I’ve been working as a Senior UX designer at Somo for the past three years while simultaneously working on my PhD part-time. When I applied to work at Somo in May 2015, I was hopeful they might offer me flexible working conditions and let me work just four days a week (you can imagine the number of companies that would not). As it turned out not only did they offer me a flexible work schedule but they also supported my PhD work in many other ways.
My PhD (via the University of Bristol and Cardiff Metropolitan University) investigates how the human hand interacts with digital handheld devices. Using qualitative and quantitative studies to understand how participants use their hands to grip, rotate or tilt devices such as touchscreen mobile phones. The purpose of the study is to gain an understanding of how user experience designers can push beyond designing just for the device’s screen to create more compelling experiences for the mobile phone as a physical device.
There’s obviously a great synergy between the work I do at Somo and my PhD research, which is one of the reasons it’s been great working at Somo. They are flexible on when my ‘PhD day’ can be which allows me to attend lectures as needed. I’ve also been able to borrow equipment, such as mobile phones, from our lab in order to run experiments. My Somo colleagues have volunteered not only to be participants in some of those experiments, but also to listen to me practicing academic presentations. I have been given public speaking training to help me present my research at conferences and Somo have financially supported me in order to attend a number of those conferences.
With this support, I have completed the bulk of my PhD while at Somo: running three experiments and three design workshops. This work has since been written up and published in four international peer-reviewed academic conferences, meaning that I have travelled to Florence, Denver, Montreal and Hong Kong in order to present the research. I am finally on the last leg of this PhD and just have to write up my thesis and pass the viva.
Ultimately I am able to use the learnings gained from my PhD and incorporate them within client work at Somo: from conducting quantitative and qualitative research, through to making sure a mobile applications interaction is fit for purpose. I’m also able to share my knowledge with my colleagues ensuring all our products are built with these findings in mind.
If you’re interested in my PhD research then please follow the links below and check back here for more details as I write more about my findings and practical implications for my research.
Mobile HCI 2016:
DIS 2018: Honorable Mention award
Author: Rachel Eardley