UX Designer Interview: Arun Pattnaik

Creative. Colorful. Experienced. Skilled. Knowledgable. Fun. Interesting. Passionate. These are all words that aptly describe UX designer, Arun Pattnaik. Visit his website, ArunPattnaik.com, and you can read his personal story of becoming a UX design superhero. In his own words, he shows “the world remarkable things never seen before.”

Overstretched? Not really. His vision is to make an impact on the world through his entrepreneurial efforts. This passion for helping others is what truly makes him a “superhero.”

The portfolio section of Arun’s website.

Hailing from New Dehli, India, Arun has worked with InstaPress, SlideShare, PicTiger and some more startups. He also worked with the world’s youngest CEO, Suhas Gopinath, who founded Globals Inc. In the past he has co-founded Oravel & Bidray (which is now owned by DealDash). Arun currently advices startups on user experience & design apart from doing freelance UX design projects, which means that his time is very limited at the moment – another superhero move, as he somehow still found time to thoroughly answer each of the questions below.

Skills section of Arun’s website which includes an interactive pie chart.

Arun’s skills seem well-developed. Of course, his largest area of expertise is in UI and UX but his XHTML and CSS skills are also highly refined. Add to this list his knowledge of PHP and a bit of HTML5. What really caught my attention, however, in my search for a UX designer (besides the fact that I wanted to find someone not so well-known but just as talented as the big names), was Arun’s heart and passion. In scrolling through his cleverly interactive website, I was captivated by his creative story-telling and fantastic design skills. In visiting the websites listed in his portfolio, I was greatly impressed not just at his ability to create very usable websites but also at his ability to help build a startup from the ground up. His personal blog showed me just how much heart he puts into every single one of his projects, and also how much pure passion he has for helping startups grow into successful companies. This man was one that certainly deserved an interview. Hopefully his answers below will help those of you who are searching for success in your own UX designer careers.

How did you get started?

Arun: Like most other UX engineers, I come from a design background. I started off as a graphic designer in a small company when I was young. Although I had a formal degree, that never really helped. I quickly realized that you’ll learn more about design by sketching on paper than reading a dozen books on design. After 2 years of working with print and graphics, I was introduced to web design by Suhas Gopinath, usually referred to as the world’s youngest CEO, my short time former employer, and now a very good friend. I was fascinated by the way Internet worked, and was amused by the impact of design on making decisions online.

And that was the time when I started taking an interest in UX design. While working with SlideShare, which is among the 250 most visited websites in the world & the world’s largest presentation sharing community, I learned how little details impact user behavior. The metrics give you quick feedback on what’s working and what’s not, whether the users like a red button or a green button, where to have ‘ok’ & ‘cancel’ buttons and where to have ‘yes’ & ‘no’ buttons. In fact that’s the basic idea behind UX, you learn how actions are affected by the smallest of details. You connect to users emotionally.

Slideshare pricing plans page.

What’s your education background?

Arun: I was never a good student. So my answer is not really encouraging for youngsters. Although I have a formal degree (with specialization in Animation & SFX), what I do currently is completely different from what I was taught. I was trained for 3D animation & visual effects in movies but that’s not something I believe I would have enjoyed to work on. I took a different career path and here I am making a lot of stuff easier to use.

I believe my instincts have been right so far. I love what I do and I’m not doing a bad job at it either.

Hiring page for Zeebo, Inc.

Zeebo gaming console: registration page.

How do you differentiate between UI design & UX design?

Arun: User interface is a part of user experience. Although UX in it’s best form is curated, it still needs to be designed.

UI design is entirely visual. It’s mostly about aesthetics and deals with what the different parts/sections of a product look like. The design of a UI will be heavily informed by the UX design.

On the other hand, UX design is a broader term. In addition to the visual appearance, UX deals with what a product feels like, how difficult is it to obtain, how easy is it to use, and whether it adds value to the end user. For some products, not necessarily web products, UX could encompass sales and support as well.

The UI can be a component of UX, but many user experiences don’t have UIs. Some have invisible UIs. For instance, I have once worked on the UX of a telephonic customer support product and it didn’t have a visual UI. A phone caller won’t get to see anything but he still expects and deserves a good user experience.

A very casual way of explaining the relationship between UI & UX would be -

“In the ultimate analysis, the goal of UI is to deliver sex, while the goal of UX is to deliver orgasms.”

Can crappy design still provide excellent UX?

Arun: Of course! Design merely acts as an enabler of UX, good or bad. My favorite web examples are Craigslist and Facebook. From purely a visual design point of view, the sites are very basic, if not crappy, but they still manage to provide great user experiences which can be explained by the popularity of the platforms.

Among physical objects, something as mundane as a wooden chair or a spoon could be an example of crappy designs with excellent user experiences.

Screenshots of the Zeebo Inc. website.

What resources do you reach every day when approaching a UX gig?

Arun: Most of my work comes from personal contacts, past clients, referrals & Dribbble. Although I have gotten a couple of projects from visitors of my website (www.arunpattnaik.com), the quality of those leads have been terribly low, due to the fact that the industry is yet to understand the importance of UX design.

Apart from Dribbble, some of my peers score UX gigs from the following websites:

http://www.uxjobsboard.com/

http://jobs.smashingmagazine.com//

What does the future of UX look like in your head?

Arun: I believe UX, as an industry, is going to be one of the largest in the near future. Companies, both big and small, are starting to invest heavily in creating amazing user experiences by innovating in their respective fields. The product companies have learned to put customers first. As recently as five years ago it was hard to find a user experience designer in a company. Ironically it was handled together by the CEO/Founder and the visual designer of the product. And now it’s common to see teams of user experience designers in companies, either as a separate department or working together with the product managers. Users are now part of the product’s building process. Internet startups are considering UX as their most powerful tool. So I’d say the future of UX is very bright.

Graphic of Dribbble invites Arun made almost completely of free PSDs found on Dribbble.

How will approaching design change?

Arun: Designs are now being done by putting the user first. Engineers are putting more focus on what the user expects to happen instead of what’s cool. Designers are putting an effort in what works best instead of what looks shiny. So the approach to design has taken a different turn. It’s a two-way process now. We learn by the user’s needs & behavior and then design our products according to it. Then we observe the user again. If we find the design didn’t work, we iterate. Repeat. User Experience should be seen as a continuous thread that runs through an entire organization, from one project into the next always pushing to make a person’s entire experience better.

Login section on the left panel of a website for a cabs booking company called Meru Cabs.

What technologies will be standard in future?

Arun: have always believed that technology merely acts as an enabler of what you actually want to do. So I would frame this question as “What methods will be standard in future?” Talking to the users is always the best method of improving your product. The success story of Dunhill is my favorite example of keeping the customer involved in the product’s development process. More and more corporates are taking this approach to design their products, and I am very sure that this will become pretty much the standard for product design. So a typical product release cycle would look like:

1. Find the problem.

2. Ask the user if it’s a problem.

3. Ask the user how has he tried to solve the problem in the past.

4. Solve the problem.

5. Ask the user if his problem is solved. Confirm that with metrics.

6. If not, go back to step 4.

If yes, ask him what did he find annoying and how can you improve.

7. Improvise. Repeat.

How does mobile fit into the future of UX?

Arun: Mobile has an important part to play in UX in the future. It already has, especially with the latest innovations in touch and geolocation technologies in place. Most of the successful businesses, both offline and online, have mobile apps which help them extend their service to users. Mobile is no longer just a communication device. It has now become an important part of our daily lives.

Mobile brings an always-available feel to technologies, which is partly true. But unfortunately we have gotten into the habit of presuming that mobile means on-the-go, desktop denotes a desk, and tablet is on the toilet. But we fail to see the blurring lines on where devices are being used and how they’re being used in unison. And that adds to the user experience regardless of the nature of your business. With mobile technologies, you no longer have to call up and ask friends about directions, journalists don’t have to carry equipment all the time to capture news, twitter has changed the way we communicate and receive news, we no longer have to wait for an important email because we are traveling. These are small but revolutionary changes. We’re saving time and money to do things which are more important. And all this has been made possible by mobile [devices].

Screenshots of the Stealth Android App.

Landing screen of the Stealth Android App.

Superhero UX Designer

Many would agree that a superhero is anyone with superhuman skills and a passion for helping and protecting the weaker members of society. Maybe this is why Arun Pattnaik likes to refer to himself as a superhero of sorts on his website. So, maybe his skills aren’t exactly superhuman, but they are definitely at an expertise level. Maybe he doesn’t fly around the world in spandex and a cape, but he does like to help other entrepreneurial businesses succeed. In my opinion, these descriptions are close enough for me to call him a superhero UX designer that deserves a moment in the spotlight.

He writes about design here. You should get in touch with him on Twitter at @arunpattnaik where he is always willing to answer UX & design related questions.

Author: Tara Hornor

Tara Hornor has a degree in English and has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, web and graphic design, and desktop publishing. She is a freelance senior editor at DesignCrowd – a marketplace that helps businesses outsource or ‘crowdsource’ custom design from over 100,000 designers worldwide. In addition to her writing career, Tara also enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. Connect with @TaraHornor on Twitter.

 

If you liked this article, please help spread the news on the following sites:

  • Bump It
  • Blend It
  • Bookmark on Delicious
  • Stumble It
  • Float This
  • Reddit This
  • Share on FriendFeed
  • Clip to Evernote