47. Lesson learned Meta-work: it takes A LOT of work to get work done And the lesson here is: AAAAH! it’s soo much work!
  • 48. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius So, when I was asked to join Blast Radius, I did...
  • 49. 2012-present - Blast Radius Company profile: - “agency for the connected world” (= Marketing) - owned by global digital agency network Wunderman My responsibilities: - Interaction Design Director in Amsterdam office - design concepts and prototypes (with freelancers) - manage a Business Analyst - support offices in Hamburg, London and Paris I am currently the Interaction Design Director at this interactive marketing agency. With the help of freelancers, I still design concepts and create interactive prototypes, giving some support to the other European offices.
  • 50. An example of our work is the Michelin Tyre Selector. We are currently working on the 7th version of it, to be rolled out to 28 European countries. (although some countries are still running the 4th and 5th versions).
  • 51. Blast Radius GOOD BAD * working for a small number of big accounts * ? (too early to tell) * “creatives” run the projects * ? (too early to tell) It’s too early to tell exactly what is Good and Bad at Blast, but I like working for clients for a longer period of time. And I know I have to work on the position of UX in the organization...
  • 52. Lesson learned office managers run the agency But, AS A NEWCOMER to the company, I once again noticed that agencies are run by their office managers (and they also have a big effect on the company culture)
  • 53. 17 years at interactive agencies 1995 - 2000 - General Design 2000 - 2002 - Satama Interactive 2002 - 2005 - EzGov 2005 - 2006 - User Intelligence 2006 - 2010 - Info.nl 2010 - 2012 - Adaptive Path 2012 - 2012 - freelance 2012 - present - Blast Radius And that completes my history with agencies (so far)...
  • 54. Lessons•Break Bread •Don’t over-design a process •Government work is not boring •Be ready to talk about money •Meetings make the team •Legal document =/= briefing •It takes a lot of work to work •Office Managers rule agencies Thank you! @pboersma ...and these are the lessons I wanted to share with you.
  • 55. “good things, when short, are twice as good” “Lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno” Baltasar Gracián, Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia (1647) (I hope this quote by Baltasar Gracián, applied to this presentation)
  • 56. what I learned in 17 years at interactive agencies Peter Boersma @pboersma EuroIA 2013

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