Design Trends in Silicon Valley – Steve Yatson of ProductOps

Design Trends in Silicon Valley – Steve Yatson of ProductOps


I have been in design for 25 years now and I work for a company called ProductOps based in San Fransisco, California. We are a small design boutique firm as we like to say. We’re about 50 people.
We do strategy design the interesting thing is we also do
development & work on platform architecture we like to focus on data and IOT
spaces and my actual title is head of design but I get into business development as well cause you know we are a small firm or very hands-on, relationship driven. So I think the best way I can get into that is to say most people when they think of
design I think a look at the user experience from what they see on a
screen for example on a mobile device or a desktop computer
and I think of the visual design first. So for us we’ve kind of… span the gamut
of software development from start to finish and to build that user
experience and that visual design what goes behind that, are a number of layers
and this doesn’t actually occur linearly in time. But what happens is these layers
kind of look like the user sitting in front of a screen they see their visual
design, the branding, the color, the fonts behind that is information hierarchy and
interaction design. How the workflow guide them through the software to get them to
the goals that they want to reach. Behind that are APIs that connect to a platform.
That platform needs to be architected. Those APIs need to be built
to deliver information to the screen and to the user and back and forth and then
part of that there is some amount of product or service design that happens
and then prior to that is a discovery process where a company like ProductOps
for example will come in and get to know the organization, the people in the
organization and how they view their customers, their end-users, what their
goals are who all the stakeholders are the politics of the organization. Just
about everything that you do the organization of where they want to
go with their product or their service. And you scrunch all that together you
end up with that end-user experience. That’s kind of how we design So the research actually continues pretty much throughout the project
because we’re talking to end-users at different
stages. What I prefer is really I love to interview users. I love doing
interviews, just talking to people about what they do.
That’s number one. Number two is I love to observe behavior
Kind of while as they say it, really watch observe users and collect data that way.
We do ethnographic studies, bunch of different things depending on what’s
appropriate for the client and the project that’s at hand. And then we do a
lot of prototyping with user feedback we still at times do paper prototyping.
We use a lot of prototyping tools, we built physical
prototypes and we take those out in the field and we observe users using
thing that we’re trying to build and then we iterate over and over again. Well it depends on what the project is. It may bring no value whatsoever but if
it’s used appropriately it can bring value and it can be very quick and dirty
and it can happen in a meeting in front of a user where you’re trying to explain
something to then like this is what we think we want to do. Does this make sense
to you? Imagine if you wanted to build a UI or some interaction or some workflow
that did not exist. So imagine if you were in front of a user you were
interviewing them you wanted to explain some workflow to them that you were thinking about and you wanted feedback on it and you needed to tell the story about how this product would be. You may draw it on a whiteboard, you may actually draw it on a piece of paper and
say if you tap here flip this piece of paper over this way – this is what happens. We don’t do that too much anymore we have digital schools that we can
interact with and users can too InVision is one of them. So it can mean a
number of things but if you were thinking about interaction design in the
sense of a software UI you would look at a signifier, a button
or something on the screen that signified to the user that they could do something.
And then that button would offer affordances – what happens when I
tap it with my finger or I click it with a mouse button Another way I like to think about
interaction design that’s not related to softwares – if you are designing a
service for we’re designing a service If we’re designing a
service for a client, this is another way to look at interaction design. If you’ve
ever had to call the cable company for example or somebody and you have to go
through the menus or you’re interacting with that
company, right. There’s a user interaction there. So interaction design doesn’t just
mean software user interfaces. When we’re building a service or a product for the
client we really have to take all of that – every touchpoint that user
may have to interact with that product or service we need to think about what
that interaction looks like how we want that user to behave how we want them to
reaching their end goals efficiently have a pleasurable experience right? Probably voice ,yeah. To be perfectly honest with you
– So voice is the next big thing… – Design means a lot of things and when
we’re designing something for someone there’s – in the IOT space there’s kind of
an art form. Data management is really a big thing
because you have sensors collecting data constantly and you can store that data
sometimes in centers sometimes on the edge device, sometimes
you upload it to the platform where you store for example, if you’re not going to use data
you store but later on it’s retreivable. There are all kinds of things
that you can do and there’s a lot of design
thinking methodology, the type of kind of a mindset that has to go into designing
an IOT system, you know, from data collection to insights; and so I think
really the magic is that data transfer from the sensors to the platform. Yeah absolutely I think UX as the term is kind of used now for design everywhere I think there’s a lot of overlap in
architecture is one place that I see it at least in my experience. We’ll architect
a platform or somewhere we have data storage, a data lake. The data
is collected where there’s an ETL component to it – you know there all these pieces
to the data platform to manage this data and a lot of times, to technical
minded people, it’s easy to drop where all that stuff is and how it works
and interacts but to a lot of people that are on the business side, that aren’t so
technical they need to understand that story – okay we’re going to drop a whole lot of money
on this new platform, this new system to build this product or service. I need to
understand where the money’s going and what we’re doing and what the goals are
that we’re trying to accomplish. They don’t care so much about the components
of the data platform around the data flows. But they do need to know that and
they need to know where all the players in the organization, the end-users will
fit into the platform and how it interacts We build these landscape diagrams as a design team and what it’s really for us so that people can come in and they don’t have that in-depth technical knowledge about the data is handled how the engineering side of
it what data scientists do and they can
look at this document that we produce, this artifact and they can understand
what the company is investing in. What’s going to happen and how it’s going to be
built. Why it takes as long as it does and we help a lot of CTOs
CIOs people who are very technically minded, all those kinda
Fancy Pants developer types really talk to the business people who are really
focused on other things be able to tell that story to them and
then they can turn around and tell it to whoever they need to tell it to-
end-users, customers, investors, directors whatever it might be. And that’s where
the really the designers come in – they they facilitate the telling of that story of the data platform & the architecture an example is if you sales and order
management system finance touches it, developer’s touch it,
there’s data stored – customer data, institution data.
So all the departments in the company would touch this in some way. They would
have different types of data collected from different places and useful to
different people. Gets very complicated and everybody that’s involved kind of needs
to understand where they fit in and what their role is in this and how it’s
going to benefit them the company customers.
A good design team helps tell that story. The trend is right now – really good
designers, really good UX people are very very hard to find. They’re in high demand. Which is great if you’re in the
design business. I can tell you how we hire and how most of the people that I
know that are heading up design teams in various different companies of different
sizes do it and right now there are so
many skilled people out there most of them are working, that
the first thing that you tend to look for is culture fit, personality and
look for those soft skills that either really can’t be trained… you can’t train
someone up or they just take experience to develop.
Some people inherently do those things and that’s great. As far
as being able to wireframe, use all of the tools, speak the language… Those are
the types of things that I think we and most other companies are willing to
invest in for the right people so again we’re looking kind of for those soft
skills on that cultural fit. so I think right now a lot of people
in California specifically, it’s a little bigger than Silicon Valley
are really really hiring for that designer mindset. The great questioner,
are you a great questioner, can you tell a great story, are you a
great listener. those skills are critical to be a great designer. Podcast curated by: Ronak Laungani

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *