Starting a new job is always a big decision, but the choice gets much easier when you know what you’re getting into and you’re confident you can make a difference. That was the case when I officially joined TEN7 as Director of User Experience earlier this year. I saw an opportunity to use my skills to bridge some of the gaps I’ve noticed in the web development process. I also felt the time was right to get a seat at the table to elevate our work for clients and to help Make Things That Matter.
For the last 16 years I was running my own web design company. That’s how I met Ivan, who started TEN7 around that same time. We had complementary skill sets so we worked together on many different projects. I found we had similar sensibilities and values and I enjoyed working with Ivan and the developers that he hired.
A few years ago Ivan first broached the idea of having me join TEN7 full time but I politely declined. My kids were young and I needed the freedom and flexibility that I had been able to establish working on my own. Earlier this year, Ivan asked once again and I again declined, but it got me thinking. I loved running my own business but I also knew that I could make a difference at TEN7, and I appreciated the mission, values and culture that Ivan had cultivated over the years. I had an honest discussion with Ivan about my hesitations. We talked them through and I decided the time was right to make the change.
Ivan’s desire to add design at a leadership level showed me that he understands what I can bring to the team and to clients. My work goes beyond the visual elements of a website. Design is critical when it comes to content strategy and the way a site engages with users. At the end of the day it's about how people are going to actually get what they need when they visit your website.
Joining TEN7 gives me a different voice when it comes to serving clients. It also gives the developers a different relationship and access level with me. I can be part of the discussion earlier, preventing the need to go back to clients later to address design-related issues that emerge and hopefully solving usability questions before they become problems. In many ways I can serve as a liaison between the client and the developers, making sure ideas and issues are understood and addressed seamlessly from the initial concept through the completion of the project.
While I’m still new on the job, there are already a few key areas where I know design can elevate our work:
- Removing Barriers Successful navigation isn’t just about simplicity. It’s about anticipating a user’s needs and creating a clear path to get there. It’s also about continuous improvement, using data to uncover and fix previously unanticipated barriers.
- Accessibility I want to make sure our websites are accessible by default, not as an add on or an afterthought. The work we do needs to welcome everyone, with as broad a scope as possible. So anybody who is using screen readers, or any adaptation equipment will still be able to access and engage with our websites.
- Helping Clients Who Need Us I like that TEN7 has a focus on working with clients that have a values match, and that are often nonprofit, government, and education-focused. I’m the daughter of two teachers, so I absolutely love that! I also know these are the types of institutions that often don't incorporate a lot of design elements in their websites because they are operating on limited budgets and with minimal time to devote to the process. Unfortunately this means they often don't tell their story as well. Because TEN7 has so much experience with these types of organizations, we know how to help them get things done. Bringing my design perspective to this work will help elevate their storytelling and connection.
- Incorporating User Experience Into Everything We Do My role is not just to work with the developers. I will be able to bring a user experience mindset to our marketing and growth efforts as well. I want to help bring people on a journey with us to understand our values and our expertise, and to show them how we can help them reach their goals.
In the short time that I’ve been part of this team I have already seen how I can add value to TEN7. I’ve also seen how receptive the rest of the team is to having me at the table.
This team is so good at development. They are so authentic with their commitment to the TEN7 values and the mission. It's really pretty amazing.
Now I’m excited to add a new ingredient to the mix, to bridge the gaps and to open doors so we can take TEN7 to even greater heights!