I’m a freelance UX designer and researcher based in New York City.
In 2014, I made the leap from leading a design team at Google (NYC, first in Ads, then Google Classroom) to the uncharted waters of self-employment, driven by a passion and want to work with smaller clients and help them grow their businesses. I take on a handful of UX design projects each month, while also managing and guiding strategy for the digital creative studio I started with Sinan Imre, Studio Simpatico.
If you’re looking for more information about the brands I’ve worked with or my life story, learn more about me.
As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve found myself increasingly passionate about getting to the heart of prospective and current clients’ businesses. The terms product design, UX design, and UI design are often used interchangeably, but I like the new-ish term “product design” to describe the designer who really understands all the pieces at play and designs for it: the business model, the user’s wants and desires, and how the product will be used.
UX Design and UI Design
I’ve always found the delineation between UX and UI design to be valid. The former, UX design, involves understanding and internalizing users’ mental models (translation: users’ thought process of how something works in the real world), and designing the step-by-step process and flows of the interactions. It is a process that involves a deep understanding of both the business objectives and the users’ frame of mind, and deliverables are often low-fidelity: site maps, flow diagrams, or wireframes. UI design involves the next level of fidelity (and more often, what people think of when they think of ‘design’): on-brand, polished looking screens, that of course map to the lower-fidelity deliverables. For more info about how I view UX design, check out my article, What is UX Design?
As companies build and iterate upon digital products’ design, it’s crucial on occasion to pause and assess how the designs are performing with real users. I’m happy to work with you to understand your biggest questions about your product, and what hypotheses need testing. Then, I’ll present to you a research plan outlining the methodology I propose to answer these (strategic or tactical) questions.
At Google, we were diligent and rigorous about testing designs with usability studies (typically task based cognitive walkthroughs, encouraging users to use the talk aloud protocol). I long ago lost count many years ago of how many cognitive walkthroughs I’ve facilitated. I’m a big fan of usertesting.com, and would be happy to design and conduct a usability testing plan to help you understand whether your designs are working. The final deliverable is typically a report outlining the testing plan and methodology, raw videos from the study, distilled findings, and UX recommendations.
To give you an idea of what a UX design consulting engagement might look like, here are a few recent project examples:
- I worked with Sapphire Digital on two separate research studies. The first was a tactical study to understand whether a proposed design worked more effectively than a current implementation. To find answers, the Simpatico team built a prototype of the design and tested it using the cognitive walkthrough method with users recruited through usertesting.com. The second study was a broader study to understand larger questions about how the product was being used, and users’ mental models when they entered the product.
- We worked closely with the team at The Bridge Corporation to design a self-service ad buying platform. Though I brought my considerable experience in online monetization products to the design portion of the engagement (I led the DFP UX team at Google), I knew that wasn’t enough. Because the product’s success hinged on it being easily understood by small businesses owners (who understand their businesses completely, but aren’t familiar with the jargon and complicated processes of online media buying), throughout our design process we tested our designs (both the user flows as well as the copywriting and branding) to ensure they made sense and resonated with small business owners.
- ReadyPipe came to me knowing that they had a problem with their product’s overall user experience, but unsure how to solve it. ReadyPipe is the web-based interface for YipitData’s proprietary web scraping technology. They knew the UX and UI was confusing to both trained internal users and newly onboarded users. They also knew the product team was struggling with where and how to add new features. I conducted my own heuristic audit of the application (after a thorough walkthrough from our product manager), as well as several lean usability studies with a variety of users, watching them perform key tasks. Based on this information, I quickly realized where the product’s overall design didn’t map to users’ mental models. My deliverable to the ReadyPipe team was a presentation outlining these findings, as well as wireframes with suggestions for how to improve the interface.
- I was approached by Sailthru with a broad ask. They were receiving negative feedback on their product’s user experience, but their customer satisfaction surveys didn’t include specifics, and they were looking for actionable recommendations of how to improve the product. I put together a plan that involved interviews with many different customers, during which I asked them to perform key tasks (as well as asked them general questions about how they use the products, their frustrations, etc.) I organized my findings into a presentation of high-level themes which I presented to leadership, and included a video highlight reel that could be circulated among the engineering and product teams.