How We Work: Building Better Experiences / by Gavin Lau

Companies are finally beginning to realize that designing the best user experience is essential in today’s world of technology immersion. It’s clear that how the user interacts with the system, and how efficiently and simply they can achieve their goals, is as important as the system itself.

Generally, there are two different ways a team can go about designing technology:

  • Developer-led: where developers guide feature design, which usually ends up with as many drop downs and radio buttons as can fit in a given sized form. Up until Windows 10, this was the primary way Windows was built.
  • Designer-led: where designers create what’s visually appealing without thinking too much about technical constraints and data issues. While designs and visual representations can show what something looks like, it’s hard to replicate the real experience of the product until it is actually built. And unlike a piece of paper or a static screen mock up, real experiences are hard for users to forgive, let alone forget.


The Opportunity Cost of Silos

The reality is that when design and development operate in silos, companies risk building something that either compromises the user experience or takes longer to get to market. Either of these risks could be detrimental given the “breakneck” pace of innovation.

It took the technology industry quite a long time, but we have finally reached an epiphany: the best way to create meaningful technology products and services is to bring developers, designers and users together to imagine, build, test and improve the next generation experiences.


Design and Development: Better Together

We often talk about what sets Artefact apart. We pride ourselves on designing experiences that offer preferable outcome for users, partners, and society. We are dedicated to excellence in thinking and craft, in deliverables and service. But equally as important, we pride ourselves on the ability to actually build what we design with developers who are seamlessly integrated into the design process, bring passion for both code and design to the final product.

How we do it

From the onset of a project, our teams work closely together with developers helping to ground our design in what’s possible, as well as show designers potential solutions they may not know about. As the design goes from concept to realization, this close relationship allows for a streamlined process that eliminates communication lags and facilitates a more accurate interpretation of the design intent. With this approach, we build better products, faster and more cost effectively, with a higher overall return on investment.


Development Project Types

While our developers often serve as advisors across the entire range of projects we work on, there are several types of projects they are typically more involved in.


We work with a lot of up-and-coming technologies, developing interactions and experiences that have never existed before. In order to stay on the cutting edge of the cutting edge, we create prototypes, or interact-able ‘things’ that help us test our vision. That ‘thing’ could take the form of software, hardware or a combination of both.

For instance, we recently created BrakePack, an internal working prototype designed to improve cyclist safety. This was the perfect blend of form, function, design and technology. While our developers worked to create custom code for a built-in accelerometer, they collaborated with industrial designers on what kind of battery and computer could fit into the bag. They also worked with our user experience designers on how BrakePack would communicate with a companion mobile app, all while still looking fly enough for the coolest cyclist. The result is a technology product that is as much about what it can do as it is how it looks.

Another prototype we built was based around the new Edison board from Intel. It was as an exploration in the lighter side of IoT devices, which helped us discover the pros and cons of using brand new technology to create PizzaTime, the most important alarm clock ever made to order pizza.

Front-end design and build

Research, user testing, human-centered design and implementation: this is where it all comes together. Artefact’s work on this level of engagement serves a dual purpose:

  • First, what is designed is what is built, and what is built is what the users want.
  • Second, this type of engagement allows the client’s development team to remain focused on maintaining, building and supporting current systems and solutions, while our development team does what we do best – bring our designs to life.

Clients across the board, from enterprise companies like BMC and Fluke to technology companies like Microsoft, and education technology companies, have all partnered with us in this way, where we complement their development resources with one or more of the skills we have in house.


Whole system design and build

When a client doesn’t have an internal development team or they are spinning off something brand new, they often reach out to us to be their comprehensive design and development partner. This model of collaboration, which includes research, strategy, design and development, reduces cost, streamlines decisions and ensures the integrity of the solution. Our developers have deep expertise in complete, web-scale architecture and development, having built solutions like PIRCH Advisor and 10,0000ft Insights.


What It Takes

There are several conditions that need to hold true for a model like ours to work:

Hybrid experts

You don’t know what you don’t know. That’s why our teams are a blend of design-minded technologists like Mariano as well as tech-savvy designers like Brad.

Client collaboration

Having a consultancy play an instrumental role in the development of your product and service requires trust. And trust is built through collaboration and communication. We work with client development teams from the onset: while we handle the front-end work, they focus on implementing the back-end changes needed to match the design.

Process agnostic

While we have our experience-tested preferences for most processes and tools, clients often face realities that require us to change it up. That’s why we are technology and process agnostic, and work hard to maintain our expertise across environments, methodologies, suppliers and technologies. Close alignment with the design team allows us to easily adjust our approach, as well as phase in and out of projects as needed to react to the evolving project requirements in real time. For a more detailed explanation of our processes, check out our thoughts on different project management methodologies.


There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Team’

When design and development operate independently of each other in a world that moves as fast as ours, companies are at a much greater risk of creating a user experience that is lacking, or taking too long to get their solution in front of actual users. The cost of creating a subpar experience, or missing an oppotunity to a competitor who was faster to the gate could be detrimental. When the stakes are as high as they are these days, we believe in creating teams that can work together to imagine, build, test and improve an experience to create meaningful solutions for a better future.