Who is this chap called Chris Gibbons?
Gather round, let us read on and find out more about what makes Chris tick, and hopefully myth bust what the heck is a "Design Engineer"...
A potted history
Chris Gibbons is an experienced (15+ years) and passionate digital developer specialising in the “lost art” of traditional Front-End development practises, UI/UX and mobile, with a long time obsession for well written, semantic & accessible code to help deliver cross-device, compliant, usable websites which are accessible & inclusive.
He sits somewhere in the murky waters between design, Front-End & engineering. Strongly advocates for the use of design systems and spends large parts of his time rambling on about the use of “proper semantics” and shouting at clouds , all to help make the web a far more accessible and inclusive place, for everyone.
He also hates speaking about himself in the third person, so lets stop.
What I do
- A bloody good dose of good ol' HTML & CSS.
- Responsive & Mobile-first design and implementation.
- UI/UX work to build cohesive experiences.
- Using HTML/CSS/JS for prototyping and user testing
- Promote the use of Web Standards
- Help establish and build Design systems.
- Enable, and improve, conversations between design and engineering.
- Bring an engineering perspective to design. This helps drive more empathetic product thinking, with better UI/UX for the users.
- Strongly, and vocally advocate, for Accessibility & Inclusivity, in everything we do, not just web products, but in socialtech spaces too.
- Cultivating communities, and successfully rebooting, growing and continually supporting communities around Front-End and Accessibility.
- Workshop facilitation.
- A growing fondness for public speaking, from meetups to conferences, on all the good things listed about.
- Mentoring and growing developers, of all abilities, to help them achieve their best.
What I don’t do
- Backend development, that's not my bag, nor is it Front-end
- Fix printers (or other bits of IT equipment)
A more detailed dive into Chris' past...
After working with the amazing folk at Code Computerlove for nearly 8 years, working my way up to Snr. Front End developer, I then spent the next 12 months working as UI engineer at Zuto where I enjoyed the challenge of trying to build a bridge between Front-End and UX in the world of car finance.
Happily employed by the nice folk at Auto Trader for 4 years as a Principal UX/UI developer and an advocate of accessibility & inclusive design. Next up was a good stint as lead Front-End engineer with the lovely folks at Co-op , where I helped to shape the future of the design system and other products for our colleages.
My time at cinch as a Engineering Practice Lead - looking primarily at the Front-End practice - has ended due to redundancy. The role helped me to grow and establish a much more comprehensive set of skills, rather than just engineering - though, according to folks doing interviews, that is a bad thing...
In my time here, I’ve helped and contributed towards initiatives that directly impact and improve teams and engineers, helping drive initiatives raised by the squads through discussions or working groups; A primary example is the direct contribution towards the Progression Framework for engineers, this helped to address exit interview comments around unclear progression within cinch.
I also have a growing interest in DevOps (DORA/Space etc.), as well as the new serverless landscapes such as AWS.
Design Engineer? UX Technologist? Design Technologist?
What, what, WHAT?!
I’ve been trying to find an accurate description for myself within the Front-End (FE) arena for a number years now, especially with the lines of what is expected of a FE-er becoming blurrier.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the FE landscape has changed dramatically in the 15 years I’ve been in the industry. Task runners such as Grunt and Gulp weren’t even twinkles in the eyes of the people who concieved the ideas. Object orientated approaches to frameworks such as Angular and React are commonplace and expected skills to have. Accessibility & inclusive design is rightly gaining in prominence, but not enough for my liking!
Now, the parts of FE I particularly enjoy is around the UI layer and the crafting of a great experience (think all good things like web standards, accessibility, web performance et al.), this along side prototyping & discovery (mainly as I get to play).
In my opinion—and after doing a few Google searches it seems there are many other people thinking the same—a UX/Design Technologist works to bridge the gap between design and engineering, this is exactly the area I love working in!
- A comfort level with Front-End programming (web, desktop, mobile, device)
- A tool belt filled with techniques for creating interactive apps
- The ability to quickly pick up new tools
- A itch to dive into code and “just build it”
These all appear to reflect where I feel I add most value.
But it was the following:
You also need to find that special someone who appreciates design and wants to be a member of the UX team.
That really sums up my current feelings, and also really reflects the "murky waters" where I see things differently to others.
So there you have it, the title of a Design Engineer (or a Design Technologist) fits the bill nicely, and should give you better insights into the "what", of what I enjoy doing, and probably the direction of travel I see for my future...