Do you remember when Kentico Software was a small company and the CEO, Petr Palas, was also one of the hands-on developers? David Slavík, the Product Strategist in Kentico Xperience, has been working with the system since 2010. He’s one of the few people who witnessed the rapid evolution of Xperience firsthand. Travel through time, find out how the users’ demands have changed, and what drives our product innovations.
David, your career is tightly connected to developing in Kentico Xperience, formerly just Kentico. How did you become a software developer?
I always enjoyed dismantling computers and I wrote my first webpage in Notepad when I was 14. I got my first job as a tester in Sprinx Systems, a Kentico partner agency. As a young trainee, I created a set of automatic tests testing the developers’ work overnight. The system was quite ahead of its time, and the business owner was excited. I started coding in ASP.NET and got my next job as a software developer.
When did you first meet Kentico Xperience?
My boss at that time asked me to help my colleagues migrate the content of an old website to Kentico CMS (now Xperience). Back then, it required a lot of manual work, and I was an enthusiastic, junior developer—an ideal person to do it. I used Visual Studio to clean the code and added the HTML code to Kentico 4. I loved working with it, and when I got an opportunity to work with the platform and become a certified developer, I didn’t think for a minute.
Before you joined Kentico Software you worked for our partner Actum. What was your role there?
I led the Kentico division. I attended many business discussions, spoke to clients, and heard their concerns and needs. For someone with a background in development, it was an invaluable experience to see the process from the business perspective.
Who were your clients at the time?
With my team, I worked for financial institutions such as Raiffeisen Leasing and Wüestenrot, and for Ubbink, Gealan, La Lorraine, and many other international companies that turned to us with grand multisite projects. One of Actum’s loyal clients is Komerční banka, a leading Czech bank, has been using Kentico Xperience for years now.
The platform moved a long way since its launch. How do you see the evolution?
I was always excited about it. When you work with a tool every day, you want it to be reliable and user-friendly. Imagine a worker who uses a shovel every day. They can take a cheap one that will break easily. But if they get offered a better one with an ergonomic grip and stronger metal, they’ll choose that one. If you use something all the time, you want it to work well.
And Kentico has always responded to feedback from users who work with the platform every day. The company listens to their needs and pains and improves the product to make their life easier.
What improvements made the most difference to you?
I remember watching with excitement how Kentico started adding marketing functionalities to the content management system. Adding statistics and analytics was a big step. Inbuilt A/B testing felt like magic. It was added to Kentico 10 years ago, and it’s still one of the most craved marketing features. The Application Dashboard with tiles was another significant step towards an excellent user experience.
Who were the usual clients of Kentico Xperience when you started 11 years ago?
When I started building websites on Kentico, the platform was already capable of much more than most clients were able to use. The company offered a very affordable full license and a free version with limited capabilities. Therefore, I was building grand, multisite projects for large companies, and in my free time, I used the free version for small websites such as hairdressers and personal blogs.
Should current clients be worried that the product will become too big and expensive for them in the future?
Surely not. The whole business environment is evolving rapidly, and it’s connected to the technological shift. Ten years ago, not every hairdresser had a website presentation. Currently, it’s a must. The company’s focus naturally changes in time, but the main idea stays the same: Kentico Xperience is developed to help clients be successful and grow. The platform grows together with its clients, and our innovations respond to the clients’ changing needs.
What were clients’ demands when you started working with Xperience?
Ten years ago, the main goal was website performance. A successful site was relatively fast and up most of the time. If it crashed, then only for a short while. Doing SEO meant clean code, well-defined headlines, keywords in bold, sitemaps. There was no way to track users’ behavior on your website. We only knew how many visitors came and from where.
How did it change?
Now, there is much more competition in the digital space, and the focus is all on understanding user behavior. Having a smoothly running website is not a competitive advantage anymore. SEO has become an art for dedicated specialists and attracting users to your website is not enough. You need to make sure that they stay and turn into customers! To do that, you can use detailed reports of user behavior, heat maps, paid ads, and many more sophisticated technologies.
Can you see changes in users’ behavior, too?
Indeed, ten years ago, there was a limited amount of content, and internet users were more patient to search for information and read long articles. Today, the world is much faster, and if visitors don’t find what they are looking for quickly, they leave.
I can feel it myself—when I’m looking for some information, I prefer a picture or a short video over a long article. When I get to a website, I scroll a few times, and if I don’t find the right information, I leave. I’m afraid that it’s not just me. This common behavior is a major challenge for current website designers.
Why did you eventually become the Product Strategist in Kentico Xperience?
The answer is quite simple. If I go back to the analogy with a worker using a well-designed shovel, that’s me with Kentico Xperience. It’s a love brand for most people who work with this platform. I always enjoyed developing in it, and most importantly, I believe in it. When I was looking for a new job, I asked myself what my love brands are, and Kentico Software was the first that crossed my mind.
If you had complete freedom to lead the development of Kentico Xperience, what would you do?
If I had unlimited resources, I’d collect all complaints from our users and solve them. There are elements designed in the past that we’re improving for a better user experience, but we can’t fix everything instantly. I’m confident we’re on the right path, though. At the moment, we’re developing the next generation of Kentico Xperience that’s going to bring solutions for many edge cases. We’re aiming to revise 15 years of work and obviously, that can’t be done overnight. If I had a magic wand, I’d speed the process up.
What is your personal mission for Kentico Xperience?
Every day I go to work with one thought in mind: make this excellent platform as well-known and appreciated as it deserves. I do not doubt the quality of this product; Kentico Xperience has very high user satisfaction rates. I want to help people realize its value for their business and how to leverage the platform’s full potential.
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