Graham Lee has over 12 years’ experience in content design, managing content for large web migration projects and writing copy for digital tools and transactions.
Having earned a BA in Philosophy and early success in his role as web content editor working for brands such as Pearson Group and the Ministry of Justice, he now provides his knowledge and expertise to Ad Hoc Global as a senior strategist.
Graham has been described by colleagues past and present as a highly skilled and diligent copy designer who cares deeply about the needs of the user.
We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Graham a few questions and gather an insight into his work and life:
Why did you first become interested in UX/content design?
GL: I wrote blog posts and reviews in my spare time and stumbled into working on websites for a living. It was good to have an outsider’s point of view, as it meant I didn’t take a lot for granted. Official websites can look stuffy and use lots of long words that most people don’t use in real life. I remember thinking, ‘Who are they talking to here, and why are they using such odd terms?’
Was this always the career path you wanted to follow and did you expect to be working where you are now?
GL: Not at all! I always enjoyed writing but the web barely existed whenI left school. It would have been more realistic to dream of being an astronaut, as at least they were around back then.
Can you tell us a bit about your current role?
GL: I’m currently working for a public sector client, writing copy on using government services. It’s very rewarding, especially when you can take something that’s very complex and explain it in simple terms that everyone can understand.
How is user experience content design integrated into the workflow with your client?
GL: User experience and content design are factored in from the beginning. We do lots of research with users to understand what they need from a service. The content person then works closely with the designer and researcher to make sure the service is user-friendly.
In your opinion, what is the most important part of the content design process?
GL: Critical bit is making sure you write for the customer. There’s a lot of research involved in this: understanding who they are, what they need to do, how they’ll access a service and what problems they have going online. And then you have to tailor something bespoke for them. At the end of the day, the suit has to fit!
What specific research methods have you used and which is your most preferred method?
GL: I enjoy crunching the numbers on how people behave online, with things like web metrics or feedback data. But there’s nothing like meeting real users in person – for instance, sitting with them and seeing how they use a website. Even facial expressions can be revealing: preferably delighted ones when things test well. You really can’t get that from an email or emoticon.
What challenges do you encounter when carrying out research for content design?
GL: It’s hard to predict exactly what people will find confusing. You can make a very good guess, but there are always small things that they’ll trip up on which you hadn’t spotted beforehand. I don’t think this is a major problem, though. It just reinforces the need to make the content as clear as possible, and then test it.
What are your predictions about the future of UX and content design, say 20 years from now?
GL: UX and content design will be central. The web will be much more woven into everyday life, so the whole experience will have to be a lot more natural – like chatting to a friend, rather than typing a memo to your boss. This will mean that it’s more important than ever to use natural language and make sure what we design fits in with how people actually behave.
Finally, what do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of your work?
GL: Apart from being a bookworm and film buff, I’m currently trying to learn how to play the piano. I’m not a natural: my wife says I sound like Les Dawson (who played all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order). I won’t be giving up the day job!