I am available as a consultant, designer, speaker, or assistant.
If you know what you need and you want to know if I can provide those services, feel free to contact me. A short list of techniques and services follows.
If you're new to user centred design or usability, contact me. We can chat about your present or future projects and how you can ensure that they hit their targets.
I can also offer seminars and workshops of any length on a variety of subjects related to user interface design, user centred design, and usability. Tell me what you're up to and I'll suggest some topics that might be helpful.
I can be reached at 604 767 1997 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Short List of Common Services
Every project is different and has unique needs for staffing and process. These are some of the most common services I can provide:
Usability Consulting to Design Teams
Usability engineering uses elements of human factors (also known as ergonomics) and cognitive psychology, along with experimental evidence and historical precedent to help locate problems with a design before it ships or goes live.
Heuristic evaluation (also called "heuristic analysis") involves examining a developing or existing design and noting areas where the interface may or may not cause problems for end users. It's based on established guidelines (backed up by research and/or experimental evidence), and can be a very efficient way to identify problem areas.
I can examine your designs for software or Web pages and offer guidance concerning their usability. I will point out areas where the interface is strong and viable, where it violates basic human factors, and where it is on unsure ground, along with recommendations for how problems might be fixed. The evaluation will tell you not only where the problems and strengths lie, but why they are that way. My reports are written in friendly, easy to understand terms and leave you with lots of room to decide how to proceed.
If you would like, I can sit down with your design team to go over the evaluation, explain the comments in detail, answer questions, and work together with the design team to find solutions where problems exist. Sometimes an external set of eyes can reveal all sorts of things that slipped past a design team.
From full-on lab-based usability testing, to small, inexpensive guerrilla tactic field testing, I can set up and run a test of your designs on real people. This is the only truly reliable way to know whats going to happen when your target audience sits down and tries to use your design. Nothing cuts the crap quite like user testing.
From recruiting test users and writing test protocols, to facilitating and reporting on the results, I can provide you with the real world feedback that can make the difference between having to launch once and having to launch many times after simple but non-obvious problems pop up once real users get their hands on the project.
Usability Consulting to Design Teams
A lot of potential problems can be avoided before they become a part of the design when usability is taken as a part of the design process. I can work with your design team to point out areas where the design is sure to cause problems, and highlight places which are potentially troublesome. My approach is not to shoot down designs, but to find ways that your design can be adapted for improved usability. I like to work cooperatively with designers, explaining the issues clearly and cooperating to find inventive combinations of appealing and usable design.
One of the most difficult things to overcome as a design team is the tendency to design things for ourselves. Its one of the most common mistakes made in designing interactive systems. The trick is that you need to do two things - first you have to stop believing that you are typical of your target audience, and the after that you have to find some way to find out what your audience is really like. What do they know, how do they typically behave, what tools do they use, and where will they be using your system? What do they know, what don't they know, and what do they think they know, but are actually mistaken about? The answers can only come from interacting directly with, and observing, the end users. You cant find them reliably in a questionnaire.
User profiling is more than just questionnaires. By interviewing end users personally, watching their responses, and probing when the response indicates that theres more to know, all sorts of valuable knowledge about end users habits and knowledge can be uncovered. Consider the question do you download a lot of files from the Internet? On a questionnaire that question might elicit a yes from three users, but in conversation one would be saying it with great commitment, another might be saying it with an uncertain tone because their not sure what you mean by a lot, and another might be unsure what downloading is, but they think they do it a lot.
I can help you identify a range of people who are the kind you want to attract, design a series of questions to use as starting points for discussion, and then interview those users to find out more about them. From those responses, a set of profiles - descriptions of the individuals - is prepared and can be used throughout the design process to help keep things in check. Having these characters to refer to can often de-politicize group discussions by putting the individual desires of the team members in the correct perspective.
If youre designing a system that will be used in a specific environment, or relates to a certain place, contextual enquiry can reveal the subtle but important details that need to inform and shape a design. As humans, we tend to arrange our spaces to be efficient and comfortable. Sometimes the things we do are not immediately obvious to a casual observer. A careful observer will see many things though - the placement of tools, the spaces that are open and those that are blocked off, the ways people have found to get past troublesome or annoying standards and regulations. These kinds of things are usually reflected in the environment in which people work, and they can provide important information concerning how they work. Ignoring these clues can result in your system becoming just another thing to be worked around. Taking them into account can make your system seem natural and simple. But first you have to see them.
If your project would benefit from this kind of environmental observation, I can visit the relevant locations, take notes, take pictures, talk to the people there, and gather the information into a report which points out the things that you will need to know.
I have almost ten years experience designing new media and application software (see the portfolio section for some examples) for a variety of audiences. I aim to make my designs elegant, effective, simple, and clear. More than anything else I try to make them appropriate for the people who will be using them. Rather than trying to make people notice my interfaces, I often design them to be as inobtrusive as possible, allowing the user to focus instead on their task.
This is not to say that they are bland or ugly. Aesthetic appeal is an integral part of an effective system. But that aesthetic has its time and place. I believe the best designs are both aesthetically pleasing and usable.
I can work solo, within a team, or leading a team to design and produce a high quality interface that meets the immediate goals and has the foundation to last well into the future. I try to consider both the overall effect and flow of a project as well as the details and fit-and-finish of the component pieces.
In recent years I have been asked to speak about interface design, usability, and user centred design in various contexts. I taught user centred design and usability for new media at Centennial College from 1998 to 2001 using curricula that I developed.
I have also spoken at the University of Toronto, business seminars, and appeared on television as a commentator on new media and usability subjects. I can put together a custom presentation of any length on a number of subjects.
My speaking style is informal and, depending on the subject matter, can include audience participation.
I can also offer workshops on a number of design and usability related subjects.