As you all saw, we recently announced that we’re opening our first outpost in Washington, D.C. We couldn’t be more excited to expand our presence across the country. What better way to celebrate our new locale than by getting to know Laura Chang, EchoUser East’s captain, a little better.
Without further ado, we give you this month’s Meet the EchoUsers:
1. How did you know you wanted to work in design?
Entering Stanford as a freshman, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Looking back at it now, I think that’s a common story among designers. We straddle the line between the left and right brain, being creative but also very practical and analytical. When you have to pick one area to focus on, like a college major, it becomes really tough.
As I looked into majors that might fit my interests, I heard about a program in the engineering school called Product Design, which blended mechanical engineering and art. I started taking a few classes and fell in love with the design process. I loved the idea of creating objects and experiences with purpose. I also loved the idea that this process could be applied to almost any industry. I graduated knowing how to think about the world and its challenges, instead of just knowing some subset of facts about it.
2. After college, how did you take your new found love of design to the real world?
When I graduated, I knew I liked design, but I didn’t see myself working on physical products. The digital world felt more accessible and pervasive, and moved at a faster pace. After an internship with T-Mobile in Berlin, I came back to the States and joined Google as member of their Google Apps for Business support operations team.
Right away, I found it really easy to see value in the business products Google was developing, and was amazed by how quickly they were transforming the enterprise. My goal was to improve the customer support side of Google Apps for Business, which included streamlining help platforms like the online help center and email support channels, reducing the number of issues reported, and optimizing internal workflows to deliver fast and high quality support. I had to look at the system as a whole in order to improve the customer experience – an excellent design exercise. I soon found that the best way to improve the customer experience was to start with the user; I analyzed and funneled user feedback to the support and product teams so that it became clear how the product experience was affecting its users. For example, because we regularly received so many questions about setting up accounts, I focused on helping product managers and engineers improve the setup experience altogether, and prevent issues from happening in the first place.
3. What brought you to EchoUser then?
Working on an operations team allowed me to improve one system within the larger Google environment. But, what made the most sense to me was trying to improve the product itself, and not just the operation surrounding it. I wanted to improve things upstream, where the customer was interacting with the product, instead of downstream, when they needed to contact support. That’s when I started exploring the more traditional UX side of development at Google. I found incredible mentors on the design team who let me take on design projects of my own, and I ultimately decided that I wanted to work full time in the UX design industry. I had a dream of working at design agency, and now, here I am.
4. You’ve had the experience of working in-house at large companies and now within a consulting agency, what do you see as the main difference?
Working in-house, you get very attached to the product you’re working on. At Google, I worked on one product for years, seeing it evolve and improve, and got to know it inside and out. I also got to see how all of the internal stakeholders worked together to develop and launch a product from beginning to end, and experience all of the joys and pains that went along with it. But working at an agency, you get to focus on honing your design skills, and apply them to all sorts of scenarios. You have the opportunity to work on multiple products and see many different approaches from so many people – a really good learning tool at this stage of my career.
I’m lucky to have had both experiences.
5. Where do you see the future of design going?
We have some pretty incredible technology platforms on our hands. But the real need is to take a step back and understand the broader context of our environment and goals before slapping together another gadget we may or may not need. Designers will need to think more about systems than single interfaces. For example, a hot topic is the Internet of Things – making physical objects more intelligent and interconnected. Does this mean we should go and wire up everything in the house, just because we can? We will have to think on a broader scale, not just about what people do on a screen, but how people and objects move and interact within a system – on the road, in a field, at the mall, in a hospital.
6. What advice do you have for people just entering the industry?
It’s an industry where you can’t replace experience. It’s not enough to just read a book – you have to learn by doing. The best way to get started is to do your own design projects in your free time – make your own website, redesign an app, rethink an everyday user experience- and get feedback. When I started out, I redesigned websites for my friends, and offered to make mocks for my coworkers – all for free! Another valuable thing I did was talk to designers I admired, and asked them to teach me their ways. I would not have gotten anywhere without them.
7. If you could re-design any experience, what would you pick and why?
I come from a family of physicians, so over the years I’ve heard a lot about healthcare’s inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement. Especially given all of the recent healthcare system changes, it’s become very confusing for people to navigate coverage and treatment options. I’d love to design a more patient-focused healthcare experience that’s more transparent about what you’re signing up for, what it’ll probably cost, and what caveats you need to be aware of. While I realize it’s a very complex system, I still think there’s a lot we can do to demystify it.
8. You brought up the new office and moving across country. What are you most excited about in D.C and what are you going to miss most about San Francisco?
I’m going to miss a lot about SF – my co-workers especially. I think of SF as the Hollywood for technology, where everyone has big dreams and wants to make it big, so there’s of course a lot of energy and excitement in a place like that.
But, with that, I’m really excited about the new adventure here in DC. On a personal level, I’m from the area, so it’s great to come home after being away for 9 years. It’s kind of a rediscovery for me – I get to revisit those museums I used to love as a kid, and reconnect with old friends, but also explore the growing tech industry, new neighborhoods, and new companies. There’s a lot that’s unfamiliar to me in the challenges of opening a new office and exploring the many different industries out here, but I couldn’t be more excited to have this very unique opportunity.
Interview with EchoUser co-founder and VP of Operations Aaron Rich
The term UX has been around for almost 20 years, but thanks to companies like Apple and Uber who have put design and experience at the forefront of their companies, the concept is reaching mainstream status. While a great user experience has become the goal of many companies today, most developers still struggle with the right process and inherent skillset needed to create one.
At EchoUser, we take a deeper approach than just designing for a product. As companies begin to recognize the business rationale behind great experiences, companies like ours can solely focus on UX — something we believe is necessary to create the best overall experience. One of our co-founders, Aaron Rich, is looking to share his perspective on the true meaning of UX and how to create great user experience at the 2015 SXSW Interactive festival. We sat down with Aaron to learn more about his submission, “UX is a buzzword. Let’s use it to our advantage,” and discuss what UX actually means and why it’s an emerging trend.
How would you define UX?
The use of the word UX has grown, but most people still don’t understand what it means. Some are under the impression UX is just about the look and feel of a product, but in reality it’s about understanding the users and the experience they’re going to enjoy most while using the product. Many people claim to be UX designers but in reality are just dropping buzzwords. There is a need for a larger industry discussion about what UX actually is and how to create great user experiences. I’m eager to lead that conversation and help more people recognize what they need when thinking about UX.
Why is SXSW the right platform for this discussion?
SXSW has a vast group of attendees from startups to enterprises — all of whom are trying to make better products. No matter how big or small a company is, considering UX can help. But to make a difference, it’s important people understand what it really means.
Why are you the best person to tell this story?
I have spent over 15 years in the user experience field, measuring, analyzing and designing great experiences for startups and established enterprises alike. I have seen it all. I have seen the misconceptions with some of our clients and I have my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the UX world. When we initially start working with clients, part of the work is an education process for them. We have to describe what UX is and isn’t, so they understand what we can do for their company or product.
What is a common UX misconception EchoUser sees with clients?
When we first start talking to clients about what they want, they usually will say they want their product to look like “X” product, and that’s not really how the process works. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to hear what they are looking for, but we need to figure out the experience we are trying to evoke first. At EchoUser we spend time doing research to understand the client’s users and their product in and out, before we can make any decisions on what it should look like.
How to vote for Aaron’s SXSW session
Are you interested in seeing Aaron’s presentation? Vote for him on SXSW’s Panel Picker and help send Aaron to SXSW Interactive 2015 where he will discuss the real definition of UX and give tips and tricks to accelerate the UX of your product or business.
We are excited to announce that we’ve opened an office in the Washington D.C. area under the watchful eye of one of our Senior Experience Designers, Laura Chang. We are calling it EchoUser East.
EchoUser has grown tremendously since our founding in 2006. With more than 50 percent revenue growth in the last two years and great clients like Google, NetApp, Cisco, Threadflip, BART and Oracle, it’s clear that our Any Experience ideology is gathering momentum. Our research and design services focus on understanding users’ needs, designing captivating solutions, and measuring usability for constant improvement, regardless of industry.
As we continue to grow quickly with an eye toward tackling new types of problems in new industries, it’s now time to expand our presence beyond our San Francisco roots.
Washington D.C. provides a broad range of new design and UX opportunities. It’s a city where people are dedicating their lives to solving complex, systemic challenges like security, health, policy, and education at a national and global scale. These topics need to be approached holistically, making them a natural fit for our user-first design philosophy. As Washington industries aim to solve these problems more efficiently and effectively, we think our design and research methods can help make incredibly impactful improvements. Sometimes the answer is a great website, app or software, sometimes it’s a new physical experience or strategic program. Whatever it is, our skills in user-driven research, design, and evaluation can help uncover new insights and build great solutions.
With Laura leading the charge, EchoUser East will help support our current clients located throughout the east coast and help expand our offering to even more clients, in more industries around the area. A native Marylander turned Silicon Valley expert, and Googler turned EchoUser rising star, Laura has a unique outlook on how UX can bring needed support to untapped east coast markets. She’s the perfect fit to get EchoUser East kicked off.
Over the next year, we will be looking to grow our presence in the area by adding local designers to our team and opening a new office space.
If you’re interested in learning more about EchoUser East please email us at email@example.com or tweet us @EchoUser.