UX Mastery Podcast #8: Studying UX with David Trewern

UX Mastery Podcast #8: Studying UX with David Trewern


We chat with David Trewern, an award-winning Australian designer and founder of the Tractor design school. We discuss design schools, whether accreditation is valuable, and how to prepare for a career in UX.

We sat down with David Trewern, an award-winning Australian designer and founder of the Tractor design school. We discussed design schools, whether accreditation is valuable, and how to prepare for a career in UX.

If you’re interested in a career in UX design and would like to follow up with more information, you might find our ebook “Get Started in UX” helpful. Best of luck!

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Matt: Hello and welcome to the latest episode of the UX Mastery Podcast. This is Matt and I’m very fortunate to have with me today David Trewern. David, welcome.

David: Thank you, good to be here.

Matt: David, you have a pretty interesting and inspiring story so perhaps we’ll kick things off, if you can tell us a bit about yourself and the journey that you’ve been on.

David: Okay, I’ll try and be concise. I studied graphic design back in the early 90’s. I finished up in ’94. As part of my final year in my design course I won an AGDA (which is the Australian Graphic Design Association) Travel Scholarship, which sent me off to the United States and the UK to visit some leading design businesses. When I sat down with AGDA and talked about where I wanted to go I just said, “I’m really interested in anything to do with technology, digital design, and so forth. It was very early days for that, so it was long before Facebook, Google, and those companies back in ’95. So I headed off to San Francisco, and I happened to be there in August ’95, which is the month that actually Netscape floated and launched. And that’s really, in my view, the birth of the visual internet as we know it now. I just happened to by coincidence be in San Francisco and that time, which is pretty exciting time. I visited a couple of businesses that I’d never heard of at the time, one of them was IDEO who some of the listeners might know well. I also visited a company called Vivid Studios. That was one of the very early web design businesses. There’s a guy called Nathan Shedroff who people may have heard of who was the founder of that business. And he offered me a job and I spent a fair bit of time talking to him. I didn’t actually end up working there, but he put together a book called Experience Design a couple of years later and I can come back to that. But it was a real influence. He was working on the early days of developing websites and moving them from really just a hypertext-based linking of information to more visual websites. I spent some time with him. I also visited Studio Archetype that is now Sapient. And they were working on early websites for Sony, Apple, and things like that. It was a pretty exciting time to be in San Francisco. So that had a huge influence on me. I came back to Australia, and I was already working as a multimedia partner for one of the early multimedia companies in Melbourne. I was working on CD-ROMS, so I was designing interfaces and things, and doing a bit of Lingo programming in Macromedia Director, which is what it was then. I suppose I had these crossover skills or I had design skills as well as technology and programming skills, which I really enjoyed, and I loved switching between the two. After my trip I became pretty inspired in my final role. I worked for about a year after I finished uni and my final role was working for a company called Gyro Interactive. Again, that was one of the first multimedia companies. I had a project there designing the interface of LookSmart, which is an Australian search engine that ended up floating on the NASDAQ, and a guy called Evan Thornley set that business up and it became quite successful again long before the search engines that we have today, Facebook, Google, etc. I was in there working with a whole lot of PhD Java programmers and I was the designer. We’re designing a completely new program for search engine where you weren’t actually searching you were stepping through categories. What these guys worked at is that from sort of 4 or 5 clicks you can go from any topic to a sensible list of search results very quickly. And back then it was actually faster than searching because of the way that the technology worked and so forth. And I suppose the unpredictability of the results from search algorithms back them. We were designing a completely new interface. It was interesting for me because I was really designing a product and combining my graphic design skills. I was designing the brand, the interface, the product, working with these Java designers to try and work out. I had a target of 8 kilobytes for the whole interface because we’re working with very slow modems back then. I was working out ways of combining the whole interface into one 16-color image that could be kept up by the programmers to create this 3-dimensional interface where you could very quickly navigate through categories of neat buttons and all the rest of it. We had people in there a couple of times a week that we’d be user testing things on and things like that. That was a real influence for me. I then left Gyro and set-up on my own as a freelance designer, but I kept LookSmart as a client because my previous business didn’t really know what to do with them. I was kind of the web guy. They said you can keep us as a client. I kept working for LookSmart, which gave me some good income. Within about 3 months of setting up my businesses is in September ’96 I set-up. I got the opportunity to design the first Mercedes Benz website for Clemenger, which was a pretty big deal. They didn’t have a website before that and I think Clemenger gone in and sold them the dream of this incredible website where owners could log on and they could remind them of when their car’s due to be serviced and all this sort of stuff. I think it was a $500,000 project for Clemenger at the time. It was a big undertaking for everybody involved and I ended up being the guy that then had to deliver the dream and design the look and feel ofthe interface and actually also do a lot of the coding as well. So that was a fantastic project for me to do and I think I was 23 at the time and I learned a lot through that. A lot of the things that I learned from Nathan Shedroff from Vivid, I marched up to San Francisco went into my proposal and I pitched, and it was all about the experience. Again, this is long before UX as we know it now, but from talking to Nathan way back then I really clicked on to this idea of particularly back then when you had these huge constraints around screen size, color depth, and color palettes, but most important bandwidth. So everything was really about how can you deliver an effective experience with these incredible constraints, where people are dialling up with 144K modems and waiting 3 minutes for a very, very simple page to download before they can click. Everything had to be very, very carefully considered. And even the best websites beck then were still incredibly frustrating things. Part of my proposal to Clemenger was all about that. I talked about a little bit like baking a cake where we’ve got to get the visual design right, we’ve got to get the functionality right, we’ve got to get the content right. It’s all going to deliver the right return on effort for the user that. If somebody’s going to click and wait for 45seconds what they’re going to get next better be what they were hoping for and it better work, and it better deliver some value to them.

That really shaped my thinking very early on particularly those constraints around the importance of just designing the experience beyond just looking at the way that a graphic designer would and thinking about what it looks like. And so it was a really interesting time back then and I went through the whole phase of the browser walls and the development of browsers. It all had different quirks. And I suppose with my coding side of things, there were very few people involved in this at that time that work from a design background too. Most of the people that were building websites were programmers and they have very little interest in the way that websites looked. And they almost had this religious fervour around this shouldn’t even be in the interface. What do you need an interface for? It’s already been designed. You have blue links that turn purple when you click on them and that’s the interface. From a graphic design background I knew that we needed to bring more to the experience than that and create drama, tension, and creating an interface that was seductive that people wanted to actually engage with.

For example, just typing in job terms and see how many results come up just to see what sort of demand there is for jobs. I did this a couple of weeks ago and I think graphic design, I think about 800 jobs came up across Australia with the terms graphic design in them. And this is a pretty loose search. Some of these jobs are overlapping and so forth. I did a search for digital design, web design, mobile design, and user experience design, and each of those had more in the order of 2,000 roles across Australia, so more than two times graphic design. And when you add all those other ones together you’re talking about 6,000 or 7,000 jobs compared to 700 or 800 jobs. That’s a good example of how in the last 15 years the demand has shifted to new roles that didn’t even exist 15 years ago. And when you look at where the money is in these roles it becomes even more extreme. I then filtered that search to say, show me the jobs with salaries more than $100,000, and the results have gotten incredibly extreme with user experiences being a clear standout in terms of the number of roles over $100,000 versus the other roles, and far more than graphic design by many multiples. I then changed the filter and I looked at jobs over $200,000 and what I found was I think it was 394 digital design jobs that covered… I’m talking very broadly here, UX mobile, web design, digital design terms in the role, and one graphic design job in the whole of Australia. So basically nearly 400 times as many jobs in that range. And I saw that and experience that running DT, we need people with these new skills, but the people coming out of colleges and universities are being trained using yesterday’s tools and they have yesterday skills. So that’s something that really got me interested in education and Tractor. We took over an existing graphic design school because we needed the structure, and the license, and the processes, and those sorts of things. And we set about really trying to make it the most digitally focused. Again, I’m talking more digital than UX but the most digitally focused course that we could, and so we built right into the core of all of the courses that we offer at Tractor. All the things that I thought are really important for a whole range of different roles, which are merging with UX related skills being right at the core of that and right upfront in the course. Because it’s just so important to be thinking about the things that UX designers think about at the start of all of these processes.

Matt: Great. There’s clearly demand there and we get a lot of people coming to us asking for advice on how can I get started in UX or how can I transition? So to play devil’s advocate what’s the advantage of going to a school like Tractor and getting some kind of certification there, formal training versus learning on the job and getting the experience by kind of being in the trenches?

David: Sure. I think certainly if you can get an opportunity to learn on the job with the right mentors in place and the right business then you’ll learn very quickly. But those opportunities are hard to come by. And it’s very hard to say to a group of a thousand students, let’s say, “Go out and get yourself a job and learn on the job.” It’s a bit hit and miss. And obviously the whole point of a structured and accredited education is the kind of standardized what’s being taught, what’s being learned, put it into a process, repeat it every year and improve it every year, fine tune it so that you can provide much more efficient learning whereby you’re teaching people the things that they need to know. And hopefully not wasting time doing the things that aren’t truly building that knowledge that they need to go into that role. I think there’s certainly huge advantages in structured education programs. Again, even the course that I did that was very unrelated to what I ended up doing as a job 3 years later was hugely influential and valuable. To the fact that I went into that course from year 12 at school and not really knowing anything about the design industry at all and I came out of it and I got off with a job before I finished. That’s usually beneficial. It’s also the discussions and the exposure that you get. You kind of learn what magazines should I be reading, who should I be talking to, what websites should I be looking at these days? Not when I was at uni because they weren’t websites. And you’re having 3 or 4 hours of conversation a day with other students, and tutors, and lecturers about issues. You just don’t get that opportunity again once you start work. And also you really get to control the projects that you’re working on for your portfolio.

When I did my course I went into the industry for 3rd year and did industry-based learning, which I found really beneficial. I worked in a pretty uninspiring graphic design business that was pretty old school. I spent a lot of time in the brown light room. I’m sure many of your listeners don’t know what a brown light is but we basically used to typeset annual reports, and brochures, and things in black and white, print them out in this super high resolution… Actually these days it’s probably not so super high resolution but print it on photographic paper and then we’d chop it all up, go into a dark room, and then re-photograph the positionals and things. And this is before we had digital direct to plate printing situations. I spent a year doing that, which had nothing to do with the career I was going to embark on a few years later. But learning about how to actually be an employee was hugely valuable. But the point I was going to make is to then go back to design school and go, “Okay, now I know what work’s all about. Now I know what I don’t want to do, and now I can focus on my final year on creating a portfolio.” I’m never going to get this chance again, to spend a year creating the work that I want to create that’s going to represent me as a designer. Completely self-indulgent, I don’t have real clients. But having the context of what real work is like I really enjoyed that. And that’s what then led to me doing a project. That led to me winning this scholarship and then getting jobs in these early multimedia businesses, which is great.

Matt: What about the accredited qualification itself, do you think that we’re entering an era where employers are going to start being discerning about requiring some kind of UX writer certification or is it really more about the learning and getting the runs on the board?

David: I personally don’t place… This is coming from somebody who runs an accredited design school. I actually don’t place a huge amount of value on the actual qualification. But I do place a lot of value on the qualification it represents in terms of student X went to this school and this particular school has this reputation, and it’s put out these particular types of students. And if I’ve been through that program and had that sort of experience then I put a lot of value on that, but not so much on the piece of paper itself. The piece of paper is still important I think because, again, Tractor’s really setting out to be the best design school in Australia that’s most focused on these new, emerging digital roles. And most employees will know who the top 2, 3, 4 design schools are. And it’s funny because those top schools, the piece of paper is not that important. You’ve been to the graduate exhibitions, you know the work, you know the students, and the piece of paper is not really what you’re hiring them for. However, as you move through the ranks, and there are many different cultures, and types, and everything else. That accreditation is important because it provides some accountability and adherence to standards, and processes, and things and without that it’s… As you move down from the top 2 or 3 schools you could start getting quite unregulated, kind of chaotic results. It could be a bit of waste of time for everybody. So I think the accreditation is important for that point of view but as an employer I put a whole lot of value on it. A good example is we have a graduate from Hyper Island come to us at DT and we hired him over an honest graduate from, I think it was Swinburne at the time, which is where I went. Hyper Island doesn’t actually have an accreditation whatsoever.

Matt: Where is Hyper Island?

David: Hyper Island is a digital university but it isn’t actually a university. It’s a digital… it’s based in Stockholm and it’s actually run out of an old jail on an island. It’s been running for about nearly 20 years now so it’s really set-up in sort of a multimedia school, but they teach digital strategy, digital design, responsive mobile, e-commerce. There’s whole range of courses that you can do. It has a fantastic reputation, it puts out fantastic students, but again they have no accreditation whatsoever. So other than to say, here’s a piece of paper that says you went to Hyper Island, but because they have that reputation the piece of paper’s less important. My brother studied graphic design, he went to RMIT. He then got a couple of jobs and ended up working for Emery Studio, which is probably… Gary Emery, he’s arguably the best graphic designer Australia has ever produced. He spent 10 years there. He never actually got his paper from RMIT because he didn’t finish the typing module. I remember when he was working at Emery a couple of years later they rang him up and said, “Why don’t you come in on a Saturday, do your typing module then we’ll give you your degree.” He said, “I’m doing something on Saturday. I don’t need the degree. What do I need a degree for?” And that’s probably a good example. He spent 3 or 4 years at university working his butt of to get this degree and all he had to do was go in for a few hours on a Saturday and get his piece of paper and it didn’t interest him, because he knew at that point, “I’ve got the portfolio, I’ve had the experience, I now got a job. It’s not really that important.” A bit of a mixed answer there.

Matt: Things are clearly very different today for people entering the world of UX. UX wasn’t even a term back when you started out. What if anything has remained constant about the industry?

David: My view on the reason why it’s become… I’ll come back to the question I suppose, why there’s been so much growth in this area is that if we go back 20 years 98% of the products and services that we bought as consumers were physical products and services. And then obviously the iPhone came out, whatever that was, 2007 was it? I can’t remember. All of a sudden there was this opportunity to create digital products and services that we could consume through these devices that started replacing physical products and services. If you think about things like music, you’ve got tapes going to CD’s, going to things like iTunes, and ending up with Apple Music, or Spotify, Pandora, whatever it might be. As these things become more complicated, these products and services, they’re unfamiliar experiences that need to be very carefully designed in order to be successful. If you look at maps, you’ve gone from paper maps to Tomtom devices to apps on iPhones. If you look at photography you’ve gone from film-based cameras, to digital cameras, to apps on an iPhone like Instagram.

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There’s been a couple of generations of reinventions of many different products and services that have ended up as digital products and services. And they all have an interface, which is completely unfamiliar to human beings. Whether these products succeed or fail really comes down to UX, and so it’s become so important. And then when you look at corporates you’ve got banks, you’ve got insurance companies whose main interface with the customers is now through this human-computer interactions that, again, are completely foreign and need to be designed. UX has just become so important. So in terms of your question of what’s changed, that’s really what’s changed. When I think back to the work that I did andthe way it influenced from Nathan, back then it was actually marketing and trying to engage people. A lot of it was about trying to design that experience. I’ve got a bit of a background noise here.

Matt: Yes, bit of entertaining a construction in the next building over. We’ll persist anyway.

David: Okay. Sorry about that guys. So back then you are really trying to design the experience to create an emotional response to engage people so they actually want to spend time on this particular experience. And what you’re competing against was TV and other engaging mediums like that in film. And you have these incredible constraints like what we’re facing right now, that background noise. But you had these incredible constraints of bandwidth. So the goal of experience design was to create something that people could be bothered to interact with. Now, it’s a little bit different where you’ve got these products and services and that is the way if you want to access that product or service it’s through this interface. And so it’s more of a necessity and it either works or it doesn’t. People can use it all they can as opposed to it being kind of an engaging experience if that makes sense. It’s a lot more nuts and bolts and therefore that’s why I think the emergence of… There’s far more research and things that go into UX design now, a lot of the work we did back then. And this is some of the arguments that we have with people around UX. I never really did a whole heap of user testing and research throughout my career. I started off doing a bit like LookSmart and certainly DT does a lot of it. And some people will argue with me, “That’s not really UX design.” I said, it is but I used a lot of my experience and intuition, totally focused on designing the user experience but using a different process, which is more based upon my own intuition and bits and pieces of feedback from users as opposed to constantly testing everything. My experience early on doing that with LookSmart I’d spent hours sitting through these user sessions and I’d come out and go, I kind of knew 95% of that already and there was maybe two insights here that I didn’t know. But what I was finding was the value of getting from some of those sessions based on my own intuition and knowledge base was limited compared to me spending time just thinking about and putting myself in the shoes of the user and having empathy for them. And trying to create this frame of mind of their mindset and their knowledge base looking at this. So for me it was more user experience designed from within rather than… Which again, I know talking to a lot of other people they’ll say, “That’s not user experience.” Well, it has been for me for 20 years.

Matt: Yeah, empathy has been a part of what we preach and so it’s a balancing act of course. If you’re experienced and you are able to intuit a bunch of stuff and you have one session to validate this…

David: Yeah. I definitely think validating things are important. I’ve seen a lot of the things go through such a structured process where everything’s coming from the users and I’ll still see those projects, you know, file from a UX point of view. So I just think it’s important that people practicing in this area… It’s almost like you need to earn the right to be able to break the rules a little bit and you need to know when to use what tool to create the right outcome. Apple’s a good example. They’re famous as I’m sure a lot of people have heard for not doing a whole lot of research. I can’t imagine them not validating and testing products before they launch them. But a lot of their best experiences, and ideas, and things have come more through a human creativity process than through the research says, “We better do that.”

Matt: It’s good to hear that you don’t think users will be replacing the job of designers.

David: No, definitely not.

Matt: Cast your mind forward to the next 10-15 years. Do you think, A – we’ll be using this term user experience still and then what direction do you think the industry is headed?

David: It’s hard to know. I’ve spent a lot of time throughout my career trying to imagine the future. I think that’s one of the things I’m probably pretty good at. But one of the things I’ve learned is that it’s almost impossible to do. In terms of terminology, I don’t know… really who cares sort of thing. I think that’s probably more of a function of whether people will get bored of the term and want to create a new term. It’s almost like every generation has their own little trend. They ditched the flares and go for skinny jeans, and they go back… It’s almost to define themselves as being different from the boss or the generation before them. I wouldn’t be surprised if terminology changes more out of a function of that than anything else. And obviously service design is a different thing but it’s closely linked. People are always looking for a new term to coin. I think there’ll be more rigor and structure applied to… I think it’ll just continue to evolve the way that it has been. I think there might be more specialist roles emerge. I think we’ve certainly seen that for many industries over the last 100 years. A good example is the film industry where early on the one guy would write the script, shoot the film, edit the film, act in the film. These days you’re creating Star Wars and you’ve got the guy whose job it is just to hold the light and he’s got a job title and everything that go with it. I think as computing power continues to increase exponentially as it has since the 70’s Moore’s law and all of that. As that happens there are more, and this is the way that companies like Apple grow and operate. They increase the processing power of their chips and then they go, “Okay, now we can add video. Now we can do artificial intelligence, etc.” They’ll certainly be changed. I think as computer processing power increases and the functionality behind things increases I think that will lead to more complexity, which may lead to more specialized roles. I’ve been doing a bit of marking around, working on a commercial project with drones for example. When you think about the stuff going on there with deep learning and artificial intelligence, it’s quite staggering. I think we’ll see the role of a user experience designer become more multi-dimensional if that makes sense. What I’m saying there is I think we’ll be breaking out of the phone and designing for more complex and sophisticated technology. Cars is a good example. I’ve got a strong belief in where cars are going. From what I’ve heard 2/3 of Tesla’s workforce are software engineers. And all the focus in the automotive industry is going into automation and artificial intelligence, and those sorts of things. If you think about that, that user experience job might be actually to be designing functionality that’s sitting in a car, you can see the need for splinter roles. And within that broad term of user experience you’ve got people that might focus on different parts of a process or different industries in the same way that’s happening in other industries like film and so forth.

Matt: Our Community Manager Hawk is in San Francisco at the moment. I was jealous because she was reporting on Facebook that the Tesla self-driving car was taking her home after a night at the pub. I was kind of geeking out vicariously.

David: It’s pretty incredible. What’s going on with drones and what’s going on in the automotive sector, it just makes my head hurt really. When you think about it like that I think the design industry and the user experience design industry, we can’t stand still. That’s one thing I’ve learned through my life at DT is every year it’s going to bring new challenges and things. And I think the people that will succeed ultimately are the ones that jump on new things and go, “Wow, something new is here. Let’s work it out” and really try to master it quickly. And if you stop doing that you sort of break the chain and you could wake up 5 years later and you’re doing what you’re doing 5 years ago, and you might find that the work has changed into something else. There are other people in demand and you’re not. I think that kind of continuous evolution and improvement of y ourself, and just constantly learning and thinking about the different interfaces, experiences, and technologies. Again, with iPhones you think about the sensors in an iPhone. Initially it was a chip and a screen. Apple added an accelerometer and a GPS. And when you have multiple sensors it allows an infinite number of things to happen through software. And I think over time what we’re going to see, I suppose when I’m talking about the drones in cars is more and more functionality and sensors that lead to exponentially more complexity in the products that can be created, that then user experience designers are going to get their heads around it and work out what that means.

Matt: What about you personally? Do you still design stuff? Do you still get hands-on or are you really removed from that. And if you don’t do you miss it?

David: I do miss it. I don’t do a whole heap, no. I have input from more creative direction point of view. It’s funny because I really grapple with this 15 years ago when I was at DT. I was going out talking to clients and coming back. I’ve got to get back on the tools and design. I’d sit down to design and I get frustrated because it had taken too long. It’s like, “I can’t do this in half an hour. It takes days.” And then I think I became good at having ideas and communicating those ideas to other designers and having direction and input, and I found that by doing that I could actually create more than I could if I just tried to do it myself if that makes sense. So it was just a transition that went through. I’ve always got other creative pursuits on the go that fill that need. Again, I’m doing a bit at the moment with drones for a bit of fun. Some of that’s a purely creative outlet, doing a bit of movie making and stuff. And the other part of it is a commercial project I’m working on that’s sort of more of an industrial application of drone. That’s using my skills. I’m think about the way that that’s going to work, the interface, and product design I suppose. But again, I’m not doing it in a hands-on sense.

Matt: Sure. Lastly because I know that there are lots of designers who at some point in their career, the entrepreneurial cold strikes and they start harvesting plans for going out on their own or doing product or services agency or something like that. What tips have you got? Because a lot of people think about it and not a lot of people successfully manage to pull it off. And you are certainly like a bit of a hero for every entrepreneurial designer in Australia I think.

David: Thank you. I think certainly a couple of things, one, you’ve got to have the motivation and the passion because it’s not easy. It’s hard. And if it seems just like hard work and a drain, it’s going to be hard to just keep pushing through the difficult parts over the longer term. If you look at like it’s a bit of a game and it’s fun, you just get back up when you get smashed down then you’ll go far. I think the main tip that I would give is really around focus and knowing what you’re selling and offering something, which is unique. And knowing what your proposition is and why people would hire you or your business or service whatever it might be over somebody else. I think that’s just really important. And that can change over time too. I remember the early days of DT. What made it easy for me and potentially easier than it would be today is that there were really no other trained designers who had gone and taught himself coding and could then say “I can create a website in its entirety for you.” And I can think about it from a marketing point of view, from a high-end design point-of-view, I can also create the website for you. That became a very easy sell, an easy proposition because I was competing against graphic designers who had no interest in the programming. Let’s say, “Here’s my website designed for you in QuarkXPress.” That’s a bit like InDesign for those of you who don’t know what QuarkXPress is. And they’ll hand it over to somebody. I’d find a programmer and have them build a program and say, “I can build you a site but you got to tell me what it looks like” to the clients. Which seems crazy how people would believe that, but that’s really what it was like. Probably back in ’96 there would’ve been a handful of people that could actually design and program a website. I had a very clear proposition and point of difference. It was very easy being to… Every conversation I had would pretty quickly lead to some work. These days there’s obviously tens of thousands of people that have those skills. As the business grew I suppose my sales pitch changed because early on I was, “If I can work closely with you I can create all these myself.” I’m going to be thinking about it from design and from the technology point-of-view. I’ve got minimal overheads, I could be really efficient. As the business grew we spent a while there where we were the most… and we had more design and software development competitors. Our thing was that we were the most creative of the technology companies and the most technology literate of the design companies. And that’s still something that we talk about at DT to day and that’s worked really well for us. As the business grew we then incurred these overheads and the cost structure grew. We couldn’t say to people anymore “We’re young and hungry, and we’re efficient” so we just had to be really good. We had to produce the best work and we had to not stuff projects up. As we grew and today DT’s built Bunnings and that’s a huge project. It gets 10 million unique visitors a month. It’s got 400,000 products in the database. It’s all built on a marketing automation platform with almost unlimited iterations of the home page based upon a whole lot of different data that’s coming in about the user, location, browsing history, and everything else. And those projects is just about not stuffing it up, because there’s a lot of people and a lot of cost involved, and you just have to deliver every time. The pitch changes over time. I think having that focus today, just having a reason for people to hire you or go with your business or your offer, and it might be industry specific. I’ve got real expertise in automotive, or financial services, or travel. That’s my thing. “I’m the UX guy around travelling” for example. Just having something that’s going to differentiate you from your competitors. It might be a structure, or your team, or a process that you use. But it’s about standing out and having a reason for people to differentiate you. If everyone else is an apple you want to be a telephone. How do you really differentiate yourself and get very clear with your pitch in terms of what it is that you do. And that can be something that a one man show, a freelancer can have in their pitch as well, that you understand strategy in this sector as well UX so you’ve got a great network of people around you that can execute your work, or you work on site with clients, whatever happens to be. And then think about the clients who that unique pitch is going to work for. But the one thing that you just never want at any business is just to be lost in the sea of everybody doing the same stuff. Because then all you’re left to compete on is price, which becomes difficult in something like this because you’re selling the quality of your ideas. And what you don’t want to do is then be giving away these fantastic ideas at a low price.

Matt: David, you’re a busy man so I really appreciate your time and thank you so much for your patience with the acoustic challenges of the room today. Hopefully that’s not going to be too much of a distraction for our listeners but there’s some golden advice in there. If people want to follow along and keep up with what you’re up to, where should they go? Do you do the Twitter thing?

David: That’s a good question. I don’t do the Twitter so much any more. I’m sort of laying low a little bit at the moment. But certainly keep an eye out for Tractor. We’ve got a lot of information going out through Tractor, social media, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Matt: The URL?

David: Yes, tractor.edu.au is our website, and from there you can find all of our social media channels. And also DT, which is dt.com.au, and all the various social media channels off there.

Matt: We didn’t touch on this in our conversation but Tractor has online courses as well as the in-person training, don’t they?

David: Yeah, definitely. We’ve got many students all around Australia doing our online courses. We’ve got a graphic design course and a digital design course. They have those traditional names because we have to work within this accredited framework. We can’t just launch a UX course. But again, I think our graphic design course is the most digitally focused of the graphic design courses, but it’s still teaching a lot of the fundamentals of typography, color, and form, and all that sort of stuff, which is really important for a lot of people. And our digital design course is as much as we can make it. It’s very UX- focused as well.

Matt: Fantastic. Thanks for your time and we’ll catch up with you soon.

David: Great. Thank you.

Written by
Luke Chambers
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