Design degree and the first design job
I started out as a website designer when I first entered the design world post-university (Bachelor of Applied Sciences w/ Hons) at a SaaS company called JobAdder based in Sydney, Australia.
These guys were seriously disrupting the recruitment industry, much like Xero at the time. They were taking laborious ‘follow-up’ work and automating it for recruiters – cool!
Working on a piece of software that had 5000 daily active users, I soon realised I was less fascinated with the visual appeal of websites and more obsessed with how complex web applications functioned.
- Does the flow of the interface make sense for new users?
- Where’s the information hierarchy – can I find what I need easily?
- What’s the primary action we’re wanting the user to take here, and conversely, what are they actually trying to achieve at any given moment?
Over time I learned to understand user problems at their root well before getting onto crafting solutions. How can we design solutions to problems we don’t first understand?
I really enjoyed my time at JobAdder, but my curiosity came calling after only 12 months of living in Sydney…
Jumping ship to startup life
A few of my tech-minded friends back in Melbourne had an idea for a business and needed my design and user expericence skills.
The concept was essentially identical to what’s now known as medium.com – a blog network of sorts around sharing cool stories. This was all very well, except we were building it from scratch with next to no money (in comparison to Medium’s millions) and learning how to run a business at the same time (Read more about this on StartupSmart).
Not only was I designing the interface and mapping out user flows each day, I was also appointed to steer the company, raise our seed rounds and handle all ends of the business alongside my co-founder.
It was a wild ride of exceptional highs and the lowest of lows.
Over 18 months we had conceptualised and built one of the most complex front and backend platforms at the time – but as any entrepreneur will tell you – just shipping an idea is not enough. With dwindling numbers and a struggle to grow, we run out of cash and had no option but to close the doors.
In hindsight, the exposure to startup life, running a business and the skills I learn’t from it were invaluable to where I find myself today.
Unique Value Proposition
Without coming across as a narcissist – I believe it’s my ability to bring a multi-faceted, hands-on and practical approach to any design team that sets my apart from your average joe designer.
Where some obsess over the small pixels and minute details, I’m able to see the bigger picture and realise that releasing a well rounded skateboard, is better than a half-finished sports car with all the bells and whistles. Focus on the core issues, deliver solutions to those first, then improve with delight.
Any good product is also about balance – it’s got to look and feel amazing, but at the same time pay the bills and entice growth. Harnessing the two can be difficult, but it’s part of the fun.
Nowadays I’m leading a team of UI / UX Designers and looking after a large set of products under the WPMU DEV brand. While I still get to design things daily (yay), most of my value is spent advising on user experience issues, and managing the high-level direction of our product suite.
A couple of awards I’ve snagged:
- 2017 & 18 – Smush (one of my plugin designs) won the top prize at Torque Plugin Madness competition two years running.
- 2013 – Named a Future Maker by StartupSmart
- 2009 – Received Annie Aiken Memorial Award for highest-achievement in BAppSc.
- 2008 – Won Best Use of Design Award at National Business Review Audacious Business Competition
Thanks for listening,