An interview with Andy Budd

edvinicombe's avatar edvinicombe on Mar 26th, 2016

Andy has helped shape and form many part to the UX industry for a long time. A fellow Brightonian; Andy is Founder & Managing Director of well-know digital agency, Clearleft and stops by to give us a few insights.

I would suggest that we’re in the midst of a UX bubble. It seems as though UX is a term that can get banded around whenever there is a discussion regarding design or digital strategy. Now that we see UX used everywhere on almost every linkedin profile how long do you think good UX jobs will last? Is the bubble about to burst?

Since 2010, we’ve seen a massive rise in demand for UX designers, sparking a significant bubble. Many people rushed to add UX Designer to their job title, without really understanding what the job entailed, or indeed having the skills or experience to back up that claim. Today only around one in ten CVs we receive for UX positions are actually from UX Designers, so I’d say the title has now been devalued to the point of uselessness. As a result we’re seeing a considerable backlash, with many experienced designers abandoning the term. So I’d argue the bubble probably burst three or four years ago. Folks just haven’t noticed yet.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a career in UX?

While it is possible to study to become a UX Designer, gaining practical experience is very difficult. As such it’s still more common for people to transition into UX from other disciplines. If you are coming out of a relevant course, the best advice would be to find a company like Clearleft that offers an internship programme, in order to build up your portfolio. Another way to do this would be to ply your trade in the early-stage startup world, where past experience is often less important than native skill (and price). Once you have a portfolio of half a dozen credible projects, you’ll find no end of companies willing to hire you.

Your most recent post on andybudd.com (The Benefits and Challenges of running a slow growing business) really hit a note about start up culture. It reminded me of another great article and our own endeavours here at The Digest. What steps do you take to ensure Clearleft deliberately grows slower than others?

As an owner operated design agency with no outside investment, it’s pretty straightforward really. Rather than taking on every project that comes our way, and letting our pipeline dictate our growth, we’re selective about the projects we take on. That means working with clients who share our values, and have interesting problems we’re well placed to solve. So we spend a lot of time getting to know our clients and turn down more work that we take on.

I couldn’t agree more than several responsibilities for a growing business need to be spread. One day I find myself marketing our product, the next designing a new feature! Does this ‘jack of all trades’ approach not spread your focus to widely rather than hone it?

What you’re describing is the role of the CEO, which, in a small company, involves filling in the gaps to glue the organisation together. A good CEO will naturally surround themselves with experts, so this invariably means that they’re the least specialised person in the room. However what you lack in depth you make up for in perspective, so that’s not quite the same as being a ‘jack of all trades’.

I came across a great term used in the product sphere last year, “Shaving the yak”. It’s a process that all new businesses must go through when first positioning themselves on the market. A first iteration of product and message changes so rapidly to fit their intended audience and position with their own competitors. Have you heard of this term? What are your thoughts?

It’s a fairly common term in programming circles to describe fixating on issues (or subroutines) too many levels deep. It’s related to both premature optimisation and procrastiworking, which we’re all guilty of at times. However I don’t quite see the link to new businesses as it’s a trap you can fall into at any size, and can be even more common in larger companies. In fact I’d argue that the whole rise of the “Lean Start-up” movement was a direct attempt to prevent “yak shaving”.

dContruct last year was great! How come you guys decided to knock this on the head?

When we started dConstruct in 2005, we were one of only two web conferences in the UK. During last year’s dConstruct there were at least half a dozen digital conferences that week alone. As such, it feels like we’ve reached ‘peak conference’ and the market has become a bit saturated. So we thought it was a good time to take a break and focus our energies elsewhere.

Do you plan on introducing a new conference in Brighton any time soon?

I can’t see us running any new events in Brighton anytime soon. However we do have a few things in the pipeline for London, including a small conference for agency founders called thefoundersassembly.com.