Plan P: Explaining Jobs in Digital Industries to the Parents

Miriam Leparoux, Head of User Experience Management, comdirect bank AG

In LinkedIn's 2015 global study, more than half of the parents surveyed said they weren’t very familiar with what their child does for a job. One in three parents even said they don't understand at all what their children do for a living, which is why we’ve started this new series – explaining jobs in digital industries to parents.

As the name implies, user experience is about exactly that: the user’s experience. The goal is to offer the customer the best possible experience, which doesn’t mean that we always shower our customers with confetti. However, they should have a pleasant and ideally inspiring experience when they come into contact with our products. Basically, you have to imagine UX as a successful interior design. If you want to go from A to B, it’s nice when the room looks good, when nothing stands in the way, and you don’t get lost. Applied to our business model as a direct bank without branches, this means that our interfaces are all digital– whether it’s the website, our apps, or voice control. And because everything is virtual, the demands on a result are correspondingly higher. You can’t just go back to the counter and ask a question. The flow of information must be intuitive and self-explanatory.

What is it all about?

We do classic UX design and UX conception. For example, we come up with possible interactions or new interaction paths that we build on existing interaction patterns. We ask our colleagues: which problem would you like to solve and for whom? We see ourselves as the mouthpiece of the user. We try to look at things from their perspective. That’s why user centered design is an important tool for us. We conduct focus groups, interviews, and help colleagues develop a sense of who their recipient is. What is the customer’s challenge and core problem? What do they need, how do they tick?

“We see ourselves as the mouthpiece of the user. We try to look at things from their perspective.” 

How we work

We proceed according to the rapid development and fast failing principle. This means that we move quickly into the conception phase, help to develop prototypes, and test them quickly. We don’t stop for long discussions but instead get going and see how the product is received by the user and whether he wants it at all. If we find that it is not accepted, we then have to refine it. We analyze why it didn’t work and try to tighten the screws.

Sometimes we are involved in a project right from the start, but it can also happen that we are called in by a department if something doesn’t work. A task could be, for example: we have a new offer on the site but the customer doesn’t understand it and keeps asking questions. Then we take a close look at it and consider what is relevant from the user’s point of view. Perhaps they have completely different expectations. Let’s take the example of interest: maybe the customer doesn’t want to read a long text on the subject, but wants simply an interest calculator. An interactive tool might work much better.

The ideal background

The subject of UX is increasingly being taught at universities. Especially courses dealing with human/computer interaction are predestined for UX jobs. So far, the field has been mixed: there are psychologists from the cognitive field, classical web designers who are interested in interaction, computer scientists, and career changers. I myself studied business administration and philosophy and graduated in strategy, organization, and management. So I have a classic business administration education but have always worked in the digital field.

“The ability to remain open is almost even more important. You have to consciously hide yourself and your horizon of understanding.”

The most important skills

Analytical understanding is important. However, the ability to remain open is almost even more important. You can’t believe you know how people tick. You have to ask and question again and again. You have to consciously hide yourself and your horizon of understanding. In addition, you should feel like dealing with innovation. General conditions change, the technology changes, and so does user behavior and user acceptance. For example, when we started working with voice user interfaces and introducing speech assistants, there was still a lot of resentment among customers. The typical reactions were as follows: Yes, that may be exciting, but I would never use a voice assistant to handle financial transactions. Today, just a year and a half later, that has completely changed.

How to come up with good ideas

The most important thing is permanent exchange and to surround yourself with good, innovative people. That’s what UX lives on, that’s what design lives on. To always get new inspiration by looking around what others are doing. And not necessarily the competition, but completely foreign industries. What kind of interactions and formats do we like? What kind of apps are there? Which ideas can be adapted for us? When we were thinking about building our first skill for Alexa, we didn’t even think about what other banks were doing in this area, but rather looked into the questions: What is possible? And what makes sense?

“Good design is always intelligent for me, it makes my life easier, it has to guide me, and it has to precede my steps.”

Good design

As a UX expert, I’m less of an aesthete and more primarily functional about it. Good design is always intelligent for me, it makes my life easier, it has to guide me, and it has to precede my steps. But, good design must also be able to inspire visually.

The future of UX

User interface is a relatively new area. At comdirect it has existed since 2015 and it is positioned under the management board, which shows that our company takes this issue seriously. And UX has a future. It is becoming increasingly clear that it is not about developing any products or offering any services and believing that we will make them as cheap as possible, then it will sell. The overall experience is becoming more and more important, and UX makes the difference.

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