My background

From the early days

Before I began designing software, I was one of those many world-wide-web hobbyists from the 1990’s who loved being able to reach out into the world from just a few clicks of a mouse or words typed into a keyboard. When I was a kid, I was always an admirer of BBS’s, CompuServe, The Source and ARPANET (Google them if you are not old enough to remember using them).

I began coding in HTML just for fun in the 1990’s and then when companies began hiring us. That was very cool so I learned more coding and became a front-end developer during the dotcoms.  Yet, I found I loved designing more than front-end development because I could be in a position to create a complete solution rather than coding feature after feature with little reason other than getting a paycheck.

I learned that my ability to listen intently and learn a new industry or product is a trait I rely on heavily when I am involved in any project.

Obviously, my modest design skills are always continually improving.  And yes, I can be even more critical about my own designs and solutions than any audience, colleague or client can be.  In addition, I can say I actually thrive in managing chaos of new projects, new clients, and new industries.  I love critical feedback, and even thrive on negative feedback to keep improving.  Because one thing is sure about computer technology and software – it never stays the same for long and design is as subjective as any art form can possibly be. Its also obvious that users are getting to become more demanding about what software they like to use and how they like to use it. Nevertheless, I am empathic to end-users because I too am also an end-user for a lot more software than I help make better. I just love that design now has the end-user focus it always needed. 

As a UX / UI Designer, I have been lucky to work for some of the leading brands of our time – and working on complex projects for them because some teams did not always have the resources available to take on a big new project. Yet, oftentimes a project will only take a few months to complete and we are finished and looking for a new project to work on.  Sure, I worked many years designing software for everyone but myself and often find myself having finished a project and being unnecessary and needing to find a job again – repeatedly.  That will keep anyone humble for sure, and it is one of the main reasons some of the people I worked with years ago - stopped working in the industry.  Sure one day I will either find a full-time remote role that fits my interests and allows me to live wherever I want.  On the other hand, I could just keep helping companies as I do now - and still love doing it, going through the rinse, repeat cycles once more as each project ends, and a new one starts up.  Sometimes people ask, if I like leaving new friends so shortly after a job well done?  My answer is that honestly, sure at times it can be a difficult experience to leave those newly made friends and funny cube mates behind.   But it all just goes with the territory of working for a living as any type of IT consultant as we brush up our resume and find a new project - I just chalk it up to the experience of being a user-experience consultant.

Currently, I now help mentor UX design students one-on-one, to help them bypass the pitfalls of trying to learn how to make a living - designing software - and I truly like that.  I like making new friends, advising and mentoring them before they find their very first job in the industry.  I get a kick out of helping to make their dreams come true of being the best type of designer they can be 

As for me, I am always learning something new and adjusting my skill sets to match the never ending changes in technology and the ever increasing expectations of a much more tech-savvy audience.  

And in saying this, I will never call myself a master of this craft, as I am the perpetual student of technological change and just help guide and mentor others, while I stifle a small and humbled laugh as others proclaim complete mastery as I plod along, designing software for another new client and knowing each project will begin and end and I need to search for a new project again.  

It's a living... and I love doing it!

     Hire me to help you design  A Great User-Experience!      Designing software with experience! :)

My (flexible) UX Process

In a perfect and static world there would only be one way to approach UX in the way of a precise and uniform step-by-step process. Yet, since that normally isn’t the case in the real world of UX consulting, I have to be flexible to take into account what my clients and each individual project will allow in the way of time and resources and any plan of action as to their own company and team's accepted approach to UX.

As a professional UX consultant, on most occasions I quickly adjust to each client's own way of doing UX.   And rarely is it like the last UX project I had just completed for another company where even different UX teams at that same company approached UX processes in a noticeably different manner altogether.  Startups don't usually have the time and money to invest in a formal UX process, but need the added wisdom of an independent consultant who can use their best judgement to help the project succeed especially at the fragile and critical ideation phase and pre-MMVP (minimum viable product) stage to present to a potential client or investor(s).  As a consultant, I never attempt to define the project, but I will be glad to help refine it.

So as a consultant, it’s necessary for me to quickly adjust to each project accordingly and do my best to provide the best aspects of UX I can using the best of my own abilities and experiences.  The following is just a rough sketch of most of the UX processes that I perform for most projects, but in no case is it set firmly in stone - but this is what I try my best to accomplish at the very minimum for each project.

     Research: Strategy and Discovery Phase

This most important initial phase of research and discovery includes stakeholder interviews, reading the business and design requirements and/or functional specs, studying the competition (competitive analysis or industry sector analysis and competitor software features) and understanding the marketplace and end-users (personas, user-research or previous customer feedback) and then understanding how to put all it together into a multiple design concept solutions.

I've always felt that doing this due diligence regarding research and interviews are the best strategy to begin with because it’s what I've always gotten to do on successful projects  (study the business objectives, the requirements, the overall vision, what others have said about the previous software version, and listen very carefully during all stakeholder interviews of what new features they want to add and what they want fixed about the old version).  It is also the time I am taking photos of whiteboards and taking notes of the requirements, stakeholder conversations and sketching out the UI during pauses and breaks in the discussions.

     Planning: Documentation & Diagrams

If the project is complex and I have the necessary permissions, I really enjoy creating the necessary documentation (taxonomy, personas, style guides, process flows, interaction flows, screen flows, gap analysis, risk analysis, web analytics, journey maps, personas, sitemaps, design sketches, and concept mockups, etc.). With these documents in hand I can keep better track of the nuances of the business requirements and begin to architect the overall UX solution to the problem(s).  Even though on agile teams, documentation is very light, its still appreciated to create documentation on the UX design portion to help achieve a superior result than to just rely on subject-matter expertise alone.

For me, it has always been that UX / IA is invaluable at this time as it helps ensure the UI functions as a holistic application so there are no breaks in the consistency of the flows and the aesthetics can be created to exceed user expectations.

     Design: Wireframe Iterations

For wireframes I like to design them quickly using Sketch or Visio or Axure. If I get to use Sketch or Axure for a project, I'm usually relieved, because it's rather quick to go from wireframes to interactive prototypes since I would be using the same software for both.

If you get a chance to review my projects, you will see a difference in the types of wireframes in each project. That's simply because some clients have different preferences. Some may want balsamic sketches, while other clients want fully-annotated, grayscale wireframes in Visio or Photoshop and only in a very specific design or template.  Others may want red-lines and pixel-perfect wireframes in Photoshop or Illustrator.  It all depends on the client and who is leading the project (even inside the same company that has an entirely different UX process!).

During first iteration of projects it's normal to produce abstract, low-fidelity (grayscale) wireframes to go over the abstract (high-level) details to make sure it's what the stakeholders had in mind.  Yet during the next iterations, most stakeholders I have dealt with, prefer to see more detail and more fidelity before they can approve the project going forward.  

When the wireframes are ready, I first hand them off to peers or the project lead first to review and then after its had a lookover with no issues, I then present the wireframes to the stakeholders as soon as I can. 

I then listen to any feedback to make sure the wireframe designs are sound and what the stakeholders and sponsors had in mind.

     Prototypes: Interaction Design and Visual Simulation

Once the initial wireframes have been chosen and approved by project stakeholders, I quickly follow through with the first iteration of prototypes.  On all projects I created wireframes and could easily use Sketch (and Invision) or Axure to generate HTML and JavaScript so I could focus on creating rather than hand-coding which is more lengthy and prone to iterative changes when alterations need to be made to the overall design. 

Lately more clients want something more fast and simpler than Axure, and so we use Sketch and Infovision for fast wireframes and prototypes.  On rare occasions with very large corporations, I will have to use iRise™.  Actually it's great for visual simulations, especially if any project calls for simulating large datasets of closely modeled and filtered information in real time - like large datasets of tables filled with relevant information or displaying a new product catalog with images and pricing and the ability to search and use sort capabilities to display a large dataset of items in a table.

     Iterate & Validate: Usability & User Research

Validating the prototypes (& wireframes) by peer-review is the first option that I depend upon to give a critical lookover of what will be presented.  Typically wireframes will go through various cycles of iterations and peer review, depending on what a client or UX team will allow for.  After peers have reviewed the work in most cases the deliverables will only then get passed on to stakeholders for more rounds of iterations (updates and changes).  Normally at this point of iterations on the prototype - I will already begin fine tuning everything until it inevitably gets approval to go into usability testing & user-research sessions which are put in front of real individuals for the valuable feedback they provide.  Often, if I’m lucky I get to make final adjustments to the designs after participating in either conducting or listening in on the usability tests and user-research sessions.  When this phase has been completed the prototype sometimes goes back to the stakeholders for one more final round of approvals with all the test results and updates to be signed-off on before being put in front of the developers with an optional functional spec document - all ready for production. 

Hire me to help you design  A Great User-Experience!Designing software with experience! :)

My work as IDEA Software

I've had the name IDEA Software since the 1990's when I was an IT professional.  Although I am relatively speaking modest by nature, I realize that behind each case study I put on this portfolio site - was a successful client engagement. 

Regardless of the difficulty, if it was a native mobile app for Apple/iOS/HIG & Google/Android/Material Design, or a complex enterprise portal, desktop application, a market niche SaaS web-application, or even a large-scale consumer website for B2B and B2C - I was able to deliver exactly what the client had expected.  And with each project I tried my best to create a positive environment and a positive professional relationship for all who are involved.

In saying this, I appreciated the level of the trust I had to earn on each project - as I had to quickly prove myself fully capable and professional in order to deliver measurable and real results for each project I helped out.  So also be aware that some projects are still under NDA and I can't go into too much details about them (in some cases, after many years even). But I won't hide my work behind NDA's and let you guess at what type work I can deliver as all images you will see in each case study throughout this site were created entirely by myself.  Because rarely does a UX Consultant get access to a Graphics Designer to create assets for any project.  Not once in over a decade did I ever have someone assigned to me to do this.  I doubt that will soon change.

And yes, I'm still always hopeful that one day I will find a great fit at some future company as a full-time employee (FTE) even might it be an app I design and create or I eventually find a like-minded group of friendly and professional designers whose first gut feeling isn't professional jealousy when reviewing my designs.  I'd rather find a team where I am free to design world-class software and make the entire team look great -- without worrying my designs made someone feel inferior for some odd reason. 

I've even had the interesting experience of creating UI designs for defense industry clients who required 2D/3D spatial representations of large multi-dimensional datasets of real-time information and commercial companies needing a solution for large mobile omni-channel applications that cross domains of expertise within any multinational company. 

As you can probably tell after reviewing some of my case-studies, I specialize in complex technical designs and tend to never be needed for the simple "boutique" mobile apps and websites that most designers seem to love to brag about.  Speaking of this, I don't brag about my own projects.  And I don't do the SXSW or TED talks or write a book to lecture about the rights and wrongs of user-experience, because honestly, unless someone can back up what they say with facts and analytics, it's just one more opinion - and in the design field, everyone has an opinion and everyone's an expert.  I cannot tell you how many developers over the years tell me that exact same statement and cringe of the thought of doing design for a living.  :)

User experience meets user-expectations

During my decades of IT experience, I have experience working in enterprise-level and small startup environment software design, software development, computer networking and software support. My resume readily shows I have experience working with a wide array of industries and having the ability to learn a new market niche, understanding its audience and crafting entire design solutions.  But I normally get assigned the technical projects other designers don't like taking on.  I usually gravitate towards these complex projects anyways.  I always have done this since I was a kid in school.

Oh and just so you know, all the designs you see in my resume and on this site were created solely by myself, not once did a client or company I work for ever give me internal or external resources (i.e. a graphics designer to help with assets, icons, etc.) to help create designs while I was working on a design solution for them.  Yet, AT&T paired me up with a UX Strategist to help compile research and strategy and our two-man team was awesome and always got compliments and accolades from each management team we worked with.  But that was the exception and not the rule.  Through the years, inevitably, I had to learn everything on-the-job and in the real world.  Yes, I can code front-end, do user-research, do visual designs, do user-interface designs, do content writing (can't you tell?), do interaction design and information architecture.  

Humorous side note: Hmm, lately on Linkedin and elsewhere I see a lot of designers very liberal with job titles.  1-2 years experience at one company now qualifies some designers as "Senior" UX Designers.  With almost 2 decades of professional e-commerce and design experience, should I call myself a "Senile" UX Designer now? :)