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Usability Interview: Jon Phillips of JonPhillips.ca

Posted by Jacob Creech on September 16th, 2011

One thing we firmly believe in here at IntuitionHQ is learning from experience. We always try to share our views on all things usability, but often there is a lot of value in hearing what others have to offer.

Following along with this idea, we’ve decided to put together a series of interviews with professionals in the usability and user experience design areas so we can all learn from their experiences.

Today we’re featuring the first of those interviews, with Jon Phillips – formerly of Spyre Studios, along with a range of other sites as he explains in the interview below – clearly a very busy man.

Jon is someone I have a lot of respect for, and who always creates, beautiful, usable designs, and writes well written, interesting content as well. You can see some examples of his work on Dribble to get an idea of what he does.

I think he has some very interesting insights into the worlds of design, usability and user experience, and so without further ado:

An interview with Jon Phillips

I think UX and usability are not optional. If you design for the web and have no idea what usability or user experience means, you need to start reading and learning—fast! - Jon Phillips

Would you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

Hi, I’m Jon Phillips, I’m from Montreal, Canada. I design websites, consult and work with companies and online publishers on content creation, website design, UX and usability. I also write a personal blog where I share my thoughts on design, UX, technology and sometimes photography.

I used to run FreelanceFolder, SpyreStudios, Design-Newz and more recently MediaLoot, which I co-founded and helped launch. I now focus mostly on freelance work as well as some other personal projects like CSSFTW and IconsFTW.

How did you get involved with usability/user experience/design?

As far back as I can remember I have always been interested in various creative outlets, from music to typography, design and writing. In fact I’ve been a guitarist for over 17 years now and I guess you could say that designing websites is, in some ways, an extension of this in terms of creativity.

Being in a band is also very similar to running a business, and solving problems is something you need to work on every single day to keep the ship afloat.

I started designing websites about 7 years ago for friends at first until I realized I could do this for a living and started learning more and increased my customer base as well as improved my skills (something you always need to keep on improving).

While I love designing and writing markup & CSS, what I enjoy most is solving problems and figuring out the hows and whys of how things work and how people interact with them. Finding a viable solution to a UX problem is what I enjoy most.

I think UX and usability are not optional. If you design for the web and have no idea what usability or user experience means, you need to start reading and learning—fast!

Why do you think usability and user experience are important?

I think that no matter what your job title is, whether you’re a designer, a developer or whatever else people call themselves these days (ninjas and rockstars?), usability and user experience go hand in hand with everything else you do. Similar to the ‘should web-designers know how to code’ debate that we seem to hear about all the time, I think all designers should have more than just a basic understanding of usability and UX in order to completely fulfill their role.

UX is related to pretty much everything we do. It is what defines a great website from a bad one, it’s what people perceive and feel and how they interact with your interface.

Designers and developers are not the only ones who need to understand what makes a great user experience. Artists, business owners, project managers and even musicians and movie producers, to a certain extent, need at least some basic understanding of usability and UX in order to satisfy the needs, feelings and goals of their clients, fans, shareholders, partners, etc

Any words of wisdom to people learning about UX and usability?

Always keep learning and improving your skills and understand what makes a great user experience (quick tip: don’t take anything for granted). Don’t forget that amazing Photoshop skills won’t help much when faced with a usability problem to solve.

Also, while there’s a ton of design blogs out there with some great tips and tricks about usability and UX, what you want in order to get a deeper understanding is not just tips and tricks, you’ll want to read articles, studies, personal experiences from people in the field, books and even go to conferences and seminars.

I personally really enjoy reading case studies from web-designers on how they solved certain problems—I prefer reading about the reasons behind a design decision rather than the technologies used to make it possible.

Favorite sites or resources you’d like to share.

After reading everything ever written by Jacob Nielsen, Steve Krug and Luke Wroblewski, there’s the obvious sources like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ where you can get a great deal of information about UX, usability and design—granted, not always the best advice, but they’re great tools for finding other resources.

I have some favorite online publications and blogs like UXBooth, UsabilityPost, UXMag, SmashingMagazine, DaringFireball and others which I visit almost everyday. Sure those sites aren’t always about usability and UX, but still they’re very good resources.


We want to thank Jon for his insights, and for being kind enough to share his experiences with the community. If you’d like to read more from him, you can find his blog at blog.jonphillips.ca or follow him on Twitter @JoPhillips.

What do you think?

How does this line up with your experience? What was your favorite part of this interview? Who do you think we should interview in the future? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below, on Twitter @IntuitionHQ, or at Facebook.com/IntuitionHQ.

Thanks again to Jon for answering our questions, and don’t forget to subscribe to our RSS feed to follow the next in our series of interviews. Coming up next? Blogger extraordinaire Jake Rocheleau – whose posts you can find on almost every design blog on the internet – be sure to check it out next week.

Thanks for dropping by!

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  • http://www.wacowebdesign.be Waco

    Interesting, thx