All posts by Danforth Media
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should
As technologists, it’s our job to stay on top of, and advocate for, new approaches. There are many valid reasons an enterprise might want to adopt cutting edge or experimental technology. That said, gratuitous use of technology without a well-vetted business case can be exceedingly costly and more likely to stifle innovation than support it.
Welcome. Below are artifacts, designs, and reports from previous projects.
- This research analysis report was for The Project Management Institute (PMI).
- We were able to develop a cohesive set of user persona from the findings.
- Here is an additional set of user personas for a logistics application.
User Stories & Workflow Design
- Example user story for the PMI website
- Another user story for the logistic application
- Resultant system workflow for the logistics application
Wireframes (Screen design)
Here is a full deck of wireframes for a system design so see them in context. Below are other examples:
User testing studies, usually qualitative, are used to validate (or invalidate) design assumptions and evolve a product before the time, effort, and cost of development begins.
This is a report from testing a “one page design” for a pre-paid debt card.
Case Study – B2B SaaS Provider
PCS contacted Danforth with the broad goal of improving the user experience of their main carton tracking application, PCSTrac. PCSTrac is a logistics software service that tracks millions of inventory cartons as they move from freight trailers, to distribution centers, to the local retail store delivery for the online retailers. They wanted to start with improvements to PCSTrac with the hopes that transferable design patterns could be found for their retail products.
Initial consultations with the client product team uncovered that while they were very familiar with customer needs (i.e. buyers) and the behaviors of a handful of “super users,” they were not as clear about the behaviors of day-to-day warehouse users, their largest user group.
The initial engagement consisted of a series of workshops with the team where we co-developed “provisional” user personas based on the teams individual experiences with clients. This helped mine as much existing information about users as possible, while allowing team members to express their opinions and ideas in a structured way. This preliminary user segmentation work was followed by onsite “contextual inquiries” with warehouse users. Onsite interviews were followed by formal user testing (remote, moderated, think aloud) of the current product with more diverse user types to deep dive into the system’s usability issues and workflow complexities.
The project’s user research was conducted as part of a broader “immersion” process that included a review of the competitive space, mining customer support data, researching user demographics, and conducting a heuristic evaluation of the current product.
Armed with new user insights and deeper understanding of the product, a cohesive set of evidence-based user persona was refined in follow-up workshops with the product team. It was vital that the team embraced these personas, so there was ample time in meetings for discussion and collaboration within the constraints of our field findings.
The overarching theme gleaned from the immersion process was that—in the product team’s effort to provide for every conceivable use case and respond to customer’s individual requests—the product had become too dense and complex for their average user. It had many feature and information redundancies that, along with weak information architecture, made it difficult for users to complete key tasks and find common data points.
The team then worked to prioritize tasks and develop user scenarios (task mapping) for each persona. This collaborative process allowed us to significantly streamline a number of complex workflows that would provide productivity improvements for the majority of day to day users. User scenarios were translated into system workflows and key screens were isolated from the workflows. This allowed us to create a clear set of high priority task-based functional requirements for each screen.
PCS reports success with the improvements they have been rolling out over time as they upgrade their platform to be able to support many of the broader proposed changes. I have worked with them ongoing to help transfer some of the more successful layouts and interactions into patterns for their retail products. In addition, Danforth has been engaged to work with PCS to help further guide the product team on user centered design best practices so they can be more independent in making good design decisions. We are currently helping this client with micro-interactions for one of their retail products.
Concorde offers a software service that manages truck driver qualification files and tracks drug and alcohol testing compliance. Concorde contacted my agency partner who brought me in as the strategist to structure and lead the engagement. Concorde, while very successful in their space, wanted to investigate how to integrate their three top products into a single cohesive platform. They wanted an “integrated dashboard’ through which all users would pass with the hopes of up-selling different product options. In addition, they wanted to explore ways to streamline and generally improve the user experience for all their products.
Like the PCS project, I began this engagement with a deep immersion into the product and its surrounding ecosystem. I conducted stakeholder interviews, user interviews, reviewed third party research and worked with the client to develop clear user segmentation. While initially the client was asking for a one-size-fits-all “dashboard,” the research and discovery quickly revealed a clear need for a highly-personalized experience both individually and by user group.
In an effort to best support the client in making informed decisions (particularly in light of findings I knew they did not expect) I pulled together the research and supporting data, along with real-world examples from successful products to make a strong case for why I was recommending a personalized experience over a single dashboard screen. Because this new direction would greatly impact the level of time and investment needed for product improvements, it was important that the concepts were introduced incrementally over a series of meetings working closely with the product team. I provided opportunities for team discussion and actively encouraged them to challenge my methods and conclusions. By the final “recommendations” presentation, the product team and executive leadership was on board and very excited about the new direction. In addition to a more personalized experience for users, our research uncovered clear opportunity areas for the business if they could provide more robust and meaningful reports and data visualizations.
Once we had the client’s blessing on the new direction, I moved forward developing the information architecture and screen wire-frame designs based on priority tasks per user segment. As in all projects, I referenced a wide range of other successful products and micro-interaction trends. The approved wire-frames were then developed into a non-functional, interactive prototype for user testing.
User testing of the prototype was conducted in two phases; an initial group of participants followed by a subsequent group after design refinements. The new unified product tested well with representative users and was successful from both from a usability/workflow perspective, and in meeting one of the initial key business requirements of promoting more cross-sell activity.
After design approvals, I worked with the client to define a high-level product road-map for rolling out the proposed platform changes over the next 2-3 years. We uncovered that the development of a single sign-on process was a prerequisite to moving forward with the platform changes. The client is currently working on launching the single sign-on functionality.
Thoughts on “Growing Well” as a technology startup
Talk given by leading software professional Dorothy M Danforth of Danforth Media to the Philadelphia New Technology Community on 12/19/2014.
Every entrepreneur wants to see his or her vision become a huge overnight success. But, there can be a heavy price for moving too far, too fast. How big, and how quickly you can grow and still produce a successful company will depend on many things. In her talk, Dorothy shares stories from her experience working with high growth Silicon Valley startups, and later as a product strategy consultant. She explores how to “grow well,” offering ideas to help you define a pace and scale that will support a healthy, sustainable outcome.
Moving from Vision to Design: User-Centered Methods for New Product Definition
Seminar by Dorothy M. Danforth for the IEEE Computer Society Leading Professional Seminar Series. – 30 minutes
It’s a common scenario: A company is planning a new product or significant redesign. There have been various discussions about how the product should have a “great user experience” and “focus on the user.” But, there are also conflicting ideas on what a great experience might entail, along with competing priorities for what the product absolutely must do to be successful in the marketplace.
Where to begin? How do you break through the confusion and move towards a clarified product vision? Whether a large established corporation or lean start-up, organizations struggle with progressing from early ideation into clear requirements and a tangible design phase. This webinar will explore ways to leverage user experience design methods in the very early stages of the product life cycle.
This session covers the following:
- An overview of practical user research and design planning methods useful for early stage products and redesigns
- Strategies for leveraging these methods to refine a product’s vision and ensure features are tied to user goals
- Examples of how keeping a focused eye on user needs can help resolve conflicting priorities and promote product team alignment
Scoping and Pricing UX Projects for Consultants
“We’d like to work with you, please send me your rates…”
It’s a simple request, but one that can easily stump a newly minted UX consultant. When starting out, many independent consultants charge based on the going rate offered by the hiring firm. However, there is often room to negotiate a better deal. In other situations, the client is looking to the consultant to set pricing. So how, exactly, do you determine what to charge?
|Read more on Giant UX…|
8 Lessons for Entrepreneurs From the Philly New Technology Holiday Meetup
Event review by David Ongchoco for Huffington Post Business Blog.
“Last Wednesday, I got to attend the Philly New Technology Meetup Holiday Extravaganza attended by more than 150 entrepreneurs, innovators and industry leaders. It was an overall exciting time to get to meet like-minded individuals, connect and learn. Here are a few key takeaways and lessons learned from the speakers a the start of the event.”
Read full review:
UX Evolution Mindset & Methods
For the Delaware Valley Human Factors & Ergonomics Society – Nov. 2014
User Experience Design (UX) is a hot term in software these days, but as a relatively new and evolving field there has been confusion as to what this discipline entails and how it relates to other design practices. In this talk, Dorothy will provide an overview of current user experience design and research best practices, touch on how these methods have evolved in recent years, and discuss what many practitioners believe to be core philosophies behind “User Experience Design” as an approach to software design. In addition, Dorothy will walk through a software product lifecycle using case study examples to illustrate how common UX methods can be leveraged to improve a product. The presentation will be followed by an open discussion about where User Experience Design methods parallel or counter other human factors and ergonomics practices.
Takeaways – Participants will walk away with a clear understanding of User Experience Design as a practice, an overview of current methods, and insight into how these practices might relate to broader human factors and ergonomics approaches.