CUA of the Month – October, 2013

Igor Gubaidulin
"During usability testing you can see their faces when they use an interface they like, and it makes it easier for them to accomplish their task."
Igor Gubaidulin
User Experience Architect
Nortal Group

Pioneering UX in Lithuania

by Jim Garrett

We find our Certified Usability Analyst of the Month, Igor Gubaidulin, in Vilnius, Lithuania. Igor is also a Certified User Experience Analyst. He is the first CXA in Lithuania.

Igor currently works as the User Experience Architect at the Lithuanian office of Nortal. Nortal Group (previously known as Webmedia Group) is an Estonian company, the biggest software development solutions provider and IT exporter in the Baltic States. It operates in the public and private sector in Europe, Middle East, Africa, and other countries. Nortal develops back-office applications and e-services for their clients in different fields, like production industry (metal, food, and energy), tax and public finance, healthcare, telecom, e-government, and ECM.

This is Igor’s first interview in English. He did a great job of telling his story of championing usability in Lithuania.

How long have you been at Nortal Lithuania?

I joined this company last year. Nortal Group has a very strong background in the UX field. Dating back to 2001, Nortal had some sort of UX team on a board in Estonia and a user-centered methodology called Bridge. But in Lithuania, before I joined the Nortal Lithuania team in March 2012, there was not a regular UX team or an established UX process.

In my previouscompanies, there was a lot of work which involved usability and UX, but I started as a freelance visual designer ten years ago. After five years of designing, I started working on usability and UX as well. Currently I’m mostly working on UX activities. Visual design takes only about 10% of my time.

Can you tell us about your duties and your projects?

My main activities and responsibilities include establishing UX activity for the company. I’m producing user interface design including visual design, wire frames, interactive models, etc. As a UX architect, I work with functional prototypes in HTML, CSS and Javascript. And of course I’m managing UX research, usability testing, and scenario modeling, user requirements, user task analysis, mental models, and interaction design specifications. I also lecture about UX, usability, design and accessibility.

In recent years, I have worked with almost all major Lithuanian brands. My last released project was a national electronic system named E-delivery. It’s a system to send or receive registered correspondence online.

I created the user interface design and a UI elements style guide. After that, for one year, we dealt with the prototype engine and creating every page layout that could be used in the system. It’s more than one hundred pages for this system: user and admin layouts.

Can you explain the concept of this system?

Imagine an e-mail system such as Gmail, for example. You join the system and you can send emails to anyone you want. E-delivery is a kind of national registered e-mail system for private individuals and legal personnel. They use it to send or receive official documents and messages in real time and online. All sent or received e-documents and e-mails are genuine.

The E-delivery system is owned and managed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Lithuania. It was developed and implemented along with the largest provider of postal services in Lithuania – AB Lietuvos paštas. So this system is legally regulated: sent and received e-documents and e-mails have the same legal and evidentiary power as a registered postal item has.

For example, I need to send some documents to Vilnius County police headquarters or any other public institution. I could send it by traditional mail or e-mail, but the delivery of correspondence by traditional mail is not always efficient in terms of time and resources needed, and e-mail is not secure and reliable.

These problems are fully solved by the E-delivery system. I could join the system, select Vilnius County police headquarters from the list (I don't need any email addresses), attach the documents, sign everything with my e-signature, and click on the Send button. At the end of the day, I can be sure that the office of Vilnius County police headquarters received my documents and that they will answer me.

A lot of people seem to go from visual design into the UX experience.

The same applies to me. I started working as a visual designer ten years ago, but after a while I realized that user interface is nothing without the power of ease-of-use. So I began my journey in the usability and UX world and it wasn’t easy. In Lithuania in 2004, there weren’t any courses on usability or UX; even these terms weren’t popular at all. Everything I learned I found in books and after four or five years I found myself good enough to start working in usability and I joined a small usability agency.

When and where did you take the HFI CUA training?

When I joined the small usability agency I mentioned, two of my colleagues had passed the HFI certification so I heard a lot about the certification and I dreamed about being able to receive it as well. Last year I took the plunge and went for it without taking the training classes. First of all, I have passed the CUA exam and after a while became the first HFI Certified User Experience Analyst in Lithuania.

And you took the test without the training classes?

Yes, it is possible to do this. I studied on my own the list of resources given, and I took the test and passed. As there are no classes in Lithuania, I would have had to go to London or Utrecht. So this was the option available to me. I’m glad HFI has this option of taking the test without classes.

What do you enjoy most about working with usability and the user experience?

I think most of all I like the happy faces during the usability testing. You create a system, a great system, but during usability testing you can see their faces when they use an interface they like and it makes it easier for them to accomplish their task.

You’re developing software for other countries. Do you do testing of users there in order to do your job?

Sometimes. I’m a native Russian speaker, so last year I was in St. Petersburg, Russia and I did two usability tests with Russians. It was an eye-opening experience for me, because it was first time I did usability testing outside Lithuania. It was quite interesting, because I thought that Lithuanian and Russian were quite similar. I thought we would have a similar mentality, but it was so different. It was revealing to me to see these results.

Where do you see yourself and your company move forward in terms of your career and the company’s goals?

Nortal Lithuania wants to grow a usability team and I hope I will lead this.

Also, I mentioned the Estonian colleagues. They had a user-centered methodology, named Bridge. It describes the process of software development oriented on user needs. This methodology was created ten years ago so we will try to use this methodology in Lithuania and make it better because ten years is quite a big time interval and we should modify it.

Do you go to the Human Factors website to get knowledge that helps you?

I read through it every month and I think it’s very useful to update my knowledge and to know how usability works in our countries.

Lithuania is a small country with a small market. I know almost everyone who works in usability in Lithuania, about twenty to thirty people. So it’s a quite small usability group. You can’t get any new knowledge or new ideas so we monitor and always check foreign sources for inspiration and new knowledge. One of these resources is the Human Factors website. And it is very helpful.

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