Fresh recently welcomed a small group of design and development students from The Overlake School for an in-house digital design seminar with CEO Jeff Dance and Developers Chris Allen and Kaya Kim. It was a productive exchange.
The students became part of our team for the afternoon, joining us for our daily lunch (it was pasta day!) They also witnessed the newest additions to our skateboard collection in action. The students experienced first-hand how we mix up creative and technical disciplines in the same space, and had a chance to chat both formally and candidly with our designers and developers.
Why Things Work
In preparation for their visit, the students were asked to read a series of Fresh UI/UX blog posts:
- UI/UX Principle #3: People Scan Websites (They Don’t Read Them)
- UI/UX Principle #12: Whitespace Is an Essential Design Asset
- UI/UX Principle #11: Wireframe Simply, without Color, Imagery, or Style
Each student came with the same question: How can I make my blog look more professional? They instinctively recognized the look and feel of a well-designed site but didn’t have the formula for how to create it.
The students had all been using the most popular CMS, WordPress. However, until visiting Fresh, none had knowledge of custom WordPress development or an understanding of UX principles and best practices.
As of 2015, WordPress supports 25% of websites. Fresh has been championing WP since before 2012, when we published a blog listing five top reasons why it’s a platform of choice for marketing oriented websites. Jeff explained that some UX principles related to their blogging efforts, like how the deliberate use of whitespace helps with cognitive load while reading.
Front-end user experience must be awesome for end-users, but the back-end experience of using a CMS should be strong for the people working in it too. Fresh has extensive experience designing for both. Chris spoke to WP’s dev-friendly qualities, and the fact that WordPress chooses to remain open source, which promotes a steady information exchange through its giant community of programmers. This leads to full functionality, a range of plugins – many of which are free – that match industry and company needs, all with a back-end that anyone can get behind.
Prior to gathering at the Fresh office, The Overlake School students attended an introductory UX class at Seattle’s General Assembly. This gave them the opportunity to increase their user experience design knowledge during our conversations.
Each student shared WordPress blogs they had created with Fresh for review. Kaya provided feedback and fielded questions to address their concerns. Her background isn’t so different; initially a designer, Kaya moved to programming only to round out her graphic design skills. Before then, she never considered herself a developer, and she had never been exposed to the work that goes into development.
Experiencing programming firsthand gives one a greater appreciation of its potential. It begets the question, “If this can be done, what else is possible?” If there was one single point we hoped to get across about user experience, web development, even business, it was the power of possibility for this target audience.
As our meeting closed, Chris Allen put it best when he explained that WordPress is built for people to build onto it, so — go build! Who knows? Maybe one of the students will return to work at Fresh one day.