Get to know Chris Nixon (MS ’15), interaction designer/information architect

Chris Nixon

Where do you work, and what is your role?

I’m an interaction designer/information architect at Expedia. I’m responsible for the design, usability, and accessibility of our Things to Do line of business—selling tours, activities, and shows. I do a little bit of everything, from research, information architecture, and interaction design to visual design. I work closely with our product managers and developers to figure out how to balance user needs and business goals and to figure out how we’re actually going to get things built.

What do you like best about your job?

I love working on a product that is used by tens of millions of people each month. It’s kind of amazing to think that so many people are using features I’ve designed. It also reminds me of the responsibility to do a good job and to make sure my work is usable and accessible. We recently went live with a pre-trip email I designed, which is sent to everyone who books a flight on Expedia forty-eight hours before their trip. I took what had been basically just a reminder email and repurposed it to include the trip itinerary as well as flight confirmation numbers and baggage information, which could be useful right before someone is about to go on a trip.

What do you see as the most important impact of your work?

As one of the leading online travel agency (OTA) websites, we can have an impact on improving the state of user experience design across the web. For example, we were the first full-service OTA to become fully responsive, fluidly scaling to the size of the web browser or device. Now many others are following. We’re currently undergoing a major push to improve the accessibility of all aspects of our site for people with disabilities. By being the first to embrace these kinds of things, we can help set a standard for other websites.

How did the iSchool help you get to where you are today?

The iSchool provided the perfect place for me to explore my interests. I was really drawn towards the interdisciplinary nature of the classes and research at the iSchool. My background is in anthropology with a bit of computer science, and I was looking for a place where I could integrate both, using anthropological research methods to inform the design of information interfaces. At the iSchool, I found professors who were supportive and able to help me find opportunities to learn and improve my skills and practice my ideas. Everyone was very encouraging, supportive, and helpful; people were able to have interesting conversations and debates about any topic. I think it was an amazing environment, and I miss it a lot now that I’ve graduated and left.

What advice would you like to share with iSchool students?

Work on projects outside of school, whether it’s building something, volunteering somewhere, or getting a summer job or research assistantship. Make sure your projects in classes are applicable to what you want to do. Talk with professors about your interests; often they’ll be able to introduce you to other people or set you up with amazing opportunities. Try to go to at least one conference.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Now that I live somewhere near water (I’m from Champaign), I decided to learn how to sail, which has been something I’ve always wanted to do. Here in Seattle, there’s a nonprofit called the Center for Wooden Boats, and they maintain a fleet of wooden sailing boats, some as old as eighty years. I took lessons there and now have started volunteering with them. They’re kind of like a living museum of Seattle’s maritime history. I also love traveling. In addition to exploring Washington state, I’ve driven across the US (from Champaign to San Francisco) a couple of times, and I love taking road trips along the California coast.

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