I have been very busy over the past seven or eight months or so completing work experience and making a range of industry contacts through various networking events as well as working with other NUA students on several collaborative projects.
In Year 1 I’d often write about external projects and events into my reflective journals, but for Year 2 I’ve decided to write all about these various things here in one post to keep the reflecive journals and posts about my university work more concise and only about my university work.
UX Internships and Work Experience
User Experience Designer & Developer Summer Internship
earthware ltd, July-August 2018
One of the challenges I set myself at the end of Year 1 for the summer of 2018 was to get myself an internship. Having completed my first year of BSc User Experience Design at Norwich University of the Arts, I applied for the UX Developer summer intern position at Earthware and was fortunate to be offered one of two places. The internship project was to design and create a chatbot using the Microsoft Bot Framework, writing in C#. Throughout the course of the internship I gained skills in working with clients, working to deadlines, carrying out user testing and learning more about UX design and software development on real products for real clients. We named our chatbot ‘Cura-T’.
I found it really interesting completing the user experience design process on a chatbot – it’s not something that I have ever done before and certainly requires a lot more thought about language and interaction than most applications do. As many as 3 out of 10 apps installed are chatbots in 2018, so it is a growing market and an area of UX and software design that is very much a part of the future.
Coding the bot was quite different to previous C# projects I have worked on, but I found it exciting to be creating a product that aligns with the technology of the future.
Below is the demo video of Cura-T that Ellie (the other intern) and I created in August 2018 demonstrating Cura-T’s abilities. Unfortunately due to NDAs there is not a lot more I can say or show of the bot.
User Experience Designer Part-Time Work Experience
The User Story, October 2018-January 2019
In October 2018 I was approached by Tom Haczewski, founder of Norwich-based UX consultants The User Story, asking if I would be interested in working part-time to work on redeveloping the website for the company. Between October 31st 2018 and January 30th 2019 I was employed by them to work one day per week on their website.
After finding out the business goals and objectives, looking at competitor’s websites and working with their copywriter, I produced several clickable wireframes using Axure RP 8 that showed what an improved website might look like for them.
My wireframes improve on their existing site by adding:
- Placing the names of their biggest clients at the top of their home page so that potential customers can see the types of clients who have trusted The User Story.
- Providing a visual representation of the UX design process to show potential customers how following it can help their business.
- Give far more depth and information about the specific services offered by the company and how they can help increase business.
- Provide detailed case studies of work completed for other companies, including key metrics to show how their solution helped the business. It is helped that these will help increase business as clients are able to see the kind of work that The User Story can do.
- Give some more company background information so that potential clients can gain an understanding of the type of company that The User Story are and whether they’d like to work with them.
Throughout the course of my employment my work was professionally critiqued by several of their staff members and I was also asked to provide thoughts and critique on other work that they were completing at the time. This has helped improve my design skills. Below is a video demonstration of my clickable wireframe.
I also learned a massive amount about usability testing, how to conduct formative research and how to drive meaning from research and analysing user tests. I constructed a user test for my website prototype which was evaluated by Katie Fisher, UX Researcher at The User Story, and improved upon following her feedback.
I thoroughly enjoyed my employment here and it was a real ‘gold dust’ opportunity to be able to work in the industry that I am studying, whilst still being a student! Tom and the team were really helpful and it was great to experience what working at a small, but vibrant, agency is like!
Tom gave me really nice feedback and suggested that information architecture was my strong point, as well as suggesting that working in a big multinational corporation may be the best place for me to start as I could become familiar working with a group of people on one product which would make it easier for me to later transition into a agency where I’d pick up working on multiple projects/products faster and easier.
Usability Testing Shadowing with John Ellison for AirBnB and shared economy insurance
February 15th 2019
On February 15th 2019 I completed a day’s shadowing with UX designer John Ellison. I assisted him with usability testing on a high-fidelity website prototype developed in InVision for a client of his who are offering insurance for shared economy hosts. This opportunity came about as a result of talking to John at various networking events that I have attended recently (more on that later). During the testing I took notes and helped John to synthesis the results and evaluate whether the website design is a success. John and I used post-it notes to map user thoughts and feelings about the brand, the proposition, the products offered, the purchasing experience and finally whether or not they’d buy this type of insurance. We ran the test with several AirBnB hosts who offered a lot of insight and information into their practice. There may be future opportunities to come out of this.
Freelance Web Development Projects
Aurora narrowboat website
Freelance web developer, June-August 2018
This was constructed in June 2018 and last modified in August 2018. The website is meant to inform visitors about the narrowboat ‘Aurora’, a narrowboat that my father has a part-share in. Not many narrowboats have their own website and the aim of this one is to advertise purchasing a share in its ownership – they typically sell for around £6,000. There is also a private section on the website for the owners of the boat where they can find technical information.
The other interesting thing about this project was that the favicon and loading screen illustration for the site was designed by NUA Graphic Design student Ella Flood. I paid her to do an illustration of the narrowboat which would appear on the site. At the time I would often ask and offer to pay people to do things like illustration and copy-writing for me because these are things that I’m either not particularly interested in, very good at, or have time to do. I felt it was also good preparation for the ‘working world’ where people work on teams and have their own specialisms. My specialism was the development and hers was the graphic design. Ella also gave some feedback on the aesthetic of the site too from a graphic designer’ perspective which I took onboard. Once again, collaborating with a student from another course meant that I learned a lot!
UX Internship Interviews
Redgate Software Product Designer interview
Redgate Software, November 2018
I attended an interview on December 13th 2018 after having applied for their Summer 2019 Product Design internship and completed the application project, however I was unsuccessful in my application. Below is a summarised version of the case study I sent them in November 2018 to accompany my application, prior to my interview.
The task was to improve the user interface of a web-based multi-user database dashboard and present a prototype of the proposed solution. I spent a total of four days creating my solution.
I began by ensuring that I fully understood the brief and the problems that the current system presents. I took the user research and considered several solutions that may work, drawing sketches of each on paper in a wireframe format. I drew wireframes of the user interface as a whole and also several sketches showing how data could be presented in the interface before committing these to the final prototype.
Presently, an easy-to-use but limited interface is used to find the deployment status of databases. The rows represent the projects that the databases belong to and the columns represent the stage of deployment.
The issue with this system is that whilst it’s intuitive to find statuses and projects, it’s not good at showing a lot of data where there are lots of projects being displayed, but not all the projects are going through the same stages, leading to large gaps in the interface. This means that scrolling and/or zooming in and out is required to view all data and it can be hard to view projects in context.
The provided user research highlights several other issues too, specifically:
- “It’s too difficult to see where important actions need to be taken” and that if a project has just one red state then it’s made a priority to look at, whereas other projects may need to be prioritised.
- “A lot of wasted space.” as a result of the gaps mentioned above.
The “majority of users were only interested in a sub-set of the projects, but we still have an Ops team who are involved in all the projects, so they would sometimes need to see everything”
My design combats these pain points by increasing the amount of items shown on the interface at any one time and therefore removing the ‘gaps’ mentioned above. I also implemented light and dark versions of my design, taking into account that some users may be using this software for a long time and that a dark theme may be comfortable for them to view.
Below is a video of the prototype that I created for Redgate.
Collaborative University Projects
Storehouse Online – Issue 17 website and Issue 18 Online Submission Form
I’ve worked on the Storehouse Online team for nearly a year and a half now, starting in October 2017 when I was creating the website for Issue 16, the first edition of Storehouse to feature an accompanying website. Storehouse is NUA’s student magazine, made by students, for students. Issue 16 and its website was launched in March 2018 and then Issue 17 followed. The Issue 17 website was created by myself over the summer of 2018 and launched with the magazine in October 2018. It featured several bug fixes such as improved mobile views and more refined animations, otherwise it is the same as the Issue 16 website but with Issue 17’s content on it. It is possible to switch between the Issue 16 and 17 content easily through the use of a toggle button on the home page.
Issue 17 was the first issue that I helped to run – I found myself doing a lot more admin work and delegation tasks than running the online team, so in October 2018 after Issue 17 had launched I gave up my role as the head of the online team and gave that to my friend Ameer. Ameer is working with the online team and I to produce an all-new website for Storehouse Issue 18, which will be launching at the end of March 2019. I’ve been overseeing the development of the new website but have not had a direct role in it as I am now overseeing the creation of the entire magazine. This has meant I’ve had to delegate tasks to people in areas that I’m not so skilled at, such as editorial design and copy-writing as well as sort out admin duties such as replying to emails about the magazine. It’s been a great thing for me and I’ve enjoyed the transition from head of one team to head of the magazine as I have learned to trust people, delegate better, manage a large project and also learn skills along the way.
A video demonstration of the form in action is below.
NUA Games Jam
I had a week off timetable at the end of November 2018 to collaborate with Games Art & Design students from NUA to create a game in Unreal Engine 4. Not being a games student, I focused mainly on the user interface and usability aspect of the game. I designed a very simple but effective ‘radial’ interface which showed time remaining and the ammunition that you had (in the shooter) and ‘affection’ (in the dating simulator) that sat in the upper left corner of the game and discretely showed this information and I also drew some illustrations of the weapons. Our game was a shooter game which then suddenly turned into a dating simulator – it was designed intentionally to be funny and a bit ‘tongue in cheek’. It won the award for the ‘most hilarious game’.
Working with the GAD students was fun and their technical ability was very impressive, however I felt that I wasn’t really suited to the project with my limited knowledge of games and interfaces for them, so I’m not sure if I’d participate in another one. It was good fun and definitely a unique experience, though!
Technology In Education
Speaking with Microsoft Education UK at the 2019 BETT Show
Microsoft Education UK, January 26th 2019
I’ve documented my history with working in education and Microsoft on here several times before, notably here and here, but I haven’t really been involved with Microsoft Education UK for a few years at the time of writing. I was invited, quite out of the blue, to present at the BETT Show (the UK’s largest educational technology show, held at the ExCel Arena in London each January) with Microsoft Education this year to talk about Office 365 and how sharing and editing files on OneDrive streamlines productivity and how Sway and PowerPoint allow you to design better presentations. The last time I was presenting at BETT I was 17 and talking about a scheme called ‘Office 365 Benefit’ which allowed students to get Microsoft Office for free. At BETT 2019 I learned that Office 365 is now completely free to all schools. How things change!
It was a fantastic experience to be talking about educational technology again and I felt that this was one of my smoothest and best-delivered presentations to date. Better than my TEDx presentation from 2016, even! It was also great to reconnect with Microsoft employees that I knew when I was 16 or 17 and let them know what I am doing now.
Step Into Tech – Techathon and Workshop Planning
I’ve been and ‘on and off’ volunteer at Step Into Tech since March 2018. It’s a local tech club run by volunteers who teach technology workshops for children aged 8-18. In October 2018 I attended their techathon – a two-day event in which teams of students use technology to solve problems set by a brief. NUA set one of the briefs which was to use technology to encourage children to be more active. I led a team of students to win the ‘best idea’ award after they designed a fame on Scratch that could run on a smartwatch that encourages children to go outside more and be active. Once again, it was amazing working with children – their enthusiasm and creativity will never cease to amaze me and this is why I loved working with children when I did. This was the second time I had attended this techathon (I also attended the inaugural April 2018 one, mentioned here) and the second time that a team of students that I mentored won the ‘best idea’ award.
Below is a video of the game prototype, named ‘xCerActive’, running in Scratch.
In September 2018 I decided that in order to get the best out of the club I needed to design and run my own workshops. I’ve been planning some workshops to run at the bi-weekly clubs with NUA Graphic Communication student, Elena Lockyer (pictured above), which will focus on paper prototyping and Photoshop manipulation. We hope to be running these soon.
Hot Source networking events
On the same day that I had my Redgate interview, there was an event called Hot Source which is a networking event for Norwich creative professionals and technologists. It runs every month and I went to this particular one because Olivia Campey and Katie Fisher from The User Story (where I was working at the time) were presenting and I wanted to support them. I’ve been to every one since and I always find them enjoyable and meet new people all the time. I’ve even had some UX opportunities come out of these events, such as being asked to help participate in one-day usability testing sessions which is a gold dust opportunity.
At the moment, nothing is confirmed, but here is what could be in the pipeline.
Shadowing opportunities at IBM iX in London (April 2019)
I’ve been trying to arrange this since October and it may happen. This has come from a university contact and would be an amazing experience to be able to get a week or two shadowing at IBM in London to support my course!
WorldPay Post-Graduate Scheme (June 2020)
This one is a long way off and I will likely be applying to several post-graduate schemes at large companies after I graduate, but I was approached by WorldPay via LinkedIn in February 2019 as they were interested in offering me a job as a UX designer in Cambridge. Unfortunately I couldn’t accept the position, but they said that I should definitely get back in touch with them in 2020 and they were impressed by my work experience at Earthware and The User Story which I had completed whilst I was still studying.