Designing an excellent user experience (known in the industry as “UX”) has always been a priority for Rocketmakers. Software can be extremely innovative and well built, but it only becomes game-changing when it squarely meets a user’s needs.
In July 2020 Rocketmakers added even more firepower to its design team with our newest dedicated UX designer, Holly Burn. We decided to catch up with Holly to learn more about her, what her first six months at Rocketmakers have been like, and find out why she thinks UX is so important.
Rocketmakers: Hi Holly, I’m looking forward to hearing from you about UX, but first why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself. Have you always been a UX designer?
Holly Burn: No, actually. I tried several jobs before discovering this is what I really wanted to do. I taught high school chemistry, worked as a personal assistant, helped manage a chalet, and for a year I worked in the management office for the Kuwaiti royal family.
RM: Wait, what? Can you explain that last one? Were you living in Kuwait?
HB: No, I was based in the UK. The royal family has a lot of properties here. It was an exciting job, but high pressure. You could be asked to arrange or organise anything, and then somehow I had to find a way to make it happen. It required a lot of creative problem solving, and I had to be super organised.
RM: And did that experience somehow lead to a career in software?
HB: Not exactly, although the skillset has still been useful. The inspiration to work in UX came from an experience I had about eight or nine years ago.
I had an idea to create an app to help university students organise themselves better, and transition from paper to digital. I put together a proposal of all the things I thought the app should do, and I showed it to a friend who had worked as a developer for the mobile phone company, O2. He told me the plan I’d put together was basically a UX design.
I didn’t know what a UX design was at the time, so I didn’t really take it in. Years later, when I was looking for a fresh start, I remembered that conversation. That part of the process - the UX design of my idea for an app, was something I had really loved. I decided to sign up for a UX design course, and have been doing it ever since.
RM: And do you like it?
HB: I absolutely love UX design! Everything is based on science and evidence, which really appeals to me, but you also have to get really creative and do lots of problem solving.
RM: So can you give us an example of a typical UX design process?
HB: Sure. The first step is trying to understand the real goal for creating a digital product. What problem will it solve? If the product doesn’t solve a problem, no one will use it.
I then try to talk to the product users. How do they understand the problem that this product will solve? What are their frustrations? How will this product make their life better? What terminology do they use to describe the problem? The goal is always to end up with a product that solves a real problem and that users find intuitive to use.
I also need to clearly communicate with the development team. I have to make sure that the functions we include in the design are possible to code. At Rocketmakers we often create products that are totally innovative, so having a good understanding of what is possible is essential.
RM: Can you give us an example of what you mean?
HB: I’ve been working on Beam (previously known as ARiVR), the Rocketmakers platform for changing immersive environment content after production. Nothing like this has ever been built before. There is no existing product to reference or make assumptions from. So if I identify a really important function to make Beam better, I still need to check with the developers before I assume that this new function is even possible to code.
RM: Great, thanks! What happens next?
HB: Once I understand what the problem is, how to solve it, and what is possible, I work on wireframes.
We normally use a platform called Figma to do this. With Figma I can position buttons, design the navigation, like menus and dropdowns, and plan out where information will be kept. Once you have the wireframe in place, you can clearly see what the product will be, and how we will build it. Then I hand it over to the development team and the graphic designers to make it real.
RM: How have you found your time at Rocketmakers so far, then? Is it what you’d been looking for?
HB: It’s been really exciting. I may be the first full-time UX designer at Rocketmakers, but UX design is something that is really valued here.
Before I joined most of the UX was done by Phil, who I’ve really enjoyed working with. He’s a bit of a unicorn. Phil does coding, design, UX, user research, everything, so he really understands the whole process.
Phil wanted someone else on the team who could help him reinforce a strong UX process. I responded to an advertisement I saw, met him and the rest of the team, and was really pleased to get the offer to join.
RM: Do you think the other jobs you had before you trained as a UX designer have helped you?
HB: Absolutely. For one thing, it gave me the opportunity to learn that it was UX design I really wanted to do. The jobs I had before were not quite right for me, so I really appreciate the type of work I do now.
I also think that having experience outside of UX has helped me develop what I call “user empathy.” You have to really understand the user’s point of view if you are going to design a successful digital product.
RM: And what would you say to anyone else interested in pursuing a career in UX design? Any advice?
HB: I’d ask them three questions. Do you like solving problems? Do you like being creative? Do you like understanding other people’s journeys? If the answer to all three is yes, then maybe UX is for you.