Springboard Mentor Q&A: Matt Donovan


Springboard mentor and full-stack designer Matt Donovan started his profession as a print graphic designer. He moved into UX design after instructing himself net design and interface with purchasers. 

As the previous director of product design at Zaarly—a platform connecting owners with house service suppliers comparable to plumbers, gardeners, and electricians—Donovan spent a variety of time observing workers and prospects interacting with merchandise. These insights, referred to as UX analysis, can save firms thousands and thousands of {dollars} in misplaced gross sales or buyer churn.

Under, he shares some insights about his profession path and what he loves about UX design.

You check with your self as a full-stack designer. I’ve began seeing this time period increasingly more typically. What precisely is a full-stack designer? 

It might imply various things to totally different individuals. Typically, it refers to a designer who can do all the things from enterprise evaluation and product technique all through UI design, or UI/UX design all through back-end improvement. 

In my case, I can do all the things from enterprise and product technique by UI engineering and somewhat little bit of back-end improvement. 

Matt Donovan Springboard

Matt Donovan at work at Zaarly.

How did you purchase such a various skillset?

Primarily by curiosity. I’m pushed not by the necessity to understand how issues work, extra like the necessity to see if I can do it myself! 

My very first job was as a print graphic designer for a Christian nonprofit that does humanitarian work in Haiti. They had been like, OK, so we’re assigning you the Christmas banquet brochures, and likewise may you check out our web site and possibly redesign it and see in the event you can remake it? My greatest buddy is an online developer, so I immediate messaged him on AOL on daily basis for six months and realized do front-end improvement on the job. And that’s at all times remained a part of the toolkit that I take pleasure in maintaining. 

Most lately, you had been the director of design at Zaarly, a platform connecting owners with house service suppliers like plumbers and gardeners. What had been your most important tasks there?

Most lately, I used to be directing the design crew and the design self-discipline at Zaarly, in addition to doing a variety of product technique. I began at Zaarly as a product designer. The very first challenge I labored on was on person profiles. 

Zaarly was initially type of like a reverse Craigslist. You may publish a job provide for somebody to mow your garden for $30, after which individuals may make presents, however it was utterly nameless. I labored on creating an id to construct belief within the platform by including Fb identification, person profiles, and privateness settings. We additionally began vetting service suppliers and moderating each job.

What made you need to turn into a UX designer?

I type of fell into design basically. I’d had jobs earlier than the place manufacturing individuals had been simply there to observe the specs and make the stuff. However then I joined a B2B drug firm. They had been updating the ordering software program for all of their nephrology clinics, so I flew somewhat puddle jumper airplane for per week throughout Texas to those little podunk cities visiting these clinics and watching these nurses use the software program. I noticed their sticky notes for the hyperlinks they might by no means keep in mind and these big binders of documentation for use the applying as a result of there was no assist part. I used to be amazed on the readability that the journey supplied round what we would have liked to do to make a distinction. 

What has your expertise been like mentoring for Springboard?

I feel one in every of my biggest joys is my weekly Springboard mentor calls. I really like having the ability to hear what a pupil is engaged on, possibly hear what they’re combating, and provide some perspective. These moments the place you may inform that you just’ve helped somebody—that’ll gasoline me for per week. 

Matt Donovan Springboard

Considered one of Matt Donovan’s UX tasks.

Most Springboard college students are career-switchers. One of many largest dangers for profession switchers is that they don’t actually know what it’s wish to work in an trade till they do it. Had been there any surprises for you after you entered the sector?

There are only a few precise guidelines on this trade. I feel there are a variety of robust opinions and people can really feel like guidelines however there are such a lot of methods to deal with issues. As people, all of us have one thing that’s uniquely “us” to present to this world. As a result of design is such a brand new trade, there simply aren’t inflexible requirements that should be adopted. Even the requirements which might be in place are always in flux. So you’ve gotten this actual alternative to take the way in which you assume is greatest and lean into it. 

So designers do have a variety of artistic license, even after they work for different individuals? 

Sure. I really like Don Norman’s definition of design, which is that it’s the “rendering of intent.” 

Design is simply exhibiting what you need to make. As a designer, the extra you may present as an alternative of simply inform, the extra you push that dialog alongside, the extra readability your concepts achieve in different individuals’s minds. When you may take your concepts and package deal them in a visible manner that folks can devour and get at a look, it provides you unimaginable energy. 


New to design? Be taught what designers do on the job by working by a challenge with 1-on-1 mentorship from an trade knowledgeable in Springboard’s new Introduction to Design course. Matters lined embrace design instruments, analysis, sketching, designing in excessive constancy, and wireframing. Learn more and sign up here.


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