When Vjeran Vlahović, one of Netgen Co-Founders, formed the UX/CS (User experience/Customer success) team, he might not have entirely expected that it would soon stand side by side next to our biggest (and busiest!) dev teams. In fact, it was rather tricky to catch all of its members in one place at the same time to discuss the importance of UX, as they always seem to have their hands full with various projects, workshops and even speeches at conferences :)
First things first, meet the team!
The team lead of our UX/CS team is Katarina Barišić, UX researcher, who joined Netgen more than three years ago. “After I joined the team, I had the opportunity to work on challenging web and mobile products in various industries and different markets. This really deepened my knowledge and gave me the opportunity to constantly evolve further in various specific aspects of the UX design field'', explains Katarina. Today, Katarina is Nielsen Norman Group UX certified and takes care of how the entire team works.
Božidar Grgošić (aka Grga) joined Netgen as a designer during college and decided to stay after the internship that was originally planned to last only for the summer. “There wasn’t a doubt in my mind if I should stay”, he recalls, “the internship went great and I had a chance to work on projects that I really liked.” This happened to some of our other students, too :)
Joining Netgen, after almost 15 years working in a corporation, was a breath of fresh air for Saša Herceg, our Project manager. “I realized I became stagnant and I desperately needed a change. After the first meeting in Netgen I knew that this would be a good place for me. Here, I have a chance to learn new things, the working environment is great and so is everyone working here”, states Saša.
Support manager Krešimir Cirković started working with Netgen through a mutual project and has never really left since. “What started as a one-time collaboration, it continued for many years to come”, says Krešo.
Last year, the team grew bigger by UX researcher Helena Povijač and UI/UX designer Aleš Horvatek.
“I started working in a small company, and later, after many years spent working in different corporations, I felt like going back to a smaller team. It’s funny, I remember I already had the Netgen job opening saved in my bookmarks, as I thought that Netgen Layouts were quite interesting, and soon after that I had received a call from Netgen to join. It was like kismet”, smiles Helena, who recently got the AJ&Smart certification for Design Sprint.
After more than 20 years of experience with some of the biggest Croatian agencies and as a freelancer, Aleš decided it was time to settle down with one firm - “I had a good feeling about Netgen after the first meeting, too. What I’ve researched online and what I’ve observed while meeting the team were almost the exact impressions.”
Ivica Ojvan, our new Project manager, is currently the last one to join the team in 2022. “After the first interview, I remember thinking that they must be either the best people on Earth or total psychopaths”, laughs Ivica and continues seriously - “Overall, I was very drawn to the working environment that seemed to rely strongly on cooperation and creativity.”
What is the role of the UX/CS team and how is it organized?
“The UX/CS team is usually the first one in interaction with a client, working on the initial phase and project kick-off. It helps clients to define their goals and articulate users' needs”, explains Katarina. “The team PMs are busy with coordinating the research, prototyping, usability testing and design implementation phases, handing over the project to developer teams, if development is needed. The entire team is also actively involved in the go-live phase of the project through active support and digital marketing activities, working on the overall growth of the project.”
Okay, so why is UX important? Why should companies even pay attention to it?
“Consequently, UX should help both sides of the business process. For example, it should help users to quickly find what they are looking for, and it should help the company to present the service or product that they created the website for”, explains Katarina. “Yes, a website or a digital product is like an object that serves a certain purpose”, jumps in Helena, “so all of its elements should be placed in a way that best supports that purpose. Both companies' business goals and users’ needs should be equally considered. So, the website should help companies to reach their business goals, while users should be able to find what they are looking for.”
What should we focus on in the design process?
“It is important to start with research first”, highlights Katarina, “and don’t forget about the testing. Sometimes, some solutions work for a certain period of time, but certainly not forever. So, set aside some time for occasional testing during certain iterations.” Katarina also suggests paying enough attention to the copy, wording and the overall UX writing - “this must be adjusted to users. Consequently, carefully structured website copy will add to a more gratifying and intuitive user experience. For example, if you are looking for certain information, you must have a clear understanding of the entire content, especially if there are sensitive, legal or administrative parts included, such as application forms.”
Saša emphasizes the importance of having a plan in the first place. “Often, websites are done quickly, based on some templates. Instead, start with discovery workshops, analysis and research. Discuss your expectations and goals. Not to mention that your development costs will be quite reduced if you start with UX design first. And don’t forget about digital marketing to boost the visibility and conversion rates of the new website or the digital product. If you expect to achieve any considerable results, it’s important to take all steps into consideration.”
“Accessibility is still quite neglected”, notices Grga, “there is so much room for growth in that area. It is always important to remember that there are many people with disabilities to perceive, navigate and interact with the web.”
The dark side of the UX
Noticing that we are often warned about “the last pair of sneakers” or “the last available room in a hotel” during some online shopping or booking, you have to wonder about the other tricks of UX we are being deceived with.
“Right, there are certain patterns that an average user might not notice, and their only purpose is to lead the users the misleading way, which is usually in the best interest of a certain company”, confirms Grga. “Yes, there are many dark patterns”, agrees Helena, “but, you may be tricked once or twice, after which you will become extra careful. Not only that, those practices will affect your perception of the certain brand that is using them.”
“In the long run, users will punish such practices by not returning to those websites anymore”, adds Katarina - “it turns out that dark patterns cannot last for a long time. As with any other attempts of deceits, once they are exposed, they will cause more harm than good, and they will often be a big deal-breaker for many users. For example, if I notice an irregular cookie acceptance form or some hidden costs in the checkout process, my perception of the brand will be immediately changed.”
And what does the future hold for UX?
“Well, obviously, the role of UX will only be getting bigger”, says Katarina and continues - “the most important thing for many companies to become aware of is that investments in UX will bring them business value and increased revenues.”
Helena agrees while explaining that so many things from everyday life are now turning into some sort of app. “You can do so many things using just your phone. Back in the days, you couldn’t buy vegetables other than at the market, but now you can order them online with your phone.”
“The effect of the pandemic which gave an additional push to companies to reassess their online business strategy and add improvements where necessary”, highlights Ivica. - “Websites are not intended just for tiny bits of information anymore. Also, they are not intended just for startups or super innovative companies, but for traditional businesses too. In fact, the latter were the ones that had to go through a transformation in their work organization and the way they do business in general.”
Aleš believes that the UX will continue to develop in the direction of specific, narrow specializations. “The importance of the web will continue to grow, but companies will have to understand that they will have to develop their own identity and presence, which should differentiate from all others”, explains Aleš. He also emphasizes the growing importance of different trends such as AI, augmented reality, voice interaction or devices like wearables that will require a whole different UX approach.
“UX will always follow technology development and growth. As new products are introduced, the UX will have to be adjusted to them”, continues Helena. Sharing her opinion, Saša adds - “Besides, now you have these new generations that consume digital content and products in a completely different way than we did in their age. And UX design will have to follow that.”
“Basically, technology development is always oriented towards the improvement of quality of life and our role, as UX experts, is to actively contribute to that”, concludes Aleš.
If you have any UX challenges that you are struggling with, our team will be glad to help. Drop us a line!