Slice of Lime

Please tell us about your team and what makes it successful. Help us understand what makes this team noteworthy or exceptional.: 
Slice of Lime was founded over 14 years ago. Obviously, a lot has changed in our industry in that amount of time. As the internet space and all of its related areas (SEO, Facebook, Design, Development, etc.) grew, so did our services.
 
At year 10, we realized we had lost our focus and tacked on too many additional offerings. We took a huge step back and reprioritized. This led to us dropping EVERY service except for UX Design. With that sort of focus, we were able to grow an exceptionally talented and effective agency team.
 
The following are a few noteworthy examples of how our decision to focus has led to a team of exceptional UX Designers:
 
WE UNDERSTAND OUR "WHY"
Everyone at Slice of Lime rallies behind the mantra “Create Amazing Experiences.” To us, this means three things:
 
  1. First off, we want the work we produce to be amazing for the people who interact with it.
  2. We want our clients to have an amazing experience working with us. We’re paid to bring our clients through a process that by its very nature will lead us into unknown directions. This can be uncomfortable for clients and we ensure that clients feel safe, collaborative, and on the same page with us as we guide them through that process.
  3. We want our experiences WITHIN Slice of Lime to be amazing. That doesn’t just apply to things like VIP access the Green Room at Conan O’Brien or hiking fourteeners together. It’s mostly about growing. We spend a lot of time and money on encouraging everyone to learn at conferences, via webinars and meetups, etc. We also speak at conferences, run Meet Up groups, and write content about UX. Everyone gets $2500 a year to spend on learning.

WE LEAVE ROOM TO EXPLORE
A lot is changing in our industry all the time, especially in focus areas we have around the Internet of Things and Healthcare. Four years ago, we noticed that while we were encouraging learning new things, there was rarely enough time to do that learning in between client work. This led to adopting a form of Google’s 20% time. This allows us to explore all kinds of ideas and has led to things like:

  • Nübi. A connected toy that we build in-house to help kids learn science, technology, engineering, and math. Using Arduino parts and a 3D printer, we made our idea a reality and won the DevelopHer contest, receiving the award at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair last year. You can check it out here: http://www.meetnubi.com. Gizmodo wrote an article on it here: http://toyland.gizmodo.com/this-sweet-connected-toy-is-designed-to-teach-kids-how-1662134444
  • UX Notes. This is an app we’re almost finished with to help us streamline our research. It allows someone to collect data and, in real time, synthesize that data to show common themes during research.
 
WE MENTOR
We’ve always been a part of the startup community, especially in the Colorado area. This has included sponsoring and speaking at all kinds of events like Denver Startup Week, Boulder Startup Week, NewCo, Boulder Beta, etc. We’ve also been supporting the Techstars accelerator program since day one.
 
As our company has grown, it’s become harder for us to engage with early stage startups from a monetary standpoint. This has led us to become mentors and we’ve engaged with various startup accelerators such as:
 
  • Techstars Boulder
  • Nike+ Accelerator
  • R/GA Accelerator
  • Boomtown Boulder
  • Disney Accelerator
 
We provide free work for a select group of teams in these programs, but more importantly teach them how to do the work themselves after the program is over. We believe that research work can be done at any stage and that teams shouldn’t wait until their A-Round of financing to start engaging with real end-users. Teaching startups how to do effective UX work without breaking the bank is fun to do and highly valuable for those teams.
 
WE ITERATE ON OURSELVES
Every month, we look inward. This is at an event called “Slice-ness” and typically happens on the first Friday of the month with beers in hand. On a big whiteboard wall, everyone puts sticky notes under 4 categories:
 
  • What’s not working
  • What we’re unsure of
  • What’s working great
  • Where we’ve delivered an “amazing experience”

 

The key is that EVERYONE contributes and that we’re honest. Things can be as small as the need to fix a window to questions around company values.

The various stickies are grouped together by theme and talked about as a team. “Action Items” are created to address anything we need to do as a next step. We also log everything in Trello to show progress on those items each month.
 
Keeping this tradition has allowed us to grow a strong company and culture where topics, successes, and concerns are freely shared with one another.
 
WE'RE HIGHLY COLLABORATIVE 
Our ideal working arrangement is to be on retainer working within closely with our client’s team. Many times, developers are siphoned off from research and design efforts. We aim to reverse that logic and encourage developers to attend our meetings and offer both technical insight as well as CREATIVE insights. We firmly believe that developers have a ton to offer when it comes to strategic and interactive ideation.
 
We also encourage our client stakeholders to participate in our research studies so that they can see first-hand what users are saying. We have clients do full-day workshops with us which includes having them sketch out ideas on whiteboard walls as well as tear up and criticize ideas that we present.
 
The more collaborative and open we can be with each other, the better.
 
WE GALVANIZE 
Over the last couple of years, we’ve noticed a new trend with our projects. As the companies we work with get bigger and bigger, they also tend to have disparate departments that don’t necessarily talk to or play nice with one another.
 
Our process demands that people across departments come together (sometimes for the first time) to hash out priorities and find common ground.
 
We’ve often been called “therapists” by our clients.  There’s usually a timid farewell as we wrap up projects because we had injected so much speed and positive collaboration to a team that was more accustomed to red tape and politics.
 
WE WANT TO KNOW ABOUT OUR CLIENTS' PROGRESS
All client engagements eventually come to an end, which means we lose our weekly cadence with clients at some point. That doesn’t mean we stop thinking about the project, though. We typically circle back with our clients to see how our work is performing, what the feedback is, and where things can be iterated on more. Positive or negative, we want to know how our work is being received and if the research and interface work we did is delivering a great experience. Individual members of the team have started to proactively reach out to old clients as well as startups we’ve mentored to meet up for coffee or lunch. We honestly want our work to be successful for our clients and for the people who interact with it.
 
WE HAVE A COOL SNOWBALL EFFECT
The last thing to note about focusing our agency explicitly on UX Design is the snowball effect that’s created. By hiring senior-level UX Designers, we’ve created a culture that is filled with super-smart people. Those people attract other smart people to join the team through their writing and speaking engagements as well as the work they produce. Internally, everyone feeds off each other’s energy and knowledge so that the sum of our team is far greater than any individual.
 
When you have a room full of senior-level UXers, they really push each other to up their game, stay curious, and keep on top of our field.
 
They are also some of the funniest people you’ll ever meet. :-)