Brian and I have our second installment of the 'The State of UX in NZ'. 

Goran Saveski is currently the staff product designer at Roam Creative and has been kind enough to share his thoughts insights with us on moving to a new country and some of the challenges he faced during his move and introduction into the UX space - here in Middle Earth. 

What made you come to NZ?

At the beginning of 2016, a small opportunity opened up for me to consider a move to NZ. Being a huge Lord of the Rings fan, it was a no brainer for me to pack my bags and relocate to The Real Middle-Earth :)

On a more serious note, NZ offers a very well balanced lifestyle. The prospect of working on digital products with a diverse group of people – while being able to explore all that natural beauty – seemed like a brilliant option. After almost 4 years living here, I can confidently say I’ve made the right choice.

Your pathway to UX

One of the many positive aspects of this discipline is that people come from a variety of backgrounds, bringing a wide spectrum of different skillsets and areas of knowledge.

For me, the story began in 2005 when I got my first job as a graphic designer by accident. I say by accident because at the time I was still enrolled in university, though soon after I’ve dropped out in order to pursue my newfound love for design. Throughout the next 15 years I’ve progressed from print design, branding and identity, web and mobile, all the way to UX design and product strategy for both SMEs and global enterprise platforms.

To better shape myself as a designer, I’ve held roles at agencies, in-house and as a freelance design consultant in a variety of industries. This has allowed me to gain a different perspective and grow on a professional level.

Challenges in moving (visa, accommodation, socialising)

While getting to NZ turned out to be easier than some other countries (USA or Australia for example), the challenges began once I’ve arrived here. Experience working in NZ was a number one priority for employers here, with relevant work visa requirements being a close second. 

I’d say accommodation can be a bit tricky to sort out, but not impossible. There are plenty of temporary options to make use of while settling in, plus Kiwis are a helpful and supportive bunch of people, and very social too. Once you get used to words like jandals, togs and wop-wops, everything else is sweet as!

Differences you noticed (socially/ cultural differences)

People really value their work-life balance here, and there are plenty of hiking tracks and beaches keeping everyone fit and on their feet. The indigenous Māori culture is integral to the NZ way of living, and I really value the strong respect and connection it brings between people, land and sea. 

While I miss some of the food that Europe has, I’d say that the coffee game in NZ is very strong and Kiwis produce by far the world’s best chocolate (Whittaker’s). 

Where is NZ on the UX journey?

NZ has made great progress over the last few years when it comes to UX and design thinking. There are some great leaders in this field, though for some of them, the time is quite split between proving the ROI of UX to executives, and mentoring younger designers on the other hand. The digital transformation trend was first seen as mainly a visual overhaul of products and platforms, but has since improved, resulting in a good customer-centric approach led by insights generated from user research and success metrics.

I think NZ is starting to understand all the different disciplines sitting under the UX umbrella, how they differ, overlap and collaborate, as well as the necessary skills needed to create great products with a world-class user experience.

There’s still plenty of work to be done to reach the next level of design maturity, but we are definitely on the right track.

Differences in UX, process etc

In general, most of the standard methodologies and processes have been widely adopted here. Many of the companies are aiming to contextually adjust their workflows and team structures, as to allow for a good balance of autonomy and outcomes. Ensuring there’s a streamlined internal process takes some time, specifically for companies that have been a bit more conservative and traditional in the past. 

With that said, there are a lot of legacy systems and products that are begging to be brought into the 21st century.

Challenges in the local industry

I think one of the main challenges for companies (and on the other hand, an opportunity for designers) is the fact that there is a high demand and low supply of good UX practitioners. Companies are very eager to start adopting and implementing a design culture, though finding the right talent proves to be a time-consuming process for some. 

A main challenge for designers is understanding the level of impact they’d like to achieve with their design work. While there are a number of companies offering products to the global market, there are plenty of them who are more NZ focused, which is a fairly small audience.

Advantages/ opportunities you see here in NZ

When it comes to design, I find NZ has lots of opportunities, both for designers and employers alike. 

The startup mindset has really sprouted here, and the prospect of implementing a design culture and UX strategy within an organisation is something that attracts a lot of good talent. 

There are definitely a lot of advantages as well – the diverse workforce here is truly a key aspect to getting multiple perspectives when creating a great product and user experience. 

How do you find the UX community here?

While I can’t speak about NZ in its entirety, I can say that Auckland has quite a tight-knit design community. There are certainly more and more UX / product design meetup groups and events happening, and some very insightful discussions and topics are being initiated and covered. Well done to the people who are tirelessly working to organise events, hunt down speakers, and entice people to attend.

I’d very much welcome the idea of bigger design conferences happening here, as they always bring a sense of higher purpose and a global view.

Where are the gaps you see in the market here?

While there are plenty of designers whose specialty lies in UI and motion design, I think NZ could definitely use some more information architects, design strategists and UX writers. Creating a successful product requires collaboration and expertise in multiple different areas.

For employers, it has more to do with gaining a better understanding of design, as well as adopting a mindset of innovation and customer-centricity. 

Also, I can see a shift towards making digital products and experiences inclusive, and also the subject of ethics in design is gaining some traction, but both of these fields have a long way ahead of them.

What do you look for in an event/ subjects of interest?

Free beer and pizza! :) 

Oh, also, discussing global design trends and systems thinking, analysing the long-term impact of AI in UX, behavioural and cognitive psychology in design… Just to name a few.