I’m Phong Tran, an UX designer. I like to think weird.
I’m really good at connecting different dots together.
I have an instinct for different disciplines blending design, product, business, and code. It helps me leap into projects fast, and more importantly communicate broadly across the whole team.
Totes. The CEO and the Developer may have the same goals. But often they tend to speak different languages, and they don’t translate too well. "Make it more pretty" doesn’t make for a good JIRA story. So I like to be in the meeting room, and express ideas in ways that everyone clicks with.
Figure out how Intel Intelligent Systems could revamp its website. Intelligent Systems refers to internet-connected devices and electronics ("Internet-of-things" is the common term.)
As a contractor to the agency with the account, I was given some existing persona research, and action goals (Learn, Plan, Decide.) From there, I wanted to start from perspective of their motivations. So to help me conceptualize that, I imagined what the major question each persona had.
With those questions in-mind, I started the usual process of analyzing the current website, assessing its content, and then looking at competitors and sources of inspiration.
This project had a very fast turnaround, so I kept the sketches, and just showed the wireframes to the agency.
I wanted to play with ideas such as an “ideas playground.” Something highly interactive that satisfies all three personas. It showed Intel had lots of live applications, knowledge to build them, and even inspire the personas to make their ideas bigger. It was worth embracing the marketing terms, and elevating them to speak to the CMO. You can always get more technical in the deeper documents and resources.
The original assignment was just wireframes, but the agency was interested in seeing these ideas expressed in high-fidelity. So I looked at the branding and styling that Intel had at the time, and shaped that over the structure. I developed two visual expressions of what the brand said to me.
As a Senior UX Designer on a scrappy team, there's a wide range of tasks to do. It covers the standard UX and visual and prototyping duties. But as a designer on a 16-year old cloud-service web application, there's a need for a lot of collaboration to even just figure what the system can't do. Lots of legacy code and features and diverse client base can quickly complicate any project. Even user research is complex because the client base ranged from a small business to the largest of corporations. Designing for the common use case is more of an artful analysis than designing, say, a calendar app.
The funny thing about a web application that's old enough to drive is that even responsive design can be a massive undertaking. There are literally hundreds of pages. All of which are in slightly different code bases, and different states of neglect. Meaning just recommending a visual tweak to an UI control means that nobody is really sure what will break.
But nevertheless, a small cross-functional team (UX, front-end, and product) was formed, and each week a major layout or control was tackled. Slowly, a product guide was roughed out, and every new thing got scoped and proposed.
Even that though quickly split into two conversations. While the front-end focused on transitioning the current code to new responsive layouts. We had to plan for this interim period as the entire product suite would be updated piece-by-piece. So as the UX team, we had to maintain the "short-term" designs while keeping the "future-ideal" version in-mind. The transition needed as much design thinking as the product itself.
The company excelled at the buyers of companies, but the knowledge of the end-users was more ambigious. So teaming up with the Product Managers, we embarked on a series of research efforts to rediscover the end-user.
We used a combination of phone conferences, surveys, and on-site visits to capture a specific category of our users: administrators. We knew they were the ones changing, updating, and maintaining the system for their companies, but we didn't know how they worked.
So phone conferences allowed us to hear them explain their duties and tasks in their own words. They talked about their teams, needs, daily tasks, major projects. On-site visits let us see how they used our product, all the side documentation they created to support their jobs, and their general process. Then a large survey was sent collecting a lof of qualitative information about their tasks. But it let us see how frequently certain things occurred.
The combination of all that research allowed us to build a strong sense who our admins were, and how they worked. This directly influenced all of the immediate projects including dashboards.
Images not yet available. Many projects aren't public yet.
Being the lead designer at HR Cloud meant I was responsible for a lot of communication and coordination. The product suite focused on HR services for small to mid-sized businesses. It meant it had a lot of leeway in being highly-consumer friendly. Less restrictions than a straight B2B cloud application. So the style was bright and friendly. The designers on my team could let the content breathe, and keep the workflows compact.
My day-to-day was working with Product Managers and the CEO to mature new functionality and apps. Then working with the team to bring them to life. It helped to have the developers close, and we all could collaborate quickly and pivot as the idea matured.
The counterpart to HR Cloud was NEOGOV. A HR cloud service suite geared for government bodies. Unlike HR Cloud, NEOGOV is an enterprise-level set of applications. Highly configurable and accounted for many different workflows. I helped transition NEOGOV to a new visual and UX design system. It would have similarities to HR Cloud to keep it within a family. However, it’s expansiveness and complicated interactions meant differing in more conventional patterns.
My time at IBM had two major initiatives. One was my assigned product, dashDB. There I was traditional UX designer working to rebuild their large-storage database cloud service. The other initiative was the IBM Design Studio. A large effort to infuse IBM with modern design practices and thinking.
I was just one cog in this mission, but the mission was so ambitious that it affected every part of IBM. It was multi-pronged plan to educate existing employees about design and Design Thinking, hire designers to implement those techniques, and to rebuild existing IBM products to modern standards. This meant many internal workshops, presentations, and simple hard work. Many teams had to restructure their processes and ways to include these new ideas.
As a designer on a product team, I was tasked with both doing traditional design but also to implement the ideals of the IBM Design Studio. This meant a lot of phone calls and meetings to align and educate the existing team. Also, a lot of teaching and course-correction to get to major milestones.
In many ways, the product had to be completely rebooted. So the design team and I kicked off new user research, user journeys. Even some basic product roadmapping, and goal setting. Often, I would take designs and convert them into clickable prototypes for the broader team to realize the ideas.
The result was the start of a consumer-friendly product that had the power of an enterprise-level database. Something you can kick off instantly, and get your data into the IBM cloud so you could start working.
When we started working on Luci during my time at Catalyst Studios, there was a market gap for companies. Consumers had Pinterest, but companies didn’t have an equivalent. Luci was meant to be that. I worked with the other UX designer, and worked on the motion interactions. I leaned on the front-end code while he leaned more on the visual work.
The task for Catalyst Studios was to develop a viable platform for our client to sell to sports teams. Their big dream was a platform that let both fans at-home and in the stadium be engaged in the same digital space.
In terms of implementation, this platform combined social media, live scores, and mini contests. The idea was clients could create games and contests for users to participate in. Examples would be submitting the best related photo or trivia quizzes or “guess that song.” It could also involve games at the stadium itself such as finding the mascot.
The client wanted scalability, so the app had to be fully responsive for any device. There was a lot of complex data and diversity of different media types. Not to mention badges, and scores, and leaderboards. So kept things modular, and thought about what turned into drawers and carousels.
I wasn’t expecting to tackle this part of the project, but it turned out to fit my brain well. I did research in viral online games, and looked at how they were structured. Taking that framework, I worked out a point system that would scale well over, say, a season of basketball. To keep users engaged throughout the whole year.
We would brainstorm potential games and contests that earned points. Social posts would also earn points. We had a badge system and level rankings that got progressively harder to advance. A key aspect to keeping interest was to slowly lengthen the time it takes to get the next milestone.
Sometimes I get an idea that makes me laugh, so I have to make it. This app replicates the experience of audio tours at museums. But I’ve substituted my own audio tracks for you to follow.
In the ideal version, the app would cover many museums. It would be free to start. Future versions would let you purchase special tours with guests or new concepts. But as an one-man operation, I also had to think of the smaller MVP. (And as the main coder, I had to figure out things like the data structure and architecture.)
It had been years since I opened Xcode. So long ago that there was already a new language called Swift. Have to say though it was really was easier to use. Hooray for that.
The positive to an one-man operation is that I can flex and pivot quickly as I go. I knew I wanted the images to big and bright. And the general masses have gotten used to Soundcloud, Spotify, etc. So I had a lot of options to express the UI.
A major potato farm had a problem. They were promoting their star logistics man, and that was great. But the problem was the software he was using was literally from the MS-DOS days. The age of when 16 colors was a lot. And no one else but him knew how to use the system. So the project was to create modern software that could keep the farm humming, but wasn’t from the Stone Age.
The project started with a good old field trip to the farm. Where my contractor and I saw the software, what the employees did, and even saw the potatoes being harvested live.
From there, I started imagining what this dream software could be. It resulted a long work deck that described the many functions that it could cover. Also, the UX patterns that could help manage the massive sets of data.
Just your average blog. Usually not about design, but observations about culture, self-confidence, and random thoughts about technology. It’s called "Dynamic Hypocrisy" because it turns out younger versions of me were often wrong. So I have to stay flexible with the hypocrisy. Visit site
Small Fish & Ponds
Learning to adjust and how to see myself when I moved from the Midwest to LA.
The ideal fitness tracker for me.
Growing up on spring rolls, and how that shaped my brain.
A reminder to myself that people paying millions for art is okay…I think.
My most recent experiments involve podcasting. This is my solo project with a mix of skits and long-form interviews. The skits are silly while the interviews feature good friends. Good smart friends. It’s a good exercise for me to practice listening. Visit site
"Asian Identity" Pt. 2 - Tim Lee & Miki Poy
Three people, all Asian-American, talk about growing up as a minority, and we deal with racial issues as teenagers and today as adults.
Endings with Nisse Greenberg
Talking to Nisse about creative output, confidence, and endings.
I narrate an audio adventure of walking through a carpet store.
DJing with Scott Strubberg
Talking to Scott about DJing, his past jobs, and the mindset behind someone who’s incredibly afraid of crowds but keeps taking on public events.
My buddy, Mikey McCollor, and I do a podcast where we pick a topic, and a beverage that matches. Mostly pop culture, and whatever comes to mind at the time. Visit site
Cup Of Coffee
The main topic revolves about writer’s block, and ways of looking at art.
Orange Juice With Pulp - Orange Juice Without Pulp
A special episode where we both talk about parallel universes and we don’t talk about parallel universes.
We touch on 90’s music from N*SYNC, Hanson, and other bands we listened to.