James McQuarrie is a UK based Product Leader who helps teams discover, design, build and deliver digital products and services that delight their users.
The update was much needed and incorporates a number of changes that I’ve been meaning to make since I launched the last version of the site just over a year ago.
The previous design was done while I was still very new to the world of freelancing and when I wasn’t entirely sure who the audience for the site was or what message I was trying to get across. As a result the old design didn’t hold together as well as I would have liked and, as I learnt more about myself, my craft and my offering, became less and less relevant.
As a direct result of not being 100% sure of what I wanted to say with the old site the overall page structure of the site was left fairly open with a strong mast and footer, but with a weak layout for the actual content. This redesign aims to address this.
The overall goal of the redesign was to tighten up the look and feel, giving each page more structure and a better visual hierarchy. I also wanted to hone the message and bring my portfolio and blog up to date.
Understanding my audience
Last year’s design process started, as I always do for a new project, by me looking at the audience for the site. The problem was, as mentioned above, I wasn’t entirely sure who the audience for this site was. Was it potential clients? Was it recruitment consultants? Was it my peer group? Was it web agencies? The truth was that it was all of these, but at the time I couldn’t see that or decide which group to focus on. For this redesign, I’ve focused on the potential client and recruitment audiences as my primary concern with the other groups acknowledged, but given less relevance.
For my target groups the site serves as an introduction to me, what I do, what I can offer them and gives them an overview of what work I’ve done in the past. To meet with their content requirements, I’ve striped back the homepage, and the overall Information Architecture of the site.
The homepage is now fairly sparse, designed to achieve three things:
- sell me in one sentence
- give those who are interested an easy way (with clear calls to action) of discovering more about me and my experience
- make it very easy for people to contact me (again with a very clear call to action).
My blog, despite my best intentions, is not updated as regularly as I would like and so has not been highlighted as a call to action on the homepage and the previously present “recent articles” section has been stripped out as they only serve to distract from the above three things. My blog can still easily be accessed via the global navigation, but I’ve made the decision to let it take a back seat as far as the homepage is concerned.
While thinking through the homepage design, and having analysed my Google Analytics stats I was conscious that not everyone arriving at the site does so from the same place, or with the same prior knowledge of who I am. Which meant that I needed to cater for their different expectations. But, I also wanted to keep the homepage design minimal and focused. So, instead of cluttering up the homepage with content for all, I focused in on my three main traffic sources; organic / direct traffic, twitter traffic and Linkedin traffic and for each group of visitors I have created a landing page that (I hope) gives a slightly tweaked, more relevant introduction to me, my work and the site for each group.
Whether these traffic source specific landing pages will work or not, I’m not sure, but I like the idea that they may, and will be keeping my eye on how they are used and what impact they have.
You can see the three versions of the landing page at:
- standard homepage for organic / direct traffic with a generic all round introduction: jmcquarrie.co.uk
- twitter traffic for those who click through from my twitter profile and who know a bit about me already: jmcquarrie.co.uk/welcome-twitter
- Linkedin traffic for those who click through from my Linkedin profile and who should have a stronger idea of what I do before arriving here: jmcquarrie.co.uk/welcome-linkedin
Updating my portfolio – focusing on the process as well as the outcome
The portfolio section of my previous design was a bit of a haphazard affair. Each project page was designed differently, with different numbers of differently sized screenshots and varying levels of explanation about the work that I’d done relating to them.
Having now gone through the interview process for a number of freelance and contracting roles, I have a much better understanding of what my portfolio needs to show off. The end product is useful to see, but as a User Experience / Information Architect it’s the process that I used to arrive at the end product that most people want to know about. My portfolio now reflects this a little better, and will be seeing more improvements as I update each project page with more of the artefacts from my work and add more details of the processes that I follow to arrive at the final deliverable for each project.
Saying a little more about me
The biggest change to the design of the site has been to the About James page. Gone is the generic “Hi I’m a London based UX person who enjoys cooking and the outdoors” and in comes three things:
- an explanation of what I do and offer potential clients
- a breakdown of my skills and what I can and can’t do
- the background story of how I got into the UX game and how my approach has been influenced and developed over the years
The idea was for the page to act as a more of a bio than a formal CV that potential clients or recruitment folk could read to get a feel for who I am and how I approach my work.
For the background story bit of that page I wanted to give readers a sense of how long I’ve been working in the web and UX space and hope that by including key web and tech events interspersed amongst my own experiences I can help people frame how my career has progressed in context of how the industry has developed over the last 10 years or so. When I started out UX wasn’t a buzz word, iPods iPhones and iPads didn’t exist and most people had barely got to grips with email let alone the web.
Ultimately this update isn’t a huge revolution of a redesign, but more of an evolution. A reflection of a better understanding of the site’s purpose and how I should use it. It will no doubt continue to evolve, but for the moment I see that near term evolution being on a much smaller scale and in smaller increments.