UXPlus’ Aga Szóstek answers a few questions, and shares her paper cutting UX trick

Aga Szóstek

Every day, for the next 4 days, I’m doing a brief Q&A with a UX pro, who’s taking part in our 10 minute speed sessions to fix your website UX. This is an amazing opportunity for you to get 10 minutes of free, one-on-one feedback on your website UX!

Today’s Q&A is with Aga Szóstek, CEO at UXPlus. Request a session with Aga.

Tell me a little about your UX knowledge/practice:

About 16 years ago I joined a master’s program in User System Interaction, at Eindhoven University of Technology, in The Netherlands. That day I found not only my life’s work, but also my passion. Throughout the years I’ve led hundreds of projects. These ranged from designing an interactive lamp that aimed to support relaxation, through to designing a mobile offering for kids who received their first smartphone. I also proposed a structure for Priority Inbox in Gmail. My competencies cover qualitative user research, interaction design, service design, and strategic experience design. For readers who have questions in any of these fields, I’m happy to help.

Who have you worked with/for?

I work with many companies and industries. Some of these are global brands like: Google, Philips, Canon, Orange, ING, Santander Bank, and Microsoft. Some are more local, such as: Play Telecom, Millennium Bank, PZU Insurance, VOX furniture, Paradyz Ceramics, and Siniat (a construction materials manufacturer). I’ve also worked with several public institutions, marshal offices, design centers, and informatics centers supporting public software. Additionally, I teach interaction and experience design around the world. I lecture in New Zealand, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Estonia and, of course, at several universities in Poland. Sharing knowledge is something that gives me great pleasure and satisfaction.

Which project are you most proud of?

There are a number of projects I run that I’m proud of. Priority Inbox for Gmail is one of them. An integrated front end designed to combine seven separate sales systems, designed for Play Telecom, is another. The project I am the most proud of is a breathing lamp designed for the patients of a Psychiatric Crisis Center in The Netherlands. This project was an immense challenge from the perspective of truly grasping user needs and testing the subsequent prototypes. And once we did it, it turned out to be a really successful product. Actually, I made a copy of this solution for myself and use it to catch a breath whenever things seem to spin a little too fast. I talked about this project at TEDx Warsaw, in 2013.

What do you consider the biggest problem with websites today?

When I look at today’s websites I sometimes wonder if they aim to satisfy the expectations of the company leaders rather than those of intended users. I realize that such designs are the result of many conflicting goals. At the same time, I believe that understanding who the website is talking to and what message it should convey is important. This information can help inform the right structure and design elements to support that message—while not making the designer run into troubles with her boss.

What quick fix could any website owner make to immediately improve his/her website?

I believe three things can be done to help to improve a website. These are tasks that are neither expensive, nor time consuming:

  • designing a consistent and logical structure,
  • checking out the legibility of the copy,
  • and removing 1/3 of the website elements.

How do you do this? I print out the pages, cut them into pieces (each piece consisting of one site element) and give these to potential users with the following instructions: Imagine that all these elements are a menu in a restaurant. Which ones would you see as a starter, and which ones would you see as the main course, or dessert? Which ones might you consider useless? Once they make their selections, I ask the most powerful question any user researcher could ask: Why did you place this element here? At the end of such a session I know what they see as important, what they do not understand, and the logic between the different pieces of information I want to present on the site. This is a quick, yet powerful, exercise.

Request a session with Aga