Interview with Navin Iyengar

Product Designer, Netflix

This year we’re celebrating 10 years of UX London! In the run up to our special anniversary conference, we caught up with Navin Iyengar to hear his thoughts on the evolution and impact of UX, and how his own career has developed in this time.

On the evolution and impact of UX

Thinking back to 2009, how and where did the discipline of UX sit within the industry, what role was it playing in business at that time?

When I started out, UX in product organizations was mostly a service role. By that I mean that UX practitioners were beholden to other stakeholders, taking orders and treated as if their expertise could not meaningfully contribute to business metrics or strategy. To be fair, not enough UX practitioners were thinking and talking at that level either.

How has UX changed in the past 10 years?

I believe that UX as a discipline has proven itself to be a meaningful contributor to businesses, finding ways to align the organization towards experiences that benefit the user and create business value. The credibility has given us a seat at the table to initiate and take part in higher-level strategy.

How do you see UX evolving over the decade to come?

Now that we know how powerful UX is as a tool for behavior change, we need to expand our scope and understanding to encompass all people, regardless of their background, culture, proficiency, etc. We need to learn how to create products not just for ourselves, but for millions of people across the globe, at scale.

What’s the future of UX in one word?

Personalization — we need to move away from one-size-fits-all solutions.

On your career

Tell us about your first design/UX role. Who did you model yourself on?

I was a designer/developer at an agency that made websites for small businesses. It was 2004 and there wasn’t much of a model to follow at the time, so I did my best to immerse myself in web design culture online through blogs and publications like A List Apart.

What are the qualities of a good UX practitioner?

Empathy, humility, curiosity, communication, vision.

How do you motivate your team?

We follow the principle of “context not control,” meaning that we establish ambitious goals and give people context, then allow them the flexibility to pursue their own design solutions. Giving designers autonomy and the opportunity to have great impact is the best motivation.

What does a typical day look like for you? Is it all meetings?

Ha. These days it is definitely quite a bit of meetings, though I do enforce blocks of time on my calendar for individual work (and exercise). I usually have a portfolio of 5–10 projects at different phases of completion running in parallel.

Join Navin and a host of other fantastic speakers at UX London 2018 — the 10th anniversary edition of Clearleft’s trailblazing UX conference. UX London takes place 23rd-25th May 2018 at Trinity Laban — tickets are on sale now at www.uxlondon.com