Q&A with the Forms Master: Sjors Timmer

This blog post was originally published on our website

  1. What inspired you to work in UX?

UX brings together three things I’m interested in: figuring things out, making things and doing something useful. What I like most is that good UX work can really make an impact on the everyday experiences that many people have. If we take away the effort of ordering, applying or looking up information, people can use their attention and time on things that really matter to them instead of on figuring out which button to click on their phone.

2. What are you currently doing at Notura?

I’ve just finished a contract and before I start a new one, I’m spending a bit of time taking stock of what I’ve been doing and what I want to do. I’m trying to define for myself what type of projects I would like to work on. What makes work interesting is a mix of the type of problem, the industry and the company. Do I feel I want to learn more about this challenge? Another consideration is if the opportunity aims to help people in everyday situations get things done easier, faster and with more confidence. If it’s interesting and the end result delivers practical benefits, I’m up for it.

A benefit of being self-employed is that I can spend some of my time working on things that are interesting but not very profitable. At the moment I’m working on a talk for EuroIA in September. In the past I have spent some time preparing talk on hermeneutics for UX Brighton, and creating a presentation on the details of great form design.

3. What was your favorite project which you’ve worked on in the past?

Almost any project has something interesting. At Farfetch it was fascinating to find out why people spend £5,000 on a coat, at Zopa it was interesting to learn what motivates people to both borrow and lend money and the stories they tell themselves about it. And most recently at Specsavers I was intrigued by the question: how do you choose a pair of frames that really match you?

4. What are the key insights you can provide about form design?

What intrigued me most was the discovery that bad form design is almost never the result of a designer not trying hard enough. It’s often a cocktail of a lack of management focus, internal processes that are challenging and the absence of teams and technology that make simple iteration possible. Great forms can therefore also not be created by designers alone. It takes management to decide that it’s important, it takes copywriters and service designers to place the form at the right point with the right questions, and it takes close collaboration of researchers, designers and developers to execute the right form in the right way. You could see a form as one of the simplest examples of how it takes the collaborative effort of a whole team to get great things done.

5. I know you participate in UXPA’s mentoring program. What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned from this experience

The biggest lesson is perhaps that I can already be of use by just listening. Imposter syndrome is often discussed, and it can be especially daunting for beginning designers. Having someone who’s already survived a few years in the industry listening to you, hopefully creates the confidence that they themselves are real designers too, capable of making a real impact.
The second lesson is the importance of training your skills of judgement. It’s not that senior designers have access to secret methods and tools that juniors have not. It’s the ability to judge within any situation if more research is needed (or less), if a prototype should be made on paper, InVision or Axure, if a simple conversation with a developer is enough, or if a detailed wireframe is required. Julie Zhuo’s Medium articles are a great example of using reflection as a method to get grow and to get better at making the right decisions at the right time.

6. Who are your greatest UX influencers?

Lately I’ve been looking at frameworks to make better decisions. Two items I found really useful is the audio course Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills and the book Super Forecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction. They both explore the challenges we face when deciding what to do and provide suggestions for increasing your odds when making decisions in uncertain situations.

Beyond that I admire the writing of Leisa Reichelt on design strategy, Caroline Jarrett on form design and Abby Covert on information architecture.

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