Krupa is an annually held conference with some of the best UX/UI content out there. It’s hosted in Kiev, Ukraine – home to an exploding IT market. The growing tech world of Ukraine naturally involves many top talents in roles related to this field: project managers and product owners, UX/UI designers, front-end and back-end developers. But we’re long past the time when only local stars would attend such conferences. Krupa 2019 attracted thousands of designers and people who realize the crucial role UX/UI plays in any digital product, along with top-level speakers from AirBnB, Wix, Soundcloud, Smashing Magazine and others. The cherry on top was, of course, Don Norman, aka Father of Design.
Remember the time when product or website design was made by a designer, who had “a good eye”? Well, forget about that. Design today is based on scientific research, testing and measured results. Don’t get me wrong – a designer today must have all the qualities related to design historically. But on top of that, we are transitioning into the world, where a designer is a forger of delightful user experience.
A good design is what makes the product look good. A good user experience and/or user interface is one that drives the goals of the product. Whether it’s a sale, the time an average user spends on the website, sign ups or something entirely specific to your product.
Comes to no surprise that the term general consensus is leaning towards is UX/UI – user experience and user interface. In order to be efficient and successful, the way a product is presented must be focused on the end user. It has to be easy to use, easy to understand, frictionless, quick and on top of that – drive the product’s goals as well.
Website, app or product “looking nice” today is only the secondary objective. The primary objective that measures the true success of a digital product design is whether it’s efficient, whether it’s driving the goals and using the most effective way to achieve that.
Opinions and preferences carry only as much weight, as the concrete arguments and measured results behind them. We at Adeo Web strongly believe in the expression “data beats opinion”. So, to gather more data on UX/UI and draw inspiration from the world’s best, we visited Krupa 2019 – one of the best UX/UI conferences that the world has to offer.
It would take hours to tell you everything we’ve learned during our visit and it’s safe to say that wouldn’t cover the whole knowledge shared in the conference. Simply put, Krupa 2020 is definitely worth visiting for everyone working with anything digital-related. We’ll share with you a couple of thoughts, lessons and ideas that we’ve brought back from Krupa 2019.
The importance of user interface in unexpected places.
To hit it off, here is an interesting statistic, presented by Dmitry Starkov, Senior UX/UI designer at CloudMade. Data shows that out of 100km driven in an urban environment, an average driver rides through 3km not looking at the road. At all. Sounds crazy, right? But think about your driving experience – even ruling out the obvious hazards of texting or FaceTiming while driving. Navigation, Waze, speedometer, check engine light, social media notifications, calls, setting up music or podcasts and countless other activities you take up on your journeys. 3% of your city-driving time spent looking at the screens actually sounds pretty moderate. What does that tell us about the importance of user interfaces in cars?
We’re still a pretty long way from self-driving cars when this won’t be an issue. Today, when users on average own and use 3 or more devices, when 3,000 people die yearly in vehicle accidents caused by phone usage in the US alone, it’s a topic that can not be taken lightly. The automotive industry is living through yet another renaissance of tech innovations, but with the buzz around electric and autonomous cars, it’s entirely too easy to forget about the experience of end-users – drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.
The number of designers in your team might surprise you.
Another extremely interesting speaker note was presented by Alexander Ivanov, Head of Product at Flatfy. It involved an epic presentation, where the Head of Product, back-end developer, UX/UI designer, front-end developer and marketer each presented themselves as the true designers of the product team. And all of them were right.
Design is no longer a process restricted to the designer role. Back-end developer designs and setups the system and how it will work – without this, the product wouldn’t be able to function or deliver good user experience. Product Owner designs how the product must function and look to deliver the business goals. UX/UI designer adapts the frameworks and designs how the product must look to make user experience fluid, pleasant and efficient. Front-end developer is the one who makes things work for the user and designs how users will interact with the product. Marketer designs how the product will be perceived, how it will attract users, achieve the business metrics and drive conversions. This list is endless. If you looked at your team, you’d be surprised to find that the end-design of your product or website is crafted through many steps, by different roles.
Our takeaway from this incredible presentation is that design is not a banner and a button. It’s a process that involves the team in its entirety – from Product Owner to Marketing, to developers and DevOps. And each of them puts a part of themselves into the final product design. This is only reinforced by the famous and praised Double Diamond and Design Sprint processes.
The impact your product’s UX/UI has on the world.
The next speaker with groundbreaking lessons and ideas was Guillermo Torres, Product Designer at AirBnB. This presentation alone could be discussed for hours, but there were a few key points and takeaways for us.
Guillermo shared his experience with AirBnB users. They seemed to be considerably chatty and communicative. Turns out, due to excellent user experience delivered by AirBnB communication tools – chats, messages and similar – the users have been encouraged and made chatty. Thus it seems that instead of chatty users choosing AirBnB platform, it was the other way around. AirBnB platform made the users chatty. And that’s a perfect example of how platforms and systems we create make a change on the world around us. We, as platform creators, must anticipate how our platforms will be used and what effect it may have on our users. This is perfectly expressed by a future-classic quote from Guillermo: “We are responsible for the platforms we build. And platforms are never neutral”.
Another excellent insight, showcasing AirBnB’s ability to innovate and find solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems, was the use of photographs. Why would a marketplace platform, dedicated to third-party hospitality services, have its own team of photographers onboard? It turns out, that hosts are less likely to engage with the platform than the ones looking for a stay. However, hosts are the ones that can drive more conversions and have the biggest impact on the growth of AirBnB platform as a whole. Diving further into this problem, quality photos in a rental listing seem to be one of the best conversion-increasing factors. But since the hosts are less likely to engage with the platform – how can you encourage them to take better photos and upload them to their listings? And here comes the true value innovation – AirBnB hired a team of photographers that provide great quality photos for the hosts at no charge. This seemingly simple idea brings value to all the parties involved. Users looking for a stay have a better view of the rental places. Hosts are more likely to rent out their place. AirBnB continues to grow while investing in their user-base and providing a better user experience for everyone involved.
The last crucial takeaway from Guillermo Torres’ presentation was the reminder of simple truths that are too easily forgotten. Frameworks, structures, methodologies. Every design process is a unique and complicated development, involving many invested parties and many decisions in various parts of the process. But it’s crucial to remember, that many lessons were already learned and there are solutions, frameworks that simply work. They work because they are based on scientific research and testing, such as the framework created by Noriaki Kano.
In the design process, there are always parts that have to be created from scratch. But there are also parts that can be adapted on strong know-how and best practices without trying to reinvent the wheel.
Limitations of the thumb.
Smashing Magazine is a well-known website providing resources and editorial content for designers and web developers. It’s one of the largest and most active publishers of web development resources with over 3 million page views per month. The editor-in-chief, Vitaly Friedman, shared some exceptional insights on the design trends we are facing today.
One of the most notable ideas was the growing relevance of mobile design (and naturally decreasing relevance of desktop). Even though responsive design is nothing new, we are still lacking knowledge on how to create an excellent design for smartphones. A pretty new concept that Vitaly has talked about is Thumb-Driven design. The idea behind it is that we complete most of our actions on the mobile with the help of our thumb. You could compare the importance of this idea to the mouse usage when using a desktop device. Unless you are one of those lucky people with exceptionally long thumbs, the area we can reach with it is typically limited. Despite this, we have all used a handful of apps where this concept wasn’t thought through (or adapted the right way). Of course, there is much more to learn about this methodology, like the posture of the hand, missed taps and others – and if you’re working with mobile design, we really encourage you to read more about this subject, the findings will definitely prove to be invaluable for the mobile design process.
The guy who started it all.
Don Norman is widely known as the Father of Design and if you haven’t heard of him already, he’s the guy who was one of the pioneers of user-centered design we see around us today.
Don is approaching a God-like status in the world of designers and for the duration of his presentation everything else stopped. During the conference breaks, Mr Norman was signing books and at any given point, there were at least 100 people queued up just to get his autograph. That’s saying something. He has raised a lot of interesting points and topics during Krupa and we’re going to share a few of them with you.
Why does bad design exist, even within the best of digital products? Even though there are a lot of methodologies, good practises and solutions, we still seem to find design flaws in our daily lives. Don argued that is due to the decision making process. You see, it’s very rare to see a designer within C-level hierarchy threshold in a company. This means that even with the most talented designers onboard, decision making process is carried out by entirely different people, who often have entirely different goals. Similarly, usually designers are more focused on the product, not the business model. This reinforces the aforementioned idea, that design process should involve team members from different roles, ranks and disciplines. The direction should be aligned product team-wise, rather than diversified, to avoid conflicting goals and intentions.
Another crucial point that is prevalent in design process today, is correctly defining the problem. More often than not, we design to solve a short-term problem, a symptom, rather than the cause. By simply spending more time on defining the actual underlying problem, we could find and apply solution, that could eradicate the problem itself, rather than the symptoms. It sounds like a simple idea, but Adeo Web designers often implement this way of thinking and it brings surprisingly good results.
Krupa is definitely worth visiting for anyone working with web design and development. Overall it’s one of the best UX/UI conferences worldwide, where top level designers from around the world share their best ideas and insights. Ideas, that will shape our future for years to come. And learning these ideas early might mean that you will get that boost you are looking for – both for you and your users. We sure did.
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