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 Hannah Strobel, a Principal User Experience Designer at Good Technology in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Tell us a little bit about what you do.
I work on one of our products, Good Share, which is a secure file sharing application with SharePoint integration. Basically it can be seen as Dropbox for enterprises where critical data is fully secured and protected. We support all major platforms, such as Microsoft, Android, and iOS.
The other part of my job is mentoring and supporting colleagues, and bringing structure into our UX group which means setting standards, reviewing and signing off on designs before they go into development, implementing standard documentation and defining more advanced patterns and a visual language for Good Technology products.
How did you get into design?
One of my friends was a professional photographer and he taught me how to use Photoshop. I was fascinated by design and I knew I wanted to study it, but I didn’t want to just study art or photography – I wanted to work on solutions that improve people’s lives, and that’s why I got my B.A. in Communication Design. I’m now about to finish my MBA in Design Strategy at CCA in San Francisco. In this program, we’re learning how to apply design thinking, while still keeping the business aspect in mind, to drive innovation and solve real problems.
InVision prototyping adds so much value to the designs and it takes so little time to upload my mock-ups and bring them to life.
How important is your workspace to creativity?
The most important thing is to be able to relax in your work environment. Great work happens when you can trust your colleagues & interact with them in a friendly atmosphere. Not that a modern workspace with stylish interior, playroom, and fully equipped kitchen isn’t desirable, but true creativity arises from having the right people around you.
What are the top three essentials in your workspace?
- Devices: Surface, iPad Mini, iPad, iPhone, an Android device and a Windows phone are essential to me because I need to test my designs directly on the platforms I am designing for.
- Collaboration: Collaboration is the key to success – with engineers and designers on my team, as well as all the other stakeholders.
- Internet Connection: Seems obvious, but it’s one of the things I use constantly for researching online.
Do you ever work outside the office?
Yes. When I’m in a deep production phase and need to focus on getting deliverables finalized. My Wacom allows me to work from home and cafés without being at a desk. Luckily I am able to block out the world and focus on my work no matter where I am.
Customers can experience use cases, and the development team understands my design in InVision without me having to write extensive functional specifications.
What do you do when you hit a creative roadblock?
I try to take a step back and look at the problem from a bigger perspective or different angle. I also seek advice from colleagues and friends by running by ideas and challenges through them. A second perspective on a problem can show you possibilities that you alone couldn’t have found – That can be very eye-opening and stimulating.
Do you ever do any sketching on paper?
I sketch almost daily. Sketching is essential in terms of bringing ideas and interaction models to the table to stimulate conversation. Quick visualizations, on paper or a whiteboard, help me grasp a challenge and discover possible solutions. I sketch everything from mobile interfaces, rough processes and concepts, to interaction patterns
Where do you look for inspiration?
- Pttrns: Creative input for iPhone.
- Dribbble: The visual Bible for graphic designers.
- Visual.ly: Nice infographics.
- Smashing Magazine: For UX-related matters.
- BoxesandArrows: This is a great resource for learning how to work in an agile development environment, including the UX design process. It provides tips on all aspects of design, but also how to interact with stakeholders, talk to customers, and set up a kickoff meeting, etc.
But ultimately, my inspiration comes from everywhere. A good designer should be aware of everything that’s going on in the world. I read a lot of magazines, newspapers and books. One of my favorite design magazines is Novum. It’s German but available in English as well. I also read the New York Times, Bloomberg, Smashing Magazine, Wired, etc. But I also pay attention to what goes on around me: which events are happening, what exhibitions are featured, what restaurants are “in,” what do people read, like, spend their time on, buy and wear?
What is your favorite part of the design process?
The first time I get to hold a build in my hands, after weeks and months of design. Seeing it alive, interactive, and connected to the back-end is really exciting to me. I also enjoy showing an early design to customers and getting constructive feedback. It is enlightening to see how wrong your assumptions can be sometimes, and great to have those, “A-ha!” moments early on with customers, to eventually deliver a perfect solution that meets our customer’s needs.
With InVision you can communicate with more than one dimension and it allows people to understand basic interaction.
How do you know when you’ve achieved an understanding of what the client really wants?
I ask a lot of questions. In the beginning of my career I didn’t ask many questions because I thought maybe it’s just me that doesn’t know the answer. But the more I worked, the more I realized that a lot of people don’t know the answer, they just don’t dare to ask the question. I just overcame it. Even if it seems like a stupid question, it’s worth asking.
How do you present your work?
When I present, I always try to tell a story, because that’s the glue that keeps the design together. You don’t show a single screen, you always show a series. I use InVision to walk people through my designs because it’s a quick way for me to show the interaction. I remember one prototype I made with InVision that allowed me to talk the client through the process intuitively. I didn’t have to say, “Click this button,” just “You want to add this item to your shopping cart” and they were able to figure it out by themselves. I created it for the client presentation but then my developers got a hold of it and they said “Oh that’s how it works! I didn’t know what was behind this button.” So it was an amazing, “A-HA!” moment for me that prototyping with InVision works great for both internal and external communication.
Prototyping with InVision works great for both internal and external communication.
What music do you listen to when you’re designing?
I like relatively non-intrusive music that I can play in the background, like KCRW Eclectic24 or the mixes created by Raul Campos. The Goat Rodeo Sessions is worth listening to. It’s an album blending classical and bluegrass music, by and with the amazing cellist Yo-Yo Ma. In general I like jazz a chill-out music when designing.
What is your beverage of choice?
Coffee. And Horchata, a Mexican cold drink made of rice, vanilla, cinnamon and sometimes milk. A great energizer!
What are you reading right now?
I am reading in general a lot about how UX fits into an agile programming environment so I’m excited about a new book that just came out called, Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf. But I am also very interested about innovation in general, systems thinking, and leadership. Where does it happen, how does it happen, how do you nurture it? Other books I am reading right now are Venture Deals by Jason Mendelson and Strategy Safari by Henry Mintzberg.
What are some of your favorite tools for the design process?
- Wacom: I couldn’t live without it! It allows me to work quicker and more precisely than I would be able to do with a mouse.
- Illustrator: Ideal for wireframing or creating vector designs, which saves me a lot of time when I design for various devices and resolutions.
- Photoshop: I grew up with it, and it is still my software of choice.
- InVision: Prototyping with InVision works great for both internal and external communication. It’s very intuitive and within no time I’m able to create a prototype that allows us to review basic overall interaction. Customers can experience use cases, and the development team understands my design in InVision without me having to write extensive functional specifications.
What equipment are you using?
MacBook Pro with a retina display, Surface, iPad Mini, iPad, iPhone, Android device and a Windows phone.
What is your ritual to get in the zone when you’re working on a project?
Start with understanding the overall story: ask a lot of questions, do a lot of research. Once I understand a topic well enough, I do a time and budget estimate, and break it down into smaller and smaller tasks. After ideation and concepting, we create the information architecture and screen anatomy. Then I just iterate through the design process with wire frames, mock-ups, prototypes, iteration, gathering feedback, eventually producing assets, providing UX support by reviewing the builds, and so on.
How has InVision helped your design process?
With InVision you can communicate with more than one dimension and it allows people to understand basic interaction. It’s great for both internal and external presentations, and it’s super quick. InVision prototyping adds so much value to the designs and it takes so little time to upload my mock-ups and bring them to life. I had one project with 300 screens and I created a prototype within two hours, which is amazing, and totally worth it. There’s nothing else out there that does this job exactly.
It’s very intuitive and within no time I’m able to create a prototype that allows us to review basic overall interaction.
How important is collaborating with other designers?
Collaboration is essential. You need to run your ideas through other creative minds to get it to the next level. But you need to be careful not to have too many meetings, otherwise you don’t get your work done. You have to find the right balance. Creating an environment where you feel like you are amongst friends or people you trust is really important for constructive creative meetings. The best collaboration happens when you work with unpretentious, empathetic people, working toward the same goal.
Who do you look up to as a designer?
This can change at any time – there are so many talented people out there. To name a few of the more unknown individuals, I like the work of:
- Martin Oberhaeuser is a German designer who creates beautiful information graphics as well as mobile and desktop designs.
- Wolfgang Beinert is an old style typographist who really knows how to play with fonts.
What makes a great designer?
A great designer is someone who can connect the dots across common borders. If I don’t have knowledge about history or various cultures and design styles I wouldn’t know about potential pieces that can be connected with each other to create something new. The more knowledge you have, the more power you have as a designer.
How do you define great design?
A great design is accomplished when there is nothing left to add and nothing left to take away.
Hannah is a Principal User Experience Designer at Good Technology in the San Francisco Bay Area. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.
Good Technology is transforming how mobile work gets done, through secure app-to-app workflows that include integrated email, communications, document management, business intelligence, social business, wireless printing, and more. We also offer complete enterprise mobility management solutions, including device, app, data, and service management; as well as analytics and reporting. We complete our stack with professional services that include mobile deployment rollouts, BYO onboarding constructs, and platform transition consulting. Only Good offers a complete mobile solution that puts IT back in control.