Since you’re interested, let me tell you about how I got to be a UX Consultant…
I’ve been working with digital media stuff for a while; over 20 years.
My first products were multimedia runtimes on single speed (150 k/sec) CD-ROM’s. These were made on a state-of-the-art machine back in 1994, a 66MHz Apple PowerMac 7100, with a whopping 26Mb of RAM.
In 1995 I made my first websites. Again on the same computer, using nothing more sophisticated than HTML 1.0, a text editor and a copy of Photoshop 2.5. Nobody was called a ‘front end designer / coder’ back then – but that’s what we were!
It all started off and remained such great work – and huge fun.
From Front End Designer / Coder to UX Consultant
By 2000 I had moved more towards managing projects and teams – I still needed to keep and maintain a good understanding of front-end coding – but I was less of an active practitioner.
In terms of understanding how business and user needs intersected – I did the bare basics; business analysis to inform wireframes and plans, followed by desktop-research for competitive and contextual analysis and then a review of any available server stats if we were working to revise and improve live sites. So, looking back I can see that I was able to learn a bit about ‘what’ users were doing – but not ‘why’ they were doing it.
As more-and-more projects crossed my desk by 2005 my interest began to focus more on how to ensure that these were suited to their business purpose. I wanted to know more about user beliefs, contexts and behaviours. The ‘why’ of behaviour became so much more important to me. I began to undertake more structured and in-depth reviews and research into the needs and behaviours of users.
How I work today
Today I mostly engage with client projects as a hands-on researcher and interaction designer. Often I’ve been asked to lead product strategy, definition and design as well as manage the multi-skilled production teams which are required.
I’m an evangelist for the User Centred Design approach; anchoring interaction and interface decisions firmly on insights gleaned from an arsenal of research techniques. Through experience, I’ve seen how much more quickly and accurately project teams can work when they’ve been given the necessary insights into both business and user needs.
I think a human story goes a long way to inform and improve an otherwise ‘lifeless’ wireframe
I’ve seen that it’s difficult for all of us; consultants, stakeholders and designers, to see a ‘system’ or ‘experience’ in wireframes or other documents – and when we do, we tend to assess it based not on real users – out there in the world – but based on ourselves. That’s not ideal.
We are, of course, building for users. And when we learn about users, we develop empathy with them – gaining the ability to tell a simple story about how and why they desire to engage with a product.
I’ll always try to find a way to introduce users and their stories into the product process – showing how they feel, think and engage in and around the digital world. Whenever product teams are given the right information to build for people – a better product emerges.
I love the challenge of a big nasty problem.
It may start with a business need, or a user issue, or both. Solutions have sometimes appeared, almost by magic, after talking to only a handful of people. And at other times simplicity and clarity has been elusive and required deep-dives of one-on-one interviews and / or ethnography followed by careful analysis.
The breadth of the work, for me is very satisfying. And ideally, I like to be involved and contributing both as a consultant / manager and practitioner throughout the project lifecycle.