I spoke to Kenny Chen, a UX Designer in LA who spends a lot of time thinking about UX inside and outside of work. I’ve been a fan of his weekly newsletter for awhile, and I wanted to talk to him a bit more about his work, side projects, and UX in general.
To check out some of his work, follow his updates, or to subscribe to UX Design Weekly, check out his homepage: http://www.kennychen.net/
Could you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Kenny Chen, a UX Designer from Los Angeles with over 10 years of experience working for a variety of companies ranging from startups to large fortune 500 companies. I’m currently the Lead User Experience Designer at Wallaby Financial, where I work on mobile, web, and wearable apps focusing on credit card optimization. My day to day includes everything from user research, competitive analysis, user testing, wireframes, prototypes, visual design and more.
As a side project, I run UX Design Weekly, a newsletter featuring a curated list of the best user experience design links every week.
I’ve been following you for awhile now because of the UX Design Weekly newsletter. How’d you get started with it?
I’m subscribed to a few newsletters with curated content but I didn’t see any that were UX specific. There are some that focus on design but they’re more general and not really user experience focused.
UX is a constantly evolving so part of my day-to-day work is reading articles and playing with tools to keep up on the field. So I was already curating a lot of articles and decided to share them through the newsletter. I started it over a year ago, and it seems to have really picked up.
How has your experience with UXDW been? Has it impacted the way you work?
It’s been great so far. Every so often someone will let me know how much they love the newsletter which is always nice.
Because I’m always reading things, I come across a lot of new and interesting ideas. As I work on my projects, I can go back to articles I’ve saved. For example, if I’m working on an onboarding feature for a mobile app, I can go back and look at the archive of links to see how others approached the problem and what they learned.
I’ve personally enjoyed your selections from the newsletter, and have found them pretty relevant to the work I’m doing. What are some things you look for when you’re curating the newsletter?
Nothing specific, really. I try and look for things that are focused on UX that I think are helpful and current. Because the subscribers on my newsletter range from those just starting out in UX to design leaders, I try to include a variety of links for both new and seasoned UXers.
I know that you also put together tutorials for Framer. How did you get into working with it, and why’d you start putting together the tutorials?
I first found out about Framer by reading some articles about it, and I was impressed with all the cool prototypes I saw people were creating with it.
When I tried it out, I was amazed how powerful it was, especially if you want to create micro-interactions. I wrote a tutorial on it that was well received and was later approached by O’Reilly to create a video course on Framer. I had all this extra material from it so I started Prototyping With Framer with tutorials for beginners to learn Framer through step-by-step tutorials.
Has Framer wound up being used in your work a lot? How so?
I’ll use Framer when I want to prototype an idea I’m thinking of or if there is a specific interaction I want to communicate. It makes it easier when working with developers. Instead of static wireframes and annotations that show the beginning and end state, they can see what’s supposed to happen in between those states. With Framer, the level of detail and control is really great.
As somebody intimidated by the coding aspect of it, do you think it’s something I should know as a UX Designer?
There’s a lot of prototyping tools out there, each with their own pros and cons. There are better tools out there if you are just prototyping a flow. Framer is a great tool for designing micro-interactions but it has a higher learning curve since it’s based on code but that’s also what makes it so powerful – you can prototype almost anything.
So what does UX look like at Wallaby? What sorts of users and scenarios are you designing for?
Wallaby helps people use their best credit card. We design for people with multiple credit cards and help them choose which card to use so they can get the best rewards. We also have to consider different scenarios credit cards are used, such as when the bill is due, a big purchases, how much credit they’ve used, etc. We design for all the different scenarios in which people take out their credit card, whether it’s shopping in a retail store or online.
Since we deal with finance, it’s really important to have a great user experience so people trust Wallaby is safe and secure.
What are some of the challenges you face with your work?
If you design for everyone, you design for no one and just end up with a solution that’s “okay”. We have to focus our designs for our core users by talking with them, doing user testing, and looking at the analytics to see what is being used, what problems they are experiencing, and how we can get them to their goals faster.
One example is we’ve made it a lot easier for users to just get started with the mobile app by eliminating as many early barriers as possible so users can get started as painlessly as possible and see the value of the app.
It’s also important to keep up with technology and push the limits of what’s possible. For example, before, people had to pull out and unlock their phone, find our app, launch it, and specify where they are at to get a recommendation.
Now all they have to do is walk into a store and we’re able to send a push notifications with what credit card they should use based on their location. This was a feature we always wanted to implement but wasn’t possible on the older phones because of battery life.
Finally, I’ll be looking to start my full-time career pretty soon. Any advice on how to present myself as a new UX Designer?
It’s really important to show off your thought process and how you got to your final design. Having a portfolio of your best work with case studies that identify a problem, highlight the steps you took, the solution and the result will help. Don’t just show the end result but instead should show off your deliverables such as personas, flow charts, sketches, and wireframes that influenced your design decisions. If you don’t have any real world experience that you can show, there are tons of bad products out there that could use some UX help.
My other piece of advice is to always keep learning and stay up to date with the field. UX is a multidisciplinary field so learning new skills or improving existing ones never hurts.