James McQuarrie is a UK based Product Leader who helps teams discover, design, build and deliver digital products and services that delight their users.
Whether you have an idea for a new digital product or service, or want to review, add to or improve an existing one I can help.
I have spent over 18 years helping companies of all sizes from startups to multinationals to define, design and deliver digital products and services that delight their users.
What I do
My role when helping companies now comes under the title of Head of Product, or Senior Product Lead. In the past I’ve had roles with titles like “Head of User Experience (UX)”, “UX Consultant”, “UX Specialist”, or sometimes “UX Designer”.
Whatever the title, I help companies and teams understand and design for their audiences. And then deliver those designs.
This usually involves me helping them with one or more of the following:
- Analysing the market or sector they intend to improve I help teams understand: if there is an opportunity and how big it is. What their competitors are already offering. What’s the current best in class offering. What’s missing from the market, and how current and emerging technologies could be applied to it.
- Validating the problem they are trying to address Believing there is a problem worth solving in a specific market and knowing there is one based on user research are two different things. I help teams at this stage of a product’s development understand who their potential audiences are, how those audiences describe current problems and opportunities, and what solutions they use (if any) to get around them.
- Validating solutions they are proposing to develop (or proposing solutions based on a validated problem) There is rarely just one solution to any given problem. I help teams rapidly prototype and test ideas and concepts for solutions and test them with their intended audience to understand if a solution will work, how an audience reacts to it and most importantly; why.
- Optimising an existing solution to an understood problem Digital products and services don’t exist in a vacuum; the World around them continuously changes. I help teams test and optimise solutions to make sure they continue to work for their intended audiences.
I focus on the end users of any product or service and help teams bring user, business, and technical requirements together to produce product specs and roadmaps that can be built and tested quickly.
My preference is to work in a very iterative way that allows a product to evolve as ideas are tested and evaluated and improved upon throughout a dual-track discovery and delivery process.
Take a look through my portfolio of work to see some examples of the types of clients, projects and deliverables that I have worked with over the years.
How I got to here
If you would like to see a traditional version of my CV please see my Linkedin profile. If you are more interested in just getting a feel for what I have been up to here is the story of how I got to where I am now:
“Learn HTML in a weekend” – one book changes everything
It’s the year 2000. The beginning of a new millennium. I’d just finished secondary school (high school) and Yahoo still rules supreme over the Internets. At the recommendation of a friend of mine I decide to teach myself a new techincal skill before I start my degree. I’d been exploring the web via a 56k dial up connection for a year or so and HTML seemed to be as good a skill as any to pick up, so I picked up a copy of Learn HTML in a Weekend (which came with a CD-ROM, remember those?) and started learning what markup was and how to get content on the web. Little did I know what that one book would lead to.
I buy my first domain name and hosting – mylocalsites.co.uk is born
Enthused and amazed by my new found ability to add things to the web I decide the world needs a directory site that lists all other websites based on specific real world location. mylocalsites is born and quickly killed as I realise the world doesn’t really need such as service. It had interactive imagemaps.
I buy my second domain name for my personal site- cheezepie.com
Having failed to do anything useful with the mylocalsites domain, I decide to build a personal site instead and base the domain name on my (at the time) yahoo email address. cheezepie.com becomes a rudimentary blog, before we called them blogs and before there were any tools to build them, it was all hand coded.
Alistapart publish Practical CSS layout tips tricks and techniques – changes how I code for ever
Start my first year of studying Computer Science & E-Business at Loughborough University
Armed with my newly gained technical skill I head off to university to expand my computer related knowledge and learn about this new thing called “E-Business”. During the first year I learn about Computer Systems, Logic and Functional Programming, Databases and that maths is not my strongest skill.
I read Don’t Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability and realise that making web sites simple to use and easy to understand is key to their success
My first client’s website goes live
Having figured out the basics of designing and building websites I design and build my first client site using the content management system Textpattern. Holiday cottage websites will never be the same again.
Apple launches first iPod – all your music in your pocket? Wow.
Start my second year of studying Computer Science & E-Business at Loughborough University
This year we learn all about; Requirements Analysis, Formal Specification and Systems Design and, my personal favourite, HCI
Internship at PA Consulting as the Training & Development teams web guy
In the third year of my degree I take a “sandwich year” and work as an intern for a year at PA Consulting. I work in PA’s Training and Development department, hired to maintain and develop their intranet based training website. I do bits and pieces of work on their website, but mainly spent my time learning about the world of consulting and how to deliver IT training, which I get to do in PA offices all over the World including: London, Cambridge, Oslo, Copenhagen, Hong Kong and Sydney.
I buy and use my first (and only) PDA – a Dell Axim – feels like I’m holding the future in my hands. No one else thinks so though.
Final year of studying Computer Science & E-Business at Loughborough University
After my time as an intern at PA Consulting I go back to my final year of studies at Loughborough where I design and develop an online Life Coaching application for my dissertation (as a Comp Sci student we had to design and build software instead of writing a thesis). I got a 2:1 overall. As well as a “Diploma in Professional Studies” for completing my internship at PA.
Firefox 1.0 launched – IE is starting to look old.
My first client starts a new business, I build the website
Having seen what a website can do for their first business, my first clients come back to me when they launch their new restaurant business and I design and build them a new site, this time using the power house that is WordPress.
Facebook is born, but only for those who have been invited.
Back to PA Consulting as a graduate
Having been sent around the World as an intern, PA Consulting seemed like an attractive choice of employer so after graduating I go back to PA as an Analyst in their ISI practise where I get more training in the ways of a consultant.
TechCrunch launches – soon becomes the go to site for startup tech news.
Facebook opens up to everyone and seems to go global almost over night.
Promoted to Consultant Analyst at PA Consulting
Within a year of re-joining PA I get promoted to Consultant Analyst and spend my time working on PA Venture projects (essentially internally funded startups) defining and designing their web based applications. These ventures included: Aegate – a drug authentication company, Adition – a mobile advertising company, Bullcox – a reverse auction site for heavy plant hire and ProcServe – an online procurement company.
Twitter is unleashed on the world. Not everyone gets it.
Front End Architect at ProcServe
Having spent all my consulting days working for PA ventures, I finally take the hint and join one of them (ProcServe) full time as their Front End Architect – responsible for scoping, designing and developing the User Experience and User Interface for their online procurement systems.
Apple launches the iPhone – complete with Mobile Safari, the mobile web gets a shot in the arm.
Introduce a new product at ProcServe
Having spent time learning the ProcServe systems and talking to ProcServe customers I see a need for a slightly different product offering and busy myself building a mockup of the interface for a simple online procurement tool that acts as a single point of entry into the ProcServe eco-system. OTIS is born.
Apple launches the iPhone 3G – apps take over the World.
Google launches its browser – Chrome proves very speedy.
So long corporate World, hello the great unknown
After years of threatening to do so, towards the end of the year I finally give in to the urge to stride out on my own and leave the safety of a corporate job.
JMCQUARRIE Ltd is officially launched
Having taken a few months off, I finally put my money where my mouth is and go back to the world of freelancing and contracting, this time with a wealth of consulting experience under my belt. I set up JMCQUARRIE Ltd and start looking for new clients.
Apple launches the iPhone 4 – my old employer releases a surprisingly humorous video about it’s antena issues
Apple launches the iPad – puts the web in your hands
My first freelance client, Zoomatelo, is an award winning student startup who need some User Experience help for their carpooling web application. I help them redesign their product interface and enjoy every minute of it.
The CV Nurse sets up her clinic
As the economic downturn really begins to bite, The CV Nurse decides it’s about time a wider audience benefits from her years of CV reviewing and interviewing experience. I design her website and have a ton of fun in the process.
Contracted by Roxxor as a User Experience specialist
I get my first introduction to the world of design agencies working with the small team at Roxxor. Working on some short, sharp and agile projects for the likes of Aiimi, Addison Lee, Bearing Partnership and PayPerks. My game is officially upped.
Flights of Nancy launched
A long time friend and ex-colleague from my PA days also goes freelance and needs a website to peddle her wares, I design, build and maintain Flights of Nancy for her.
Apple launches the iPad 2 – the one with the swimming pool cover
Contracted by a Sweet & Maxwell (part of Thomson Reuters) to work on their online product’s UI design
I go back to my corporate roots to work with the development team as a UI designer and User Experience consultant at Sweet & Maxwell.
Apple launches the iPad with retina display
Dream It Get IT (DIGIT) is born
I’m approached by one of the founders of a new startup company DIGIT (now renamed Visii) and asked if I would work on the UI and interaction design for their new product. I jump at the chance to work on a startup again.
Google join the tablet market with their Nexus 7
Goodbye Sweet & Maxwell
After 12 months of working with the team at Sweet & Maxwell and having already extended my contract three times, I leave the project in the safe hands of their in-house teams.
Apple launches the iPad Mini. No retina screen, yet…
I’m hired by the guys I worked with at Aiimi while working for Roxxor to come in and help them work through the interaction design and information architecture of a new product they are creating as part of a startup with three other companies called The Union.
After months of tinkering and sweating the detail, I finally get around to designing and implementing a new design here at JMCQUARRIE.co.uk.
Apple add to the iPad family with the introduction of iPad Air. And introduce fingerprint readers to the iPhone line up with the iPhone 5s
Head of UX at DIGIT
I join the team at DIGIT (Visii) full time as their Head of User Experience, where I worked to help them turn their idea for a great new technology into something useful.
Apple announces the long rumoured Apple Watch – no signs of a web browser though…
So long DIGIT, hello contracting
After over three years of working with and for the DIGIT team I felt it was time to go back to contracting. I said my goodbyes and re-enter the world of being a gun for hire.
Consulting at DAD
I’m hired to spend three days a week providing UX consultancy to a new startup founded by my first contracting client, Ben from Roxxor. DAD gives you instant access to home repair experts via face-to-face video calls.
I got married!
Work on NEXTFREE begin
When I’m not working with Ben and team at DAD, I start working on an idea I’ve sat on for over three years: NEXTFREE. Helping freelancers share their availability for new work with the World.
Apple announces the iPad Pro, a huge iPad that could replace laptops?…
I go right back to my roots and work on a consulting firm’s internal learning and development website
While juggling DAD and NEXTFREE work, I find some time to help out an old friend from my PA Consulting days, and put together the designs for an internal learning and development website for Arcadis where she now works.
After months of consulting 3 days a week with the DAD team, I join full time as their “Head of Experience”, focused on making sure our products and services are as customer focused as possible and managing the roadmaps of our the three core apps that allow our service to run.
While working full time at DAD I, and my business partner Paul, continue to grow NEXTFREE. Learning how to find our audience and understand what works and what doesn’t for them. We even sponsor the 2016 iOSDevUK Conference in Wales.
Apple launches the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro. The Internet is divided over its usefulness
The end of DAD
The funding for DAD was pulled at the end of 2016 after our backers decided to pursue other routes into the digital market. Unfortunately that meant disbanding the team and having to stop work on validating our product and service.
Helping improve the experience of hiring a tradesperson at Aspect
Drawing on my experiences of digitalising the world of home repairs at DAD, I helped the team at aspect.co.uk review and improve their customer’s experiences of hiring tradesmen to help them fix and improve their homes.
Defining a v1 of Kynd’s first product
I helped the founding team at Kynd define the first version of their cyber security product, and provided customer journeys for their customer on boarding.
So long London, hello Bristol
After over 13 years living and working in London I was tempted away by a company on a great mission called Cookpad. I joined their Product team in their Global Headquarters in Bristol, working to “make everyday cooking fun”.
My Wife and I have a baby boy
I say goodbye to Cookpad. During my time I lead three different squads, tripled the number of users having conversations on the platform and redesigned the internal admin and community management tools from the ground up. I left having learnt a huge amount about leading teams and delivering products on a global scale. And having made some fantastic friends.
Jobs Contract Projects Board
Having listened the the feedback our members at NEXTFREE were sharing about their experiences of the contract market, and their worries about the impending IR35 changes coming to the UK’s tax rules, I launched a contract projects board (like a “jobs board”, but exclusively for contract opportunities) at NEXTFREE’s sister site nextfree.uk.
Covid-19 spreads globally and UK (like most countries) goes into lockdown
Teaching Monsters to read
With my Product Manager hat on, I help the team behind a BAFTA-nominated educational video game to design and run an experiment to help them decide how to charge players for their next game. A task complicated by the fact they’re a non-profit company so need to get the balance right between covering costs and making money.
Tidy. The solid shampoo for Men is launched
I launch a new solid shampoo bar for Men called Tidy. Handmade. Organic. Vegan-friendly. Plastic & cruelty-free. The bar is aimed squarely at Men who would like to use top quality, low impact products. Read more about how the bar, and the brand, came to be in my blog post “Introducing Tidy – A new solid shampoo for Men“. Or visit the Tidy solid shampoo shop
Apple launches the M1 chip – Apple silicon is back in the Mac
Accelerating the world’s access to design
I join eporta as a Senior Product Manager. Helping the growing team manage the complexities of evolving their newest offering in the interior design space. Their VP of Engineering is a fellow ex-DIGITer. It’s great to be working with him again.
Goodbye NEXTFREE, Hello Fring
After six years of running and growing our freelancer marketplace at NEXTFREE I shut down the service and start advising the founders of Fring (a similar service from The Netherlands) to help them expand their membership globally.
Facebook (the company) change their name to Meta
Eporta → Shopify
The Eporta team were aqcuired by Shopify in November 2021. Building on our work to help manufacturers in the interior design industry sell their products online, we join Shopify to help make commerce easier for everyone.
My Wife and I have a second baby
Like ~2,000 other “shopifolk” I was let go from Shopify as part of an organisation wide 20% cut in the workforce.
Apple announces the Apple Vision Pro
I migrated this website from Wordpress to Jekyll. No database + no bloat = super fast site!
I co-founded Glad to help businesses fight climate change, one payment at a time. For free.
Who knows? I’m always looking for new and exciting projects to help out with so if your project could do with Product Management or UX input get in touch and I’d be happy to talk you through how I could be of help.