UX superstar Vitaly Freidman: "It’s one thing to create a beautiful, interactive experience on a canvas, but making sure it’s accessible, performant and environment-friendly is an entirely different thing."
World Usability Day Estonia is the first conference for user experience professionals & the largest UX-, web- and interaction design event in the Baltics.
World Usability Day Estonia is taking place for the 14th time and the theme for this year is “Our health”.
Among other topics, we will focus on digital healthcare services and the effect that technology can have on our health and our environment.
This year we will continue with the hybrid format which combines a live event (Kultuurikatel, Põhja puiestee 27a, Tallinn) with an online event.
Also, with your WUD Estonia ticket code, you can watch the conference until the end of the year 2022!
Interview with Vitaly Friedman - speaker and workshop guide of World Usability Day Estonia 2022
Vitaly Friedman is Creative Lead & EIC at Smashing Media AG. His talk and workshop were voted best of WUD 2021.
As for this year, we are very happy to welcome Vitaly to WUD2022 with an intriguing talk “Designing for the people” and with an exciting workshop “Fixing frustrating design patterns in 2022”.
Let’s hear some more from himself!
Could you tell me about yourself and describe your background in brief?
My name is Vitaly and I love complex UX challenges!
Over the last few years, I was very happy to be working in complex environments on various design challenges, from enterprise interfaces to large organizations with plenty of systems, tools and people involved.
I studied computer science and maths in university, but then discovered passion for design and typography, and jumped into design and UX with both feet.
These days, I'm very passionate about all kinds of design patterns, from intricate filters to elaborate tables.
What’s your favorite part of the work day?
I love waking up early, prepare my coffee and just look out for the day or week ahead.
I love planning, but I also love the calmness of the morning when you can gather your thoughts and explore not only work-related stuff, but also things that matter to you in life.
Typically, there aren't any emails at that point (yet), so it's a good time to think, explore and maybe remind yourself of lovely memories from the past.
The topic of your talk at our conference is “Designing for the people”. Could you tell us more about your talk?
We often design digital experiences in a way that resembles everything we see on the web.
We rarely question why a particular form looks in a particular way, or how a carousel should look and work, or how to make a table more usable on mobile devices.
Over the last years, working with the European Parliament, large insurance companies and accounting applications, I've started questioning pretty much everything in interface design, trying to figure out just the right way to minimize frustrations and improve task completion times with our designs.
In my projects, I always try to focus on designing for the people.
I try to figure out their pain points, challenges, frustrations and slowdowns, and find better solutions that help them get their tasks done better and faster.
From it came the talk, which is mostly focused around design patterns that work better for everyone, especially in complex environments be it public services, enterprise applications, large institutions and everything in-between.
The talk is about how to help people from outside and inside reach their goals with our interfaces, and with better design.
The topic of your workshop at our conference is “Fixing frustrating design patterns in 2022”. What participants should prepare for and why should they participate?
The only thing needed to be prepared for the workshop is passion and stubbornness to explore new ways and new strategies to solve complex challenges.
We'll explore difficult and frustrating patterns, from non-responsive filters and lengthy forms to large enterprise tables, infinite scroll, password recovery, authentication and mega-multi-dropdowns in navigation, and we'll explore ways to improve them.
The outcome will be a toolbox with reliable design patterns that everyone can apply to their projects immediately.
Who can participate in this workshop? Do participants have to have some specific professional background?
The workshop is both for designers and front-end engineers.
Everybody will learn something practical and tangible from the workshop and be able to break down any complex problem into a few manageable tasks that could be tackled predictably and reliably in any environment.
How do you keep going if professional journey sometimes gets complicated?
I've always been very curious about pretty much everything in life, and this curiosity drives me from one project to another.
When it comes to any complicated challenge, I always try to remind myself that the first step is always understanding the environment and surveying the landscape.
With enough time investment and stubbornness, everyone can make sense of the scope of the problem.
And once you understand the scope, you can break it down into smaller tasks and then approach them one-by-one, while also keeping an eye on the big picture.
Usually, complexity comes from the lack of understanding or expertise; and both can be learned or improved over time.
How has the UX/UI changed in the past 5 years? What do you predict will happen in the next 5 to 10 years?
I would say that our work has gained more dimensions and dealing with it isn't always straightforward.
These days, when we design interfaces, we need to consider plenty of goals and targets, from inclusive design and accessibility features to environmental impact and performance considerations.
Our work is heavily shaped and restricted by the limits that we are setting up to deliver fast, accessible and usable experiences.
For example, to meet all performance requirements in terms of Core Web Vitals, we need to be very restrictive about the number of fonts that we can load.
The main image can't be larger than 144 KB (based on research done by Paul Carvalho), and often we can't afford parallax or heavy images because they would break the environmental impact budget.
These are very restrictive attributes that we need to respect and design accordingly.
It took me a long time to figure out how to even approach these situations when designing and building websites and apps.
What are the most critical changes that we must make to face the future effectively?
I think that as designers, we should be accountable for the design we are creating.
It's one thing to create a beautiful, interactive experience on a canvas, but making sure it's accessible, performant and environment-friendly is an entirely different thing, which should be considered before we design a single pixel on screen.
For example, if we are designing a donation page, we need to ensure that developers can build a fast experience and that we don't disgruntle people just for the sake of decoration or aesthetics.
This is the task of design KPIs that need to be established early, be agreed upon and guide design decisions.
Do you think one needs UX educational background to be successful in it or practical skills are enough?
I don't really have any UX educational background, to be honest.
I studied computer science and mathematics, and much of my work has been shaped by reading books and experimenting in the field on my own.
Surely, it's beneficial to understand established best practices and processes, but I don't think that it's absolutely necessary.
What has helped you get to where you are in the UX world and what advice would you have for others who want to set off in a similar direction?
I've learned an incredible amount of insights from all the wonderful people in the community who freely share how they failed and what has worked for them.
There are so many valuable resources and posts appearing every day, and just as I learn from them, I try to do my best to share my insights in the same way.
This enriches the community and helps everyone get their work done better.
So, I can only recommend everyone to share more about their projects, their thoughts and their insights.
Just by putting your own experiences in words you learn a lot and make the connections that otherwise might not emerge. It's totally worth it — guaranteed!
With greetings from somewhere around the world,
We hope you found this interview with Vitaly Friedman as interesting and inspiring as we did! Quite soon, you’ll already have a chance to hear his talk at WUD Estonia 2022 conference and take part in his workshop. See you at WUD!