Feb 01, 2024

IONA Stories: Meet Elina, our UX designer

IONA Stories: Meet Elina, our UX designer

Elina is a UX designer and certified accessibility professional who joined IONA when the company began. She believes accessibility is “simply good practice for any UX designer”.

What led you to IONA?

I joined IONA while studying for a Bachelor's degree in Business Information Technology. In a previous job, I worked a lot with different digital systems. As a key user of one of those systems, I was interested in how they worked and how to improve them. I wanted to improve the operating systems so they would serve their users better, but I didn't know how to get involved in developing them. Later, at university, I saw a description for a course in Service Design and remembered thinking, "Oh, so there is a path for me!". That's when I knew I wanted to learn about UX. My journey has been about continuously learning. Today, I'm a user experience (UX) designer at IONA. 

You're an accessibility-certified UX professional?

Yes. Accessibility is essential in the world of UX. I knew IONA was looking to expand these skills within the company, so when I saw the possibility of becoming a certified accessibility professional, they supported me. As my thesis was also about accessibility, it was a great opportunity to specialise and link my studies and work. I got great feedback on my thesis and was awarded a scholarship. 

What topics are hot right now in the world of accessibility?

Wonderful things are coming up in the future—gesture-based interfaces, personalisation or voice activation—but the most important thing today is to advocate and champion accessibility in the day-to-day. 

People need to know what accessibility means. It's not just for people with disabilities. We can all get old or sick. Everyone will also experience situations where we can't use something in our usual way. For example, I can have a temporary disability, such as not being able to see my screen because of direct sunlight, or be unable to use both arms because I'm holding a baby or I have a sprain. That's when you need accessibility.

Accessibility should be a design principle. It doesn't cost much extra if included from the start—it's simply good practice for any UX designer— but retrofitting it can be costly. It will also be required by law under the EU Accessibility Act 2025, which mandates online shops, e-books, some personal transport and banking services, and communication services to be easily accessible for specially-abled individuals.

Elina with Tommi

What's your ideal project?

I'm actually working on my ideal project right now. It started with a face-to-face meeting to agree on ideas and scope. The client had a really good idea of what they wanted. While they didn't know about accessibility principles, they were open to creating a small style guide that includes aspects of that thinking. Then, I worked with the client in Miro to ideate the user flows and how the website should work and moved on to designing the pages and navigational elements in Figma. The client gave some great feedback. It was very clear. Now I'm trying to find the best way to include their changes while incorporating good UX. 

My ideal case is when a client knows what they want and is part of the process, but they also trust me to be the expert when it comes to UX. They're the subject matter experts, and I'm the UX expert - and when we both respect those knowledge areas, things work well. 

What would you love to do better?

There are only a few women in UX design roles. I'm a member of Mimmit koodaa, a nationwide community of thousands of women interested in IT. They collaborate with companies to get more representation and are a platform for women to learn new things or share their expertise. I'd love the industry as a whole to be better at attracting underrepresented groups. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

It's OK to fail. Learn from it. You have to trust the process. I've done things I didn't enjoy throughout my career, but they all led to what I’m doing today—a job I love. School, work and studying all at the same time was a challenge. Now, I love what I do and learn new stuff daily. I feel lucky. 

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