Me with tree in the background

When I was 16 years old, I wanted to design logos and websites.

I had an eye for design, but lacked the practical skill to do it. So I ended up going into frontend development which was more technical.

But most of the designers I worked with gave me complicated and inaccessible designs to implement.

Sometimes I’d suggest changes to simplify the design and improve accessibility. But no matter how solid my rationale or how simple my solution, I couldn’t convince the designers to make changes.

It was frustrating having to go back to my desk and implement the original designs, which were harder to build and inaccessible.

As a result, I started to believe that designers only cared about aesthetics.

In 2014, we had our home renovated just in time for the arrival of our first baby. But three weeks into a new six-month contract, I was let go. I’d never had so much responsibility and so little money.

But I quickly got a new contract as a UX prototyper at Just Eat, the UK’s leading takeaway delivery service.

This was where things changed for me.

Because prior to this role I wasn’t part of the design process. So by the time designs were given to me to implement, it always felt too late to give feedback and suggest changes.

But at Just Eat I was embedded in the design team where I could effect change from the start.

To my surprise, the designers there weren’t just focused on aesthetics; they cared about UX. We did user research, ran A/B tests and tracked performance.

I worked closely with Mark Jenkins, the lead designer. But he wasn’t like the other designers I had worked with before. He listened to what I had to say and valued it. He advocated for doing the most basic thing, doing it quickly and learning. He didn’t fuss over pixels.

Most importantly, he showed me that, not only was it possible to be a designer like this but that it was better to be a designer like this.

For example, we redesigned the checkout journey by using the most basic and accessible solution. The result was an increased conversion of 5% – 37,000 orders a week.

Mark also encouraged me to start a blog. And 2 of my early posts went viral on Hacker News (multiple times over).

I realised I wasn’t alone and that others resonated with my design philosophy.

Since then I’ve gone on to write for Smashing Magazine, CSS Tricks, A List Apart and Net Magazine.

Now I’m trying to be the designer I wish I got to work with when I was a dev.

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