Through this interview series “UX STAR”, we provide a learn-from-peer approach for the UX space from diverse perspectives and make UX more understandable to the public. We invite UX practitioners and professionals, instead of focusing on UX theory or knowledge itself, to share their insights about UX, the inspirations they got along the way, and how a local community is engaged in different regions.
It’s our pleasure to have Péter Horváth, Switzerland-based organizer of Digital Strategy and UX Meetup — Geneva, to this interview sharing his insights and experience about User Experience (UX). Before Péter became the organizer, he already had a vast amount of experience in a variety of roles taking positions such as Marketing Strategist, Digital Service Manager, and Project Manager. Currently, Péter works as a consultant in service design and user experience design projects.
Finding the Common Ground between Digital Strategy and UX
Starting off the interview, we asked Péter to share his story that led him to the UX career path. Before Péter started his career in UX, he graduated with a business degree and further continued his studies with an MBA specialized in technology and innovation. Thereafter, he worked for different companies where he soon discovered his passion for marketing and strategy development.
During his years working in the digital marketing industry, he felt disappointed in the direction that marketing has headed in recent years. Although a marketer’s job is to ensure people stay interested, Péter still thinks there is too much focus on advertising and pushing products to the consumer. “Marketing has dropped the ball on the user-centricity” as he describes it. “Instead, marketing should be more about user needs”.
Throughout his career, he realized that marketing has actually many common grounds with UX. “At the core of marketing, it’s really about the same thing as UX. Whether you are involved in the strategy behind marketing campaign or you are invested in the user flow of an app or website, in the end, they are both about the same thing. UX is about finding what people actually want and giving that to them in the best way because that will ensure a profit for the company. It ensures uptake and usage for an app or website”.
How the Lack of Discussion Inspired Péter to Built a Community
When Péter came to Geneva, he felt there was a lack of discussion around the digital space. Disappointed by the absence of a community and being curious in nature, he decided to start up the community himself.
As soon as his idea came into his mind, he realized that in order to be a success, the community can’t just focus only on User Experience. Even though Geneva has global and world known organizations as well as many NGOs at the same time Geneva is with its 200,000 inhabitants still considered a small city. Hence, Péter felt that only focusing on UX would be too limiting. He knew in order to sustain interest and attract the right people, he should broaden the community.
Péter’s work experience reminded him about the common ground between digital marketing and UX, he decided to combine the two topics and created Digital Strategy and UX Meetup — Geneva.
Péter further commented “I really see these two very closely related, it’s about finding the touch points between your organization and your constituents and optimizing that to the best way possible. Whether it is done on an interface, across multiple channels or with the goal of ensuring uptake for your app or for selling more of your product or service, that will differ. But the underlying things are really similar”.
From a Side Project to a Fast-Growing UX Community
While the meetup started out as a side project, it has grown into a community with 1800+ members. Monthly meetups are organized to bring interested people together to learn from invited speakers sharing their insights regarding Technology, Business, and User-centered Design.
Having organized 40+ past events the community still continues to grow. This feels quite surreal for Péter. Four years ago when he founded the community, there was hardly any discussion about the digital strategy and the UX space. Fast forwarding to the present day, he noticed that there have been many similar events popping up. Enthusiastically he shared with us, “I think there were about 20 digital-related events happening in Geneva just this month. Compared to four years ago there was really nothing and now you could go to one almost every day. That is really amazing!”. For him, this also creates the perfect opportunity to co-create events and team up with other organizers.
Having established a successful community as the organizer of Digital Strategy and UX meetup — Geneva, we asked Péter to share the most inspiring thing about the community. Without any hesitation, Péter immediately shares that people’s personal stories coming to the meetups are the most interesting things to hear.
Specifically, “How people from very diverse backgrounds find UX at a different stage in their lives”. He further elaborated that even though you may not be directly involved with UX, it is bound to come up. Essentially it can’t be avoided. “Till this day there is still discussion what UX is and how to define it”.
We asked Péter how he would describe UX to the general public. “UX is a bit like planning a trip. You should consider the worst case scenario, you should leave some flexibility, but also focus on your desired ideal outcome. You have to talk to the people you will be taking the trip with, making sure that you are aligned. I think if we look from a planning perspective, then it makes sense. You need to understand the priorities of people and actually make the decisions”.
Challenges and Learnings while Building the Community
However, there is no such thing as an overnight success. Péter learned this the hard way when building the now fast-growing community. “At the very beginning, there was nothing, a few people had joined the community. I have to admit, I hardly ever promoted the events actively. When there were some interesting talks, I did LinkedIn ads, but that was about it”.
Péter proudly shared, “As the community started growing after several meetups, the number of people returning started to grow. The past two years, we have been between 40–80 people for every meetup. Every month, there are always a bunch of people joining and sharing their experience. It has grown to be a diverse community with new people attending every month, coming from consultancies, from UN organizations to businesses”.
Throughout his career and being involved in UX, Péter learned one important lesson. In order to provide the best user experience possible, “The two things you need to be able to balance is the usage of the tools and the human connection. There are so many automated tools that have made our lives easier, but if you are fixated on being a master at a tool or in the creation process, you have missed the train. You need to strengthen the human side. Be able to ask the right question inside and outside the organization. Get to the bottom of what people want and feel, and how they use the company’s offering”.
The Next Step for Digital Strategy and UX Geneva
Challenges along the road will always be there. One of the challenges Péter currently face is figuring out the next step for Digital Strategy and UX Geneva. “Honestly, it’s one of the big things that we are trying to figure out this year with my new co-organizer, Jesse Anton”. As the community has grown especially the last year, Péter further shared “It has reached a point where we have to find out how we want to evolve and what direction we want to go to in the future.”
“Past years have been so rewarding and interesting and the meetups have brought so much value to people. However, we’re still looking for the answer to what our next step will be. I think it is very similar in any other aspect of life when you set a goal and once you reach it you’re asking yourself what the next move will be”.
One thing Péter is sure about is his drive to do more than only focusing on user flows and the importance of users in his career as a consultant in Service Design and User Experience Design projects. In addition to focusing on users, which is extremely important, it is vital to be clear on what the company’s strategy is. “When it comes to any kind of experience design, you need to try to influence company strategy. Go beyond just consulting on screens, interface, or user flow, you need to be able to understand how and why the company does what it does and what are the company’s main goals. And then bring a balance between user-centric and company-centric thinking”.
Q&A Talk with Péter Horváth
Q: What do you like to do when you are not UXing?
“Geneva is awesome for outdoors, we have the Alps right at our doorstep so I love the outdoors. When it’s winter, you can go skiing, when it’s summer you can go biking. And in between the two, you can go hiking. So it’s definitely being outdoors when I am not working.”
Q: Could you describe your community in one word?
“Curious. I definitely think that is the connecting theme. We used to do a questionnaire at the beginning of the year and we also have drinks after the event, for networking. And what always comes back, is people’s curiosity about a wide range of topics. Lot of people enjoy just listening to and learning about topics that not always relate to their current jobs or expertise. And I think this kind of curiosity it’s what keeps us together.”
Q: If you could give an aspiring UX junior any advice, what would it be?
“Don’t look at what’s needed now, look at the videos that universities are publishing about their research projects. See what is “almost” there, but not quite. See what is still a bit broken and clunky, but looks really promising. Then try to identify what will work in that world and what capability you will need for it. Even if we have reliable motion detection through a webcam, what will always be important is being able to talk to people, and take away some insights from them and translate the human into digital”.
Yang Mei Asscheman, Marketing
Pin Lee, Global Community Manager