Stilllife in America

Still Life in America is a body of photography produced by Charles H. Traub over the last decade. It spans many trips and many states and highlights both a unique side of America and the unique way in which Charles H. Traub sees America.

The interactive experience of the Still Life in America project is an ongoing collaboration between me and my father. Over the years, it has had multiple incarnations the most recent is concurrently being exhibited it China and New York.

Still Life in America 2 HTML5 Version

Still Life in America 1 Flash Version

UX and Business

A quick comment on Smashing Magazine’s post:

UX designers need to understand what the business needs and environment within which they are working. In fact, UX designers need to gain a deep insight into all the aspects of the business that can ultimately impact the experience. If you craft a great experience, but it can’t be maintained, runs too slow, or isn’t relevant, what good is it? How many of you have gone back to a site you designed and cringed.

I think it’s also important to consider technology as an equal partner to business and user experience. This is especially true when designing within a large enterprise. What does the business need, what does the user want to do, and what is the best approach to achieve the aforementioned goals in a reasonable timeframe? How buildable is it?

While I believe it’s true that UX designers can lose their way, so too can the business. When a business focuses too heavily on the bottom line, often they forget that they exist to provide value to customers. When a business is healthy and well managed, its goals should not be too different than those of the UX designer. Provide value to your customers and users.

Harmony Prelude

The process of creating rate-sheets for Agents to give to Employers and Brokers was tedious, time consuming and ran the risk of being out of compliance. I was asked to design an tool that developers could build, agents could use and customers could understand. By working closely with a tight-knit team, I was able to design an approach that would leverage quote screens out of Harmony (our existing enrollment system) which dramatically lessened the work and made for a very maintainable system. The system was built with WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation), XAML and FO.NET. The tools allows you to quote a product, save the quote in a collection, order the quotes and the collection by drag and drop. While developing the tool, I saw opportunities to expand Prelude’s usefulness with very little extra work. One way to do this was to create an on screen quick quote and the other was to be able to create a quote-sheet so that an employee would be able to save the quote or share it with a spouse.

  • Business owner for the application
  • Created the architecture and wireframes
  • Creative Directed the project
  • Implemented the XAML

Design for Complexity

Businesses are often more complex than they appear. There are distributed systems built on top of legacy systems built on top of databases that sit on top of mainframes. Often we are faced with interacting with multiple business owners, who have half the knowledge necessary to to understand what the business needs. Politics often make it so that the business owner communicates not what the business needs, but what the loudest voices want. This all breeds politics, and politics rarely leads to good design. So the process we follow must not ignore, but rather include the fact that business, much like people, are flawed. Design your process to address the flaws. When designing for complex businesses, we need to navigate, communicate and transcend this quagmire. Here is 2 cents.

1. Create relationships. Be bold, introduce yourself and make connections. Get one person to connect you to another person. Anything you accomplish will be easier if you have a good network.

2. Learn. It’s imperative that you understand what is going on, and quick. Ask questions, get documentation, and read read read. Remember school? What worked then should work now.

3. Get data. Your decisions are made best with data. Go back to your connections or make new ones, but you are going to need data to make your decisions and then to justify them.

4: Partner. Build a team or find one… you can’t do it all yourself. Make sure they have passion; and make sure you have passion.

5. Define. Now you have to make a different kind of connection: between what your learned about the business and what you learned from your data. Define the problem you are going to solve. And if you can tie it to financials, all the better.

6. Plan. Make one.

7: Compare. That’s right, see what others are doing, this is probably not the first time this problem has been solved.

8. Architect. Break it down to its smallest pieces and build up. All good systems start out simple.

9. Design. When you think you are done, you’ve probably just started.

10: Rinse and repeat. Seriously. Go back to step one. Make some new friends. Then learn something new. Get the latest data. Double check the problem. You get the idea.

11: Validate. Make sure you got it right. Test it. Then test it again.

12: Build. And improve. It shouldn’t look like your design, it should look better than your design. Things should get better during the process of construction, not worse.

12. Maintain.

Franklin Pests

Snow in Franklin