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Meet the team - James Sharpe

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What do you do?

I’d describe my job as being broken up into two parts – the first part is the traditional side of user experience, so analysing user journeys, doing user testing, creating wireframes for best practice solutions and basically looking at everything from a customer’s point of view.

The second part is all about using and facilitating design thinking workshops to resolve both customer and business problems by looking from the top down, and using rapid prototyping to bring concepts to life.

How did you get into it?

I started off as a graphic designer, way before the role was split into specialties like digital or print. Back then it was assumed that you could design across all platforms and media. As I started focusing more on digital, the UX part (especially forms and e-commerce) really excited me. Luckily I’ve been able to work on loads of projects that required a lot of UX thought, so the jump from UI to UX has felt natural so far.

What’s your favourite thing about your role?

I love the design thinking side of it, and really enjoy running workshops with people. The best thing for me is when you put someone in a customer’s shoes and they have a lightbulb moment when they realise what a customer is going to experience. We can become so focused on how things are going to work from a technology perspective, that it’s good to bring it to life for people from a user’s point of view.

What’s the biggest challenge you face?

There are so many challenges in this industry; it’s not as straightforward as e-commerce.

Selling a jacket is simple: You get people to look at the jacket, give them a description and offer them some sizes. They select their size and add it to their basket. Then you get them to check out and purchase the product, and if you’re really good, you upsell a matching t-shirt. It’s a straightforward user journey.

Insurance is a lot more complicated. People buy insurance products out of necessity rather than desire – i.e. you have to have car insurance. There’s also a huge amount of pre-work for a user to do before they get to a premium page, so making that journey painless and intuitive is very, very hard.

On top of that, there are lots of people to please. Every stakeholder has objectives that need to be met, so it’s a case of piecing those objectives together while delivering the best possible experience for our users.

I like that I get to think about our customers first and foremost. That’s my job, and it’s also a challenge. I don’t want them to feel confused. They should leave with a clear understanding of what it was they came to purchase, and be happy with all their selections.

Do you think there are a lot of opportunities to develop here?

I think I’m probably a very good example of someone who’s gone through quite a few career jumps in a short space of time here. I’ve found everyone very supportive in helping me take my next steps. The personal development process is really good for helping people progress in their career, and the organisation as a whole is very good at looking after staff, and offers a lot in the form of incentives and discounts. The working hours are ideal, too - 9-5 is great for a work/family balance.

Do you like working in Bromley?

I like to refer to Bromley as “Brom Brom”, and yes, I really like working here. My commute is only about 45 min, and you have everything that you need right on the high street. I’ve just had my second child, and my wife is well aware of how close I am to the shops, so more often than not, I’m dashing off at lunch to buy nappies or toddler clothes.

What advice would you give someone thinking about getting into user experience design?

People tend to get quite caught up with tools and software skills, but realistically you can prototype on a piece of paper. There are a lot of expensive software courses out there for designers, but I really recommend not going down that route. It’s better to just spend your time recreating things that you love, and in doing so you’ll learn all of the core skills you need.

Also read as much as you can. One book that really sticks out in my mind is Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. This is such a fast-moving industry where things change so often, you have to work hard to stay up to date.

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