Journey to UX: Hayley Charlton
Recently, we interviewed a long-time team member of UX Connections. She works as a UX Consultant, as well as Head of Operations. We talked about everything from her teenage years, spent coding and building HTML websites, to the rainy day in Trafalgar Square that was the backdrop to her interview for UXC around seven years ago.
Okay, let’s get straight into it – what’s your background, what uni course did you do, where did you study?
I guess my occupational background stems from when I was a young teenager, I was always really interested in computers, and I actually started developing websites at about thirteen years old! I was coding HTML websites for my friends’ parents’ businesses, and just helped them out on various projects related to that. It was something I was really interested in and enjoyed!
As for university, I did a course in Multimedia Computing at the University of Westminster. It was a three year undergraduate course that covered a whole spectrum of different subjects – a bit of 3D, Programming etc! UX wasn’t really a huge thing then, so there wasn’t much in terms of courses, it was still a lesser known discipline at that point. One course I did take that was similar, in a way, was Mobile App Development. It was based around thinking about how an app looked, it’s layout and the Information Architecture, so that’s where I was first introduced to UX, or something similar.
Immediately after graduating in 2014, I joined UX Connections. I didn’t really know what UX was, but I knew I loved solving problems, and that I wanted to do something technical but also creative, so it seemed like the perfect thing. I was the second person Chris hired, closely behind the first, so I was here to see the beginnings of the company, which is cool! Chris was a freelancer for Ladbrokes at the time, and I was really inspired by his vision for the business, he spoke about the opportunities he’d like to give to young people, and how it’s a huge problem for them to get experience when you need experience, and he was willing to train and mentor people like myself.
Do you remember your interview? How did it go?
Vaguely, it was raining that day, I remember that. It was an evening interview as Chris was working with a client at the time. We met in Trafalgar Square in a shared office space, and I showed him my dissertation work, and some examples in my portfolio. It was quite a fun, informal, relaxed interview, and I think that’s stayed the same way throughout UX Connections ever since.
What was your first project for UX Connections? How did it go? What was the outcome?
My first project was with Unilever, it was a personas project, and I worked alongside my colleague Tom. I’m not sure how much detail I can go into, but it included conducting interviews, creating personas and making wireframes, so it was great!
What has been your favourite project to date at UX Connections?
I’d say the GVC bwin project because I was there for nearly three years! We were very integrated into their project team – I was working in their design team, whilst two other UX Connections team members were working alongside me. I liked that there were lots of different problems, stakeholders, and requirements to think about. There was always a new opinion, new requirement, new innovation or technology that would enhance the product or the UX of the product! Basically, you could never get bored as it was ever changing which was really fun. It’s also really fun to work with a team, with different people that have different skill sets!
Where is your favourite place that you’ve been with UX Connections?
There’s been so many good places so that’s difficult! I’d have to say, probably New York as it’s a dream destination, really. The city that never sleeps! It was for an Adobe conference (99U), and it was slightly different to other conferences because it was more based on art, but also creative thinking. It was very varied in content, as well as being in spectacular locations. We got to party in the Museum of Modern Art! We also did a lot of fun activities – we went to Williamsburg, The Statue of Liberty, and the new World Trade Centre. It was in May 2019 and I was there for about a week, and I think 10 or so of us went all together, it was just great.
What’s your overall favourite thing about working at UX Connections?
I’d definitely say the team collaboration and the openness of everyone. You don’t have to be afraid of sharing ideas, and you can discuss client problems, or things you need to tackle. You’re never alone, and that’s threaded throughout the company. We share all of our work with each other through weekly and monthly catch-ups. It’s really unique and keeps us all aligned!
One thing you’d improve the UX of, if you could?
It would definitely be the London Tube system for disabled people. When you realise how bad it is you can’t un-see it. Step-free access is not available at every station – you have to go to certain stations in order to get to certain places. I’d love to work on a way to improve it and make it more usable for those with disabilities, visible or hidden. I just don’t think it’s open enough for disabled people to use appropriately, and you do really take it for granted when it’s not something that affects your life directly. If you’re in a wheelchair you have to go to a certain area of the platform, and someone has to bring the ramp etc. It’s surprising that more hasn’t been done, as I read recently that journeys can be over four times as long for disabled people.
One piece of advice you’d give to those looking to get into UX Design?
Practice, practice, practice! Get to know Figma, Sketch, and types of software you’ll be working with. Look at websites you enjoy using and copy them, make them into black and white wireframes, and just practice as much as possible!
We’d like to say thanks Hayley for telling us about her journey to UX, and anyone who has taken the time to read this. Feel free to leave us any questions!
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