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Learn From The Best: An Interview With Product Designer Michael Wong

by Sean Work

michael wong mizko portrait

Here at Crazy Egg, we’re infatuated with design. Graphic design, product design, UX, UI – all of it. And of course, there are a handful of designers that we really admire. Michael Wong is one of them.

You can see Michael’s skill right away when you come face-to-face with his work.

And since Michael is a product designer, you can bet your you-know-what he’s released some of his own products.

Check out bukketapp.com

We decided to reach out to Michael to ask him a few questions.

What’s the best skill to have as a UX designer in today’s world? How has your role/job description evolved over time?

There are many angles to answer this question. I’ll come in from a freelancer’s point of view. It’s difficult to point to one skill and say, that’s the one.

As a Freelance UX Designer, we’re expected to have a good understanding of all aspects of user experience. From UI design, user research to the fundamentals of business. To survive and standout in such a competitive market, I would suggest one thing. Know what your strengths are, be great at it and make it yours!

If we take a look at some of the most renowned athletes and figureheads in today’s world; Usain Bolt, infamous for his unbeatable 9.58s 100m sprint. Quentin Tarantino is known for his unique style of dialogue writing for his movies. Bruce Lee was renowned for his incredible speed and power in martial arts. One which no one has been able to match to this day. Over and over again, they hit the nail on the head with their performances.

They were all remarkable at one thing. They recognized what their strengths were and owned it. Their talent allowed them to stand out.

I’m not saying to neglect other aspects of design. You need them to survive as a designer. What I’m trying to say is, be OK that you’re not great at everything. Have a good foundation, so you have all the skills required to complete a design, but focus more time and effort on your strengths. Standing out from the crowd isn’t about being an expert in everything, it’s about being unique and different from the rest. So be remarkable at what you do, so you’re worth making a remark about.

What’s a recent product experience while shopping (physical, retail) that stands out in your mind?

It wasn’t game-changing, but the (not very visually appealing) store definitely exceeded my expectations. I enjoy attending loud music gigs and after many years, I began to worry about damaging my ears. So, I went ahead and bought some ear plugs.

Upon checking out, I immediately received a confirmation message via Facebook messenger with the standard, thank you and confirmation order number, the item description, delivery address and a comforting message of ‘if you have any questions, message us here’. It was just reassuring that I could easily reach support!

When the item was being delivered, I received another message with a map, the pin on my address and three options to either ‘view order, track shipment or continue shopping’.

Like I said it wasn’t game changing or extremely fancy but the small delights they made throughout the experience made me feel comfortable, safe and trusted as a buyer. That’s how you win as an ecommerce store.

Is there a particular product that you’re really enjoying and having fun with right now? Something that’s making you really happy?

YouTube. I’m big on social media; I really enjoy sharing what I learn with people from all around the world. If you’re a designer, you probably have seen me somewhere on Twitter, Dribbble, my newsletter or also The Designership, which is an exclusive design Slack channel that’s grown tremendously within a couple of weeks.

Youtube channel thumbnail

However, recently I created my very first YouTube channel, where I talk about design, freelancing and entrepreneurship. Sitting in front of a camera, speaking from the heart and seeing hundreds to thousands of other like-minded people watch, like, share and subscribe to my channel is very humbling. I’m still very new to the YouTube scene but I’m definitely going to look forward to investing more time into it.

How do you know when a product/design is “done”? Or, is it ever done?

Ha! Product design is never done. The sooner you realize that, the quicker you’ll grow as a designer and also be able to break away from perfectionism; which is a serious epidemic that affects many designers from all around the world!

Product design is about problem solving. And when you’re building a product whether it’s for parents finding trusted childcare centers or an app to find your lost car in a carpark, the solution can always be made easier and simpler.

The day when product design is ‘done’, is probably when AI is so sophisticated that everything we want is already done before we even think of it.

What books are you reading right now?

I just finished reading ‘Close your eyes’ by Michael Robotham. It exceeded my expectations. Extremely well written with a unique take on telling the story. Couldn’t be happier for my Twitter following to have suggested such a good book.

In terms of design tools, what are some things Adobe XD can do to advance its product line and be on-par with some of their more nimble web design competitors, like Sketch and Avocode?

Adobe XD has really made its mark in such a short period of time. It’s an extremely powerful UI/UX design tool. For me, the only feature that’s missing right now to keep it on-par with Sketch is the developer handover process.

Designing user interfaces in XD is seamless but right now there’s no way to hand over the designs to a developer for them to implement. There’s also no way to sync with InvisionApp, in which Sketch allows via the CRAFT tool or Avocode and Zeplin.

Once this feature rolls out, I think it’s going to seal the deal for many designers. They’ve done very well on creating an end-to-end process for designers. It’s really the holy grail for UI / UX design.

In your mind, what’s the difference between UI and UX? Or, is there a difference?

It’s quite simple. User Experience is the ‘umbrella’. It encompasses everything to do with the experience of a product/experience; usually associated with the ease and delightfulness.

User interface is a component that lies within the User Experience umbrella. Its focus is on making the product/experience look great.

What’s a new feature on one of your favorite apps that you’re really excited about? Why?

VR/AR. I’m a techy, nerd and gamer. What more could I ask for? A multiplayer Zombie survival game in either VR or AR. When I was a kid (even though I still look like 14 as I just got asked for ID to watch a MA15+ movie [LIFE]) my mates and I would always discuss our strategies to survive in a similar situation. Maybe in the next decade, we can finally put our plans to the test ha!

Finally, What’s your favorite computer game?

Starcraft. I’ve been playing Starcraft since I was 13 years old. The good ol’ SC1. I now play a couple of Starcraft 2 games when I get a chance. After a long week and I’m having a quiet night in, it’s always satisfying to swarm my enemies with a classic muta-ling rush!

About the Author: Michael Wong is an internationally recognised, product (UI/UX) designer and founder of Mizko Media. His portfolio includes Adobe and Microsoft to high growth startups backed by Y Combinator. In his spare time he writes a weekly newsletter to 7,000+ designers, films YouTube videos about freelancing and also curates and manages a thriving design community, The Designership.

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Sean Work

Sean Work is the VP of Inbound Marketing here at Crazy Egg. You can follow him on Twitter @seanvwork. You can listen to his podcast "Worketing" on YouTube or SoundCloud.

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