Understanding Project Context: What are the current technologies used?

Given the different products you have as well as the skills in house, describe the technologies you have.

what's your click?

Understanding current technologies provides me with a frame of reference for what you are comfortable with and how the organization sees the world.

  • What technology do you use?
  • What are the skill sets of the employees you have?
  • Why was the technology picked?
  • What does the architecture look like?
  • What does the technology road map look like?

Technology decisions and biases add constraints to the design solutions available. Sometimes the past technology choices get in the way of understanding the options within the new technologies chosen. Understanding these constraints allows me to adjust the solution or challenge the assumptions being made.

Copyright 2015 Frictionless Design LLC

Understanding Project Context: What business are you in?

Even when I have a lot of experience working within a domain, it is crucial to get the business perspective from you, the client. Beyond your marketing materials and your website to what you really do.

your business

Understanding the direction and focus of your business will help frame the solutions we explore.

  • What business are you in? Tell me about your products, the market, your competitors.
  • Where does the problem we are trying to address fit into the overall business?
  • What is the focus of the work we will be doing as it relates to the business?

After this conversation, I have you turn me to more resources to read. The better I understand your business, the more directed we will be when exploring the solution space. The questions won’t end here. Sometimes the questions will be hard to answer and will bump up against long held assumptions. A clear understanding of the business you’re in, and how this project fits into your overall goals in the marketplace, will contribute to making the right design choices for your business.

Copyright 2015 Frictionless Design LLC

Understanding Project Context: Who are the players?

At the earliest stage of a project, it is helpful to think about all the players. Most projects are not done in isolation. (Or shouldn’t be.)  Consider who will be impacted by your project throughout the larger company.

so who are you

Pull up an org chart and identify the following:

  • Who are the immediate people on the project team?
  • Who is the executive leadership responsible for the project?
  • Who are the champions?
  • Who are the naysayers?
  • Who is going to be impacted by the project?
  • How do all the people and roles relate to each other?

Each of these parties requires some level of communication throughout the project. For some folks it may be minimal, for others it may be a lot. Expanding communication beyond the project team and management on a regular basis will ensure organizational acceptance and mitigate last minute firestorms.

Copyright 2015 Frictionless Design LLC

Understanding Project Context: What is the problem?

When I am brought in on a project, I initially meet with the product owner and product managers. This is the beginning of our project and you have a problem you are looking to solve. I need to learn more about this problem so where do we begin? With Problem Definition.

so now what?

Let’s begin by defining the problem. Before we jump into solutions, we need to understand the problem and clarify what indeed is the issue. Let’s start with what you know.

  • What is the problem?
  • Who has this problem? Which clients and users?
  • Where in the business does this problem occur?
  • When does the problem occur?
  • What do we know about why it happens?
  • What business outcomes are desired in solving this problem?
  • How will business outcomes be measured?

Note: At this time we are not looking for solutions, just the definition.

A clearly defined problem with clearly defined outcomes will be valuable throughout the project and needs to be understood by the team at all levels. The best managed projects continually revisit the problem and the desired outcomes to keep everyone on the same page and surging toward the same goal.

Copyright 2015 Frictionless Design LLC

Frictionless Update: 2014 Lessons Learned

2014 was a busy year of change and lessons learned. I consulted with companies new and established, joined a start-up full time, and even contracted on projects. These experiences taught me more about the value I provide to clients, and the work I find most satisfying.

As I met with potential clients and discussed their projects, my understanding of my value sharpened in my mind. The value I offer clients is that I can dramatically improve their ability to deliver products on time and ensure customer acceptance. I do this through a number of process and design strategies, honed over years of experience.

I am occasionally presented intriguing projects, offered on a contract basis. Even when organizations would benefit from me in a consulting role, if they want a contractor, that is the mindset with which they approach their design needs. Contractors are often plugged in to perform tasks at the will of the employer. These tasks may or may not have any value on process and product delivery, but contractors have no influence to change that. I am sticking with consulting.

It was a year in which I discovered much about myself, the industry, and where I want to take frictionless design in the coming year. You can read more about my recent projects in Client Stories.

Copyright 2015 Frictionless Design LLC

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By |January 14th, 2015|Consulting|1 Comment

Frictionless Tech & Design: Logo Design

Tech & Design

While exploring principles of logo design, I discovered these eight criteria for judging good logos, according to Craig Von Kolaar. Von Kolaar specializes in marketing for non-profits but I believe these concepts can be applied universally when looking to create a strong logo.

  1. aesthetically pleasing
  2. distinctive
  3. memorable
  4. timeless
  5. scalable
  6. simple enough for use with multiple mediums
  7. adaptable (color and black and white)
  8. communicates qualities of the brand

Would you expect one of the criteria to be that the logo resembles the product or service offered? Notice, that requirement did not make the list.

Copyright 2015 Frictionless Design LLC

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By |January 14th, 2015|Visual Design|2 Comments

Frictionless Clients: 2014


A year well spent. I worked with clients in a wide variety of industries and developed a successful working relationship with the best UI developer I know, Doug Ross. My initial collaboration with his consultancy, OnVelocity, was for an education company seeking to develop software for standardized testing. Together we designed and developed an assessment tool for high school math teachers to give students as practice for Common Core testing following SBAC and PARCC standards.

Following my work in the educational space, I worked on projects in Foreign Exchange Trading, Real-time Analytics, and Document Storage.

  • Foreign Exchange Trading. Ty Danco of Buyside FX invited me to work on a proposal to provide a currency trading system for a large international bank. After winning the proposal, I joined for BuysideFX for a few months. Unfortunately, a large American bank got involved and banking politics took over. In the end, the international bank was forced to work with another company and BuysideFX closed its doors.
  • Real-time Text Analytics: A former client was working at a new company and needed me, together with OnVelocity, to design and develop the UI for a new product. The product monitors unstructured text from sites such as Twitter and uses simple keywords to filter and categorize tweets into topics that can be saved and monitored over time.
  • Document Storage: I accepted a contract position to work with executives in financial services to create a dashboard to help execs manage their data so their company could remain in compliance. Within days of my arrival department’s strategy changed, so my contracting career was shorter […]
By |January 14th, 2015|Consulting|1 Comment

Frictionless Meetups: Onion.io


As a Mentor at startup accelerator Techstars (Boston) I get to meet and work with the some great startup companies. While many are exploring cutting edge technologies, others offer interesting creative products. This past spring, the Internet of Things (IoT) caught my eye. Imagine “smart” hotels, where the front desk can manage everything from air conditioners to water, via internet communications. Onion.io is a company providing a device that allows the product engineers of such equipment to make them “internet aware” in minutes to harness cloud communication and control them remotely. Onion’s technology generates apps and admin tools to manage the collection of information and communication with the equipment.

Copyright 2015 Frictionless Design LLC

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By |January 14th, 2015|Consulting, products|1 Comment