Swiss-based UI/UX Designer Jacques Oberholzer Unpacks The Link Between Data And Design

Zsuzsa Kandra, Business Development Manager at Heavy Chef, spoke to design aficionado Jacques Oberholzer, on data, story-telling, instinct, brand, secret ingredients and how design has evolved over the year. Jacques, who runs the Switzerland branch of boutique UI/UX design agency, Now Boarding, will be in South Africa for a week to reveal some of his recipes around MVP and app design in a series of learning experiences exclusive to Heavy Chef.


Jacques, you talk a lot about data driving decisions for design. When does data stop and instinct kick in?

Data and instinct shouldn't operate in isolation from each other. If we all simply followed data, the internet would start to look like a big homogenous landscape filled with yellow buttons. Data should inform design, but a good designer will call on their experience to interpret the data within the broader context of the project and brand. I once worked on a project where an A/B Test told us the old sign-up form performed better than the new one - not by a huge margin, but enough to make us think. There was, however, a bigger picture to consider around brand and making users feel that they are using a modern, professional interface. So we implemented the learnings that we could from the test into the new form rather than simply reverting to the old form.

Have you seen a link between story-telling and design? Do you see a need to drive narrative into the aesthetic, beyond just function?

In user experience design, narrative and storytelling support our ability to keep a user's attention on their path to conversion, without distraction. It's a big part of design and will continue to play an even more important role in the future of digital solutions. Clients often come to us with a "drop-off" problem, but what they actually have is a user boredom or attention problem. We see this a lot with long on-boarding flows, which can often be solved with weaving narrative and personality into the flow and making it intriguing for the user.

As we become increasingly numb to the constant bombardment of media following us through smart phones and wearables, brands that tell more interesting stories, show more transparency and are more "human" will ultimately gain more trust and real users.

In your Masterclass, you talk about the importance of brand. Do you think with the proliferation of online publishing, brands are becoming lost in the noise? - and if so, how does one overcome this?

I think the proliferation of mobile is having the biggest impact on brand. Mobile needs careful consideration when it comes to brand, as smaller screens can mean less branding and visual-engagement opportunity. The challenge is for brands and designers to think out of the box about how to use mobile to enhance the brand experience. For users to return, we need to create an experience that builds a memorable brand as well as a habit. Gamification, design, tone and an enjoyable experience all contribute to making this happen.

In order to achieve a sense of cleanliness and focus in MVP design, sometimes it seems that one has to sacrifice some obvious usability cues. For example, Apple's 'force touch' which is not obvious to new users. How does one overcome this with a new app or product that doesn't have the community that Apple does?

Sometimes it's the functionality, but sometimes it's also the name of the feature. Force touch is often described as 3D touch, but both names are pretty confusing!

I'm a big advocate of clean, minimal design, particularly with an MVP. By removing other distractions, the key user journey is able to be the main focus. Keep them on course, and confident of their next click, and they will stay with you. When introducing users to functionality that they might not be familiar with, the user needs to discover the experience you have designed for them. If they don't or can't, the UX isn't simple enough and it's time to iterate. This is your MVP after all and is intended to help you learn.

Is there a single secret ingredient to successful MVP design, perhaps something that you continually return to?

Can my mom use it? She once turned a CD over to listen to side B!

We constantly find ourselves trying to reduce the scope of projects for our clients so that we can go to market quicker, learn, and then iterate. Just compare Tinder now to when it first launched. It has 10 times the number of features, but started as a very basic concept that just worked well. Disclaimer: I'm not on Tinder, except for research purposes :)

Thanks, Jacques for your time and we cannot wait to host you next week on the Heavy Chef stage in Cape Town!

Masterclass Tickets:


You can catch Jacques on the Heavy Chef stage in Cape Town on October 22nd - along with Pierre du Plessis, CEO of - talking about building the ultimate online app. Jacques also offers a 4-hour morning Masterclass on October 23rd for those who want to take a deep dive into MVPs. For more info and tickets click here.

And to get in touch with Jacques and Now Boarding, visit their site here.