Made Tech Blog

The magic behind creating seamless user experiences

Welcome to Made Tech Insiders, where we interview the talented individuals shaping our organisation.  We’ll explore career journeys, project highlights, and future tech trends, showcasing what makes Made Tech an exceptional place to work and innovate.

When it comes to designing for impact, the real magic happens behind the clicks. Dani Swift, Designer, shares spell-binding tips for prioritising user needs and explains how these principles fuel ‘tech for good’.

Q: How did you end up doing what you’re doing now?

When I joined Made Tech in Summer 2021, I started as a bid manager. Whilst writing and submitting bid responses I discovered that I was fascinated by the user-centred design (UCD) projects and wanted to find out more about how these projects helped our clients create great services. When an opportunity arose to join Made Tech’s UCD academy, I applied, got accepted, and was thrilled to start my journey in tech as a designer. Since then, I’ve worked on some really exciting projects.

Q: What’s an interaction designer versus a service designer?

As an interaction designer, I focus on web-based user experiences. Right now, I’m working with a government department to improve one of their internal tools. It’s currently in the beta testing phase before final release, where we’re looking to spot any issues, action any feedback and identify any last minute things we can improve. My job specifically is to review screens based on user research and make those small changes that will enhance the user experience.

When I’ve worked on projects as a service designer, my focus has been more on understanding the bigger picture and all the moving parts of a service. There’s some overlap between the two roles since both involve working closely with user researchers. However in my experience, service design takes a more ‘zoomed out’ approach.

In the discovery projects I’ve worked on, I identified pain points and opportunities for improvement from both the process and the people perspective. The scope becomes much broader, with many layers to consider. The output might be a map or diagram to make something easier to understand. I’ve found that people are much more receptive to something visual that distils complex messaging into something more palatable!

Q: Can you share some top tips from some of the projects you’ve worked on?

I’m really passionate about the ‘tech for good’ philosophy. I think that some of the following tips actually mean that you end up producing tech solutions that are truly user-centred and genuinely beneficial to citizens.

  1. Put the user front and centre: Always advocate for what users need first, rather than focusing solely on business goals. Understanding and prioritising user motivations and requirements is really important if you want to build effective services.
  2. Follow a design process: Take the time to go through all the design steps before starting build and development. This really does save time and money and avoids the wasted effort of creating features or products that users don’t need.
  3. Build a good rapport with research participants: When participants feel at ease, they’re more likely to be open and transparent, providing richer and more valuable insights.
  4. Make the most of user researchers:  Every user researcher I’ve had the pleasure of working with has been brilliant. They bring a really deep curiosity to the team which helps to gain a deep understanding of pain points and needs.
  5. Work collaboratively: When collaboration works well, it means that raw data can quickly and effectively be synthesised into meaningful information that can guide the project. Being on the same page about objectives and goals means that everyone is committed to putting their best work forward.
  6. Stay true to the data: Make sure that your analysis remains objective and free from personal bias. It’s really important to keep everyone focused on the actual data, maintaining some element of scientific integrity in the process while understanding the importance of focusing on the bigger picture
  7. Balance quantitative and qualitative data: While quantitative data provides measurable insights, qualitative data gives more context. But as in the bullet above, make sure you don’t let personal opinions influence your analysis of the qualitative information, and keep in mind the bigger picture.

Q: Can you tell me more about how you’ve used some of these tips on a specific project?

A security and intelligence client asked us to explore a cross-government, economic decision-making model to improve the UK’s resilience and security. At first, I felt daunted because of my lack of knowledge and expertise in this area, and imposter syndrome started to creep in. However I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone to see what I could achieve.

Our client was interested in testing a collaborative approach called ‘collective intelligence,’ which involves bringing together subject experts to solve complex problems. 

Using collaborative workshops, we gathered insights from a selection of 23 stakeholders, spanning academia and different government departments. This knowledge-sharing fed into design-thinking sessions, helping us to come up with early ideas.

We conducted a mini-discovery and mini-alpha phase using GOV.UK guidelines, to explore the problem and potential solutions. By doing so, we saved time and effort and stayed on track to develop a model that met both the user and client’s needs. We continuously tested and refined our assumptions, so that we were able to quickly see if the ‘collective intelligence’ approach was proving successful or failing.

We left the project with a really compelling hypothesis; that policy decisions might be improved in this area if there was better collaboration with academia. There’s so much knowledge required in this specific sector, you’d really need to be a global economics expert. It would be practically impossible for one single person to have this breadth of knowledge, so a ‘collective intelligence’ approach makes sense to bring together the experts in the field.

Q: What’s been the biggest career challenge you’ve faced ?

Building confidence has been a significant challenge for me, especially in areas like realising it’s okay to just be myself and public speaking, which used to terrify me.  To improve at public speaking, I’ve delivered lots of internal presentations at Made Tech which has been incredibly helpful. The safe and supportive environment allows me to practice, making it easier to present to stakeholders and senior staff, though it’s still nerve-wracking. Practising regularly, even in small ways, has made tackling bigger challenges feel more manageable and less scary. 

Time has helped me realise that people gravitate to you so much more when you’re authentic! I usually blend this into my presentations as I feel like a fraud when I’ve got to be overly formal. I’ve learned that by dropping in a personal story or anecdote to presentations really helps me to feel like my actual self, and this helps with the nerves too. 

Q: #1 tip for people who think tech is not for ‘people like them’

There’s a misconception that working in tech means writing code. I’m a hobbyist when it comes to front end coding, so while I enjoy creating a user interface in HTML/CSS, I can see how it can be intimidating for folk who don’t think the tech industry is for them. Saying that though, I’d recommend having a try. There’ are some great resources online like Codeadademy for example which have been a big help to me

But, if it’s still not for you, there’s more to working in tech than coding, especially if you look into user-centred design roles, or an adjacent profession like delivery management.

If you’re good at listening, have empathy, and are skilled in analysis, roles like user research, design, product management, business analysis, and delivery management might be a perfect fit. These positions use transferable skills and don’t involve coding unless you really want to go down that route. The tech industry is such a rewarding sector to be in, whether you’re writing code or whether you’re doing user-centred work.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Something that’s stuck with me since day one of the UCD academy was a very simple phrase; “You are not the user” (thank you Clara & Mark). And it’s so true. Something that works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for all users, especially those with different accessibility needs or levels of web proficiency. 

If you want to learn more about design I’d recommend “Ruined by Design” by Mike Monteiro. He draws parallels between the Hippocratic oath in medicine and a set of principles for designers to make sure our designs are for the benefit of users. The book’s case studies on unethical design practices have made me more critical of my motivations as a designer and more mindful of the impact of my work. In fact, I’d highly recommend it to anyone in tech, not just designers.

Interactive designer is an ace job – no question about it. Even if I’ve not convinced you to put in a job application today, hopefully I’ve made you question whether you’re putting the user at the heart of what you do. 

To find out more about jobs at Made Tech browse our careers or take a look at some of the user-centred services we provide to clients.

About the Author

Dani Swift

Associate Interaction Designer at Made Tech

Dani specialises in service and interaction design and has worked with a range of clients during her time at Made Tech. Before becoming a designer, Dani worked as a Bid Manager before career-changing through Made Tech's user-centred design academy in 2022.