More from HeathWallace

Since the beginning of the year, I have been helping HeathWallace again.   As of November 2011, I wrote on this site that I would love to work with that company again.  Less than 2 months later, I got my wish! My contract was from January – April, and has just ended with the site going live!   I am happy to have seen the project from the design phase, through much of the development phase, and all through population, testing, and deployment.   Thanks again HW!     My Role This time, I did not work in a project management capacity.  Instead, I am working on Content Population and Quality Assurance.  From January through late April, my duties included learning the new CMS environment, testing the ability of the client to manage their own site, reporting bugs to the development team, placing content into the templates we created on the CMS, catching typos, better establishing what the branding guidelines would look like in obscure scenarios, and working with the great team at HW again to make it all happen at break-neck speed.   The Work Here is an example of a typical day.  In the AM, we would receive 30 changes from the client to the content they created.  Within 3 hours, we went live with that content.  Then we would test a previous batch of work by another team member who was populating new pages.  In the end, another 50 pages would be sent to the client for approval and they would then prep new changes to the content.  Busy stuff!  Combine to this that we had re-work due to features being built-in as we populated, and you have a very big process.     The Site Went Live! Well, here we are at the end of April, and the site has just gone live.  A major financial institution has a shiny new website, with over 300 pages of new content, new features, and a great user experience. After about 9 months of my working on this site, longer for the full-time members of HeathWallace, the site is live and looking great.  I am proud to have a hand in it, and am still impressed with the great team that put it...

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South American Buffet Opens its Doors

I have been working for a couple months on a side project, the website for a new restaurant: South American Buffet in Bolingbrook, IL. The restaurant is the concept of Clara Pareja and Dr. Efrain Flores.  Together, they bring their love of South American cuisine to the town of Bolingbrook and beyond.  They chose a buffet-style in order to maintain a family-atmosphere that is important to them and their cultures. The site is now live, but there is still much work to do.  So I will provide images and details at a later date. Visit: SouthAmericanBuffet.com Update: The site is down currently.  The pains of a small business seem to include forgetting to pay the hosting!  I have been in communication with the manager at SAM to help get her site back up and...

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Thank You HeathWallace!

A Final Update For the past nearly 4 months, I have been helping a wonderful little office of a larger global interactive agency. HeathWallace is a part of the large agency conglomerate, WPP Group.  HW is based out of England, with offices in Chicago, IL, Cape Town, South Africa, Hong Kong, China,  and Melbourne, Australia.  HW specializes in financial institutions.  They are strong supporters of a User Experience Design methodology, which I am a big fan of. It has been a pleasure working with such an intimate yet large company. About the Company With the attention of a small agency, but the presence of a large global team, HeathWallace is rather unique.  In the office I was in, we had several international people on the team.  We also were located near other large WPP agencies in the same building.  It was impressive. I was even on calls with people abroad, across the country, and in Canada.  Timezones mean little to a global company like HW. My Role I was a project manager for a website redesign for a large financial institution.  Other than that, I cannot say more due to non-disclosure agreements.  While it was sometimes a challenge to get everyone across the globe on a single conference call, it was a fun challenge and a pleasure to help lead.   Farewell My contract with HeathWallace went longer than I had anticipated, but I would have loved to spend even longer there. As I have written about before, the team is made entirely of experts that were truly a pleasure to work with.  My contract ended simply because the full-time resources I was filling in for had more capacity. I will miss the team, the client, the work, and the lovely space in the luxurious Merchandise Mart in the Chicago river north neighborhood.  Heck, a train station was WITHIN the building! Perhaps some day we will meet again!...

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HeathWallace Update

My project at HeathWallace seems to have been extended.  No major fanfare to it, I just had a check-in with the office manager who will extend my work into the development cycle a bit.  No word for how long, but that is very typical of on-site freelance work.  You flow with the changing weather and help as best as possible.   Work So Far My initial project quote was a 3 month project in order to help this Chicago interactive agency house get through their design phase of a major project.  Three months have passed, the design phase is (mostly) behind us, and we are now entering the development cycle.  I have been asked to keep helping. The Work – Design Phase Previously I had been project managing the Information Architect, Graphic Designer, Content Strategist, Tech lead, and Search Engine experts through this important design phase.  This included managing resources, timelines, and deliverables. We had over 5 batches of wireframes that turned into designs, all which needed client buy-in.  So every week, we presented something new, gathered feedback from past presentations, and moved forward packing up approved designs for the next steps.  It was quite an effort.  I was involved in the reporting and presentation of deliverables quite heavily, on top of the behind-the-scenes work with the resources. The Team – All Experts Through all of this work, the experts at HeathWallace made everything look easy.  The resources I have been working with are truly a pleasure to work with.  It seems everyone on the team has skills not only of their own position, but of the others around them.   So the IA has UX and design skills, the Graphic Designer knows coding, and the Tech lead is truly jack-of-all-trades. So from a management perspective, these resources allowed me to focus on polishing the presentation to the client instead of badgering about deadlines.   What’s Next The next phase of work will be the development cycle.  During this time, my project management role will focus on two things: Helping the Tech lead with the team of developers (at a high-level), and working with the Editor on content creation.  The client needed to extend this aspect of the previous phase into development due to...

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Helping HeathWallace

Today I begin with a new client.  HeathWallace.  They are an interactive & web design agency headquartered in England.  They have an office here in Chicago, in the location of their WPP sister agency JWT.  I am very much looking forward to helping them.  And I am looking forward to working in the very nice office of the former Chicago top-agency JWT. My role at HeathWallace will be as a project manager. While this is much different than the technology creative I bill myself to be, this role is far from unfamiliar.  As project manager, I will be working with people in the roles I know well: the graphic designer, the SEO expert, the user experience designer, the developers.  I am rather unique in that I have worn many of those hats myself.  In the earlier years of the web design industry, we had to.  But today, there are roles based on each aspect of the design process.  And there is someone needed to help move the project along.  Someone who can speak the same language as the client.  Someone who can translate technical jargon into business speak.  Someone who can juggle a ton of balls in the air, and still wear a smile.  Someone who has been there before, so knows the next steps.  And when things get rough, someone is needed to assure everyone that all will pass. This person for the next several months will be me.   HeathWallace seems to have a smaller office here in the states.  But their global presence is impressive.  An office in England, Hong Kong, South Africa, & Australia.  Five continents of expertise, I’d call that an impressive setup.  Their niche is financial institutions, meaning they are experts at those business sites with long legal footnotes, interest-rate calculators, and numbers, numbers, numbers. HeathWallace has been around since 2001.  Their mission is stated on their site as, “Our mission is to provide organisations with clean and simple, user friendly websites and to improve the quality of service for customers and businesses.  At HeathWallace we work with our clients to develop customer and business focused usable and accessible websites.”   HeathWallace is my client, but they too serve clients.  Their client I cannot disclose.  Their site does...

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Riverbend Capital Advisors

When a client wants a clean simple site, that does not mean less work.  The pressure is on to create a subtle site of precision and quality.  In this piece, it is the little details that add the sophistication. Project Overview: I created a site for the Riverbend Capital Advisors through my partnership with Seraph Technology Solutions. The main capital advisor, Tom Hession, was re-branding his company and needed a new site.  With many years of experience, and a large client list, Tom needed a site that portrayed the stability and growth that his clients found through his services.  He wanted the site to be simple though.  The content, page structure, and layout are indeed simple.  But the interactivity and design details subtly portray the quality of the brand. See the site: www.riverbendcapitaladvisors.com Project Details: A Question of Branding: The idea behind the company name was Tom’s love of the water, specifically the Chicago River. Plus it makes for a great metaphor of investing.  Clients need help foreseeing the path beyond the next bend in the river.  Who knows what lies beyond.  Riverbend Capital Advisors act as a river guide to the torrential waters of the investment market.  In their capable hands, the twists and turns of economic boons and downturns seem like still waters. On this project, I worked with Jennifer Lunz, a skilled graphic designer.  Jennifer helped create a logo for the Riverbend brand. Jennifer did a great job portraying this concept in the logo.  I worked with Jennifer and the client to choose the colors, patterns, and layout of the pages that would best support this conceptual branding.   Complexity to the Simplicity Despite the desire to have a simple site, I wanted this site to be more than a plain white corporate homepage.  Riverbend clients were not children learning about investing, they were successful and wealthy people looking to maintain their success.  They were used to steak dinners, cigars, exotic places, nice cars – all things of quality. So I figured tight lines, patterns, gradients, and interesting interactivity could be a nice subtle touch.  To keep the simplicity, there would be no drop-down menus, no aggregated content, no banner rotator element or accordion or flyout to show information.  And initially, I wanted a rather monotone...

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Thanks Manifest Digital!

Over the past 6 weeks, I have worked at Manifest Digital as a freelance User Experience Architect.  I spent many long hours there, once or twice we even pulled a 16 hour day.  It was a positive experience allowing me to glean insight to how a successful digital agency works.  It also gave me a great deal of confidence in my own skills and processes – I contributed a lot there. Over those 6 weeks, I have tuned wireframes to precision. This precision sometimes required making over 25 revisions to a single design in order to meet the needs of the design team, the tech/IT team, and the client.  And sometimes a set of 2-3 revisions in a row simply help the client better discuss and figure out what they wanted before investing too many development hours down the road.  That is one purpose of wireframes, to rapidly develop a vision that would normally take many expensive man-hours to show visually. This is the point in the post where I usually show the work I accomplished there. But in this case, I cannot.  Since the site is not live yet, I was asked by Manifest to not show any wireframes. I also cannot reveal the name of the client, but encourage you to look at their list of clients to speculate.  I can only say that this client has a great deal of content on their existing site that required a great deal of effort to map to reoccurring templates. In the end, myself and one junior UX architect had created the following: Solutions Over 30 templates for the client’s site redesign And an additional 15+ unique wireframes that did not fit reoccurring templates All of these required buy-in from several teams of stakeholders. In addition, we made over 600 annotation notes to help the team lead explain and obtain buy-in for the 45+ wireframes we created. About 10 pages were turned into a working prototype using Axure RP software. Not only for links but for interactive elements like accordions, carousels, and center stage / banner rotators. Over 30 wireframe concepts were unused at various points in the process.  Since I like to give 3 concepts every time, you can see how quickly they can add up. All this in...

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Agency Work

One of the major reasons why I started freelancing in 2010 was to learn more about agency life.  Sure, I have been doing a combination of business and creative services for years.  But mainly through the corporate, non-profit, and small business world.  So I am happy to share that I have just begun a project at a notable Chicago creative agency. This four week project has me working with Manifest Digital, an interactive agency in downtown Chicago. My role will be primarily wireframing for a major client of theirs.  There has also been talk of similar UX work for this project: prototyping, client-presentations, and research in this role as well. (Update: I have been extended, now it seems to be a six week project.  I guess they like my work!) I look forward to learning more about how agencies like this operate.  And more importantly, to test the effectiveness and efficiency of their process against my own. See Manifest’s Site: Click...

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Helping the Cottage Grove Planters Association

  One of my friends recently introduced me to a wonderful group looking for graphic design help. The Cottage Grove Planters Association beautify their neighborhood by not only planting flowers in the concrete planters, but by decorating the boxes with 3′ tall artwork created by students at local public grammar schools.  Some students aren’t in the best economic areas, so this work does wonders for the kids, who get to see their art displayed in a public space. The founder of this organization, Leiana Gary is one of the nicest people I have met in a long time.  And her organization has such a nice story behind it.  So I was happy to help the organization out with some graphic design work. My role was to take 12″ artwork and blow it up to 36″. I also added descriptive copy to explain the art and noted its contributors. Also a big part of the project was to bring out the best in the artwork, including adding borders, backgrounds, and enhancing the original paintings to overcome limitations of the scanning and enlargement process. Click here to learn more about this Cottage Grove Planters Society. Below are images I laid out for the...

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