Coffee Meet-up: Eric Freedman, CD, Mass Relevance

I recently met with Eric Freedman of Mass Relevance, in part of our project to meet connect with local and influential individuals both in and outside of the Austin Design Community.  We focused our conversation on important things for young interactions designers to know.  I typed up the transcript, and include the most salient points here.  I’ve stripped out specific clients for confidentiality purposes.

In sum, all of these are extremely important things that I am learning through rapid prototyping this quarter.  As it turns out, it wasn’t just enough to hear them the first time.  But after my first iterations though the scheduling software design project, I’m realizing just how key these ideas are.  In my next iteration, I will be going back through each page to make sure that the ideas of progressive disclosure and design hierarchy are embodied.  Does the user have clear and meaningful options on this page?  Does the design match up with their sense of activity flow?

The idea of selling a design every time has been hit on through our presentation coaching, and this piece of wisdom follows the same formula.  Knowing who your audience is, and why they are paying you (or at least why they say they are paying you!) is key.  Design goals will never trump business goals.  But they can be presented in a frame of business goals that can help both the company and the user.

Progressive Disclosure

“One of my first projects at frog was (a fortune 500 website) redesign.  The user just wanted to buy a computer.  The company wants to sell them upgrades and service plans, certain machines, you know.  The company has their goals and the user has his or her goals.

There were a lot of design theories we put in place to make that design work.  Some still hold true.  One is the notion of progressive disclosure.  At the time, if you wanted to buy a computer, there were a lot of things you had to know.  The notion of getting someone down from the top level down to that purchase choice, as simply as possible, required progressive disclosure.  Start with simple decisions before you blow out all of the options.”

Design Hierarchy

“Another thing that is very important is a design hierarchy…we created what was called the “hot dog” button which was really yellow hot dog shape button.  there was essentially one on every page.  If all you did was click the yellow button on every page, you would (accomplish your goal) in 5 steps.

That was the primary button.  And you know there were secondary buttons.  And there were tertiary buttons, which were just a tiny blue arrow.  And behind that was just a real text link.  You use button hierarchy to help the user meet their goals of that page.  What does the user want to do?  Give them the most obvious way to do THAT.  Something as simple as a button hierarchy helps the user understand flow.”

Client Engagement, Balancing Business and User Goals

“We got the job, but we had to prove that the design worked, every time.  If you lead with ‘here are the goals you told us’ that you needed to accomplish here, and then this is what we’ve defined as the users goals, here’s the baseline for describing why we’re making the decisions we’re making, and here’s how we’ve done it, then they’re like, yes that makes sense. Because everyone in an organization then needs to sell it to their boss, to prove they’re doing a good job and made the right choices.”