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Insights, Uncategorized, User Research, UX Design, UX Philosophy

Consultant Profile: Mae Foster

As a continuation of our series where we interview our own consultants, we recently spoke to the UX Connections team member who has worked on a multitude of projects for UX Connections. We spoke for a while about her journey to UX, where she finds inspiration, and her growing expertise in user research. 

Introducing, Mae.

UX Connections Consultant Profile: Mae Foster from UX Connections on Vimeo.

Where did your interest in UX start, and how did you get to where you are today?

I studied Product Design at University, and I really enjoyed the thought process behind it, and the whole development from finding an issue, finding the customer base and their insights on how to solve that problem, and then being able to fix the issue through user communication. However, I found that actually making those physical products never ended up being particularly useful, and I realised I just wasn’t that inclined to making physical things. That’s when I moved more into UX and service design as I found it a lot more beneficial and actually helpful for the user as a digital or non physical entity. I wasn’t actually aware of UX design as its own practice, but it was clear that the elements of product design that I actually enjoyed were grounded in user experience. 

Do you remember your interview for UX Connections? How did it go?

I do! It was in an office space in St Pauls, and we went to the rooftop bar because of Covid restrictions. It was very fancy, but we kept it professional. It was a very comfortable feeling, and they asked me interesting, insightful questions that gave me a good feeling about the company. It was a lighthearted and relaxed conversation, rather than too serious or intimidating, and I left thinking that it went well!

What was the most challenging part of your first project for UX Connections? What did you learn from this experience that has helped you improve your work?

The first project I got myself was a full audit, so I had to analyse all of the websites that they had, creating site maps and personas. After that was the competitor review, and then a full redesign of the pages following all that research. It was really insightful, as we had to find where the problems were through analysing their current site, and then solving them by using that analysis. 

It was challenging, as I had never done anything to that scale before, and having to work to set deadlines made by external forces was definitely new to me. But, the whole UX Connections team was super helpful, and they were always there to guide me or lend a hand if needed. 

However, the best part that really helped me improve was the trust they had to just let me do it myself. Like I said, they would help anytime if needed, but they gave me that responsibility to do it myself and come back to them with what I thought was the right solution. That’s how you grow and continue to learn. 

What would you say is your expertise within UX and UI?

I would definitely say user research, so conducting interviews and usability sessions to gain valuable insights. I have a long running project with Entain that is based around that, and it’s really helped deepen my understanding and interest with in-person research and user analysis. It’s always beneficial to understand how and why the user is actually using a platform, and it’s definitely my key interest within UX. 

What different industries have you worked in so far?

Quite a few! I’ve worked on projects in sports betting, healthcare, finance, veterinary services, and fashion. I’ve done a couple of projects per sector, so there’s a lot of variation!

What has been your favourite project so far and why?

I have really been enjoying the Entain research project, mainly because I do really enjoy the research, going in and seeing how a customer is using the service and uncovering what could make it even better. 

I’m also doing another project at the moment that’s really exciting, it’s looking at revolutionising the way in which wholesale is done. I’m conducting the research of how to move that forward, and then it will move into the platform design phase. That’s really interesting as it’s very hands-on and involved. 

How do you perfect your ‘design thinking’?

For me it’s about trusting my instincts. A lot of the time you have to analyse and self-critique your work, so you have to make sure that there’s proof that supports what you’re thinking. As long as that evidence is there, and that’s your go-to insight, I’d always say to trust it because most of the time, you’ll be correct. I think it can be easy to over-analyse something that you already have proof for, but that can be your downfall. Trust your instincts and research!

What’s the best thing about working at UX Connections?

Probably the trust. They really just let you do the work. There’s no micro-managing, there’s no person over your shoulder, there’s just a lot of trust there for you to do your own project. You do the research, you do the work, and you also have a full team of people you can reach out to at any point to ask for help or direction. If you need any question answered, you will get that. It’s supportive but not overbearing. Ultimately, it’s still all of your own work, which is really nice as a designer as it helps you keep that creativity flowing. 

Where do you find inspiration?

I’m not too sure, really. I think I get inspired by things that I believe the user would enjoy. I always say that my job is in-between the business and customer, making sure the user is being heard whilst helping to guide feasible decisions for the business. Trusting that middle space is really the inspiration I get when it comes to my research-based role. 

One thing you’d improve the UX of, if you could?

That’s a good question! I’d probably say any sort of housing platform, so like Rightmove or Spareroom. I think there should be a more transparent way to do house hunting, and make it more user-friendly. Not only should houses that have already been let be taken off the platform, but I think it would be good to see how many viewings have taken place, and if any offers have been put in yet. Trying to find a house or flat in London can be infuriating, so  I think just more transparency is needed in general. 

We’d like to say a huge thanks to Mae for giving us the time to ask about her journey to UX – feel free to leave us any questions!

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