I believe in starting a conversation with fellow UX professionals and learning from their experiences. Making their perspectives available to the whole community is one step forward in spreading the message about the importance of UX. That’s why I have started a project of #UXFika – lightweight conversations with inspiring UX leaders over a cup of coffee (or two!).
I serendipitously got in touch with Stefan and soon realized he is one of the most inspiring “finds” for a conversation about UX, design, creative problem solving and finding a balance in between business objectives and customer needs. He is a Canadian UX / Product Designer, who has just moved to Sweden with his wife and 2 lovely cats! Stefan is currently getting used to cold Swedish winter and leading UX team at H&M. Enjoy Stefan’s thoughts!
How did you get into the world of UX?
I started out my career as a web designer with a graphic design degree. I specialized in new media (which was at the peak of flash sites) and corporate design (mostly branding). From there I began thinking more and more about my end user during my process. Leading me to discovering one of my own personal core principles in prioritizing function over form.
You are currently the Lead UX Designer at H&M, can you please tell me a little bit about that experience, and how you have been shaping the project to have a UX focus?
UX is a team effort, put simply, I can only do so much in my personal designer bubble.
If the site doesn’t load fast enough, or the content isn’t written in the tone of voice the user is expecting that can contribute to the downfall of an experience. H&M understands this and as a result the culture and cross pollination has been a main focus this year. We now involve everyone from copy writers to human behaviour psychologists as early as we can in the process, it’s something that I feel strongly about and brings me great joy. As we in the company are not just building and practicing empathy for our users, but also for each other.
How do you make sure to build a consistent UX experience across all the touchpoints?
I personally find it quite easy, although it always has its challenges. Currently working for a retailer, I really try to have the digital experience to be an extension of what the customer would expect to do and see in the physical world. This also means just truly understanding our customers from every touchpoint, and empathizing with them from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs. Having a properly crafted design system really helps to drive consistency across the touch-points.
UX and conversion optimisation in e-commerce – what is your take on the connection and the synergy of both?
Bottom line the main goal of a business is to make money, build trust and manage expectations of their customers. UX can be a bridge for customers and business; a facilitator and medium for these conversations. We as UX designers work to balance the customer outcomes and expectations and the business needs. It’s a tough balancing act, but when it’s done right and the weight is distributed equally both parties goals are met and work in symbiotic relationship.
What does UX strategy mean for you? What are the core elements of building & nurturing it in e-commerce business?
UX strategy for me means having a good foundation of understanding the why and the how. We are advocates and champions for the users, making sure they have a seat and a voice at the table.
The core elements are to have simple principles and processes that help guide and empower designers to craft amazing experiences.
What would you say is the number 1 point to make when UX is new to the organization (to prove its value)?
Don’t design in a bubble, do it out in the open. Invite as many different perspectives and be open to be challenged. Have an open mind, be curious and help develop people’s ideas, your ego has no place here as we are all working together to achieve a goal or solve a problem.
I see a common trend where designers lock themselves in their war rooms for days, only to emerge with something that is shallow, pretty and only addressing a few requirements. This method is something that I am advocating we stay away from, it may have worked in the past but expectations have evolved and changed drastically over the years, which means there needs to be a shift in the way we think as well.
I’d love to know a bit about your process, how do you build User-centered experience? What’s your process on discovering what the users want and need?
I’m trying to start each project the same with understanding what we’re trying to do, what is the expected outcome, how are measuring success, and what are the risks or failure. Next step would be to then dig into the data, and understand what it is currently telling us. An important side note is to also see these things ethically, we do not want to skew data or focus on things that only support our hypothesis. To understand and exercise empathy is to see the good and the bad, to truly understand something or someone. Then build a strong information architecture, this foundation needs to be able to sustain heavy weight, as I really find that this makes or breaks designs.
But no matter what the project, scope or timing. I always test as much as possible at every stage. From paper or whiteboard sketches, wireframes, UI and even early code builds. Test test test! I’m a big fan of guerrilla testing. I always find it easier to interview people when they have something to talk to or about. From there I dig deeper andr begin the cycle of converging and diverging.
What is your secret weapon or go-to-technique for building a shared UX vision in a team and across departments?
Recently I have been preaching the Jobs to be Done framework. I find it really helps with aligning on a shared vision and outcome because then we’re really speaking the same language.
The other is running 90 min sketching session have that is a SUPER condensed version of the GV Design Sprint method. Where we start aligning on the outcome and KPIs, then do a quick user task flow and end with sketching.
But like I said one of my favorite tools is guerrilla testing, and I try to do as frequently as possible. When I’m testing I always try to have a non-designer with me, having another lens or perspective on your work in invaluable.
UX evangelism in a company – is it important for you? How do you practise it every day?
It is important for sure! But it’s always about how it’s done. I love bringing people along for the ride, and truly collaborating with them.
The idea is always the same building empathy for our customers and each other, and ask as many questions as possible. I love questions because they all stem not from my lack of knowledge but my desire to understand.
A creative Habit of yours:
One fun thing that I do, and it helps sharpen my interview skills, is every time I take an Uber, I try to learn about the driver. The goal is always the same learn as much as I can about them, how they started with Uber, what they did before Uber. But I try to ask questions and uncover who they are and try my hardest to not talk about myself or give away any of my information. The main takeaway is if you actively listen to understand not to respond, and ask the right questions it surprises me every time what you can learn about people. A funny side effect of this experiment is I have a 4.9 rating on Uber.
Source of Inspiration:
For UI instagram, for UX I talked to people or listen to podcasts from adjacent markets like economics, agile methodology, science or linguistics. I try to find what’s going on in the world outside of design, since our users for most cases are not designers.
- Creativity Inc.: Overcoimng the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Biggest UX Myth according to you:
Testing is expensive, needs to be planned or you can only test when it’s ready meaning UI applied. In reality you should test at every stage and use methods that are available to you. A quick guerrilla test can uncover a lot and can cost as little as a swift high 5 or a cup of coffee. Testing when something is ready is too late, better to test early and often. Just get out of the office and talk to people!
About the UX Fika Series
In UX Fika series of blog posts, I talk with people that inspire me and whom I look up to as my role-models. The motivation behind doing this is, you might see some patterns and hopefully you’d be able to learn from the amazing people that I have had a chance of learning from.
For my international friends, FIKA is a Swedish concept, a state of mind, an attitude and an important part of Swedish culture. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee (or tea). With no rush, full immersion and being present in the moment. That’s why I thought “UXFika” is a perfect name for meaningful conversation with UX leaders I look up to.