Zurb is a Silicon Valley product design firm that I had the opportunity to work with in early 2011. The project was challenging, in that we were designing for three distinctly different UIs/form factors with different interfaces for different types of users. Zurb’s work was outstanding. Internet product design is highly complex, largely because we, as consumers, expect simplicity, but the products that we interact with are increasingly more feature-rich. This makes designing the user experience more and more difficult. Zurb gets it. I believe the company is successful in this industry for two primary reasons.
1 – They insist on understanding the business and product function, including the different audiences that a product is designed for. An outside firm has an advantage when evaluating unfamiliar products, because as they learn about what an application is supposed to do, they see things from an unbiased perspective. When the staff at Zurb can’t follow the user experience, that’s a key indicator that something is broken. They focus on the problem area until they can translate it into something elegant, and there is never any question that the end user is at the center of everything they do.
2 – They have a formalized process for engaging with customers that is labor-intensive and deadline-driven for both parties – Zurb and their client – and they stick to it. Zurb demands high levels of involvement and timely feedback from their customers, and I applaud them for holding fast to what they have proven works. I have worked for services companies in the past that are all too quick to bend to a client’s whims or give the client a pass when they don’t deliver something on schedule, only to sacrifice quality and employee sanity in the end. It’s refreshing to see a company provide a service on its own terms because it knows better than its client how to create success in its area of expertise. After all, that’s what they’re hired to do. NOTE: My comments are not meant to imply that Zurb is inflexible; quite the opposite is true. The flexibility comes in when the engagement is being planned, but at that time, Zurb also communicates its expectations of its client and when a project is underway, the client is expected to give the project due attention.
I highly recommend their work and would jump at the chance to collaborate with them again.