CUA of the Month – June, 2014

Leon King
“The CUA is like a Swiss Army Knife for a UX practitioner. You have so many tools at your disposal and you are able to communicate best practices to product owners and other people in the business to try and assist them with understanding why their idea isn’t necessarily the best way to go.”
Leon King
Managing Director
Internet Excellence

The UX One-Two Punch

by Jim Garrett

Leon King is Managing Director of his own company, Internet Excellence, which he founded in 1998. The company is exclusively based within Vodacom, South Africa’s largest cellular network operator. Leon and his UX team have been working with HFI India for the past year and a half within Vodacom on projects extending from websites through to mobile channels and apps.

When did you get your CUA and where?

It was last year in May in Johannesburg. The classes were held at the University of the Witwatersrand and soon after, I did the exam online. I’ve been designing websites for a long time but it’s not until you actually sit down with someone who has experience with the documentation and the reasoning behind how things should work, or behave the way they do from a user perspective, that you get that light bulb moment. Suddenly you realize: “Oh yeah, that’s what this is called.”

Are there UX projects with Vodacom or challenges that you can talk about?

We’ve got a new website that’s due to launch right before this article goes to print. It’s a brand new website — and Vodacom’s first fully responsive website — which we’ve worked with HFI to produce.  It works across multiple channels for PCs, tablets, and smartphones as well, so it’s really quite an achievement. This new website has been in the pipeline for a long time and things are getting quite interesting now. The designs have been done and we are busy with capturing all the content.

Vodafone is a global organization. It’s very interesting because we have an opportunity to work on our local projects and then feed our insights, research and methodology back to Vodafone. Besides, it’s very exciting to be involved with the conceptualization of something and see it all the way through from design, development and testing, to the end product, and then be able to take those elements and have them seeded back into a large organization so that they can be reused by other OpCo’s.

Can you talk about some of the challenges that you encountered and how you dealt with them?

Probably the biggest challenge was to take the direction that users were telling us we should be going in and then balancing that against things like commercial targets within the organization.  At the group level, we had to make sure that we considered Vodafone’s global design standards and integrated everything into one localized package that works effectively. 

The different owners within Vodacom Online are constantly monitoring the progress made on their specific journeys within the website. Then when the alarm bells go off and we see that users are starting to struggle with things, we step in and look at what the problems are. We try to understand why users could possibly be struggling and then find possible solutions. We get those solutions tested and implemented to see if it makes a positive difference to the user’s experience. And so the cycle continues. It’s the circle of UX life. 

What was HFI’s involvement with this project?  

HFI’s engagement has literally just finished.  We went through the whole evaluation of the current website, and had that user-tested and evaluated, thus giving us a good benchmark to see where we started and how bad things were initially. Then HFI went out and did the entire ecosystem, persona and background information for us and fed that back into the business so that we could understand our customers better.

We’ve followed a full end-to-end user experience methodology and it has been challenging. It really has! But, that is what makes it so interesting. Every day there’s a new obstacle to overcome and that’s what makes things so exciting. It really tests you and tests the mettle of the whole team.

Has there been anything from your CUA training that you have been able to implement into your UX work?

I do a lot of prototyping, wire-framing and design as part of the process. I don’t work on the user-testing side as much, although it is something that I enjoy. 

Nonetheless, I have taken so much from the training. When product owners at Vodacom say that they are interested in developing a new interface, or if we have a new product that has to launch on the website, I know that I can go through the whole process of understanding what they would like to achieve and how we can tailor the experience. We are seen as champions for our users out there. 

There are principles that I live and die by.  It’s also about having an eye for attention to detail to make sure that your spacing and font usage is perfect, your functionality is grouped together correctly and it flows logically.  It’s those kinds of things that I’ve taken from CUA and which I use on a daily basis.

The CUA is like a Swiss Army Knife for a UX practitioner. You have so many tools at your disposal and you are able to communicate best practices to product owners and other people in the business to try and assist them with understanding why their idea isn’t necessarily the best way to go. It assists with motivating why it’s a good idea to test the product with a few users first, get their insight and feedback, and then start to evolve and develop it from there. 

All my training books sit at my desk at Vodacom just in case I need to refer back to anything or if I need to show something to a colleague within the organization. The books have become handy manuals for the business and what we practice on a day-to-day basis.

Any final thoughts?

I would like to encourage UX practitioners out there to start building those new global standards and to not simply follow existing standards which don’t necessarily work well.  Proven global standards are the foundations but I think that we need to go out there and challenge ourselves to start building those new standards so that in ten to fifteen years’ time, people are going to go back and say: “Now that’s how a shopping basket should work.” or “That’s how a touch screen interface should be designed.”  

I think our mandate now is to be inventive, creative and forward-thinking.  It’s a challenge because what works, works for a reason.  Who knows? Maybe there is a small change that would revolutionize the way that users complete a task. This is what I think UX practitioners need to aspire to. This is what makes the future exciting, and I love being a part of it.

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to

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Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

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Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

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HFI reserves the right to cancel any course up to 14 (fourteen) days prior to the first day of the course. Registrants will be promptly notified and will receive a full refund or be transferred to the equivalent class of their choice within a 12-month period. HFI is not responsible for travel expenses or any costs that may be incurred as a result of cancellations.

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