Kyle Cassidy is the user experience design (UXD) chief at Dept, an agency founded as recently as 2016, but which has become one of the fastest-growing digital agencies in Europe through acquisitions.
Cassidy gives us a particularly revealing insight into the world of UXD in agencyland, from the skills required, to the bittersweet feeling of releasing your product into the wild.
Please describe your job: What do you do?
As the Head of UXD and Insights here at Dept, I manage a multi disciplinary team of UX designers, visual designers and business analysts.
It’s my team’s responsibility to turn a client’s initial vision into something tangible which they can see and understand the value in, as well as educating internal project teams on the client’s current experience vs the desired experience.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
I report directly to the Managing Director, Jonathan Whiteside.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
There are many, however above all, being a good listener and communicator I’d rank above anything else.
User experience is all about understanding users and empathising with their thoughts and feelings, being a good listener is imperative to this.
On the other side, a key part of my role is being able to effectively communicate back to clients and my team on what the key pain points to fix in the current user experience are – so being a good communicator is essential to this.
Tell us about a typical working day…
My weeks vary a great deal depending on where I’m needed the most. I can be leading client discovery phase and be on site delivering workshops, reviewing creative outputs from sprints or deep in Google Analytics producing reports or specifying Google Analytics Events and Data Layers… it really does depend on what week it is.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
I love the variety, no two weeks are ever the same and neither are any two clients.
The downside of agency life sometimes is wanting to spend more time on a problem, but not having the allocated budget / resources to do so.
A great UX Designer is always self-critical of how their ideas materialised and worked when released to the masses.
Sometimes, we don’t have the budget allocation to keep optimising and testing new ideas to problems so losing sight of projects post go-live is hard sometimes.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
I speak to so many clients who tell me that vanity KPIs are what they measure (visitors, page views, bounce rates).
We spend a lot of time educating clients during discovery the need to report on KPI’s which measure the user experience i.e. NPS, Feedback Scores or Business Value i.e. Brochures Downloaded, Store Lookups etc
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Theres a lot to list here –Google Analytics and Hotjar from a data analysis perspective, as they provide a lot of insights for such a small cost.
Sketch and Invision for design and review, Keynote for client presentations and Real Time Board / Miro for mapping out solutions.
How did you end up at Dept, and where might you go from here?
I applied to work at Building Blocks, before it was acquired by Dept. Previously I’d been a manager within the UXD team at Phones 4U and helped the company re-platform onto the Hybris CMS (helping to shape the new experience). Sadly when the company went into administration, I had to look for a new job and applied for a job at Building Blocks (now Dept) and that was 5 years ago now.
Moving forwards I’d like to build the team further and attract more high profile clients.
Which work/design has impressed you lately?
These aren’t new designs but two of my favourite Apps are Monzo and The Train Line. They work flawlessly all the time I need to use them and the UI is just so intuitive, it just knows what I want to do each time I open them up.
The teams have clearly done a lot of user research and pulled this together with Design and Dev teams to produce such great experiences – top work.
What advice would you give a marketer or UX’er just starting out?
When I was starting out UX and UI were two clearly defined roles, however things have started to blur over the years with now a lot of companies looking for hybrid UX / UI designers (even coding skills).
So the advice I’d give to someone starting out would be to become a sponge.
If you’re a young designer get familiar with UX techniques and research methods, this will start to make you think more around how users will interact with your designs and help you design better.
If you’re a young UX’er get familiar with the creative UI process, have an appreciation for it, even experiment with doing some design yourself it will help you think like a Designer.
The more exposure you get to multiple disciplines, even at a basic level helps you look at problems from different perspectives and when you’re explaining your design decisions you can understand problems from the view point of different people be that UX / UI or Code.