We would like to give you a peek into the process behind our projects, and we chose to focus on Plek for this. Plek is one of our most important projects: it is our very own social communication platform. One of our main goals for Plek is to keep it simple. And in fact, this is one of the most difficult things to achieve. Plek looks simple but it is smart! So how do we do it? Before a new feature or an improvement is visible on Plek, we go through an elaborate process including for example ideation, design and development. The parts of this process can be further divided into different steps, activities and roles. An important role within our design department is that of User Experience (UX) designer. We’re interviewing Hasan Gozlugol about his views on User Experience on Plek.
Let’s get to know Hasan a little bit. Who is Hasan?
“I’m Hasan. I studied graphic design at London College of Communication and I moved to Amsterdam last year. I started doing an Interaction and Visual Design traineeship at ILUMY. While working as a trainee, alongside my projects, I would occasionally come up with improvements for Plek in areas that I felt were not logical or clear enough. After having some discussions with my directors and seniors, we found out that I had an eye for user experience design and we decided to strengthen that area. That’s how I ended up becoming a UX designer for Plek.”
Can you explain what User Experience design is?
“It’s kind of an ongoing debate. It’s such a broad practice, I think it’s difficult to define it in strict terms. Some people say it’s user interface design, others say it’s the invisible things. I think it’s a combination: the things we see and don’t see should be synchronized with each other. Our goal is to deliver solutions that make our product feel natural, clear and pleasant to engage with.”
Are there rules to keep in mind when working in UX?
“I think it’s more about principles than rules. It’s an organic process but in the Plek design team we always keep aspects like purpose, psychology, clarity, consistency, readability, hierarchy and pattern-formation in mind while designing.”
Which techniques do you use to improve UX on Plek?
“We use our own product Plek ourselves at the office, so I often speak to my colleagues from different teams and collect feedback. I also test the product a lot: I sort of switch myself to ‘user mode’ and I imagine various user scenarios. This way I always notice something that has room for improvement.
I also do a lot of research and try to keep myself up to date with what’s going on in the practice of UX/product design and learn about the latest developments and tools. Furthermore I try to get a lot of feedback from our end-users and see how they use the product. These are some of the methods I use but of course every designer has a different way of identifying and solving problems.”
What does the design process at Plek look like?
“It changes from problem to problem, if it’s a client driven issue then we work closely with the client in order to fully understand the problem and try to quickly deliver a solution. Sometimes, we as the design team determine that a function or a module needs improvements. When this is the case, the process is usually more explorative. In most cases we first discuss the issue with the team. We identify which problems have the highest priority. Then we get as much feedback as possible from the stakeholders and we start sketching ideas and potential solutions. We then review and make iterations, and prototype with development. Then we test and always find new problems or technical limitations. After that we make the final adjustments and when all changes are approved and tested, we roll it out.”
How do you balance Plek’s many features and capabilities with the desire to keep it simple in your designs?
“That’s one of the most challenging aspects. When we want to create a simple interaction or interface for Plek, we still need to make sure the complex functions are reflected in it. That’s why we first create a complex version and then start iterating backwards, make compromises and determine the most important elements. We take away elements or combine them until the interface becomes ‘quiet’ enough but also fully functional. It’s an ongoing challenge and a learning process. We’re trying, failing, learning and improving.”
What are your goals for Plek?
“Plek is a tool that aims to improve the way people work together. So I continuously observe how we work at Plek and try to identify modern work culture issues. We have people working from a distance, we work with freelancers, consultants, part-timers and so on. I try to understand all the different needs that emerge and think about how we can design Plek so that it is future-ready: it should serve the needs of modern as well as traditional work culture. So as the design team our goal is to develop the product in a way that it helps organisations so people can collaborate better, work better, do better.”