Simon Vandereecken believes that a UX designers portfolio should not be about visual designs. Rather it should be about the process of making it engaging for the users. Simon, a UX designer, based out of Belgium has been working to improve the user experience with each day. He has got some interesting answers to my questions explaining his approach to the perfect UX design.
What does it take to be a great UX designer?
Simon: I’d say empathy. For me empathy is the core of UX design, you have to be able to relate to your user needs but also to relate to their stories, their problems, … And you can’t do that without a strong sense of empathy and being able to let go of your own conceptions and biases.
I really like the particle network animation on your website. Can you give me some quick tips to work on it?
Simon: The particle system was developed by Vincent Garreau, when I created my website I wanted something to show the interconnection between several elements, and the possibilities opened by the digital revolution. His script is quite easy to use and was exactly what I was looking for.
What do you think is the most significant part of a designers portfolio?
Simon: As UX Designer, I’m not sure I’m advocating a lot for a portfolio for several reasons. The first one being the misconception between UX and UI. Portfolios rely a lot on visual design, and that might damage what you are trying to express. Also, a UX designer is rarely alone (as it’d have to encompass a lot of competences), so it’s always a team work and most of the projects I had the chance to work on are still strictly under NDA, which makes it complicated to share. What I’d say as UX if you really have to develop a portfolio, it’s to document every step of your process, take pictures of your wireframes, your user tests sessions, … and explain why and how you took the decisions for your design development. UX Design as it is based on a lot of data still have to be evangelized and explained in every company we work for, that’s why I tend to go for face to face interviews and being able to lead people through discussion instead of sending a portfolio where you can less express what you think.
How important is the visual response by a mobile app?
Simon: While both UX and UI are separated, they’re also something that works together. I had the chance to work with talented UI Designers (and motion designers) to develop several apps. I think the aesthetic of the applications plays a huge role in its success (just look at what Apple did with its minimalism for example). After years of bloated interfaces, we’re slowly reaching something clearer, cleaner, with the joint forces of both UX and UI designer. But as I’ll always say, the most important for me and my motto is “users before pixels.” We sometimes tend to spend way too much time on aesthetic and not enough in user research and interviews, and that balance needs to change.
Tell me about the most challenging project you have ever worked on? How did you approach the challenge?
Simon: I had the chance to work on the full rebranding and rethinking of a big company. While the timeframe was really short and implied a lot of secrecy and a lot of corporate policy and processes, I had the chance to go on several guerilla user testings to challenge both the information architecture of the website and the way we envisioned our user flow. It was quite a challenge, but the user reception when we launched was tremendous, and it was really something that convinced me I was doing the right job. It is also my most successful project till date.
What is your approach to design a perfect mobile app?
Simon: Identify what is exactly the problem we’re trying to solve with this application. Have a look at what your opponents are doing and be able to acknowledge their defaults but also what they’re doing right and what differentiates them. Meet your users, ask questions, go on guerilla testing even when you don’t have much more than some paper sketches, but do it before investing too much time in something that wouldn’t work. Yes sometimes the users don’t know exactly what they want, but they’ll express quite clearly what they don’t want. Once you’ve got all that, then you can start building your app and go through design iterations. But, on top of every one of your design steps, always include your users.
Can you share some of your best Mobile designs?
Simon: // Still under NDA unfortunately :) And I worked mostly on corporate systems and applications, so… :)
What is the future of Mobile UI/UX?
Simon: We’re slowly entering a time where the physical and digital worlds are mixing. With the wearables and the rise of Augmented & Virtual Reality, we’re going to face new exciting challenges way beyond mobile. Nowadays mobile apps are a bit of a gimmick for every company, everyone wants one, but they tend to forget all their systems. With the rise of Service Design, we have a tremendous chance to shape the way company interact with their customers in its globality. Not just through some projects, but as something more holistic. With those worlds merging, this silo division by projects will make less and less sense. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and a lot of wars to be won, but we’re on the verge of a great time for designers, with a unique chance to truly help and be the voice of the customer in every company we work for. This won’t be easy as sometimes it’s hard to be heard, but I strongly believe it is something worth fighting for.
As a designer which social channel is your favorite?
Simon: I’d stay Twitter forever. People can both share what they’re passionate about and also to interact quite quickly with everyone. This makes it one of the richest social network I’ve ever encountered.
Simon has a lot more to say; follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn. To know more about him, visit his website.