UI AND UX EXPERT KAUSHIK MACHARLA GAVE US A RUNDOWN OF THE DO’S AND DO NOT’S OF TECH DESIGN
There’s an implicit promise these days that the true purpose of technology is to make our lives better. And that thought has the weight of logic behind it, especially given the extent to which personal and public devices can dictate how any given day plays out, and how convenient or inconvenient it will be to finish everything on our lengthy to-do lists.
The difficult part of the equation is for tech companies themselves, and how they’ll be able to accomplish that goal, consistently, for potentially enormous audiences and client bases.
But how do so many moving parts come together to create a satisfying and effective end result? And how can all this be handled as efficiently as possible?
These questions remain central to all of UX design guru Kaushik Macharla’s work, from his current role with Facebook to past positions with Google and Microsoft, as well as his own startup currently in development, Ghaav, which aims to help businesses organize and plan ahead for greater efficiency and growth.
“Ghaav is primarily focused on creating team portfolios, offering planning features, and roadmaps which help maintain focus on your work, whatever it may be. Ghaav is still at an early stage, and I definitely have big plans for its future.”
The Importance of Design
And though Macharla has worked in many different aspects of tech development, he has real excitement for UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) design in particular. He’s spent much of his career honing skills in these areas, which makes him the ideal guide to walk us through a brief exploration of what it really means to make tech that matters, tech that offers something new, exciting, and, above all, useful to consumers.
“UX design is a complex process of developing products that are both usable and that also solve problems. Design is not just a trending field, it’s simply good business. Everything that has to be developed in a product should start from a simple idea. Design then gives life to that idea.”
This has been proven time and again by many popular apps and websites. Early versions of sites like Google Maps, Grubhub, and Instagram, more or less only featured very simple ideas. It wasn’t until many updates later that they began to nurture a design that unlocked the extensive versatility and functionality of each service. And all of these are great examples of situations where patient, steady design changes were extremely successful.
But Macharla was quick to point out that designers also need to maintain a broad and flexible perspective while working through a project. Otherwise, the changes may come too often, disrupting users’ routines and workflow in the process. User bases tend to be hesitant when it comes to accepting change. For evidence of that hesitance, just take a look at the aftermath of any major update on Facebook, Snapchat, or Gmail.
“Design structure should only be changed one step at a time. Designers may feel that a specific feature is old and outdated, but the users may not all have that same excitement for seeing new features. The ultimate goal of updating design in any way should always be to solve existing problems and avoid new ones.”
Feedback is King
To put it another way, projects like these always need to be team efforts that incorporate large amounts of user feedback. Disrupting the balance to favor one aspect over countless others can result in a lopsided end-product, perhaps one that falls short when it comes to other key components like function and efficiency. Macharla has found this to be especially true in startup environments.
“Product Design plays a crucial role in early stage startups when it comes to scaling ideas to a broader market. My early startup projects were in the healthcare Industry. We provided a platform to find the right doctors based on individual health problems.”
Building a Team That Works
And of course solving those wide-reaching problems, organizing the appropriate data, and finding a way to help users access all that data in an easy and meaningful way required constant collaboration between many talented designers, programmers, and leaders like Macharla who were able to keep their eyes on the big picture throughout the process, especially when it comes to a notoriously slow and lumbering sector like healthcare.
This is one of the primary reasons that Macharla puts so much care into hand picking a team he know will meet their deadlines but also excel at communicating with each other.
“I look for people that are mission driven and who has a vision that is bigger than the project, I usually don’t choose like-minded people because I’m always interested in hearing different perspectives for solving problems.”
What All the Big Names Share
All this expertise ultimately comes from years of hands-on experience with the absolute biggest technology companies currently in existence. And although each company has its own unique company culture that’s been shaped over the course of many trials and tribulations, Macharla noticed a few key similarities that they all shared.
These similarities have helped them maintain a positive reputation, not just among users but also in the eyes of other tech peers.
“Something that Google, Microsoft, and Facebook all have in common is they find risks and solve problems in a very upfront manner. I strongly believe that every employee should always consider the impact their decisions will have on the world. This kind of openness isn’t just helpful for big tech companies either. On the contrary, it’s important for every organization that has a long-term vision.”
For many companies in 2018, that long-term vision includes an intensive focus on fixing everyday problems for users, or at least making them a lot easier to take care of.
Thanks to hard work on the part of programmers and designers like Macharla, these advances seem to be coming faster and faster, all of them part of a collective effort to streamline tasks that are as old as society itself.
“Clearly, the tech Industry is advancing rapidly, and at this point in time every user is searching for new ways to make their life better, and that represents a great market for the tech Industry. Creating a brand and gaining the trust of the user takes time, but companies will eventually be very successful if they maintain altruistic motives.”
And in many ways, tech companies big and small have succeeded in that very goal. But there will always be more problems to solve, and it even gets to a stage where many companies dedicate time to trying to anticipate problems ahead of time and offering solutions preemptively.
The Human Element
This near-prescient ability has a lot to do with the hidden human element of tech design. There’s a popular myth that tech minds tend to be a little out of touch with what consumers really want.
As Macharla told us, the best companies and leaders are the ones that dispel that myth completely by balancing management of technical details with real human emotion and a genuine concern for the digital and real-life wellbeing of users.
“Empathy is very important for a designer. It’s a state of mind achieved by asking more intelligent questions, receiving and listening to feedback, and validating the perspectives of others.”
These are universal lessons, but they prove to be especially effective in the realm of technology, and it would serve these companies well to take note of the profound importance of treating every user like a human being and maintaining an overarching sense of empathy.