This month we start a new series of monthly interviews with our mentors. We asked them to tell us a little bit more about themselves, what they do and what they recommend to someone who wants to work in UX. Our first guest is Damian Rees, Director at Experience UX.
If you want to learn more about our mentoring programme, please email Monica at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who is Damian Rees?
When I studied Applied Psychology at Uni, I learned a lot about the limits of the human brain. Our attention span, our memory limitations, and the limits of our perception. I learned how the design of interfaces affected our ability to operate efficiently. This sparked an interest for me that I continue to have today.
I now work with clients to ensure their websites, apps, and digital experiences do not place cognitive load upon their users who are trying to find products, buy, or complete applications. Reducing unnecessary friction and ensuring the entire user experience is free from frustration is something I’m still very passionate about.
How did you start your career in UX?
After I graduated, I applied for a job with a large London web agency as a junior designer. I didn’t really have graphic design skills, but I felt I had something to offer as part of the design process. They saw the potential in what I talked about, and 7 interviews later I was offered a role to set up a small usability team. Since then I have worked in the BBC and then at National Air Traffic Services, and one more web agency before I started my own business 9 years ago.
What is a typical day for you?
I’m a founder and Director of Experience UX. We’re a small, specialist user experience company working with top UK brands to architect first class user experiences.
As a Director my responsibilities stretch across a lot of different areas of the business from marketing, HR, IT, and ensuring all the UX work we do really makes a difference for our clients and their users. There’s not really a typical day for me.
We work with our clients to implement a user centred design process into their culture. So a lot of what I do is to encourage them to shift their design decision making away from gut-feel and assumptions, to basing them on evidence from regular user research. To do this I run a variety of meetings, training sessions, and workshops.
What do you recommend to someone who wants to start a career in UX?
I usually encourage anyone who wants to do UX to start with user research and build their skills there. I believe that you can’t be an effective UX person if you don’t test your ideas and assumptions with users on a regular basis. So if you want to be great at UX, you should start with getting really good at the research side.
What is the best advise you received in your career?
Back when user research was a new thing and print designers were newly responsible for designing interactive experiences. I had regular clashes with people who felt designers knew best and user research was a waste of time.
The advice I was given at the time was to involve other people as much as possible with my research. To understand their needs from the research, get them to observe, and to ask them to contribute to the finding and solutions.
What is the future of UX for you?
If organisations continue to adopt a user centred way of working, and they get that right, there will be no need for a separate function or department called UX. So we’ll become more integrated into the product design and development field. There will also be a massive push in the direction of algorithms and AI to improve and optimise interfaces.
However, it might be more important than ever to perform the role of understanding users, testing interfaces, and making sure users can, and want to, use the new products and services we’re working on. So as long as we can find ways to adapt and be open to change, I see the function of UX increasing in importance.