#interview #ux

UX has become a major focus for our customers and therefore for sum.cumo

User Experience (UX) has become a major focus at sum.cumo, because we want to offer a wide range of services in this area to our clients in the insurance and lottery sectors. As a driver of digital transformation, sum.cumo is strongly committed to agility and user-centric design. This is also why we design all web applications on a solid basis of advanced UX principles. 
Here, some of our UX’ers tells us about their experiences, aspirations and biggest challenges in this field.

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Julia, Erik and Fabian, what does good UX mean to you?

Julia: For me, in terms of UX writing, it means fulfilling three criteria when creating texts for digital products: clarity, concision and usefulness. It’s often just a few words or short sentences, but these help users get to where they want to go, while also having a positive experience.

Erik: For me, good UX is everything that makes the user happy when dealing with a product or service, and when users share their positive experiences with friends and acquaintances. That may sound obvious and easy, but it’s not. People often think that good UX is just about having a good concept and an attractive interface, but it’s much more than that: when users visit a website or opens an app, there’s a wide range of factors that will decide whether they really feel comfortable. In looking at UX, it’s often the little things that get forgotten.

Fabian: Good UX and usability frequently go unnoticed. The greatest compliment is often “no complaints at the moment” – and I feel the same way when I go use products and services myself. Bling, animations and special effects quickly wear off and get annoying. In enhancing value through good UX and usability, we also apply this triple principle: create focus, respect the context and provide clarity.

What does UX at sum.cumo mean for you, Anne?

Anne: To me, it means taking what is essentially a rather dry and bureaucratic topic and improving its accessibility to the user. It’s like a lot of other things that have now become greatly simplified and/or digitalized. Take photography, for example: not so long ago, it still took some effort to take an analog image and turn it into a digital one. But nowadays it just takes a single touch to get a digital image right way, which the user can then judge as either good or bad. Good UX, combined with the latest design trends in digital insurance platforms, can be crucial in quickly guiding customers to what’s relevant to them, and in an agreeable way. This results in a clearer understanding of the insurance product and a faster decision-making process.

What’s the biggest challenge for you as UX’ers?

Erik: I think the biggest challenge facing UX’ers is the fact that in terms of user experience, we’re really talking about a highly personal individual response. This in itself means you can’t ever build or design that one “perfect” UX, and that can really be frustrating at times, especially when you’re always striving to achieve the very best in a project. But in the end, every product we develop should solve problems. Whether it’s an everyday kind of problem (“My favorite pants are worn out and I need a new pair!”) or a rather unusual one (“I don’t understand what added value is offered by this website”), we’re always confronted by people seeking some kind of answer to the questions in their lives. User experience is always a compromise: the best possible solution for the desired target audience balanced against the need to exclude or ignore some other clientele. And that’s actually a good thing.

Jan: These days, almost everyone is talking about UX. Cool! We’re no longer seen as just a bunch of pixel jockeys. Cool! But it’s often the only reason why the UX designer is brought into a project: UX for its own sake, because it’s the thing to do now. Uncool! Sometimes we don’t get past talking about wireframes. Also uncool! Nowadays, UX designers should talk much more about the relevance of UX, and above all, the added value that it can bring, ideally backed up by concrete numbers based on revenue figures (or any other business KPI). So the biggest challenge today is conveying the business value of UX design.

Fabian: As a designer, you always want to be super creative. But these days, I often find this more of a hindrance. The solution needs to be rooted in the problem, which can only be understood after speaking with users and watching them in action. So the first challenge is take all your own ideas and set them aside for the moment, in order to focus completely on what users actually want and need. The second challenge comes during the project work, when you need to sell the resulting process and push it through without getting sidetracked. Nobody would tell a plumber where to lay the pipes and how to do it. But with wireframes, there’s always one more person with another great idea. Here, you’ve got to cultivate a good feedback culture where everyone feels heard and included, but without letting them turn the horse into a camel.

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The digital sector is evolving rapidly. What do you think is the most exciting development today in terms of UX?

Julia: To me, it’s conversational design, as seen in voice-activated assistants like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and the like. This is an attempt to replicate human dialogue, including empathic aspects, through the use of technology and data. The results are fascinating, often surprising, and sometimes a bit uncanny.

Jan: One of today’s most exciting areas has actually been going on for a long time already but is now seeing renewed interest, namely user research. User research should always be the working basis of product development: set up a hypothesis, test it out, adapt it accordingly. It’s often the case that user research never leaves UX circles. But these days, it looks like user research is becoming more and more a part of the strategic decision-making process. For us too, in terms of digital consulting, we’re talking about how user research can be used alongside quantitative business data analysis in order to advise our clients.

Do you guys have favorite websites on the topic of UX?

Erik: One of my favorite sites is land-book.com, a fantastic collection of landing pages. I’ve always been fascinated by the “art of converting” and regularly take a look to see how other websites approach this. What’s particularly interesting is that, despite what many people say, landing pages don’t have to be interesting for everyone. On the contrary, it’s more important for the right audience to feel like the website is speaking directly to them.

My favorite pair of webpages are the 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design and the Laws of UX. They could hardly be more different: the first is old and simple and as relevant today as it was twenty years ago, while the other is slick and modern and a wonderful update. For me, they work together like the yin and yang of usability and user experience. But in answering this question, I can’t avoid mentioning my favorite pair of books, The User Experience Team of One and 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School. The User Experience Team of One is an indispensable handbook and comprehensive crash course covering all things UX. And architecture can teach you a lot about the problem-solving process, because if you forget to include a fire escape, you can’t just throw one on after the fact.

Jan S.: I find this question too broad to answer, since every website, app and digital touchpoint brings its own user experience. For me, there’s no one single website that stands out through UX. I think it’s more important to always be looking here and there, to see what’s interesting. Starting with big ones like Airbnb, to a site like dribbble, to industry-specific pages. You have to go through the user experience yourself, so I always tell people to test out digital products and go visit websites. Sometimes even a visit to an online fashion outlet can help you get ideas for designing an insurance application process.

Thank you very much!

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