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Exclusive Interview with Sergei Golubev, ‎Founder of the School of UX

This year's Apps World Evolution show features the new UX Next conference as part of London Tech Week's flagship show. One of the UX experts featured on this year's agenda is Sergei Golubev, Pixel-Perfect UX & UI designer, founder of the School of UX and The UX Conference. We managed to grab an exclusive interview with Sergei in the run up to the show.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and the company?

I’m a pixel-perfect UX & UI designer, entrepreneur and foodie with 10+ years of experience working with companies like Microsoft, Heathrow and British Gas, as well as mentoring startups at MassChallenge and StartUp Britain.

Last year I founded School of UX helping anyone to learn UX and UI design through short, practical and affordable weekend courses in London: http://schoolofux.com. The next event in the series I’m currently organising is The UX Conference – a day of practical talks and hands-on workshops for designers and developers to understand UX design and most importantly each other better: http://theuxconf.com

In the past month, I’ve also been working on a paper prototyping set called ProtoPaper Kit that helps designers to collaborate with stakeholders at design workshops. I'm currently finalising the set so, watch this space: http://protopaperkit.com

How important should UX be during the app development process?

Very important! What’s even more important is “running lean” as much as possible as Ash Maurya says. Before rushing to code your app and spending big bucks on development, it might be a good idea to validate your design assumptions – create a quick prototype and run user testing on it. Maybe nobody actually needs your “next big thing”. That’s what I call “fake it before you make it”.

At the same time, designers should always keep in mind how feasible it’ll actually be to implement that design. No matter how great your sketches or prototypes are, if the development team can’t implement it, all you’ve got is mockups.

Collaboration between designers and developers is so often neglected. I always advise creatives to learn a bit of coding so that they can speak the same language with programmers and understand technical constraints. Arranging regular QA / design review sessions with your dev. guys should be a routine. It’ll help you to stay on top of the development process so that the project doesn’t end up with unpleasant surprises and half-baked solutions with UX “on crutches”.

To what extent is the UI of an app crucial to user retention?

No matter how “modern” or fancy the UI of your app is, if the content is not relevant – the app is meaningless and hence doesn’t add value to your users.

I see lots of designers starting their work by focusing on the latest trendy UI themes and special effects, instead of first concentrating on: a) the content, b) a good typography that helps to easily digest it, and c) a solid Information Architecture for users to effortlessly navigate through that content. It’s important to remember that styling or skinning won’t necessarily improve the User Experience of your app if the content and IA are poor.

According to Fortune, “75% of app downloads open an app once and never come back”. It’s an art to making your app “sticky” so that users keep coming back, without annoying them with in-app notifications.

How will AI affect the UX of an app?

More and more systems are passing Turing test. More and more algorithms are becoming smart enough to make your experience feel personal. More and more people are getting excited at the prospect of naturally communicating with machines.

However, I still wonder how often people actually want to speak to their Siri/Alexa/Cortana (after a few weeks of playing around with the novelty)? I remember watching a film called “Her”, where a man develops a relationship with an operating system and I found it quite disturbing. On the other hand, human customer service is often so inefficient that more and more often I prefer looking up an answer myself before reaching out to call centres or live chats, which anyways end up with “Let me Google that for you”.

When the AI of the Netflix app will eventually recommend me movies I actually want to watch – that would be a good start. When the AI of image and speech recognition apps will help people with disabilities see and hear effortlessly – that would be a breakthrough. When the AI of healthcare apps will be able to diagnose symptoms on time – that would be a life saver.

But before all that: maybe one day (“and that day may never come”) we’ll eventually be able to have a battery that lasts more than a half a day? Because AI doesn’t run on oxygen, does it?

To what extent is it important to research your audience to optimise UX?

If you don’t know your users, can you really solve their problems well? (Unless you’re creating these problems for them). First of all, a good UX provides value. Surely, it’s important to “know your onions” if you want to have happy customers and achieve great conversion rates for your business.

If most of your users are browsing the web on game consoles, you wouldn’t spend time optimising your website for iPhone. If most of your users are on Windows, you wouldn’t design MacOS app for them. If most of your users are very young, you wouldn’t place random ads in your app that might be malicious to them. You wouldn’t know all that without learning more about your target audience, would you?

And it’s not actually that difficult. You really don’t need to go far. I’ve recently come across a new service by Google called Surveys – quite useful for targeted user research with a quick turnaround time. WhatUsersDo offers a good platform for getting remote user feedback swiftly. Of course, good ol’ “in the wild” research is still there.

Why is it important to personalise UX?

You can choose to read the latest tweets on random trending topics, or you can read your own personalised feed with the posts relevant to you. You can go shopping by yourself or you can have a personal shop assistant helping you. You can send a birthday card with a pre-composed greeting or order a bespoke card with your recipient’s photo on it from Moonpig.

I believe most of us wouldn’t want a life overwhelmed with redundant information and soulless bots. And instead, we would get a personalised service that if not an actual human at least passes Turing test.

Thank God the advertising business is eventually reaching the stage where we start seeing targeted ads that are more useful to us. Even spam has become a bit smarter these days, not sure whether that’s something to be happy about though…

You’re part of this year’s UX Next conference at Apps World Evolution, what are you most looking forward to hearing about?

I’m keen to learn how the perception of UX design by various business has changed and whether they get an actual return on investment. It would also be great to see how UX designer’s role and responsibilities have evolved. Last but not least, whether there are any new methodologies that can help us design better products.

Who are you most interested in meeting at Apps World Evolution?

It’d be great to meet Sandra Gonzalez, Head of UX at Just Eat, as I’m a big foodie and want to hear more about what’s cooking in the food industry and UX design. Also, Maciej Matyas, Director of Technology at Hotels.com, to see if he can convince me about benefits of chatbots, which I’m not quite buying into yet.

Book a free pass your to UX Next using Priority Code UXFREE

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