One of the most valuable aspects of belonging to a community like this is networking and forming relationships with peers that have skills and interests that are similar or complimentary to your own. Because it's my job to facilitate your socialisation within this community, I've decided to kick off a new initiative called Member Spotlight. Its purpose is to introduce you to each other so that you're able to connect with people of interest (or at least get more of an understanding of what other people in your field do).
Member Spotlight consists of a short, informal interview with a community member and will wrap up with an opportunity for the member in question to promote themselves, their work, or something that they are particularly proud of or interested in. I'll aim to interview a different person on monthly basis, and it will generally be someone that has caught my eye by either being particularly active, engaged or entertaining (I can be bought with humour). I encourage you to ask questions each other's responses.
First up was the 20th person to sign up to the UX Mastery community, and our most active member to date.
Introducing Dean Birkett.
What first sparked your interest in UX?
I’ve always had an interest in people, and looking for ways to make their lives easier. I come from a support background, and although the usual “Can you turn it off and back on again”, works some of the time, it is better to get to the root cause of the problem. More often than not, it is either a technical issue, or the user didn’t know what to do. Because of my interest in how people work, and the willingness to look for the root problems, UX became a good fit for me.
Who is your UX role model and why?
I hate to use the UX catch-all “It depends on the situation” here, but it truly does. I read a lot of books that cover a wide variety of topics, from best practices, to forms, from content strategy to accessibility, and so the list of people I admire is ever growing. That being said, I was lucky enough to have a workshop with Derek Featherstone a couple of years ago, and since then accessibility has been something I have been drawn more and more to. The ability to shape products that can serve all regardless of ability, is something that is key to the UX profession.
What is the dream project or client that you’d like to design the experience for?
I may actually be working on it right now! I have been working on some submission forms for the Europeana 1914-1918 website. The current forms were implemented without much thought given to the people who were using the form, and asking someone to fill out 27 fields is not going to lead to a good user experience. I have stripped the form to it’s bare minimum, moved it from one long form into many separate steps, have introduced a progress bar, smarter logic, and allowed the user to get instant immediate feedback - something that was lacking in the current implementation. Any project that allows you to take a step back, evaluate, and then test out other hypotheses is a good project for me.
If you weren’t in your current job, what job or career would you choose?
I stumbled into IT Support, I stumbled into web design, and now I have found myself stumbling into UX. It’s a path that I wouldn’t change, but if I was to step back in time I would tell my seventeen year old school leaver self, that I should really do that college course - and not jump on the career path so early in life.
When have you been the most satisfied in your life?
Leaving my job in the UK, and moving to the Netherlands. It was the boldest move I have made so far, and it has proven to be the best decision I could have made. Waking up each morning, looking out of my apartment window, and watching the sunrise over the Ij in Amsterdam makes me feel the most satisfied I’ve ever been, every morning, every day.
If you could choose one superpower, what would it be and why?
Time travel would definitely be useful. That being said, shooting lasers out of my eyes could be quite a party piece!
Lastly… do you have a site, a blog, a twitter feed or anything else that you’d like to use this opportunity to promote?
My website: http://deanbirkett.name
My twitter: @deanbirkett