BlockyDevs Industry Insights Interview with Magdalena Ostoja-Chyżyńska

In this first BlockyDevs interview with Magdalena Ostoja-Chyzynska, founder of UX GIRL we delve into the world of UX/UI design. Magdalena shares her unique journey in this field, from a childhood fascination with technology to becoming a UX designer and entrepreneur. She emphasizes the importance of both creativity and technical expertise in UX/UI design and highlights her innovative approach to bringing together senior and junior designers to optimize project outcomes.

Magdalena also provides insight into industry challenges and trends, such as the rise of artificial intelligence and the potential of web3 applications. She offers valuable advice for aspiring designers, emphasizing the importance of passion and continuous learning. In addition, she discusses women's experiences in the technology industry and encourages collaboration and sharing experiences among female professionals. Let's dive in.

Wiktoria Podlodowska: First of all, thank you again for this interview. To begin, could you describe the essence of UX/UI design in a single sentence for someone new to the field?

Magdalena Ostoja-Chyżyńska: Thank you for inviting me! When people ask me about that, I usually bring up the ISO norm because there is actually a written norm of what user experience is: “User experience is a person's perceptions and responses resulting from the use or anticipated use of a product system or service”.  So it's not really limited to applications. It could be anything, even some complex system, it doesn't have to be a simple app. UX/UI design then creates for specific user experience that we want to achieve.

Now, can you introduce yourself and share how your journey in the world of UX and UI design began?

Magdalena: As a child, I was interested in technology, which led me to pursue web development and graphic design. I was fascinated by these activities and lost track of time engaging in them. Naturally, when the time came to choose my major, I selected Computer Science. During my studies, a professor approached me and asked if I was interested in Usability and Human-Computer Interaction. At the time, the term "User Experience" wasn't as common, but I embraced the opportunity, became the president of the Human-Computer Interaction Club at my university, and eventually transitioned into a career as a designer.

Wiktoria: It sounds like your passion for technology and design guided you seamlessly into this field. Speaking of UX and UI design, do you agree that it requires a blend of creativity and technical proficiency?

Magdalena: Absolutely, I believe so…. I honestly think the best UX designer there is, is a person who can quickly change between these two ways of thinking. So when I recruit people to my team, I try to search for ones that are a balanced blend of left-brain analytical prowess and right-brain creativity. So they are basically both analytical and creative at the same time.

Wiktoria: And talking about your business. UX GIRL is a very unique brand name. Can you share the story behind it and how it all started?

Magdalena: The name "UX GIRL" has an interesting story behind it. When I started to gain recognition as a UX designer, people began approaching me for workshops and conference presentations to explain UX design concepts. I thought it would be a good idea to create a simple and memorable brand name. Given my focus on UX design, I decided on "UX" and added "GIRL" to make it relatable and straightforward. Later, when I established my company, I decided to keep the name "UX GIRL" as it symbolized me and the values we stand for.

Wiktoria: It's a unique and memorable choice, indeed. Now, can you describe a typical day for you as a designer and owner of your brand? Is there a typical day?

Magdalena: There is no typical day for me; each day varies significantly. I'm responsible for leading the team, so I'm actively involved in projects, offering assistance to my team members when needed. Client communication is another aspect of my role, as I engage with clients regularly. Additionally, my days may involve attending conferences or traveling to meet clients in person when necessary.
So every day is a set of very different things… but also I think that's why I like it so much. 

Wiktoria: Your role seems both diverse and engaging. How do you approach your design projects at UX GIRL?

Magdalena: At UX GIRL, we try to look at projects in a very holistic way. We delve deep into project requirements, analyzing every aspect. This includes creating flow charts, understanding the tech stack, and considering various design aspects. Every team member undergoes specialized technical education, such as programming and coding courses. Collaboration is crucial, as UX design necessitates interaction with business professionals and developers. We strive to bridge the gap between design and technology, making it a highly collaborative position.

Wiktoria: It's evident that collaboration and multidisciplinary skills are central to your approach. I heard that UX GIRL has a unique approach to work : both senior and junior designers work together on a project?  Can you explain the reason for this unique approach? 

Magdalena: Yes, many people think that it's always best to just hire a senior designer to do all the work… But let's face it. If there is just 1 designer on a project and this person is a senior, they will have to do many things from simple tasks to very complex ones.

Our approach is different. We introduce two main methods: pairing a junior or mid-level designer with a senior designer. The junior designer learns from the senior designer during work on the project, gaining valuable experience, while the senior designer can focus on the real problems by omitting the easy repetitive activities. Alternatively, we assemble teams with a mix of skills and experience levels. This not only optimizes project outcomes and its budget but also provides unique collaboration-fueled results that outperform single-designer projects.

Wiktoria: Your approach seems very unique, but also very thought-through. And I think it's a great way for juniors, to learn from mids or from seniors as well. So that seems very unique, as I said, but also a good approach to the business itself. And can you tell me more about the identifying of customers and user needs when it comes to the project?

Magdalena: Of course, it depends on the client and the users involved. Some customers are open to discussion and eager to answer our questions, while others may be initially hesitant to share their insights. In such cases, we often have to ask questions repeatedly, sometimes over multiple meetings, to gradually uncover valuable information. The dynamics change when we collaborate with users.

When we start a project, we usually prioritize interviewing users. This allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our project and whether it meets the intended purpose. We have undertaken a number of WEB3-related projects, and during these engagements, we have tried to involve people from the web3 community who are end users of our clients' products. This involved some challenges. Initially, we encountered resistance to the idea of sharing PDF files because these documents may contain executable content that some web3 enthusiasts are wary of downloading. As a result, we had to adjust our approach.

Another significant challenge was the reluctance of virtually all participants to turn on their cameras during user interviews. While face-to-face interactions can reveal valuable emotional clues, many people in the web3 space prefer to remain anonymous. As such, in the end we were grateful that they even agreed to participate in the interviews. One of the users even used voice-changing technology while talking with us, when others only agreed to a text interview.

In summary, our approach to customer and user feedback varies, contingent upon the specific circumstances and the individuals involved. We employ tailored methods for conducting in-depth interviews and usability tests. It's worth noting that gathering feedback within the web3 domain presented its own set of challenges, but we successfully managed to overcome them.

Wiktoria: Dealing with certain users can be quite challenging. If we're discussing stories and sharing memorable experiences, perhaps you could share a project or achievement from your career that you're particularly proud of.

Magdalena: I think my greatest achievement in my career is the team I have created. It is a unique group of people. They have diverse talents, but they are all very proficient in their roles. Building a team is an ongoing and rewarding process, it can be challenging, but at the same time it can bring significant results, lots of pride and happiness

Wiktoria: It takes a lot of time and effort to create a high-performing team that you really enjoy working with. Could you share your insights on creating such teams? How do you identify and select team members? Is it a matter of intuition, or are there specific qualities or skills you look for?

Magdalena: There are two aspects to consider here. Of course, I assess whether a person is suitable for his or her role by looking at factors such as whether he or she would work well as a designer or client communicator. However, since I'm in the business of team building, I also imagine how the person will fit into the existing team framework. Their personality must resonate with that of their teammates to facilitate effective collaboration. So it's not only just, I think, seeing a person as a person, but also a person as a part of the team.

It is worth mentioning that initial impressions during the first recruitment interview often do not provide a clear picture of a person's future potential. Predicting a person's development trajectory is extremely difficult. While some exceptional HR managers may possess this skill, I believe that a person's behavior during the first meeting may differ significantly from his or her subsequent actions. As a result, I place more emphasis on a person's first month of work, not just the first meeting.

As for the qualities I value, I am particularly attracted to highly motivated individuals. Those who show a deep passion for their work, projects, and interactions with clients usually do well. When I observe such motivation, I anticipate a smoother path for their future development.

So now I want to ask about the concept of web3 applications. If you can explain it in simple terms. Also, I would like you to highlight some differences in designing for web3. And compare it to traditional apps.

Most of the applications we have worked on, especially web3 applications, revolved around finance and cryptocurrencies. In my previous experience, I also worked extensively on banking applications, which are closely related to them. When discussing web3 with novice users, they often expressed difficulty in understanding the blockchain concept.

They mentioned their reluctance to use something they couldn't understand. I spoke with various experts in the field and it seemed that many users were hesitant to adopt and learn new technologies. Every time a new system came out, the typical reaction of users was resistance.

It's quite the norm for everyday users. It got me thinking when a friend posed an interesting question: "Do they understand how a bank works?" Many users don't, yet they continue using banking services without hesitation, because they bring incomparable value. This realization led me to conclude that users don't necessarily need to grasp every intricate detail.

Around a year ago, I came across a Dior website that enabled purchases using a digital wallet. They had simplified the process so effectively that users didn't even realize they were engaging with a relatively complex system. This prompted me to shift my perspective; instead of being an educator about web3, I chose to present it in the simplest possible terms. I aimed to showcase its capabilities, such as sending money and completing various tasks, visualising them using user-friendly language. The idea was to make web3 as accessible and useful as a bank presents itself.

Wiktoria: It's really fascinating. In your experience, are there any noticeable differences in designing for the traditional web versus web3?

Magdalena: It's not so much the projects themselves, but rather the clients. Most of the clients we worked with on application projects were well-versed in the intricacies of their products. They looked at things from a different perspective than many of their users. This often required opening founders' and customers' eyes to new possibilities and encouraging them to adopt innovative solutions.

Wiktoria: Do you use AI tools in your daily work?

Magdalena: Absolutely, artificial intelligence is currently at the forefront of technological advances. Many people I know are starting AI startups and using AI tools regularly. It's an exciting era to witness firsthand. Personally, I have incorporated AI into my workflow. I use CHAT GPT like many others, and I am experimenting with generative AI tools for design and code generation. While these tools show promise, not all of them are as advanced or user-friendly as one might expect.

Wiktoria: I agree; artificial intelligence is making significant progress, although it brings with it a set of challenges and detractors. It's a growing field that is rapidly shaping the future. Speaking of design trends, what are the latest trends you've observed in the UX and UI design industry?

Magdalena: As we mentioned earlier, AI is undeniably one of the most visible trends in the field. AI has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach design. Traditional user interfaces were function-based, where users gave commands and clicked on function buttons. In contrast, AI-based interfaces require users to express intentions, guiding the interface to generate responses. However, a pure intent-based user interface may still require editing the results through a traditional interface. This dual approach marks a significant shift in user interface design.

Another trend to watch out for is virtual reality (VR). While it may not be hitting the headlines, it is quietly developing in the background. Given the ongoing shift to remote work, VR has the potential to play a transformative role. Recent experiments, such as the virtual environments created by Facebook, show the direction VR is heading. The technology allows people to interact as if they were physically present, something previously limited to science fiction. While not yet mainstream, VR has the potential to change the dynamics of how we work and how we view the world.

In addition, "no code" and "low code" tools have gained popularity in recent years. These tools simplify software development, allowing people with limited coding experience to create applications and automate processes. This gives designers, business owners and analysts the ability to code with minimal technical knowledge. While some designers may initially be concerned, these tools are gradually blurring the line between development and design.

Wiktoria: Why do some designers have objections about these tools?

Magdalena: Change can be intimidating for many people. Some designers prefer to focus solely on design and may feel uncomfortable going into programming. However, since low-code tools require minimal technical knowledge and are all around us, more and more people will slowly become developers without really realizing it.

Wiktoria: So even a person without a technical background, like me, can start creating with these tools?

Magdalena: Absolutely, it has become extremely accessible.

Wiktoria: It's an exciting and growing space to watch. What advice would you give to aspiring designers who want to enter this market?

Magdalena: My advice is to have a real passion for design and technology. UX design can be challenging, so maintaining a strong interest in the field is essential. Additionally, never stop learning. Technology evolves quickly, and continuous learning is essential to stay current. Seek out mentors and collaborate with other professionals, as these experiences can be extremely valuable. Finally, don't be afraid to make mistakes; they are an integral part of the learning process.

Wiktoria: Exactly. And any new exciting projects or goals on the horizon for UX GIRL?

Magdalena: So I feel like I like to keep them a secret ;) But generally, We are thrilled to continue our journey into the realm of AI user interfaces. Some time ago, we embarked on the path of designing for AI interfaces, and it has been an incredibly enriching and distinctive experience. Today, we proudly hold extensive expertise in AI user interface design and are eager to elevate the world of UI to new heights!

Wiktoria: Thank you for sharing your perspective on this important topic. It has been a pleasure speaking with you, Magdalena. Is there anything else you'd like to add or share with our audience?

Magdalena: Thank you for having me. I'd like to emphasize the importance of passion and perseverance in the field of UX/UI design. It's a dynamic and ever-evolving industry that offers endless opportunities for creative problem-solving. Stay curious, keep learning, and don't be afraid to take risks. Your unique perspective and skills can contribute significantly to shaping the future of user experiences.

Wiktoria: Those are inspiring words to conclude our interview. Thank you, Magdalena, for sharing your insights and experiences with us today.

This concludes the first BlockyDevs interview with Magdalena Ostoja-Chyżyńska, founder of UX GIRL , on the world of UX/UI design. We hope you found her journey and insights valuable, and we look forward to bringing you more interviews with inspiring individuals in the tech industry.

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