31Three creates beautiful products and interfaces for clients like Steinway & Sons, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Universal Studios. We had a chance to talk to 31Three Founder and UI Designer Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain about working with clients and crafting great user experiences.
Tell us about yourself and your work.
I am a UI Designer and owner of 31Three, a small design studio in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. We (Drew Warkentin and myself) primarily focus on helping development teams with their design needs. This can look a little different from project to project but it usually involves everything from information architecture to prototyping to creating pattern libraries.
31Three is unique in that you only take on one project at a time. How did you make that switch and how has that affected your work?
The first project I used this method of billing for was the redesign of the ExpressionEngine suite of sites back in 2007. When I was asked how much the project would cost, I wasn’t really sure how to price it. The scope was pretty fuzzy, and my role in the project was fairly liquid as well. I focused mainly on design, but would jump into code from time to time as well. I floated the idea of charging a flat rate per month, and they agreed to it.
That project ended up being some of the best work I had put out in my career up to that point, and I think the billing method had a lot to do with it. As a designer I attempt to do everything I can to align myself with the client and their goals. I've found that at times when billing by the project, I would be hoping in the back of my mind that the client wouldn't have any more revisions or changes. With a flat rate, those thoughts don't typically come up.
This method of billing doesn’t work for every project, but I've found that where it does, it works extremely well.
How do you teach clients about the importance of user experience, and not just beautiful design, in making a project successful?
Along with working with a single client at a time, I also work closely with their development teams. More often that not, these teams already understand the importance of a positive user experience, but just need some help in executing it.
I like to ask questions. Lots of questions. I go into a client relationship with an assumption that they know more about their customers than I do. My goal is to learn from them and do my best to translate their knowledge into a product that their customers love to use.
Every website and app is unique, but there are consistent ingredients that contribute to great user experiences. What is that to you?
Something that I'm always impressed and delighted with is a site or an app that is fast. When one of my to dos syncs instantly to my phone or when a web page loads faster than I would expect it usually leaves me with a (sometimes subconscience) feeling of confidence and trust in the company. Speed is usually looked upon as something that is refined in the development stages of a project, but the visual design of an app can actually have an effect on how fast a product "feels" as well.
How do you integrate UX Kits into your workflow?
Once I have my head wrapped around the complexity of the app I'm working on, I'll start mapping out the different screenflows in Illustrator using UX Kits. I find the fidelity of the templates perfect for myself and clients. They have just enough detail that clients don't confuse them for literal wireframes while at the same time communicating some of the low level functions each page might include. All while looking great!