This spotlight was part of USERWEEKLY - a weekly email to understand what is happening in user research. It's the best way to keep up on trends, methodologies, insights across the industry, and meet new researchers. Each week, the newsletter captures the pulse of our community and answers a simple question: What mattered in User Research this week?
Hi Tom Devlin, tell us a little about yourself.
Hey! I'm Tom Devlin and I run a small user research company called UserLab. As the name suggests, it was originally a user research lab which I built… before realising that the best stuff happens outside the lab. I closed the lab and focused more on the consultancy side during the pandemic (I don’t miss the tech issues). Before working in UX, I played in a band - and still do occasionally - called Minotaurs. Life is somewhat less glamorous these days but still very chaotic as I attempt to bring up 2 small humans, together with my wife in Newcastle in the north-east of England, UK.
What originally got you interested in UX Research?
I’d started working in a web content role at a local council back in 2007 and a colleague introduced me to the concepts of usability, accessibility and to people like Steve Krug and Jakob Nielsen. It was quite a moment of realisation as I was suddenly surrounded by poor usability and design choices everywhere and had been using badly designed interfaces everyday, but now I could understand what made them bad. We started testing the website with local people as part of a redesign project (before UX was really a thing) and we did card-sorting (to improve the information architecture) and ended up getting a couple of awards for the work, which helped. I was soon a bonafide usability geek and began to hone my craft and set my sights on a role where I could work in usability for a living. I eventually landed a job in the UK government as a user researcher in 2014 and things kind of took off for me from there.
If you could only use one method for the rest of your career, what would it be?
Yeah, I get it often. I’m a perfectionist so I’m forever beating myself up when things aren’t up to scratch and having mini existential crises mid-project! I just have to try and remember to pat myself on the back sometimes and think how I’ve grown in the past year, or since the last project. It’s also good to remind yourself that everyone’s blagging it to a degree… just some more convincingly than others. I’ve met quite a few people over the years who experience those feelings of self-doubt and it feels good when you can openly share that over a beer or two. Failing that, I’ll go for a run or stick a well known meditation app on for 10 minutes.
What can people reach out to you about and how can they find you?
If anyone is looking for advice on how to get into the industry, I’m always up for a coffee and a chat. Likewise, if anyone wants to work on something interesting together, they can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via LinkedIn
Thank you, Tom!
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