What is the Design Scene like in Your City?
I live in Trieste, the capital of a region in the north-east of Italy, but still too small to have a UX community. So, I'd broaden the question and tell that in Italy there is still a long way to go for UX to be appreciated as the most valuable investment for a business.
I know a very few companies in Italy that are very focused on UX design as their main mission and they are doing a great job, but we got a lot more people and companies that use the acronym UX as a nice addition to any kind of job titles and job position specs in digital industry.
How did you get started in UX design?
I started by chance. At the beginning of my career I had no clue that my natural talent was the perfect match to something called "UX Design". My formal approach with UX design was in 2014 by means of the "Human-Computer Interaction" course by University of California, San Diego. It just felt like when all the pieces fall into place!
How long have you been in the field of UX design?
I've been working in the digital industry for... 21 years! My job title (along with my professional skills) has changed many times during my career, just to get fit to the job market needs. I've been a .NET developer, a Flash developer, a PHP developer, an UI & interaction developer, but I've always been a "undercover" UX designer! I've been working as an "official" UX designer for 6 years.
What is your speciality? What do you feel really comfortable with?
I used to be a "unicorn" for too many years to be a better fit for the job market offered more opportunities to generalists. A few years ago a change in my mindset occurred and, to better explain it, I would like to quote the main character of the movie The Great Beauty: "The most important thing I discovered a few days after turning 65 is that I can't waste any more time doing things I don't want to do."
I still have quite a few years left before I turn 65 but as an independent contractor I rather prefer (and give priority to) those project that need pure UX research and design work. I avoid like the plague those projects that need a "UX/UI designer" that usually means performing as a pixel perfect visual designer that is definitely what I am not comfortable with!
What made you want to pursue a career in UX design?
One day, I was trying to explain to my first boss that the design of a website is based on well-defined principles while he was showing me a Citizen Service Portal he had designed with unacceptable dead ends in the navigation flow and a burgundy&coral-based color palette, that didn't convey an institutional character to the product.
Well, he stopped me with a lapidary:”I don't need an extra graphic designer, I just pay you to be an ASP developer!”. He added that he used to be a COBOL expert and consequently Internet was quite simple stuff to him. Then, he said I was lacking in skills such as problem solving: users could click on the back button of the browser to exit what I had called "dead ends"!
Everything sounded so hopeless but I didn't give up. I decided to introduce some UX design in that nerdy IT industry from the rear door while officially working as a developer.
Share a secret. Something no one knows
I'm an open book and as you can see I talk way too much about myself!
Tell us about your favorite design related book(s).
I'm still loyal to the dear old paperbacks when they are about universal and unarguable design principles. Lately, I've been delving into psychology and marketing in Product Design. I loved "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products" by Nir Eyal, a very insightful book.
What type of a designer are you in terms of hard- and software? What is your favorite app?
I was a late adopter of Apple products because I used to work in companies more development-centered, that means all the workstations were PC.
I wouldn't live without my Mac now and at the moment I'm working to push my home office setting to the next level.
As for softwares, the sharing feature of all products included in the Google suite make them win all. Adobe XD is my choice in the never ending dispute among prototyping tools.
Let's be honest. We all make mistakes. Tell us about your biggest UX fail.
My biggest UX fail was for being too naive. There's an old interview to Jakob Nielsen where he says that UX design is irrelevant with products that are free and addicting. Well, I thought that the right way to go was creating a great user experience anyhow, so invested (too) many energies on a redesign of a free and addicting product but results were hardly appreciated.
Do you have a side project?
Tell us a bit about learning UX.
I want to learn more about UX design applied to AR, VR and AI. Future scenarios for Interaction Design are the only reason why I would live and work forever to experience them as a designer!
Who would you consider a mentor? Tell us about your relationship.
My first mentor was Professor Scott Klemmer from University of San Diego, California. He created the Interaction Design Specialization that I completed years ago. One day he reached out to me through Twitter PM and enrolled me as a mentor for students attending the next editions of that Specialization! I was just thrilled! I just email him when I need some UX related advice.
Lately, I can consider as my mentors all the amazing UX pals that I've met on Twitter. I just love that supportive attitude of this community that was born spontaneously.