When design moved to live with Zure

Erkka Puusti | 07.01.2021
Reading time 6 min

For years, Zure has built applications, and design has always been a part of that. Yet there have not really been any people who dedicate 100% of their time to the user experience domain.

In June 2020 Zure hired its first full-time UX designer. Now, half a year later, there are 4 full-time UX & service designers at Zure. I was the third designer hired and have now been on this path for a few months as well.

Design is about learning together

“My model for business is The Beatles. They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check. They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.”

– Steve Jobs

One of the first things I learned, I learned already in the interview stage. At Zure we work in teams. Some companies might provide individual resources, based on CV’s, but Zure delivers teams, that deliver solutions.

To me, teamwork is one of the cornerstones of great design work. If asked about the good designer, developer collaboration I often point towards a blog post by Dan Mall and a process he calls the hot potato.

With my short time in the company, it has been a delight to see that this process fits quite naturally to the common ways of how our project teams work. Design is not just a phase in the “development process” but is treated as a continuous iterative part of the way we deliver solutions.

Reminded by the reality

“Design is the creation of a plan or convention for the construction of an object or a system (as in architectural blueprints, engineering drawings, business processes, circuit diagrams, and sewing patterns). Design has different connotations in different fields.”

– Cambridge Dictionary of American English

If we look at the above definition from the Cambridge Dictionary of American English, it is quite clear that Design is a big concept. Quite fast I was reminded that as people we see the term design very differently and also understand the work related to it in different ways. To be honest, there has been more than one occasion where we have had some challenges in understanding design in the same way.

For the sake of clarity, when I talk about design, I talk about something within the area of User Experience (UX) Design. If I need to reach for an official definition, I like to refer to the ISO standard 9241-210: Human-centered design for Interactive systems, which describes 6 key principles that ensure that design is user-centered:

  • The design is based upon an explicit understanding of users, tasks, and environments.
  • Users are involved throughout design and development.
  • The design is driven and refined by user-centered evaluation.
  • The process is iterative.
  • The design addresses the whole user experience.
  • The design team includes multidisciplinary skills and perspectives.

I like this as I feel that it is close to the Agile manifesto, what is another guideline I value in my work

We at Zure believe design has value

Good design ​is good business”

–  Thomas J. Watson Jr. IBM president, 1973​

Showing the value of design in practice is easy. But at times explaining the value is something I find somewhat challenging. In order to explain why good design is good business, I have learned to rely on statistics and especially on one specific report.

In 2019 InVision released a large study called The New Design Frontier where they had surveyed thousands of companies to explore the relationship between design and business performance.

Referring to that study, the reason why Zure is now investing in design is that it can help us to enhance the quality of our delivery, increase our efficiency, increase our profitability, and better our market position. And the best and maybe the most important thing is that we can also do the same for our clients.

But what do designers do all day?

“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design”

– Charels Eames

Zure is a technology company first. We focus on Azure and building cool things on top of Azure and this will never change. If we look at our main message for our clients, it states that:

  • We are solely focused on Microsoft Azure
  • Our people have profound experience
  • Our teams like to be challenged

If we focus on the first point. Bringing designers to this equation is not that straight forward as most designers probably are not Azure focused. But luckily that is not needed. The role of a designer is one that stands at the intersection of Technology, Users, and Business. Designers at Zure focus on recognizing the right need to solve, so that users actually get something that is useful, the business gets the most value and developers can focus on what they do best.

UX ven diagram

Sometime back one of our UX designers, Natasha opened our process and toolkit in a short whitepaper, which really nicely opens up all the different things a designer might bring to a project.

What do I do all day?

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” 

-Michael Jordan

My official title at the moment is Design Lead. Zure has a really lean organizational model, where some of us might have different titles, but we are still all equal. So in a way, the “Lead” part in the title is misleading. I do not actually lead anything. And to be honest that is the way I like it. Building something great requires teamwork and a team only works well when all are considered equal.

As a design lead my main task is to do whatever is needed, to help my colleagues achieve their goals and win as a team.

If I look at what I have had the opportunity to do so far:

  • User testing with end-users
  • Usability testing with a project team
  • UI design
  • Interaction design
  • Sales discussions
  • Internal ideation and development around tools, ways of working, and offerings

The future is looking bright. We are an expert company and expertise is only possible through continuous learning and the only way to keep learning is to do actual work. Luckily Zure gives me the opportunity to do so. Together, with my colleagues, we solve the toughest problems we can get, learn, and have some fun on the side.

This has been an interesting start to an interesting journey. I can’t wait to see what is around the next corner. Especially if it involves interesting client problems and talking about how design can help to solve those problems.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

– Lao Tzu