With 10 years experience in User Experience, I provide a range of Interaction Design and User Research services to help my clients develop user-facing technologies which thrive in the real world.
Interaction Design and UX Architecture
My research skills (see below) are the foundation for my design work. Expect me to be insistent on some form of up-front customer development, and iterative user evaluation.
Building on earlier user data and stakeholder interviews, my typical design process proceeds with scenario design, task analysis and persona brainstorming. Typically that involves teamwork, with me leading a workshop involving your team to clarify our starting goals and user/product context. Yep, I’m afraid I do get my clients to do some of the design work! I find an an audit of any existing product or feature, as well as competitive analysis are also useful grounding exercises at this stage.
With a solid understanding of user needs and product context, I move onto paper-based sketching and design exploration. After getting feedback from users and stakeholders, the wireframing of interaction flows can then proceed. Note the use on the word “flow”. I don’t believe in static mocks. UIs are by definition interactive, and my emphasis is on carefully specifying the entire interaction flow, i.e. the lifecycle of the user from acquisition through activation and ongoing engagement. Hence expect at least a review of your acquisition channels, be they email marketing or SEO/SEM. They are part of your user experience too. Oh, and expect to be bugged for feedback throughout the process. In my experience, product teams who are active in design get the most out of it, rather than those who expect designs to be “thrown over the wall”.
After appropriate iteration, my typical interaction design deliverables consist of the initial requirements resources (use cases, scenarios, task analysis), information architecture, and interaction flows (both high-level summary and low-level detail). In terms of low-level detail, I am detail-oriented (hopefully not too much), so I relish the challenge of identifying all those edge cases.
On top of that, I’m a great believer in collaboration. Throughout the above activities, I enjoy collaborating with the rest of the team – visual designers, developers, product – as designs are implemented and the rough edges smoothed. I also have a knack with words and tend to help out with technical writing too, as well as with product/feature conceptualization as the oft inevitable pivots occur.
One final note – I am not a Visual/Graphic Designer. I’m not the guy you want to make your product beautiful. I’m the guy you want to make your product flow, to make it useful and intuitive.
In terms of research, I tend towards the “guerilla” end of the research spectrum, believing that fast-turnaround, iterative research with small numbers of users is both more efficient and more effective than large-scale “formal” research. This is especially the case if you are doing fast, agile development – as most companies tend to be doing these days.
Of course, its all about choosing the right methods. Hence, I work with my clients to identify the right combination of research methods appropriate for their product goals. I focus on flexibility, changing and mixing methods as required to meet my clients’ needs.
My core research services include:
- UX audits – At Google I was a member of the review team who kicked the tires of new products before launch, helping teams catch and fix issues, so that later research and development could focus on the important stuff. If you don’t have time for extensive UX research, this can be a very effective way of auditing your product’s interaction flows, with the increased objectivity of involving someone from outside your core team.
- Cognitive walkthroughs – This involves your entire team in a systematic audit of your product, simulating the goals and actions of a target user. In a frantic startup environment, its a great way for your team to take a step back from their area of focus (e.g, database back-end or PR), and look at a product in the way a user would. Such walkthroughs are a standard UX practice at Google and are a great way of catching issues throughout the product cycle.
- Usability testing – At some point, its important to get feedback from real users. I specialise in “informal” usability testing which can be conducted remotely, in a meeting room, or even in a cafe – in other words without the need for expensive labs and test tubes. One way I try to engage my clients, and make usability less dry, is by encouraging IM dialogues between observers and the interviewer. This helps improve test relevance and agility. I presented a talk on this very subject at CHI 2008, “No IM please, we’re testing”.
- Field research – Going beyond the lab, and meeting end users “in the wild” is often seen as a luxury by startups, but it can be invaluable to understand your user’s needs in the context of all their others cares and concerns, and hence validate your customer assumptions. Again, I err towards “guerilla research” where a small number of users, carefully recruited, can provide valuable insights. Since I like to bring clients along on field trips, they can also act as excellent educational opportunities for your new and old employees alike as they meet their customers at first hand.
- Analytics and log analysis – Everyone is collecting data these days. In fact, many startups are drowning in data. I can help you figure out what figures to focus on, and how to interpret them. More clicks is not always a good thing – it may signify that a user is getting frustrated! As I note above, combining methods is often the way to go. Quantitative analytics is important for measuring user behaviour, however it doesn’t tell you why users are behaving the way they are (which is where qualitative data comes in).