Every day, for the next 6 days, I’m doing a brief Q&A with a UX pro, who’s taking part in our 10 minute speed sessions to fix your website UX. This is an amazing opportunity for you to get 10 minutes of free, one-on-one feedback on your website UX!
Tell me a little about your UX knowledge/practice:
Currently I work remotely from Vancouver with clients across three continents. I have two business partners: One based in Tampa and one just north of Boston. We all have very similar levels of experience, both with UX work and with consulting, however we all have varying strengths and our skill sets are very complementary. My role is predominantly leading research and strategy efforts. Justin Davis is effectively our CTO, and one of the best interaction designers out there. He is an excellent prototyper and developer, and of the strongest UX brains I’ve ever worked with. Matthew Grocki is an excellent content strategist, IA and writer. He is amazing at both creating and organizing content. I come from a marketing and web analytics background, so my approach to design tends to be more evidence-based and data-driven.
Who have you worked with/for?
Everyone from early stage startups to government ministries. Over the years my client roster has spanned industries like finance, telecom, software, cultural institutions, non-profits and foundations, healthcare, higher education and even (video)gaming. The list is long and truly varied. Some of our clients include: VMware, Target, Adobe, HSBC, Government of British Columbia, City of Vancouver, GoogleVentures, Automated Data Processing (ADP), CA Technologies, AT&T, Sundance Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, KQED San Francisco, Stanford University, Disney Interactive, EA Sports/Electronic Arts, CSL Hong Kong and Telstra.
Which project are you most proud of?
I would have to say the year I spent conducting research on Healthcare.gov on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and also the various state health insurance exchanges, like CoveredCA.com (California) and MNsure.org (Minnesota). The findings from this work were presented to the team at the White House and it’s been very cool to see many of the recommendations rolled out—and reported on by publications such as the NYTimes. The project really opened my eyes to how people actually use the web and technology, and the various struggles and barriers they face. It was trench warfare, as far as UX was concerned.
What do you consider the biggest problem with websites today?
It’s not so much a problem with websites, but rather the people who design and build them. I think my answer would be that overall people, in the web and tech space, need to leave their comfortable cubicles and get out into the world. Actually meet with, talk to and observe the people they are trying to solve for. I feel the biggest problem with the web today is that too much of it is built around faulty assumptions and not evidence. People will say “You’re a great designer! SO creative!” and I really bristle at this. I’m just a good listener. Everyone could be a great designer if they listened more. Once you gain true understanding and empathy for what your users are up against, designing against that evidence is actually quite simple.
What quick fix could any website owner make to immediately improve his/her website?
Again: Talk to your audience. This actually can be a “quick fix.” You don’t need to do weeks of research. It can be as simple as reaching out to five or ten of your customers, or people you know you’d like to target. Just hop on the phone and spend an hour talking to some of your constituents. Ask about what they do day-to-day, how they do it, what is top of mind for them and what they worry about, what annoys them about their work or their life as it might relate to your product—and also what things they love. Test your assumptions, gain a truer understanding of their context, and learn about ways you could better serve these folks. Take the last 15 – 20 minutes you’re on the phone together and have them peruse your site with you. You’ll quickly come up with a very prioritized list of improvements to tackle.