Sam Lolla is one of the creators of MadeinA2.com and the founder and director of Directed Works, a company focused on product development and user experience design for startups. Lolla taught product design at the University of Michigan, and these days works independently with clients from Ann Arbor to the San Francisco Bay area to create products using a new app he put together to make collaborative design more efficient, called Shuffleboard. Recently, Lolla put together a video series on his journey designing and building a startup and documenting every step on Youtube.
You go to the zoo, but you’ve just missed the lions, who are taking a break in the shade across the enclosure. Sometimes, visits to zoos and museums are like this. What if the app on your phone helped you plan your visit, buzzed you when the lions were being fed, and when you pointed your camera at their faces, it identified them for you by name using machine learning and gave you info on their health and history? Geoxhibit, from Ann Arbor design firm Orangesplash, is a new app that brings all kinds of custom features to museums, zoos, and gardens that helps visitors not only connect with the enormous amount of specialized knowledge held by exhibits and staff on site, but also customize their visit with exhibit planning, customized scavenger hunts, and more.
“You can always make a better conduit of communication to people who can more directly solve that problem.” Nina Schell, a UX Design Lead for Thomson Reuters’ tax software arm in Ann Arbor, says that her role in developing software programs and user interfaces is all about communication, about building bridges between different departments. It’s…
Mike McLeod helped start Eli Review as a project at Michigan State, to help connect professors and students online. The project took off as an online learning platform over the past 5 years, and now McLeod isn’t so much aiming to always disrupt with new products. “I’m about evangelizing for incremental improvement,” he says. “Maintenance…
Mike Beasley of Amazon is the co-chair of UX Ignite MI with his colleague Andrea Neuhoff of Thompson-Reuters. Together they represent a cohort of user experience and product design professionals that are a growing pool of talent in the Michigan area. “Amazon has found Detroit a rewarding place to hire,” Beasley says. “Until Amazon moved in, there was a lot of talent not being tapped.”
Jonathon Baugh, Experience Architect Senior Manager at Pillar Technology, loves his farm. And karate. And maps. And especially people. He uses all of these disparate topics as basis for talks he gives on user experience and design. “In the design community we have to take inspiration from outside of industry,” he says, in order to gain new insights into why and how things are done and what we take for granted. This helps Baugh make new connections between ideas for great user experience. “That’s a powerful technique,” he says. There’s something about studying maps in particular, learning about new worlds, that leads to great product road maps. “Overlaying two topics, to me, is how I make a difference.”
It was packed to capacity and standing room only. The sixth annual UX Ignite meetup on user experience held this year at Circ Bar next to the Blind Pig on downtown Ann Arbor’s west side was an almost comedy club type setup for some very engaging speakers on the subjects of digital product design, user experience… and goats. One speaker, Jonathon Baugh of Pillar, had recently moved to the country west of Ann Arbor to start a family farm, so his talk focused on the parallel lessons between running a farm and the user experience of technology products. He told stories about surprisingly predictable seasonal visits from owls, and how he learned you have to catch the maple syrup at the exact right time of spring when the up and down cold weather makes the sap run. “Think about the season your users are going through,” he said, pointing to a photo of his toddler son drinking from a maple sap tap hose. “And learn to lean in to your users.” Instead of telling users what they need, listen to how they already use products and interfaces. The example for this? His goats found ways to knock down trees as snacks. Instead of restraining them, Baugh started a yearly tradition of feeding his goats an offering of recycled Christmas trees. Creating new routines on the farm and in technology can also create unintended users, he said, pointing to a video of him petting a “trash panda,” an opossum who was attracted to the farm’s new offerings.