An Interaction Designer at 3-Day Startup
40 people. 3 Days. 5 startups.This weekend, I participated in 3-Day Startup with the goal of launching a technology company in three days, on no sleep, and with people I just met.
The weekend started out with everyone pitching their ideas and then voting with their feet which project to work on. I chose Tripgather, a data aggregator for travelers because I liked the people on the team. I am lucky to work with amazing, passionate people every day at AC4D and was happy to have a similar privilege at 3-Day Startup.
- Jonathan Spillman – UT MBA, awesome leader, idea man
- David McCleary – UT Masters in Engineering, Mr.Make Things Happen in business and marketing
- MacKenzie Seale – UT Finance undergrad, content guru, Miss “I’ve never talked to random people, but let’s do it.”
- Garrett Eastham- Computer Science whiz from Stanford, who Jonathan rightly called the “Michael Jordan of programing”
- Levi Lalla- Engineer from MIT who just happens to also front-end code with the best of ’em
- And me, AC4D interaction designer
What do you do with an interaction designer?
At our first team meeting when I announced my role, I got a few understanding nods from the programmers and understandably blank stares from the rest of the team. What does an interaction designer do? More importantly, what do they do at 3-Day Startup?
My short answer – nothing and everything. Here’s where I found myself:
- Traditional Design: An “agency” of three graphic designers worked with all the 3DS teams, and they were awesome. I worked with them to help make our visual language matched our overall product message.
- User Research: My heart leaped with joy when our whole team enthusiastically wanted to talk with customers. I pushed for design research open-ended conversations rather than trying to collect quantitative data through surveys. Steve Portigal’s got some great wisdom on the perils of bad surveys here and here.
- User Flows: What does a user expect to see? What does a user want to see? What user flow goes with our pitch story?
- Pitch: Pull out the post-it notes. Let’s craft a story that anyone can understand and that clearly tells the problem we’re trying to solve (Justin Petro would be proud of the post-its).
Looking back on the weekend, on the surface, it looks like I did nothing.
I didn’t present.
I didn’t code.
I didn’t do the financial model.
I didn’t do the graphic design.
Hell, everything I did was thrown away.
The home page I designed? Scratched.
The user flows and wireframes on the whiteboard? Erased.
The post-it notes used to craft our pitch? Trash.
But I couldn’t be more pleased. All that throw away meant that over the course of 3 days, we were iterating, reframing, and finding new and better ways to tell our story. That’s what an interaction designer does and that’s what I brought to 3DS.