What We Do

Chase the bold.

We help you create the best user experiences possible. Our craft is a wide variety of backgrounds, skills, and methods. Whether it’s complex design, deep research, or a new startup idea, we work with our client partners to take on any experience goal.

Services

Research

User and customer research is one of the most important first steps of the product development process. We draw on a variety of methods and services to make sure you have a handle on your users’ needs and desires. From 1:1 Interviews to Contextual Observation to Personas we’ll dive deeply into your users’ stories and potential markets to provide you with the information needed to focus on what matters most: your users.

Affinity Diagramming

Effectively visualize hidden trends and connections and make it look cool.

In the words of our great mascot, Howard, User experience abhors a vacuum. Since user research involves an exploration of complex systems of interactions, we think the way we visually map these interactions should be more than a bulleted list. Affinity diagramming is an effective way to visualize hidden trends and connections between the different parts of a given user experience system, and they make it easier to glean insights that might otherwise remain out of sight (literally). Plus, affinity diagrams just look cool.
Personas

Personas bring your idealized users to life. Know them intimately to build what they want and need.

Understanding who your users are is sometimes more than conducting interviews or doing a focus group. Personas are great a way to make sure that users' voices are heard long after the interview is over, and form a central part of our user centered design process. We make sure our personas are based on real user behaviors, so your product team can have a reference when making design decisions. Customized to highlight information particular to your design needs, personas are formatted for easy consumption and distribution.
Contextual Inquiry

Deeply understanding user wants and needs leads to strikingly compelling products

Oftentimes the best way to understand a user's wants and needs is to effectively join them in their world. Contextual Inquiry is a user research method whereby the researcher is embedded in the user's environment, alternately observing and interviewing the user. The end result? A detailed, empathetic view of what a user does in her very own environment, a comprehensive understanding of the system in which the user plays a part, and a thorough exploration of the user's actual task flow (which might not match that intended by the product she's using). In the end, Contextual Inquiry is an effective way to comprehend user behavior while in the user's context, for the deepest insights.
Focus Groups

Big impact with low overhead -- with free bagels and coffee

For those in a hurry and on a budget, getting feedback from multiple users at once means that a focus group might be the way to go. Our moderated focus groups come in structured and unstructured flavors: if you need user feedback on specific aspects of your product or service, a structured format might be best, while the unstructured sessions are best for freeform explorations and idea generation. Whatever your preference, focus groups are often the best way to get user feedback in just an hour or two.
Interviews

Interviews help you understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs.

We love talking to people, because there's no substitute for hearing what users think about your product or service from the users themselves. Designed as structured conversations, in our interviews we do our best to explore and understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs. From this it's a short hop to creating Personas for your design team, or using the qualitative results of the interview to validate other metrics you're tracking (like usability ratings).
Diary Studies

Track users over time to harvest insights into thresholds of hidden behavior

Sometimes the best way to get the user's side of the story is to let them tell it themselves. A diary study allows just this: a user to track, or journal their interactions and feelings with your product or service over time. From daily journal entries and usage logs, to user mood boards video recordings and online surveys, a diary study provides a wealth of rich, contextual data to help inform your design decisions. Are you curious why users tend to drop off after a 3 weeks of usage? A month-long diary study could provide insights into why users are looking elsewhere - and how to keep them loyal over the long term.
Competitive Analysis

Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.

Hoover had it right: understanding your users is necessary for great product design, but sometimes it's useful to understand what your competitors are doing differently - as that's where opportunity lies. In our analysis we focus on understanding how your user experience compares to that of your competitors, and how customers perceive you within the broader competitive market. From an expert heuristic review, to usability testing and interviews around competitor products and services (if access is readily available), we try to give you the biggest leg up we can.
Surveys

Not quite a spigot, not yet a firehose. A quick way to start growing your user understanding.

Surveys are the quick and dirty method of getting a lot of feedback quickly. They're easy to create and administer. We can help you craft the right questions for your goals, mesh with your other user experience initiatives, and meet the needs of your business objectives. While surveys are great for gathering a lot of data, THEY GATHER A LOT OF DATA! It can be hard to interpret survey results, especially without the context of other information. Contact us today to help you get the most out of your surveys.
Use Cases

The blueprints for successful design

Use cases are the crossover from the user to design. Once you've thoroughly understood the users' wants and needs, then you can plan design by laying out all the needed use cases. From scenarios to step-by-step task flows, use cases are the blueprint for interaction design. Later, they are the roadmap to what you should be usability testing. If you don't know the 'stories' of how your users will interact with your product, then design can be stressful and disjointed. Let us help you with proper use case design.
Usability Testing

"Usability! Usability! Usability!" - What Steve Ballmer should have said.

Usability testing is the crucible of finding out whether you're succeeding or failing. You can test early to make rapid course corrections, or test late to establish metric benchmarks. The way we see it, uncertainty is part-and-parcel of the design process. As a result, wireframing and sketching out conceptual designs, testing out ideas and exploring uncertainty - it all comes with the territory. So whether it's sketching something by hand on the whiteboard or in a sketchbook, wireframing screens in a tool like Omnigraffle or Visio, or building a clickable wireframing prototype in Fireworks or Dreamweaver, we'll make uncertainty converts of you, too.
Heuristic Analysis

A fresh perspective to help improve design; and fast!

As usability and user experience experts, we can usually tell if a design will do well - and what needs to be fixed to make it better. Having a set of unbiased eyes can help you hone in on issues that you're struggling with or perhaps didn't even know existed. Using traditional heuristics (e.g., visibility, discoverability, navigation, information hierarchy, consistency, error prevention and user control, etc.) along with our experience across a wide breadth of products and domains, we can give you what you need to move forward quickly and inexpensively.
Benchmark Testing

You need to robustly measure? Then you need to benchmark.

How much is enough? It's a question managers (and customers) ask all the time. Experiences are hard to measure though. What's the solution? Benchmark user testing. Find out where you stand today. Compare to where you were in the past. Test against competitors. Combined with our proprietary 'any' experience metric, benchmarking can give you the answers to the hard measurement questions. Benchmark testing allows you to test your goals and reset expectations for the future. It's a great way to settle issues and prepare for future development.
Rapid Iteration

Rapid design. Rapid feedback. Rapid success (or failure).

The RITE Method, or Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation, is a unique approach that blends user testing with collaborative design prototyping in a quick and tidy package. RITE compresses the traditional testing-then-evaluation-then-design process into a series of testing and collaborative design sessions over short cycles. Following a user session, product team members come together to incorporate user feedback into a new round of designs - which are then immediately tested in the following usability session. The end results: fast-paced design evolution & innovation with widespread team buy in. What more could you ask for?
Remote Testing

User insight from a distance. Reach all customer markets quickly.

Remote testing is a great way of reaching users in different markets and regions that might not otherwise be available; for example, international users, disabled users, or people in their workplace. Much like our regular usability testing, remote testing takes advantage of readily available video, audio and screen sharing & capture technologies to replicate the in-person testing experience as much as possible. Our in-house custom tool for data gathering also immensely enhances this process.
Eye-Tracking

The eyes have it... They have the key to whether your design is working.

Everybody lies, according to Dr. House. Just like doctors need to pay close attention when patients describe their illness, usability professionals are examining users to diagnose the issues in design. Are there any behavior-based tests that would help us directly gain insights on how users do and/or react to products? Eye tracking can simply be described as a technology to track where people's eyes are looking. So will users' eyes lie about their behavior? What is fixated (by eyes) and what is processed (by brains) are usually coupled together. So when users look at a word or object, he or she also thinks about the process. Therefore, researchers can use the eye data to infer what content attracts users' attention and has been cognitively processed, whether or not users can express usability opinions (or lie about them!).
Journey Mapping

Capture and communicate how users interact with products and services as they strive to achieve a goal.

Journey maps illustrate a holistic view of the complex interactions that occur over time as users move towards achieving a goal. Typically, we create maps in the context of personas so that we can show how different user needs, motivations, and desires impact the journey. Both the process of creating the map and the map itself serves to cultivate empathy for users, identify product/service insights and opportunities, and create a shared understanding among stakeholders.

Design

EchoUser provides a multitude of design services, including interaction design, visual design, and industrial design. We also design for multiple devices and platforms, including the web, smart mobile devices, and elsewhere. We aim to create compelling, usable, and intuitive designs for any platform that best fits the underlying experience.

Interaction Design

We design to optimize your product experience, your customer's satisfaction, and your success.

As a core part of our holistic design process, interaction design deals with the nuts and bolts of your design - how a user literally interacts with it to achieve certain goals. Get the nuts and bolts right, and everything else is gravy. But get them wrong, and you'll definitely be hearing from unhappy users. At the highest level we can perform a heuristic evaluation - think of the 100-point inspection at your local Jiffy Lube - where we compare your designs to standard best practices and guidelines. From there it's on to sketches of potential design solutions, wireframe mockups, and prototypes of the final designs (often with some usability thrown into the mix).
Use Cases

The blueprints for successful design

Use cases are the crossover from the user to design. Once you've thoroughly understood the users' wants and needs, then you can plan design by laying out all the needed use cases. From scenarios to step-by-step task flows, use cases are the blueprint for interaction design. Later, they are the roadmap to what you should be usability testing. If you don't know the 'stories' of how your users will interact with your product, then design can be stressful and disjointed. Let us help you with proper use case design.
Wireframing

Wireframing: LEGO, but for adults. Quick, draft design, but appealing and communicative.

The way we see it, uncertainty is part-and-parcel of the design process. As a result, wireframing and sketching out conceptual designs, testing out ideas and exploring uncertainty - it all comes with the territory. So whether it's sketching something by hand on the whiteboard or in a sketchbook, wireframing screens in a tool like Omnigraffle or Visio, or building a clickable wireframing prototype in Fireworks or Dreamweaver, we'll make uncertainty converts of you, too.
Prototyping

Prototyping, not practice, makes perfect design

Like wireframing, prototyping is all about exploring design concepts. However, where prototyping differs is that there's often a user feedback element: because prototypes are meant to be interactive. Not yet "real" products, but however you can demonstrate interactivity. We recommend putting them in front of users as soon as possible. Paper prototypes and sketches work well, as do clickable screenshots embedded in Powerpoint and Keynote (or even online); HTML web prototypes are the next level up (see Front End Engineering service).
Industrial Design

Industrial designers' hands are like carpenters' hands, just smoother. Let us build for you.

Tocar. Sentir. Toccare. What we touch is as important as what we see, which is why getting the industrial design of a product down pat is so crucial. Whether you're early on in the design process and need conceptual sketches, a bit more advanced and in need of foam core design prototypes, or in the final stages of refining CAD models, we'd be more than happy to help.
Rapid Iteration

Rapid design. Rapid feedback. Rapid success (or failure).

The RITE Method, or Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation, is a unique approach that blends user testing with collaborative design prototyping in a quick and tidy package. RITE compresses the traditional testing-then-evaluation-then-design process into a series of testing and collaborative design sessions over short cycles. Following a user session, product team members come together to incorporate user feedback into a new round of designs - which are then immediately tested in the following usability session. The end results: fast-paced design evolution & innovation with widespread team buy in. What more could you ask for?
Visual Branding

How you look matters.

The look of your product is the first, and often, only impression that you get to make to a potential customer or user, so you want to make sure that it effectively conveys the personality and traits that you want it to convey. Over the longer term, the right visual branding keeps your customers motivated to use the product to its fullest potential. We approach your visual branding needs by first, deeply understanding what you want to convey to your users and customers. We then turn your vision into a tangible, visual look and feel that we work closely with you to create and refine. Everything from color palettes, to icons, to logo designs, we cover it all.
Design for Enterprise

We thrive on complexity.

In many ways, enterprise is the ultimate challenge for design. You are dealing with complex subject matter, usually the domain of a highly specialized few, that needs to be brought to a larger audience. It's a struggle of maximizing simplicity without sacrificing power or flexibility. You need designers who can quickly immerse themselves in a highly specialized domain, untangle its complex concepts, and then package them into a cohesive, user friendly experience. This is who we are and what we do. We understand the classic tradeoff between power and simplicity and know how to find the right balance to get the best product possible.
Design for Startups

When you're on the bleeding edge, your UX should be as cutting edge as you.

When you're a startup, things move fast. You need to make wise and informed decisions without a lot of time and with limited resources. We understand this and have tailored our UX processes to work within these constraints. We help you determine where you need to focus your UX efforts, whether it be user research, product requirement definition, usability evaluation, or design, and then help you carry out these efforts in the most efficient way possible.
Visual Design

You want to go from "blah" to "BAM!!" You don't want lipstick on a pig.

We live and breathe visual design so you don't have to. Whether it's a simple re-skin, icon work, or a comprehensive redesign, our ever-evolving visual design toolkit is always at the ready. Our typical visual design process looks something like this:

* Inspiration & mood boards -- First, we help you get inspired by exploring what “mood” you'd like the new design to have. The end result is a mood board full of textures, colors and other inspiration which we'll use to start designing.

* Mockups -- The next step is to start mocking things up. We try to develop 3-5 mockup versions to make mixing and matching that much easier. These are typically done in Adobe Photoshop, Fireworks (we still like Fireworks!), or Illustrator.

* Pixel perfect designs -- Once we've signed off on final design mockups, we start the pixel perfect design. From here on out it's dropshadows, pixel highlights, and Gaussian blurs. Fun stuff!
Front End Engineering

Go one step further and gain additional insights by turning designs into code.

Dynamic front-ends add value to the process by illustrating how users will interact with the design. Through code, we can rapidly iterate upon our designs and continually improve based on user feedback. Using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, we can bridge the gap between design and implementation. As a result, we’re able to finesse the final product experience and produce deliverables that can be integrated into your codebase.

Research: Discover

It’s important to understand the big picture before getting into the details. By exploring the business needs and market surrounding your product, we’ll help you to design an experience that fits in the broader ecosystem.

Interviews

Interviews help you understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs.

We love talking to people, because there's no substitute for hearing what users think about your product or service from the users themselves. Designed as structured conversations, in our interviews we do our best to explore and understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs. From this it's a short hop to creating Personas for your design team, or using the qualitative results of the interview to validate other metrics you're tracking (like usability ratings).
Affinity Diagramming

Effectively visualize hidden trends and connections and make it look cool.

In the words of our great mascot, Howard, User experience abhors a vacuum. Since user research involves an exploration of complex systems of interactions, we think the way we visually map these interactions should be more than a bulleted list. Affinity diagramming is an effective way to visualize hidden trends and connections between the different parts of a given user experience system, and they make it easier to glean insights that might otherwise remain out of sight (literally). Plus, affinity diagrams just look cool.
Personas

Personas bring your idealized users to life. Know them intimately to build what they want and need.

Understanding who your users are is sometimes more than conducting interviews or doing a focus group. Personas are great a way to make sure that users' voices are heard long after the interview is over, and form a central part of our user centered design process. We make sure our personas are based on real user behaviors, so your product team can have a reference when making design decisions. Customized to highlight information particular to your design needs, personas are formatted for easy consumption and distribution.
Focus Groups

Big impact with low overhead -- with free bagels and coffee

For those in a hurry and on a budget, getting feedback from multiple users at once means that a focus group might be the way to go. Our moderated focus groups come in structured and unstructured flavors: if you need user feedback on specific aspects of your product or service, a structured format might be best, while the unstructured sessions are best for freeform explorations and idea generation. Whatever your preference, focus groups are often the best way to get user feedback in just an hour or two.
Diary Studies

Track users over time to harvest insights into thresholds of hidden behavior

Sometimes the best way to get the user's side of the story is to let them tell it themselves. A diary study allows just this: a user to track, or journal their interactions and feelings with your product or service over time. From daily journal entries and usage logs, to user mood boards video recordings and online surveys, a diary study provides a wealth of rich, contextual data to help inform your design decisions. Are you curious why users tend to drop off after a 3 weeks of usage? A month-long diary study could provide insights into why users are looking elsewhere - and how to keep them loyal over the long term.
Surveys

Not quite a spigot, not yet a firehose. A quick way to start growing your user understanding.

Surveys are the quick and dirty method of getting a lot of feedback quickly. They're easy to create and administer. We can help you craft the right questions for your goals, mesh with your other user experience initiatives, and meet the needs of your business objectives. While surveys are great for gathering a lot of data, THEY GATHER A LOT OF DATA! It can be hard to interpret survey results, especially without the context of other information. Contact us today to help you get the most out of your surveys.
Heuristic Analysis

A fresh perspective to help improve design; and fast!

As usability and user experience experts, we can usually tell if a design will do well - and what needs to be fixed to make it better. Having a set of unbiased eyes can help you hone in on issues that you're struggling with or perhaps didn't even know existed. Using traditional heuristics (e.g., visibility, discoverability, navigation, information hierarchy, consistency, error prevention and user control, etc.) along with our experience across a wide breadth of products and domains, we can give you what you need to move forward quickly and inexpensively.
Workshop

Research: Understand

User research is a critical step of the product development process. We dive deeply into user stories and potential markets to understand user needs and desires through and through. These findings shape every subsequent decision in the process.

Competitive Analysis

Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.

Hoover had it right: understanding your users is necessary for great product design, but sometimes it's useful to understand what your competitors are doing differently - as that's where opportunity lies. In our analysis we focus on understanding how your user experience compares to that of your competitors, and how customers perceive you within the broader competitive market. From an expert heuristic review, to usability testing and interviews around competitor products and services (if access is readily available), we try to give you the biggest leg up we can.
Interviews

Interviews help you understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs.

We love talking to people, because there's no substitute for hearing what users think about your product or service from the users themselves. Designed as structured conversations, in our interviews we do our best to explore and understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs. From this it's a short hop to creating Personas for your design team, or using the qualitative results of the interview to validate other metrics you're tracking (like usability ratings).
Surveys

Not quite a spigot, not yet a firehose. A quick way to start growing your user understanding.

Surveys are the quick and dirty method of getting a lot of feedback quickly. They're easy to create and administer. We can help you craft the right questions for your goals, mesh with your other user experience initiatives, and meet the needs of your business objectives. While surveys are great for gathering a lot of data, THEY GATHER A LOT OF DATA! It can be hard to interpret survey results, especially without the context of other information. Contact us today to help you get the most out of your surveys.
Contextual Inquiry

Deeply understanding user wants and needs leads to strikingly compelling products

Oftentimes the best way to understand a user's wants and needs is to effectively join them in their world. Contextual Inquiry is a user research method whereby the researcher is embedded in the user's environment, alternately observing and interviewing the user. The end result? A detailed, empathetic view of what a user does in her very own environment, a comprehensive understanding of the system in which the user plays a part, and a thorough exploration of the user's actual task flow (which might not match that intended by the product she's using). In the end, Contextual Inquiry is an effective way to comprehend user behavior while in the user's context, for the deepest insights.
Focus Groups

Big impact with low overhead -- with free bagels and coffee

For those in a hurry and on a budget, getting feedback from multiple users at once means that a focus group might be the way to go. Our moderated focus groups come in structured and unstructured flavors: if you need user feedback on specific aspects of your product or service, a structured format might be best, while the unstructured sessions are best for freeform explorations and idea generation. Whatever your preference, focus groups are often the best way to get user feedback in just an hour or two.
Remote Testing

User insight from a distance. Reach all customer markets quickly.

Remote testing is a great way of reaching users in different markets and regions that might not otherwise be available; for example, international users, disabled users, or people in their workplace. Much like our regular usability testing, remote testing takes advantage of readily available video, audio and screen sharing & capture technologies to replicate the in-person testing experience as much as possible. Our in-house custom tool for data gathering also immensely enhances this process.
Affinity Diagramming

Effectively visualize hidden trends and connections and make it look cool.

In the words of our great mascot, Howard, User experience abhors a vacuum. Since user research involves an exploration of complex systems of interactions, we think the way we visually map these interactions should be more than a bulleted list. Affinity diagramming is an effective way to visualize hidden trends and connections between the different parts of a given user experience system, and they make it easier to glean insights that might otherwise remain out of sight (literally). Plus, affinity diagrams just look cool.
Personas

Personas bring your idealized users to life. Know them intimately to build what they want and need.

Understanding who your users are is sometimes more than conducting interviews or doing a focus group. Personas are great a way to make sure that users' voices are heard long after the interview is over, and form a central part of our user centered design process. We make sure our personas are based on real user behaviors, so your product team can have a reference when making design decisions. Customized to highlight information particular to your design needs, personas are formatted for easy consumption and distribution.
Diary Studies

Track users over time to harvest insights into thresholds of hidden behavior

Sometimes the best way to get the user's side of the story is to let them tell it themselves. A diary study allows just this: a user to track, or journal their interactions and feelings with your product or service over time. From daily journal entries and usage logs, to user mood boards video recordings and online surveys, a diary study provides a wealth of rich, contextual data to help inform your design decisions. Are you curious why users tend to drop off after a 3 weeks of usage? A month-long diary study could provide insights into why users are looking elsewhere - and how to keep them loyal over the long term.
Use Cases

The blueprints for successful design

Use cases are the crossover from the user to design. Once you've thoroughly understood the users' wants and needs, then you can plan design by laying out all the needed use cases. From scenarios to step-by-step task flows, use cases are the blueprint for interaction design. Later, they are the roadmap to what you should be usability testing. If you don't know the 'stories' of how your users will interact with your product, then design can be stressful and disjointed. Let us help you with proper use case design.
Heuristic Analysis

A fresh perspective to help improve design; and fast!

As usability and user experience experts, we can usually tell if a design will do well - and what needs to be fixed to make it better. Having a set of unbiased eyes can help you hone in on issues that you're struggling with or perhaps didn't even know existed. Using traditional heuristics (e.g., visibility, discoverability, navigation, information hierarchy, consistency, error prevention and user control, etc.) along with our experience across a wide breadth of products and domains, we can give you what you need to move forward quickly and inexpensively.

Research: Assess

Capturing user feedback allows us to assess whether users truly understand your product. Integrating quantitative rigor into our design process ensures that we hold ourselves accountable to an unbiased usability standard. These metrics inform the roadmap for further improvement.

Interviews

Interviews help you understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs.

We love talking to people, because there's no substitute for hearing what users think about your product or service from the users themselves. Designed as structured conversations, in our interviews we do our best to explore and understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs. From this it's a short hop to creating Personas for your design team, or using the qualitative results of the interview to validate other metrics you're tracking (like usability ratings).
Focus Groups

Big impact with low overhead -- with free bagels and coffee

For those in a hurry and on a budget, getting feedback from multiple users at once means that a focus group might be the way to go. Our moderated focus groups come in structured and unstructured flavors: if you need user feedback on specific aspects of your product or service, a structured format might be best, while the unstructured sessions are best for freeform explorations and idea generation. Whatever your preference, focus groups are often the best way to get user feedback in just an hour or two.
Diary Studies

Track users over time to harvest insights into thresholds of hidden behavior

Sometimes the best way to get the user's side of the story is to let them tell it themselves. A diary study allows just this: a user to track, or journal their interactions and feelings with your product or service over time. From daily journal entries and usage logs, to user mood boards video recordings and online surveys, a diary study provides a wealth of rich, contextual data to help inform your design decisions. Are you curious why users tend to drop off after a 3 weeks of usage? A month-long diary study could provide insights into why users are looking elsewhere - and how to keep them loyal over the long term.
Competitive Analysis

Competition is not only the basis of protection to the consumer, but is the incentive to progress.

Hoover had it right: understanding your users is necessary for great product design, but sometimes it's useful to understand what your competitors are doing differently - as that's where opportunity lies. In our analysis we focus on understanding how your user experience compares to that of your competitors, and how customers perceive you within the broader competitive market. From an expert heuristic review, to usability testing and interviews around competitor products and services (if access is readily available), we try to give you the biggest leg up we can.
Surveys

Not quite a spigot, not yet a firehose. A quick way to start growing your user understanding.

Surveys are the quick and dirty method of getting a lot of feedback quickly. They're easy to create and administer. We can help you craft the right questions for your goals, mesh with your other user experience initiatives, and meet the needs of your business objectives. While surveys are great for gathering a lot of data, THEY GATHER A LOT OF DATA! It can be hard to interpret survey results, especially without the context of other information. Contact us today to help you get the most out of your surveys.
Usability Testing

"Usability! Usability! Usability!" - What Steve Ballmer should have said.

Usability testing is the crucible of finding out whether you're succeeding or failing. You can test early to make rapid course corrections, or test late to establish metric benchmarks. The way we see it, uncertainty is part-and-parcel of the design process. As a result, wireframing and sketching out conceptual designs, testing out ideas and exploring uncertainty - it all comes with the territory. So whether it's sketching something by hand on the whiteboard or in a sketchbook, wireframing screens in a tool like Omnigraffle or Visio, or building a clickable wireframing prototype in Fireworks or Dreamweaver, we'll make uncertainty converts of you, too.
Heuristic Analysis

A fresh perspective to help improve design; and fast!

As usability and user experience experts, we can usually tell if a design will do well - and what needs to be fixed to make it better. Having a set of unbiased eyes can help you hone in on issues that you're struggling with or perhaps didn't even know existed. Using traditional heuristics (e.g., visibility, discoverability, navigation, information hierarchy, consistency, error prevention and user control, etc.) along with our experience across a wide breadth of products and domains, we can give you what you need to move forward quickly and inexpensively.
Benchmark Testing

You need to robustly measure? Then you need to benchmark.

How much is enough? It's a question managers (and customers) ask all the time. Experiences are hard to measure though. What's the solution? Benchmark user testing. Find out where you stand today. Compare to where you were in the past. Test against competitors. Combined with our proprietary 'any' experience metric, benchmarking can give you the answers to the hard measurement questions. Benchmark testing allows you to test your goals and reset expectations for the future. It's a great way to settle issues and prepare for future development.
Rapid Iteration

Rapid design. Rapid feedback. Rapid success (or failure).

The RITE Method, or Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation, is a unique approach that blends user testing with collaborative design prototyping in a quick and tidy package. RITE compresses the traditional testing-then-evaluation-then-design process into a series of testing and collaborative design sessions over short cycles. Following a user session, product team members come together to incorporate user feedback into a new round of designs - which are then immediately tested in the following usability session. The end results: fast-paced design evolution & innovation with widespread team buy in. What more could you ask for?
Remote Testing

User insight from a distance. Reach all customer markets quickly.

Remote testing is a great way of reaching users in different markets and regions that might not otherwise be available; for example, international users, disabled users, or people in their workplace. Much like our regular usability testing, remote testing takes advantage of readily available video, audio and screen sharing & capture technologies to replicate the in-person testing experience as much as possible. Our in-house custom tool for data gathering also immensely enhances this process.
Eye-Tracking

The eyes have it... They have the key to whether your design is working.

Everybody lies, according to Dr. House. Just like doctors need to pay close attention when patients describe their illness, usability professionals are examining users to diagnose the issues in design. Are there any behavior-based tests that would help us directly gain insights on how users do and/or react to products? Eye tracking can simply be described as a technology to track where people's eyes are looking. So will users' eyes lie about their behavior? What is fixated (by eyes) and what is processed (by brains) are usually coupled together. So when users look at a word or object, he or she also thinks about the process. Therefore, researchers can use the eye data to infer what content attracts users' attention and has been cognitively processed, whether or not users can express usability opinions (or lie about them!).

Research: Define

Before we even start to build wireframes and mocks, we translate our understanding of user needs and behaviors into product requirements. This is where research starts to shape design. By mapping user needs to product functionality, we ensure that we build an experience that serves the user.

Interviews

Interviews help you understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs.

We love talking to people, because there's no substitute for hearing what users think about your product or service from the users themselves. Designed as structured conversations, in our interviews we do our best to explore and understand the broader context of how users interact with your designs. From this it's a short hop to creating Personas for your design team, or using the qualitative results of the interview to validate other metrics you're tracking (like usability ratings).
Contextual Inquiry

Deeply understanding user wants and needs leads to strikingly compelling products

Oftentimes the best way to understand a user's wants and needs is to effectively join them in their world. Contextual Inquiry is a user research method whereby the researcher is embedded in the user's environment, alternately observing and interviewing the user. The end result? A detailed, empathetic view of what a user does in her very own environment, a comprehensive understanding of the system in which the user plays a part, and a thorough exploration of the user's actual task flow (which might not match that intended by the product she's using). In the end, Contextual Inquiry is an effective way to comprehend user behavior while in the user's context, for the deepest insights.
Personas

Personas bring your idealized users to life. Know them intimately to build what they want and need.

Understanding who your users are is sometimes more than conducting interviews or doing a focus group. Personas are great a way to make sure that users' voices are heard long after the interview is over, and form a central part of our user centered design process. We make sure our personas are based on real user behaviors, so your product team can have a reference when making design decisions. Customized to highlight information particular to your design needs, personas are formatted for easy consumption and distribution.
Affinity Diagramming

Effectively visualize hidden trends and connections and make it look cool.

In the words of our great mascot, Howard, User experience abhors a vacuum. Since user research involves an exploration of complex systems of interactions, we think the way we visually map these interactions should be more than a bulleted list. Affinity diagramming is an effective way to visualize hidden trends and connections between the different parts of a given user experience system, and they make it easier to glean insights that might otherwise remain out of sight (literally). Plus, affinity diagrams just look cool.
Focus Groups

Big impact with low overhead -- with free bagels and coffee

For those in a hurry and on a budget, getting feedback from multiple users at once means that a focus group might be the way to go. Our moderated focus groups come in structured and unstructured flavors: if you need user feedback on specific aspects of your product or service, a structured format might be best, while the unstructured sessions are best for freeform explorations and idea generation. Whatever your preference, focus groups are often the best way to get user feedback in just an hour or two.
Use Cases

The blueprints for successful design

Use cases are the crossover from the user to design. Once you've thoroughly understood the users' wants and needs, then you can plan design by laying out all the needed use cases. From scenarios to step-by-step task flows, use cases are the blueprint for interaction design. Later, they are the roadmap to what you should be usability testing. If you don't know the 'stories' of how your users will interact with your product, then design can be stressful and disjointed. Let us help you with proper use case design.
Wireframing

Wireframing: LEGO, but for adults. Quick, draft design, but appealing and communicative.

The way we see it, uncertainty is part-and-parcel of the design process. As a result, wireframing and sketching out conceptual designs, testing out ideas and exploring uncertainty - it all comes with the territory. So whether it's sketching something by hand on the whiteboard or in a sketchbook, wireframing screens in a tool like Omnigraffle or Visio, or building a clickable wireframing prototype in Fireworks or Dreamweaver, we'll make uncertainty converts of you, too.
Prototyping

Prototyping, not practice, makes perfect design

Like wireframing, prototyping is all about exploring design concepts. However, where prototyping differs is that there's often a user feedback element: because prototypes are meant to be interactive. Not yet "real" products, but however you can demonstrate interactivity. We recommend putting them in front of users as soon as possible. Paper prototypes and sketches work well, as do clickable screenshots embedded in Powerpoint and Keynote (