Welcome to Q&Agency! Each week, I get to talk to agencies small and large and get to hear (in their words) what differentiates them and the experiences they create. To help bring some of that information to you, I plan to showcase an ongoing series of interviews with small to mid-size interactive and design agencies. If you'd like to see your agency or an agency you work with here, let me know!

On March 16th, I talked with Rebecca Flavin, CEO and Peyton Lindley, Executive Director of UX Design and Technology at EffectiveUI. Although they were both busy at SXSW, they were kind enough to chat with me. Edited excerpts from that conversation follow.


Forrester: Tell me a little bit about EffectiveUI?

Rebecca: EffectiveUI is a full service user experience agency based in Denver, Colorado with offices in Rochester, New York and Vancouver, British Columbia. We specialize in the custom design and development of Web, desktop, and mobile applications with a zealous focus on driving user adoption and loyalty. We primarily work with Fortune 1000 and enterprise companies across multiple industry verticals. Our team is passionate about improving the quality of people’s lives through their interactions with technology and brands.

Forrester: What’s your elevator pitch?

Rebecca: Typically brands or companies come to us when they want to differentiate or significantly improve their cross-channel customer experience, and recognize that user-centered design, cross-platform development expertise and quality execution is critical to their success. This is particularly important given the rapidly evolving technology landscape and consumer market. Companies need to deliver valuable, useful and consistent brand experiences regardless of the channel or device their customers are using, and that requires bringing together a unique and highly specialized team of UX research, design and technology service professionals.

Peyton: Another way to think about it is that we focus on the retention and relationship between brand and customers as opposed to simply focusing on awareness and acquisition.

Forrester: What differentiates EffectiveUI?

Peyton: 1) Our core competencies. We have a design research department which focuses on a variety of approaches to discover customer insight (including both qualitative and quantitative measures), yielding actionable findings for our client as well as our internal teams. 2) Our design department is structured differently from most digital agencies – there’s no hard divide between interaction and visual design. Most of our designers are equally well versed in interaction and visual design. This helps us prevent anything from being lost in translation. 3) Our developers are also well versed in user-centered design methodologies and principles. There’s a lot of collaboration between designers and developers. We get developers involved out of the gate and they put as much thought into the solution as designers do. We don’t believe that designers own the great ideas and developers just execute them.

Forrester: How does EffectiveUI deliver a great customer experience for your clients (and their customers)?

Rebecca: When we work with our clients, we educate them on the importance of understanding their customers from an experiential perspective. For example, what are their customers’ current motivations, obstacles, behaviors, and desires when they interact with their brand, site and/or software, or how do their surroundings or environment impact their ability to accomplish their goals or use their products or services, etc. We educate our clients and other key stakeholders on how this type of insight will inform and direct our design approach, as well as help them (and us) deliver on their business and customer goals.

We’ve also seen many clients come to us because another agency delivered beautiful designs, but they weren’t functional and couldn’t be implemented by the client’s IT team. That’s another reason why we place so much focus and emphasis on designer and developer collaboration. Compromises sometimes have to be made, and a great design ultimately has to be able to be integrated and implemented with the existing systems.

We like to use a lot of visual deliverables to communicate our direction and progress along the way to ensure that we are ultimately meeting both users’ and clients’ goals. We also use rapid prototyping and user validation and testing to save our clients time and money in the long run. Many companies end up spending a significant amount of money correcting usability issues or flaws during the maintenance phase (post launch). The majority of time, these costs could have been reduced or negated altogether by incorporating user research, testing and validation during the design and development process.

Forrester: What is it like to work at Effective UI?

Peyton: We have a very open and collaborative culture – that’s even reflected in the way our office is structured. We don’t have a classic creative director structure where one person has to review and approve everything before it reaches the client. Instead we allow our teams to be small, nimble, and autonomous, empowering them to make decisions with our clients based on engagement-specific needs. We adapt to both waterfall and Agile methodologies in order to support the native approach of our client’s organization. That said, we encourage our clients to experiment with a variety of software development methodologies, as we’re big believers in producing actionable prototypes that can allow for user feedback and rapid iteration.

Rebecca: We have a lot of incredible talent. I’m always learning from our teams and I know they’re always learning from each other. Our employees thrive on innovation, a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding and empathy for the users they are designing and developing for.

We want to foster a culture where everyone has a voice and continues to expand and grow their skills. Some of our best creative ideas come from our developers and some of our most analytical and critical thinking comes from our designers. We like all of our teams to be engaged throughout the entire design and development process, thereby promoting a very hands-on and collaborative environment.