UX in New Zealand with Richard Douglass

When we mention we’re headquartered in New Zealand, we typically get one of the following responses:

1. Lord of the Rings right? I heard it’s beautiful down there. (Yes, it is thanks)

2. Isn’t that like close to Australia? (Yes. Just a three-hour flight away)

3. I’d love to go there one day.

Recently, UX consultant Richard Douglass got the opportunity to follow through on response #3.

With his family of five he came here for 3-months working for our sister company, Optimal Usability. For the benefit of the people we’ve met (and will meet) who want to come to visit New Zealand one day – here’s what Richard had to say about his time here.

Q: So Richard, let’s cut to the chase – did you like working and living in New Zealand?

I really enjoyed my time in New Zealand both as a user experience professional and as a part-time tourist. The people I met showed me a tremendous amount of hospitality, and I leave with great memories of both the project work, and the beautiful country we were able to experience.

Q: How did you end up here anyway, at the bottom for the world?

While attending the UXPA conference in Las Vegas in June, I had the opportunity to meet Optimal Usability CEO Kris Nygren. We had a great discussion about the work that OU was involved with, and I was offered the opportunity to come over to New Zealand and assist. Within a matter of weeks, I made my way with my wife and kids to Wellington and joined OU on a short-term contract.

Q: What were you working on?

I was working with one of OU’s long-standing clients on a site redesign. After spending time understanding their business, their goals, and the issues they faced, we determined that the way to proceed would be to create personas and then initial wireframe concepts. These wireframes would undergo Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE) sessions with users to help establish the high-level workflow and navigation through the site.

Q: How did you find it working with Kiwis (New Zealanders)?

I found both my OU team members and the client very easy going. We worked collaboratively on solutions to issues as they came up. There is definitely a creative can-do spirit amongst Kiwis and a ‘no worries, we’ll sort it out sentiment’ shared by most.

Q: What’s life in New Zealand like?

Having my wife and kids join me on the trip was a really great experience for us. The office manager at OU helped us find a terrific holiday house about 30 minutes from downtown. The locals considered it a ‘life-style block’ since it has about 20 acres of land complete with sheep, goats, horses, pigs, and chickens. My kids called themselves ‘farmers’ as they would feed the pigs in the morning and check the chicken coop in the afternoon for fresh eggs.

My family and I were able to travel on the weekends and came to appreciate the natural beauty all around us. My kids picked up two books early on about native birds and the plants of New Zealand. They became quite excited about adding to the list the new species we would find on our weekend trips. In fact, my six-year-old is unable to read, but can now identify over 30 different birds from one of the books based on the picture alone.

Q: Any lasting memories from your short time here?

Some of my fondest memories will be the road trips I took with my OU co-worker as we conducted 18 persona interviews and 14 RITE sessions around the country. We travelled to five different cities over the 11 weeks I was in country. One interview that stands out was with a self-employed woman in Christchurch that was working to help people in her town create their own businesses.

The interview took place in her home, which had been damaged by the recent earthquakes, and we were sitting in her dining room that contractors were still in the process of putting it back together. She was working from home and connecting with people around New Zealand via the Internet since both the business that she worked for and the building where she worked no longer existed. It felt good to know that the website we were working on redesigning was going to make her life a bit easier by enabling her to complete transactions online.

Richard is principal of Ohio-based UX consultancy Improved Usability.