Ever wonder what a typical day in a Digital Agency looks like or just curious about the behind the scenes life of an agency? In this series, we get an insider’s view of the day to day workings, what it takes, tips and insights.
In this episode, we focus on i3 Digital’s Design Team.
Here’s what Stephen Currie, one of i3 Digital’s UX Designers had to say:
Please describe your job. What do you do? And who do you report to?
Stephen Currie: My role is that of a user experience designer, but it blurs the line between research, user interface design and a bit of front-end development. It’s a very enjoyable role due to this variation. This all comes about through weekly design meetings with the design team. Where we discuss active projects and any issues or revelations we have found in the previous week. Conversations may even include new technologies or methodologies we should be using to improve our workflow.
Essentially, we try to find ways to improve our processes and help each other should there be any blockers or concerns with current projects. Reporting to project managers happens during daily stand-ups for all of those involved in a project. This is a great opportunity to ensure each member of the respective teams are on track and any issues can be exposed as a group.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Stephen Currie: To become a user experience designer, you really need the fundamental skills of design thinking and an understanding of empathy for users. To really excel you have to be an attentive listener though. Listening to a client’s business goal and listening to users might seem like a very straight forward practice, but it’s extremely important not to lose sight of either as you progress through a project.
Another set of must-haves is confidence and leadership qualities. These are very important for facilitating workshops or user testing sessions. Lastly, skills that lend themselves to designing such as the experience of using the latest design and prototyping tools, as well as knowledge of analytical and user research platforms.
Tell us about a typical working day…
Stephen Currie: My day typically starts with a stand up with other team members involved in a particular project. I could be on a couple of projects, so you guessed it, multiple stand-ups usually lasting no more than 15mins. A working day can vary greatly depending on how deep into a project we are. Early in a project, conversations with our PMs and stakeholders are usually centred around any existing research or access to users. Typical queries include:
• Do they have Analytics information?
• Crazy egg or Hot Jar reporting setup?
• Have they access to mailing lists?
• Can they see end out user surveys?
This then leads into the analysis phase of our research, whether it’s diving into Google Analytics, collating survey results, studying user behaviour within screen recordings or out interviewing users. It’s all very research-based.
What follows is the design phase, which includes:
• Pen and paper wireframe sketching
• Low fidelity prototyping
• UI designing
• Producing high fidelity mock-ups
What do you love about your job?
Stephen Currie: What I love about my role is that not only do I get to be creative, I get to interact and be involved with stakeholders, users and other team members. I work well with others and find collaboration such an important part of any creative process. I especially love discovering how products we work on can change a person’s life. Something like simply designing an intuitive UI that solves a problem and the user enjoys is a great feeling.
Main challenges? That’s a hard one, but if I have to be honest one thing that can be a real challenge is the HIPPO effect. This stands for ‘highest-paid person's opinion’, and usually this happens in meetings but sometimes sneaks into a workshop. Thanks to Workshop facilitation training I received from the Nielsen Norman Group, techniques such as communicating the value of ALL participants’ opinions and their contributions and referring to research that can prove/disprove any assumptions is extremely beneficial to get everyone realigned.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Stephen Currie: One of my key goals is to continue my NN/g UX training to grow my current abilities, learn new methodologies and network with more like-minded individuals. KPIs for measuring my success as a UX Designer can be anything from positive feedback provided by stakeholders after a design workshop. Or from user feedback once a product has shipped and I learn how beneficial the improvements are to the user and their daily life.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Stephen Currie: Recently I have converted to Adobe XD as opposed to Sketch which I stood over for quite some time. Everything from wireframing to high fidelity mock-ups and interactive prototyping all under one roof. I love it. Another fantastic tool is Crazy Egg. Having the capability to set up goals and journeys to record the user behaviour, and have access to heatmaps is a great help when trying to discover issues with user flows and interactions.
Lastly, good old Google Analytics and Tag Manager. These working in tandem for research purposes are fantastic. They help to get an early understanding of demographics, user behaviour, issues with user journeys and expose actual behavioural flows.
How did you first get into this line of work, and where might you go from here?
Stephen Currie: I graduated out of University in 2007 and dove into a design and print agency for 5 years. There I was a sole web designer at quite a young age. I learned how to deal with clients and vocalise my design thinking quite early on. From there I moved to an in-house web design and content management role for large hospitality company for 4 years. This gave me exposure to both client-side and agency aspects of the creative process.
In this role, I realised I no longer wanted to be sandwiched in the middle and started to study User Experience design on my own time. I used this training and the achieved qualification to advance my career into a creative agency that had a solid focus on UX. From here I simply want to grow as a UX designer, facilitate more workshops and consult business’ on best practices and their approaches to solving user problems.
Do you have any advice for people who want to do a similar role?
Stephen Currie: Honestly, just listen. Listen to advice from others. Find a mentor to help you grow. Get your hands on a few solid UX books like Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug and Universal Principles of Design by William Lidwell. Listen to UX podcasts like UXpodcast. I even find splitting your social channels to maybe have one for fun and one solely for Design based content is a great help and avoids distraction. Follow respected designers for inspiration, but don’t fall into the trap of endless hours looking at Dribbble or Behance thinking “I’ll never be that good”. Maybe you don’t have to.
When facilitating workshops or conducting user interviews, be honest with yourself and with others. If you don’t know or don’t understand something, just ask. I have facilitated workshops for stakeholders representing huge global organisations, and there have been times I haven’t understood a product or reason for a decision, and the best course of action is simply to stop and clarify with them. Just remember you are potentially new to their company and their product and the more information you can learn on your feet and use to your advantage the better.
Want to be a part of the i3 Digital team? Check out our current job vacancies.