Approaches to collaboration

mblongii: What is your process like? Build and iterate or design specs/mockups?

designer: It depends on the feature. At TheAgency it was largely specs/mockups and toss it over the wall to the developers. At Mobi I’m the sole design person on an engineering team of 6 in US and 50 in China so I’m pretty much the gatekeeper for all things UI/experience and work side by side with the engineers.

mblongii: How much prototyping do you do?

designer: LOTS of engineering prototyping to prove out concepts, which often become the final product. What’s nice is I can design something (I still do plenty of mockups/wires/specs) and send it off ot the China team, and the next morning there’s an app I can install on my phone that is exactly what I designed.

mblongii: Exactly? Whoa.

designer: Very close. You always encounter the unexpected during the prototyping, but of course that’s the beauty of it.

mblongii: Why do you think TheAgency was very ‘throw it over the wall’? I mean, why do they operate that way?

designer: Because that’s how they’ve operated for ages and their clients work that way. By positioning themselves as a ‘design’ or ‘experience’ design company, they are asked to provide just that: Design or an experience. Unfortunately it’s very seperate from the development/implementation. Even for projects that are created entirely in-house, the designers and developers don’t talk the way they should. Much of it comes down to projects being scoped incorrectly and expectations not being communicated properly.

mblongii: People have told me in the past that Mobi’s design teams don’t have enough influence over engineering. What do you think changed since then? Because your environment sounds quite the opposite.

designer: Well, I’m the only design/ux person in all of engineering here :] so my role is sort of an exception. Mobi has a design department. I’m also sort of a liason between engineering and the design department. I’m on a software engineering team, but I also meet daily with the lead engineers working on various other hardware.

mblongii: Are you picking up electrical engineering skills?

designer: Well, I’m learning the language. Enough to understand what is needed to optimize the user experience even down to the finest detail. I annoy people by my persistence i’m sure, but because I do that, often the manufacturers have to re-write their drivers to optmize for the best experience. So I’m definitely able to influence the entire process, which is quite nice.

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