Austrian Startup Empatic Takes UX Design To The Next Level

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UX Design has already gone from trend to implicitness. Although some new technologies are emerging, few startups & businesses go all the way. Learn how empatic is going to change that:

A simple Google search for “UX Design” delivers more than 12 million results, which is not surprising thinking of the attention is has gotten in recent years. From the introduction of PCs to the interaction of users with a simple website or a chatbot, a lot has happened. We spoke to Josef Mayerhofer, co-founder of the Austrian startup empatic, to find out more about current innovations and trends in UX.

Josef, let’s start simple: Why did you co-found empatic?

I started out in the corporate environment, at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, where I was confronted with mobile websites a lot. The process of figuring out I wanted to quit my job took a bit of time, but I finally decided I had seen enough of large corporates, while additionally recognizing the need for UX.

How would you describe empatic? What’s your focus?

We want to create User Experience Design that not only satisfies the client but also the user, thus helping business to achieve success. Empatic specializes in Human-Computer-Interaction, we see ourselves as architects of digital products – from a user’s perspective.

As mentioned before, the topic of UX has been around for a while now with many other companies offering similar services to yours. What’s the key differentiator?

Many other companies or startups act as full-service companies, while we exclusively focus on UX. Our aim is to help clients not one time only but continuously. Our team helps roll out a new design from beginning to end, including monitoring the success of our services and adapting it. We take a critical glance from the outside to implement our philosophy “user first” and make it a key priority of digitalization.

Speaking of users: What do they expect from UX?

It’s important for users to not even notice UX; it should be simple and straightforward. Take booking a flight for an example: you want to book a cheap flight to your desired destination. In an ideal environment, you’ll just go ahead and finish the process within a few clicks – done.

Corporates, on the other hand, especially very established ones, have a hard time understanding what a user wants from their website or app. Often these companies are run by managers who are not digital natives, making it hard to put themselves into their client’s perspective, simply because they themselves never gave too much attention to it.

Contrary to established companies, startups are often lead by digital natives, who have a high sensibility for UX. Do you think they also can benefit from a specialized company?

Especially for startups, UX design is interesting because it plays a big part from day one – and it should. User behavior develops from the very beginning on and is hard to change in a later stage. To create and implement a great design will pay off years later.

UX Designer is a job description I see a lot lately, still, I think an outside look is highly valuable. Sometimes it’s enough to have someone look at the website, who is not in the industry, making sure the design works for everybody. And I think all startups know, that expertise from the outside is worth gold.

How does the process at empatic look like? What do you do to get the best results and what do others overlook?

Speaking from my own experience, I know it’s hard to keep an eye on all areas. Managing multiple tasks at a time is very common in startups, leading to missing a few things here and there, while most rely on their gut feeling to decide what needs to be taken care of, often leaving UX behind. This is crucial because UX is everything but gut feeling, it’s anti-intuitive. You cannot rely on your own intuition, you should rely on your user’s, which is why we ask ourselves the following questions when creating a new concept:

  • Who are the most innovative competitors on the market?
  • What can we learn from them?
  • How can we can we further develop these concepts and implement them?

With every project we take on we learn about new industries and their specifics, thus making it easier to design a good UX for the next client.

In general, the process is very iterating, from finding the problem to start programming it can take a few weeks to several months. The important part for us is, that we never see a project as finished. After rolling out the first design, we always create a follow-up design to ensure high quality.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in the history of empatic?

Winning new clients, building a network and long decision phases. As I mentioned before often corporates don’t see the real value great UX can bring, which is why it’s hard to convince them, although there’s a lot of communication beforehand. They’d rather not be confronted with new, complicated terms they have no clue about. For us, this only means we have to get on board early and communicate directly with developers to create interdisciplinary teams.

How do you think human-computer-interaction will develop? Which trends will we see?

Good UX means not noticing UX. When a user has to think about something, it’s already too much. Personally, I think we’ll soon only wave our hand to get a cup of coffee or not using keyboards any longer, meaning there will be much less actual interaction with interfaces needed.

Where will 2017 lead you? What are the plans for empatic?

It’s going to be an exciting year! Right now we’re set up in satellite mode, working with a lot of great people, which is why we aim to make them regulars, creating a multi-disciplinary team consisting of people who are intrinsically motivated, who share our philosophy, but most importantly who are not satisfied with the first result. So, our main focus for 2017 is growth 🙂




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