Ivar Laks is our Product Manager at Ridango, responsible for end-user web products/solutions. From this interview with Ivar, you’ll learn how to build web products and solutions that offer the best user experience, biggest trends in website development and much more. 

“Inside Ridango” is a series of interview segments on the professionals working within different roles at Ridango, focusing on the people who strive to achieve a mutual goal of helping millions of people around the world to use public transport simply and seamlessly.

Ivar Laks, Product Manager

How does your everyday at Ridango look like? You come to work and what happens next?   

A good thing about the product manager’s job is that there is little routine – there are always new challenges to tackle. So, it’s a little hard to describe a typical day, though some patterns do repeat. 

I have my own “system” where I manage my tasks. So, the day usually starts with prioritizing the actions for today. If I have done that already the previous day, then I sit down and start going. I also check our internal communication channel Fleep and email, to see if any urgent issues need attention. Non-urgent ones end up in my “system”. 

Every day at 10:15 we have a team standup, where we review the progress and plans for a current development sprint. Often enough, something pops up during the standup, that needs my attention – either an impediment for the team, a critical bug, etc. 

Every day at 10:15 we have a team standup, where we review the progress and plans for a current development sprint. Often enough, something pops up during the standup, that needs my attention – either an impediment for the team, a critical bug, etc. 

Other regular activities that are part of the “everyday” is everything related to product development backlog – prioritization, describing requirements, discussions with team members, analysis, etc. Also, design reviews and design-related discussions are part of the regular day. 

At the end of the day, I usually review what got done, move unfinished actions for prioritization and if time, then also plan the next day or days. 

While you’ve been working at Ridango, you’ve overseen the launch of different generations of ticketing websites. How have these websites changed over time? Could you name the most prominent changes over time or some key takeaways?    

The core focus of our websites is to sell public transportation tickets. To make it as easy and convenient as possible. Hence the core feature set (ticket selection details, shopping cart, payments, etc) has not changed that much, but what has changed a lot is the experience itself and how we work to provide that experience. 

A couple of years ago we came up with a new concept and design for the ticketing websites – so we built the whole new front-end from scratch. In terms of user experience, we have tried to break the purchase flow down into small easy steps. Users can go through the flow that has a clear focus and easy decision points, like choose where are you traveling, choose your traveler profile (adult, student, etc), choose ticket duration, etc. All these decisions are separated into small separate steps. 

In terms of user experience, we have tried to break the purchase flow down into small easy steps.

Technology-wise we switched to Angular. As our clients have many overlapping needs, then we have built a library of reusable components (like buttons, input fields, etc) that makes the development of a new ticketing website easier. 

In your professional opinion, for offering the best user experience, what are the most important aspects and elements that you must pay attention to? 

It is a “big” question and there is no single answer. Though I would bring out a few things, that have been important for me here at Ridango. 

Building a great user experience is super hard work. One of the key aspects is iterating – reviewing and improving an existing solution over and over again. Do not settle on the first design version! Too much time is wasted on building new features and not enough time is dedicated to improving existing ones. 

Stick to the patterns that users already know and expect! Do not waste time on innovating on the simple core elements, like new clever navigation or date picker! Of course, there can be exceptions where it makes sense, but I hope it is not you who does it. 

Stick to the patterns that users already know and expect! Do not waste time on innovating on the simple core elements, like new clever navigation or date picker!

What are the biggest mistakes that companies do, when launching ticketing portals?   

I would say the biggest mistake, in general, is still the lack of user feedback during the development process. If users are not involved during the process, you will very likely learn the mistakes the hard way, after the launch of the product. It is true, no matter what you are building – from web applications to space shuttles. 

Another quite typical mistake that I have made several times and have seen others make, is related to content creation. Usually, content creation starts after the design and the development has been done or mostly finished. During the design process, dummy content is used and when the actual content creation starts, then issues appear – design breaks because the actual title text is too long, it is hard to come up with content that makes sense for a specific design element, etc. Ideally, content creation should happen in parallel with the design process. 

If users are not involved during the process, you will very likely learn the mistakes the hard way, after the launch of the product.

Could you name some of the biggest trends in website development, that companies should pay their attention to?  

There are all the usual suspects like various Javascript frameworks, Progressive Web Applications, Web components, AI…you name it. 

But the one I would bring out is Accessibility. It is a topic that has gained more and more attention in various design blogs and will become more important, as the EU has passed a directive that requires all public sector websites to follow WCAG 2.1 standard

I believe that a lot of service providers have not yet noticed it, but it is something that will have quite a big impact and will influence how new services are built in the future. 

Recently we changed the web application framework to Angular. What was the reason behind this change, and what are some of the new opportunities it gives us?  

A shift towards various JavaScript frameworks and libraries has been the biggest trend of the past years. We made the shift, when we started working on the new website design, so it made also sense to review our web technology stack. As most of the business logic lives in our Java backend, then it made sense to ditch the PHP framework for our ticketing website. 

A framework like Angular gives many out-of-the-box features for the developers. Also, one of the positive side effects of switching to Angular has been the use of reusable components. As I mentioned before, we are building a component library, which makes the development of a new ticketing website easier and the experience is more consistent. 

A framework like Angular gives many out-of-the-box features for the developers.

What are your proudest moments as a Product Manager at Ridango?   

A product manager must be a team player, as the other team members do the heavy lifting – developers write the code, designers build the experience, QA makes sure that it all works. Product manager is the glue between the different parts. 

So, I think the most satisfying moments have been, when it all comes together – launching a new product for our customers, after a concentrated effort from the whole team. For example, the launch of Elron ticketing website, Movingo website and the Movingo mobile app, just to name a few. 

Do you want to affect millions of people on a daily basis with your work? At Ridango, you can. Take a look at our current vacancies.