I'd always seen my career in some form of communication industry. In my youth I had spent endless hours recording amateur radio shows on C90 cassettes. My uncle had crafted a little mixing console that enabled me to plug in a microphone, tape deck and record player. I'd use the little faders to pretend I was hosting a show on Radio One. I'd mix in news, interviews and comedy skits with friends. It was great fun.
I'd also been really keen on becoming a journalist. I used to make my own newspapers for fun. In fact I once got 100% for making a computer games magazine at school for an IT project! I was also obsessed with Ceefax and Teletext and when I got my first PC I whittled off a whole bunch of pretend Ceefax pages to test out the word processor.
So you can imagine my joy at the invention of the World Wide Web and blogging! From my degree in Communication, Culture and Media I bumbled into my first salaried position at the local rag's first foray into New Media. It turns out I was to become the sole Web Designer for nine regional newspapers and a TV Guide for Johnston Press. Servicing both editorial and advertising staff, I'd get creative working out ways to connect the two (traditionally advertising and editorial occupied very different parts of the printed publications). I had lots of fun but it seemed like I had a rather strategic brain to accompany my creative flights of fancy.
Innovations in Digital Student Support
I moved on from newspaper publishing into Higher Education (HE). I took on the role of Web Designer at The Open University (OU) in 2002. I was initially employed because I had some pretty good form working with Web Standards, HTML, CSS and knew a reasonable amount about accessibility. I set about revolutionising the way the OU delivered their web sites. Out with the table layouts and tiny fonts, in with progressive CSS and high accessibility. I developed a bit of a name for myself. I became the OU's first User Experience (UX) Designer and established User Centred Design (UCD) into the organisation, recruiting and developing some exceptionally talented colleagues. Together we developed a fresh, data informed, human centred online Student Support Service that went from strength to strength.
The main vehicle for online student support was the OU Help Centre. This was a website backed by a robust and reliable continuous improvement methodology. With students at the heart of the User Centred Design process we were able to capture student needs and expectations and rapidly adapt to the ever-changing HE environment. To buck the trend for bloated enterprise solutions, we 'rolled our own' service from bleeding edge open source technologies. We hired the most talented web developers with their own passion for agile UX and full-stack web development expertise. We hit the jackpot.
All the while we were hammering away at a rock-solid, strategically aligned Content Strategy. Yet another first for the OU. People started to seriously take notice of everything we built. It became infectious and soon enough Senior Managers all wanted a piece of the action. A central unit was setup to cater for the entire OU's Content and UX needs. The Open University was on its way. My work was done. Or had it just begun?
Since leaving the OU I have helped form the UCISA HE UX community of practice, undertaken UX research for a food ordering mobile application, provided UX Consultancy to Web Happens and Accessibility Consultancy to Experience UX.
Get in touch
I'm available to talk to you about how I might add some extra sunshine into your online service. You'll find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Gmail (guycarberry).
Guy Carberry, 19 May 2021.