A little over a year ago, Comfort Works set up its first ever UI/UX team from scratch, all thanks to Ivan, our UX Head. What does our team of four do, and how does their work optimise customer experience on our website? Hear the answers from our UI/UX team themselves!
Starting out in UX design
“It’s crucial for aspiring UI designers to figure out what they’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis and if this is something they can see themselves enjoying in 5 years or not,” says Ivan, our head of UX.
“The second step is to understand some basic design principles like colour schemes, layout grids and typography before diving into any more intense content like Figma. Finally, learning different design systems like Google’s Material Design also helps greatly because these concepts apply across platforms; whether designing mobile or desktop apps.”
Junior UI designer Sue Yin says, “I think the most important advice I can give to anyone starting out in their UI career is to be curious, be empathic and be open-minded. User interfaces are created with the end user in mind, so it’s important to be able to put yourselves in the shoes of the people using your designs and asking how they would interact with it and whether you’re making it easy for them to be able to find what they need. A good user interface is one that marries design and accessibility to the best of its ability.”
Juliette, Senior UI Designer, on making remote working effective
How do you work remotely in the team, with no opportunity to have whiteboard-and-sticky-notes meetings/discussions?
We work in 2-week sprints, so workload progress is punctuated by sprint sessions including planning, refinement, review, or retrospective. We personally feel that this gives us the dynamic and good pace to work together as a team.
Every morning, we have a daily standup to talk about our tasks for the day. This helps us to keep track of our progress and see if someone is encountering any issues or blockers.
We have cool design tools that help to make collaboration work smoothly and enable us to share and present ideas interactively. FigJam is one of the creative tools we use. It’s a new tool developed by Figma that works as an online whiteboard for our team to explore ideas together. It somewhat democratises the virtual-whiteboard process. We are not losing the usual collaborative element where we can work and draw together remotely.
We always try to ensure that everyone feels included. Simply chatting on Ms. Teams makes everyone feel integrated in completing our tasks.
Ivan, UX Head, on how to stay focused and creative
How has COVID-19 affected the UX team’s practices?
The pandemic didn’t have much impact on the UX team. But it made remote communication essential and it accelerated the digital transformation.
Everything is online now. Before the lockdown, I used to believe that some things cannot be done remotely. I could not imagine that remote workshops are possible, but we have them now.
For UX, you cannot avoid user research. The quarantine restrictions have rendered face-to-face user-testing impossible, so we have no choice but to adapt to the digital way and conduct all qualitative interviews remotely. It has its own challenges, sure. But, to my surprise, we managed to make it work and it’s still effective!
Any advice on overcoming a creative block in the middle of a long project?
One of the best ways to break out of a creative block is by taking a step back and doing something else for a while. Don’t force yourself into working when it’s not productive or fun any longer.
Whether it’s working on a different project or drinking a cup of tea – creativity flows more freely when you are in a different environment. So make sure that you’re getting enough space from what might be bogging down your process.
If all else fails, talk about your problem with someone who cares. Brainstorming solutions, when done with other people together, can lead to great ideas. Getting an outside perspective usually helps with overcoming creative blocks.
Most importantly, take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, exercising daily, so that when you sit down at your desk, your mind will be clear.
Last but not least, focus on your unique contribution. Don’t be so hard on yourself when looking at other people’s work because there are always going to be some pieces that stand out more than yours.
What does it mean to design for inclusivity?
Inclusive design has been described as designing for everyone. This is not only a humanitarian responsibility but also an economic necessity. Inclusivity can build profitable relationships with differently-abled people who are often overlooked when it comes to product development.
The benefits that inclusive design offers include increased market share due to being more accessible globally; improved customer experience which increases sales; lower costs related specifically to customer service.
But besides the economic benefits, every person deserves to be able to access and use our products, regardless of social class origins, gender identity, physical ability, and religious beliefs.
Sue Yin, Junior UI Designer, on self-taught design
How do you start learning UI design from scratch?
I didn’t actually know that I would like UI design until I had to design a website without any prior knowledge. It was an interesting site, to say the least. A lot of what I learned in the year after that came from observation of other sites, a lot of online reading – Invision blog, Dense Discovery and uxdesign.cc are all good sources – and a ton of experimenting in Adobe XD (these days I use Figma but you have to start somewhere…).
It’s easy to get caught up in trends and be lured in by pretty websites. But it’s important to learn design principles and understand what good UI principles are before jumping into the fancy stuff. Getting a good grasp of the basics will always lay a good foundation for you to build on in the future.
What I like to do is find good websites and dissect them by identifying what they did well and how they used certain principles or elements to achieve their design. There are a lot of lessons you can learn just from studying other sites.
On that note, there are also tons of free online resources to learn more about UI design, but you can also draw lessons from other avenues of the creative industry, like graphic design, animation and art so don’t be afraid to branch out!
Reniel, UX Researcher, on the fundamentals of UX/UI
What advice would you give someone who’s starting out their career in UX research?
There are 3 things that I have learned and would like to share with those who are starting out in their UXR career:
1) Openness to learn is important
Prior to my UXR job, I was working as a marketing researcher so I didn’t have any design background. It’s important that you take initiative and be open to learning new things. For one, I had to read a lot of articles regarding design jargon. Speaking design is important to make communication easier with the designers.
2) Purposeful collaboration is a key ingredient to success
You will be working with cross-functional teams. It’s important that you communicate with your stakeholders and understand how you can support them as a researcher. It’s also crucial that you manage expectations (e.g., timelines, breadth and depth of insights, etc.) and demand the support that you need from them (e.g., resources, their time to review documents, etc.)
3) Ask “why”
Always ask the question “why”. Our role as researchers is to discover insights and potential solutions to the problems. Asking “why” helps us uncover the issues that the stakeholders/users are facing. It also helps us inspire better solutions to address these challenges.