A brief history

I started out my career in computing with the ZX81. Usability then consisted on whether the cassette would finish loading the computer before it crashed and whether the wobbly 16K RAM pack would remain plugged in or lose your afternoon's work. But I was hooked.

Most of the 1980's was spent as a journalist and later editor for various computer magazines including Practical Computing, PC User and PC Magazine UK. Following the rise and rise of the Internet all of these UK based magazines are now defunct, but at the time there was a real evangelical buzz about the magazines and our part in bringing computers out of the air conditioned rooms and onto everyone's desks. Hell, I even remember being an unembarrassed champion for Microsoft products at one time.

The change came with the introduction of the Internet as a mass tool. One day someone came up to me in about 1993 and said "have you seen this new software called Mozilla? You can look up pages on the Internet with it?" In those days there were only a few hundred sites on the world wide web at most. But the ability to rummage around some Australian university web site with a few clicks in real time was a jaw dropping experience. I had to get in on some of this and with a techie colleague and a server under a desk we set up the UK's first magazine website which later evolved into ZDNet UK.

The Millennium turned, the dot.com crash happened and suddenly I wasn't part of a big PC content site anymore although to be honest I'd got bored several years earlier but hadn't realised it at the time. Didn't know what to do next but knew I still wanted to be involved in the online business.

I knew what I wanted to do. In the previous few years had seen many sites with awful navigation, appalling usability and terrible design. I'd even built a few of them myself and had less excuse than most. While I was Editor in the early 1990s, PC Magazine piloted the use of usability testing of software in the UK and used many of the techniques which has since become standard in the industry.

I became an Information Architect. Initially using my editorial background my role was to take a red pencil technical and in house jargon and replace it with something the rest of the world would understand. But for specialist sites how would I know what words the audience would expect? Time to conduct user interviews, develop personas and perform card sorts. From there it was only a small step towards indexing content, site mapping and wireframing - Hey I'm an IA!

Since the early days I've worked for agencies like Persona and LBi, large organisations like British Sky Broadcasting and Which? as well as speccing and building a number of smaller sites.

And you know what? I still find it fun. If you want to find out what I can do for you, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 07733 410468.