I’ve been in my new job for almost three months now and I’m really enjoying the new challenges. Anyone who reads my blog will know I used to work as a Web Strategy Manager within a local authority.
Towards the end of last year I switched to a User Experience Specialist role in a software company. I was keen to develop my UX skills and an opportunity came up at Red Gate, a local software company who are really committed to making sure their products have good UX. So much so, the company strapline is ‘ingeniously simple tools’!
It’s been a big change for me in many ways:
- I moved from a management / strategic role to a more hands on role.
- I moved from a generalist role to a more specialist role.
- I moved from the public sector to the private sector.
- I moved from a role focused entirely on Web, to one that’s mostly focused on desktop (Windows) software.
The Web sites I worked on previously were informational and transactional. The products I work on now are essentially productivity tools. Windows applications that help people work smarter, faster and reduce errors when carrying out complex tasks. The tools are aimed at database developers, so it’s also a fairly technical domain.
There have been quite a few changes in how I work. Here are a few of my observations.
- In my last job we had a very wide range of users. Now I deal with a niche group of users. This is actually easier in a lot of respects when you are recruiting customers for interviews or usability tests.
- For Windows software I’ve found that pattern libraries and UI examples seem few and far between compared to Web exampes. Maybe I just haven’t found the right resources yet. Our UX team still tends to take a lot of inspiration from Web and mobile apps and I’ve discovered sites like Quince which are helpful additions to the Window guidelines.
- It can be harder to release frequently and gather usage statistics for A/B tests. I realise now how much I took Google Analytics for granted! But our team have been working hard to address this issue.
- I’m designing for rich interactions much more than I ever used to. For example the software I’m currently working on supports people to write code in a development environment. I think there’s a kind of ‘UX zen’ you need to achieve when designing this kind of software. It requires close observation of user behaviour and continual contextual enquiry to understand user goals, context of use and empathise with their pain points.
- In my previous role our customers didn’t have much choice about using our Web site. Now I work on products in a competitive, commercial environment. Our products have to be useful and easy to use and have a ‘wow’ factor, which creates a loyal and happy customer base. I don’t believe this means I think about the User Experience in a different way, it just means there’s a different set of business objectives and constraints to consider.
- Although we used the Scrum development method in my last organisation our sprint progress was tracked with a burndown spreadsheet, due to lack of wall space. This used to frustrate me, so I’m now really appreciating the extensive use of whiteboards and stickies! Pretty much all the work the team is doing and our progress is very visible on the walls around us.
- Although I don’t manage people directly, I still take an active interest in our team’s development and recruiting new staff. So hopefully I can make sure my management skills are still being put to good use.
- Last but not least, I am rubbish at writing SQL queries! But trying to improve.
I’m learning a huge amount each week. I’ve taken a bit of a break from this blog to adjust to the changes. But I’m hoping to get back to blogging now that I’ve settled in and everything is becoming more familiar.
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