“In UX design, rely on actual feedback rather than assumptions.” Jose Rosa, Yuh
How to balance user needs with innovation and maintaining simplicity in design, and why culture truly eats strategy for breakfast.
Jose Rosa is the Head of Product at Yuh, a company offering a user-friendly, all-in-one finance app. Yuh combines innovation with user-centric design, helping users manage their finances with ease and confidence.
In our conversation, Jose shares his experience in leading a diverse team to develop a product that is rich in features yet straightforward in use. He discusses the importance of design thinking and inclusivity when building a user-centric team, and the role of leadership in maintaining a user-focused culture.
Q: What is the essence of your current role?
I oversee the product vision, strategy, and roadmap, and empower my team of talented designers, product owners, researchers and developers to execute with excellence. It’s my job to guide the teams until we can confidently showcase a product that’s loaded with the features our clients need.
Here, it’s a flat organization — the CEO, our marketing chief, the head of support, and me. We’re a tight-knit four. But we also have specialized squads: the product owners, our design pros, and the developer crew. We’re big on collaboration and sharing insights.
And yes, everyone’s bursting with ideas, me included! Thankfully, we’re armed with the right tools and processes to make them work without much confusion or delays.
Q: Can give an example of “the right tools and processes”?
When I talk about the right tools, I mean instruments that, for example, help gathering direct customer feedback. We couple that with insights from our customer care team, which leans more towards addressing issues. Plus, our open portal lets users vote on features, gauging their importance.
Customer care often points out the immediate challenges, things causing frequent calls. These often become our “low-hanging fruit” – issues we can address quickly to alleviate immediate concerns.
To address the bigger customer requests, we rely on the four company’s primary drivers that help us evaluate each request’s impact. From there, we use a “value vs. effort” score to decide our next steps and choose what goes on the roadmap. Maybe it’s a prototype, maybe a survey – it varies based on the request.
Our collaboration with the customer insights manager is invaluable. With an active community of around 2000 eager for testing , we’re never short of feedback. This has led us to deeper explore areas like app accessibility. Given our extensive backlog, when a slot opens up, we might revisit a significant request, especially if there’s considerable demand for it.
Q: Can you elaborate on your product’s accessibility and how you address it?
In Switzerland, there are legal guidelines about accessibility, which gives us a foundation. But beyond the legalities, our product designers are devoted to the principles of inclusivity.
Right now, we’re actively working to improve our app’s features for users with visual impairments. One initiative we’re excited about is integrating voice interactions. Working on this, we rely on firsthand insights from visually impaired individuals who share their perspective.
We’ve also been engaging with institutions supporting those with cognitive challenges. There was feedback from a user whose cognitive disability made understanding finances particularly challenging. This feedback made us rethink our visuals and make them more clear and distinguishable.
Without experiencing these challenges ourselves, our understanding is inevitably limited. So, once again, we need to rely on actual feedback rather than on our assumptions.
Q: Creating more with less and targeting specific UX and visual problem creatively hits close to design thinking. But I feel like most people just use this term as a buzzword, not a technique.
I completely understand where you’re coming from with the term “buzzword.” Design thinking has been around for a while, and some businesses use it more as a trendy label than a genuine approach.
For someone like me, with a design background, the essence of design thinking feels innate. It’s about centering the individual, simplifying processes, and breaking down complexities to their most essential components. It’s not just about serving abstract “users” but real people with varied needs.
Building a culture around design thinking is not a task accomplished overnight. For instance, even at Swissquote, where we had an established design group, instilling this user-centric approach was a challenge. A lot depends on the company’s leadership and their commitment to this philosophy.
Q: And what about your management and your team in Yuh?
Starting afresh at Yuh, I had the advantage of building a team from the ground up. Every team member was handpicked for their alignment with design thinking principles. My goal was clear: a user-centric team that rapidly tests, iterates, and brings tangible value to our business.
It’s all about driving business results, not just creating art. We have to always think about the end goal, which is providing value that can be monetized.
Having a leadership that understands and supports this, like our CEO at Yuh, makes a world of difference. For instance, even with our compact team size, we have a dedicated customer and insights manager. This is a testament to our commitment to placing the user at the heart of what we do.
It’s an ongoing journey, and every organization faces its own set of challenges. But when the philosophy is ingrained from the outset, it becomes a natural part of the company’s DNA.
Q: Does this philosophy help with setting priorities as you go?
Philosophy is something that goes beyond any mundane processes, but it also helps when you need to make a transition. For example, our initial focus was on establishing utility and reliability. We wanted users to be confident that our app does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Now, we work on prioritizing innovation and “wow” factor.
Our “commitment to users” philosophy tells us, that we can only innovate while maintaining that foundational trust already built.
Innovation and the ‘wow’ factor are intertwined. It’s about anticipating the future of app interactions. Everyone’s discussing AI, generative AI, and the like, but how do we seamlessly integrate such features into a financial app? Especially when the UI of many financial apps, both from traditional banks evolving into the digital space and neo banks, look strikingly similar.
Q: So, there’s a standardized pattern in user experience across financial apps?
Precisely. These patterns are essential for users. Switching apps shouldn’t mean a steep learning curve, relearning interfaces, or readjusting to new buttons. While users seek innovation, they also harbor conservative expectations, especially when finances are involved. It’s a delicate balance—ensuring safety while introducing novelty.
Q: It sounds challenging, considering how conservative people can be about their money.
Yes, it is a tightrope walk. But, our association with two of Switzerland’s biggest banks instills confidence in our users. Even as we introduce such services as cryptocurrency operations and investments, users are reassured of their funds’ safety, thanks to our backing.
True innovation, in our context, is about offering users novel experiences that simultaneously make them feel secure and pleasantly surprised. That is a part of our new two-year plan.
Q: Can you tell more about how planning works for such ever-changing systems?
When I lay out a plan, I prioritize clarity. I focus on two or three core subjects instead of overwhelming with multiple points. Our goal for the upcoming years is to embrace simplicity in our app. We want to streamline interactions, improve accessibility, and offer a user experience so intuitive that even someone unfamiliar with finance can easily navigate our platform.
John Maeda’s “Laws of Simplicity” has always been a guiding principle for me. His approach to blending design and technology, his tenure at renowned places like Bridgewater Cooper, and his leadership in major AI projects for Microsoft has greatly influenced my perspective.
A primary challenge we’re tackling is creating a “navigation-less” application. As our app expands with more features, the key is ensuring users can access what they want without getting lost in a myriad of pages.
The future of app design, in my view, is moving towards this model. If you look at tech giants like Apple and their navigation-less UI with Apple Vision Pro, it’s evident that users will soon interact with widgets or tools that offer information at a glance without the need to deep dive into different pages.
In essence, the next two years will be about redefining app architecture, pushing towards a more natural, visually intuitive interface. This will also impact how we measure success, establish KPIs, and determine the real value our app provides to its users.
Q: To achieve these goals, how do you deal with the culture of collaboration and accountability in your team?
Peter Drucker’s quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” has never been so true. Even the best-laid plans can fail if an organization’s culture isn’t aligned.
Culture isn’t just about written values on a company’s website; it’s about the day-to-day actions, behaviors, and decisions that people in the organization take. Instilling a genuine, positive culture from the outset is crucial, and it’s truly harder to retrofit a culture within the established organization.
In many large companies, there’s a heavy inertia. New entrants might feel motivated, but they often clash with long-time employees who are set in their ways.
At Yuh, from the start, I prioritized hiring intrinsically motivated individuals. It wasn’t about getting people I could dictate tasks to, but finding those who could take initiative on their own. I wanted people who, when handed a project, would analyze it, identify gaps, and discuss it, not just with me, but with the entire leadership.
What’s crucial is having a team that challenges the status quo, including me. Challenging each other leads our team to a productive conflict, pushing us all forward.
Leadership isn’t about titles or pay grades, but a genuine drive to inspire and guide. My transition from one role to another was driven by this very passion, especially as a head of product. If you aren’t inherently motivated to uplift and lead, perhaps a leadership role isn’t the right fit.
Passion is the cornerstone of effective leadership.
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