Every day, important IT projects fail because of one simple thing: the users. In this interview, our in-house UX designer Alexandra Kandler discusses why usability must be the cornerstone of all successful IT solutions and what a user experience designer actually does.
Hello Alex. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Tell us, why did you become a UX designer?
I first completed a dual study program in Media Management and Communications, but I didn’t really find marketing or business management that exciting. For my thesis, I was asked to develop measures to increase the sales figures of a digital learning product. After a while, I realized the numbers weren’t the problem, but the product was. It had been developed for the American market and simply didn’t work in Germany. That’s when I realized: marketing by itself is not enough. I wanted to tackle the core of the problem.
This is why I decided to study Human-Computer Interaction, for which I moved to Sweden. Since the discipline is still relatively young, my professors came from all kinds of fields, for example Computer Science and Psychology. Their approach to teaching and problem-solving was much more practical compared to most German universities. It was less about theoretical knowledge, and more about changing your perception of the world around you. Important topics included things like Accessibility and Inclusive Design.
And how did you come to work for MATESO?
After my studies, I worked as a UX Designer in Belgium. That was very exciting, but the decision-making process in large corporations can sometimes be lengthy. Hence the decision to work for a smaller company where my work would have a more direct impact. I also wanted to move closer to my home region and saw the job posting from MATESO. My brother, who also works in IT security, knew MATESO from exhibitions, and said they always had the friendliest booth of all. That sounded like a good work environment. Since I’m also interested in privacy- and security-related topics, I was hooked right away.
Your everyday work is to improve the experience for our users. Why is usability so important – especially in the IT security sector?
A common pun amongst developers is that something is a “layer 8 issue”, basically meaning that the user did something wrong while using the system. However, it’s only human to make mistakes, and every system should be designed accordingly. The software has to help users make fewer mistakes and should warn them when they do something wrong. After all, everyone has misclicked before.
When it comes to IT security, in particular password protection, this can quickly have disastrous consequences. Many companies are aware that they need to protect themselves against hackers and reduce the risk of attacks. A password manager can not only ensure the secure handling of passwords, but also create awareness for the topic throughout the company. However, if the software is too complicated, employees won’t use it and will look for workarounds. In the worst case, they might continue writing down passwords on post-its that they stick underneath their keyboard.
What features does Password Safe offer that make it easy, even for non-IT users, to work with Password Safe?
First and foremost, we offer our LightClient, a simplified interface that “normal” employees can use without training. It only has the features that are needed to store passwords and to log in, without anything additional that might only confuse some users. For admins or power users with deeper knowledge, there are other clients with a greater range of functionalities. In addition, interfaces and modules can also be customized according to specific business needs – be it certain security precautions, legal requirements, or special preferences. This way, all users have exactly the interface needed for their work.
Our browser extension also simplifies the daily workflow for anyone who regularly needs to sign in to various websites and tools. Thanks to it, you don’t have to always open the password manager first and manually pull the credentials out of there. Instead, Password Safe automatically fills in the credentials for that particular site. This is even faster and less complicated than the normal login on a website, reduces the workload for employees, and also increases user acceptance!
We want to keep improving Password Safe for our customers. Can you reveal what we are working on right now?
At the moment, we are developing a trash functionality. Because, as I said, people make mistakes and sometimes click on the wrong button. Suddenly the credentials are deleted, even though you didn’t mean to. With this new feature, it will be very easy to restore accidentally deleted items in the future.
By the way, the suggestion for the trash came from our UserVoice. There, customers can make suggestions and upvote the ideas for features that they would like to have in the future (Please note: At the moment, our UserVoice portal is only available in German. But, of course, you can also add items in English if you wish to suggest new features). The feedback from our customers is very important to us, and we want to be able to respond to it better and better. After all, we want to solve the problems they actually have – not the ones we assume they have.
What’s next for MATESO when it comes to user experience?
In the future, we want to perform tests with real users as early as possible in the design process – be it with clickable prototypes, wireframes, or mock-ups. With early feedback, you can identify problems much sooner. This avoids finding out shortly before a release that something doesn’t work or doesn’t serve its intended purpose. By the way, that’s why we’re looking for support with UX Research – specifically, someone to talk to our customers and users, and to conduct interviews as well as usability test. So to speak, someone who reflects the voice of our users. To join a great team, you can find more information about the position here: UX Researcher.