Spotlight on: Kate Winsor

kate_winsor
Photo by Shaun Menary.

When I met Kate Winsor at an ad agency in Dallas, she immediately impressed me with her design aesthetics as well as her attention to detail in the midst of huge, disorganized processes. She is currently a proud mom, who is working as a UX freelancer.

Because Kate is an expert in b2b website architecture, I asked her to share some of her insights with us:

How long have you been doing usability/user experience/information architecture work?

I designed my first sitemap back in the mid-90s when I was teaching myself HTML. I didn’t know that I was thinking about the user experience for my little website, but I knew I needed a plan for what I wanted to include, where it would go and how my (imaginary) visitors would get to the content.

Professionally, I have been doing UX work for almost six years.

What app or website that you worked on was the most memorable, and how did it do something innovative with design or functionality?

The most memorable website has to be ThyssenKrupp Elevators (http://www.thyssenkruppelevator.com/). For that project, I wore so many more hats outside of User Experience. On top of trying to learn about and understand the mechanical systems of their elevators, I also managed the development of the site, content creation and quality assurance.

It wasn’t overly innovative, but it was memorable for me from the sheer volume of information that had to be displayed. Each type of elevator is broken down by the type of installation (building supported, self supported, etc.) Each of those is then broken down by capacity and then finally by speed. The way this information was being displayed on the previous site was a mess, so my challenge was how to best display all of that information in a well organized manner that made sense to an architect looking for the specs. I spent many hours with the client and created several flow charts to help everyone understand how all those pieces fit together.

Those are the kinds of design challenges that make me giddy.

Is there a particular design technique that you like to use consistently?

I’m not sure if its a “design technique” but I always try to streamline content. I hate designing for SEO because with SEO it’s the page count that matters, not the user experience. I prefer to reduce the number of pages on a site, rather than increase them. I think that pages with a couple sentences of content are a waste of a click. I prefer to layer the content on a page with tabs or some other way to easily access little bits of information.

Do you have a favorite design flourish (for example, designing sliding panels to hide optional functions)?

The majority of my experience has been redesigning websites, and my clients haven’t been the kind of B2C sites that are appropriate for “flourishes.” Plus, I’m not very strong on designing interactions. I don’t really pay attention to those things when I’m browsing. For example, if I’m on a website to find something specific, I want the fastest way to the information I am looking for. From a professional perspective, I tend to shy away from anything I see as preventing the user from getting to what they’re looking for as quickly as possible.

What do you think is a very under-utilized process or navigation element?

I was observing user testing and the number of people who did not know that the logo in the upper left corner is typically a link to the homepage astounded me. That is the first thing that goes on my wireframes and in the annotations. It is a standard pattern in the UX library, but it amazes me that the general public isn’t aware of this functionality.

Do you have any particular influences?

The biggest influence on how I do what I do has been my mentor at my previous position, Cecil Bellon. I blame him for introducing me to the field, and for training me to be fastidious.

If there was one book you would recommend, what would it be?

Luke Wroblewski’s book, Web Form Design, is like a Bible to me.

Forms are vital to doing business on the Internet and are often overlooked as being easy. Most people do not realize how much work goes into making a properly functioning form.

Kate is currently a freelance UX designer, and can be found on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kwinsor/.

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