Designing habits, UX-trends and UX-career. Brian Pagan Interview

Brian Pagán. Image by BalansLab
Photo: BalansLab
About Brian Pagan ( Brian Pagán. repeatedly told me colleagues who returned from the European UX-conferences. The actor and psychologist, UX and the owner of the company answered several of our questions about his path to UX, ethics in UX, trends and favorite applications.

Brian, how did you end up in UX, because your first education is acting and psychology?

I have been interested in technology and human behavior since childhood. When I was seven years old, I programmed in BASIC on my Commodore 64 (yes, I'm so old :) I programmed a character for Dungeons & Dragons. Such a nerd. And people admired me because I had difficulty understanding them :) While I was studying psychology, I made a living from graphic and web design. Having already received a master's degree, I came across an announcement of the User-System Interaction curriculum in Eindhoven. It was a great opportunity to combine my love of technology and my passion for people. Since then I have contacted UX.

2. Does psychology and acting help in your UX-related work?

Great question. Yes, it helps tremendously! Good products and services improve people's quality of life. Starbucks makes my morning ritual enjoyable and acceptable. Fitbit helps me get fit and healthy. In order to create great products and services, UXs need to understand what kind of guidelines people need. From psychology, I learned the understanding that it is necessary to work with human perception (cognitiveness). And acting skills, thanks to emotional techniques, give me access to human sensations.

3. You often talk about honesty and ethics, as the most important qualities of a UX specialist. What qualities, in your opinion, should a UX-pros have?

Oh, I wrote an article about it for UX Magazine . The best of us care about people, professionalism in doing work, the question "why?" and about doing what we believe in.

Interest in people helps us to empathize and - to help them improve their lives. The desire for professional execution of work allows you to pay attention to detail and make efforts to make the product better. The significance of the question “why?” helps us move away from our own ego and apply all our skills to solve real problems. And the care to do what we believe helps us to recognize our own vulnerability, and we can develop products by eliminating the weaknesses of others.

That's why ethics are important in UX. We work in industries such as automobile, banking and medical, and our work significantly affects the lives of people, including our own.

4. You have worked in specific areas for a long time, for example, in medicine. In your experience, how deep should a UX specialist dive into a specific subject area?

There is a difficult balance. On the one hand, we should know enough about this area in order to make decisions and avoid catastrophic mistakes. But, on the other hand, our “ignorance” allows us to look at problems from a new angle. We can see solutions that experts in this field do not see, because we are free from the burden of knowledge, which often narrows the review of specialists themselves.

5. How did you come to create your company?

The more I studied acting, the more I thought how little we developers use our emotions in work. And our strength is second to none when we harness the intellectual and emotional powers together. Everyone who creates products and services, whether a designer, developer or engineer, is a creator, and he can use his mind and emotions together to activate his superpower. For this, I created my own company (THE GREATNESS STUDIO) to help people and teams create like superheroes.

6. It is always curious what is happening in other countries. Tell me, what biases do you most often encounter in your work? And how do you deal with them?

I managed to work both with corporate systems, and with startups, innovative projects. This may be a biased judgment, but I notice that people with a new idea are ready to make big investments at an early stage of product creation, instead of making small investments and testing whether they are building the right product.

For example, I worked with a new business group in a healthcare technology company in a psychiatric service. The group worked for two years and completed the mobile application completely before testing it with potential customers and users. Testing revealed many errors. Therefore, after all the time and money spent, we redesigned the concept from scratch: when I started working on the project, we built cheap digital and paper prototypes, which our research team tested with potential users. These quick and inexpensive prototypes revealed bugs and allowed us to improve the concept without having to write code. For two months we had an approved vision of the product with which the whole team, including developers and people from the business, could start working.

7. What trends, trends have you noticed in User Experience recently? Is there anything promising? Or something you just like personally?

Now is an incredible time, and there are a lot of things going on in UX that I am very happy about! More and more designers take personality and ethics into account. More than ever, people are embracing emotional design. DesignOps also inspires me: when designers and engineers work closely together, real magic happens.

At the moment I am studying universal design and accessibility. It inspires me that the product or service will be available and useful to the largest number of people.

8. You are going to hold a workshop on designing habits here. And which applications have formed your habits?

Oh, another good question! I use Fitbit to track my activity, sleep, and heart rate. MyFitnessPal - to track what you eat, and an app called Zero to track short-term fasting.

The Oak, The Mindfulness App, and Headspace help me meditate, but I openly acknowledge my unhealthy addiction to 9gag and Facebook.

9. Do you think the HOOK model will be 100% suitable for users from Russia, or maybe some aspects need to be revised to change one way or another to fit the local mentality?

The HOOK model is the foundation of human habits, so the principles apply to all people. However, the method must be adapted to each new context.

When we design products to help people create habits, I think it’s important to analyze what obstacles these people face, what beliefs they hold, and what makes your product or service thoughtful for these users.

10. Will you be in Russia for the first time? What do you expect from a trip?

Yes, this is my first trip to Russia, and I am very happy! I have heard exceptional things about St. Petersburg, so I look forward to discovering this city for myself.


Questions and translation: Anfisa Letucheva, Julia juls Kryuchkova
Original interview (in English).