digitalist.global // December 11 2017

UX Detective

Before starting my career in digital, I actually studied creative writing, philosophy and politics, and I worked as an English teacher in the Czech Republic. While I’m not a formally trained designer, I still use the skills and processes from my time as a teacher, writer and philosophy nerd to approach the variety of design challenges that cross my desk at Digitalist.

I love my job because I really feel like UX design is where ‘the rubber hits the road’ in digital – no matter what the technology, we have to make it usable and useful for everyone to enjoy. Since joining Digitalist, I’ve worked on both high-level conceptual projects as well as more detailed transformations of legacy interfaces with existing user groups.

Whatever the project, however vague or precise the objective is, the key elements of the process are the same. It’s like Murder She Wrote or Columbo, those wonderfully formulaic genre shows from the Eighties where the crime, the suspects and the setting change but the methods by which our detective solves the mystery remain present week to week.

So like Jessica Fletcher, another writer and teacher who made a career change, I track down the what, who, where, why and how of design. My most recent project an eight-month long research-led concept design project. We were approached by a major mobile brand who wanted to win over millennial consumers. In India. Like Jessica Fletcher in the later seasons of Murder She Wrote, I packed my suitcase for series of episodes abroad.

We started the project with a kick-off week in Delhi. We were briefed that India is a fiercely competitive market. Smartphone-owning millenials will happily change their phone every year, with established brands like Samsung, LG and Motorola going up against newer names like Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi.

Affordable, beautifully designed handsets are proliferate, and with network Jio’s free 4G initiative, data limits were no longer a major concern for Indian consumers. That’s the what – our client’s main challenge was to stay competitive and innovative in a crowded, competitive, dynamic market.  

Though we have an excellent research team, Digitalist designers are also active participants in the research process. Our team travelled to India for three weeks to conduct ethnographic interviews with millenials to learn about their lifestyles, priorities and desires in two major cities and one smaller town. That’s where we met the ‘who.’ They gave us the ‘why.’ Our participants, in sharing their thoughts, feelings and ideas let us know what was really driving the success of some mobile brands against others.

The where, then, wasn’t India or the UK, but the areas of opportunity where we should focus our efforts: the emerging trends, technologies, and consumer needs that would yield genuinely useful design innovation.

The how, then, becomes much easier – it’s ideation workshops and feasibility chats with engineers, lots of coffee and maybe a few too many snacks. Hard graft, but with all the clues in place on the whiteboard.

By: Jessi Tabalba, Senior UX Designer at Digitalist

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