Five Minutes with Mel Choyce
Every once in a while, we sit down with an Automattician to help you get to know the people who work behind the scenes to build new features, keep Automattic’s wheels turning, and make WordPress.com the best it can be. In this installment, we’re delighted to introduce you to music lover, designer extraordinaire, and WordPress Core contributer, Ms. Mel Choyce.
What kinds of awesome things do you do at Automattic?
I’m a Design Engineer on WordPress.com. Specifically, I work on improving the interface and making it easier for people to use.
My team (Team Triton) focuses on the new user experience, which revolves around how new users are introduced to various features on WordPress.com. What problems do people run into while signing up? Is posting intuitive? How can we get people to share their posts with their friends on Facebook and Twitter? How can we introduce people to interesting new blogs? How can we help people connect with each other?
I try to solve these problems using a process known as user experience design. I research the problem and see if anyone’s tried to solve the problem before, and if so, how, and why didn’t it work? Then, I’ll start sketching a bunch of different solutions, narrow down which solution seems best for our users, and then start to build something I can user test. Then I’ll test the solution with people, make improvements, and maybe test again. The goal is to build something that improves WordPress.com for the majority of our users.
Describe a project you recently worked on.
In the past couple weeks, I’ve been working on a project to improve the posting interface on WordPress.com. A big part of this project has been testing out ideas with users.
One of my first steps was user testing other blogging services’ posting interfaces. How easy is it to post on other sites or blog-building services? I ran a series of tests using usertesting.com, which is a nifty online service which takes care of all of the recruiting and testing, then delivers you the results of the test as a video. I ran two tests each for two different services and got some pretty interesting results about what worked and what users struggled with.
Next, I worked on creating a really basic prototype of a new posting interface for WordPress.com. I wanted a little more control over the testing environment, so I ended up recruiting some people from the coworking space I work from and ran some tests in person using an app called Silverback. My goal was really to see if people could find and understand some of the new features and changes being introduced. The results were, overall, pretty positive! It was fun getting to run some tests in person, and I got to meet some new people from my local community. Win-win!
Give us your expert advice — what tip can you provide the WordPress.com community?
There are millions of users on WordPress.com. That’s a crazy number of people posting every day. Take a couple minutes when you can to explore what they’re writing. Look around the Reader, go through Discover, or browse through different topics you’re interested in. I’m sure you’ll find at least one interesting thing each time you look. Read something cool? Be sure to like it! Receiving likes, comments, and reblogs on your posts feels amazing. This is something I’ve been personally trying to do every week.
What do you most enjoy about Automattic/WordPress/your job?
What’s not to love? It’s my dream job!
Automatticians are given incredible trust and freedom. We’re trusted to make smart decisions, to explore and experiment and try out new things, to fix our mistakes and ask for help when we need it, to take breaks when we’re burning out, to get together with brilliant, talented people all over the world, and build great things. It’s an incredibly empowering experience.
Probably my favorite day-to-day perk is being able to work wherever I want. I get antsy being stuck in one location for too long, so having a job that lets me work from anywhere is amazing. I have a membership at a local coworking space, so I work from there, different cafes in my neighborhood, and occasionally I also work from home. If I get bored with my location halfway through the day I can move somewhere else. It’s great.
What do you love to do in your spare time?
I read a lot, and pretty much exclusively read on my phone now. Every time I’m stopped for a moment when I’m by myself, I’ll likely pull out my phone and start reading — in line, on transit, anywhere I have more than a minute or two of time. I’d like to say that I’m reading nonfiction books, but 70% of the time I’m honestly reading sci-fi/fantasy. I just started rereading the Harry Potter series for the dozenth time last night.
I’ve also been trying to blog more. I have a photoblogging site which lets me indulge in some good ol’ fashioned narcissism. I’ve also been blogging about my music preferences lately. I have a blog where I mostly just link and react to interesting things I find, and then occasionally I’ll write long-form posts on my professional blog.
Reading and writing aside, I really like cooking, printmaking, and video games (especially JRPGs).
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