Deborah A. Levinson / UX design and consultation

I'm a UI/UX designer with nearly twenty years of experience designing intuitive, effective interactions for digital applications. I coded Suffolk University's first website back in 1996, worked as one of MIT's webmasters, managed the UX for a large corporate site, and co-owned a UI/UX business between 2004-2015. I've co-written a book that teaches people how to apply simple design principles to create beautiful, useful apps. I help designers and developers collaborate even though one group speaks art and the other speaks code. And I can help you and your web and mobile applications teams be successful, too.

What I do

Questions about how I can help you? Contact me at debby@debbylevinson.com or 857.205.0903.

Deborah Levinson photo

Portfolio

Higher Education

Corporate

Nonprofit

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences had developed an online community to allow its thousands of members to connect with one another online, as well as to share content with the public. Before releasing the online community to the membership, the Academy sought to confirm the site was as user-friendly as possible for a group that tended to be sixty or older, and which had mixed levels of computing experience. I designed and ran several talking-protocol usability tests to assess the sign-up flow, as well as member impressions of search tools and connection features, and presented the AAAS with a plan for addressing the issues the research uncovered.

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Visual Usability book cover

Visual Usability: Principles and Practices for Designing Digital Applications, published by Morgan Kaufmann in May 2013, provides straightforward, practical advice on how to apply three core meta-principles – consistency, hierarchy, and personality – to create apps that are easy to learn, beautiful to look at, and satisfying to use. (Preview the book online at Amazon.com.) I have co-taught half- and full-day UXPA classes based on the principles in this book.

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For several years, Nimble Partners helped a big data company design software serving state and local workforce boards, higher education, and large employers researching the labor market and assisting job seekers. I designed detailed interactions for several products:

  • Suite allowing employers to post jobs and review applicants; enabling job seekers to create one or more resumes and search and apply for jobs; and providing employment office staff a bird's-eye view of employers and job seekers so staff could step in and help when needed, track problems with system users, and manage the entire product suite. After seeing the wireframes for the staff product, our client's customer said that we'd "nailed Jell-O to a tree."
  • Product targeted at higher education career offices assisting students with career investigation and planning. Product assessed local labor and degree demand cross-referenced against college or university degree offerings.
  • Product providing high-level and detailed analysis of labor markets, skills, and educational supply and demand.

Because this work is under NDA, I can't share it here. Contact me to find out more.

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Cheetah Medical provides a unique, noninvasive device that helps clinicians monitor blood flow to prevent sepsis and other dangerous complications. Knowing their website wasn't up to par with its competitors, and wasn't presenting Cheetah as an innovator in the field, Cheetah brought me in to assess their site with a heuristic review. I analyzed the site's visual design, user experience, functionality, and content and developed recommendations for short- and long-term fixes to the site's issues, including demonstrations of these recommendations via page mockups. Follow-on work has included a new information architecture and UX for a complete site redesign scheduled to launch in 2016.

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Catapult is a crowdfunding site dedicated to projects that help girls and women worldwide. Nimble Partners worked with Catapult from the very start, helping the organization's founder envision features and interactions, creating the site's user experience, and consulting on it through visual design and development.

While I reviewed all aspects of the site's UX, I concentrated most heavily on the administrative interface Catapult partner organizations would use to apply to the site and post projects, and that Catapult staff would use to review applications and manage the site's user base and project listings. The founder called my work "the Cadillac of administrative interfaces."

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To help Furman University determine whether an innovative content approach proposed for its website could work for its intended audiences, I ran a full-day persona development and journey mapping workshop with the university's Marketing and Public Relations Department.

Together, we created three lightweight personas – a prospective undergrad, a parent, and an alum – then mapped a year of contact with Furman and the emotions each contact point inspired. These maps informed the development of three sets of wireframes exploring different ideas for the content approach across mobile, tablet, and desktop devices. I worked closely with the project team to refine these into a highly detailed set of screens representing a single, magazine-like concept.

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The Mind & Life Institute supports contemplative science, investigating contemplative traditions such as meditation through a scientific lens. With MLI shifting its focus to three key initiatives – ethics, education, and human development; craving, desire, and addiction; and mapping the mind – it needed a new website to promote its research and programs in these fields.

I consulted with MLI and its visual designer, using early-phase visual comps as a foundation for exploring the user experience through the eyes of MLI's target audiences: "interested laymen" curious about contemplative science, scientists, and theologians. Through iterative rounds of scenario development, wireframing, and site mapping, we honed the UX to spotlight MLI's well-researched content and encourage users to spend time browsing the library of articles. I continued to consult on the project through the visual design, development, and launch phases, reviewing visuals for technical feasibility as well as to ensure they effectively supported the UX across web and mobile platforms.

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The MIT Biology Department approached Nimble Partners and Stoltze Design to address a sprawling website with confusing navigation. We began by reviewing the results of a department-wide survey to get a better sense of what information staff and students expected to find on the site, and I drafted a complete content inventory identifying all site text and where it met or fell short of audience expectations. Based on our understanding of the user base, we used multiple rounds of site mapping and wireframing to organize the site and its content more intuitively. We then tested those assumptions with a talking-protocol usability test in which members of each target audience group browsed a clickable prototype, and refined our UX based on user feedback. Post-launch usage statistics confirmed our design recommendations for prioritizing the content and features users would find most valuable (specifically, the faculty and staff directory).

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MIT's Office of Sustainability wanted to completely overhaul its website, shifting it from one that primarily reports on the Institute's current sustainability efforts to one that illustrates MIT's multidisciplinary, strategic perspective on sustainability, and which inspires the MIT community to participate.

Following a half-day workshop to investigate visitor types and brainstorm their desired feature set, I developed a content strategy to appeal to the two key audiences: the Curious, who wondered how they could join or start sustainability initiatives; and the Knowledgeable, experts in the field seeking research tools, reports, and opportunities. The strategy guides the Curious along a three-step path towards becoming Knowledgeable, starting with identifying existing clubs and other sustainability efforts at MIT, continuing with studying and researching topics in the field, and finishing with inspiring the Curious to consider how the solutions they've developed could be applied globally. At the same time, the Knowledgeable audience gains easy access to a searchable library of tools and data sets, as well as to a Living Labs section offering research inspiration and projects.

Wireframes of key site sections helped the team visualize the strategy and partial feature set in action, and provide a foundation for the visual design and development effort.

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The MIT Technology Licensing Office (TLO) helps the MIT community license inventions and processes developed at MIT, and helps industry discover and license MIT technology. The group had outgrown the website it built in 2006, and sought a newer, more maintainable site that did a better job explaining the technology licensing process to a community that was often unfamiliar with the process' complexities, as well as how the TLO could provide guidance and support in bringing an invention to market.

I developed a detailed content inventory of the TLO site, assessing pages not just for whether they were still valuable, but also for whether they required editing to reduce industry-specific jargon for an audience that needed hand-holding. The inventory supported development of a site map and wireframes for a responsive experience relying on related content links to help guide people to the information they needed. The final site, developed on MIT's Drupal Cloud platform, includes vibrant home page photography to give a sense of excitement about MIT inventions, as well as a responsive, interactive infographic describing the tech transfer process.

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Since 2006, Nimble Partners has consulted with Tufts University's Advancement group, developing a long-term relationship as trusted advisors. My engagements with Tufts have included:

  • Running usability tests of their online giving form both before and after a redesign. The second set of tests confirmed that the redesigned version of the form, which incorporated our recommendations for feature and organizational improvements, was significantly easier to use.
  • Designing the UX for an updated intranet and document management system. The design process for this project included user interviews that incorporated preference identification with a drag-and-drop interface I developed to help people create their own home page; an interactive workshop with development officers to get a deeper understanding of their situations of use and expectations surrounding the new document system; and testing an interactive, responsive, web and mobile prototype I developed to assess whether the system and its structure were intuitive. Research results confirmed that people found the proposed interface easy to use.
  • As-needed consultation on numerous topics, including mobile optimizations, search engine performance and usability issues, and drafting alumni and staff surveys to investigate website patterns of use.
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