Speaker Spotlight: Chris How on Designing Delightful Digital Products

Experience design is a pretty broad discipline. How did you get into it?

I fell into experience design through a series of happy accidents. I started my career as a filmmaker. In the early 2000s I started to dabble with this new thing called the internet. I was drawn to the immediacy of writing a few lines of code and seeing the results on a screen.

It then blew my mind that in a few clicks I could make what I'd created available to anyone in the world with an internet connection. Quickly I went from a bedroom coder to a front-end developer where I encountered this strange thing called UX. It was a lightbulb moment for me. It brought together all the things that had got me into filmmaking; a maker mindset, craft skills, creative storytelling and working in a team.

What do you do at Clearleft, and what role does delight play in your day-to-day work?

I'm the head of experience design at Clearleft. My role essentially has two parts. I support our team of practitioners – a talented bunch of designers, researchers, strategists and front-end engineers – to deliver impactful digital products to our clients. I also keep my hand-in as a craftsperson and work with clients to create and shape their digital experiences. If I was to pick a single word for what I look for when reviewing or creating digital products or services it would be delight. It's the word that best describes when a design has that magic something to it.

What can we expect to take away from your talk?

My hope is to give a rallying cry for designers and developers to find time and space to add delight to the experiences they create. Sadly, I too often see exciting ideas in projects relegated to the project icebox. I want to help the audience champion the value of delight and get the delightful delivered.

You mentor new speakers for UX Camp Brighton, which you co-organise. How important are mentorships in the development of designers?

Throughout my career, I've found people in the digital industry to be incredibly supportive and generous with their time. I think if you've benefitted from being mentored you should give back to the community. Mentoring new speakers for UX Camp Brighton is personally rewarding and also a great way to encourage new voices with fresh ideas to share their perspectives. For me, mentorship is a constant. In my current role, I have regular calls with friends in similar roles where we get to advise each other on the challenges we have.

What do you enjoy most about working in an agency as opposed to a start-up or in-house team at a large company?

The things I like most about agency work are the constant variety of design challenges and the different workplaces it takes you to. For me, it's a privilege to go from working with, say, a museum to researching the ways people go about booking holidays, to designing the onboarding experience of a SaaS product. The variety suits my personality and love of learning new things.

At Pixel Pioneers Bristol, Chris How will present a talk called "You Got to Fight for the Right to Delight". The conference will also cover new CSS features, accessibility and performance, best practices in JavaScript development, improving web typography with variable fonts, and more. Get your ticket today!