User Experience Questions: A Look into Common UX Struggles & Issues

A pleasant Tuesday afternoon rewarded me with the opportunity to interview Anthony Viviano, UX Lead at TD Ameritrade, online stock, trading, and investor platform, to discuss key issues revolving the topic of user experience. Dive into this interview to understand the pain-points, burning user experience questions, and top issues of a UX designer and professional and how you can apply these philosophies to your UX success.

How did you get involved in the UX field?

I started my career as a technical writer where I wrote help content for applications. While I love writing, I didn’t like the role of technical writer. A professor friend of mine once said that the help document is really just a list of everything wrong with an application. I decided that I wanted to be on the front end of software design and development. Around that time, the Society for Technical Communication’s chapter in Michigan held an event that explored a career in usability as a natural progression for tech writers. I was very interested, so I did a bit of networking and met with a couple of UX practitioners. From those meetings, I learned the path to break in. I read a few key books and did some graduate work at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I began taking on UX related projects at work and eventually was offered a role as a Usability Specialist/Project Manager as a contractor. I took the leap, hoped around at various contract roles until I was offered a job at Organic as a Senior Information Architect.

What is your current role as a UX lead?

I work for TD Ameritrade, which is an online broker in the U.S. I specifically lead the User Experience design for our Active Trader group. We create products that support Active Traders and I work on the mobile offering (TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader) on iPhone, iPad and Android. I also lead the UX design for various improvements to our web platform. Since I have a passion for innovation, I work on various small, innovative projects in my spare time.

What are your most common struggles and frustrations as a UX lead?

Anyone who says, “You don’t need to speak to users. I know what the users want.” The less familiar someone is with UX best practices, the more likely they are to utter that fateful, telling statement. I can’t work in an environment that doesn’t value regular user interaction and feedback.

How would you describe your user experience design philosophy in one sentence?

I’m a user advocate that seeks to understand their needs and solve their problems.

What KPIs do you measure as a UX designer and professionals?

Like everyone else, we measure net promoter scores and page load, but It really depends on what I happen to be working on at the time. Generally, we look at trades, task completion and the like. We want our clients to be able to easily open accounts and understand if they’re money is working for them.

How does the UX development experience differ between a platform like Ameritrade (stocks, financial) and a platform like Salesforce (CRM, task management), or even health websites/applications, for example?

It all comes down to what the user is trying to accomplish. What are their information needs? What tasks will they complete? In the past, when I worked on hotel sites, it’s was all about getting users down the booking funnel. When I worked on car sites, it was about getting a lead to a dealer. At TD Ameritrade, we’re interested in users making trades. The work flow, however, is similar … give the user the research and info they’ll need to make the decision. The specific tasks are quite different.

Do you think that a UI designer can make a website 100% intuitive?

I’d like to think that if a site is simple enough, then it could be 100% intuitive. For example, the Google search page is very simple and very intuitive, but I’m sure there are users that still make mistakes. So, short answer … no, but you can come very close.

What are the most important emerging user experience themes right now?

I’m very interested in Lean UX. I’m also interested in responsive design. Overall, I think UX people need to think beyond the human-computer interaction and think about the overall customer experience … both physical and digital. I feel like we’re well suited to do this, but I don’t see many UXers making the leap.

How can the importance of UX be introduced to management in a company who seems have no idea about it?

If a company is doing business on the web and they have no idea about UX, then they won’t stay in business long. That being said, there are plenty of case studies out there that can show the value of good UX, but the most impactful way to prove your worth is to do it. As UX teams do their best work, the management will notice and place more importance on UX. If you’re trying to sell UX to a company as a potential employee, then use your own work as a case study. Your portfolio should tell the story of how you improved an experience and how that impacted the business.