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Sarah Tanner

Have you met … Tom?

We want you to know more about our team of friendly digital specialists here at Coast Digital, and what better way to kick off the introductions than with our recently promoted Head of User Experience, Tom Pretty.

Tom at work

Starting at Coast just over 10 years ago, Tom initially joined the Coast team as a copywriter, but he soon found a passion for crafting outstanding user experiences and joined the UX team. Since then, Tom has been at the forefront of some of our newest innovations for our clients, most significantly our cutting-edge suite of Biometric testing equipment. But what does he have to say about it all?

Why Digital Marketing, Tom?

“My route into digital marketing was certainly unexpected, but with a History degree and a fair amount of experience writing essays, jobs with a written element seemed a good idea. My career path started as an SEO copywriter, where I learnt a lot about the basic principles of SEO and authoring web copy. After coming to Coast, I started supporting a wider variety of marketing channels such as PPC and Email and increasingly, was using copy skills to lay out landing pages. Looking back, this was probably my first foray into UX.”

You are our UX Guru now but what made you go in that direction?

“UX seemed like a natural progression from copywriting for me, as the words we use on the page are fundamental to the experiences we provide to users, I was also keen to expand my skills in research. What really excites me about the discipline is removing assumption and personal opinions from the design process as much as possible. I like that decisions are based on data and insights, and it’s great to bring the voice of the user to the forefront.”

Which of our services is your favourite?

“My favourite service spans the entirety of UX but what’s newest and most exciting is biometrics. With the selection of biometric sensors we now have at Coast, we are getting an entirely different perspective on how users interact with websites, apps and marketing material such as video ads and imagery. The addition of emotional and physical response data really unearths how users react at a deeper level than just asking them to self-report. It’s also exciting because it goes beyond purely UX, so we’re able to conduct studies in response to a huge range of marketing and advertising challenges.”

Tell us more about Biometrics

“Biometrics utilises three main data points through Eye Tracking, Facial Expression Analysis (our facial emotional response to stimuli) and Galvanic Skin Response, which picks up on the physiological response to a stimulus such as fight or flight. Biometrics allows us to see how well the navigation on a page is truly working, whether the journey is as seamless as we want it to be and how a user is likely to feel about a brand, allowing us to proactively plan better. It’s a tool that can be used across not only a variety of marketing streams but also across various sectors, so it has been a really exciting development that we can use across the entire business.”

Biometrics has clearly been a big game changer within Digital Marketing, but what do you see as the next big thing or the next big trend?

“One of the major challenges this year has been conducting lab-based testing due to lockdown rules and, in response, there has been a trend for utilising remote testing platforms. Remote testing does of course have its limitations, especially when you are trying to record multiple data points (such as biometric sensors). So, if I were to foresee a trend next year, it would be a return to more lab testing as rules are relaxed and people become more comfortable attending research venues again. With everyone’s online presence playing a key role this year, we are only going to see more investment and improvements made to it. Biometrics can really help there.”

And finally, you have worked with a large range of our clients. From your experience, is there anything that you wish clients understood better when we start working with them from a UX point of view?

“Most clients we work with have a maturity in terms of UX thinking and it is definitely part of the conversation. I’m not sure every client however has a full appreciation of just how valuable user insight can be, as it is often the research activity that is stripped out of projects as soon as budgets become restricted. For me, the value of user research and testing warrant the spend, as it leads to better outcomes in the long term.”

See Tom’s articles

If you have any questions or would like to know more about how Coast Digital’s UX capabilities can help your business, please get in touch.

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