Why this exists, and what I’m building here
I hate how UX is often portrayed right now—as something of a science, or a skill you could learn in 60 days if you pay for a $1000 digital course.
Or, what's even worse, is the image of someone surrounded by a thousand post-it notes—this is typical UX 'keyword bingo'.
Building great UX is a mixture of an art, personal preference and understanding human behaviour. It's not a set of fixed rules to follow, but rather a process of creatively solving new problems.
That's why I started Built for Mars: to demonstrate that UX design doesn't have to be daunting. It can, actually, be really simple—if you strip away the noise.
My FinTech start-up, Movem, was acquired in a PE-backed deal. It was a company which I started while at uni, and 6 years later had created an industry-defining piece of technology. It's since been copied by everyone.
As most post-acquisition founders would attest to, I didn't know what to do with myself. So I started helping friends with their companies, and ended up focusing on user experience—something I'd spend tens of thousands of hours obsessing over at my start-up. This eventually turned into paid consulting.
I was sat in a Costa, and thought to myself “I'm creating these UX presentations privately for companies, but I bet people would benefit if I could post them online". But because I’d signed NDAs with all my clients, I decided to do a mini-study on Rightmove.
Private case studies are super detailed, and take me weeks. So it took me a few months to find a good balance of humour, memes, UX tips and a coherent story. That's why the first few studies aren't amazing—I even deleted a few of them.
I released the UX of Banking—a 6-part mega study comparing banks in the UK. It went viral, and is probably how most people learned about Built for Mars.
Although I'd been working on Built for Mars full-time for quite a while, after the success of the bank study I made a conscious effort to improve how I ran the business.
This meant saying no to a lot of small design jobs, and focusing on helping some world-class products (Notion, Klarna, Pitch, Octopus Energy, Quickbooks, Google).
The original Built for Mars website was a Wordpress site I'd knocked up myself, and it was terrible. The irony of a UX blog having terrible UX was not lost on me.
So at the end of 2020 I asked my subscribers for feedback, and had hundreds of responses. I then started trying to design the best possible reading experience for my work. It's going to be the launchpad for something much bigger.
I joined the VC Creandum as an entrepreneur-in-residence, as a UX advisor to some of the best product teams in the world.
For 2 years, I'd helped companies like Notion, Moonpay, Livi and Klarna improve their UX, through private audits.
But the bigger plan has always been to hire world-class designers (UX & UI), and as a small team, redefine the next generation of user experiences.
So we launched the Built for Mars agency.