Meet the 50 Team: Talking usablility with UX Lead Bernie Zang

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Welcome to our Meet the 50 Team feature. This is where we get the lowdown on how the people at 50onRed get stuff done. This time we’re sitting down with UX Lead Bernie Zang.

Tell us a little about yourself and your role at 50onRed.

I’ve been at 50onRed a little over a year and a half. I started out as a User Experience Engineer, which basically meant that I was part Front End Developer, part Designer. Over the past year, we’ve been able to bring on a Front End Engineer and a UI Designer, and now I lead the User Experience part of our product team.

I work with our sales people, developers, designers, and the VP of Product, to find ways to make our products better for our customers. My day to day generally consists of shepherding ideas to implementation, and then lending a hand in the design and development wherever I can.

How did you get into User Experience and development?

My road to UX was pretty long and circuitous. I started out with a degree in Electrical Engineering, but after getting the degree I realized that it wasn’t something I was passionate about. I took a year off after undergrad and worked on small projects doing freelance work. I’ve been building websites since the mid 90s, and in 2004 there were a lot of opportunities and work. That was when I first learned about UX and what it means to build things from a user-centric perspective. One of my clients told me about a graduate program in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), where he thought I would be a great fit. I talked to some faculty, applied, and started classes 3 months later. Grad school gave me a theoretical foundation of where UX came from, and a set of tools that I could apply to better my designs.

How did you decide to join 50onRed?

When I was looking to leave my previous job, I was searching for a smaller company to work for, where I would be empowered and have the autonomy to work on interesting and challenging problems. I wanted to find a place where the people around me are driven and can teach me something new. As I interviewed around, I realized that I wanted to work internally on a product team and not in an agency. 50onRed was a natural fit.

Tell us about your team at 50onRed.

I work closely with Drew, our UI Designer, to brainstorm how we can take business requirements and ideas into actual designs. We’ll come up with workflows and wireframes, and he’ll take those ideas and come up with the actual designs.

I work with Matt, our Front End Developer, to find the right code patterns to use to implement the designs. All the while, interfacing with the engineering team to make sure we can connect our designs with the actual data we have.

The expanded product team also includes Ashley, our Community Manager, Dave, our Designer, Tim, our Product Engineer, and Frank, our VP of Product. While we may not all work on the same projects at the same time, we’re a tight knit team and all sit in close proximity to each other. Whenever any of us have an idea or encounter a problem, we can easily turn around and talk it out.


What are some of the tools that are vital to your work?

I tend to split my time between Development and everything else. We’re a Mac OS based office so I run a local development environment with Python, Flask, MySQL, and then NodeJS that drives the LESS compiler. I use Sublime Text as a text editor. All of our code is housed in GIT repositories. We use Atlassian Bitbucket, Jira, and Confluence to manage our code, sprints and documentation.

For more design oriented work, I do wireframes in Adobe Illustrator and work with comps in Photoshop. I’m trying out Sketch to see if it makes my workflow easier. Recently Drew started creating prototypes in InVision, and that’s helped us realize the interactions much better than static images. We also started printing out our designs on a medium format printer and posting them on the walls. This makes it easier for us to gather around a design with stakeholders and critique our ideas.

We use Slack as a communication tool, Google Docs and Dropbox to share documents. Personally I use Evernote to take notes for meetings and jot down ideas. I’m also a big fan of paper and pen, so I have an Behance notebook that I carry around.

We’ve noticed you have a pretty interesting desk set-up. Can you tell us a bit about your workspace?

Haha, sure. I found that I had more energy and was more focused when I did my work standing up. So I asked for a standup desk and the company was able to get one for me. This one attaches to my desk and actually moves up and down. So if I get tired and need to sit down, I can just articulate it downwards and sit down.


It sounds like the company is pretty supportive of your work.

Yea. I think a co-worker described it best when he said, “Most companies treat employees as a cost center. The good ones treat you as a profit center.” This definitely holds true here. If there’s something I need that allows me to do my job better, or makes my life easier, the company definitely tries to support it.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other designers and developers?

Learn to gracefully accept critique. This means you must be able to put your own ego aside, understand where the critique comes from, and figure out how to best take that feedback and integrate it into your own work.

If you’re working with great people, there will always be someone smarter than you in the room. Listen to them, learn to ask the right questions to get the best out of their feedback. Critique doesn’t mean you did anything wrong, or that the design or code is a failure. It’s an opportunity to improve.

Want to learn more about 50onRed and see what opportunities we currently have available? Head on over to our careers page to find out!