We’re Crux Collaborative. We love our jobs. But why should you care?

March 25, 2016

Crux Collaborative was recently named by Minnesota Business Magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies To Work For for the 4th year in a row. Though the distinction is most relevant to those of us lucky enough to work here, it is also significant for what it says about our organization and the type of work we do.

Study after study after study has shown that employee satisfaction leads to better customer service and improved business performance –a more engaged staff is simply going to produce higher quality work. Finding satisfaction at work is obviously related to doing work you find engaging and compelling.

Some people find work satisfaction in a constantly changing set of challenges— a puzzle whose missing piece is ever-changing. They find meaning by searching for an idea or concept that will transform whatever “space” they happen to work within. They get bored when they have to solve the same problem more than once— these people are directors, musicians, and advertisers.

Then there are those of us who find satisfaction in cultivating excellence within a particular niche. Our egos are the fed by our determination to achieve excellence in our craft and we take pride elevating our jobs into an art form. People with these traits often gravitate to highly specialized careers as surgeons, chefs, brewmasters, and the user experience consultants here at Crux Collaborative.

What it means to specialize

Creating a hassle-free way for people to select their health insurance coverage or model their retirement takes a specialized kind of thinking— a very different kind of thinking than creating an advertising campaign to choose a brand of toothpaste or a bank.

We don’t work on projects with celebrity spokespeople, fancy photo shoots, or disruptive ideas. When done right, we create experiences that feel seamless to the point of invisibility.

When users smoothly select an insurance benefit, for example, they are not planning to post about it on Facebook. Rather, they’re thinking about removing that item from their to-do list and moving on to the next thing.

Our staff is highly satisfied because we’re a group of people who are energized by continually deepening our experience and specialization in transactional user experiences for regulated industries. This is a good thing because the projects we work on require precisely that kind of expertise.

Some companies thrive on constant innovation and seeking the “new.” Others thrive on the type of ceaseless repetition that creates deep expertise. Choosing which firm should create the UX for your complex application can be compared to selecting an Ophthalmologist to do your Lasik eye surgery. Ask yourself, do you want a specialist who does that procedure exclusively or a generalist that does it occasionally?

Role of Research in Specialization

The vast majority of our projects are built on and validated by research with end users. We have found that in order to make complex systems intuitive and easy-to-use, we must observe people using them. Based on our experience, we develop what we like to call a “design hypothesis”.

We present our hypothesis to users in the course of a research study— their input elevates the quality of the experience. Period.

The volume of research we conduct and how we incorporate it as a step in the design process is a key differentiator. It’s a reinforcing cycle— we specialize in projects that benefit from user research, we conduct a lot of user research, we expand our insight into user behavior. Rinse. Repeat.

Thousands of hours spent observing users complete these kinds of tasks has given us considerable insight into how users are likely to behave in a given situation.

Collaboration + Specialization

Specializing gets you far, but it’s not enough. We do a lot of work in niche markets, designing applications with massive data sets and jargon that is unintelligible to the average person. The product managers and business analysts we work with often have decades of experience with every nuance, acronym, and anomaly of their niche.

It’s impossible for a team of user experience specialists to come into a project knowing every last detail about applications that:

  • Manage networks of ATMs — cash on hand, fees, repair status, reporting
  • Track fleets of shipping trucks — speed, mileage, gas
  • Manage workflow, invoicing, time tracking, and accounting for large manufactures

Creating usable experiences for these products requires a very specific kind of collaboration between subject matter experts, stakeholders, and creative teams. We do a lot of this kind of collaboration, and we’ve gotten very good at it.

It would be impossible for us to work in a vacuum for a month, then come back and present an improved business banking portal or retirement calculator to our client. In order to successfully create complex tools and applications, there has to be a framework for gathering information from those responsible for the data, marketing, and technology and feeding that data into the user experience. There is sea of potential inputs for us to consider.

We’ve developed and refined the tools to sift through the noise and effectively identify the requirements and limitations of a project. Through repetition, practice, and learning from our mistakes— we know what to ask, when to ask it, and who to pull in to figure it out with us.

Our narrow specialization has not only made a difference for us as a business, it has also allowed each of us the opportunity to refine and hone our individual skills. It really is the best of both worlds. The thing we each love to do has created a culture that is recognized as a top company to work for — and has also enabled us to deepen the excellence we can deliver to our clients.

Do you have an application, website, or tool that needs a specialist with deep expertise in complex experiences? We’d love to hear more about it.

By Gregg Harrison
Vice President

Gregg’s passion for all things digital started two decades ago as a project manager and has expanded over the years to include a focus on user experience consulting, client management, and operations.

View Gregg's Bio


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