FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How did you get interested in design?

A: As a kid, I was always creative and artistic, but I was good at math and analytical thinking, too. I took computer graphic arts in high school and learned some HTML in a computer class in college. Though I didn’t give design or the web much thought until later, the seeds were planted in my mind.

After college, I volunteered for a small non-profit in San Diego.

They asked me to help with their marketing efforts, designing flyers and brochures, managing their website, etc. Their website was put together with a “do-it-yourself” site builder template, which I found extremely frustrating to use. I couldn’t position items where I wanted them or customize the colors.

Frustrated Monkey

Though I didn’t know the term for it back then, the site builder I was trying to use had bad UX. I felt there had to be a better way and that I could probably do a better job building a website from scratch. I went to the library and studied some books on HTML and building websites.

Soon, it struck me that web design could be a great career path for me.

It would combine my creativity and technical skills to build something useful for people around the world. How cool is that?

So, I went back to school and completed a web publishing certificate program at UCSD Extension. There, I studied HTML and CSS in-depth, learned about usability and information architecture, and got some exposure to JavaScript and PHP. I started building websites for others and taught myself more skills over time, such as responsive web design and the Adobe Creative suite.

After building websites for a few years, I started paying attention to other websites and apps. I noticed how some were thoughtfully designed, but many more had poor user experiences. That’s what got me interested in UX, especially interaction design.

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Q: Can you tell me about your design process?

A: There is some overlap, but my process falls into the following main umbrella categories:

  • Gathering requirements
  • Research and planning
  • Sketching and ideation
  • Visual design
  • Coding and development

I’ll go into more detail below regarding my client web design process and how I might modify it for a project that’s more heavily invested in the user experience (which I’ll refer to as “UX project” hereafter).

Web Design Process

Kickoff Meeting / Gathering Requirements

I start every project by talking to the client about what he or she wants to accomplish with this project, gathering the requirements, and determining who the target audience is. I want to make sure everyone’s on the same page from the start and get a solid understanding of the project goals.

Research / Planning

Next, I’ll do some research. For a web design project, this could include researching various platforms or software solutions, websites from competitors or others in the industry, or similarly-themed websites for inspiration.

For a UX project, I would include user research and creating personas in this step. Personas help us understand who we’re designing for and make sure that we build our website or product with their needs in mind.

Content Inventory / Information Architecture

At this point, I’ll do a content inventory by listing all the content that the client has available to use on the website and any new content that must be created.

For a UX project, I would use this as an opportunity to create user stories that outline all the steps that a website user might take to accomplish a specific goal. Examples include: sign up for a newsletter, request a quote, purchase an item, etc.

Once I have this information, I’ll prepare a site map to determine how many primary and secondary navigation tabs are needed, as well as what content will go where.

Brainstorm / Sketches

Next, I’ll brainstorm some webpage layout ideas and sketch them on paper. Often, this includes responsive websites where I must consider mobile layout as well as desktop. I’ll decide which concepts to develop further based on which will best support the project goals, be easy to navigate, and be practical to build. If I’m going to be creating a website on WordPress or other platform, the sketches help me find a theme or template that I can customize to fit the project’s needs.

For a UX project, I would apply a similar process to brainstorming the user interface layout and functions. Ideally, I would create some paper prototypes to test with users and get their feedback before creating higher-fidelity designs.

Wireframing / Prototyping

If I’m building a website from scratch, I’ll wireframe and mockup the proposed UI, get client feedback, and tweak as needed. If I’m using WordPress or similar platform, I’ll test out different themes to see which closest fits our needs, and get client feedback.

For a UX project, I would ideally do some user testing at this stage by having potential users try to complete specific tasks by interacting with a wireframe or prototype. Even just having a few people to test with should uncover enough insights to show were I can improve the design.

Coding / Development

Once the client and I agree on the design, I’ll use HTML and CSS to either build the website from scratch or customize a child theme in WordPress. I test my code in different browsers at varying screen sizes as I build and strive to produce clean, valid code. I’ll also optimize images and other files to ensure the website loads as fast as possible. This is important to users and plays into good UX.

Although I don’t necessarily expect to be coding in my next UX role, my experience with front-end development will help me better communicate with the development team and ensure that my designs are technically feasible.

Testing / Publishing / Maintenance

Once I’m done testing the website to make sure it’s responsive and compatible with multiple browsers, the client gives the final approval to publish. Depending on the project, I may stick around to help with maintenance, or provide instructions for the client to take over the website management.

For a UX project, I would recommend user testing on a beta version of the product to catch any remaining bugs or issues before releasing it to a wider audience.

Websites and digital products aren’t meant to be launched and forever “done.” Instead, they are constantly evolving as we add new content or features, gather and observe analytics, and get user feedback.

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Q: What do you do if someone disagrees with you about a design decision or gives you critical feedback?

A: First I listen, ask questions for clarification if needed, acknowledge the person’s feedback, and take it under consideration. If the feedback is something I can improve upon that will support the project goals and lead to a better design, I’ll implement it and give the person credit.

Thinking GIF

If I don’t agree with the feedback and believe it will negatively affect the design and project outcomes, I’ll explain my reasoning. Usually, once the client understands my rationale, they’ll agree with me or at least see how I arrived at my solution. Sometimes, we’ll come up with a third solution that incorporates both of our ideas, or an idea that neither of us had thought of before.

The main takeaway is, I don’t take criticism personally. Rather, I use it as an opportunity to better understand the client’s needs and have a conversation about improving the design. This ultimately leads to a better finished product.

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Q: Can you tell me about a project that you are proud of?

A: I really enjoyed working on the website redesign for LA Fashionista Compassionista, an online fashion magazine; specifically, redesigning their email subscription process. Their old website was made with a DIY site builder and was boring and unattractive, so much so that my client was embarrassed to promote it. This, of course, is a problem if you’re trying to get more subscribers.

Subscribe area BEFORE

On the old website, the email subscriber area had several problems:

old subscribe area LAFC

  • Looked plain / didn’t stand out on the page
  • Had 4 form fields, a bit much just to sign up for emails
  • One of the form fields asked users to choose between “HTML” and “Plain Text” email formats. Most people aren’t familiar with those terms.
  • There was no “Subscribe” button. Users had to hit “Enter/Return” on their keyboard for their sign up to go through!
  • The call-to-action at the top looked spammy and didn’t convey much value. It read, “Sign up for your FREE Subscription!!!”

Subscribe area AFTER

On the new website, I made the following changes:

Subscribe box LAFC

  • Made the subscriber area more attractive by adding a colored border and background that matched the brand’s look. I also included a thumbnail of a LAFC magazine cover to show potential subscribers a preview of what they would get.
  • Simplified the form to just 2 fields: first name and email address
  • Added a real “Subscribe” button that worked and matched the brand’s colors
  • Created a more compelling call-to-action at the top, with the headline “Join Club FashCompash” to feel more exclusive and a short description of what content subscribers will get access to.

Onboarding BEFORE:

In addition to changing the subscriber box on the website, I also modified the user experience after someone clicks “Subscribe”. I tested out the process, and previously, the steps went something like this:

  • Person fills out form and clicks subscribe
  • A new tab opens under MailChimp’s server with a generic message for the subscriber to check her email and confirm
  • The subscriber receives a generic email from MailChimp with the subject line “Web Sign Ups” and a plain, default message
  • The subscriber clicks the confirmation link
  • A new tab opens under MailChimp’s server with a generic confirmation message
  • The subscriber receives a generic confirmation email from MailChimp

MailChimp LAFC before

I saw an opportunity to improve the subscriber’s user experience. I made some changes from the MailChimp admin panel and created custom WordPress confirmation pages.

Onboarding AFTER:

The new subscriber onboarding process looked like this:

  • Person fills out form and clicks subscribe
  • The person will be redirected to an “Almost there!” page within the same tab on LAFC’s website, with a friendly message to check her email and confirm. It includes the reason why we ask subscribers to confirm and a tip to check her spam folder.
  • The subscriber receives a MailChimp email with LAFC as the sender. It includes LAFC’s logo, brand colors, and a friendly message to confirm her subscription.
  • The subscriber clicks the confirmation link
  • A new tab opens under LAFC’s server with a friendly “Thank You” message and a link to download the latest magazine issue.

Subscribe LAFC after

This made the subscription process much more cohesive, intuitive, and friendly.

A few weeks after publishing the new website, my client had to upgrade her MailChimp plan, because she now had more subscribers. 

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Q: What would be your ideal work environment?

A: Ideally, my work environment would provide a balance where I can work alone and collaborate with a team. When I’m working on sketches, visual design, or code, I’m the most productive when I can work on a task with few interruptions.

But, there are also times when I find it beneficial to have a group conversation. For instance, when discussing project goals, strategies, personas, or getting internal feedback on designs at various stages. I tend to prefer smaller team gatherings where everyone has a chance to be heard, rather than huge meetings where a few individuals inevitably take over the conversation.

Regarding the physical space, ideally, I’d like to work in an office with plenty of windows and natural light. It wouldn’t be rambunctiously loud, but not awkwardly silent, either. If I could personalize my workspace, that would be fabulous, too. 

Sunny Office

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Q: Are there any designers, blogs, podcasts, or books you like / follow?

Sarah Doody, The UX Notebook

A: I’m currently following Sarah Doody, a UX designer / entrepreneur in NYC. I’m subscribed to her YouTube channel and her newsletter, The UX Notebook. She provides practical tips and advice for people in the field of user experience and those just starting out.

I also follow Mike Locke, a Senior UI/UX designer based in LA, on YouTube. He provides advice and “real talk” for aspiring web and UI designers.

Some blogs I subscribe to include uxdesign.cc and the InVision blog. I’m currently reading Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug.

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Contact Me to schedule an interview.

Thank you! 🙂