Take-aways from UX Bucharest to building better products

Experience matters! And this is why our friends from the UX Design community organised the very first edition of UX Bucharest, a unique event for UX aficionados in Eastern Europe. The conference took place in mid-October in Bucharest and brought together designers, UX professionals and managers that learnt new stuff and got inspired by the speakers taking the stage. Monica Obogeanu, Product Manager @ MozaicLabs, attended UX Bucharest and she accepted our invitation to write this guest post presenting the key take-aways from the conference.

I’ve recently attended UX Bucharest, the first conference dedicated to UX in Romania. As a product manager in a startup, I’m also in charge with designing the user experience of our product. Thus, here is my take-away list from the conference talks, structured as a checklist to keep in mind about your product, when going from the idea stage, to the point where you have happy and un-happy customers.

1. Start with why. Ask what if.

When you are defining your product idea and creating your user experience, start with why. The initial instinct would be to think about what you’re doing, and then move on to detail how and why you are doing that. Go the other way around. Start with why – that will give you a clear mission. It will serve as a guiding point to all your future experiments and possible pivots.

Ask yourself what the problem/need is. Go deep and understand why the current solution is not good. And then make hypotheses – what if you were to do things this way, or that way. Keep going until you find the sweet solution that makes people happy.

Start with why also when you’re communicating to people. You’ve heard it before, it’s good to keep it in mind: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. To further look into this, check out Simon Sinek’s “Start with why” book, or TED talk.

A very good piece of advice about defining product features and interactions: think while sketching big, with a sharpie. That will keep you focused on the big picture, and keep you from getting lost in the details.

2. Let designers design. Get feedback from the relevant people only.

Given limited resources, you can’t always obey this rule at the beginning of a startup journey. I choose to read this as “give design the importance it deserves”. What we do particularly at MozaicLabs right now is:

  • we have a designer template
  • I took a very useful Udemy course on User Experience Design Fundamentals and follow the subject closely
  • when faced with specific interactions, I look for existing patterns – I find articles debating the pattern and I look at widely used products to see how they do it
  • we create interactive prototypes in UXPin, and get as much feedback as we can
  • and when we feel we’re in a rough spot, we reach out to that nice designer and get help

Karl Fast’s presentation was a great reminder about the importance of representation of data: “Information is cheap, understanding is expensive”. Really think about visual representation and test that what you design clearly and easily communicates what you want it to.

design-for-understanding

Also, regarding feedback and the importance of the right people filling up the right roles, a very important piece of advice regarding a power-play that often takes place in organizations. Choose wisely and guard strongly the categories of people who offer you relevant feedback. People up the power chain in your company might try to impose “feedback”. Keep this quote at hand and say it strongly: “Your opinion, however interesting, is irrelevant.”

3. Intentionally create a product personality. Customer experience is what comes before and after your product too.

An important aspect of any product is its personality. That’s something that influences users’ experience from the first glance they get, through the buy-in process, through the time they use your product and to the time they unsubscribe. It’s obvious that brand identity and personality are very visible in the way the brand communicates – from the homepage, to adverts, to social media and customer support. But interaction design, the labels and error messages you use, whether you have online chat support and how easily you allow a customer to stop her monthly subscription are all part of your product’s personality. All these interactions are customer experience, which makes or breaks your business.

Thus, you should carefully and intentionally create the product personality in close contact to your target customers personas. People prefer like-mindedness and they automatically assign human behaviour to everything around them. Read more about brand archetypes and check out some examples of companies and the archetypes they chose for their products. You’ll see how your unconscious feelings about some brands and products are nothing close to coincidences.

4. Reward your first followers.

Pay attention to your first followers. Whether they are the first people in your company supporting a change-effort you’re making, or the first users of your product, take good care of them and reward them. “The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.”

5. Measure what matters about your product

Make an audit of your product’s user experience and measure what matters. Think about your user and how they interact with your product while trying to accomplish a task.

  • Is it easy to do?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it enjoyable?

A good reality check, especially for products that are used on wider scale: open up Google and search for things like “<product name> sucks” “I hate <company name>”. Keep an open mind and treat this as a learning experience, recognise that each user matters and this process, however painful, will help you find the holes and build a better product.

6. Your IoT product should be about user experience, not technology

If you’re passionate about the field, or working on an Internet of Things product, you should check out Josh Clark’s presentation. He argues that the challenge now in the IoT field is not technology, but our imagination on how we can create magical interactions, where the computer disappears into the environment. After the widespread of smartphones, most of us have a magic wand in our pocket. This should mainly make our life’s easier, and that’s linked to how it can improve our experience and make daily tasks magical – rather then expect us to marvel at the technology achievements many of us don’t even get.

7. Represent data so that computers can read it

A final interesting point I got from UX Bucharest, was the talk about Open Linked Data. Mike Atherton argued for less content creation and more content linking. To do this, we can use the Resource Description Framework, which helps represent data so computers can read it. This helps create services that put together different types of existing data and add a layer of understanding on top – similar to what we know as Facebook’s graph search: “people in Bucharest who went to UX Bucharest”. Also check out, DBPedia (crowd-sourced community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and make this information available on the Web).

I’m looking forward to the next edition of UX Bucharest. This year, the organizers brought us two workshop days, that were sold-out suuper fast, and a conference day. I only got to attend the conference day and, like others I’ve heard around me, felt sorry for missing out on the workshops. I got plenty of inspiration to take a better look at my product’s UX, but I’m looking forward to dig more into the process of UX research.

Guest Post

Monica Obogeanu

Product Manager, MozaicLabs

Monica is currently a Product Manager at MozaicLabs. She has a wide previous experience ranging from technical support, software testing to community management and event operations. She is in love with the startup world, after 3 years working at How to Web, managing the first programs of Startup Spotlight, MVP Academy and organizing the Accelerator Assembly 2014 conference. At MozaicLabs, she is currently developing eventrix.co – SaaS app for speakers & event organizers, empowering their efforts to deliver value and a great experience to their audience.



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