In this week's blog: Adam, 8bytes' Creative Lead, discusses mental block, inspiration, design and web development.
What’s your role in 8bytes?
I’m the creative lead for the team. So it’s my job to help our clients visualise their ideas, put that down on paper and try to round-down their idea to a core minimum. Oftentimes, people will get carried away with adding features and it’s up to me to say: “What’s the problem you’re solving and how can we best do that?”. I’m always focused on who they are helping — be it themselves, their customers, their users. For me, it’s always going to be who is this app aimed at and what’s their experience going to be like?
What’s your background in this space?
I started out as a designer years ago then moved into website design. I started doing website design for my clients but I’d have to get other people to code the websites for me. So then I started, like a of of people, using DreamWeaver and got used to their drag-and-drop feature and being able to change colours on the fly. Then moved into coding and slowly but surely learnt HTML.
From there, I then started developing websites freelance for clients and that’s how I met the guys here at 8bytes. At the time iOS was becoming huge and it just clicked with me. Just the way that people interact with their phones, it’s more personal. And that’s when I started the whole process again. I started as a designer for iOS and decided that I actually wanted to implement some of my ideas and had to learn how to code those for myself instead of taking up the time of the other guys. Well it turns out I love it, discovering the solution and actually making it a ‘thing’, so cool. Part of my time now is iOS development, so we now have three of us here doing that, I guess that’s where we’re most effective.
“I have an interest in how things work” is probably the best way to put it. Servers, databases and all that kind of stuff interests me. And so I’m always open to learning new stuff as well, be it design, development or even something completely different.
To you, what is the most exciting aspect of app and web development right now in mid 2016?
For us, apps are becoming bigger and bigger. A few years ago everybody needed a website just because they needed a website and now everyone thinks they need an app. There are a lot of great ideas out there and I think people are getting creative in how they can use these devices in our pockets. They have so many sensors that they know where we are, what we’re doing, what time it is and taking advantage of those kind of things is pretty amazing.
For me, it’s about personalising the user’s experience more. With things like Siri and Amazon Echo, the OS reacting to the user more and responding to their needs rather than presenting them with generic results is, for me, the interesting part.
One app that really interested me the first time I used it was Quartz, which basically gives you news notifications. But when you open it, it has a chat interface. I thought that was very clever at the beginning. It’s a very simple way of getting information across.
As the team’s creative lead, what are the main issues you face day-to-day?
For me, it’s probably creative block, which I suppose is something a lot of people get. At times I find that if things aren’t working, there’s no point in trying to force it. You should just take a step back, take a day off and do something completely different. That’s what I love about my role: being able to do a day of development, just coding stuff out and then come back to design. Or you know go for a walk or read a book, it will come to you.
For other people, I think it’s hard for them to cut their product back. For some, if the app isn’t getting enough traction, they need to kill some features and that’s always something that’s hard to do. But that just comes back to me wanting to cut everything down to its core functionality and solve that problem.
How do you think the expansion of the Internet of things will affect designers in the coming years?
I guess I call myself a visual designer — although I do try to design other things like sound and other interactions. But the Internet of Things (IoT) is all about interactions where a lot of the time the user doesn’t have an interface with any of these things — it just happens automatically. With something like the Amazon Echo, that’s a completely different design: how it talks to you, how it listens to you, how it humanises the system. There’s no visual cues at all. I think it’s about leveraging the automation and any interface it has with a human and optimise those.
For me as a designer and developer, the IoT might not necessarily need a front-facing app but there’s always gonna be the system behind it that powers it. It’s always going to be solving a problem. At the moment, we’re making apps on phones but, down the line, that could easily be on an Amazon Echo app fixing a problem for someone. Again, it comes back to how we interface with the people. I think that always changes over time. But core problem solving, technical problems and fixing them will always be central.
…Unless the AI takes over.
Is there a book or publication that you think anyone interested in the creative side of web and mobile app development should read?
The Great Discontent, a triannual print publication and online magazine.
It’s very interesting. It gives in-depth interviews with designers on where they think things are going, how they find success in the job and what motivates them — more so than “What’s the new trend in design?”.
I follow a lot of people on Dribbble.com. It’s gotten crap in a few places but it’s still great. A lot of the people I follow would be from around Dublin or Europe, all hugely inspirational in where I want to go. You’ll find that all designers have a certain aesthetic. This is someone’s style, this is someone’s work, it’s easy to pick it out in a crowd. I find that I’m always toning my design language based on what I’m up to most recently. If you’re to look at my work over the last few years, you can see that it has progressed and things are starting to look, not necessarily the same, but have the same style.
Do you think Ireland will continue to thrive as a hub for technology and startups over the next 5 years? Where do 8bytes fit into that?
I guess with the recent Brexit news, we can definitely position ourselves as one of the last natively English-speaking countries in the EU. I don’t know if that’s going to help startups as much as multinationals. But, in saying that, even having them around will help Irish students choose computer science or a technical discipline that’s necessary for the jobs being created by these larger entities. And, hopefully, that results in more startups getting going.
I do think there’s a lot more we can do in Dublin, just around infrastructure. I think there’s a lot of meetups and stuff on but there’s a limited amount resources I’ve found. It would really cool to have a space where startups could go in and be helped along with the stuff you need to get things moving. Help from people like accountants, business advisors and people just there to guide you. Right now, it can be very much you on your own. We had to do it like that here at 8bytes, the first year was a bit all over the place trying to learn that stuff. It’s not difficult but just to have that core thing in place would be a
great help to anyone starting up.
That’s where I want to see 8bytes. Not just an app house but you’re partner that gets your startup going, sets your foundation correctly and helps you, with advice that we’ve learnt about accounting, marketing and business and everything we can do to help you, to get your business off the ground. It’s a two-way street at the end of the day. And hopefully we can continue to do that.
I joined HubSpot, a large marketing tech company, with a bunch of the 8bytes guys a few years back and it taught me a lot and I made a lot of friends. But I came back to 8bytes because I always had that entrepreneurial thing: I want to do my own thing. I’m focused on helping as many startups as I can.
While working there, it was almost always the end goal of getting back to what we do here now: helping people. I get a lot more out of it personally and it’s always good to be in business with your friends doing what you love.
Our team has been working together for years bringing ideas of various sizes to
life! Visit www.8bytes.ie and start your project!