10 Q's - Interview with Justin Davis of Madera Labs

Madera Labs helps companies design interactive products that deliver a killer user experience.  From websites and applications to kiosks and touchscreens, our passion is in creating moments of delight through smart design. We strive to understand how people use interactive products, how those products fit into their lives, and use that knowledge to deliver designs that augment peoples' lives in meaningful and engaging ways.

Justin Speaking at Barcamp Tampa


How Long have you been in the User Experience business? I’ve been working in the web industry since the late 90s, when I started building very basic websites for people - mainly as a hobby. From there, I worked (at one time or another) as a developer (both front- and back-end), project manager, strategist and designer.

Working for the General Board of Discipleship (one of the agencies of the United Methodist Church) gave me exposure to the user experience side of things. I worked under a guy who had a background in psychology and technology, and always applied a psychological, user-focused approach to designing with technology.  He inspired me to focus on that side of things, which I’ve now focused on for about 4 years.

Tell us a bit about how you started in UE? I started in user experience working for GBOD, as I mentioned. Through the mentorship of my boss at the time, I started exploring the discipline and focusing my work on designing technology solutions that deliver a great user experience, instead of just building technology for the sake of building it.

What motivated you to get into the business? Technology and design have always fascinated me.  In addition, I’ve always had a curiosity about how people think and experience the world.  The fusion of those two things led me into creating a company that helps design interactive products for companies that deliver a great user experience.

I especially get a thrill from making technology easier to use, and designing in moments that deliver delight to those using the product. Watching people smile as they use technology - instead of cursing at it - is a great feeling.

Tell us how you marketed your business at the launch? - what were the keys to your success Initially, my marketing efforts were based largely around exposure, meeting as many people as I could and evangelizing to them the benefits of working with a user experience designer.

Because my field is somewhat new (at least with regards to the phrase “user experience design”), a lot of my marketing is about education - showing people how this type of design is different, and how it can create products that create meaningful impacts on the bottom line.

Another huge part of my marketing strategy is speaking. I love to speak and try to find as many opportunities to speak to groups as possible. These speaking engagements are all about education and providing real value, and have been a very important part of my initial growth.

What is your basic philosophy as it pertains to User Experience Interactive products - websites, web applications, phones, kiosks, TVs, etc. - should be a delight to use.  By designing from the standpoint of the user and understanding the psychology of use, we can create products that people want to use and talk about.  The world is filled with interactive products that are frustrating, confusing and difficult to use.  Better design can create truly awesome experiences using these products (and help businesses create spectacular competitive differentiation).

How long have you been in middle Tennessee and how long ago did you relocate? I’ve been in Middle Tennessee since 2001, when I went to school at Middle Tennessee State University. I grew up in Knoxville, so I’ve always been local-ish.

How big is the company and are you growing/hiring? The company has 100 positions...99 just haven’t been filled yet. I’m working through the initial stage of identity and process development right now with growth as a big priority for 2011.

I’m always looking for talented and passionate people who want to make a difference by designing better interactive products, and want to help build a company with that mission.

What advice would you give any web designer, entrepreneur trying to make it with a startup in the Nashville area? 1. Meet as many people as possible, and take a honest interest in how you can help them.  I don’t sell to people.  I look for ways I can honestly provide meaningful value and serve my clients.  Nashville is a small town, and if you work to provide service, you’ll be rewarded with the opportunities to help others.  The power of referrals in Nashville is huge.

2. It’s trite to say it, but it’s true: fail. If you want to start something, or have already done it, go after it with reckless abandon and don’t be too afraid to skin your knees a bit.  The folks in Nashville are very forgiving people, and if you’re honest and candid, I think you’ll find that failing a bit here is one of the best ways to grow your company.

What is your favorite part about being in and around the Nashville Area? The people here. Nashville is the epitome of southern hospitality, and the caliber of people in this town are absolutely top-notch. I’m consistently amazed by the generosity and big hearts that the people here have.

Name your favorite musical album.  What is in your CD player currently.? Favorite album: Cracked Rear View - Hootie and the Blowfish.

Currently in the CD player: CDs don’t get played here much. Usually, it’s either the Hootie Pandora station, country music radio, instrumental jazz, or Jimmy Buffett.