User Interface Design – I have over ten years experience in creating designs for desktop, mobile, digital signage, from wireframing to high fidelity to animated and fully functional prototypes built in HTML5/CSS. Here’s the secret I don’t want you to know. My handwriting tends to be pretty bad, as are my quick hand-drawn sketches. Which is probably why I’ve wanted to get so good at everything else to compensate for that talent shortfall. Good thing I don’t get paid to make bespoke greeting cards.
Wireframing – I work on paper (large sketchbooks are the best for this) and with Adobe Illustrator, XD, Sketch, Figma, Axure, Balsamiq, Xara and even Visio or Powerpoint to create quick turnaround mockups, in single variants of one idea, to entire sequences of screens. I will call out certain portions of the screen for talking points in presentations in order to elicit conversations for the next variations.
HTML5 / CSS3 / Bootstrap – This is the area I put in the most hours when I’m involved in a project. I have 20 years experience writing HTML and CSS. Bootstrap I’ve used since 2010 and like everyone I started out feeling too constrained but it wasn’t long before I learned how to build anything custom and adding and removing components from the existing framework. I don’t see Bootstrap as the best, but I think it’s a great way to start the build of large business applications and its ‘competitors’ in CSS frameworks also have their own challenges. If Bootstrap didn’t exist, I’ve also used Materialize and Foundation. I’m dabbling a bit with CSS Grid right now and eventually will look at Tailwind but I haven’t had the need.
WordPress – I’ve worked with WordPress since probably version 0.98, which is a long time. I can make custom templates for it and while they aren’t as componentized as a theme one might purchase these days with bells, whistles and a kitchen sink, it keeps with the core and withstands the test of time. I’ve never had a theme I built break with a WordPress upgrade. I’ve had many purchased themes break for many reasons and are more vulnerable to viruses. I have a few favorite plugins (I like to keep it to a few) and have a pretty good handle on custom post types. I’ve built real estate property databases and furniture inventory systems. One thing I built I’m very proud of, I created an HTML newsletter builder in WordPress that generated perfect newsletters for an organization, I saved them thousands of hours and staff costs. And finally, I’m not in love with the popular 3rd party site builders, but late to the game, I’m a converted believer in the gutenberg editor. I’ve had a LOT more success with it than I would have ever expected.
UX Architecture – I create flow charts of a process, which will help solidify some of the areas that are unique to the process. This comes out of many exercises I have always done naturally, which is to be in a position of a persona using the product, and how that transaction hits the customer service, the order fulfillment, manufacturing and how the experience is perceived. One of my primary contributions is plotting potential errors and ensuring the successful reversal of accidental or experimental behaviors back out of the funnel at nearly any point of a transaction.
Interaction Design – While subtly part of nearly all my work, I evaluate the use of existing components vs the design of something unique to facilitate the interaction. Most of what is out there is tried and true, but when deviating from that, I can illustrate the interaction in mockup or animated form, with a close eye on user expecations, timing, overhead and maintenance tech debt.
Responsive Web Design – Nothing I’ve built since 2010 hasn’t been made using an existing or custom responsive grid. Often new projects have encouraged me to experiment with some of the many grid systems. Over the years I’ve used and fully customized Bootstrap (up to 4.0), Material, Materialize, Foundation 3-6, Skeleton, Boilerplate and probably more. Currently working through CSS Grid, as it seems to be nearly supported everywhere I need it to be.
Adobe Creative Suite – A long history with Adobe, I wrote a technical manual back in 2005 that was internationally published on Adobe Creative Suite 2. At that time for that version I was also an Adobe Certified Expert in InDesign. I also for many years was a workshop trainer in the software an plugins. While much has changed, I’ve followed through and kept up on it, though I don’t use the apps primarily, it still remains something I consider myself having trainer level expertise in the key programs. One of my favorite things about it is still finding ways to automate activities turning 3 hours of work into 5-10 minutes.
Video / Editing / Photography – Not a primary task of mine, but having an education in media production which included extensive video courses, I can shoot and edit and integrate photo media into projects. I have many hours logged in Adobe Premiere, Vegas, DaVinci Resolve, AfterEffects, Avid Media Composer and others. Of late I use it to create quick tutorial or marketing content, where I’ll also add voice over and other visual elements such as 3D models for improving comprehension.
Omnigraffle / yED / Visio – I love flowcharting. But what’s interesting is I suffer from what I call flowchart dyslexia. I have a hard time understanding what other people diagram and always feel like I’m the last person in the room to know what I’m looking at in a meeting. That’s why I strive so hard to draw out my own flows so a person like ME will understand then. And while not an expert in UML, I am quite fond of illustrating the flow and operations of my projects. Drawing it out helps me really commit to memory and locate holes and snags in the process. While not a primary part of my work, I like to have the ability to create and deliver presentations of the flow of large small and large products. When is the case, I will use Omnigraffle, yED, DIA or Visio (there’s probably 3 more I’d use if the business is using it). Or sometimes I’ll just use vector illustration software. Whatever helps get my mind onto paper I’m willing to put in the work.
Copy and Technical Writing – This is one of my most rewarding and necessary activities. For personal and freelance work I keep a fairly detailed wiki on the different hobby projects I do, documenting challenges or checklists or research. In that same space, I will also write up instructions for clients. At my full time positions, I find myself wanting very clear instructions, and when they don’t exist or are outdated or incomplete, I’ll write them, add screenshots and contribute back into corporate intranet such as SharePoint or Confluence. Also a lot of my UX work, I have to turn vague ideas into concrete processes, and that often includes writing alerts, prompts, instructions, section headers. My first passes at writing will often be formulated into approved messaging but it all starts with me seeing the missing pieces early on. I have some experience writing and editing marketing collateral and press releases for clients too.
AGILE / SCRUM – I’m no agile expert, but I’m a big advocate despite not believing every official activity is meaningful for me. I believe strongly in the aspect of daily and frequent interactions, and from those making effort to show and document the progress at a frequency where problems, pitfalls can be detected, barriers cleared and other team members and supervisors become part of clearing roadblocks. If needed I can run a SCRUM meeting, I don’t consider myself a SCRUM master, but I do follow the methods and consider the system and language beneficial in how I write up or respond to Jira tickets for example.
Sketch / XD / Axure / Figma / Affinity – Heavy Sketch use in my production work. I like Figma and XD as well for collaborative environment. I’ve always loved the wireframing feature of Axure. Sadly it was removed in a recent version, so I’ll be sticking to that version or dropping it. In Sketch I’ve had files grow to hundreds of artboards across 15 pages in just one file. “But Mike, how is it possible for you to know all these apps, are you exaggerating?” I really do and I’m really able to get anything I need done in all of them. Sure I might not use 100% of the features in them. Especially when you consider plugins. But there are so many similarities now (and they steal ideas from one another) so it’s not like I need to exaggerate. I just like people to know I’ve been in all these apps, and I can crank out the same work in roughly the same amount of time in any of them. Cross my heart. ❤
Online Training / Webcasting – I’ve conducted many online training sessions. Many have been highly coordinated and many impromptu instruction with clients. While not a particularly rare skillset, it is something I enjoy for the preparation and the energy and satisfaction I gain interacting with people. Whether I’m demonstrating product features or walking through procedures or leading discussions, I’ve received good results and feedback over the years.
3D Modeling / Blender – Blender has been a fairly important part of my toolset since the early 2000s. I’ve used it for composition, making composite images, product animations and other motion graphics. I use it often to draft products before I build product prototypes or furniture. It’s a complex tool that I don’t nearly use all the features for, but it helps me think and I’m fairly equipped to do hardsurface modeling, some particle effects and building animation sequences such as corporate logo work.
Windows / Mac / Linux – I am comfortable on all of these platforms. I use Windows primarily at home but have used Mac in the workplace for decades. I’ve been a lab tech and application support for Mac and Windows since Windows NT and Mac OS 8.6. My enjoyment of Linux is mostly due to curiosity and getting old systems running fast again, but also general desktop work, some web work using localhost LAMP. I know subconsciously I’m always seeking out whether I could do all of my work in Linux. Not impossible, but I find it hard to justify, so I continue to watch that space. I also dabble with the Raspberry Pi doing projects with them at home on occasion.
Email Marketing Campaigns – For client work, I’ve set up several instances of email marketing software and created templates, managed lists and submitted communications on their behalf. I find myself making recommendations more lately than actually working in the software and that’s just fine by me, but as needed I can jump in.
Version Control / GIT – When I do work on teams where I’m contributing components or modifying layout code, I am equipped to use version control. I’m not an expert at GIT but I have used Github and Bitbucket in corporate environments. I’ve also used in house version control systems, and Subversion and Tortoise but it has been some time since I needed it. When collaborating with colleagues in Sketch we’ve used Kactus, but it never was as helpful as sharing via normal network file share or OneDrive just based on team dynamic. I find what helps me in a new team is just to work carefully and ask a lot of questions so my initial commits go smoothly. After that I will have documented my process and will get in a good rhythmic habits.
InVision – Not primary software for me, but I’m equipped to work with Invision if needed. My experience though, because I can make workable prototypes or illustrate sequences of screens in a multitude of ways, my teams have never expressed the need to see the work in Invision. In the testing I’ve done with it, I found it adequate and a good UX communications tool.
One last skill I will end with hear. Speaking! Unfortunately I find that in a lot of the roles I’ve worked in the last few years, I get plopped in with more introverted developers. Not that I mind who I’m with, but I mind that my supervisors got my personality so wrong. And while I’m a technical mind with development chops, I’m really an extrovert and you’re getting my best work when I’m at the meetings. Not only for the contributions there but for the energy I get (and give back to you) from being part of the process, asking the questions, proposing good (and sometimes weak) ideas to hash out. Talking about projects activates some of the best parts of my brain that when inactive begins to feel starved and withered.