As of March 2023, I’m available for work as an independent user experience consultant/freelancer.
I’m transitioning back into this role after nearly two years working exclusively with one web design & development agency, so I don’t have a formal website for my consulting services yet. As a stopgap, or an early “prototype”, I’m going to write a bit about what I do and how I work.
On this page:
What I do
I partner with digital product & service leaders, design & development teams, and marketing & communications teams to help make systems work better for the people who experience them, using human-centered design techniques.
Specifically, I do information architecture, UX strategy, and UX leadership along with the hands-on research and design to support those activities. The majority of my ~12 years in practice have been spent in-house, in enterprise contexts where there are complex business processes and lots of stakeholders who need to be considered when planning technical change.
I’ve helped to deliver complex software products, content-heavy websites, and system-level improvements to digital & IT services. For example, I have:
- Designed tools for Mass.gov content authors to more effectively present information to the public while making it easier for constituents to navigate government services. We built new features, templates, and content types into the Mass.gov content management system, which is used by communications staff across all state executive agencies. Leveraging this new flexibility, we later delivered recommendations for the complete restructuring & streamlining of content on Unemployment Assistance.
- Redesigned workflows for AIR Worldwide‘s catastrophe risk modeling software, used by the insurance industry to model the impacts of hurricane, flood, and other disasters. These workflows support repeatable decision-making with complex probabilistic risk models applied to large insurance portfolios.
- Planned and designed B2B websites to centralize large bodies of content that were previously scattered across as many 50 microsites, thousands of web pages, and thousands of PDF documents—all of which a single person would have to muddle through in order to do business with the organization in question. (More realistically, they don’t bother with it and make a phone call for that information instead.) In-depth content analysis and restructuring led to easy-to-use solutions.
- Conducted research, design thinking workshops, and roadmapping for the holistic improvement of university-wide IT services at Tufts University—including everything from end-user training, software, and classroom technology to the behind-the-scenes infrastructure, service desk, and on-site IT support procedures—to determine how all of these resources could better align to support hybrid meetings and classes across four campuses.
Your organization may not look like one of these examples, but if your customers or staff experience difficulty accessing services, get lost or misled when looking for information, or are frustrated because the tools and content available to them don’t match the work they are trying to do…
Or if the team(s) responsible for these solutions feel unsure what content or features you really need and why, are misaligned on design priorities, or struggle with disorganized content and/or functionality that has incrementally accumulated over time but was never really given care and attention as a whole…
Then you may have an information architecture problem that someone like me can help with!
Why you want me on your team
My work increases clarity, structure, and alignment for teams dealing with messy and ambiguous problems. I bring a collaborative mentality and a design-driven approach, as well as a strong point of view that keeps the process focused on the needs of the business and of users. Along the way, your team will level-up their capabilities to understand and improve the user experience.
I may offer the missing piece in areas that teams often find challenging, whether because of a gap in expertise or because of a lack of time to focus deeply in one of these areas:
- Information architecture (IA): Even a small-scale solution can be messy and resist your best efforts to simplify it. This goes deeper than the design of the user interface (UI). Information architecture defines the underlying conceptual structure, categories, relationship, content types and labeling systems that will make the user experience easy to understand, navigate, and maintain across products and communication channels. It also enables the team to break down their work in a logical structure, guided by clear goals, requirements, success measures, and delivery plans. (This may sound familiar if you are a product manager–IA is a great partner to product management.)
- “Discovery” and UX strategy: How to meet user needs is not necessarily obvious. Is the whole team aligned on “why” we are building what we’re building? Do we have a strong understanding of the worlds of our users and stakeholders and what they really need in order for them (and you) to be successful? And has that knowledge been translated to a clearly defined strategy for design, development, and content? Discovery means getting to the root by investigating the larger context of people, process, knowledge, and technology to find out what the issues are and how they are related. Understanding this problem space provides a better starting point to set technical priorities. Team-driven UX artifacts, objectives, and requirements help us translate our original intent to a well-informed solution approach.
- UX leadership: We all aim to be customer- and people-centered. In practice, this needs to be translated to the right design, research, and continuous improvement activities. A UX-driven process keeps us honest throughout the gritty details of design and implementation, ensuring the result is useful and usable. With experience driving the UX process at all stages of the development lifecycle, I can work with you to incorporate UX-based approaches into your roadmap and/or facilitate the team’s process with a balance between research, creative thinking, and delivery.
How we can work together
I’ve worked with a variety of product, design, development, and marketing/communications teams in agencies, government, nonprofit, education, and large corporations.
I view myself as an embedded member of a cross-functional team, working with you collaboratively and invested in our collective success. This means that, even when I am working independently, I strive to do it transparently and invite meaningful participation whenever possible. Building a shared picture/shared understanding and maintaining alignment behind the scenes are key to delivering and sustaining a good user experience.
Work with me on a targeted project to explore a question, develop concepts, or build a roadmap. Or hire me to go all-in on a large, extended project. Some of the roles I might play are:
- Partner with a product leader/owner or other business lead to conduct research, identify areas of focus, or to define/expand upon a vision for design and development
- Support/extend a design team that has some UX capabilities already but needs deeper focus, expertise, and/or guidance for a particularly challenging project
- Drive IA and UX processes for an agency or consulting firm that has a temporary need due to either a gap in expertise or a spike in workload
Based in the Boston, MA area, I operate as a Massachusetts-based LLC and am available for remote work with clients anywhere.
Contracting vehicles and approved supplier/vendor lists: I have worked as a subcontractor of both web development agencies and staffing firms that have existing relationships with governments and other organizations.
Contact info & more about me
- Contact me at: dan [at] danzollman.com
- Find me on LinkedIn
- More about me