How to consistently improvise in the age of agile methodologies? That call is being answered by lean design protagonists like Jan Losert. Jan is an UX expert and had a great time designing product at Badoo. Team Rapid Moon caught up with him to get the inside story of what holds behind a successful product interface.
RM: From studying information technology to designing the product at Badoo. Your journey is amazing. When did your professional design journey begin?
JL: Thanks for your kindness! It has always been about passion to learn more. When I was 17, I started playing with Photoshop and in a year everything started. I realized that this is something I want to be doing for next years and I can honestly say that I still love it. My journey started as a member of various internet forums designing signatures, photo manipulations, web design and now to product design. I love to create, design and develop features and products that will help people, constantly improving them. Thanks to that you can see results of your work, solve problems and try to create something what you’re really proud of.
When I look back, everything looks like a marathon. You need to run endlessly and train consistently. Tech world is now open for everyone. It’s not about education. No school can help you with that. It’s about skills and experience.
RM: You are a product designer. It takes a lot of experience to design amazingly user centric products. Both as a still active freelancer and Badoo being one of the largest products, do you use lean design methodology while designing products? Do you use rapid prototyping to build quick prototypes and gain early user feedback?
JL: We are lucky, it is really easy now to get feedback and quickly try our designs. That’s actually my favorite part of the whole process. With prototyping tools I always build a few user stories in InVision. For me, the best lesson is when I am watching people how they work with my design. People usually work completely differently than we tend to expect. It’s actually more important for us as designers to see that we are making wrong decisions and that we are thinking differently that the end users.
After prototyping the most important thing is data. That’s actually most important thing for me as a product designer. Product designers need to care about data more than about the whole design. If your design doesn’t work you can’t save it with shiny pixels and rounded corners. If you have amazing CSS3 animations but only 2% of users finish the registration process you need to understand why and improve that number. That’s the real fun of our work.
RM: Do you suggest product designers to build mock-ups of the UX on paper first OR directly design it on screen?
JL: I think anyone can find his or her own way. If I’m building something really simple with one or two screens, I prefer to quickly sketch something on a paper and then move straight away to designing in Photoshop. If I’m working on some bigger project, I prefer to make these quick prototypes with sketches and first concepts in MarvelApp or InVision. Thanks to that, you can easily try first interactions, find problems with your design and give your users the ability to give you a feedback.
RM: Customer care UI is one of your special projects. Design for improving the customer experience. There are many tools out there, how did you actually end up with a better solution, which helps customer care teams deliver faster?
JL: Customer Care really is my favorite project. During the process, I spent a lot of my time talking with users about all possible solutions. I had an opportunity to work closely with an amazing product manager and real users who work with the system for eight hours a day. Thanks to that, I was able to get real feedback and thoughts on how to improve the whole workflow and system. I think we came up with really nice ideas for this project.
I can’t really say that this is a better solution, but it’s definitely a nice custom solution for that particular user group.
Jan’s Designs mask complexity with simplicity
RM: Product design is a lot about culture. What special cultural aspects do you build in teams that you work with? How can global design agencies learn from you?
JL: I think my career progress has been significantly influence by the fact that I can really work alone. Simply, I don’t need anyone to be holding my hand while I am working. Thanks to that, I can work fast and iterate quickly. Designer can learn all of these things either as a freelancer or when he is working with a small team on some side project.
You are right when you say that product design is a lot about culture. What I really need at my workplace is happiness. In my opinion, the main thing for designers is to set up a nice environment where they can learn and grow. I really like an approach with setting goals for quarters. Designer can make a summary of things that he achieved and what still needs to be improved.
Another important part is discussion. The most productive team is probably a team, which can take criticism and try to improve each part and person of that team. Everything is about passion for the project you are working on. All of these things can only work if you really like that product.
RM: When not working, how do you keep yourself inspired? Music, art, travel, what do you pursue passionately?
JL: I’m not a person you’d meet on the street every once in a while. I think that you could say that I’m a bit crazy. I can’t stand stereotypes and I can’t stay boredom. If I’m bored, my productivity decreases significantly. I have to listen to music all the time and what is really crazy about me is that I can listen to one song on repeat for a whole week.
I have to stay relaxed, listen to jokes, have a casual working atmosphere – I don’t like corporate culture and really conservative people. It doesn’t mean that I can’t stand them, I just like working with funny, casual and relaxed people more. During the time when I’m not playing with Photoshop, I’m looking at other people’s work on Dribbble or Behance.
This interview was an experience re-lived to the members of Team Rapid Moon as it made us realize the learning curve we have been through and where we stand today, in the agile age of rapid development, where getting Lean ready is the way to go.