Lianne Minnis

I’ve always been curious about the separation between how things work and how people engage with them. As a child, I’d break toys apart and put them back together in ways that were more useful and interesting to me. While I no longer do that, I still seek to lessen the tension between function and usefulness by creating usable, inclusive, and delightful user experiences. I started my journey in 2014 by building websites for small local businesses and solo-preneurs. More recently, I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Quinnipiac University’s Interactive Media Design master’s program where I focused on UX. Today, I work as a UX editor where I create and review content, write and edit interface copy, perform user research, and build designs to provide intuitive and seamless online learning experiences for educators around the world. Check out my resume!

You’re a UX nerd, right? So why do you care about language so much?

If the point of design is to communicate, then I consider language to be a design tool. Perhaps it is the cheapest, most low-risk design tool of them all! 

Communicating meaning is about context, so I’m constantly zooming in and out to consider what people see first, during, and at the end of a flow. The best design means nothing if users don’t “get it,” so I work with language, alongside other tools, to build and revise user experiences in clear, consistent, and approachable ways. 

For example, much of my current work is in building online courses for educators. An unclear user journey, a confusing menu label, or inconsistent interface copy can distract learners and significantly decrease the likelihood that they will incorporate their professional development experience into their everyday classroom practice. In turn, the children in their care are the ones who miss out on the benefits of these courses. 

I always take the impact of my work seriously, so I strive to always communicate—whether by language or visual design—clearly and effectively.

Got it. So why do you practice design?

Long story short, I design because I want to help create a more inclusive, equitable, and accessible world for all.

Technology can help us live more meaningful, productive lives–until it doesn’t. Algorithms have the ability to shape who we befriend, what we buy, and where we go, but their behavior is becoming more opaque and unpredictable. We’ve come to a point where algorithms are making assumptions about every facet of our lives at a speed and magnitude never seen before.

As designers, we have an ethical responsibility to understand the varied ways our solutions might produce unintended side effects, especially if the product relies on algorithms and user data. We need to find ways to work with human complexities instead of paring them away. While language and design create concepts, they can also overgeneralize and minimize groups of people, ignore their emotional and cultural realities, or exclude people from access that should be accessible to all. That inspires me to find ways to build more inclusive products. This mission begins with having conversations about who we might be excluding, using big data and thick data, and sometimes, challenging an organization’s definition of success.

I design because I get to create solutions that tell a different story about our world—and the people in it. With that, I can help move it forward a little bit.

Okay, but what can you do? More specifically?

I often work at the intersection of editorial and product experience, designing the content that goes into websites, mobile apps, software, and conversational interfaces.

Design

Content strategy
I’ve worked on content strategy in one form or another throughout the last four years, and it is a heavy focus of my current work.

Interface writing and editing
From websites and mobile apps to software and beyond, I love to write for various interfaces. Microcopy, menu labels, and even actual content—you name it!

User research
I have experience managing multiple user research projects simultaneously. I’ve used a variety of methods, but research questions always come first. Some of these methods include contextual inquiry, survey design and analysis, in-depth interviews, unmoderated and moderated usability studies, click testing, concept testings, and focus groups.

Information architecture
I use web analytics, usability tests, card sorts, and content inventories to figure out the best way to structure websites and apps.

Prototyping
I tend to write first, then sketch. Depending on the fidelity required, I use Balsamiq, Axure, Sketch, InVision, or Adobe XP.

Visual design
While Illustrator is my favorite visual design tool, I also know enough about Photoshop, InDesign, Affinity Designer, and Procreate to teach colleagues about them.

Interactive course design
The nature of my work has forced me to dive right into using a number of interactive course design tools, including Articulate Rise, Totara LMS, Storyline, and Adobe Captivate.

Code

HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript
I know enough to read and write some basic code, and I am studying more and more about all three of these languages.

Python
I’ve pulled data from APIs such as Twitter and Wikipedia and analyzed it, but I’m still a Python newbie learning more and more about it.

Marketing

Campaigns
I’ve supported dozens of web marketing campaigns for small businesses and individuals, collaboratively building strategy and creating attractive visual designs for print and web.

Social strategy
I’ve studied a lot about social media (I’ve even taken a few courses on the topic!) and I’ve applied this knowledge by streamlining content production for multiple channels with editorial calendars, voice and tone guidelines, messaging strategy, SEO, and proper metrics.

Copywriting
I’ve helped small businesses and individuals communicate who they are and why everyone else should care about what they do and offer.

Analytics
Google Analytics is my tool of choice for marketing analytics, and I enjoy using Zoola to explore LMS reporting and analytics.

Soft Skills

Flexibility
I’ve always been a “go with the flow” teammate, finding it easy to put my ego to the side and design for people. Flexibility enables me to work with shifting ideas and requirements, changing directions, and researching what works and what doesn’t without getting too attached to my own ideas.

Mediation
Once I took on UX work, I quickly learned that a significant portion of that work is about compromising user needs, business goals, and technology restrictions. This means tactfully working with users and stakeholders with empathy, humility, patience, and the ability to deal with dealing with difficult situations and resolve potential conflicts.

Curiosity
One reason why UX is my field of choice is the fact that it offers me the ability to frequently switch contexts. Fully understanding target audiences requires genuine curiosity and the willingness to explore many different topics. I’ve always been extremely curious, and my curiosity has, undoubtedly, benefited my work in many ways.

Communication and articulation
My first love is writing, which has made me a very thoughtful communicator. I explain complicated concepts in simple, affordable, and compelling ways in both my interactions with stakeholders and my designs.

Who are you outside of work?

I’m a laid-back writer and plant mom who enjoys yoga, making art, cooking, and learning new things. I’m big into hiking and pretty much all things outdoorsy. Regularly connecting with the natural world grounds and refreshes me, so weekend outdoor exploration is my favorite way to prepare for the week ahead. I also enjoy volunteering for my local art school, where I write press releases and blog posts, interview artists, and market workshops and gallery showings.

How can I connect with you?

If you want to connect, send me a note using this contact form or through email at liannemariaminnis@gmail.com.