Tomorrow I’ll be starting a new job at Automattic as a Product Designer. I’m both excited and reflective as I think about what’s ahead in 2019 and beyond.
For the past 3 1/2 years I’ve worked full-time at XWP. I started as a Team Lead, then brought the role of Product Owner (while learning it along the way) to the company in 2016. For the past two years I’ve led the company in bringing user experience design and product design to the projects we took on.
I’ve been able to work with some amazing teams in the enterprise WordPress space as a part of XWP. This has included working with Google on the AMP plugin for WordPress, as well as AMP Stories, working with Beachbody on Demand to help build a new CMS experience for their editorial team, and some amazing engagements with clients such as PMC, News Corp Australia, and more. I’m thankful for the whole team at XWP and the great times!
At the same time I’ve also been able to contribute to the WordPress project (thanks in part to XWP supporting my time), co-leading the 4.9.8 point release of WordPress, speaking at a number of WordCamps, supporting where I could on Gutenberg and other projects, and becoming a Team Rep for the design team.
During this time I’ve been at a completely distributed company. I live in Northern Idaho. My wife and I have two little children, and we’ve been able to live our lives in a way that maximizes time spent with friends and family. Since my daughter was born (she’s almost two years old) I’ve been able to spend so much time with her and watch her grow. That’s a gift and one I’m so thankful to have a job that’s allowed me to do.
Now, I’ve decided to take the next step and move more into Product Design in a way where I can focus on learning and working on projects at scale. The folks at Automattic have been amazing to work with so far (everyone who joins the team has to take a trial project), and I’ll have opportunity to learn alongside an amazing team of designers and developers.
Over the past few years I’ve been privileged to work with some amazing designers and engineers! When you can bring design and engineering together in a true partnership, great things can happen. If either of them are treated as second class citizens, you’ll fall into deep ditches that can sink teams and companies.
“Without a person at or near the helm who thoroughly understands the principles and elements of design, a company eventually runs out of reasons for design decisions. Without conviction doubt creeps in, instincts fail. When a company is filled with engineers it turns to engineering to solve problems, reduce each decision to a simple logic problem, remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? Back to the drawing board. And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision.” – Creative Selection
Since January 2017 I’ve been an iPad Pro user. For a short period I even made it my primary computer.
It’s become one of the most important tools I have as a Product Designer. Each week I use it to create sketches during the research and conceptual stages of a project.
There are some situations where my MacBook Pro is better as a tool, and other times I prefer my iPhone or iPad.
I’ve tried the 9.7″, 10.5″, 11″, and 12.9″ iPads. Each time I return to the largest screen size. Anything smaller doesn’t work for me. Mainly I choose the bigger screen because I don’t have to zoom in and out of the paper when I’m sketching. Having a larger canvas helps me spend more time concepting and designing.
Following are the reasons I love my iPad.
As a sketching device
Before owning an iPad I sketched a lot with paper and pen. Now I have a digital piece of paper with copy+paste, as well as resize and layering.
This doesn’t mean paper and pen are obsolete. There are still times I need to step away from all electronics and scribble away on paper.
I’ve tried nearly all sketching and drawing apps for the iPad. Linea Sketch is the best for what I need. It has layering, resizing, copy and paste, snapping lines, grids, and simple drawing tools.
Once watercolor becomes a feature I’ll be in love.
As a reading device
This is one area where a smaller iPad is better. I don’t spend large amounts of time reading on this screen, think articles versus books. Anything less than about 15 minutes works well here. If I want to read an interesting article or Google Doc I’ll often open the link on my iPad instead of my MacBook Pro.
This actually helps break up my day! Getting to read on the iPad means I can lean back for a bit and pull away from my desk.
As a notation device
It almost feels like cheating when I use the iPad to redline a document or article. Since I work remotely we pass a lot of Google Docs back and forth between the team. When I’m reviewing something for a colleague I’ll save it as a PDF and open it in Notability. From there I’ll pull out my Apple Pencil and scribble across the document with red lines and notes.
Writing comments with a keyboard in Google docs is fast. But there are times when I want to think through something and write my thoughts by hand. This is where it it’s fun for me. I can again lean back (there’s a theme here) and absorb what’s on the page, giving feedback as I go.
As a consumption device
The iPad is my favorite way to watch videos. Watching on TV is too much hassle, watching on my phone is too small, and watching on my laptop is overkill.
When I’m watching a video for work (or for fun) I like to prop it up on the iPad and play it on my desk or lap.
As a gaming device
Long gone are the days of PC gaming. At least for now. As for console games, I own a SNES Classic.
In the evenings I love propping my iPad up on a pillow, sitting on my couch, and playing a game. Right now I’m enjoy PUBG Mobile. The experience on a 12.9″ screen is perfect.
WordPress 5.0 has finally launched. It’s been a long time coming, and provides a huge update and change to how the editor works in WordPress. I was privileged to be able to contribute to this release, spending several months in 2017 contributing to design ideas and concepts for early work on Gutenberg.
Earlier this week I decided to try and build a one page site using Gutenberg. I’d played around with blocks, created pages, played with sites, etc. However, I wanted to rely completely on a block interface to build out a complex page.
The journey wasn’t an easy one. I tried out a bunch of the block plugins available.
Will plan to followup when I’ve found a good solution.
The short of all this is I’m looking forward to helping in Phase 2 of Gutenberg, as we try to improve on what’s available and make block building more robust for the future.
In 2016 our team at XWP was able to work with the Beachbody on Demand folks to create a new editorial workflow for the content creation staff. You can read the case study to learn about the work that was done.
During this process I was covering the role of Product Owner for our team, as well as contributing UI/UX support to the editorial workflow.
Since the content staff needed the ability to upload content regularly, and had a specific flow to how content would be added, we used the Customizer in WordPress to make previewing and saving drafts easier as part of this process.
Following are a few interfaces to highlight the work I contributed to throughout the project.
Along with the regular programming that gets created for new shows, the team also needed the ability to share training sessions on a per day basis, using a calendar within WordPress. I worked with our team to create concepts and interface ideas that would allow for creating the editorial flow.
We discussed ways to allow for quick translation and localization of the work that happened. In this case the team needed to be able to translate strings of text and have them show in French and English. Following is a clickable prototype showing a proposal for adding strings in multiple languages.