blogs & Things

Life at cloudThing as a UX Designer

I’ve been doing UX wizardry for the last 25 odd years and, at this point, I needed to think about where I have my career, not where I needed to go to build it. Where did I want to put my experience into making a positive social impact?

That’s where cloudThing appealed to me.

Let me take you back a bit…

When I first started out the internet was only just getting started and it was this new, wild west of exciting potential. People with money would throw all that they had into these .com start-ups.

So that’s where my UX career started, in the internet arm of an old school graphic and print design business. It was a cool workspace amongst the boring beige that was expected of offices at the time (we had a Cadillac in ours), but after a while, I just wasn’t making a difference. I was having fun and being creative and all that good stuff, but something was missing, and it was that satisfaction of making a difference in people’s lives with technology.

That’s why I went away to work for the council for 15 years, and I truly loved it. In local government, there has always been a mandate to ensure the content is accessible and usable – even back in 2001.

I think that web design used to be very much about what it looks like, making the brand right and making it a funky place for people to want to come and see it. But it’s matured out of that now and has become so much more – it’s now about how it works, if it’s easy for the user, and if the user can immediately look at the webpage and know exactly what it is they have to do.

A lot of people do down web design now, saying every website looks the same – it’s all vanilla and corporate, but there’s a reason for that. The thing is that’s what works. Every designer needs to go through a journey from making beautiful user experiences, to making experiences that are so good the user doesn’t even notice.

It’s all very well and good creating some beautiful piece of art website, and occasionally it’s nice to stumble across one of those in the wild and take in the artistry behind it and just appreciate that it was created just for the sake of it. But if you’ve actually got to use it then you’ve also got to consider that it’s not just you who has to use it.

The user is most likely in a hurry, may be on a train or on a mobile with a weak signal – It’s only from talking to users, “watching them struggle” with the interface that you begin to realise that it’s not about what it looks like so much, it’s about how it works, how the user is empowered.

Once you get past the point of being a trusted brand well, it just doesn’t matter so much what it looks like as long as it works. What’s great about cloudThing is that, as a company, cloudThing realises this and makes it happen in a space where it’s not typically done.

A lot of CRM companies deliver websites that have been thought about database first, you know? You start with D365 or Salesforce or what have you and then provide a view on top of the data that makes no sense whatsoever to the user – because users don’t think like programmers, and they don’t think like database people. They think like people like you and me.

When they’re presented with a dashboard full of data it just results in bamboozling them, basically.

The thing is, when you’re in the business of trying to get people to donate money to a charity, the last thing you want to do is turn them away from the website because it doesn’t work. You want to tell a compelling story and get people to empathise with that and they can go, “I can be a part of this. I can help by pushing this button here – Look how easy that is.”

There’s a lot of psychology to UX. People know that there are things that make them feel good – You can give someone a little bit of joy in the feedback to their form they’ve got to complete, and it makes it less of a horrendous process, and just makes it that little bit easier.

 

But that’s enough about why I chose cloudThing. It’s time to talk about what I do at cloudThing.

 

Day to day is somewhat of a weird one for me because I don’t really consider myself a UX person. There’s a job out there called UX engineer which I relate to and started calling myself and it’s like, half designer and half developer, but it’s a title that isn’t widely used or understood.

Will Dorrington called me a UX Wizard on LinkedIn, and I’ve adopted that; it’s more friendly and equally as mysterious.

Anyway, my day to day as a UX Wizard might be designing something. It might be drawing something. It might be sitting in a workshop with users, listening to their requirements, looking at their existing systems, finding what the pain points are in their existing systems.

I absolutely love getting to talk to our clients, especially the customer service reps, because they’re the people who get it in the neck when a website’s rubbish and they have to be polite about it. They know pretty quickly if something’s wrong. They can tell you about the buggy buttons.

I like taking a rough diamond and polishing it into a functional piece of UI. Then, you polish it again, to make a functional piece of UI which is you know, semantically correct and is good code. Then you get the fine-grain sandpaper on it and fine-tune it to make it accessible and ensure everyone can use it; make it so a screen reader can parse it, or that buttons aren’t too small to click for users with less fine motor skills. You have to come from a place of empathy and think about all the types of people who will be coming to use this application. It’s certainly a craft.

cloudThing really understand the importance of this and it helps that we do so much work with the government. The GDS team are the best accessibility team in the world and one of the great things about the way they work is that they don’t keep any secrets.

Everything they do is published, and it’s not just the open-source software I’m talking about. I mean the publication of the thinking behind it so you can truly understand the principles of why it has been designed with this accessibility in mind.

If you’re a UX designer and you’re stuck in those conversations where you say, “Wouldn’t it be great if…” or, “Why is it that they don’t understand when I say X?”  Well, I just want to say that that’s not the case here. They get it, and it makes a difference. I mean it, if you come forward and say you’ve got a great idea for the way you want to do something, you can do it here and you’ll be supported.

 

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