I've gotten a lot of calls recently from clients looking
for a combination of interaction design and development services.
Design and development require
different perspectives on a problem, but I understand design,
and I do know
how to code, so I've ramped up my development skills and services
accordingly. Most of this work has been based on the LAMP stack
of Linux, Apache, PHP, and MySQL (on top of a generally strong
background in HTML and CSS), but other things show up from time
to time, including Flash, Perl, and a little Python.
Several of these projects have involved user communities in one
way or another, and I've found Drupal to be a useful tool in these
In these projects, I rarely operate simply as a programer. One way or another,
I'm inevitably working on the interaction design of the site, and
bringing in as much usability testing
-- formal or informal -- as I can. This is often easier in larger
organizations, who are more likely to have the time and resources
to support the work, but I've been able to make the value of usability
testing clear to my smaller clients as well, and there has been
more and more testing taking place and paying off in the work
I do for them.
Some typical systems projects include:
A national telecom provider came to us overwhelmed by the
complexity of their everyday work. Their customer service group of over
2,000 employees is responsible for a broad range of information-intensive
worked with the client to prepare a set of websites, each
of which was targeted to a particular aspect of their needs.
We provided a complete range of services to the client, including
an ethnographic approach to collecting user requirements;
design of appropriate site architectures; visual design and
branding; site design, implementation, and deployment across
the company's collection of servers; back-end and database
design and development; and usability testing to evaluate
the quality of the sites.
Taking student journalism online
I worked with a local high school to build an
online presence for their student-run newspaper. This project
posed the usual challenges of information design and trying to get a easily navigable architecture for the
many different kinds of content to be featured on the site.
However, the main challenge was to build it in a way that the
content of the site could be successfully managed by a large
number of high school students -- creating and editing stories,
moving them through the editorial process, attaching photos
and videos to them, and classifying them into the appropriate
parts of the site. Drupal was a useful tool for this project,
but it was only a framework -- the real challenge, as in any
interaction design project -- was getting the tools to properly
match the expectations and needs of their users.
More student journalism: A video magazine
The media arts program of a local high school came to us
to build an showcase site for their new media arts program
and the student-run video magazine produced by the students
in that program. This project had some similarities with
the previous journalism project, but demanded a much more detailed
staff area, one that the magazine's staff could use to develop
the content of an issue from a set of simple ideas for stories,
through the selection and editorial process, to a complete
and published issue of the magazine. Thus, the staff tools
incorporated implict and explicit workflow features to support
the students and faculty in the development of an issue of the
magazine. The site also needed to offer strong support for the
video content of the site -- not just for the visitors to the
site, but again on the staff site, reaching out to the complex
set of video servers and live video streaming devices that were
at the heart of the media program.