Design Chats

A Look Inside Design at Box

4 min read
Andy Orsow
  •  Jan 8, 2013
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We’re tracking down InVision users inside the world’s most amazing companies to discover their favorite tools, books, methods, and the philosophy behind what makes them so awesome. This week we interviewed Kevin Tu, UX Lead at Box in Los Altos, CA.

Tell us about your role at Box.

I work on the product team as the user experience leader. I’m responsible for the usability side of things, so I do a lot of the customer research: visiting customers, conducting surveys, and doing usability tests. I map out the flows and wireframes and then work with the product managers, engineers, and designers to make sure that our product is usable.

How did you get into design?

In college, I always had an interest in designing cars and user interfaces, but I didn’t know that there was a field called Human Factors or Human-Computer Interaction. At the time, I was thinking I’d probably have to go into mechanical engineering if I wanted to go into the car design business. Then I found out about the Engineering Psychology program at Tufts, which was the equivalent of Human Factors Engineering. It covered usability, ergonomics, user center design, computer-human interaction, and the psychology behind that. My first job out of college was solely focused on usability research and designing specs. From there I got into consulting for web design and web applications, and then I came here.

What are the top 3 essentials for your workspace?

  • Collaboration: Having the ability to collaborate easily is essential to me. I’ve worked in a lot of different settings where everyone is sitting in cubes. The walls are a lot higher and it’s a lot quieter; I think that’s just very limiting for collaboration. I love working in a space where you can look across the table and see the person you are working with and bounce ideas off each other.
  • Fun: Having a fun and creative workspace helps with inspiration if you get stuck on specific design problems.
  • Solo spaces: Somewhere you can go to hunker down and do your own thing. Sometimes I’ll end up on the patio, in a conference room, or duck into one of the nooks around the office.

How important is your workspace to your creativity?

My workspace is very important to my creativity because I’m here a significant amount of time. Just being here, being with the people I work with makes it easier for us to collaborate. People see things in different ways: You need a workspace that encourages collaboration.Twitter Logo

I use InVision when I need to prototype something, do usability tests, or do click-throughs. I even use InVision for presenting my wireframes to the team.

Do you ever work outside the office?

I like to work a lot at cafés actually. Even if I’m working from home, I’ll just venture out to a café in the middle of the day and continue there. For me it’s actually less distracting when there’s a lot of stuff going on because you’re in a zone, doing your thing and just having people around you. Sometimes, having things going on around you helps your thought process.Twitter Logo

What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?

If I hit a roadblock, I’ll go out for a walk, and if I have the time then I’ll go out for a drive. I like being on the road, I think it just helps me to clear my mind a little bit. Another thing I might do is chat with people to get a different perspective or just talk about something completely different: Stepping away from a problem for a bit helps you see things more clearly when you return.Twitter Logo

Do you do any sketching on paper?

Before I put anything down digitally on the wire-framing tool, I usually sketch a couple of different versions of the flow or basic layouts of the wireframes on paper or a whiteboard just to help me think. It helps me organize my thoughts and see how I am going to deal with more than just one page. Like: “if I do this what happens two or three steps down the road?” And I can just do it on paper really quickly before I ever start fussing around with the computer.

When I found InVision all I had to do was upload [my design] and essentially just draw little squares, which saved me a lot of time.

What is your favorite part of the design process?

Great design solves a problem from both the business side and the user side.Twitter Logo I think it’s really fun to break down a problem from both sides and try to find a solution that meets each. Whether it’s the requirements we have to satisfy to build a feature, or understanding the user’s behavior and what they want, I enjoy putting all that non-visual information into a finished wire frame to provide a product that satisfies both. It’s very rewarding.

Now I use InVision to prototype designs that we need user feedback on. We string the screens together to simulate the user walking through a specific flow so we can test the interaction and get their feedback.

Tell us about some of your favorite books.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

One book I’ve always really liked is this book called Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a very interesting book from a psychology perspective because it talks about how people can make decisions on the fly and they don’t even realize they’ve made the decision but it’s almost always correct. It talks about how people don’t have to break down all the data they’ve gathered from a scenario to make a decision. A snap judgment of body language and other perceptions can lead to the correct decision without even knowing it.

What are some of your favorite tools for the creative process?

  • OmniGraffle: OmniGraffle is my primary tool for the user flows and wireframes I make.
  • InVision: I use InVision when I need to prototype something, do usability tests, or do click-throughs. I even use InVision for presenting my wire frames to the team.
  • Usability Services: I also use some other usability services like, UsabilityHub, and Camtasia.
  • GoToMeeting: I also use a whole variety of different screen sharing virtual meeting programs like GoToMeeting.

What music do you listen to when you’re designing?

Save Me, San Francisco

What’s your beverage of choice?

Green tea.

How important is collaborating with other designers?

It’s definitely very, very important. It’s always good to get different perspectives from different people to see how they view the exact same problem. It helps you see things in a different way and break down what the challenges are. Designers all have their own individual sets of experiences, and collaboration is about applying all that cumulative knowledge and past experience to help solve a problemTwitter Logo together.

We also use [InVision] for presentations to show the flow that we are envisioning, versus having to show flat designs separately.

The same thing goes for when you are working with team members from different disciplines. Product managers may have worked on different things before; engineers can tell you what they can build, what they can’t build, etc. At the same time, they also kind of ground you. You don’t want to have a solution and realize you can’t build it.Twitter Logo There’s definitely a benefit to having different people in the room working together to come up with a solution.

How has InVision helped in your design process?

Before I started using InVision, I was using a tool that allowed me to link together click targets, but I’d have to save the file locally and then host it on the web site. It was super-cumbersome. When I found InVision all I had to do was upload it and essentially just draw little squares, which saved me a lot of time.

Now I use InVision to prototype designs that we need user feedback on. We string the screens together to simulate the user walking through a specific flow so we can test the interaction and get their feedback. By the same token, if it’s strung together we can also use it for presentations to show the flow that we are envisioning versus having to show flat designs separately.

Who do you look up to as a designer?

This is going to be the most cliché answer of all but I look up to Jonathan Ive the most. When you look back on each and every one of the products that have been released they’ve kind of changed the industry. You look at the iPhone now and people use phones in a different way. Look at the iPod: people listen to music in a different way. People are reading books in a different way and it’s totally changed, not only how you use the phone, but even carriers, cell phone providers and stuff like that.

Inspiration also comes from everyday things.Twitter Logo You see the amount of thought and reasoning that goes into any great product that you use, and it really gives you perspective. Behind every great product is someone spending lots of time understanding the way you thinkTwitter Logo, your behavior, and the different ways you might be using their product. It makes you appreciate design.”

How do you define great design?

Design anticipates what the user wants. If it’s not what they expect, it gives them a way out.Twitter Logo If you’re using something and think, “Oh I wonder if they have this?” or “I wonder if I could do this?” and then as soon as you ask that question you see “Oh it’s right there.” – That’s great design because you’ve anticipated exactly what the user is going to be looking for at the right moment.

What makes a great designer?

A great designer has to be able to step outside of that designer shoe temporarily.Twitter Logo You’re not designing for yourself; you’re designing for the people using your products.Twitter Logo A good designer should be able to step away from that and see how other people are going to be objectively using their product without feeling frustrated if someone doesn’t get it. I think a great designer is someone who understands that meeting a user’s needs supersedes a really creative or beautiful design.Twitter Logo

About Kevin

Kevin is the UX Lead at Box in Los Altos, CA. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

About Box

Box was founded on a simple, powerful idea: people should be able to access and share their content from anywhere. Since 2005, Box has helped more than 15 million individuals, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies do just that. We want to reinvent what businesses can do with their content through Box’s content sharing platform, made for a new kind of worker, a new kind of workplace and a new kind of IT.


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