alexandtheweb / blog

Service embedding lessons from a lone UX designer

Earlier this month I wrapped up my stint as senior designer at Fresh Egg. Nervous and excited as I am about my very new role, it’s time for a quick look back at a varied, rewarding and remarkable 16 months with one of the biggest agencies in the South.

It certainly was varied. I worked with businesses of all sizes across a multitude of sectors. I tackled everything from new product development to large scale site redesigns to minor conversion optimization projects. I juggled expert evaluations, user study facilitation, experience mapping, interactive prototyping and A/B testing. Frazzling, but fun.

What about the remarkable part? Despite the strength of its dev and design teams, Fresh Egg’s business tips more towards its SEO and social media offering. To be fair, two years ago they would have fared pretty badly on any UX maturity scale. When I joined FE it was as its first – and sole – user experience nut. Despite this, I was placed in a position of trust and allowed to introduce a bevy of new ideas and practices. I was given free reign to turn meeting rooms into testing labs, plaster everything with postit notes and inundate the reception desk with a stream of study participants. Above all, I was given opportunity after opportunity to integrate UCD practices into new project pitches. For all of this I give Fresh Egg endless credit.

Trust and open-mindedness within the business were key. But what else was it about Fresh Egg’s culture, people and projects which allowed UX to be embraced as a service offering? Here are a few things which seemed to work, offered as tips to anyone who may find themselves in a similar situation:

  • Quickly find a small but rewarding case study. Hoard the results – particularly positive quantitative results
    Shortly after joining FE I worked with the insight team on a series of A/B tests which compared my design tweaks within a client’s key conversion path. A few days’ work translated into some very positive numbers and we had our first case study as well as a justification for future work.
  • Integrate with existing services
    The UX “sell” for Fresh Egg was fortunately tidy and natural. The SEO services brought the right audience to clients’ sites. Once there, the efforts of the UX and insight teams kept them there.
  • Teach and learn – internally and externally
    Sneaking in short presentations into team meetings went a long way in making others understand the nature of my role. But thanks to Nick, FE’s services director, we also hosted a number of evening community events on UX topics, which educated staff and positioned us as a user-focused agency. Attending and sponsoring UX events helped as well.
  • Piggy back on new projects
    New processes don’t have to seem new to new clients, who should have no reason to believe that user focus isn’t the status quo. Similarly, it’s easier to justify new approaches when working with a new domain or technology (say, mobile).
  • Have a champion
    Needless to say, without the support of Ollie, FE’s head of design and Nick, I doubt I would have made any headway at all.

A final note of reflection: I did leave the Egg with a feeling that I hadn’t given it my all. But to be fair I couldn’t have: my MSc took priority and I stubbornly refused to get anything other than the absolute most out of my expensive education. On a personal level, Fresh Egg was also a massive confidence booster. While my assertiveness and ease have some ways to go, I have Adam and Co to thank for letting me find my voice.