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How a problem solving approach can help develop amazing UX

Stockholm, September 7th, 2018

Swedish digital Design Studio ‘Another State’ is the result of the merger between Another Agency and State Interactive. After the two agencies successfully completed a couple of projects back in 2010, and finding that they had complementary set of skills, they decided to join forces and they have never looked back. Another Agency had more of a design and strategic offering while State Interactive had a strong technical expertise. It was a perfect match.

Currently Another State has 13 people thinking, drawing, and developing amazing things together. Managing diverse projects, scaling and staying on top in a competitive market are not easy tasks. We talked to Tobias Lendel, the agency’s Design Director who shared his insights on the market and UX.

For us it’s really important to look for quality rather than quantity,” said Tobias and added, “We like to operate in smaller teams with experienced people when we are making our concepts. And if we need to scale up in development we often use external specialists depending on which technology we use.”

In your opinion, what ingredients are key to create a successful UX design?

I would say that the most important thing is that the whole team (including the client) has a problem solving approach rather than focusing on features. I think it’s important to have a well designed-process that give everybody in the team an understanding of how they contribute to the overall UX and at the same time let them focus on their expertise. The process also has to push the project forward without locking you into the wrong decisions.

We use low-fidelity (lo-fi) and high-fidelity (hi-fi) prototyping to test and refine the product during the whole process. Lo-fi prototyping translates high-level design concepts into tangible and testable artefacts. It is also low-tech, non-programmers can actively be part of the idea-crystallisation process and it mainly requires, a mixture of paper, cardboard, post-it notes, acetone sheets etc. Lo-fi prototyping is its extremely low cost too.

High-fidelity (hi-fi) prototypes are high-tech representation of the design concepts, resulting in partial to complete functionality. Although one incurs higher costs with this method, and you need good programming skills to implement the prototype, users can truly interact with the system. This keeps us from not making any fundamental mistakes on an early stage.

Do you work in the area of natural language processing or NLP?

At the moment we don’t have that competence in our teams, but we are looking into it. Over all we are really excited about going into the whole AI area.

How does UX integrate with NLP?

We always try to have an “anything is possible” approach when we do our conceptual work, and think it’s really important to get all the experts in the team together in an early stage so that we could look into which technology could be relevant to the specific project. But we always let the user experience lead the way for the choices we make.

Can you give us some examples of your experience dealing with usability studies, eye-tracking study, field study, or focus groups?

For one specific user centric online gaming concept we conducted focus groups and deeper interviews with real potential users based on a psychographic pattern. Psychographic segmentation was developed in the 1970’s and it is a method for dividing consumers into sub-groups based on shared psychological characteristics, beliefs, motivations, and priorities to explain and predict consumer behavior and decision making process.

We were amazed by the results in terms of dedication and level of commitment of the participants. It was also scary to see that many answers are already based by the peer pressure of being in a group and by being defined as an user.

Can you tell us about a project you worked on and that was especially successful?

We had a project with an insurance company a couple of years ago, where we created a complete new platform from which they could test and launch new products in a more efficient way. We also helped them see that their user journey was more driven of practical functions rather than from content.

After this realization, it was much easier to prioritize functions and put together smooth user flows. The success was proven very quickly, achieving increased sales of over 300% online, soon after launching the platform. It’s not often a company can reach these kind of results, so I guess we have to look at it as a great success.

How do you imagine the UX concept to work in the future?

I think that design and UX are already having a more important role at the top level of successful companies and organizations. It will probably continue in that way. In a world where everything is possible the user’s experience becomes more of a differentiator if you want to succeed.

Name a challenge your team is currently facing.

Scaling. When we have a big project, we always face the challenge of deciding how big the team needs to be and how long it will run for.

As we always try to break new grounds with our solutions, we naturally cannot know the exact scope of the project before finishing up the early phases of our work process. This makes it hard to scale without compromising.

What piece of advice would you give a recent grad looking to work in digital marketing?

Try to focus on the things that you do best, develop those skills and try to find the right team around you that knows the rest. Don’t try to ‘be an unicorn’ and do everything. Unicorns are not real. You will probably achieve more together with other people than by yourself.

How did you get started in the industry?

I had a course in Macromedia’ Director when I was in high school 1996. Was making CD-ROMs presentations on a 640×480 desktop and I thought it was the best thing after sliced bread.
Then, when I heard that you could actually make a living from this, I made up my mind and here I am.

Are there online publications, professionals, industry leaders you follow?

I use Medium, Designer News, TNW, The Verge and the usual stuff to keep an eye on the market. But I tend to find my inspiration from a lot of other areas such as fashion industry, architecture, furniture design and doing other stuff such as skiing or being in the nature.

What do you like doing in your free time?

We recently bought a country house so at the moment I put a lot of hours renovating and building. I think it makes a great contrast to sitting in front of the computer all day long. But one of the main reasons why we bought the house is that I wanted to get closer to a ski resort so I can go skiing more frequently.

Thanks Tobias!

By Geny Caloisi.

Learn more about Another State

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