How to work as a Consultant - sharing my first experience

Let me tell you the experience that i came through when i was in the shoes of a consultant the first time. I was at the age of 20 when i got my first client. It was a very short project. My dad worked in a govt. organization and he had good terms with his boss. That means i got the project because of contacts. In service business contacts helps you a lot. One client refers you to the next one and next one refers you to the other next.

Business problem:

My dad's office was looking to create a govt. report. The report will include his office efforts in safe gaurding office buildings from fire hazards. Recentely a govt. building caught fire in another state, so the head office was seeking the steps my dad's organization was doing aganist fire hazards.

buildings

Solution

The solution was to create building drawing of all the buildings and indicate where are the fire exits, where are the fire stations and other fire fighting instructions located in the buildings. My work was to finalize the fire locations, the fire exits in the buildings and depict in building drawing of the complete 3 buildings which were having 2 floors each. The image of the building is shown above. Although all the three buildings are nor captured in the photo, but it will get you the view how much work was involved. Wondering how was i able to create building drawings, well i am a B.E in Civil enginneering. :-)

Lessons learned in the process.

Stakeholder: Maintain the list of the stakeholder & there expectations from the assignment. What they are looking from you. It can be done by talking with them, meeting with them.

Deliverable: The deliverables were 7 building drawing sheets.

Timeline: Make sure you deliver in time. Set the expectations right first hand and deliver on time.

Fees/Cost: Let them know how much it will cost them for your service.Agree on the price & the payment modes. Whether you want it lump sum amount, Time and material or any other convienent method you both mutually agreed upon.

Deliverable options: If you can provide two options to choose, for the stakeholders it would be great. When we provide options to the cusotmer to choose from then they feel they are in control and repsond more positively.

Walkthrough: Provide a walkthorugh of your work, make them understand your point. Sell your work & move to the payment options.

Well i told you the major chunks of a consultant works. I agree there are many other things that goes in to this profession. Hope this post will ignite sparks to pursue this type of work and make some real money in this business.

User persona images - Use them for free

In our design process, we make sure we create user persona's and get the requirements right the first time. What is the point when user's are not using the design that is made for them. All the money the hard work goes in the drain if product are not used by users.

You are right i am taking about the satisfaction aspect of the design. The other elements are

Here are the free images.
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Learnability:How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they re establish proficiency?
Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors? 

To make sure that the design meets the user needs user persona is created. I suggest the images used in the persona creation speaks a lot. Using good images in persona creation can take you a long way. We have uploaded some of the images we used in our persona creation. Use these images and modify it according to your needs.

Happy birth day photoshop

Guys! Did you forgot to wish photoshop on it's 20th birthday. Yes now you can wish photoshop.

Check out photoshop page on facebook. 

ps-20

You can also create a greeting card and get a chance to win a copy of photoshop.

Free project managment software

Today you got promoted to a project manager, and you do not have microsoft project on your laptop. Microsoft project will cost you money and it may take some time for you to get one. So what are the alternatives to get a project management software that will be able to process .mpp files send to you.

I was looking for this answer and i got the solution to this problem.

OpenProj : OpenProj is a free, open source desktop alternative to Microsoft Project. OpenProj has been downloaded over 1,250,000 times in over 142 countries and has quickly become one of the most popular open source applications. If you are managing a group project we recommend Projects On Demand. If you want a free replacement to commercial desktop software, then OpenProj is perfect. OpenProj is also now included with Star Office in Europe. It's available on Linux, Unix, Mac or Windows, and it's free.

OpenProj_big

Now download it with a big smile.

Download openproj

How to design a user form

User form - you must have seen them and i am sure you have filled them one time or the other. If not online on a website then i bet you must have filled them in front of the shopping mall or applying for a new bank account or new credit card. User forms are a convenient way to capture and grab the user details and there needs. Forms are used when business does not have the time to spend individual man hours with each costumers, when similar type of information needs to be collected from the user's.

In this article i will help you create a form keeping in mind the business perspective. I will see that the usability is take care at a high level, to take care of usability of the form i will write another article. Loading so much information in one is not good - as INFORMATION OVERLOAD or human memory 6+-2 concepts in User experience design.

Business need: As i told earlier that the need for form comes into picture when the business feels that they are not in a position to apply 1 on 1 human resource to capture the details from its costumers. Business can either request its user to fill the forms online or offline.

As a designer how would you go for the form design for a particular process? Think on this question and it will lead you to conduct a FOCUS group or a meeting with the business process owner to understand the flow of the information that will be collected using the forms. Now let us create a step by step process to get the FROM right as per the business need.

Xylo





Step 1: Understand the business need

Step a meeting with the SME (Subject matter expert) who is working on the process for which the form creation is requested. You can write an e-mail setting up the business context and the questions which will help you to gain more information. A sample e-mail would look like this.

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Business context: We are planning to create a new form for your XYZ process. This form will be available online where users can fill it. This information will be collected by your department and processed.

Questions:

1. What is the key peice of information that is importnat for your departemnt to process the requests

2. What information are not mandatory

3. Define the whole process by taking a sample example. The complete methodology would be helpful.

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Step 2: Business Scenarios definition

The business scenario needs to be understood, as the form that will be created should be able to suffice all the possible business scenarios.

Step 3: Form flow

Give value to the form flow, what sections of the form should come first and how the information flow should be there. Give emphasis on the hierarchy of the sections.

Key take aways for usability

I will be writing a separate article on form usability. I would like to suggest some key pointers that will make the form usable and take care of major usability issues.

1. Information grouping : Group the information in larger chunks, for example when you are asking the users about his details we can have these sections

> Tell us about yourself - name, age, gender

> What u do - profession

> Where do u live - address, street, ZIP, state country etc

> What u like - reading, playing etc

2. Make it a talk show: Use phrases that seems like a person is asking these questions to the users. Above the personal information - TELL US MORE ABOUT YOURSELF etc will increase the intrest level of user's.

3.Pagination: Use pagination if the form is too long.

4. Progress bar at top will help a lot if the form is long.

I think my purpose is solved here, to emphasis on the point that the form should match the business flow not vice versa. The information collected by the forms should be used by the business. If business does not need it, avoid including that field in the forms.

Best word press e-commerce theme - WP store


We were looking for a wordpress e-commerce theme to host the media company we are working on. The game design head in hyederabd -INDIA wanted a solution that is easy to work upon. I suggested him a e-commerce site to sell the products and services. Users can see the different product details and if they want they can use the shopping cart and buy it online. Oh what a cool idea. Now we wanted to host this app on Wordpress with minimum efforts and time. Of course it took us some time to tweak it. You can download WP store from here.