First published on November 24,2019 in my previous blog (

World Usability Day conference (November 22 in Tallinn Creative Hub) is the most significant UX event held in Estonia. It happened for the 12th time and for me it was the 3rd time to attend. Every year I look forward to this event since it gathers together all design and UX people that I don’t meet very often and gives me a chance to network with them.

Content-wise the conference has had every year some fluctuation in the program. I’ve been out of the university for quite some time now, and I had already forgotten how it felt to attend the academic lectures. The difference between academics and practitioners speaking styles has always been striking to me.

My friend did a presentation recently in university, and the feedback from the lecturer was: “We are learning how to do academic presentations. Your performance was not boring enough. Academic presentations are supposed to be more boring.” What makes it tragic is the fact that is was not an ironic comment, but it was said with full sincerity.

Memory + context = expectations

Engagement speaker Scott Gould did an engaging presentation about a simple yet not easy topic – engagement (surprise!)

  • “If you want to get people engaged with you, you have to ask”. Talking either in real life or through marketing messages is leading towards finding the commonality. What is it that you share with the other person or with the brand whose flyer is in front of you? First dates are all about finding the needed commonality. When there is the commonality then something meaningful can be created.

  • Superficial likes in social media are about attention, but it´s not a proof of affection. To engage the heart, you have to use your heart.

  • Leaders ask the questions that people can respond to because people by nature are reactive.” Proactiveness is a conscious decision that is not there in itself.

This topic is relevant to me because in doing user research I have to reach out to customers to collect their feedback and insights. The communication has to be engaging, involving what matters to them. Without mattering it´s hard to gather when putting it in Scott´s terms.

User personas – why and how

I found the presentation of Yuri Vedenin and Anastasia Schebrova from UXPressia especially interesting because in Pipedrive we are currently also working on our user personas. The speakers showed their process of building Personas 1.0 and how by learning from their mistakes reached to Personas 2.0. For me, there were some very valid points on how to think about personas and how to put them in use.

  • A job title of the user doesn´t mean anything when it comes to personas. What matters is what the persona does with the product, why and how – mindset is the key.

  • How do the user journeys of different personas differ from each other? If there are no differences, are they even separate personas?

  • Validating and quantifying the personas with a playful Welcome quiz.

  • Personas serve as a prioritization tool and inspiration for persona-based content for the marketing/community. Possibility to do competitor analysis based on the personas – which competitors address which personas and where is your focus?

Mind your method

Tomasz Pieta from shared his journey from problem validation to the solution based on the example of opening a new meeting room in Amsterdam that teams can book for their off-sites. I always enjoy real-life examples that also show light to the fuck-ups during the process. In here it was only the first-hand experience that B2B marketing budget is better used in Google keywords than in Facebook.

  • When we get used to something, then we forget to ask ”Why?”

  • User testing gives you ideas about what to A/B test. Instead of randomly testing, it is worth to take some time and learn how to generate ideas!

  • Remember the recipe and apply it. Adapt your method to the context you want to apply it in. For example, there is no such thing as the right amount of questions in a survey. What to consider first is if there should be a survey at all and what purpose do the questions in it have.

  • UX is about Empathy (I feel your pain) not Sympathy (I am sorry you are in pain. I am not)

Accessibility is not a feature

For me, the presentation of Stein Eric Skotkjerra from Siteimprove was the most powerful one. Well structured, perfectly delivered, enjoyable to listen and eye-opening as well. As mentioned before – when you get used to something then you forget to ask “Why?”. Not having any disabilities is making us easily unaware of the problems disabled people might have with the standard solutions.

Stein Eric powerfully stated that accessibility is not a feature but an essential part of the product development. Considering the different physical needs of the users has to be in the DNA of the development process. It can´t be later added as a new magic button that makes everything accessible after it´s clicked. It would be cool, however.

How to make sure disabled people DON´T use your site:

  • Use captcha (without audio option)

  • Have videos without capturing

  • Use green and red as the only differentiators for options

  • Make the page navigation possible only by mouse, not considering the keyboard

  • Don´t make the pages responsive for zooming in

  • Don´t use written explanation of pictures and maps

Stein Eric presented statistics about the world population: There are around 1 billion people in the world with some disability. By not considering the needs of people with poor vision, hearing or motorics the businesses miss out the potential customers. Who cares about conversion and revenue, right?

Slide from Daniel Kotsjuba: With universal design, accessibility wouldn´t be a problem.

The same idea was continued by Daniel Kotsjuba, who spoke about universal design. When building products and physical environments in a way that includes everyone by excluding the barriers, then there is no particular need for worrying about accessibility later.

I remember a passionate discussion with a friend who works as an architect. She was angry because the public discussion of bike roads is mainly about bikes. The problem is more comprehensive. Better pavements are needed for everyone who is not in the car. Wider sidewalks and flat pavement stones are needed not only for bikes but also to mothers with trollies, older people and blind people with walking canes, tourists with luggage, small children with their scooters. It would help everyone as it would be the universal design.

Accessibility and universal design are foremost ethical but also a smart move from a business perspective.

So far I have never conducted any research on the accessibility, although it has been in the back of my mind for quite some time. It really is a topic where I would like to get some experience and more in-depth understanding.

UX Charlatans

Martina Mitz presented herself as a UX psychologist, and honestly, I have no idea what it means. It´s a bit ironic as she was talking about how the field of UX is without any explicit rules and the job titles don´t always reflect reality. How to know who is a specialist when there is no clear career paths and no clear educational paths before one can call themselves UX-something? Indeed, I am one of those examples myself – a former theatre critic with a sociology degree converting herself into UX researcher. What to think about it?

Slide from Martina Mitz: Current state on the UX market

As a psychologist, she has put a diagnosis to many people out there – UX charlatan – and was explaining the symptoms of how to recognize it. From time to time, everyone slips into some of those. It gets problematic when there are several symptoms present in one person, and it seems to be a pattern, not a temporary slip triggered by a bad day


  1. Only the users matter – In this case, the business needs are ignored, and the person is stuck in research. There seem to be no clear deliverables.
  2. Do what the business wants – The person is only delivering because (s)he cares about their career. “Users are stupid anyway and don´t know what´s right for them.”
  3. Know-it-all – No research is needed because the answers are there! The person is providing solutions before (s)he understands the problem.
  4. Sweet talk – Saying things that sound right but when dug into then there is not much meaning or proof behind. To be believable one must share the struggles and fails as well, not only the pink cotton-candy talk.
  5. Mask it with jargon – Shooting buzzwords and having a focus on “What?” rather than “Why?”. Feels experty when no one understands what is being said. Paradoxically the value of the proposed idea is not seen either when it is presented in an unrelatable jargon.
  6. Pass the ball – This charlatan is good at delegating the responsibility to others. They can´t say “I don´t know” and they are smoothly fishing for ideas to back up their lack of competence. Pro trick, in this case, is to ask about their opinion when you spot them in using your brains to do their work.
  7. UX is about the tools – This type is in love of methods and is thinking about “How?” not “Why?”. They have outputs, not outcomes.
  8. UX is just digital – “Our responsibility is only the website” is a common symptom. The whole ecosystem matters, because even with a perfect webpage, the experience can still be dissatisfying.
  9. I can do it too – The type who starts asking for recognition without knowing much and arguments based on a feeling. Not knowing what the X stands in the UX. “As long as it´s done right, it doesn´t matter whose idea it was.” You win when these people are quoting you and suggesting your ideas as their own.

What to look for as a sign of not-charlatan: comfortability in dealing with uncertainty and a curious mind asking questions and making sense of the situation before rushing into solutions.

Slide from Martina Mitz: What qualities do great design-thinkers share?

Aesthetics and context

  • “Content is the king, but context is the kingdom” – Eric Reiss. A shared frame of reference has to be established to make decisions. Once again it brings the book “Factfullness” to my mind (I really-really urge to put it in your reading list). One idea from there is that in order to understand a number you have to have another number to compare it to.

The last presenter Timo Kiuru was an advocate of aesthetics, which was manifested in the way he had composed his presentation. As a former theatre critic, it was funny to see how he had directed the culmination of his performance with music in a way that could get people to stand up in ovation if it weren´t Estonian audience. Call it engagement or clever manipulation with senses, as you wish.

I agree that aesthetics provides experience, but I also believe that aesthetics is not more important than usability and usefulness. I don´t think that beautiful design is a feature, but I agree that the feature could look stunning. Beauty helps to sell when it also conveys some more value in it.

  • “What matters in life is invisible, but we use visuals to make sense of the invisible.”

  • “Your own experience is the only thing you can trust.”

  • 80% of businesses believe that they provide excellent user experience, and only 8% of customers agree with it. The gap is huge.

Timo´s core idea was beautifully framed:

When a customer comes to you, then it´s like saying “I love you”. They expect from you to say “I love you too” with your actions. What is your response? How are you saying “I love you too”? Furthermore, for excellent user experience, the business should say “I love you even more”.

See you at WUD Estonia 2020!