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 situations.

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:

Workplace collaboration: Supporting teamwork in the workplace

Workplace collaboration: Supporting teamwork in the workplace 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 tasks. We 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

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

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.