Hi everyone, I’m Luke, one half of the founding partnership of UX Mastery.
When I was 7, a family friend told me I had ‘empathy’. It’s a big word for a little person and at the time I didn’t really understand what it meant, but over the years since then it has been a trait that I’ve measured myself against simply because I was aware of it.
Fast-forward another seven years to another tiny but influential incident; “Last Minute Luke” is rushing to load some assignment files onto floppy discs before school. Of course the floppies failed during copying; I was going to miss the bus and the teacher wasn’t going to get what I’d just stayed up all night working on. The frustration of that moment was the last time I voluntarily used floppy disks and the catalyst for creating my first proper web site.
That was in the mid 1990’s, so my website had the lot - blink tags, marquee tags and security-through-obscurity logins in all their glory. I’d always loved tinkering, but now I’d embraced a medium that combined my creativity with some technical skills and provided a whole new way to share my projects.
Both my parents are the independent type. My Mum was a librarian and taught me the importance of order, method and quiet persistence. My Dad ran a clothing factory and taught me about professional ethics, storytelling and having a passion for my work. I had worked as a stable hand for a neighbour at $5/hr (“Shovelling horse poo will teach you the value of a dollar”, said Dad), and as a dishwasher and then kitchen hand in a local restaurant, which was stressful and didn’t pay much more. Important lessons to learn, but I preferred making my own way.
My cousin and I registered our first business and started asking friends for web design work, and I didn’t stop to think about what I was getting myself into. Our first paid job in late 1998 landed us a reasonable sum, and I couldn’t believe our luck - it was the most money I’d made in one go and the client was paying me to code, something I loved doing in my spare time anyway.
In 1999 I was accepted into the Victorian College of the Arts where I studied a degree in filmmaking and also took subjects in writing and multimedia. My multimedia lecturer was fairly laid back and I often got asked for help by my peers, so I found myself taking initiative in the tutorials and later ended up being employed by the university.
After I finished my degree, my web design business became a partnership with two fellow students, with the intention it would tide me over the gaps between film projects (sometimes by the end of a long film shoot you really just want to do something else for a little while).
It was around this time that two formative events happened. The first was reading a book called the Ragged Trousered Philanthropists that put me into a tailspin; I questioned my work on the web as part of a marketing machine that helped rich people get richer, and wanted my work to have more purpose than that. So I made a deliberate decision to support worthy individuals and not-for-profits with my design and communication skills.
The second formative event was when I saw an advertisement by Sensis (a publisher of Australian phone directories and local search solutions) asking for research participants to help evaluate a feature on one of their sites. I leapt at the chance to see how other professionals worked. It was the first usability testing lab I’d been in, and the warm but calculated behaviour of the session moderators left a deep mark. I started doing the same thing on a much smaller scale in my own web projects.
Because I’d never studied psychology or formal design, I was still very hungry for knowledge and sought out a special interest group at Melbourne University that discussed ergonomics and human-computer interaction - CHISIG. We’d meet after work, enjoy wine and nibbles and hear from people about what they’d been working on or thinking about.
In 2005 I sold my share of the business partnership and went freelance, so that I could get back into filmmaking part-time (I’d been sucked into the web world further than I’d intended). It also meant I got to redefine how I related to my clients and I started collecting design games that helped them understand what they wanted and needed. Because I was working with small businesses, I also developed an interest in ‘guerrilla UX’ - how UX can be used on projects with [URL=“http://uxmastery.com/a-time-poor-small-budget-approach-to-ux/”]small budgets and not much time.
I’ve had a lot of adventures since then in different roles and locations. UX Mastery brings together my interest in people, design, teaching with design games, running my own business, AND the ability to do consulting work and various design projects on the side. A hunger for learning has lead to some of the biggest opportunities and changes in my life, and I’ve kept my value for empathy and how it can be used to solve frustrations and be a force for positive change.