Free Agent Michael Vestergaard on UX Design

User experience (UX) is an important and popular business buzzword right now. Basically, it is about how a person feels when interacting with a system. That could include a website, mobile application, desktop software or any form of human/device interaction. 

Why is this important? Well, UX is important as it aims to fulfill the user’s needs. As a company, you want to provide positive experiences that keep a user loyal to the product or brand. As a consumer, you’re often seeking that loyalty in your behavior (often unknowingly). A meaningful user experience allows you to define customer journeys on your products that are most conducive to business success.

Sometimes, UX design can really make or break your business. Luckily, a lot of talented UX designers have realized this, and are now making their living as freelance UX designers. Hiring a freelance UX Designer is often a very clever way to completely optimize a product or brand.
At Free Agents™, one of our specialties is the area of development and design. Therefore, our network contains a wide range of different UX Designers with different niche-specialties.

One of these freelancers is Michael Vestergaard. Michael is a freelance UX Designer/Engineer and consultant who has been working freelance with UX, interaction design and front-end development for 11 years. His previous clientele includes companies such as B&O, Carlsberg, HBO, Lego, Philips, or Volkswagen. Oh, and then he’s been nominated as ‘freelancer of the year’ at Awwwards several times as well as won various awards and FWA prices.

At Free Agents™, we had a chat with Michael about the area of UX Design, trends in the area and how to maneuver around the market as a freelancer with success.


How do you define UX design and the area?

UX covers many disciplines. From research, analysis, journey maps to design, implementation and following up with service and test. My role as a UX Engineer is primarily to sound the depths with interaction design and front-end development. I often handle the role as UX generalist and make introduction-analysis and suggestions for focus-areas, especially with redesign assignments. By having a UX Engineer on the team, you make sure that the good ideas are created and implemented, and that you utilize interdisciplinary experiences.


What are the characteristics of a good UX project and are there pitfalls?

The best projects happen where the best team is. If you work together with proactive, open-minded, positive and clever people, you can create a setting where every suggestion and every question is always welcome, and then the project will be far better. A good project is naturally also about the effect of my work and results for my clients. Good communication is key to avoid pitfalls and misunderstandings. And if you are honest and straight-forward, you will very rarely face uncomprehending and dissatisfied clients. Contrary, customers and partners really like to be included in processes and considerations.


What are the trends of this time within the area with the current COVID-19 crisis in mind?

In these times, many stop and reflect on their job and future to a much higher degree. Personally, the crisis does not change much for me, but it is clear that the companies that are the most creative and flexible will get through such periods with the most success. I also believe that derived effect will be more work from home and more use of external consultants. After the last crisis, I got a lot busier – I am already sensing the same tendency now.


Where do you find professional inspiration about UX design?

I find inspiration both digitally and in the real world – everything that concerns user experience and interaction design. Sometimes a good purchase experience or product design can be inspiring and provide ideas for digital solutions. There are, of course, also a lot of inspiration on the various websites, apps, etc., but I have also become more pragmatic through the years – I demand that the interactive ideas should have a large value for the client and end-user. The best solutions are able to be both intuitive, innovative, technically well-done and look good.


What is your biggest professional success?

Actually, I believe that my biggest success is still working as a freelancer after 11 years. It is a privilege and has become a lifestyle that contains a lot of responsibility and uncertainty, but also offer a lot of liberty. Along the way, I’ve been offered many exciting positions and partnerships, and I have indeed missed permanent employees sometimes. However, I am extremely happy that I can work with something that I am very passionate about, even in a pretty informal manner. I reflect a lot about the direction I want to move towards professionally – therefore, I often say “no, thank you” to assignments. Partly because the client is not the right one for me, and partly because I don’t do assignments, I am not comfortable with. My informal and honest approach is based on trust and good communication is probably what makes my calendar continuously filling up.


How do you get the dream project – and how do you stand out from the crowd?  

A dream project consists of several things. First and foremost, a team that is motivated and fun to work with. Apart from that, a client that you know is the right choice. And of course, an end-result which makes you proud and where you can clearly see an effect. I rarely pitch myself and are actually against it by principle. A good project is always a cooperation where the client also has a large role. I need to draw on their experiences and understand their needs, both in how they say it and in what they actually need.


How do you see the future freelance market for you and Scandinavian companies?

11 years ago, many in Denmark believed that a freelance developer and designer was a person who couldn’t find a job. Luckily, that interpretation has changed now. I see a clear tendency towards companies using more external consultants and freelancers, and that they’re understanding the value and quality in flexibility. I’ve previously lived in Amsterdam where it was extremely normal to use freelancers. I think that we are naturally adopting this in the north as we’re demanding both specialists and people working interdisciplinary to bond e.g. design and development teams together.