Life as a UX Consultant

Have you ever wondered what life as a UX Consultant is really like here in the South West? What does one do? What does it take to become one and what to stay top of the game?

We caught up with Jesmond Allen, Freelance UX Consultant, to get the facts for you – regardless if you are thinking of becoming one or adding one to your team – some insights for you right here:

ADLIB: In approx. 30 words and plain English, what do you do?

Jesmond Allen: I help businesses develop sustainable user experience strategies. I work with them to build in-house digital design teams and I use research and prototyping to deliver user-centred digital products.

ADLIB: In a nutshell, what has been your career journey so far?

Jesmond Allen:  I’ve been doing this for such a long time, it’s difficult to fit it all into a nutshell! But I’ll try…

Following a Fine Art degree, I was introduced to the wonders of Photoshop and all things digital design, and loved it instantly. My first proper job was as a digital artworker on a CD-ROM (remember them?). Then I moved into graphic design for websites. I ended up as a senior designer for a million-page ISP website, and there’s nothing like that job to drive you towards the emerging field of information architecture. (This was the late nineties.)

I was also fascinated by the development side of the web, and took time out to complete a Masters in Computer Science, where I stumbled on the field of Human-Computer Interaction. I immediately loved the use of psychology and research as tools to improve design. I had found my niche! I was determined to work in the field of usability from then on.

A couple of jobs later, and after a move to Bristol, I was lucky enough to meet the founders of cxpartners, just as they were starting out. I was their first UX hire and I stayed there for 11 years. I had an amazing time working on interesting projects, honing my trade, working with brilliant people and growing the team there. I learned so much. Since leaving cxpartners, I’ve been freelancing, helping clients build digital design teams. It’s going well – every new job is a new challenge, there’s always lots to learn, and I have a wealth of experience to offer my clients.

ADLIB: What do you like most about your job?

Jesmond Allen: I love that I can really make a big difference to my clients’ businesses – bringing their users’ needs to life helps them make better decisions. Helping them bring user-centred design in-house brings lasting change.

ADLIB: What are 3 key things you consider when choosing what you work on/ your next contract?

Jesmond Allen:

  1. Is there buy-in for user-centred design at a senior level within the business?
  2. Do they need something I can offer? (I don’t want to charge people for work they don’t need!) Is there an interesting problem to help them solve?
  3. Is there a good cultural fit: will we get on? Will I enjoy working there?

ADLIB: What 3 top tips would you give someone to ensure that their skills and knowledge within UX remain top notch?

Jesmond Allen:

  • Practice balancing business and user needs, as well as diplomacy skills!
  • Keep learning – read articles, go to conferences and meet ups, talk to UXers and others from different disciplines.
  • Listen very carefully to your client’s needs.

Thank you Jesmond for sharing!

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