Hi everyone, I’m Dave. I am from Malvern in the UK. It is famous in the UK for mineral water (Malvern Water is apparently the Queen’s preferred choice of drinking water). It was also the birthplace of the composer Elgar, whose music was famously inspired by the rural beauty of the area. Much of the time, I work from a hot desk in the UK Cyber Security Cluster on top of a 2000ft hill. It makes me sound like a hermit, but I do get out of the building for a couple of days each week to co-work in places like Birmingham, Oxford, Bristol and London.
What appeals about UX?.. About 30 years ago, I started out in marketing, working for a mountaineering clothing company. I shared an office with the designer and I tended to be more interested in his job than my own. The notions of ‘function dictates form’ and ‘less-is-more’ were essential philosophies in what we did. It was important to make this equipment, unfussy, uncluttered, work well for the user, without them having to think about it, without having to mess with fiddly things at -30degrees, without having to work out how to undo pockets with mittens on, and so on. And that principle of designing around a specific type of user, in a specific environment stuck with me.
Design ultimately got the better of me. I moved into graphic design from marketing and from there, via an MA in interactive multimedia design, into designing software interfaces.
Having worked as an agency Creative Director, then Global Intranet Project Manager at BP, I eventually took a job as Head of Design at a multinational, software house, specialising in financial services. I started to design interfaces for banks and insurance providers who wanted to get consumers to administer their own finances. It is commonplace now, but at the time we were one of the firms making that happen. Quite quickly, I began to understand that you cannot simply give a user a dry interface and tell them to e.g. sell themselves their own mortgage - you can’t train them, you can’t fire them and you can’t expect them to tolerate confusing processes and interfaces. So after talking to some users and taking a bit of time, It became apparent that people wanted help buying houses not administering mortgages. Arguably the user and the site holder want the same end result, but they would not recognise each other’s perspective. The motivation, process, and experience for the user is not at all the same as for the mortgage company.
What UX does, is resolve that dilemma. Instead of placing the user as some insignificant speck in a dry corporate process, it pivots the whole relationship. UX places the user at the centre of their own universe surrounded by things that make their life better, easier and more understandable - not unlike the mountaineering gear. The term UX had not been coined back then. I found people like Alan Cooper in the states; I sent him emails and he was really helpful. I read up on Jakob Neilson, I already knew about Don Norman and then discovered Steve Krug’s first book ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ - essential reading (as is his book on user testing ‘Rocket Surgery Made Easy’).
Thereafter, I have had less interest in management and more interest in UX design. I have since worked on everything from watch websites, sustainability communities, government applications and more. I have designed for the web and mobile - and print from time to time as well. But for all that diversity, once you make that leap of understanding, it is difficult not to design from a UX perspective in everything that you do. It just doesn’t make sense to do it any other way.
In terms of challenges, it tends to be software developers. I have worked with some great software developers who, even if they don’t get UX, are prepared to get to grips with it and help make it happen. However, more often I have found myself fighting developers who, at best, think that they already do UX or that UX is only to do with styling and treat you like the office idiot, the one with the crayons whose job it is to colour in everyone else’s ideas. At worst, they think of you as unnecessary. And the problem is that even if the business hired a UX, they have the ability to render the function useless by failing to implement the designs.
I have had my run-ins with the Agile process as well - or the same developers (see above) who control the Agile process in the company. I think Agile is great when implemented properly and thought through to accommodate UX. However I find that many developers mistake it for an ideology rather than a methodology and feel the need to sabotage the UX process in order to cram it into Agile.
It is these things I hope to explore further through this community. Please let me know if you have had similar issues or have been able to crack that nut.