ash-consulting.com offer services in the following areas:


User Experience

You want to ensure that your customers make purchases on your web site.  You want to ensure they find the information they need.  And that they keep coming back.  For a B2B site you will want to make sure that your customers can go about their tasks with ease.  For a shoot-em-up game you'll want to ensure your users feel stretched, even exhausted after an arduous game.  There is a range of disciplines that are needed to make this happen - involving user-centred design, information architecture, interaction design, and graphic design, to name a few.  Understanding the business need, the customers, users and other stakeholders, and developing the site map and wireframes, are all necessary to design to the required user experience.  We provide all these services.  


Information Architecture

Web site design very quickly become complex. What is the best structural organization of the set of pages?  What are the best labels and titles?  What navigation scheme will work best for all our user groups?  And what are the best names for the many calls to action (the buttons, links, and menu items)? These questions must be posed and then considered early in the design process. And stakeholders from Marketing, Brand, Strategy and Development must be brought in to help expose the ramifications of candidate designs before any working implementations have been built.  We can create the necessary models, such as site maps, that facilitate early feedback.   


User Centred Design

By user-centred design we mean the involvement of users throughout the design process - from the very outset.

Pre-conceived notions of users must be discarded - instead we must get to know them as individuals. To do this we apply a range of techniques. We interview and observe the intended users in their place of work, we develop models of their tasks, and we develop descriptions of user groups. Through this we gain insight into users, and into their tasks. All this feeds directly into the design of the software or web site that is intended for their use. Our experience on numerous projects has proven this to be the best way to create customer satisfaction.


Usability

Usability is a measure of the support a software product or web site gives its users in helping them complete their tasks effectively and efficiently.

Before product release as part of Customer Acceptance Tests, you will want to ensure the system can be used efficiently by the intended users. Are the menus clear and understood as intended? Are your users able to use the system to achieve their objectives and to do so efficiently, and even enjoyably? The specification of usability in terms of tangible measures that enable your development staff to aim for clear goals, arises out of a clear understanding of users, their tasks, the environment they work or play in, and the systems they already use. Both objective measures i.e. productivity, and subjective measures i.e. those which users will apply, can be determined. We base our work on international standards (including ISO 9241 and ISO 13407) and on best practice arising from our experience on a range of projects in many industries for various clients. Read about this work on our case studies page.


User Interface Process - Assessment & Improvement

The "look and feel" of your product is the "user interface". They are one and the same. This requires both graphic design and interaction design. And more. It is a multi-disciplinary process; a user-centred design process. Are you able to specify usability criteria correctly for each product developed, and do your development groups meet these criteria repeatedly and consistently? Do your project plans and Quality Manuals ensure the correct User-Centred Design activities are scheduled and resourced? Do the intermediate project deliverables and design documents contain the correct information? Are your document templates comprehensive? In short, does your development process as actually followed by your staff, adhere to best practice in user-centred design? We can assess your organisation's web site and software development processes and if required to, also assist with implementing improvements.


User Needs Analysis  - User Research

A sound basis for developing software and web sites, requires stakeholder needs to be understood and then to be documented. The resulting "User Requirements" document must state the necessary functions the system must provide, and the overall characteristics known as non-functional requirements, such as usability, performance, response times, security, maintainability etc. Are you able to determine your users' requirements and to specify both their functional and non-functional requirements? Are you able to extend this to the other stakeholders? We can ensure your development teams begin product development from a sound footing by starting from a correct Requirements document comprehensively specifying the requirements of all stakeholders including users.


Software Engineering

Developing software applications and web sites requires conducting many activities - Requirements, Analysis, Design, Build, Test and Maintenance. Delivering products to time, budget and quality criteria require a thorough understanding of each of these activities so as to tailor them to particular characteristics of your product, the skills of the development team, and the industry segment or competitive market. We can assist you in making the right decisions. Additionally, with experience in the Unified Modelling Language (UML), we can support your development teams in specifying, modelling, writing, and validating software models and specification documents.


Software Process - Assessment & Improvement

Are you able to deliver software and web sites to plan and to budget? Are you confident your project plans and intermediate deliverables reflect best practice in the industry? Are your software quality manuals understood and followed by your development staff? With experience in the Capability Maturity Model, we can set you on the road to controlling your software development process, so that you can reliably and predictably deliver software applications and web sites.


In each of the above areas, ash-consulting.com can offer:

Bespoke Training

  • Three-day courses, the content and duration of which can be customised for your particular needs
  • Raising awareness of the salient issues for Project Managers and Senior Managers at all levels
  • Training for development staff with diverse educational and professional backgrounds
  • Courses tailored to your development processes and documentation templates
  • Exercises incorporating hands-on sessions applying techniques on realistic problems
  • Training delivered on-site or off-site in a managed facility

On-site Participation in Team Work

  • Resident expert to join your teams on a temporary ad hoc basis
  • Leading user studies - conducting user interviews, observational studies
  • Developing user profiles, stereotypes and scenarios
  • Jointly writing the specification documents - for user requirements, usability criteria, and tests
  • Competitor evaluations
  • Usability reports

Workshop Facilitation

  • Facilitating focus groups, user groups, Joint Application Development (JAD) sessions, brainstorms
  • Establishing a creative environment, resolving conflicting user requirements, identifying design trade-offs, discovering opportunities, orienteering staff
  • Hands-on exercises involving role play
  • On-site or off-site in a managed facility

Assessment


  • Interviews with senior management and project staff
  • Inspection of Quality Manuals, company standards, project templates, project plans and specifications
  • Comprehensive Report identifying recommendations and rationale
  • Assisting with implementing the agreed Improvement Plan