User Experience Director
Business : fffunction
Location : fffunction are split between Penryn in Cornwall and Bristol
Years in tech : 18 (cripes)
I lead on bringing users, understanding of them and empathy for them into the design process of the projects we work on. That involves a wide range of techniques and disciplines such as user research, user testing, information architecture, user interface design, and prototyping.
What does your company do and what’s great about working there?
We’re a user-centred design agency. We work on web sites and apps, and the products and services around them.
The fffunction team are small and talented and the work we attract is interesting, challenging, and high quality. Being small means everyone gets involved in the direction of the company and we hold regular get-togethers throughout the year where we discuss the company and the work we’re doing, as well as cooking together, relaxing together and doing activities together.
Being split between two sites in Cornwall and Bristol means that we’re adept at working together and remotely and I like the flexibility which that brings.
What are your favorite products and services you have helped to develop?
Recently I would say my favourite projects have included MacGuffin, a jukebox for literature where you can search for, read, listen to and upload short stories: https://macguffin.io
And Dorothy House, the website for a hospice in Somerset which involved me doing user interviews with folk who had been suddenly thrust into the role of caring for a friend or family member who had been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. These interviews were very hard work emotionally, but fascinating, enlightening, and incredibly useful in the design of the site we built. http://www.dorothyhouse.org.uk/
I graduated with a degree in computer science from the University of Manchester and started work straightaway in a graduate placement scheme for a large company which developed software and networking products and services for the education sector.
Initially I was designing and building networking systems software but fairly quickly discovered that what I was really into was user interface design and development.
Since that first job, working in various small and medium sized agencies, I’ve steered my work more and more towards user experience, particularly user research and user testing.
After a brief spell working in the amazing in-house digital team at the Eden Project, I was hired by fffunction to be a ‘user experience developer’ (it was a confused title for a confused role!). Nowadays I focus on user experience rather than development although my technical background means that I can build prototypes myself and get involved in production build where needed.
What’s your favorite part of the work you do?
User interviews! I love immersing myself into other people’s worlds and spending a few hours talking to a bunch of them is a great way to do that and makes a huge difference to the quality of our work.
The software sector is not just about coding and the once stereotypical image of the backroom geek is total nonsense now.
Everyone brings something to this exciting field so find out what’s out there and find out what you can do.
What piece of advice would you give anyone considering a career in the Software sector?
Get out there, talk to people and collaborate.
Join hack days and design jams, participate in community projects.
Volunteer your time with charities who need your help with websites and social media.
If someone was interested in doing the job you do what advice would you give and what resources might you recommend?
Read ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ by Steve Krug.
I have a bunch of links I always recommend to folks who are interested in getting into UX: https://pinboard.in/search/u:bouncingdan?query=ux+primer
What’s the best thing about living and working in Cornwall?
Being near the sea (it’s why I moved down here).
It’s a region full of smart, creative, friendly people doing interesting, cool stuff. That might be surprising, and it’s taken a bit of time to discover those people, but it’s worth it!
I’m happy for people to get in touch to get more advice, particularly around user experience things.
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