The following is a selection of projects we have undertaken for various clients:

UK Pandemic Flu

User Experience Consultancy for Microsoft

User Experience & Strategy for Internet-based Purchasing for Mobile Phones

Mobile Internet Portals

The National Health Service (NHS) Electronic Care Record System (ECRS)

Medical Systems

Television Software

Suffolk County Council

UK Pandemic Flu

Working on the UK Pandemic Flu Preparedness programme, many months before the Swine Flu outbreak occured, we contributed to the Anti Virus Stock Management System, a part of the UKs pandemic response. We provided services to two streams on this project, firstly as part of the Business Analysis team interacting with the client and subject matter experts and writing Use Case specifications, and secondly in designing the User Experience and Information Architecture, developing the site navigation structure and wire-frames. This involved seeing use cases and wire-frames through to sign-off, and after the pandemic broke we were involved in incorporating new and changed requirements while working closely work with the development team including site-dev and test, to ensure the quality of multiple builds.

User Experience Consultancy for Microsoft

As part of a consultancy beginning in July 2007 on the UK's National Health Service (NHS) Common User Interface (CUI) Programme, we co-authored the following Design Guides for NHS clinical applications: the Patient Banner for desktop monitors, the Micro Patient banner for hand-held devices, Date Input and Display, and Filtering, Sorting and Grouping of medical data. We designed wireframes based on user research and patient-safety assessments, liaising with colleagues in development to ensure the quality of the implementation met safety and usability requirements, and with colleagues in Connecting for Health to get all deliverables through sign-off.

User Experience & Strategy for Internet-based Purchasing for Mobile Phones

Our client, Yahoo! - one of the very biggest and earliest Internet brands, wanted to identify a strategy and roadmap to improve the user experience of one of their web-sites.  They had precise queries on the site's information architecture, on user perception of the browsing and purchasing experience, and on the graphic design.  They were also interested in evidence for "out of the box" opportunities for entirely new services, and even for re-examining the business model.

We were chosen to take the project through, from inception to final reporting. 

We planned and conducted a study with real end-users; not employees of the client, but lay people recruited for us by an independent company.

We prepared a task-based interview protocol, and asked participants to purchase content for their mobile phone from the client's web-site.  We recorded the whole interview on video, which facilitated objective analysis of users' perceptions and expectations. We rounded up the interview with an open discussion on the users' emotional response and engagement, allowing us to explore the subjective aspects of the experience.

Our analysis was illuminating.  In a very few cases some users were not able to buy anything successfully.  Yet though user fulfilment was unsatisfactory, they had positive comments on the site.  This surprising finding is indicative of the role the brand plays in the user experience.  It also proved that there is much that is already excellent, and must be preserved in any re-design.

In many cases, it is the handset experience, which is the major cause of poor fulfilment.  Yet it is one over which Internet companies such as our client exercise little control; it is the independent mobile network operators, and the developers of the Wireless Application Protocol, who are in control.

Our client is selling content, but also generate revenue through 3rd party advertisements.  Without exception, users found the ads intrusive and a distraction.  When making a decision about what to buy, people are thinking very carefully, evaluating content and value for money.  They need the space to think.  Ads, especially animation and video, must be designed and used with care.

Our final presentation was to a diverse audience from Marketing, Product Management, and Development.  Awareness of the issues and new business opportunities is only the start.  Now the much harder activity takes over, that of understanding multiple and conflicting yet legitimate objectives.  Of making trade-offs.  Of re-designing key web pages to support the overall strategy.  And of re-focusing the strategy.

Mobile Internet Portals

Mobile phones now offer access to Internet and WAP based services. Our client, Vodafone - the world's largest mobile network operator, was interested in benchmarking its Internet portal against that of its competitors.

We did a cross-country study looking at the portals on seven networks. Our activities ranged from planning the interview protocol, studying the services and sitemaps of the portals, recruiting participants, conducting the interviews, and analysing the data.

Our findings span user needs, from the practical to the aesthetic, and from aspects relating to private usage, to the social.

People's behaviour is governed strongly by the cost they incur - both the real cost and the perceived cost are important factors.

We were able to glean opportunities to leverage people's opportunistic usage. We were able to identify strategic opportunities that will help our client strengthen the relationship with their customers.

Trust is key.

We identified practical means for the client to learn about their users, to respect their rich diversity, and to play to their varied needs.

The National Health Service (NHS) Electronic Care Record System (ECRS)

We contributed to developing the NHS Electronic Care Record System (ECRS).  This is part of the UK Governments 10-year, £6 billion programme, and is today the largest public sector procurement programme in the world.  We were involved in applying user-centred design techniques to elicit clinicians’ requirements. Our client was Sapient - the premier consultancy - who in turn were contracted by BT - the largest provider of systems for the NHS. 

We interviewed clinicians and support staff working in primary care, namely General Physicians (GPs), and the GP surgery's practice manager.  Interviews and observational studies were conducted at GP surgery's in a range of practices spread across London.  These were integrated into Information and Activity Models. 

Information models enabled us to understand the varied information they referred to and updated - ranging from their patients' medical history, to the READ drug codes and treatment codes.  Activity Models captured the essential aspects of a GP's work; the key episodes in the working day, their usage of computer systems, their interactions with practice staff, and their duties outside the surgery.  

We developed multiple Target Audience Descriptions and Personas.  These enabled us to create well rounded descriptions of the clinicians, and to flesh out their general personal characteristics, such as their education, personality, attitude, and motivation.

If the Information and Activity models helped us understand a "day in the life" of a GP, the Personas helped describe the "typical" GP as an individual.

These descriptions helped our colleagues involved in development, to sit in the GP's shoes.  Through workshops and group work, we shared these descriptions with other colleagues in development, some very technically skilled, who would have no opportunity to study clinicians directly. 

The NHS ECRS endeavour is a complex project - consisting of more than 7000 user requirements.  We contributed to the Use Case models for one sub-system, the Decision Support & Knowledge Management sub-system.  This enabled the requirements to be described visually, and thereby to be validated with clinicians.

There is much discussion in the media, and in the medical community, about the lack of involvement of clinicians.  The NHS is a large organisation - the 3rd largest employer in the world - affording all arguments to find justification in some pocket of the NHS.  The NHS facilitated our discussions with practising clinicians, in situ, and we are greatful to them.  The user's voice is present.  Yet we must recognise that, important as it is, there are many players whose involvement must be sought.  Of one thing we are certain: if clinicians and their support staff, from the primary, secondary and tertiary care settings, are involved, and if their involvement is continuous, the NHS project will deliver a fine, useful and usable system to staff and patients throughout England, as intended.

Medical Systems

The challenge: The client, Philips Medical Systems, design and manufacture medical equipment which they supply to hospitals world-wide. With the changes taking place in Healthcare provision and regulation, had come an increasing need to complement the technical excellence of the products with support for the hospital as a "business".

Whereas in the past the radiologist was the prime decision maker in the procurement process, in today's hospitals purchasing decisions must also address how well the equipment functions within the overall departmental and organisation workflow. For example, expensive equipment may be under-utilised even as waiting lists grow.

Our brief was therefore to improve patient throughput.

The outcome: Reporting to the Head of Pre-Development (X-ray) for Philips, one of the world's top three medical companies, we developed a software prototype on a hand-held computer, for mobile use in a medical department. The software integrated various user interface technologies, namely, voice control, touch control, and customisation. The project lasted 2 years.

Requirement Recommendation
Trend to the digital X-ray department. New workflow via electronic picture archiving and communication of X-ray radiographs.
Need for Just-in-time training in two interaction modalities namely voice control and touch control. Snippets of explanations giving assistance for completing a sub-task which are specific to the interaction modality chosen by the user.
Radiotherapists need to use systems from a range of equipment manufacturers supplying the X-ray department. The command sequences are not consistent across the equipment and yet efficiency and safety are paramount. Self-adaptive software whereby the system adapts to users' expertise and preferred interaction modality.
New Radiologists need to remain sterile during an angiography, yet may need to consult colleagues in the hospital and control the X-ray image display. A Voice-controlled system additionally connected to the hospital phone system.
Radiologists need easy access to high quality images when discussing cases either in ad hoc meetings with colleagues or at departmental conferences. A portable hand-held tablet based design affords acceptable image quality and frees radiologists from the confines of the X-ray control room and the need for a workstation.
Patters of usage that include low to very occasional use indicate that radiotherapists do not remember the correct menu commands and control sequences. Just-in-time training via explanations and help given automatically at the time of need are focused for the sole sub-task being executed.
Application of user-centred design methods. Transfer of skills via joint hands-on team working.

Our Approach: We conducted the following activities:

  • Conducting focus groups and multi-disciplinary workshops with the participation of a range of stakeholders
  • Task Analysis and Modelling based on observational studies conducted in hospitals in the UK, Belgium and The Netherlands
  • Interaction design
  • Writing and reviewing User Interface specifications
  • Generating product concept scenarios
  • Development of storyboards in a form akin to comic strips to convey concepts
  • Building prototypes
  • User Modelling
  • Planning, and conducting expert and user-based Usability Tests, and analysing results.

Television software

The challenge: Philips Consumer Electronics - one of the largest manufacturers of televisions in the world, approached us with the following brief: to reduce the number of Change Requests and Test Incidence Reports (TIRs) each by an order of magnitude. Though an accomplished manufacture and innovator of many decades' standing, they had been caught out by the change in TV design. The cathode ray tube may still be at the heart of the display but the core functionality in a TV is now provided by software. Teletext, On-screen menus, Electronic Programme Guides and even signal processing have rendered the hardware issues relatively trivial; software is now the prime cause of budget and schedule over-runs.

The outcome: We worked closely with the software development team (25 people in Singapore & Bangalore), on the Requirements specification of the TV software. Reporting to the Software Director of Philips Consumer Electronics, the work spanned a period of 18 months, at the end of which new kinds of specifications including use cases, were introduced for the software requirements and user interface. These were accepted by product management (in USA, S. America & Europe) and are still in use.

We realised that all the stakeholders needed toe holds and foot grips to help them understand the tome that was the software specification. A documentation layer was missing. We recommended writing a high-level specification detailing all the user interactions and linking these with key-presses on the controlling devices and the on-screen menus.

User scenarios provided the toe-holds - short stories which enabled stakeholders to visualise how the users would navigate the menus, and in turn which underlying functions were caused to be executed.

We introduced a new form of high-level specification namely Use-cases, augmenting these with pre- and post-conditions, and graphics of the remote controller, and of the on-screen menu display. We made localisation requirements and differences explicit. We ran separate workshops for international regional Product Management, and for software developers. We provided template specifications. We took the specification for the latest product that was available which was written by the software team, and re-wrote it in the new format so as to illustrate the new style to all stakeholders.

Practical experience in large-scale commercial software specification and assessment:

  • Organising and delivering courses in Requirements Engineering
  • Writing software specification for embedded systems
  • Preparing software assessments, conducting interviews, writing assessment reports according to the Software Capability Maturity Model (CMM)
  • Introduced Unified Modelling Language (UML) notations to a major TV manufacturer (Philips Electronics), for static and dynamic modelling of the Requirements Specification

Our approach: We examined the software development team's practices. And of their partners in two other countries, the Netherlands and India. And we discussed the needs and concerns of their management. We looked at their software specifications. And at their PRs and TIRs. We interviewed their software engineers, project managers, and international regional product managers from S. America, USA, Europe and Asia-Pacific. We sat-in and observed their software review meetings.

We learnt that the dealer network demands change at a faster pace than warranted by technological developments because the consumer only wants the "New Improved...!" product. We learnt that historical conventions need to be respected over and above developer needs for uniformity and user needs for consistency. Localisation is a very real driver.

We learnt that managers and engineers cope with the inherent technical complexity of the modern TV by writing detailed technical specifications which are too verbose, detailed, specialist, technical, and demanding of the reader wishing only to understand the specification for review purposes.Gradually our understanding grew and our recommendations crystallised.

Suffolk County Council

The challenge: Organisation restructuring at Suffolk County Council was leading to the centralisation of disparate I.T. departments. We were contacted by the head of a new department whose loose charter was to provide the council with advice on new developments in software and web technologies, in IT standards, in translating the UK government's e-gov initiatives, and in best practice in other UK local authorities.They were allowed to write their own departmental charter and define their own roles and responsibilities, free of the limitations of past ways of working. This they found proved difficult to do, and they approached us to run facilitated sessions.

The outcome: When organisations know the way forward, but do not know that they know, the job of an external consultant is to tease out the issues from the participants and to help them develop a solution. We organised several sessions focused on engendering creative thinking. Force-field analysis, Fishbone analysis, Role play, Games, Constraint-testing techniques, SWOT analysis, PEST analysis, and Brainstorms were used. The use of many techniques, when paced quickly helps to counter settling into complacency and mental strait jackets. The desired effect was realised. We got participants to treat constraints as negotiable, and facts as assumptions. We examined staff skills, and departmental relationships.

Our approach: Fresh thinking proved possible only after creating an enjoyable environment. The use of quick-fire analytical tools invigorated participants and motivated them to formulate, and to then articulate, novel suggestions. New discoveries were made and the team was put on the path of consolidating and detailing the recommendations by further application of the techniques.