10 Questions with Frederico Oliveira.

Frederico Oliveira born 16 dec 1982 in Coimbra, Portugal. Previously extremely active in Open Source Initiative and computer security communities. Since he has been working on information systems, web design and consulting for some years now. He is the guy behind design for TechCrunch. He also work with a limited number of clients in creating better websites and user-centered web applications at WeBreakStuff.

[1] Paul: First, describe to us Frederico Oliveira in 5 words.
Frederico: Information Obsessed Web Design Advocate.

[2] Paul: Considering the excellent web design works you have done so far, we know very little about you, care to share with us more about yourself? Anything will do really, e.g. studies, skills, etc.
Frederico: Sure. One of the first things people approach me as is a designer, which is something I don't consider myself as. I'm finishing my Computer Science degree at the moment, and the one thing I could assert as a fact is that I love to deal with information, either visually through web-design or experimental interactive pieces (that up until now I didn't allow that many people to see), or textually through programming and web development. A lot of my work goes around that concept of information handling.

Despite the fact that I don't consider myself a designer per se though, I do practice web design and information architecture consulting, because both interconnect to the things I love to do and research on. I happen to be fortunate enough to be able to produce what people see as good work in those fields. It's good to get positive feedback from something I love to do. It keeps me from stopping.

Besides the fact that this is what I do for a living, I do a lot of other things like music production, illustration and writing. A lot of things I do and did are still unknown to most people, but that's part of all the fun.

[3] Paul: Where are you located really? Portugal? What is it like there?
Frederico: Right now I'm back in Portugal after two great months in California, dealing with some of the brightest people I know, and working on pretty exciting stuff. The reason I decided to come back plays into the second part of your question: it's great out here, and I hope to take a stance in changing this country. Let me explain why:

Portugal is a great, peaceful place to live. Great weather and great people. The thing we lack though, is people who actually have the courage to try and push the boundaries and limitations of a people who is still waking up to IT world. That's what I plan to change to the extent of my personal strength. I know we have the right people and the right skills, we just don't have the entrepreneurship. Yet.

So, the quick answer would be: Its great out here and I'm trying to do my part in making it even better.

[4] Paul: A lot of your web work revolves around a user-centered approach, why do you think it is important?
Frederico: If not to serve people, why does the web exist? Most of my work is thinking about what makes sense to the user, how and when. Design that thinks about the user is better design; programming that things about the user is better programming. It's a matter of methodology, but I believe it produces far better work.

If something - let's say a website, for the sake of simplicity - is as easy to use and thought of as possible, users will be happier using the system and feel like they're accomplishing something. This means, in marketing lingo, a high return of investment (ROI). Users make the world and the web go around - it should never be the other way around.

[5] Paul: Tell us what exactly is Web 2.0?
Frederico: Web 2.0 is about allowing people to use, reuse and create content, whether on blogs, photo sharing sites, or by developing the next cool app on top of web services. Web 2.0 (which is really wearing out as a definition) is about allowing people to 'do' and 'act' instead of 'reading' and 'assimilating' exclusively. On top of all that, it's an undeniable new world of innovation in several fields.

[6] Paul: Your latest work has to be TechCrunch, how did you came up with this layout and design? It's excellent!
Frederico: First of all, thank you. TechCrunch is a long story. To put it short, a site like TechCrunch needs three things: a proper layout to get people to 'use it', a structure that makes sense for it's kind of content and the right content itself. I had a role in all three of those. I don't have a specific answer to how it came about because my design process is organic - it just happens. I could show you screenshots I take automatically during my development and you'd see the site went through several iterations before the one you can now see live on the web.

Ultimately I stop when I feel it is both appealing visually and makes sense from an information organization point of view. Techcrunch is not brilliant work from a 'webdesign' perspective - I still feel and hope that my best piece of information design and web-development is to come - but it does get it's job done, which is what's ultimately important. I am happy about it and from the website numbers, I know users are too. It's gratifying to see it's worked out so well.

[7] Paul: Any advice for inspiring designers out there?
Frederico: My best piece of advice would be to think as a user first, designer later. Ultimately a site can have big bells and whistles and still be lousy if it doesn't fulfill it's purpose. Information first, visuals later. Repeat it with me.

[8] Paul: Anything we can expect from you in the coming months?
Frederico: A few things, to be honest. We will be launching Edgeio very soon, which promises to be a success given the feedback we're getting from the right people in the right places. It's a really good idea with a very good execution - which is the great thing about working with a great team. That's the big "web 2.0" service I'm building right now.

Apart from Edgeio, I'm working on some new web-based products that have been on the back-burner for a while, and am seriously thinking about expanding WeBreakStuff to a full team doing work on web development, design and consulting - it may not even happen with the same name, but the idea is out there.

[9] Paul: Just wondering how did you come up with the url WeBreakStuff?
Frederico: I get asked that so many times you wouldn't believe. WeBreakStuff is a reminder that experimenting with things (and eventually breaking them) is what makes us learn and evolve. Breaking things and reacting to mistakes and errors is what produces genious work and products. Were you expecting something more drastic? That's all there is to it :-)

[10] Paul: Last questions, any favorite websites you absolutely adored?
Frederico: Any website that inspires or that is brilliantly executed. I could name a few but that would mean I'd have favorites, which I personally don't. There's a lot of great stuff out there in a lot of different areas, you just need to find it. Usually if something ends up in my bookmarks, its because it has something I deeply love.