Back to It (at dayjob)

From August 2003 through October 2004, I didn’t do much in the way of design and usability work.

I had some short-run consulting gigs, but mostly it was just providing opinion on direction. From August 2003 through July 2004 I was working on IT risk management activities. August 2004 through October 2004, I didn’t have much to do at all.

That is the way of things, even in a corporate environment; feast of famine. So now I am feasting again. Someone left the company and I got all their projects. Six of them. Woo! And one week prior to being assigned those six, I was assigned to one. So I am at seven.

To be honest three of the projects are in monitor mode. That is I will attend meetings now and then and keep up on issues and UI-related defects. But that still leaves me with four large projects, three of which I am jumping into the middle of. I have been trying to get my bearings over the last week and a half. So far so good.

It’s nice to be back designing again. I enjoyed the risk management stuff. I learned a lot. I am even the risk coordinator for one of my new projects. But design is where my heart is. This time around I will be doing paper prototyping and using that paper during informal usability sessions. I am trying to speed up the design process from what I used to do. The longer I am in this field, the more I realize that as long as the big problems are found, the little ones tend not to be a problem in production.

So if you can find as many usability issues with a paper test, why spend the time and money to build a prototype that is so advanced it might as well be an app? I can’t think of a reason. For brand new apps, or total redesigns i think I will do web-based design still. That way I can build the CSS file and hand that off to the developers. Something that has worked well in the past.

But for existing systems, where we are adding fields or something else that doesn’t require much in the way of visual design changes, I am going to stick with paper. And when I say paper, I think I will still mock up screens in Fireworks (Macromedia’s answer to Photoshop) and print those out to use.

The biggest change in the past two weeks has been having to be on other people’s schedules again. For the past year I essentially got to do whatever I needed to accomplish the tasks. Tasks that I got to create. Now I am back to schedules with 9 bazillion tasks and spending two weeks just trying to get my stuff to fit in with everyone else’s. And project managers wanting me to pay attention to what they say? What’s up with that? ;)

Seriously though. It’s not a bad thing. Just a change in pace. I find myself much more relaxed in scheduling meetings and talking to people who are freaking out about what’s due when. Since I had the past year to myself, I think it affected the way I approach work. It is nothing at all like laziness. Just laid back. I have been able to explore what precisely is needed to get the work done, and following that path has been successful.

At the same time my laid-back-ness has contributed to some eye rolling on my part. We now have a dedicated designer’s room on our floor. Much my doing getting it to happen, though there was also much initiative taken by a couple of others. A small team effort. Now that we have it though, those people who like to document and make up procedures are jumping in. I feel like a hippie. “Chill out, man. Go make rules somewhere else and stop harshing my buzz, dude!”

So, some adjusting going on. But I look forward to approaching my design work with this new state of mind. As we look for efficiencies for our users, so should we look for efficiencies in our way of working.

And with that *rolls up sleeves* let’s get back to it. *Looks at calendar* Uh, starting next week.

Note: Cross-posted from my main site. This is job related so I wanted to track it here too.