November 1999 to March 2009
MRM is a digital agency that builds websites for huge global clients such as Intel, Microsoft and Unilever.
As a user experience architect, I designed the structure of (mostly big and complicated) websites, thinking about what users would need and expect. I also wrote proposals and content strategies, did site audits, and created user journeys, site maps, wireframes and functional specifications to show how sites would work, and ran user testing sessions to find out what could be improved.
Unlike most UEAs, I also wrote and edited copy – useful on small projects, as I could develop a whole site from site map to final page copy.
Good accessibility was always a requirement and we agreed early on that what’s good for disabled users is good for everyone: clear, concise, user-focused text, logical, hierarchical headings, and sites that can work without pictures and plug-ins.
Although I didn’t build the sites – the technical team did that – I gained a good understanding of what can and can’t be done online; I learned how to work with both coders and designers, and I can design an effective user interface. On smaller sites, I can find cost-effective solutions. I am aware of the possibilities and the limitations of the digital environment.
Went from full-time to part-time, then made redundant.
November 2006 to December 2009 (voluntary work)
I wrote articles, commissioned copy, sub-edited copy, designed ads, redesigned and laid out the 52-page magazine; organised printing and liaised with the printer.
I’ve done design work mostly as an amateur but like to keep my hand in as the technology changes so quickly: I specialise in low-budget publications with an emphasis on information design and typography.
I wanted to write, and produced both informative factual articles for new parents and more personal pieces. Here’s an example of a personal piece.
Stopped to become editor of my local village magazine.
January 1998 to November 1999
Returning to Siegel & Gale as a freelance information designer, I did several complex projects:
- rewrote all the letters that Freemans catalogue sends out to its customers, including demands for outstanding payments;
- wrote, in collaboration with its legal team, all the documentation for Standard Life Bank’s Freestyle mortgage, one of the first offset mortgages, translating legal gobbledegook into plain English.
Also did sales work, both cold-calling leads and giving new business presentations.
Skills: developed my knowledge of financial services, found out how to collaborate with experts.
Freelance production editor for Internet magazine and then a freelance sub-editor and production editor for about a year on various telecoms titles for Emap. Good practice at turning up and getting on with things in a new team. And I learned a lot of weird telecoms acronyms.
Did three days’ information design work on a website for the company that became MRM and was asked to join.
December 1996 to December 1997
Sub-editor of Sound on Sound magazine. I worked as a sub in the production team, editing copy, researching information, and liaising with writers. This was less responsibility than the previous job, so I didn’t really learn much.
Made redundant when the company shrank.
November 1994 to November 1996
Production Editor then Deputy Editor of Keyboard Review magazine: managed the flatplan, worked out a house style, sub-edited all the copy and prepared the pages for the designers, in Quark Xpress; wrote album reviews, researched original articles, and interviewed musicians such as Tori Amos, Gillian Weir, and Chas and Dave. Took on responsibility for a new music supplement: budgeted, commissioned copy, negotiated with copyright holders.
Skills: learned how to use Quark XPress, and how to plan, budget and run a magazine.
Made redundant when the company was taken over by Future Publishing and relocated to Bath.
June to October 1994
Rewrote complex information in plain English and improved the usability of forms, statements, manuals and suchlike. For example, I rewrote the mortgage terms and conditions for NatWest and helped redesign the Royal Mail’s forwarding form.
Left to do a job I’d been previously offered which had then disappeared – and returned unexpectedly.
September 1992 to April 1994
Re-wrote, re-designed, indexed and typeset software manuals for industrial temperature-monitoring systems using Microsoft Word and PageMaker 5 on a PC. Established a house style for six different languages; commissioned translations and typeset them.
Left to do a similar information design job for a London consultancy, where my boss’s partner worked.
March 1992 to June 1992
Desktop publisher for BBC English magazine: learned to use Ventura software, which was a pig. Gained useful knowledge about sub-editing and print production.
Made redundant when the firm went bankrupt.
June 1989 to January 1991
Sub-edited complex scholarly books (taught myself proofing marks); produced publications using DTP; created a mailing list; wrote a beginner’s guide to Islam and discovered my talent for information design, putting complex information into a simpler clearer format. An introduction to basic publishing skills.