All posts by Dulindra Wijethilake

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!

Ask an Expert: Catching up with Kasun Indrasiri

Kasun Indrasiri, WSO2’s director of integration architecture, spoke to us recently about some things he’s passionate about – WSO2, integration and its role in digital transformation, and an exciting new project that he’s been working on!

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

The highlights of my job have been the chance to help customers around the globe solve their enterprise integration problems, and contributing to design and development of a world-class integration platform.”

I’ve just completed 8 years at WSO2 and it’s been a fascinating journey indeed. I have been working on WSO2 ESB/WSO2 EI products and I got the chance to work with great colleagues as well as customers across the world. Being a part of this product team has been a great opportunity and I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.

The highlights of my job have definitely been the chance to help customers around the globe solve their enterprise integration problems, contributing to design and development of a world-class integration platform, and solving complex production problems to scale WSO2 ESB to handle billions of transactions.

2. Almost all enterprises are moving towards digital transformation to stay agile and shorten the time to market. What is the role of Integration in Digital Transformation?

In my opinion, integration between applications, services, data, and systems is the bedrock of transforming a conventional enterprise into a digital enterprise. Whether you are a green-field or a brownfield enterprise, the plumbing between those entities is absolutely essential. Conventional enterprise architecture fosters the use of a central integration bus or an ESB (such as WSO2) which can take care of all such integration problems. However, with Microservice architecture, we more or less do the same in a fully decentralized way.

3. Talking about Microservices, what are the key considerations when moving towards Microservice Architecture (MSA)?

Microservices is an architectural style in which you develop a software solution as a suite of independent and business capability oriented services that are developed, deployed, and operated independently. In this approach, we no longer use a central ESB to plumb different services and systems. Rather we do the integration at the service level itself. For example, if you need to create a business capability that requires calling multiple microservices and other systems, then you will create another composite service which encapsulates the service composition logic.

For any organization that considers moving into Microservice Architecture, it’s important to understand the benefits as well as the complexities that microservices bring in. Building business capability oriented services, using container-based deployment, and using CICD pipelines will certainly help you to build solutions in a rapid and agile manner. However, organizations require having a well defined strategy to overcome the challenges in microservices architecture such as inter-service communication, observability, decentralized data, and transaction management.

4. Having said that, what is your take on the ESB solutions (config-over code) and its future?

I think a majority of enterprise software solutions still use ESBs in production at the moment. Also, there are certain use cases for which the ESB style is well suited and these scenarios can continue to leverage ESB architecture. I won’t expect the ESB or centralized integration bus to disappear anytime soon.

However, with new architecture paradigms such as microservices, cloud and container-native applications, and event stream driven messaging, we are moving into a different landscape where integration logic is being dispersed into the services itself. Also, with the proliferation of services, APIs and SaaS applications, then integration problems will be even more complex. Therefore the conventional centralized ESB based approach won’t be the best fit for such use cases. In my opinion, there will be a dedicated set of technology stacks to address such integration needs in the future.

5. What’s the latest project you’ve been working on or your proudest accomplishment in recent times?

We have been building a new programming language called Ballerina, to empower this kind of decentralized and cloud-native integration paradigm.”

We have been exploring a next-generation integration platform for cloud-native and microservices oriented integrations. Most existing technologies are not really designed to cater to those needs. We have been building a new programming language called Ballerina, to empower this kind of decentralized and cloud-native integration paradigm. This is still work in progress, so stay tuned for more information!

I also completed my the first book, ‘Beginning WSO2 ESB’ last year. It was a compilation of my experience with WSO2 ESB/WSO2 EI , to help WSO2 ESB/EI users to get up-to-speed and master it quickly.

6. What advice would you like to give a budding developer/architect ?

I guess we are living in a technology era in which change is inevitable and the technologies as so diversified. Neither developers nor architects can merely stick to one particular technology and be complacent with that.”

Well, rather giving advice I would like to share a few interesting things I recently read in an article from Neal Ford of ThoughtWorks, on the role of a developer and an architect. I guess we are living in a technology era in which change is inevitable and the technologies as so diversified. Neither developers nor architects can merely stick to one particular technology and be complacent with that.

If you are a developer it’s quite important to focus on the technical depth of the current technology that you are working on. The architect should focus more on the technical breadth of the technology stack. It is quite important to have sufficient understanding on each technology stack. That way, the architect can pick and choose the best of breed technologies for a given scenario.

Read Kasun’s blog and follow him on Twitter.

WSO2 Governance Registry 5.2.0 released!

We have a new version of WSO2 Governance Registry!

WSO2 G-Reg 5.2.0 – this new version – is more focused on delivering a good user experience with enabling some of the features, which are there in the publisher to store users as well. Search has been improved to empower both store and publisher users.

Meet your dependencies. Visually.   

Governance Center store now comes with the ability to graphically visualize your dependencies. With this, you can easily check the impact of a change to an artifact using the dependency visualization  (dependency graph) option prior to changing the artifact. You can also filter resources based on the association type and search for artifacts based on the dependency type.

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Having to work with multiple versions of the same asset sometimes leads to chaos and users end up not knowing which version to be used to cater his/her requirement. WSO2 G-Reg 5.2.0 comes with graphical diff-view support for Governance Center Store, which allows you to inspect the changes among different version of an asset.

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Better asset searching

We’ve made some pretty important improvements to search, including providing helper text during search.

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There’s also search history, which means you can now reuse your previously used search queries – altogether a more Google experience than ever before. Privacy buffs among you will be pleased to know you can change the number of history items using the management console.  

Asset loading/ listing has never been this fast

We’re continuously working on making our products work faster. In G-Reg 5.2.0, we’ve have a major performance gain in both Store and Publisher applications. Loading of landing pages and asset listing pages are now been significantly improved.   

greg - 3WSO2 Governance Registry is perhaps the best open source product for storing, cataloging, indexing, managing and governing your enterprise metadata. But don’t just take our word for it – you can download it from here and try it out for yourself. To learn more about the product and its use cases, check out our product documentation.