Ryan Smeets HeadshotAs our use of digital devices grows, the quality of our digital contacts and content become increasingly important. How do we create web interactions that are intuitive, informative and worthy of a user’s time and attention? All marketers are faced with this challenge today. At the last AZIMA event on July 23, Ryan Meeks the Director of Client Strategy at Brushfire Interactive shared his perspective and advice on facing the UX & UI conundrum with wit.

Ryan is responsible for how content and technology will strategically shape overall strategies for clients across the country. Ryan brings to Brushfire more than 10 years of experience in strategic marketing and consulting for various clients in varying industries including: professional sports, healthcare, automotive, agriculture, and non-profit organizations.

Ryan earned his Bachelor’s degree from UCLA and his Master’s degree from Georgetown University, however he divulged with the nearly 100 AZIMA attendees that his proudest achievement was winning the “Showcase Showdown” on CBS’ The Price is Right. Yes, clearly Ryan and Bob Barker have a close relationship. 😉

Understanding the Difference Between UI & UX

For those of you who aren’t as fluent in nerd as I am, I’ll briefly define the two key terms at hand in Ryan’s presentation for context. UX Design refers to the term User Experience Design, while UI Design stands for User Interface Design. Both elements are crucial to a product and work closely together. But despite their close relationship, the roles themselves are quite different, referring to very different parts of the process within the design discipline. Whereas UX Design is a more analytical and technical field focusing on human behavior principles, UI Design is closer to what we generally hear referred to as graphic design, though the responsibilities are somewhat more complex.

An analogy I’ve heard used before describes it like this:

  • UI is the saddle, the stirrups, and the reigns.
  • UX is the feeling you get being able to ride the horse, and rope your cattle.

Despite how simple it sounds, they do have a complex relationship which Ryan didn’t delve too deeply into in his AZIMA presentation. Mr. Smeets did, however share a few little nuggets that stuck with me. He began with this phenomenal Da Vinci quote.

Da Vinci Quote

And These Gems

In Ryan’s light and entertaining presentation he shared with us what he calls the “trifecta” for UI.

Photo of slide on Trifecta

Ryan gave props to the designers in the room and declared, “Good design is frictionless, inviting, and familiar.” He noted “the recent big rise in the ‘C-level’ design director. It’s proof that design and detail matter.”

As part of his discussion on the way we as humans interact with our environment and the internet today, he added that “if it’s not mobile, it doesn’t exist.” The audience seemed to agree.

He used this imagery, and suggested that this highly integrated, ubiquitous state is where the web will be soon.

This will be the web

Mr. Smeets also explained how “one of the biggest challenges in software is that it’s never done” and went on to share a couple of short case studies about recent work that Brushfire Interactive had done.

He displayed some good examples of “intentionally low fidelity” wireframes and explained that “the goal of a wireframe is to facilitate conversation around features and functions.“

He went on to share how in some cases his team has found it useful to overwhelm the client with all of the suggested features and functions that might be useful in a product. They throw the proverbial kitchen sink at them, and then refine from there. This helps reach an understanding about the importance of simplicity and the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which is a term used most often in the field of product development. It refers to the product with the highest return on investment versus risk. The term was coined and defined by Frank Robinson, and popularized by Steve Blank, and Eric Ries.

See it for Yourself

For a look at Ryan Smeets’ AZIMA presentation deck in its entirety you can find it on slideshare.

[slideshare id=50973925&doc=humaninteractionkeynotebrushfireinteractivejuly2015-150727150029-lva1-app6892]

After the presentation Ryan fielded a few questions from the crowd and spoke easily about his experiences and successes in software development. Based on the Twitter response (#azimaevents) the crowd was pleased with Ryan’s humorous and compelling presentation and are all looking forward to next month’s AZIMA presentation on August 20 by Jordan Koen on Using Data to Build Content. I hope to see you there!

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