In conversation with Rajarshi Ray, User Experience Designer, Microsoft IDC
Fig: Sketching is a good way to communicate ideas
Can you tell us a bit about your professional & academic background? What brought you to this field?
By first profession am an Architect. I studied Bachelors’ at Bengal Engineering & Science University, Shibpur (now IIEST Shibpur) and then went on to pursue Master of Design from IDC, IIT Bombay specializing in Industrial Design.
Architecture had already laid my foundation in design, as it has for many UX Designers whom you may come across in India. I wanted to explore the realm of design beyond buildings, into products which humans touch and use every day. That was one of the seeds for me to explore Industrial Design and eventually UX design.
I started my career as an UX Designer with Fiserv working on BFSI products and later joined ThoughtWorks. Currently, am part of the Design studio at Microsoft India Development Center. The challenge which I took up every time was to use my Design skills as a problem solving tool to arrive at system level solutions.
What are the different tools that you use for designing?
I am pretty flexible in terms of using tools and adapt myself based on whatever is available. White sheets, sharpies, and post-its are pretty handy for paper prototyping, whereas Photoshop remains an age old favorite to create the finished product. However, to test interactions I often use Power point, Axure, Just in mind etc. There are lot of other tools available out there, and the choice actually depends on what the product design process demands.
Fig: Early stage wireframes of the Mobile UI for a RWD project
What kind of products do you work on?
The products that I currently work on are Web based offerings or Mobile applications. However, my entire gamut of work contains design of Portals for Net banking, Payment apps and even Online ticketing Portal for a leading airlines. I have also designed mobile apps for a leading music channel in India and for a few start ups in the past.
The decision to choose a project, depends more on my interest around the problem and not based on what the outcome is going to be. I would not shy away if the need is to design a toilet or an automobile.
Fig: Early stage sketches for a web based product
Can you describe your process for designing prototypes?
Thank you for not asking ‘What is your Design process ?’
Describing the process of designing prototypes is much easier.
The prototype one needs to design, chiefly depends on which stage of the design process you are in and what kind of feedback you wish to capture. For an early stage feedback, a paper prototype works like a wonder and helps you capture all the flaws in the work flow or even directly points to the use cases the designer might have missed. Making an early stage prototype is pretty easy and one can actually use post-it and card boards to make a ‘quick and dirty mock up’ to test.
Having said that, with so many tools available which can be used to make a prototype look and feel like a finished product, one may entirely skip making a paper prototype. In fact the earlier you move to the digital media, the better it is when you look at it from a delivery perspective in a fast moving environment.
Personally, I prefer a paper prototype first to chalk out the work flow and then go on to detail it out. The steps broadly could be called out as Paper prototyping > Wire-framing > Visual Design.
In many organizations Visual Design is handled by a different expert altogether, where Interaction Design and Visual Design roles are completely disjoint from one another.
Fig: Paper prototyping
How do you incorporate usability into the design and testing process?
Your design education comes in handy here. In the early phase of Design itself you take care of lot of Usability issues by default. Knowledge of Ergonomics/ Human Factors, Cognitive Psychology and Control Panel organization helps a lot. In fact, an UX designer is an expert who would take care of most of Usability related issues. How much he can fix or take care of would largely depend on his expertise, maturity and experience about the domain for which he is designing.
For most products, Design guidelines are often laid out before hand by an expert team which takes care of most issues related to Usability. These guides are often referred in conjunction with a Product style guide.
Complex projects targeted at specific ethnic groups may require another Usability Consultant who would even carry out formal Usability tests. For such projects, the level of User Testing may require a very different kind of test environment and simulations for the product.
For projects of a relatively smaller scale, I prefer lightweight Guerilla testing, whereas for complex ones I would rely on Usability Experts for this part of the work.
Another, quick way to test a product is to “Ask your Mom”. It does help!!
What are your favorite UX websites and blogs?
Unfortunately I do not have any favourite UX websites or blogs. I prefer reading books any day, be it related to design or anything. It opens your mind to new thoughts.
Young designers may benefit from the writings of Tim Brown, Don Norman, Luke Webrowski, Edward Tufte, Jeniffer Tidwell and Lucas Pettinati among others.
I spend a good amount of time talking to fellow designers from fairly diverse domains or to different people whom I come across, in order to understand and keep myself abreast with the trends. In fact, I have always believed that communicating with people around you is the best way to learn.
Any words of wisdom for UX designers who are just starting out?
“I don’t know why people hire architects and tell them what to do” – Ar. Frank Gehry. As an UX designer (or even any designer starting out) one may face this problem every day.
Fig: The friendly Designer ‘Monster’
A part of your role as a Designer should be, to educate your client and show him the value that you bring to the table. Understand his requirements and verify his suggestions; ask as many questions as you want but be convinced before you move ahead.
Enjoy the process, the product will take care of itself.
On a lighter note, be the ‘friendly monster’; but when required, put your foot down!
- Rights to all illustrations, graphics and photographs are reserved by the author and cannot be reproduced without the explicit written permission
- The views expressed are that of the author as an individual and do not reflect that of any organization or institution
Some more Matter for your Grey Cells
- “Relying entirely on gut-feel and intuition can’t take a startup too far”, says Prasant Bhattacharji, Data Scientist & Product Planner, HackerRank
- “Practice Design Thinking and work with users and their real pain points”, says Richa Sehgal, User Experience Designer, IBM
- “Usability has to be in the DNA of any project”, says Pragati Kapur, Assistant Manager- Design Research and Strategy at LG Electronics
- Young Achievers – Rohan Anand, Data Scientist, Delhivery
- “Problem Solving and Analytical Skills are important for a Product Manager”, says Arun Varghese, Product Manager, Insta Health Solutions Pvt Ltd.