I help teams create software and products that people love

Find Out How
Some Examples of My

Work

  • Breathometer

    Breathometer needed a new landing page for their product. Only catch, there was no product yet.

    Front End Development Visual Design Brand Development

  • HubPages

    As HubPages’ first Director of User Experience I helped introduce UX and design thinking into an established business and development team.

    Front End Development Visual Design User Research Design Leadership User Experience

  • Plum District

    Plum District is a daily deals business “by moms, for moms”.

    Mobile Design User Experience Usability UI Design Brand Development

  • Mingle

    Mingle was an online dating site with a social networking twist.

    Front End Development Visual Design User Research User Experience Brand Development

  • replyforall

    replyforall.com was an innovative start-up with a unique value proposition.

    Front End Development Visual Design User Research User Experience

  • Email Signature Tool

    I designed and built a product and then built a business around it.

    Front End Development Visual Design Product Management

  • Heller Ehrman

    I supported the Marketing and Information Technology departments with design and implementation of web applications and HTML email.

    Front End Development Visual Design Brand Development Graphic Design

  • BitSpark

    I collaborated on several projects with Bitspark Consulting to create user interfaces for their client’s projects.

    Visual Design User Research User Experience Usability

  • Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP

    I worked with Orrick for many years in a variety of roles and capacities, mostly dealing with email and web technology issues.

    Front End Development Visual Design User Experience Brand Development Product Management

  • DLA Piper Rudnick

    I worked with DLA Piper’s Marketing department for several years and several mergers and re-brandings.

    Front End Development Visual Design Brand Development Graphic Design

  • Wendy Ulve Design Associates

    I built this site back in 1997 for one of the interior designers I worked with.

    Front End Development Visual Design

  • St Vincent de Paul Society

    A conversion-centric site for people to donate their old car to charity.

    Front End Development Visual Design

  • Photorealistic Computer Renderings

    One of my first jobs after college was working on the interior design of private jets.

    3D Modeling 3D Rendering

Learn More About My

Process

Everyone is Different

One of the keys to creating successful products is understanding that most people are different than we are. Regardless who we are, most people don't have our same combination of motivations, skills, experiences and preferences. That's one of the main reasons why it's so hard to design products for other people, and why so many products get it wrong. So the first question we should ask ourselves is "How do we create products for people who are different from us?"

In a nutshell, the goal of User Experience Design is to solve that problem. "UX" provides a set of tools, methodologies and new ways of framing problems that help teams create products for people who have completely different preferences and skill sets from them. So we don't have to become doctors in order to design products that doctors will love.

Users Are Human Beings, and So Are You

When we understand other people better, we can predict their behavior more accurately. As human beings, we're actually pretty good at predicting the behavior of people that we know well. Most of us make pretty accurate guesses at how our mother would respond to a particular product or service.

But isn't that a lot to ask? We can never understand our users as well as people close to us. Thankfully we don't need to. Users are human beings with complex and interconnected goals, skills, tastes and preferences, but the number of those things that relate to our product is limited. Usually even the act of attempting to understand some of it goes a long way towards producing more usable and desirable products. The “80/20 Rule” applies.

Talking to Users

One of the most important of these tools is user research. To create a product that does exactly what people want, you need to start by asking people exactly what they want. When you put it that way, it seems like common sense, right?

But the default human condition is to assume that other people are just like us. It's not until we have information to the contrary that we begin to question that assumption. This is just how our brains work. We must rely on research-based methodologies to provide ourselves with that outside information that will cause us to question our assumptions and re-evaluate our approach before we've built it. It's easy to throw a mockup away and start over, but much more painful when you have a finished product. (More likely you'd just decide you didn't actually want to create exactly what they wanted anyway, leaving that opportunity open for someone else.)

Without user research it's very easy, human nature, to fall into the trap of "self-referential design", designing for ourselves instead of our users. Talking to users on a regular basis helps keep the team from falling into that trap.

“Goal-Directed Design”

The foundations of my design process grew initially from Alan Cooper's book About Face and the concepts behind goal-directed design, but with adjustments to practice these ideas in Agile and Lean development environments. And I'm always reading new books and trying to incorporate new ideas from books like Drive, Neuro Web Design, and Predictably Irrational.

User Goals ≠ Business Goals ≠ Technology Goals

One idea from goal-directed design is that there are typically 3 sets of somewhat opposing needs and goals at play in any interaction design challenge;

what the user wants to do,
what the business wants the user to do,
and the technology required to it.

Each of these groups of related goals exist within hierarchies of other goals, and it's through investigation and understanding of these goals and their hierarchies that truly useful, innovative and appealing solutions are conceived.

The user's goals are perhaps the most important in this triad, but they are the only ones without a seat at the table during the product development process. This leads to products that are not useful, difficult to use, or don't do what people want. It's the designer's job to be the user's seat at the table, to advocate for them and their skills, goals, and preferences during the design and development process.

So one could say that "User Experience" is about all of the blue arrows below. Obviously this can't be the job of one person or one part of the company, the whole company needs to be part of the UX team.

The Design Process

Process is a Tool

Many methodologies exist for product design and development and I tend to pick and chose from them to fit the specific project and team. I like this illustration because they all begin with "D"s. I think it's important to have a process, but also to remember that process is a tool, not a goal.

Derek Gulbranson