Two Minutes With” is Weber Shandwick Seattle’s employee spotlight series that provides professional and personal insight into our rockstar team. Today, we’re highlighting our new senior UX designer, Mark Ellis. Mark joins us from our New York office and has been with Weber Shandwick for nearly three years. Enjoy! 

You just made the jump from our Weber NYC office to Seattle. Sooo, Dunkin or Starbucks?
(eyes lighting up with terror)  Umm… You do have coffee shops out here other than Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, right?

You’re a Senior UX Designer…explain your role on the team.
User experience is, quite simply, the way a user feels when interfacing with a system. In our context, this generally means the experience they have when using a website or mobile application we create. We want our users to feel good, and if we’ve done our jobs well, they’ll love what we build. But that wasn’t always the case. Back in the early days of the web, we only worried about two things when designing a website: what looked awesome and what the client wanted.

As the web became increasingly more complex, we realized something was getting lost: the user. Quite literally. The more features we could cram into a website, the more likely it was that if you asked users how the system worked, they didn’t know. That was bad. Thus was born the philosophy of user-centered design. At its core, this means carefully considering the user’s needs and making sure that whatever we create is easy, intuitive and engaging for them. In other words, ask lots of questions early and often, and then use that research to guide the design process.

So the role of the UX designer is to help guide the design process by conducting stakeholder interviews to identify business goals and define requirements. We then make sure those align with user needs by analyzing audience research, conducting user interviews and utilizing established UX best practices. These requirements are then translated into a set of specifications called wireframes. These are essentially line drawings that describe all the features, functionalities and actions a user can take. The UX designer then works with the art directors, copywriters and content strategists during the visual design phase to make sure that any enhancements and improvements we make still align with the goals and requirements established at the beginning. During development,  the UX designer works with the developers to answer any questions or work with the team to come up with solutions if any technical challenges arise. Finally, the UX designer works with the team to guide a thorough QA process. QA, or quality assurance, simply means that we thoroughly test everything to ensure that the product we deliver looks and functions as designed.

What keeps you most excited about coming to work each day?
The thing that is most exciting to me is the idea that my work can make life better for users. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple sweepstakes entry or way to schedule a cancer screening. If the system we design can be made to function better, with more thought provided to the user’s actual needs, in a way that’s both intuitive and engaging, that’s a home run to me. It’s a thrill watching general ideas begin to take shape in the wireframes, become beautiful visual designs during art direction, and then fully interactive systems brought to life by the developers. Seeing the numbers come back and knowing that people out there in the world are enjoying what we create: that’s what excites me about working at Weber Shandwick.

Music, mountains, messy fashion…what do you look most forward to about living in your new city?
I’m looking forward to a pleasant bicycle ride to work instead of being smooshed, for an hour, cheek-to-cheek against 400 grumpy New Yorkers in a smelly subway car. I love NYC and will miss it dearly, but I will not miss the morning commute. 

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