Interview: Bruce Waskett, head of UX at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity
DESCRIBE YOUR JOB
It’s rather like being a circus ringmaster trying to understand what makes people happy and able to enjoy the show. Or possibly a performing seal.
I run the User Experience (UX) department for Great Ormond Street Charity and Hospital. I am part of the technology team, working closely with our developers, designers and digital engagement folk.
It is a job that involves a lot of talking with people internally and externally about how they go about getting from A to B, why they wanted to do that in the first place and what they hope to achieve. And then helping them to actually do this via user research, stakeholder interviews, workshops, information architecture, content audits and creation, interactive prototypes and user testing. Oh, and sometimes coming up with a good idea from time to time!
HOW DID YOU GET WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?
I took a law degree at Leeds University but decided that I didn’t want to follow that career path. That said, it gave me a lot of the communication and people skills that I use today. I then scampered off to Australia for a bit and entered the financial world.
It was there, in 1997, that I started looking after dial-up systems for financial shares information, pretty much by accident. But this created an interest in this ‘new media’ thing and so I taught myself how to design and build websites.
I ended up working for a lovely small agency called Object1 in Shoreditch before Shoreditch was a thing and then carried on from there. I have worked for LBi, DNA, M&C Saatchi and Mindshare in Australia among many others. I have been a producer, project director, account director and creative director but the UX side of things was always a part of my job that I was very passionate about.
I now work in the charity sector as Great Ormond Street has looked after a couple of my friends’ children and apparently did so with me when I was young. I love the agency life but fancied doing a bit of good in the world.
TALK US THROUGH A RECENT WORK DAY
Everyone here is very focused on how we can help the kids. This, of course, dictates my day.
So a recent day involved interviewing content editors who look after either the charity or the hospital websites to find out the process that they follow from ideas to publishing, what works and what we could improve. It was great to head over to the actual hospital and chat to people there as it is an historic building.
The afternoon was taken up with running a workshop with the design team and then finishing off an Axure Interactive prototype for the community fundraising team as a proof of concept (Axure enables you to create dynamic and interactive websites without actually being able to code. So the prototype ends up being clickable and responsive to show how elements would work on mobile, tablets and desktops, which is good for testing purposes.)
WHAT DIGITAL SKILLS DO YOU USE ON A DAILY BASIS?
There are numerous skills, some of which might not initially seem to be solely digitally focused, but they are all part of the overall ideas, creation and UX process:
Facilitating workshops. Being able to plan these in the first place, get people who might not want to be there engaged then adapting your plan to meet what you are finding out.
Ensuring that, when you have a good mix of younger and older people, the latter do not dominate the workshop. Allowing people of any age and role to have a say is critical.
My tool of choice for persona creation, user journeys, site structure and wireframe / prototype is Axure. It is absolutely excellent for creating very interactive prototypes. It takes some time to learn but is well worth it.
I do use Sketch from time to time but this is more suited to design than UX. Good for overall collaboration.
I will sometimes still use Balsamiq or the online tools Mockflow and UXPin.
I use Keynote for presentations and Survey Monkey for user surveys.
Slack for departmental communications.
Drupal for the content management system.
Finally, Optimal Workshop for testing tools like Treejack and card sorting exercises
WHAT DIGITAL SKILLS OR ATTRIBUTES WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE EDUCATORS TO SUPPORT YOUNG PEOPLE TO DEVELOP
Communication. Knowing how to speak with people and not being scared to do so is key to a user experience role. Don’t be scared to disagree with those older than you but do respect the experience they have.
Being able to listen and not judge is a must-have skill.
Be comfortable questioning or presenting with anyone.
Technical and design programs: Photoshop, Axure and Sketch for starters.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO A YOUNG PERSON LOOKING TO ENTER THE DIGITAL SECTOR?
Do not be scared. Your opinion and outlook is as valuable as anyone else’s.
Seek adventures. Do things that challenge you and make you feel fulfilled.
On a practical note, have a good online portfolio and fill it with personal projects. Try to get work experience with any small businesses that your friends (or their parents) might run. That’s how I started. Use LinkedIn and reach out to people who you think could have good advice or be a mentor.