Sitting at my desk, I daily drink from an EffectiveUI water bottle I so graciously got at Adobe MAX in 2009. They were a presenting sponsor and won a bunch of awards. No big deal.
When it came time to brainstorm companies to interview for our blog…it occurred to me that they are based in Denver.
They are actually just up the street from the uGurus HQ.
So I went in pursuit of their Founder and President, Anthony Franco.
Anthony founded EffectiveUI in 2005 and it has turned into the top company world-wide for user experience-based software design and development. They are at the forefront of defining UX, not just for their clients, but for the entire industry.
Anthony sat down with me for almost an hour to talk about his history as a founder, how they sell, market, and hire, and what life was like pre-and-post acquisition for his ever-expanding team at EffectiveUI.
After the interview was done, Anthony offered up his expertise to appear on a uGurus expert panel in the future, so if all goes well, we’ll be seeing his face on uGurus again in the future.
Enjoy the interview, I know I did.
Brent: I’m Brent Weaver, and you’re watching uGurus TV, the much watch web series to become a more profitable and in demand web professional. Today I’m at EffectiveUI and we have a special guest with us, Anthony Franco, their president and founder of EffectiveUI. So welcome to the program, Anthony.
Anthony: Thank you. Not the first time I have been called special.
Brent: Very good. So Anthony, tell us how you got into web and software. Where does your story start?
Anthony: It was by accident. I wasn’t a closet geek. I was an out of the closet geek back in high school. I spent my time at lunch hour and after school in the computer lab, just learning Visual Basic on an Apple II, and kind of caught the bug that way and diverted careers along the way. tried the college thing. Didn’t work for me.
Managed restaurants. Worked for all kinds of different little agencies, including lithography. Somehow along the way I started writing my own websites, just building it as a hobby, and connected with a buddy of mine, the other founder of EffectiveUI way back when. We was working for Warner Brothers in feature post production.
He brought me on there and kind of learned the trade a little bit from a technical standpoint, how things are produced, from an incredible mentor, and then we both decided to leave the feature film industry to something a little bit more stable like the dot com. We had a little consulting firm, helped some startups, developed content and websites, and one of those companies moved us out here to Colorado and we ran their technology venture for awhile.
Then we started a couple other product companies and sold those, and when EffectiveUI started I was the one in that transition of going from one of the product companies that we sold into the next thing. So I started consulting as a way to just pay the bills, pay my mortgage, and we were shopped with a couple of guys. I got busy and hired a guy, and we got busy and we hired another guy, and that’s how EffectiveUI started.
Brent: So when I ask you why did you start EffectiveUI, the answer is simply to pay the mortgage?
Anthony: Yeah. It was, how am I going to make my paycheck in six months from now? Obviously it was around something that I was passionate about, but yeah. There was no grand vision. I’m still writing my business plan. We still haven’t figured it out yet.
Brent: So the companies you had previously sold were primarily products based. EffectiveUI is a service company.
Anthony: 100%. Yeah.
Brent: Was a decision there on why you decided to go from the product landscape into the service business?
Anthony: Yeah, the service was we were going to be a product company. So I’m a product guy and the other founder is a product guy, and we very much believe in products, so we thought that EffectiveUI would be a great way of bringing great talent on and serve customers, and then also build our own amazing products. Well, turns out that the joke was on us. We hired such good guys that they were in too great a demand from our customers in order to build our own products.
So the team that we have now, these men and women, are constantly focused. It’s a different breed of service oriented individuals versus product oriented individuals. You have to be both, but in our company we tried to do products and we failed at it, because our clients demanded so much of our time, which we’re very grateful for, that we couldn’t focus on our own things, so we just decided to drop the product side and purely focus on the service.
Now we’ve built some internal products that we used to help serve our clients. So project management and project dashboards and resourcing; we have built those things internally that we use, but it’s all at the end to help serve our clients in building their own vision.
Brent: So you kind of view the product service paradigm as an either or?
Anthony: For us. I mean, one of my favorite stories is Famous Amos. It has nothing to do with us, but Famous Amos was once interviewed, and I have heard this story, but I haven’t talked to Famous Amos directly, so I could be getting the facts wrong. But he started branching out into oatmeal and peanut butter and then realized he needed to focus on chocolate chip, so that focus mentality made his company successful and that’s kind of where we netted out. We want to focus on service.
What we do is a little bit harder than chocolate chip cookies, and that focus helps us also retain good service and good products for our clients.
Brent: Very cool. And obviously you guys do develop products of your customers, so there’s a little bit of a product development focus for you guys.
Anthony: Our clients hire us not for your service, but our product; for us being able to execute on products. If you go to a restaurant and the service is great and the food sucks, are you going to go back? They both have to line up. The things that we build our clients have to be great, and the experience we give our clients in working with us also has to be great.
Brent: So what’s EffectiveUI known for?
Anthony: Well, it’s kind of in our name. So our mission is building effective user interfaces. What does that mean, really? Most software organizations, my frustration with software, with technology, is that I really hate having to pick up the phone for my family calls and I answer it tech support. Most technology isn’t built for people. They are built by architects for architects. They are built by geeks for geeks, and so I got frustrated also with the fact that people identify themselves as technical or not. That’s not the world we should be living in. We should be living in a world where software, technology, websites, apps, whatever, the technology is opaque; where you just pick up something and you get what you want to get done, done.
So EffectiveUI is known for obscuring the technology and just allowing the job at hand to be done by the users. By people. I hate the word user. I use it because it’s in our name, but in reality it’s people. User is a technical moniker we use for people because we don’t want to have the blank face with the tie that everybody sees in the architectural schema, even if they are represented in human form. Sometimes it’s just a box that says user on it.
So we obscure technology for people, which we hope our customers, our clients, see as a business value for them.
Brent: So user interfaces, that could potentially span a very broad range of types of things. So what specific areas do you guys participate in? Web, mobile, everything?
Anthony: Interfacing, if you break down the word, and I won’t give the dictionary definition, but it’s that connection point between two things, right? So for us interface means a connection point between a human being and technology. Currently that’s software based, so websites, applications, desktop applications, we have even done some head [manned] displays for the Army where they use training simulations where it’s virtual environment kind of stuff. It spans anything that, if there’s a screen we’re there.
But we are being asked to do that in other areas where the connection between technology and just service meets, and even things like voice systems or service methodologies. So the interface from customer to our clients, or even their employees and their systems, or their vendors and their systems. It’s very broad. I guess I’m over-answering the question. It means a lot of things for us.
The same methodologies that design thinking and customer insight and engineering methodologies go into play for all of those kinds of systems.
Brent: That’s a broad range of services you guys can offer. So who do you guys typically offer those to? Who are some example clients?
Anthony: I should say lately they are fortune 1,000s. So Boeing, Century Link, [inaudible 08:54], Fed-Ex, Water For People, Wells Fargo, Fidelity are clients that work with us to help them build systems of them, for their employees and customers. Water for People isn’t a well known company, but they are a really well known not for profit, and we built their reporting infrastructure for how they report to their contributors on how they are doing financially with their money.
So it’s really a broad range. Typically companies that engage us, their problem pivots on technology and pivots on approachability of that technology. But most in those, in order to do that correctly, needs to be larger budgets which means larger clients.
Brent: Do they typically bring you a problem or do they bring you a specific project that’s tally speced out, ready to go?
Anthony: Like anything in technology the answer is, it depends. Yeah, it spans from, “I need an iOS app that does this,” or it goes from, “We need to get quotes out to our customers through our sales team. Instead of taking us three days we need to do it in five minutes.” So that’s a business problem or a very specific business solution. It depends.
Where we’re most successful, where we specialize, I should say, is in those early stages when a business problem is identified. The solution isn’t always technology based. It can be analogue based. It can be change your customer service script; the scripts your customer service reps are using. So if we get involved earlier sometimes we can save our clients a little bit more money or solve the right problem.
Oftentimes companies solve the problem and not the root cause, a symptom not the cause. Again, I’m over-answering the question, but it really depends. It’s vastly dependent on the client.
Brent: I find that fascinating. So if you guys go into a situation and the problem, the solution for a problem that you find is literally an analogue solution, it’s changing a script or changing a people workflow, those are types of recommendations that you guys provide? You don’t just provide the software that they are asking for?
Anthony: Oh yeah. It’s weird because companies come to us because of our technological expertise, our engineering expertise and our design expertise, so when we come to them with a recommendation on how to change their customer service methodology sometimes it’s, “You guys are geeks, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” but more and more we’re being asked to get deeper and deeper within our clients’ service.
Ultimately the industry that we’re in is called user experience. We were the first user experience agency. It was coined by Forrester Research because they didn’t know what to do with us. We were this weird hybrid agency. We didn’t do websites. We didn’t do branding brochure-ware, and we weren’t a system integrator. They didn’t know what to do with us, so they created this term called user expedience agency and we were it.
I don’t know if I lie that term or not, but hey, we’ll go with it. User experience is just a subset of customer experience. So we’re the technological arm of customer experience for organizations, and really to be effective in customer experience the human connection, human to human connection to customer experience, needs to dovetail very nicely with the technological to human customer service. We are being pulled and we are pushing into things that are more analogue and less digital, although again, our engineering chops are so good that we will always be somewhat technologically based.
Brent: What is a typical project from the financial side? You guys work with primarily Fortune 1,000. What’s the general range that you guys operate in?
Anthony: That’s a good question. Let’s first talk about the kinds of projects that come to us go from the range of, do they have a budget of $5,000, do they have a budget of $10 million? Our sweet spot is in the low six figure to low seven figure range. So if there is a $5,000 app that somebody wants to build, that’s not going to be our thing. If it’s an eight figure project we will partner with a system integrator in order to accomplish that kind of goal, because those are typically backend systems dovetailing into finance systems, and we partner on that level.
Brent: So those are large projects. To figure out exactly what you’re even doing on those projects, I assume there’s a good deal amount of discovery work that your sales team does? How do they figure out that solving x problem is going to cost y? What kind of process do you guys have in play to sell these types of large projects?
Anthony: Yeah. We don’t have a sales team.
Brent: That’s an interesting thing to talk about.
Anthony: I mean, we did. We tried it for awhile. We had a business development group. And I don’t want to take away fro it. There are people here responsible for working with accounts. They are called our strategy team, but they are not sales people. Our goal is not to sell people or sell software. Our goal is to help businesses solve problems, so if we don’t think we can solve a problem we’re not going to talk to that potential customer.
So we learned a long time ago, for us anyway, focus on what the root of the problem is. Focus on the client need. What are their customers telling them, what is their boss telling them, and let’s try to uncover what’s going to solve the problem. So that’s our entire approach when talking to new or existing customers.
“Why are you doing this? Why is this initiative even there,” and then we go into what you would traditionally call the sales process. We walk through with them, how can we solve this problem together? Then it’s either obvious to them that there’s a solution there to be had and a budget there to do it, or it’s not. So that’s our process with engaging clients. It’s ultimately show how we’re going to solve the problem and then give them the levers to pull to say we want to solve it this much or we want to solve it this much, or we can’t solve it within the time and budget we have.
Brent: When you guys get an account, is that typically something where you just do one project for them, or is that a relationship that spans multiple project?
Anthony: So the clients I mentioned, those are all long term relationships, multiple projects, and some of them aren’t even projects. They are just strategic work that we do with them to figure out, what should they be doing across a digital ecosystem, so their website and how it dovetails into their customer support system. So we not only do projects for them, but we help them learn how to do it themselves.
So an initiative that we started about six months ago is our education unit, where we are teaching clients how to take our process and do it for themselves. We’re not business consultants. We’re software development, design thinking customer insight consultants that help our customers hire and train internal folks, and a lot of companies want us to do their first or second one and then take it on themselves.
So we have embraced that and helped them do that.
Brent: So as far as EffectiveUI as a whole, how many people currently work here?
Anthony: About a hundred full time employees.
Brent: What’s the breakdown of that? All design, all development, or . . .
Anthony: Yeah, so our design and development teams are about equally numbered. Most of our development team is focused on UI development, and we collaborate on our technical architect and project management team with our clients’ internal resources for their systems, so we meet them at the API level. We develop a contract at the API level, so we are building UIs and they are building the back ends, and then our design team and our customer insight team, they are the ones that do the discovery work along with technology. But mostly it’s the design an insight teams that look at customer need, existing systems, they apply design thinking and patching on how we’re going to solve a particular problem with design and then the project management team will manage the whole thing.
So to answer your question, of our billable resources, I would say 30 to 40% is design, 30 to 40% is development. 10 to 15% is project management, and the remainder are specialty like strategy and customer insight, and the education services unit.
Brent: Okay. You have x many people working on a project. Do you guys bill straight hourly to your clients, or is that all done fixed price?
Anthony: Most of the time it’s time and materials. On occasion we will fix a bidder project. But it’s really difficult to fix bidder project when it’s a problem. In other words, a client comes to us and says, “We want to reduce the time to do this thing by 40%, or by half.”
How do you fix bid that? You don’t know the systems, you don’t know the design path, you don’t know the customers, so we basically will say, “Here’s a bucket of hours to do discovery,” that we’re going to need this much to do discovery and design work, and this is the range at which we think the development is going to cost and the integration.
Most sophisticated clients understand that you can’t fix bid things like, “We have a problem. We don’t know how we’re going to solve it.” Imagine you take it in contraction terms. If you’re building a house and you come to an architect and a builder and you say, “I want to build a house. How much is it going to cost?”
Well, how many room and bedrooms does it have?
“I don’t know. I wasn’t to be flexible on that. We’ll figure that out along the way.”
How do you even begin to bid that project out?
You say, “Okay, well, we’ll do the architecture first and this is what the architecture is going to cost, and then we’ll do some landscaping and design work and that’s how much that’s gong to cost, and then we’ll have a better idea of what the actual building construction is going to look like.”
Brent: Is that something you find in the Fortune 1,000 is more generally accepted? I feel like on main street if you don’t have a fixed bid it’s very difficult to get somebody to sign off on that.
Anthony: I have a very strong point of view on this. I would say it’s 50/50. If we’re dealing exclusively with procurement it’s very difficult to be successful as a vendor with a company that – our interface into bidding a project out is procurement. The procurement process, the RFP process, you know where that was born from? Government procuring rifles, and that’s unfortunately a really simple product, right? You pull this and something comes out the hand. It has a very specific purpose.
It doesn’t work in arenas where the outcomes aren’t really well defined and the solution isn’t really well defined. So when we are dealing directly with procurement we will just say, “We aren’t interested in bidding on this.” Because we need to dig deeper to understand what the problems are so we can really come to a solution that’s going to work, not just a solution that’s going to win an RFP process.
Brent: So you guys will literally turn down RFPs if they are not willing to go through your discovery process?
Anthony: Well, I wouldn’t go that far. We have walked away from RFPs when we don’t have a connection to the stakeholder, yes. When we can’t ask and have a conversation with the people who are going to be driving the project. Yeah, we absolutely have. We obviously understand we have to deal with procurement.
Procurement are the folks that hold the purse strings, but if that’s the only way that that company is buying it, we can’t be successful and we don’t believe in products that procurement manages.
Brent: So you look for ways that give you some flexibility within their process, and if they don’t have those and you don’t have a clear connection then you guys are . . .
Anthony: Yeah, and if I was a procurement person I would want that. This isn’t self serving. If I’m them, do I want the person writing the check?
Let me back up. Most software projects go back to our reason for being, we can’t to have an impact on the people using the software. We’re all about the people and the humanity aspect of technology. The problem with IT has been in the past that they measure themselves on success by is it on time, is it on budget, but they don’t care if anybody is using it. So if on time and on budget is the most important thing, then they’re hiring the wrong agency to do it. Not that on time and on budget isn’t important, but if it’s on time and on budget and nobody uses it, then you just wasted the time and you just wasted the money.
We need to be able to talk about all three of those things, and that third one, the connection, the people using it, is really for us the only thing that matters.
Brent: So you have 100 people that work here.
Brent: Ish, right? It sounds like you’re always in the search for talent. Tell me how you attract talent to EffectiveUI. Is it just the sweet office space?
Anthony: Well, thank you.
Brent: I see you have a cafeteria here as well.
Anthony: Not a cafeteria, but we have a little kitchen that’s stacked with food. How do we attract talent? It is the thing that keeps me up at night. It’s the thing that keeps every leader here up at night. Companies hire us for our talent, and in reality we would have an easier time growing if talent was more accessibly. We’re picky, and that’s good and bad, right? Attracting really top talent can be very difficult.
We do that in a lot of ways. One, we try to create and environment that top talent wants to work within. The other thing is that top talent attracts top talent, so making sure that we are continually looking for good people will begat more good people.
We are always looking for ways of changing the way we produce work, or the way we interact with one another to make it more culturally exciting to be here. About 10% of our work is what we call retention work. In other words, exciting projects that people here want to work on. The education unit that we spun up is for our clients and it’s also for ourselves. So, how do we continue to mentor the people that we have here, bring in the people that maybe don’t have the skill sets that our clients immediately need and mentor them up into something that our clients will be able to take advantage of.
It’s not one thing. It’s a combination of things, and if there’s anything anybody that runs a successful agency stays awake at night for, it’s all about the people that work for that organization. How do you keep them engaged and excited about what you’re doing? It’s hard.
Brent: I mean, I have no idea what it’s like to manage a 100 person business. How do you communicate the value that you guys are bringing to your customers, the core values within your team. I mean, how do you guys make sure that that brand new employee is encompassing the same thing that everybody else at EffectiveUI is?
Anthony: Can I over-answer this question as well?
Brent: Be my guest.
Anthony: So I think what’s interesting is how we have done this through the years, and it has changed quite a bit. In the early days of EffectiveUI communication was really easy. There was five of us, there was ten of us. When we were thinking about bringing somebody new on the entire company took them out to lunch and sat down and chatted with them. Everybody decided as a group, as a collective, that this person belonged in the group.
It was Survivor on the reverse. Instead of weaning people out we were weaning people in. And then when we hit about 30 it got difficult of everybody to go out to lunch and meet new people and share core values. We started having to diversify a little bit, and we were able to, through pure will, go from 30 to 50 or 60, even 70, by just forcing the culture through and over communicating.
But once we hit that 75 mark it’s impossible to do it the way we used to do it. I think a lot of agencies experience this. Agencies talk about the $20 million barrier, or the 100 person barrier. How do you crack that ceiling?
Going from one to five, I don’t want to say it’s not that difficult, but believe it or not it’s easier to go from one to five than it is to go from 100 to 200. That seal is really difficult because you have to fundamentally change as an organization.
Before if I wanted something done I would just do it. Yes, that would make people very upset, right? If something needed to get done and wasn’t getting done I could just do it. I would ruffle feathers. A bull in the china shop thing. I would ruffle features, and not just me but other managers. They would get it done. They would bulldoze through.
But as you hit a certain stage in your company, if you don’t change your philosophy about how things are run you will never scale beyond 100. In fact, you will shrink. You will plateau and then you will shrink. So what we have been going through over the last, I would say six months to a yea since our acquisition, has been a change in how leadership is structured and how leadership operates within the organization.
So instead if that mentality of, “If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done,” and I have heard a lot of founders have that out loud thought, it’s “If it doesn’t get done it’s my fault for not enabling it to get done.”
I’m saying me, but this is us as a leadership team. We have recognized that for us, our culture requires a service mentality from the leadership. We are a services organization. We can’t be a command and control leadership organization, otherwise we will fail. So we have decided to switch and say, “Our job is to set the direction,” and get out of the way of the people who are doing it.
Help them serve our clients. Get obstacles out of their way. Pitch in if we need to, but ultimately enable them to get what they need to get done, done. We have made some pretty significant changes over the last six months around that, and we are on track to break the seal that we have been struggling to break over the last year.
Brent: My last question was going to be, are you trying to go from 100 people to 200 people? Is that the growth trajectory?
Anthony: Absolutely. If you talk to the people here nobody gets excited about revenue or profit, and even myself. That’s not what drives us. What drives us is building great things. We are builders.
What excited us is one, giving people opportunities to grow here within the organization. So career pathing. And if you plateau as an organization all of a sudden career paths cap. The person that’s in the job that you want to be, they aren’t moving, so you just look at that and say, “I’m never going to move up. I’m going to move on.”
So career pathing is another way of attracting great talent, and that can only come with growth. The other is taking on bigger projects that have more meat, that have more meaning. So we want to not just solve individual problems for our customers, we want to solve organizational problems, which are multiple projects that span multiple departments. For that we need to grow as well, so our project sizes will grow and our career pathing will grow, therefore our organization has to fundamentally grow. So, yeah, definitely we want to grow in size, in capability, in expertise. It’s just what drives us.
Brent: You mentioned the acquisition a little bit ago. For the folks that don’t know, EffectiveUI was acquired.
Anthony: We were acquired in April last year by WPP. If you don’t know WPP they are the world’s largest holding company of marketing type agencies, so out sister companies are Grey Advertising and Jay Walter Thompson and [inaudible 31:17], big, huge agencies. We are a blip on their radar, but they acquired us because of our digital expertise and our reputation in the space. We are the first and I would argue the best in what we do.
Brent: Was that one of your objectives when you set out and created EffectiveUI in 2005?
Anthony: No. Again, it was to pay the mortgage. I don’t think anybody had contemplated our success. When you have an idea, everybody has ideas of what they want to do and where they want to go and what they are passionate about, but you never really imagine what success looks like. Success is ugly. It’s hard.
As we were growing and moving, we made the Inc. 500 list, which is, for a service agency, pretty huge. We were so busy growing from 10 to 20 to 40 etc. that we never really looked back and said, “We want to be acquired.” But there was a point at which we realized we needed partners in order to grow in the way we wanted to grow. So what WPP gives us – it’s a double edged sword.
So our clients want us to be very fiscally responsible. And we were. We were really fiscally responsible before, we were a small organization, cash flow dependent, and WPP takes that away. They know we are not going anywhere. Our clients know we are not going anywhere. They also bring in some regiment that our clients want like [SOX] compliance. But SOX compliance is also kind of a pain, accounting principles IT principles. It’s difficult and it has changed our culture a little bit having to become a little bit more caring about those fundamentally corporate things.
But it has been good for us to be kind of grown up in that area. So the acquisition has been, like I said, a double edged sword. There has been some really good things and there has been things that culturally we struggled to adapt.
Brent: In this acquisition you mentioned that you had sold a couple of products prior to this, so you have some experience with acquisitions.
Anthony: Nothing on this scale, but yeah.
Brent: Any thoughts around people that might have acquisition in their future? Anything of what they should be looking out for, the dos and don’ts of going into a company acquisition or selling their book of business and that kind of stuff?
Anthony: I can tell you a couple of things. I have been a part of three acquisitions on the seller side. I can tell you the things that work. One, have your financial stuff in order. If you are keeping books through QuickBooks, that’s fine, but if you really want to be acquired you need to be button dup on the financial side. The second is just good business practice.
Oh, and on that, acquirers will look for accrual based accounting versus cash. If you’re an accountant you will be like, “Yeah, I know what you’re talking about.” If you’re a creative person you will be like, “Yeah, I don’t really know but he’s talking about.” But talk to your accountant. Accrual versus cash is something that acquirers will look for.
From a good business practice perspective, diversified portfolio if you are a services business. If you have more than 20%, 25% of your revenue coming from one account, that’s a red flag. Make sure you have a good management structure in place. Make sure your employees are invented in some way in an acquisitions process. Acquirers will want to look at that.
And have a reason for being. Your reason shouldn’t be to be acquired. Your reason for being, your noble cause, needs to be really rooted in something that is believable, not just from a sales perspective, but you have to believe it. That’s not really insightful advice, but that’s what I have found has worked for us here.
Brent: It sounds like you guys focused on the growth of the business, and then acquisition just kind of became the logical next step. Or somebody knocked on the door and said, “Hey, we would like to do this with you guys.”
Anthony: Growth wasn’t the primary. Keeping the lights on was the primary focus, especially in the early days. There was a point where I had enough money in my checking account to cover payroll, and then there was a point where that wasn’t true anymore, which puts a little bit more pressure on you where you have families to worry about.
So growth, it was more about keeping the lights on and making sure that we could make payroll in the early stages. A lot of early stage companies are like that, especially if you they are bootstrap like us. We didn’t have any infusion of cash. We just started the business and went.
It became obvious, and I’m trying to think of what the impetus for that was. I can’t think of the impetus for that; what that thing was that made us realize, “Oh yeah, we should probably find a parent.” I just don’t know. But it just became obvious.
Brent: One project you guys have been involved in here in Denver, which I have been following, is your involvement with something called gSchool. For those folks that don’t know, we have a place called Galvanized. It’s a cowering space for tech startups and young entrepreneurs, and they have a program called gSchool where they do a six month intensives at a topic, and you could probably speak better about the program and what your involvement is.
Anthony: Jim Deters and Chris – well, Jim is one of the founders of Galvanize. Jim and I go back probably three or four years. He came to me and said, “We have this thing called gSchool, we have a Ruby on Rails class, really successful, we want you to come in and teach a user experience class.”
We were like, “Oh that sounds great!”
So we started to put a curriculum, and it coincided really well with the education services that we were starting here. So we agreed to start a curriculum for them, and a couple of things happened. One, we got really busy.
With our client, where can I go? Back to that product versus service thing. So clients went out. The other thing is that we started marketing that gSchool initiative. What Galvanize kept hearing back was, “We don’t want to learn EffectiveUIs way. Even though EffectiveUI is great at what they do, we feel like it’s going to be one sided. We want more of a community based approach.”
So we took that to heart. Now we’re working with Galvanize and a couple of other agencies in our space to develop a standards based curriculum, and so instead of doing it just us we’re looking at how we can make it community based.
I wouldn’t say that gSchool UX is gone. It has shifted into something that I think is going to be a lot better.
Brent: Growing to 100 employees, you guys have an awesome workspace here, major large clients, you were acquired – what’s next for EffectiveUI?
Anthony: Candidates ask me that question all the time. Where are we going? I kind of already answered that question. There are bigger problems for us to solve. So I think what we’re going to be doing over the next two years, one is that we are going to be focused on standardizing the user experience practice. We are going to be very involved in helping take what we do, developing a standard that our clients can adopt themselves to, and even open sourcing a lot of that.
The problem with a new space like ours is that the senior most designer practitioners here, which are called lead experience architects, and there’s no course for a UX practitioner to take in college. That’s one of the reasons why gSchool came to us. The problem that leaves is everybody is starting to say user experienced practitioner on their resume, and clients, our clients and organizations, are having a difficult time deciphering what’s resume fluff versus what’s truth.
We are developing that standardization to help them do that, and also to help elevate the entire practice. The rising tide will lift all ships kind of thing.
We are very involved in caring about the unified practice of user experience, and then just hunkering down on delivering better and continuing to grow the way we have been growing.
Brent: Very cool. Well, I have been totally amazed with some of the stuff you have said today. I think EffectiveUI is an amazing company. I appreciate your time today, Anthony.
Anthony: Thank you. Thank you for having us. Anytime.
Brent: Yeah, for sure. If people want to find out more information about EffectiveUI, effectiveui.com. Do you guys have any development blogs, user experience blogs, places where you are starting to publish some of this information?
Anthony: Everything in our news and all of our blogs you can actually find at the EffectiveUI.com site. There is a link to all the development blogs that we are a part of.
Brent: Very nice. Well, if you want to find out more information about Anthony definitely check out effectiveUI.com, and stay tuned for more great content from uGurus.com.