‘You can’t be sure of design until you bring in a user to test it’ – 24 hours with…Eugene Boey of Section

Digital agency Section's creative partner Eugene Boey takes us through a day spent getting user interfaces and experience just right, with a break for a little gossip and a few rounds of muay thai

8.00am: Rise and shine. When we started Section, we realised that most creatives are not morning people (speaking about ourselves). So, we decided to start our workday later than other agencies. This gives us the liberty to wake up a little later and avoid the mad rush hour.

9.00am: My wife and I head to the coffee shop downstairs to get our kopi peng siew dai [‘ice coffee less sweet’]. Along the way to her office, we talk about everything, especially our eight-year-old shih tzu. I drop her off at work and reach the office around 10.00am.

My favorite kopi uncle and aunty

10.00am: Before the full team arrives between 10.30am and 11.00am, I take time to read articles, catch up on email, and have a quick bite.

The field of user interface and user experience (UI/UX) is still relatively new, so a lot of its processes and workflows are evolving, with new apps being rolled out constantly.

Reading up on this really helps me improve our processes at Section. Recently, we’ve been working on creating a massive digital design library on graphics editor Sketch. Medium articles have been a lifesaver.

11.00am: This is when the action kicks in.

Now that all the teams and leads are in, I check with our project managers, account service suits, art directors, and writers to determine our sprint for this week.

We set the deliverables we’ll need to share during our weekly work-in-progress sessions with our clients.

We involve the design team too, rather than just the servicing team, so both the clients and our designers can be aligned on the direction of the project and discuss any concerns.

This week, we need to deliver two key sections of a portal revamp that include the revisions based on last week’s meeting.

I share my vision with my senior art director, and she splits the workload with the junior designer. Tasks set and assigned on Asana (our beloved and hated project management tool), we start working.

12.00pm: My role in Section is mainly creating user journeys for the client’s product. That includes low-to-high-fidelity wireframes to make sure the content and flow of each page works before they are handed over to my senior art director to work her magic.

Here in Section, UI and UX go hand in hand. No matter how hard you plan for the perfect experience, the interface is the one that translates this experience.

I throw out sketches of the page in pen and paper to run through the journey with my senior art director. As a ‘sound’ check, I believe UI/UX should always be discussed, and she is like my first ‘user test’. She gives her input on how to improve the interface and potentially make it look better.

1.30pm: I head out for lunch and catch up with my creative partner, Roy, who leads the marketing and social side of the business.

Along with many other great hawkers around the office, our go-to roasted pork stall.

He shares that they are pitching for a global video streaming platform, and he has been watching tonnes of K-drama to prepare for it.

Moving from an advertising background to UI/UX has been great, but I still appreciate a fun campaign or beautifully shot video. So, the kaypoh (‘busybody’) in me takes this time to find out what the other creatives are working on.

2.30pm: One of the most important components of UI/UX is actually having the user test it. I’m very appreciative that the clients we work with have their own research team that brings our prototype to the user and tests them out.

I always emphasise to our clients that there are no right or wrong design solutions that we can be sure of until we bring them to the users. (Unless the design is a horrible mess.)

Today, we’re testing out a new payment flow for a local transport app.

The researcher sits in the room beside us with the user, but he zoom-calls us so we can observe their conversation. Meanwhile another camera captures the user’s interactions with our prototype. We have created four variations of the payment flow for this two-day user testing. Now we sit and observe with our fingers crossed that at least one will make sense to these users. Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board for us.

So far, the session is going great. Most of the interviewees can figure out how our prototypes work without much prompting or explanation. Opinions are torn between variations one and three. That’s two options for us to refine and explore further with their feedback.

One big takeaway is that because we didn’t have time to bring these prototypes to an interaction-based prototyping tool, some users struggled to swipe, causing it to fail.

In the next user testing, we must allow for enough time to make it work as close to the real thing as possible.

Having a one-to-one with a user

5.00pm: Quick regroup with the art team. For bigger projects, we have multiple art directors working on different sections of the project.

Our current ‘library’ is a wall of past drafts and sketches. We regroup here constantly to update one another on the design problems we are facing that might need new components to be designed. We try to make sure this library doesn’t grow out of hand.

The ‘library’- built with masking tape, post-it notes, and months of work

These components and styles are being defined and digitised for the library we’re building on Sketch. If we don’t define it well, the library might not be useful to future designers who work on the website, and that will be a major let-down with months of work going down the drain.

5.30pm: Back to the grind. I convert the sketches shared this morning to a digital format.

My sketches are usually rough boxes with lines to represent text. As I develop them further in Sketch, I dive into details such as the aspect ratio of the image and how it will respond on various devices.

I love writing my own copy to represent what I need. I fill in some lorem ipsum to illustrate the envisioned length of copy, before sharing the wireframe with my copywriter. I send her the link and await her reply. She ponders for a while before correcting my grammar. She gets the flow of the page, and I’ve passed my second ‘user test’.

8.00pm: By this time, my brain is working at a snail’s pace so I call it a day.

I either get changed and attend a muay thai class just beside the office or have dinner with whoever is still at work. I love the Jalan Besar area, where we have access to affordable gyms run by Thais and delicious hawker food.

In the six years since we shifted into the area, we’ve seen the rise of many cafes and restaurants with awesome personality, food and coffee. They coexist perfectly with the many coffeeshops to give you great food regardless of your budget. I believe this is the reason people from every walk of life are drawn to the neighbourhood.

9.30pm: Post muay thai, after taking out all that work frustration on the punching bag, my head is clear, but my legs are wobbly. I take a seat back at the office to clear any remaining tasks that take less brain juice, from testing out the prototypes built by our developers to working on team processes.

Our three-storey shophouse office by night.

The office is quiet at this time, so my business partner seated at level three of the shophouse drops by level one, and we have a quick chat about any important issues. I also catch up on the drama and gossip in the office from him (the walking social media feed).

11pm: I unwind with Netflix or some YouTube videos, depending on how tired I am. This is pretty important to me, as it keeps me up-to-date with trends. My YouTube video choices range from reviews of technologies to Impractical Jokers’ highlights.

Eugene Boey is creative partner at digital agency Section. He is based in Singapore


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