Caylee Betts — Swipies & Digital Ocean
New York-based all round designer who enjoys creating products and has an entrepreneurial flair.
I like to think it happened when I was a kid. I mean, usually, we just live day-to-day and connect the dots later. My dad used to sign me up every year for this Christmas card design contest. It was a contest for employees' children. The best three drawings were used in the company's Christmas card, having winners getting prizes like bikes and toys. I remember how I felt when I won a bike in the contest, on my own, using just a bit of imagination, a pencil, and paper. It was a feeling from then on I just wanted to continue with it.
Later in my teenage years, I used to play MMORPG games. I remember some friends and I made some hacks for a game called Tibia, by changing image assets and files. The excitement of making these things work made us willing to share it with the rest of our friends online. It was at that moment when I had my first encounter with HTML to implement our website. So that was it, I started making websites because of games.
Learning HTML pushed me forward in the year next. So I ended up getting a job as a trainee in an advertising agency, for one year. There I learned Corel and Adobe tools that felt like a new world to me. But even so, I thought I was on the path to becoming a developer. So when my contract ended, I joined a programming logic and Java course after high school classes. My final paper in this course was an application related to a game I used to play, called Lineage 2. I got so excited about the project that I ended up learning PHP to publish it on the web. It's been 14 years and the site is still live.
Later, before I decided on which college course to apply to, I revisited those moments while building these projects. And having a second thought about them, I realized what I enjoyed most was the ideation and design process. It was so satisfying thinking, planning the interface, and how I would later code the interactions. When I realized design is what I enjoyed most, I signed up for the design college and stood on that path since.
I try to start my morning routine the best I can before picking up the phone. Enjoying simple things like sharing a breakfast with my wife, and playing with our dog. Starting the days with good vibes whenever possible, you know? I listen to music while changing for work. Even working remotely, I like to wear sneakers and clothes I would usually wear to go out. It's like a physical reminder telling me “Hey! Time to focus on work stuff.” That's when I pick up the phone, and open Slack to start working.
Sitting down to work, I usually start by organizing my desk. No big deal. For some reason I found sustaining focus seems easier if things are in place in front of me.
At Bunny Studio we try to focus as much as we can, by freezing a proper time for that. The team is spread over different time zones so synchronous meetings must be precise. Primarely, we communicate assynchronously through messages, screenshots, Figma drafts, and recorded videos. So what happens is when I open Slack in the mornings I inmediatelly get a gazillion messages unread. You get used to. It happens because there is always someone online working. So my morning routine in Slack is basically prioritizing the most critical things to solve, and distributing them throughout the day among my focus spaces so that no one gets blocked and I can be productive too.
Contributing to a team in different time zones is a way of working that you learn to deal with. As a designer, an important part of my day is anticipating questions that may be relevant for the continuity of my work the next day and sharing this with the team so everyone can keep up.
Working from home feels lonely sometimes. Seeking to change this atmosphere, when I feel tired of being in the office, I like to take my computer outside and enjoy the sun while reading documentation or attend to a meeting.
After work hours, I usually walk with our little wolf. This I learned helped me to quickly decompress as a ritual to reinforce that “I'm coming back from work”. At night time, I usually enjoy a cup of coffee and dinner with my wife. We watch our TV shows and spend quality time together. When I got these days when my mind can't disconnect from work, I play PS or Switch. Nothing specific but something I can immerse myself in like a good fantasy story with a cloak in the back and a sword in hand.
I use inspiration in two situations. The first is when a project gets to me. You know, daily basis stuff. So I quickly browse Dribbble for inspiration. I used to love checking the LittleBigDetails blog and UserOnboard teardowns. For some reason, they stopped but their archive is still gold. I often check NNgroup articles also seeking data and reasoning behind decisions. Usually, this process sparks something willing me to tackle a project right away.
The other way I use inspiration is when I’m decompressing from one project to another. Sometimes in my free time. I use YouTube to feed my curiosity about gaming, history, storytelling, photography, and science stuff. Somehow, this ends up helping me experience different areas which later add-up to my design work or just helps me connecting with people.
I'm still amazed at how well-designed and useful vacuum robots can be. When I talk about it, people tend to be skeptical at first glance until I show them how much dirt they are capable of collecting. But most of all, they are consistent in cleaning. Every day, at the same hour they will be there for you.
This technology is so great that changes your mood. You realize one day it'll make you stop getting mad when the bread crumbs fall on the ground, or when your dog brings dirt from outside. That is not your problem anymore. It's the robot's problem. They don't complain and that is their best feature.
Once I watched this video by Amber Case about what she called "Calm Technology." The kind of technology that naturally gets into your life and doesn't require much attention or effort to use. It just consistently works. A technology like electricity or refrigerators that you only notice its existence when it's not there actively solving a problem. That's exactly what I see in vacuum robots. You schedule the routine, and that's it. The floor will be always clean until it's not and you'll miss the robot.
WordPress theme focused on reading experience
This project challenged my coding skills. Back in time, while redesigning my portfolio, I was envisioning a way of providing a good reading experience for the case studies. Making good use of typography, and spacing. A fun fact is that during my research on "good UX while reading", my top references were Medium, iBooks, and Lovers Magazine which back there the website was called “InterfaceLovers.”
After testing my designs, coding a WordPress theme felt natural because I wanted to create a theme that others could later fork and use.
Besides sharpening my design and code skills, it ended up being very fun. I learned about coding a theme for multiple languages, optimizing page speed while using custom fonts, and coding HTML elements to comply with WordPress accessibility standards.
I still get emails today from people thanking me for it and willing to customize it. It feels great and that is why I have proud of this project.
iOS app for movie nerds
I've always enjoyed interacting with developers. I am very proud of this app because it was the result of these moments with my friend Daniel Batiston who teamed up on this project with me.
One day we were having a coffee while discussing how it sucks to have different watchlists on multiple streaming services, and algorithms suggesting things we have watched already.
We tried to find some apps to solve this, we even bought some to test. We found they required a lot of effort to nurture the algorithms. But we had this idea of having an app we could organize the movies you like and the ones you don't, without much effort. A way of getting coherent suggestions of what and where to watch.
We ended up learning a lot while building, testing, and iterating on it. Especially about the algorithm logic. We ended up with a UI that I would describe as “Tinder meets Netflix.”
The app is still available for free on the App Store if you want to try it out.
This is a work in progress. We started with a vision type, iterating the designs while discussing them with stakeholders. When it reached a point where we started discussing the resources needed to execute the vision, we gathered the product team, marketing team, and engineering to plan a strong foundation for the project that could support the company’s goals.
I’m proud of it because looking back on a few months I can see how having new visuals, new UI components, and design guidelines have been impacting how people have been trying new things with the product and the brand. And this brings me a lot of joy, no doubt.
I’d say overcoming the technical debt and design debt is a great challenge. It requires a lot of effort from the team to reach their goals helping the company thrive while also prioritizing the limited resources available to provide the best possible UX.
An example of that is when we decided to revamp the design system by teaming up with our engineers to replace the framework used to render the UI. It is a work in progress requiring a lot of commitment to make it happen. Not just because we have to refactor things but also because we have to revise one, two, or three times the value of what we're replacing.
At the end of the day, the feeling is that it is all worthing it. It is during these when we have tight deadlines and even so, I see everyone working harder to launch the best UX we can, that I feel proud of everyone.
I like to think that having an attitude is one of the biggest drivers of anyone's career. So, I can share three valuable things that worked for me hoping they'll have some use to others. Three simple things. No big deal.
In my very first years working at agencies, I had the privilege of finding and learning from great mentors, which I'm very grateful for. They were people passionate about what they do and willing to share their experiences. So my first advice here is to try to find these people throughout your career. Give back to the world what it gave to you when the time comes. Be that person for someone else too.
The second is something I've come to learn in recent years. “No company worths a heart attack”. I mean, there's no problem enjoying the work and being a workaholic. I've been there having two jobs, working on keynotes at dawn. But what I mean is when the body gives you an alert, triggering anxiety, listen to that as I did. The learning here is that it's ok to test our limits as far as it is healthy for a good quality of life.
The third I learned very early from my parents. They used to say "Our word is the most valuable thing we have". This was their way of teaching me the values of commitment and ownership. This affected my attitude regarding everything, but mostly on work regarding committing to the people who I worked with. So the value I see here is if you commit to a project deadline and goals, use all the energy you have to be true to your word. And when you can't make it, face the situation with truth thus communicating with your team instead of investing time and energy in excuses. Your word is the most valuable thing you have.