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‘Don’t overcrowd the UI, Simplicity is key’ – A Sneak Peek with Emma Wedekind About Her Excellence in UI Development

May 22, 2019

6 Min Read
Emma Wedekind
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Today we are really honored and excited to have Emma Wedekind for this interview at Cloudways. Emma is a software development enthusiast, primarily known for her work on IBM Quantum. She is a Siena College (New York) graduate, having the degree in B.S Computer Science. Her proficiency with JavaScript, Dojo, Vue.js and other scripting languages helped her start the career early from IBM.

Emma was always a tech-savvy girl and wanted to do more with her developmental skills. She has excelled in her career working on some major dev languages including Python, Java, React and many more others. She has rightly placed herself as the renowned Full-stack developer, having her credentials both on major front and backend languages.

Having the good memories working long time in United States, Emma is now moved to Germany where she is currently working for GoToMeeting as a principle developer. Apart from her dev life, she is a great social person who loves blogging, reading and travelling to different countries in her spare time.

Let’s start the interview with Emma.

Cloudways: Hello Emma, how are you? Thank you for giving us your precious time for this Interview :). Could you give us a short summary of your career journey as a Software engineer, what motivates you to always try new ideas?

Emma: Hi! I’m great thanks for asking 🙂 I began my coding career back in 2013 when I declared a Computer Science major in college. In 2014 I got an internship with IBM automating the installation of WebSphere Application Server on z/OS using Python. After graduating college in 2015, I moved down to Austin, Texas where I’d spend the next three years at IBM working on various projects.

I worked on everything from enterprise storage systems to quantum computing. I had a ton of fun and it’s where I met my current husband.

In February of 2018, I sold everything and moved to Karlsruhe, Germany to be with my German fiance (at the time; he’s now my husband 🙂 ). For the first eight or nine months at LogMeIn, I worked as a Software Engineer on GoToMeeting. I currently work as a UX Engineer building our Design System.

I’m extremely motivated by seeing how the content I produce helps people. If I can help just one person, it motivates me to produce more and better content. The only thing standing between you and success isn’t failure; it’s not trying new things.

Cloudways: Software development has rapidly evolved from PHP to NodeJS, Python to Ruby and several other languages. My question is that how developers can adapt these evolving languages frequently with other skills like design and DevOps. What do you recommend for this being a senior SE and UX designer?

Emma: It’s incredibly difficult to keep up-to-date within a quickly-evolving industry. I struggle with this myself. To incorporate learning new skills into your everyday workflow, I recommend choosing one small task a week to incorporate into your process. For example, if you want to learn more about clean code, take one of the principles in the Clean Coding book, and for that week make a conscious effort to incorporate it into your work. These atomic habits will slowly compound over time to enhance and broaden your skill set.

Cloudways: Developing projects are the most exciting part which helps developers to create their portfolio, community standing and learning. On what new projects you are currently working on and how you are developing them? This would help us to understand your workflows and practices while development.

Emma: I have a thousand projects up my sleeve at any given moment. Here are just a few:

  • Coding Coach: My open-source project for facilitating mentorship in the technical industry
  • JSParty Podcast: I recently joined as a panelist and it’s teaching me a lot about the industry
  • Conference talks: I had a goal to speak at one conference this year. I’ve been accepted to seven. Thus, I’m devoting a lot of my time to preparing talks.
  • Random Cat Generator: It’s possibly my favorite project yet. It was just a dumb little app idea I came up with… primarily because the domain was free and I have no self control.

I try to focus on the task which is coming up next in my calendar. Once I’ve finished that task, I move on to the next. Prioritization does wonders for productivity.

Cloudways: Emma, while researching I came to know that you are a calm soul who loves to read a lot. Which books you love to read the most and recommend to others?

Emma: I’ve read about 30 books so far in 2019. It’s quite crazy, I know. I generally don’t watch a lot of TV so that leaves me with a lot of time for reading. I also love audio books. I have a two-hour commute each day so I have a lot of down time.

I have read some incredible books this year. A few of my favorites are:

  • Refactoring UI
  • Start With Why
  • Atomic Habits
  • The Power of Habit
  • How To Win Friends & Influence People
  • Anything Brandon Sanderson

Cloudways: There is lot of confusion still in the community about UX vs UI. Still people don’t know what’s the difference between UX and UI. How would you explain it for them?

Emma: This answer gets a bit blurry but from my experience and understanding, UI design focuses on the physical design and layout of elements on a page. For example, which colors will be used throughout a UI, why square buttons are more effective at drawing users’ eyes, and how information needs to retain a strong type scale to be consistent.

UX design is complementary to visual design, however it focuses more on user experience. UX designers use heuristics to analyze whether a UI provides a positive interaction for the user. For example, the principle of “recognition rather than recall” states that we should minimize the cognitive load users have to bear when checking out of a store, for example. So perhaps we want to display the products in the shopping cart, and the total price amount at every step in the process.

I’m not an expert in the differentiation, but in my experience these are the largest differentiators.

Cloudways: Let’s say, you need to design a website landing page for any of your product. So what steps you will follow to design it and make it appealing for the visitors. What design principles you advise to apply in the landing page?

Emma: I always do research before designing a landing page, or any application. What are other popular “competitors” or similar products doing? I pull pieces from each of my favorites to build a composite which is uniquely mine.

Some tips I might give are:

  • Don’t overcrowd the UI. Simplicity is key.
  • Is there a call-to-action? Something which will grab users’ attention?
  • Does the color palette convey the emotional response you want your users to have?

Cloudways: Being a community activist, do you think open source contributions and engagements help build the personality and skills. Who are you favourite people in the community whom you can recommend for the next interviews?

Emma: I do, however the whole area is a bit of a black box for me. I understand how important OS contributions can be, however I haven’t contributed to an open source project; I’ve just started my own.

There are plenty of other ways to prove your value as a developer: portfolio or side projects should showcase unique skills. I’ve never seen someone be rejected from a job because they didn’t have OS experience.

I know that Jessie Frazelle is extremely involved in OS, so I’d recommend her.

Cloudways: Emma, you have worked with IBM Cloud company, how was your experience? You have also talked about Netlify recently. What do you think about managed Cloud hosting platforms like Cloudways that simply decreases the sysadmin needs and provide 1-click deployments?

Emma: I didn’t work much with Bluemix, AKA IBM Cloud, however I always found the process of deployment to be a bit convoluted (it could have been improved since I worked with it). Netlify was the first tool I found that made deployment painless. I couldn’t recommend them enough. I love the idea of 1-click deployments. It takes something which was formerly confusing and time consuming and turned it into an enjoyable experience.

Cloudways: We saw you travel a lot in the world. What are your favourite destinations to spend the vacations. You can share some memorable pictures with us too 🙂

Emma: I have so many favorites! Stockholm and Amsterdam are two of my favorite places. London also holds a special place in my heart (I even have the coordinates of London tattooed on my ankle!) because I studied abroad there for a semester.

(Stockholm)

If you’re more of a nature person, Königssee in Bavaria was incredible. We took our engagement photos there and fell in love with the scenery.

(Königssee)

Other favorites include:

  • Lucerne, Switzerland
  • South Tyrol, Italy
  • Tübingen, Germany
  • Innsbruck, Austria
  • Edinburgh, Scotland

Cloudways: Pictures of senior developers’ workstations have a knack of greatly inspiring budding developers. I would appreciate if you could please share some snapshots of your workstation and office.

Emma: Unfortunately my desk is boring and baren, so here’s a photo of my coworkers desk. We recently turned it into a relax room. Mine is the boring one on the left.

emma's workstation

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Shahroze Nawaz

Shahroze is a PHP Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed PHP Hosting Platform. Besides his work life, he loves movies and travelling. You can email him at shahroze.nawaz@cloudways.com

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BFCM 2019