Designing for Happy Users: A Conversation with Drew Lepp

Photo from Drew Lepp Designs

Drew Lepp is a user experience designer currently working in Washington, D.C.

In 2010, she established Drew Lepp Designs which has evolved into an amazing network of developers, designers, illustrators, researchers, publicists, videographers and social media strategists.

I am big fan of her style, particularly the thoughtful way she presents project findings and deliverables, and I wanted to learn more about her experience and what her day-to-day life is like as a UX designer.

More about Drew:

*Drew’s responses to the following Q&A are paraphrased from an interview on 2/14/16.

What is your background? What led you to where you are today?

Drew has always had a strong interest in design. At age 16, she began working in web design. She was a journalism major in college and worked for two newspapers, then moved on to event planning. Ready to move on from event planning, she taught herself coding in six months and the rest is history!

What were some of the challenges when first starting Drew Lepp Designs?

Time management – time is money as a freelancer and the more you work the more you make. Working like crazy is only sustainable to a certain point though and you need work life balance! You can make sacrifices to a certain point, but you can still have fun.

What is a typical day like for you?

There is no typical day. She will usually start her mornings off by coordinating her day, answering emails, scheduling meetings, etc. She will then move onto design work. She would divide her day as about 30% design work and 70% other things – it is lot of juggling! She has to make sure the people she is working with and for are happy and that everything runs smoothly.

What do you like most about what you do?

Drew likes working with people – helping start-ups, entrepreneurs, anybody! She likes bringing ideas to life and making users lives easier. There is a satisfaction to making people happy.

I really love the way you present your findings for companies such as Contactually and CrowdBrowse, and just the way you present yourself online in general (website, intro video, etc.) — what inspires this style? How do these stylistic choices help you?

Drew’s style has evolved over time. She likes working with bright color and acknowledged that what people like is subjective, so you should put as much out there as possible so there are no surprises. Clients can get an impression of what you are like before they meet you, which is important especially as solo designer. The more they know about you before before coming in, the more they will know it will be a good fit.

Drew has found success setting herself apart; she advised to let who you are come through and be authentic – here is no reason to hide it. You can have fun no matter what and being too serious or pretentious is not the spirit of have we do at all.

I have seen through reading your blog and browsing through your Twitter, that you really put emphasis on and care about the happiness of the users. Can you speak more to this and the importance of emotional intelligence?

It is super important. Her design philosophy is to create a pleasant experience for users and making it so easy they do not even have to think about it. Examples she mentioned are playing a video game or reading a good book. You get lost in time and are totally immersed in the experience. Drew’s goal is to create that experience.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing your industry today?

Selling its importance. There is still selling her position a lot and constantly selling what user experience can do. It has a purpose and is important!

Design can get a bad wrap – rationale and reason behind suggestions you make – so you need to back up everything with research.

How do you see the field changing in the next 5 years?

Tools will always change. It will become increasingly important as we move further beyond web apps into fields like healthcare and AI. There will be more data to improve things for people – really nothing but growth!

Any advice for those just entering/about to enter the field?

Just design and put yourself out there! Don’t be afraid to get out there and make mistakes. Figure out who you are as a designer and what your design philosophy is.

Oh, and fake it till you make it. 

I would like to thank Drew for her insights and time. You can follow Drew on Twitter and visit her website to learn more about her work. You should also check out Timekat, an app Drew is working on that is a project management and time tracking tool for creative freelancers.