Ask an Expert: Catching up with Dakshika Jayathilaka

Dakshika Jayathilaka is the team lead for WSO2’s UX efforts. With more than 10 years of industry experience in the areas of UX planning, interaction design trends, wireframing, prototyping, and more, Dakshika is a speaker, visiting lecturer, and a family man.

In this interview, Dakshika talks about some of the things he’s passionate about – WSO2 (of course), UX and its role in an integration company, and an exciting new project that he has been working on!

1. For how long have you been at WSO2 and what has your journey been like?

I have been working at WSO2 for more than 4 years and it had been a tremendous journey with an awesome bunch of people. As the first UX member at WSO2, I was able to inspire software engineers to enhance the usability of our offerings by actively driving the UX process, which is crucial in delivering successful projects to clients. Currently I am actively working on an interesting project that will enhance our tooling experience.

2. There’s a misconception that UI and UX are the same. Can you enlighten us about this?

Let’s take a step back and first look at the definitions for UI and UX are.

UI designing is closely related to graphic designing, where as UX designing involves the more technical aspects of application development including learning the user needs, gathering and analyzing market data, and performing alternative testing.”

In the IT industry, UI which stands for User Interface is an umbrella term that covers everything designed into information devices which enable people to interact with them. Examples of UIs are laptop screens, desktop screens, etc. These interfaces facilitate users to interact with software applications. UI designing is the discipline that refers to the crafting of such interfaces. User experience designing, which is commonly known as UX, covers everything done to enhance user satisfaction by focusing on usability and accessibility aspects. UX can be considered as a discipline that stemmed from traditional HCI practices.

To answer the original question, UX isn’t just a buzzword invented to replace UI. However, UI can be thought of as subset of UX. UI designing is closely related to graphic designing, where as UX designing involves the more technical aspects of application development including learning the user needs, gathering and analyzing market data, and performing alternative testing.

3. What are the key aspects and considerations for a good user experience?

Good (or improved) user experience depends on the market, the personas that we cater to, the level of user stories, and epics we have derived. In case you’re not familiar with these words, here’s a quick introduction to them:

  • A persona encompasses the characteristics of a person. For example, a debit card user can be considered as a persona that ties with the need to transact with the debit card.
  • A user story identifies each individual requirement of a particular persona, e.g., as a debit card user I want to pay for my grocery items using my debit card, so that I do not have to carry cash in my wallet.
  • An epic intervenes all the inter-related user stories to provide the bird’s eye view.

It’s critical to understand the personas you are catering to with your product offering. You need to be familiar with users’ jargon to effectively communicate with clients, gather the user requirements, and map them to personas. This is the foundation of a good UX design.

After gathering the requirements, you need to craft the user stories and epics to provide the overall picture to the internal stakeholders. Such meetings will help you to brainstorm good ideas and forecast the design. Most B2B organizations are following agile practices and thus, you may have multiple meetings with both internal and external stakeholders to refine user stories. Such market findings will help you to come up with a good story flow.

Once user stories are finalized, do alternative designs using your previous UX project experience. Subsequently, conduct A/B testing to come up with the most usable design. This too can have iterations. Finally, always keep yourself updated about new tools and research around the UX domain to be on top of the game.

4. Working in a middleware company that involves more technical work when compared with an end user application, how do you view the benefits of UX and the role of an UX engineer?

UX is not an afterthought and you need to thoroughly think about your design and system development. Middleware companies also have different personas and priorities, and the needs differ depending on the areas of focus. For example, at WSO2, Enterprise Integration and Identity and Access Management mainly target integration specialists and identity administrators, while API Management focuses on API admins, publishers, and developers. To achieve the right experience, we perform lab testing, A/B testing, and heuristic evaluations on each product area.

When you really think about it, UX is a crucial aspect for the middleware domain that gives it a competitive edge.”

According Jared M. Spool, “Without also having proactive UX design efforts, the design team is only fixing problems caused by decisions the product team has already made. These already-made decisions are about what the product will do, how it will work, and what its underlying architecture will be.”

When you really think about it, UX is a crucial aspect for the middleware domain that gives it a competitive edge.

5. What’s the latest project you are working on and how do you think that will benefit our customers?

Currently I am working with the WSO2 Enterprise Integrator team to introduce usability improvements to the tooling. Enterprise integration is often considered a complex process that requires technical skills to work with. WSO2 Enterprise Integrator is an open source, hybrid integration platform that allows developers to do quick, iterative integrations with any application, data, or system.

Integration tooling is a must and needs to be designed with great UX in mind. Integration is also a vast area and includes multiple personas. Thus, with this project, we are trying to improve the experience of integration specialists and ad-hoc integrators. This will mainly cover the developer experience of each persona. In essence, we are trying to provide the right experience to each user category while providing proper user onboarding.

6. Where do you see the future of UX is heading and what are some trends to watch?

Soul-searching is happening in many professions at the moment, as high-tech, reliable, and inexpensive artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies are becoming a reality in every industrial sector. There are already commercial attempts at using AI to improve the UX.”

UX has evolved not only because of the ubiquity of smart technology (smart devices, Smart TVs, etc. ), but also because developed economies are increasingly focused on the service industry, where customer experience is crucial. Soul-searching is happening in many professions at the moment, as high-tech, reliable, and inexpensive artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies are becoming a reality in every industrial sector. There are already commercial attempts at using AI to improve the UX. VUI (Voice User interfaces) are increasingly used to improve end user experiences.

The enterprise world is also growing fast and moving towards the agile environment, where UX needs to be agile to support the rapid movements. UX is evolving towards CX (Customer Experience), which covers more breath and depth to fulfill the needs of enterprises.

7. Finally, what advice would you like to give the budding developers/UX engineers?

  • Patience: becoming a great UX engineer does not happen overnight. It is a long, steep journey. But it is worth it. There is a plethora of online material that you can refer to get things started.
  • Stay inspired: follow UX specialists in the industry and keep yourself updated about new trends and strategies related to UX.
  • Sharpen your skills: constantly improve your design skills, domain knowledge, business acumen, interpersonal skills, and presentation skills.
  • Be open to feedback: always be open to feedback from your colleagues, your clients, and others.. An open mind helps you to see things from others’ perspective, and assess the viability and applicability.
  • Empathy: be willing to provide help and guidance to your colleagues by getting in to their shoes.
  • Maintain a portfolio: it’s important to maintain a good portfolio with case studies to showcase your track record as well as your potential.
  • Passion: be passionate about the subject, and this is also important as you need to identify with the psychology and cognitive behavior of people.

Dakshika dressed up as the Joker at a costume party!