After advertising in Sawston Scene, I had a few commissions to build websites for local businesses. These were all short, simple, and ultra low cost.
My clients are mostly thoroughly untechnical, and so I usually advise on the domain name, register it, and organise hosting as part of the package.
After a brainstorming session, I came up with a list of suggested names for this new group, then designed a logo for the one they chose. The website design made the most of a distinctive set of photos.
Designed to showcase Silas’s different musical abilities, this is a wordier site where my aim was to break up the text as much as possible – pictures and pull quotes, then expandable boxes to let the user decide how much to read.
Gill Shelley Garden Design
A site focusing on visuals, but with good explanations of how the design process works – usually these would be the result of extensive editing, but Gill is a great writer as well as a gardener. Designed with a blog format, to be easily updateable.
Again, I designed the logo, advised on the domain and organised hosting. As this is a local charity, I do all the site updates too at no coast since invoicing isn’t worth the admin time!
This year, I have been helping Cambridge-based company localsecrets make the functional bits of their site more user-friendly. This work ran the gamut from simple renaming of parts to full overhauls involving new functional specifications.
Owner Neal Robbins said: “I want to thank you for your really considerable contribution to localsecrets over the past months. I have enjoyed working with you and learned a great deal.
[…] “You’ve done great work and I am really grateful for all you’ve done. A heartfelt thanks for your diligence, expertise and patience.”
I also tried to help them with marketing, but sadly it wasn’t enough and the site is due to shut down in October 2018.
Also known as AOTOS. I will add details later!
The FI is a charity that lobbies for government policy changes and supports professionals in care services to improve the situation of fathers.
All staff work remotely, so I got used to managing my time and taking initiatives.
Online community for professionals, dadsincluded.org:
Project-managed site build; designed database and helped with the technical integration; worked with coders to choose and improve the functionality; rewrote all functional copy.
After launch, I moderated the forums, answered user queries and managed the site’s back end in Joomla.
Main site, fatherhoodinstitute.org:
Managed migration from old site to new. Designed structure of new site. Helped build and integrate new database.
Wrote, edited and designed web pages in WordPress; wrote, designed and tested email newsletters in MailChimp; and managed database of 17,000 names; produced reports and advised on IT and web strategy; managed FI domains; dealt with suppliers.
Due to funding cuts, I was made redundant on 11 February 2011.
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.
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.