Blog: Secrets from the Chef

All you wanted to know about Turbomilk but were too shy to ask

Yegor GilyovAuthor: Yegor Gilyov
30 October 2007

Our zealous readers must remember how we hosted our dear guests from Dominion this July. And prior to that we had paid a visit to that wonderful studio ourselves where we were treated with some tea and a Q&A session. So, what kind of questions can site builders have to interface designers? Luckily we got all the moves on paper and nothing will prevent us from sharing it.

Do you do testing of the interfaces you design? If yes, then how? Who does the testing (you or your client)?

If you are talking about usability testing, then we do it only when we work in close cooperation with usability experts. They do the testing. Sometimes they do prototype testing prior to our work, sometimes they test the “finished product”.

Why do you do icons and interfaces? As we recall (and we may be wrong here) we all started as web designers?

It is easier to deal with icons apart from the rest of the stages of development. And this job also pays better. While we have realized the difficulties of producing turn key solutions (for instance, full-fledged sites with engine and support), we chose the most pleasant of all outsourcing niches. And interface design represents the natural path of growing from that niche.

Website developer is often involved with working with nonprofessional clients. We, as outsourcers oftentimes deal with professionals. Our clients form three large groups: design studios, software developers and usability professionals. It is easier for us to talk to these people than with an average client who just needs a site.

Do you have Russian clients?

Yes. 30% of our clients are located in Russia and 40% speak Russian.

How does the work with foreign clients differ from the work with Russians (apart from the language barrier)?

All clients are very different and it is hard to emphasize on some vernacular features. Except maybe for the way the paperwork is treated. In Russia, we either strike verbal agreements or roll out contracts of fifty pages, checked and rechecked by lawyers. In the west it’s easier: they scribble clauses on paper and treat it as an “official document”.

Do you supply several versions of design (several versions of one icon, several versions of an interface screen) to a client to choose from?

As a rule — no. We consider it a dead-end approach. We produce one version with all our efforts paid to locating the correct solution to the posed task. Then we rework according to feedback. If necessary, we rework from scratch.

How do you divide labor while working on a project?

We have a small team. And, although we try very hard to lose an image of a rescue squad in the eyes of our clients we try our best to meet our clients’ tasks ASAP. For that matter we need to be interchangeable.

How do you allow for specialization while distributing the tasks on a project? Do you have technical designers, illustrators? Does is have positive or negative results?

We have a great technical designer — Olesya. We have an absolute maniac illustrator — Eugene. Of course we allow for specialization, how can we live without it? Can it have negative impact? The worst comes out of the interchangeability that I touched upon earlier.

Setting task by the client and reconciliation of the volume of work and scheduling — how do you do it?

First, we consider time (in hours) required for performing the work as we know it from the previous projects (for several years we’ve been involved in time tracking). The project cost and deadline estimate easily comes out of the time estimate (considering the workload on other projects).

We have a question on analyzing the posed tasks. For instance, icons: what if you are asked to produce 25 icons and a list of where they should go. Do you analyze the necessity of icons? Do you suggest other options? Maybe you suggest reconsidering the set of tasks?

Such task analysis is possible with some old clients, where we understand each other completely. In such cases — yes, we make our suggestions. But if a man just walks in from the street and orders 25 icons, we do it without talking.

What stages do you have in working on a project?

Depends on a project. For icons:

  • Selection of metaphors and development of a visual language (sketches);
  • Development of style based on several icons;
  • Illustrating the whole set;
  • Generating the output files.

How do you plan work?

Not very formally at this stage. We move towards a better way of organizing ourselves with TimeLog system.

Here is an example of a schedule approved by one of our clients:


Plain and simple. This client is a rare example. He treats his milestones with the same rate of responsibility as we do, and gets anxious if we do not get back to him on time.

What’s your approach towards looking for new employees?

We should have someone to look for and the approach comes with the search! Generally it depends on the circumstances. Sometimes we place a classifieds add, invite to come by, get acquainted… we like to lure away people from Samara web studios!

How do you do control the quality of your work?

We have a special man — Dmitri Joukov. We do not show a single pixel to our clients without his approval. He is absolutely deaf to moaning like “but, Dima, the clients have been waiting for it for so long, let’s show this now and then rework!”

Your advice to web designers and icon illustrators?

It is hard to formulate some general advice. What gets formulated — finds its way to our blog. Read posts, post comments!

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i would like to thank u very much for the great posts & tips !!.

Reply dr_ims, 26 September 2008

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