Meet the team: Ricardo Flores Galán, UX Designer
Ricardo José Flores Galán is a UX designer at Annertech. Originally from Spain but living in Dublin, he loves his job, and is as passionate about UX and design as he is about his wife and children, music and tennis. He explains what drew him to Dublin and the world of design.
Alison: What do you do at Annertech?
Ricardo: In one word: design. I work at the very front of anything we do. I’m responsible for the final look and feel of projects. It’s not just about the look (the design) or the feel (the user experience, commonly abbreviated to UX), it’s about the way the user interacts with the final product, how it can make their lives more enjoyable.
I am very passionate about the user experience and try to push it into any project as much as I can. It is a good philosophy to use, especially in the services industry. It is a win-win, really.
I enjoy being responsible for both the UX and the UI (User Interface) part of a project - to be able to approach them together. At Annertech we are pretty good at communicating design.
Alison: How did you get into this field of UX and design?
Ricardo: I started on a very different path. I studied law in Spain, my native country, although before the web came along I always had an interest in architecture, which has turned out to be relevant to the way we architect websites. I am a big fan of atomic design and I love user flows.
It’s popular among young people in Spain to go to England or Ireland to brush up on the English language. I initially came for three months in September 1999. And then I thought I’d stay another three months after Christmas... then a full year to see the infamous Irish summer, then a little longer. And now it’s been more than 20 years. I am happy that I have roots in Ireland now. My wife is Irish and our two children were born here. We live happily in Dublin, near the bay, but I’m still learning English, if you know what I mean…
Somehow, in this beautiful country, I managed to redirect my path into the web and, more specifically, into the frontend of websites. The first time I heard about web design was when I did a diploma in e-commerce and web marketing in the year 2000. It triggered things for me, and that’s how I first got involved with the web.
In terms of discovering UX, I did my master’s degree in web technologies at the National College of Ireland in Dublin in 2012. That covered loads of things that are web-related. One of the modules was Usability Testing and Implementation. It was back in the early days of UX - it was probably one of the first times that it was taught at master’s level. It was still very young; it was only starting to happen.
Now UX is everywhere, but back then - and it’s only 12 years ago - the user wasn’t really taken into account. This idea of putting the user at the centre of a project was a real revelation. There was this one module in the entire course that focused on usability, UX, research and testing, and I really, really enjoyed it. It was like a revolution. We had to fight for UX and try to convince people about its relevance.
Alison: Now that UX is firmly entrenched in society, what is it that you like most about your job?
Ricardo: The fact that it's actually happening; that we are making things better for the industry. It's this satisfaction that, by testing and getting proof, what you are doing is working or can work better. I like to believe that I am making people's lives easier, better. I'm also making sure the clients have a better product.
Alison: What are the things you like least about your job?
Ricardo: One thing about UX is that you can always do better. Sometimes the budget isn't there to continue iterating something. It is strange to me when people think: "This is it. There is no room for more improvement." Because there always is. That's tricky because there isn't an unlimited budget. You have to get to a point where you have to stop; you need to move to another project.
From a visual design point of view I don't like it when you see something that is lacking the attention it deserves visually. It could be something as simple as colour contrast or vertical rhythm. Many people don't see these things but they really make a difference. I have an eye for these pixel-perfect things and it can be frustrating to see things that others don’t. A good design is invisible.
Alison: You've been working in UX since pretty much the beginning of UX. How has it changed over the years?
Ricardo: The concept is the same. The objective is the same - keep the user in mind. Initially it was like a revolution that we had to fight; to let people know about it; just to try to do it. Then it became more understood by the global community, which is good; we won the first battle. But that doesn't mean we are finished. It's ever-changing.
The tools are always changing. As is the way we do things. For example, the recent lockdowns were a game-changer. Despite Annertech being a distributed company we had always held all our UX workshops on site. But during the lockdown we held remote UX workshops, where we had every participant in a different location.
Alison: Do you feel like design ever gets boring, like you keep repeating the same formula over and over?
Ricardo: No, of course not. There is something unique for each project, visually and from a UX point of view. You may design the website for a university, and then you do another one, and then another one. But they are not the same. That's one of the great things about UX. When you really understand the people you are doing it for them there is always something unique that they need. It isn't only about the end user, but also about the site builders, the developers, the maintenance once the site is launched... There are always different ways to show things visually as well.
Alison: What are your interests outside of work?
Ricardo: My main interest outside of work is family life. I really like the way Annertech promotes a good and flexible balance between work and family time. It is a privilege to work from home and complement it by being dedicated to my family. The smallest things, such as a five-minute chat with my wife at lunchtime - she also works from home since the pandemic started - or being able to take the kids to school or their various activities, can make a huge difference in our lives. It is a great feeling to be aware of this privilege and enjoy every second of it. We have two office rooms in the house; one in the attic conversion and another at the back of our small garden. We somehow managed to structure our workspaces to enhance our family life.
I also like music. Truth be told, that's the real reason I came to Ireland. I always used to think that Ireland was a very musical country. And I was into different types of music. There was a time in Dublin where I could go to, on average, a concert a week. I find concerts are a hub of mindfulness - you really focus on the moment and every note counts. Because Dublin is on the route of all the music tours the artists come to you - there are so many good venues in Dublin and they're so easy to reach. Dublin also has its own scene. The current after punk scene, for example, is amazing. It is a new musical movement, and it is great to see it happening on your doorstep. Then there is the city's past. In Dublin it is possible to see a trad legend in a very intimate venue. I play the bodhrán, the Irish drum ... a little bit. But I'm more a listener than a player.
What also keeps me happy is tennis. I play tennis two or three times a week. It's a bit like a concert - very mindful. You focus on every ball and after a long but enjoyable working day an hour or two of tennis is really good for your body and your soul. I love the community. I play outdoor tennis three times a week no matter the season. The weather could be minus five degrees. I remember once it was snowing quite heavily and we played. We play in the windiest of winds, the rainiest of rains! I like it. It is great fun. When something is approached properly there isn't a problem with the Irish weather.
The other thing about Dublin is that it is a great place for meet-ups which, like gigs, also seem to happen a stone's throw from my doorstep. I am an organiser of the Drupal Ireland meet-up and regularly attend others such as Dublin UX, Design Sprint Ireland, UXDX, Design Thinkers, eXperience, Service Designers and Innovators, etc.
Alison: Would you advise young people who are leaving school or going to college, trying to figure out their path, to go into UX? Do you think it's a good career choice?
Ricardo: I think so. I feel very satisfied with every little thing that I improve upon. We are only doing websites, really… but UX can go way beyond that. Being in this field can make people really happy. You feel like you are contributing to society, making the world a better place for everyone.
Once the revolution was won, the sector opened up and there are lots of job opportunities. Most companies understand the value of UX: It's a win-win situation for companies and clients.
Alison: Why Annertech?
Ricardo: There are a few things that I really love about Annertech. You are surrounded by leaders. People who really know what they are doing. And people who enjoy doing it. There is a sense of "we are a team and we all want to do the best and we all enjoy what we do and doing it together".
There are areas of specialisation and that works really well - there is always an expert in whatever you need help with. And I can be the expert at other times. I really like the communication we have. Annertech is, by definition, a distributed agency. We all work from home. But the communication we have is far better than when I was working in an office. You are working happy and working your best and doing your best.
I've been with Annertech since 2015 and I've seen the company grow. I like the way it's family friendly. Stella (Power, managing director of Annertech) has this vision of a company - working from home, allowing everyone time to go to conferences or contribute to the community. That vision is really good. Things make sense. Working from home, for example, really adds value to family life as I have already mentioned.
The way it's done in Annertech, there's room for adapting to what suits you as an individual. It is very flexible. Some people start early and finish early. Others don't but that's not a problem at all. People work from different countries and have different lives. We know each other. I really like being part of this family where you are still an individual and yet they found a way to maximise everybody's potential. It's a privilege to be an Annertechie.
Alison Visser Content Writer
Alison is a content writer for Annertech. After more than two decades in journalism she now specialises in digital media and editing.