UXD by day.
I'm a user experience designer with a passion for prototypes. I use strategy and prototyping to return genuine value for business and user.
I've led the UX on highly complex systems for:
Establish the Strategy
Run day-long workshops on client sites or host in the office so projects kick-off in the right way. Use a variety of warm-up exercises to break the ice, and then get people embracing user centred design to capture the right requirements for building the right product and returning genuine value.
User Research & Testing
In office, on-site, remote and even on-the-street interviewing to ensure users are at the very beginning, and core, of the design process. Creating user surveys and analyse results. Generating user personas, stories and flows. Perform card sorting, tree testing and all forms of user testing of wireframes and prototypes for iterative design.
Analytics & Information Architecture
From using paper, post-its, flipcharts, whiteboards and even napkins I brainstorm myriad layouts and journeys instead of getting attached to any single idea. I then progress to lo-fi static mock-ups in software to rapidly iterate ideas for interaces and user-flows, ensuring the best blueprint possible is created.
I then bring the wireframes to life with Axure RP, incorporating complex functionality, genuine testing, and iterative development. I develop a component library within Axure, making the process efficient and experience consistent, which becomes essential once hi-fi design and development work begins.
Engineering With Code
I continuously work with project managers, digital designers, front- + back-end developers, stakeholders and executives throughout the project lifecycle to work in the most efficient way possible and deliver the best product with genuine value for the client's business and users.
(Spoliers: I'm a sucker for the big questions and setting my sights on the true 'north star' for what is possible.)
The Problem Today
My interests go beyond just visual experiences. The release of Amazon's Echo range and Google Home have me learning how to prototype for conversational experiences and get very excited about moving beyond mobile-first to AI-first design. I'm also appreciating the full breadth of a user's experience, focussing on more than just technology touchpoints to services as a whole.
And yet as technology surrounds us ... we have become slaves to visual interfaces.
Is the peak of technology that it has to be used? That humans are reduced to users? Is that really the point of it all?
Manual interaction should be the absolute last resort for solving a problem. But today, it's the default.
"There's an app for that". "Slap an interface on it". Not so much "build it and they will come", but ... "Build it so they must use it".
Thankfully, what was written by Bret Victor back in 2006 in his essential reading Magic Ink is now becoming an accepted reality. My hope is that in the next ten years the psychological privacy barrier is broken and context-driven, AI-first experiences are the standard embraced by people and they no longer settle for being users.
I want to hear "Oh what, you mean I have to use it?" as the most common feedback from people more and more.
The Opportunity Tomorrow
Context-driven: Think of all of the data that exists about us, and everything else, out in .... the world. From the dinner reservations we should be making to the life-changing health decisions we need to make, to what our business needs to do next.
Think of all of the data that can be harnessed from our technology. From the GPS and biometrics on our personal devices, to amalgamated sales data, environmental data ... 'big data'.
AI-first: With all of this existing context, what magic can machine learning and artifical intelligence prediction conjur up? What can be captured, analysed, predicted and then surfaced to a human, without the human having to be a user. Machines doing machine work, and humans ... living a human life.
Interface-agnostic: Interaction becomes less a human only visual-default experience, and more a neverending process that happens all around us.
I make a cinema reservation online, that is an 'input' automatically, without me doing anything else.
I forget to book somewhere for dinner. That is a process.
I get home from work one day, and my smart speaker reminds me "Hey Will, you still haven't booked somewhere for dinner after your cinema on Satuday, would you like to do that now?" That is an output.
A voice-based interaction then gives me smart-suggestion based conversation to solve my problem ... before it's a problem.
We should not leave this vision to sci-fi films, or dismiss it as pie-in-the-sky. Such attitudes, I hope, become the next "Oh, but a mobile phone screen is too small to replace desktop use."
The Prototyper's Role
So am I a turkey voting for Christmas? Wishing away visual interfaces and doing myself out of a job? No! My passion is not crafting visual interfaces, but designing user experiences. The practices outlined in my toolbox above are currently applied to visual interfaces.
But as the 'surface' of the inputs and outputs of interactions change to voice conversations, for example, that doesn't mean the need to do authentic user research vanishes. Businesses will still have needs, users will still have goals and pain points.
Voice interactions require serious information architecture work. How can we prevent users from getting 'lost' in a deeply complex conversation?
And above all, these experiences will still be prototyped, tested, and iterated. API.ai is one example, where a Google Action can be rapidly prototyped, tested and iterated before the effort and time of the business backend is developed.
Back in 2015 I developed an idea for my General Assembly course that best demonstrates my thoughts on design.
It's essentially the 'Nest Learning Thermostat' for wasted food. Every year UK consumers spend roughly £10bn on food ... that they just throw away.
"Fate" is a smart food bin that offers the consumer a deal: spend money on our device upfront, and after a year you'll have saved your money back, and each year after that you'll be saving hundreds of pounds.
It works by learning from what we waste to help us be more informed shoppers so we stop buying food that we'll never eat. A vicious cycle is transformed in to a feedback loop.