This month we talked to Chris Myhill.
If you are interested in being mentored by Chris, or if you just want to learn more about our mentoring programme, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been designing websites, apps and other digital gubbins for over eight years.
A career spent in digital agencies has given me the opportunity to work with loads of organisations, from teeny startups to FTSE100 giants.
I’m all about introducing teams to the wonders of user-centered design… and helping businesses make better products.
How did you start your career in UX?
As a youngun, I knew I wanted to make digital products. At the time, I figured that meant being a developer.
So that’s how I trained. I studied as a computer programmer for quite a few years. It took me a little too long to understand that whilst I loved making things, I was a pretty lousy developer.
I didn’t have the patience to write clean, tidy code. Making awesome production code is an fine art, and it just wasn’t in my nature. All I wanted to do create things quickly, so I could see people’s reactions to using them.
The idea of feedback and iteration was exciting to me. That’s when I was pointed towards user-centered design. When I discovered a whole field dedicated to this idea of prototyping and user feedback, I knew I’d found my niche.
I started reading everything I could about ‘UX’ (or ‘HCI’. The much less sexy name used in academia back then). I took on some junior consultant and mentoring opportunities, and started getting more into design.
Eventually, I joined a London-based digital agency as an information architect – and have been on that side of the industry ever since. After eight years of agency-side UX, I’m focusing on starting my own consultancy; Just UX Design.
What is a typical day for you?
The very nature of being UX consultant makes you a jack-of-all-trades.
Some days I’ll be running workshops with clients or users, helping them to agree the vision for a product. Other days I’ll be getting my head down, creating some prototypes that’ll bring that vision to life.
The same goes for the topic area. I’ve worked with charities, supermarkets, museums engineering firms, banks and all sorts. Every project is an opportunity to learn something different, and understand a different industry.
That’s the great thing about what we do. Every day is different, and you’re always learning.
What do you recommend to someone who wants to start a career in UX?
A lot of people just starting in the industry are attracted to the glamour of large tech firms; the Googles, Facebooks & Amazons of the world.
These organisations are great, but I’d recommend starting with smaller projects. With these, you can totally own the end-to-end UX process – and that’s a great way to begin your career.
Agencies, particularly smaller ones with more local clients, are great for this. Or just approach small local businesses directly, and see if you can help them out. As long as you’ve got a mentor to give you some pointers, and you’re motivated to self-teach – you’ll learn way faster.
UX is a discipline of many hats, and it can take a while to decide which one you most enjoy wearing. Smaller projects are the best way to sample all of the different specialisms, and build that fabled ‘T-shaped-skillset’.
What is the best advice you have received in your career?
Never stop learning, and never stop being humble.
UX is a big field, and one person can’t be awesome at everything.
The industry also moves way too quickly to stay up to date without help. Keep going to meet-ups. Keep reading. Stay passionate. And appreciate that almost everyone is going to be better a certain things than you are, so learn from them!
What is the future of UX for you?
Whereas the remit of UX was once just user interfaces on a screen, we’re now being empowered with SO much more.
Different platforms and technologies have given us more ways to work. Design-led thinking has also become critical to the running of successful businesses.
It’s given us a much more strategic seat at the table. I there’s a reason that so many designers end up being founders!