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Most Wanted: Hester Hilbrecht

From having been born in Berlin to working in Silicon Valley and now being back. Hester talks about Founding a UX Studio, decision making, standing out from a UX perspective and more! Enjoy!

The idea behind Mermaid Studios is to put the user into the center of the product. Most companies blindly run into half-a-million-euro-projects, while often forgetting about the user until the market launch.

I’m curious, how do you find Berlin from the eyes of a German?

I was born and raised in this city, so I have a very special bond with it anyways :) My entire family lives here & all my childhood friends either didn’t leave or all came back... It’s a place whose combination of features are very difficult to find anywhere else, as it has so much to offer. Especially its unique dynamic of “poor but sexy”, the cultural melting pot emerged through the most creative minds from all over the globe and with that its innovative start-up ecosystem, and of course not to forget the mouth-watering food culture, that make this place so very special & worth living in!

What led to you being in Berlin and founding Mermaid Studios?

After studying Design Thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam I moved to the Silicon Valley to work at SAP for 6 years as a Design Strategist & Innovation Manager. After being in the corporate world for quite some time, I had the deep urge to explore a fast pace environment, so I moved back to Berlin where I started working at ​Conichi, an award-winning technology solution start-up, helping build up their new brand Conichiwa, focusing on co-innovation projects and implementing their technology.

In the corporate world I always felt like I was a cog in the wheel where I didn't see the impact I was making as quickly as I would have liked. Which is why I jumped into the start-up world and from there into becoming a founder myself.

The idea behind Mermaid Studios is to put the user into the center of the product. Most companies blindly run into half-a-million-euro-projects, while often forgetting about the user until the market launch.

What is important for a digital user experience? How can you stand out from the competition?

A digital user experience is all about being functional, easy to use and focused on people's needs. A common saying in the industry is if the product needs additional explanation, it is not a good user experience.

To do this, companies need to find out what problems and needs there are, for example through interviews or observations. After that the solution ideas have to be prototyped, tested & iterated - in short. The practical thing is that companies currently stand out from the crowd with relatively small changes, because many solutions are ​not user-friendly at all.

Being that Design Thinking is part of your philosophy when undertaking User Experience work with clients, how do you feel decision making factors in with clients?

When starting a new project millions of ideas float around on how to approach tasks and challenges. Everybody has their own opinions on what will work. Even if we don’t agree on some of those ideas the client suggests, we will set up a hypothesis to test it. Maybe we are wrong, maybe the client is wrong. It doesn’t matter. We will “ask” the user and back up all decisions by making the UX Designs measurable e.g. by using individual design criteria, ​data analysis or UX KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) such as the task success rate. There is very little ground for discussion if you can show that a new design approach results in 60% more users that are able to complete their tasks within 10 seconds less than before.

Do you have tips or tricks you use to optimise decision making in a session or a technique for speeding up decisions?

If you want to develop innovative solutions, one of the most important things is to do it quickly, and that's what many larger companies struggle with. We use our small team size as an advantage and act “mean and lean” so to say. We tap into the large knowledge base these companies have and extract the necessary know-how and work in a fast, efficient and agile way. Decisions can be to the design sprints by basing them on facts and figures instead of subjective opinions of what is good and what isn’t.

This means if a decision needs to be made we have two options. Option 1: use already existing data or Option 2 we generate data we need. As a very simple example: If person A votes for a red button and person B votes for a green button, we can either check if our user research has implications that show that one of them results in a better performance or we agree to disagree and test it. The button that has a higher conversion rate, will be the button to choose. Simple as that. This means it is necessary to create a testing culture and test the product early and often.

We very much admire Hester's approach to innovation. All too often you can see products being built without really having the consumer integrated into it's development. Design Thinking is a great mindset to getting the product closer to the consumer, and as Hester points out, allows the 'proof' from testing to make decisions, rather than relying on opinions from people in the team (or their friend who always seems to have the answers). 

A big thanks again to Hester for doing this. We have put Hesters details below for anyone who would like to get in contact with her.  

As always, with love & respect, 

The Team at ODE ❤️ 

Contact Hester:

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