Career history

User experience manager — The University of Edinburgh — 2019—present

University of Edinburgh logoI lead the User Experience and Digital Consultancy service within the Website and Communications section. Our team provides user research, content design and training, supporting the delivery of human-centred services.

My role involves advocating for and promoting good practice in human-centred approaches such as user experience and service design.

I lead a team of staff delivering user experience services to staff and students in support of the university’s learning and teaching, research and public engagement activities.

Read my posts for the Website and Communications blog.

User experience researcher and digital consultant — Duncan Stephen — 2008—present

Duncan Stephen logoI manage, design, develop, maintain and write for a variety of digital products and publications. I have a strong focus on user-centred design. My background in social science helps me understand what makes users tick.

I have been involved in projects for a variety of organisations: educational institutions, small businesses, third sector, politics and government.

As a blogger, I have regularly reached thousands of readers every month, and made several appearances in the media. I ran the popular blogs doctorvee and vee8. I established Scottish Roundup, a weekly compilation of the best of Scottish blogging, which was featured on BBC Radio.

I have also written articles about user experience, motorsport and politics for other high-profile websites, including UX Collective, RaceFans and Badger GP.

Contact me:

User researcher and editorial development officer — The University of Edinburgh — 2017—2019

University of Edinburgh logoWorking as part of the Website and Communications team and the User Experience Service, I supported departments throughout the university to undertake user experience initiatives and develop digital strategies.

I also provided specialist website editorial, site build and support expertise to ensure the delivery of a user-focused, sustainable and legally compliant online presence for the university.

Web manager — SRUC – Scotland’s Rural College — 2015—2017

SRUC logoI managed and co-ordinated the external facing digital presence of SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College. I led on content management, information architecture and user experience.

In addition to running the main SRUC website, I developed and managed associated websites in collaboration with partner organisations including the Scottish Government.

I supported and trained the community of web editors, and I also managed the digital communications officer, with oversight of social media channels.

Digital communications officer — University of St Andrews — 2009—2015

University of St Andrews logoI formed and led the digital communications team, focused on the external facing digital presence of the University of St Andrews. I managed the implementation of a new user-centred, responsive web design and new content management processes.

I was also responsible for creating and editing web content that was visually appealing, well written, up-to-date, accurate and engaging. I ensured that webpages conformed to corporate branding, accessibility guidelines, web standards and usability best practice.

Other duties included developing content strategies and guidelines, information architecture, programming the content management system and training content editors.

Read my blog posts for the digital communications team blog.

Campaigns intern — Willie Rennie MP, and Dunfermline and West Fife Liberal Democrats — 2009—2010

Liberal Democrats logoI was responsible for writing and designing campaign literature such as Focus newsletters and updating the website, in addition to various other administrative and campaigning duties.

This was a brief period of my career, but one of the most significant. I was challenged more than I ever had been, and it was an intense and exciting environment.

Sales assistant — Woolworths — 2006—2009

Woolworths logoI worked for Woolworths while I was a student. I remained there until the bitter end. It was a surreal and challenging experience to work for a national institution that was going out of business in the middle of a hectic Christmas shopping period, while my colleagues and I were on the brink of losing our jobs.

As the company went into administration, the store became busy and attracted a different, more demanding sort of customer. The experience taught me a lot about people and how to handle stressful situations.

Read my inside story on the closure of Woolworths.


PDA in Service Design — Service Design Academy – Dundee and Angus College — 2019

Service Design Academy logoThis hands-on course enabled me to further develop and formalise my service design and user research skills. This course involved attending three intensive two-day bootcamps where we worked on live client briefs.

Activities included interviewing people on their doorsteps about the future of housing, and prototyping a physical space to help improve collaboration between different college departments.

Throughout the course I applied the skills I was developing directly to my workplace projects, demonstrating my ability to design, plan and deliver service design projects.

MA (Hons) Economics and Politics – 2:1 — The University of Edinburgh — 2004—2008

University of Edinburgh logoEconomics and politics may not seem to have much relevance to my career at first glance. But studying social science made me a better designer.

Economics has a lot to say about the way humans behave and how they are motivated. This knowledge has helped me put myself in the user’s shoes, informing my design decisions and the way I approach my work.

My dissertation was about the paradox of voting, the phenomenon whereby rational choice theory struggles to explain why people vote.


A service design approach to improving student experience — UCD Gathering — 2020

UCD Gathering logoThe session will outline the comprehensive programme of user research the University of Edinburgh’s User Experience Service conducted on behalf of the Learn Foundations project. It will show how, as the project went along, we adopted a service design approach in order to better meet the needs of both students and staff.

Understanding what students really need from a virtual learning environment — IxDA Scotland meetup — 2019

IxDA Scotland logoOutlining the methodology and some key findings from our user research programme for the Learn Foundations project, explaining how we used multiple methods to come to a true understanding of what students need.

How user experience research is shaping the changes to our virtual learning environment — Alt Annual Conference — 2019

Association for Learning Technology logoWith Paul Smyth and Karen Howie.

We presented about the comprehensive range of user research the User Experience Service has undertaken on behalf of the Learn Foundations project at the University of Edinburgh.

Understanding what students really need from a virtual learning environment — Edinburgh UX monthly meetup — 2019

UX Edinburgh meetup logoOutlining the methodology and some key findings from our user research programme for the Learn Foundations project, explaining how we used multiple methods to come to a true understanding of what students need.

Building a digital team (almost) from scratch — IWMW — 2016

IWMW 2016I explored my experience of building new digital teams, having found myself doing so in two different situations at two different institutions.


  • Agile Project Management Registered Practitioner — 2014
  • ITIL v3 Foundation — 2010
  • World Class Service — 2010
  • Digital Preservation Training Programme — 2010