my career and stuff
When I joined Compression Labs, it was a leading manufacturer of of videoconferencing systems. Products at that time cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they were not designed to be used by average people. Only trained administrators could manage to operate them.
CLI naturally wanted to reduce costs and sell more units, so they set out to break price barriers and set a new standard for ease-of use. They hired me to design the user-interface for Eclipse, the new generation system to be designed from the ground up.
CLI had great engineers, video specialists and chip designers. However, they were not experienced in user-centric design and usability, and they weren't well-equipped to integrate market requirements into their design process.
My effort to define the UI was complicated by this issue. Engineers would often be compelled to design their own components without having clear and stable product feature requirements. Before designing UI, I would need to write a full product specification. I first wrote the design kernel that outlined historical and requested features, and then partnered with marketing to finalize detailed requirements for Eclipse.
I then began designing the user interface, which would include an on-screen experience and an infrared remote control.
The CEO of CLI had a specific vision for what would make the Eclipse UI simplest, and unfortunately it differed from the approach I was taking. With credit to him, he gave me the leeway to prove my approach. I conducted a blind study between the alternative approaches, and against competitors' designs.
After rounds of testing and refinements, the Eclipse design beat out the competitors, and the team and management were satisfied we were on the right track.
I designed the complete user interface, and produced the detailed specification - 120 pages of layouts, logic, language and graphics. The spec was the basis for UI hardware design, software development, testing, documentation, and support.
The infrared remote control was made from a standard part, where customization allowed removal of buttons, button color and graphics, and screened overlay. The remote was manufactured in volume and worked as expected.
After launch, Eclipse was reviewed by the Gartner group and received accolades: "Eclipse has a graphical user interface that we believe is superior to anything on the market today... We estimate that the typical training time for people new to videoconferencing will be about 10 minutes".
After Eclipse I began designing UI for the company's legacy line of products, in order to offer improved ease-of-use as a retrofit option for existing customers.
While working at CLI, my wife and I decided to relocate to Seattle. I'd enjoyed product design and sought to build more mainstream products. I took a position at Asymetrix Corporation and began a career in personal computer software.