Arthur Fink Consulting
A new offering - UI Review Watching or listening to your users is the first step in puting the 'user' into your user interface. How your users experience your software? Do you care? If you want to find out, talk with me. In as little as a few days, we can provide significant information about how your users intereact with your software, where they find most value, where they are stuck or confused, and where the tools you provide don't fully satisfy their needs or their desires for power and ease of use.

Few developers spend enough time watching users working with their product. I function as a kind of cyber-age anthropologist -- observing business cultures to see what tasks are being done, what tools are used and in what way, and -- perhaps most important -- where users encounter stress, frustration, boredom, fear, or angst. My findings will suggest a strategy for revision or re-design, or, in some cases, a total blueprint for a new user experience.
Read my blog My work with usablity starts with listening -- and my focus on this critical activity has led me into "coaching" (which I prefer to call "clarifying", because I don't direct clients), into general management consulting, and much more.  I write about listening and coaching, about usability and design, about photography and dance, about art and spirituality, about creativity and business, and about much more, in my blog  Please check it out.
Listening to users . . .  . . . because they have a special knowledge, and an intimate familiarity with data and process. We ignore them at our peril.  Listening is an attentive and active process that engages everybody.  I enjoy it.
Designing systems that work Design is not cleaning up the mess, or adding ornamentation at the end.  It’s a process of thinking, organizing, trying, testing, reworking, creating anew, refining, honing, and more.  Successful systems work because they are well conceived, and responsive to user needs, styles, wishes, and habits.  They continue to work because they are well structured, and can be easily maintained and enhanced. 

Designing a user interface involves creating a process by which users interact with many elements of their work world.  This is much more than just a pretty set of screens.  All my background in psychology, business consulting, graphic design and layout, systems work, and Progress programming come into play for this task.

A value proposition:
     I can help you . . .
  • Identify and clarify the requirements for an information system.
  • Design a database model that users understand, and that the technical staff appreciate.
  • Work with users to develop a look and feel for the application, and a more detailed interface design.
  • Test that interface by having real users perform realistic tasks in simulation mode.
  • Create a system design that is easy to use, quick to learn, efficient to operate.
Why design?
What did I get myself into, asking such big questions?  Here's an example that illustrates the tremendous power of a subtle but important design change.

Most of us have a stove that looks like the one on the left. Which knob controls which burner? It's not at all clear.  Now, re-design the stove so that the center knobs are a bit lower, as on the right. The role of each knob becomes obvious.  This stove works! 

(Thanks to writer and consultant Don Norman for this example.)

Yes, I have built systems . . . . . . and I'm attentive to the kinds of internal structure that is needed, the importance of detail, the importance of appropriate tools.  Design and programming is a social process, and I'm considerate of those who will collaborate me, and those who work with systems I've designed.
Design vs. Build Even though a prototyping approach is often a helpful design process, the real building of a system is as different from design as house building is from architecture. The prototype is more like a model that an architect might build.  Excellent programmers may not be good designers, and great designers may not even be good programmers. 
A seasoned 
Progress developer
Progress is an integrated relational database, language, and set of graphic layout tools.  Among Progress developers, I'm known as a guru -- a senior consultant who is widely respected.  I've worked with Progress since the company began, and with the founders of Progress Software in a prior company, and have had plenty of experience with the language, the style, the culture.  I'm sought after as a consultant, trainer, and lecturer in this field -- even though my focus now is more on user interface and database design.  See my Progress page for more information.
On the podium People invite me to speak because I create fun and excitement.  With titles like On being lazy and absent-minded -- and a great system developer, I get the audience engaged, laughing, and thinking about important questions.  My topics usually have to do with the social context of computing, but they can be much more technical.
Listening and discernment Decision-making among Quakers (Friends) is done by a "sense of the meeting" process, which has a lot in common with consensus.  Having been one of the presiding officers of the Quakers in New England, and as an associate of Friends Board Consulting, I've had lots of opportunities to practice this method.  As president of the board of an independent school, I've been able to refine it in a purely secular setting.  Listening and consensus-building in religious and educational settings is valuable training for others kinds of collaborative work  Each part of my life is good practice for each other!
My other life 
as a photographer
I used to keep this separate from my other work -- but why?  It's about looking carefully, seeing, transforming my vision into something you can see and use.  It's about passion and excitement.  And it's about knowing the world around me.  All of these things are as important in consulting as in the art of photography.  Again . . . each part of my life is good practice for each other!
Core values and beliefs More and more businesses believe that a dual bottom line -- profitability and social responsibility -- is possible, and, indeed, necessary in today's world. Maine Businesses for Social Responsiblity stands for these values. I'm  a member of this group, and have been invited several times to speak about using (and not abusing) information systems in a humane business environment.
Let me know who you are E-mail    Phone   207 . 615 . 5722
Arthur Fink Consulting  10 New Island Ave  Peaks Island, Maine 04108
Consulting links    Clients    Progress work    Blog    Arthur Fink Photography