This month we talked to Sjors Timmer. If you are interested in being mentored by Sjors, or if you just want to learn more about our mentoring programme, please email Misha or Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How did you start your career in UX?
I did an MA in digital media design. In retrospect, however, it was only after 5 jobs that I discovered that what I was doing and liked to do, was called UX. The job that I applied for described exactly what I wanted to do, but instead of the title senior designer, I was suddenly called UX designer. Armed with this new term I discovered a whole world of design history that went beyond graphic design. If I had to do it all over again I wish someone had pointed out this wonderful paper from 1985: Designing for Usability: Key Principles and What Designers Think
What is a typical day for you?
At the moment, I work in an agile-styled project environment. In general I’d be working on activities related to one of the following challenges: 1. Figuring out what has happened before I got in, speaking to the product owner to understand the inner workings of the business and catching up with developers to understand the software they are working on. 2. Creating better solutions, questioning existing parts of the site, prototyping new ones and talking to my colleagues to come up with better ideas. 3. Testing our new solutions and interviewing users to get a better understanding of their needs. And then it starts all over again with coming up with better solutions for our users, whilst also taking into account the business needs and technical constraints.
What do you recommend to someone who wants to start a career in UX?
It’s easy to get carried away with the surface: this year you need to know about machine learning and virtual reality while only last year you’d better had known about voice UI, invisible UI and designing for watches. Underneath all this fast changing technology, however, is a slower moving layer of humans and their world. I would echo many of the points made by Aza Raskin: invest your time in reading about psychology, about how our bodies physically deal with the world and the limits they have. Read about critical thinking and try to recognise the many biases we all have (and how to avoid them a bit). Understand how organisations work and how to work with other people. And yes, also learn about graphic design and how to visualise your thoughts in ways that allows others to understand your thinking and enable them to critique it and make it better.
What is the best advice you received in your career?
The weird thing with advice is that it only seems to work when it’s given to you at the exact right moment by a person who knows you and the situation well. Otherwise it always sounds like a platitude. Having said that, I think the GDS list of 10 design principles will remain good advice for years to come.
What is the future of UX for you?
One interesting area are digital objects that move away from what Bret Victor caled Pictures Under Glass (and I think we can count VR/AR headsets in that category too) and start exploring a more tactile and tangible such as the products made by Vifa or Google Home. And, on a more abstract level, I Like Tom Loosemore’s definition of digital: “Applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the Internet-era to respond to people’s raised expectations”. I am hopeful that using the best digital practices can contribute to future services that are more humane and work for everyone.