An Interview with Ohad Inbar, UX Expert and Mentor at Microsoft Accelerator and Google Launchpad

Please meet Dr. Ohad Inbar. Dr. Ohad Inbar is a UX expert, researcher and lecturer. He holds a Ph.D. in Human-Computer Interaction and is an adjunct lecturer and researcher at the Technion and the Ben-Gurion University. Ohad has 15+ years of experience of consulting for high-tech companies in domains such as medical, IT, and consumer products. Ohad serves as the co-president of the Israeli chapter of UXPA (User Experience Professionals Association) and IsraHCI (Israel’s Human-Computer Interaction organization), and he is a UX mentor at both the Microsoft Accelerator and Google Launchpad. With that, check out this great interview that discusses some of the hottest topics in UX! During your time as a mentor for Google Campus, what is one of the challenges you’ve seen startups face in terms of UX? I’ve been working with startups for many years now, and my experience as a mentor for Google Campus just emphasized my impression: UX for startups is inseparable from product definition. This is due to several reasons: First, user research, which is a key stage in the UX process, inevitably brings up user needs and insights which in turn change the functionality of the product. Second, bringing a fresh outsider view, that questions existing paradigms, typically has a similar effect. Third, startups typically need help focusing on the key elements of the product. Defining these core values and mvp is also crucial in figuring out the ‘story’ of the product and how it transforms to the UX. Which business sectors face the most difficulties in their user experience and why do you think that is the case? It might sound surprising, but from my experience UX problems are more likely to occur in consumer products. There are quite a few reasons for that: First, although the importance of UX is gaining recognition, it is in many cases linked to a superficial UX makeover, which is not based on solid knowledge and expertise. Second, managers and developers in this sector tend to think of themselves as the ‘typical user’ of their product, which is often completely wrong: most users don’t have the same level of education and technology literacy as hi-tech persons. They decide they can do the UX on their own, and end up designing products that are frequently not suitable even for the average Joe (and not to mention his mother or grandma). These problems are less common with more complex products and industries, such as medical, military, finance etc., where the importance of UX (and especially usability) is usually understood and valued. From the feedback you get from your clients and experience, what do you think is the most effective usability testing method? I don’t think that there is a single usability testing method that is the most effective by large. It depends, among other factors, on the type of product, the stage of development, and the development team. However, I am a big fan of early-stage usability testing – either with mockups (even paper prototypes) or with working products at a later stage. Recently I’ve been involved in usability testing of an Android app designed for elderly users. Having been involved in this domain for quite a while, I was still shocked by the amount of information and valuable feedback I gained from that usability test. In addition to that priceless input, it also helped to effectively communicate the finding to the managers and developers and get their buy-in for making the necessary changes. What do your clients – owners of complex websites – describe to you as their key challenges to make a WOW on first impression? The ever-increasing on-line competition makes people inevitably less tolerant toward bad UX. There are various challenges, so I’ll focus on 3 challenges I constantly deal with: Where am I? The message of the site needs to be clear and focused and let the user instantly understand where s/he got to. It can definitely be based on established concepts, metaphors or other sites, and ideally I would like a new user to be able to summarize the site in a few words – e.g. “This site is a Pinterest of Recipes”. What can I do here? This, again, is a challenge that requires the site to provide users with means to perform their tasks. How do I do it? The actions should be made obvious, without added complexity and unnecessary information. Where do you see mobile UX heading in the near future? In the relatively near future I see mobile devices becoming more complex in their technology and functionality. I see mobile devices gaining additional sensors that will increase their ability to serve as ‘personal assistants’, by collecting and sharing information and by becoming an ‘extended self’ of the user. The upshot of this trend means that UX researchers and designers should focus on several fields: First, to make the interaction seamless, by adapting to the current context of use. Second, to ensure privacy by making it easier to define and monitor.