Employee Spotlight – Kirk Wheeler

Kirk and his son out skateboarding!

This month we shine the spotlight on our old car restoration loving and outdoorsman extraordinaire Senior UX/UI Designer – Kirk Wheeler!

Sandra: How long have you been working with Geoforce?

Kirk: I started in January 2020, so a little over a year.

Sandra: What do you do at Geoforce?

Kirk: I have a dual role that encompasses both User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). Most people understand that UI is about layout, colors, buttons, and other visual elements in general. It’s primarily the visual layer of our software applications. However, UX Design is a relatively new discipline at Geoforce and probably not as widely understood.

Sandra: Can you please tell me a little more about it?

Kirk: UX revolves around striving to understand our user’s needs and pain points and designing workflows in our products that provide them the most useful and intuitive solution we can.

Ideally, this begins well ahead of the development cycle as it involves learning about different customer types, their specific goals, and the journey and process they take in attempting to achieve what they are aspiring to do. From there, this information is organized into a design that it is easily understood, matching not only the users’ mental model, but also facilitates their tasks in an intuitive way. This is realized by designing prototypes of increasing fidelity and doing iterative user testing along the way.

Sandra: So, what is user testing?

Kirk: The label can be a little misleading. It’s really not a test that judges the ability of the user. It’s actually a test of how well we’ve designed our software to parallel the way our users think and the ways they use (or try to use) our products.

Tests are conducted by having a set of representative users try to accomplish a task or set of tasks. Ideally this is done at the mockup stage or prototype of design. In the past, I’ve even done them using sketches on paper. It’s never too early to test and validate ideas. By observing participants as they click on elements and talk through their thought process as they walk through the task, we learn a lot.

Sandra: Why is this important?

Kirk: The things that a business can learn from early user testing are invaluable. It provides the opportunity to take user feedback, identify issues and trends, and incorporate changes before precious time and money are spent on the development process of coding and bug testing, not to mention all the efforts around marketing and launching a new product or release.

Beyond being a great way to provide more vetted products to customers, it is also more economically efficient to build the solutions and ultimately cheaper to support them long-term.

So, there are lots of reasons, but if you boil it all down, the biggest reason is it helps identify and focus on things that will add the most value to our users. When our customers win, Geoforce wins. I truly believe that.

In the grand scheme of it all, we are still in the initial stages of incorporating these processes, but as we grow, these are things we need to do in order to continue to meet the needs of our customers and stay competitive in the marketplace.

Sandra: What are your hobbies outside of work?

Kirk: I could talk about a few different topics here. With my background in art and design I’ll probably always be interested in drawing, painting, and photography. It’s interesting how these things almost always relate to something I’m doing at work. A decent sketch or whiteboard illustration can go a long way in a meeting!

Also, I recently acquired a project car. A FJ Cruiser (with 367,000 miles on it) that I have been sorting out. Growing up on a farm and ranch, it was necessary to diagnose and fix problems as they arose. I think it was one of those things originated from necessity but eventually grew on me, because now I typically enjoy tinkering with cars or anything that is mechanical in nature.

My primary focus with the FJ has been making sure the drivetrain is squared away. But honestly, I almost can’t wait to put a winch on it. My birthday is coming up if anyone is looking for gift ideas! J

Sandra: What is your favorite attribute of Geoforce and why?

Kirk: I resonate with all the core values, but if I have to pick just one, it’s got to be Grow Together.

My favorite thing to do is work directly with our users to learn about their business and how we can help them be successful. So not only do we grow our partner relationship with our customers, we also grow as a company. Geoforce has a lot of sharp folks and it’s great to witness them coming together to create innovative solutions for our customers.

Sandra: What is your thing to do or favorite place to travel to during Spring break?

Kirk: Camping, fishing, hunting, or really anything outdoors are the types of things I do whenever I get a chance. If there’s anything I can do to spend time with my family, I’ll try it too.

My teenage son is into skateboarding and talked me into getting a board recently. Well, let’s just say if you fall off the board inside the skate shop before you buy it, it might be a good indicator of how well things are going to go.

Anyway. Although I’m sore, I get to spend time with him and that’s what counts.

Sandra: What have you gained from working at Geoforce?

Kirk: Oh gosh… GIS data experience is probably the primary new thing I’ve been exposed to. But something that also sticks out to me is the hardware aspect of our products and how the software and the hardware intertwine with one another. Everything that I’ve worked on in the past has been software only. How cool is it to design things that utilize a satellite to function in the process of helping our customers? …It’s REALLY cool!

The other thing I absolutely love about Geoforce, is there is no end in sight to the things one can learn here. The very technical nature of our products and how they evolve over time ensures there will be no shortage of problems to solve for our customers in the future.

Sandra: What is something you have always wanted to do but never done?

Kirk: Competing at the National Matches at Camp Perry is at the top of my list, but experiencing the Grand Canyon is another big one for me. I’ve flown over it, been close to it, but never had the opportunity to just go there in person and soak it all in. I’d love to spend a week there.

I’m also a bit of a history buff, so there are a couple of places high on my list that I’d like to visit around the time of year they are celebrated and remembered. D-Day – Normandy, France in June, and here in the US – Boston, Lexington, and Concord in April.