Interview with Tal Florentin, UX Specialist, Author, Lecturer, & Imagineer

Tal Florentin is a leading User Experience practitioner who successfully led dozens of companies and organization to effective products using a winning User Experience strategy. He is the author of The User Experience – When People Meet Products and Director of UXVision, User Experience Certification Program.

1. Where do you get UX inspiration? 

It’s funny, but UX is such a part of me, that I am actually inspired on my own. Most of the time, I don’t need any external stimulation since I have a UX fire coming from inside of me.
But when things get dry or I need some help, I love watching futuristic videos about how UX will take part in our lives in the coming future. Microsoft and Corning have produced a few great videos like that and I think I’ve seen them hundreds of times.

2. How do you recognize a great UX designer? 

I always say that there’s a very specific way to identify and recognize a great UX designer. The differentiating element is that a great UX designer can explain each and every one of the elements on the interface. A great designer will tell you what the reasons were for choosing one navigation model rather than another, for putting an object in its specific location and for choosing one UI control over the other. Moreover, the explanation shouldn’t just be based on hunch and aesthetics, but rather incorporate the understanding of how it will fit the target audience and affect the business objectives. 
A right formula for a great UX solution is “I put A (element) here, so that when B (persona/target audience) comes to do C (use case), it will assist achieving D (business objective we aim to achieve).

 3. What do you think are the 3 most common misconceptions about user experience research? 

The first misconception is that usually we don’t need a research since we already know enough. 
The customers, entrepreneurs or product managers tend to assume they know most of what it takes, but what they know usually comes from the product’s point of view, rather than the users’. The second is that research requires a lot of time and money. Research is a dramatic word, but most of the practical methods that stand behind it are not only quick and chip, but also will have an outstanding ROI returning much more value than what cost us. The third misconception about research is that we should have thought about it earlier and it’s too late now. Well, it’s never too late. Of course it would be much more effective to have the research done in the first place, as soon as possible, but even if it wasn’t done then, it will be very valuable now as well. We always have room for chances, and understanding our audience gives us important tools both in the concept stage and in the detailed micro-UI design that comes later, long after the product’s general model is finalized.

 4. Jeff Gothelf calls copywriting “The Secret Weapon of UX”. Do you agree and to what extent? 

Basically, I agree. UX design stands in the meeting point of many skills and copywriting is one of them. However, if this sentence implies that this is the only secret weapon, here I tend to disagree.
A good UX designer holds a large set of secret weapons such as copywriting, visual design, understanding of cognitive models and how to motivate people, call to action skills and many more. Obviously, a great copywriter wouldn’t be a great UX designer without the others.We should collect as many tools as we can and use each one of them in the correct time and place.

5. Tell us a little bit about UXVision and your book, “The User Experience – When People Meet Products”.

UXVision is a small UX consulting boutique. We work with top 500 Israeli companies and provide strategic user experience design services. Vision, since on one hand we believe in defining goals and use UX as a tool for achieving business goals, and on the other hand put the user in the center, and understand the way our user’s vision and mind work. UXVision is also leading the Israeli UX certification program, certifying Israeli professionals to step into the profession of UX design. Besides that, we are working on some interesting tools for UX professionals that we will soon be able to expose.

My book, “The User Experience – When People Meet Products” is the first and only UX book ever written in Hebrew. Following a few years of trying to find a winning formula for the process of UX design, I wrote that book, revealing the fundaments of how people behave and use products and what the practical steps are for creating a winning user experience.

6. There is this whole issue of in-house designers being highly underrated by executives, and thus, being overtaken by UX consultants hired by those same executives. What’s your take on this?

I believe that sometimes my biggest added value as a UX specialist is the fact that I don’t work in-house within the companies I consult for. This always allows me to question the things that seem obvious to everyone within the company. In addition, the fact that I go from one project to another, and meet a great amount of challenges and solutions from different worlds, gives me a much bigger variety of tools to offer and use in the process. Add to this the fact that people want to get approval from an external authority. This helps feeling good with what you decide. An external consultant can look in the eyes of an executive and tell exactly how things look, where an in-house designer sometimes can’t. Even though a professional from outside has some added values, I believe companies should aim to create a strong UX team within their organizational structure.There’s always much more to do than what a freelance consultant can.

 7. How can management best assess how much time and budget should be available for UX?

There are some guiding formulas for that question. Some would say 10% of the project’s budget should go to UX. As far as I see today, investing 10% is a wishful thinking and in most places we are still way far from that. In terms of time, UX design is not a step in the process. UX is a mindset. It should take part in all steps and change the way things are done and decisions are made.  In each step of the way, the part of UX has a different time, but always, whatever you invest in a right UX process will get back to you in reducing the amount of functions developed, reducing training time, reducing % of technical support and so on. As one of my customers always says, “UX is addictive. Once you understand what you get from it, you can never go back and stop using it”. 

8. What’s your first course of action when you begin the process of evaluating a product’s user experience? 

When you have a prior experience and a product is presented to you, you tend to quickly say what you have in mind. The first thing I learned to do is beware of being professionally arrogant. When I meet a new product, I start with assuming I don’t know enough about the business model and I have no prior knowledge about the target audience. Obviously, without these two, my feedback is worth nothing. 

Therefore, a professional evaluation of a product will always begin with learning and asking a million questions in order to get the overall picture. Only then, after I know I got enough information, I go and build my agenda about the product and its good and bad attributes. Explaining them should be done using the same formula I described earlier. Show what point of contact between the target audience and the screen will fail to meet its objective, and try to provide a better solution for that.

9. What are your top 2 recommendations for making the first visit to an online service a success? 

An online service website should always tell me what it offers and what’s in it for me.

What it offers should cover the first 6 seconds, where the user asks where he came to and if this is the place he wanted. Assuming we won this one, the next challenge is to show an immediate value and close it with a fitting call to action. The call to action should always show a value and offer a good ROI. 
It should show that user that the value he is going to get is bigger than the effort it will require from him.