Sarah Esther Williams

                                                                Wisdom, Discipline, Courage

      User Centered Design :: Ethnography ::  Research :: Web Projects :: Visual Design :: Poster Design

User Centered Design

Collaborative Online Shopping Experiences *

Technical Skills: Literature Review, Design
Soft Skills: Self Direction, Strong Written and Verbal Communication

Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Grinter, Georgia Institute of Technology

Paco Underhill in his 1999 book Why We Buy, challenged readers to
‘get human’ by asking “Can you smell a ripe peach online?
Can you accidentally discover a shoe that feels so good you impulsively take three pair? Can your best friend goad you into buying that red silk suit in an online apparel shop?

He goes on say in no uncertain terms that “there are three big things that stores alone can offer shoppers:

Touch, trial or any other sensory stimuli
Immediate gratification
Social interaction

I argue that, less than ten years after Underhill issued this implicit challenge, all of these areas can be addressed in online shopping through advances in technology. Perhaps easiest of all to achieve is social interaction - and I mean more than just tagging products and writing reviews. For the duration of this project, I will attempt to push the boundaries of collaborative shopping experiences available online today and offer insights for the future.

Mini Presentation at the GVU 15 Showcase.

Seamless Virtual-Physical Experiences *

Technical Skills: Wants and Needs Analysis, User Profiles and Scenarios, Clustering Exercise, Prototyping
Soft Skills: Self Direction, Strong Written and Verbal Communication

Currently, I am exploring the theme "Seamless Physical and Virtual Experiences": an interface that seamlessly bridges the gap between a traditionally online-only or software-only experience and a traditionally offline-only experience. These could involve software and hardware interfaces working together.

Specifically, the personal money management space will be pursued. During an informal Wants and Needs Analysis, I spoke with nine people about their money management systems and for most people it was entirely paper based or in their head. The only digital money management mechanisms were bank statements for debit and credit card purchases. Payments that users need to keep track of are either virtually done (by debit or credit card) or physically done (money orders, checks, traveler’s checks, and cash). Often times, people manage both transaction types differently or attempt to manage both types in the same way which can lead to some tension. Regardless of age and stage in life, users felt that money management software such as Quicken were simply too overwhelming and hassle to learn. Full user analysis and the 5 user profiles composed can be found here.

My goal is to compose a simple system that allows people to seamlessly manage both the physical and the virtual aspects of their cash flow and budgeting. Moving forward, a clustering exercise will be done with target participants in order to find out what experiences, artifacts, places, devices, activities etc fall into their physical and virtual worlds. Results from this exercise can be used to drive decisions on what medium or media will be used in the target system. Design and Evaluation stages will follow.

This project is done through the HCI Professional Practicum, a self directed study under the mentorship of two local HCI specialists.

Technology Assisted Public Transportation

Technical Skills: Surveys, Task Analysis, Heuristic Evaluation, Cognitive Walkthrough, Prototyping, Usability Study Design
Soft Skills: Teamwork, Leadership, Strong Written and Verbal Communication

We have designed a system to encourage people to use public transportation more often, and thus reduce air pollution, road congestion and several other problems.  Our system, an in-car navigational assistant, helps users plan their journeys using public transit. It monitors the user's driving habits and suggests public transit routes that could save the user money, time, and stress. In addition, its presence in a vehicle serves as advertisement for, and a reminder of, public transit services. We prototyped and evaluated the interface to this navigational assistant using a Wizard of Oz technique. From the feedback we received, we produced a final design of a system that is effective in encouraging car owners to use public transportation.

          Prototype  of First Design Iteration Available here

This work was presented at the Annual GVU Showcase (GVU poster) in February, 2007and at the Persuasive Technology Conference at Stanford University in April, 2007(conference poster).


Usable Security and The General Use of Technology on Campus

Technical Skills: Interviews, Non-participant Observation
Soft Skills: Teamwork, Strong Written and Verbal Communication


  According to CERT/CC (Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center, a federally funded research center for internet security vulnerabilities) reported that the total number of security vulnerabilities in 2006 was 8,064, while it was only 171 in 1995. It is clear to many technologists that we need to protect our computers from a variety of security threats such as viruses, Phishing scams, worms, and Spyware. However, most end-users find difficulties in securing their computers from those threats. Even though a great number of security solutions have been provided, it does not seem that end-users are able to effectively utilize them to secure their computers.

     In this project, Sunyoung Kim and I aimed to generate ideas about how we could improve security systems so that they are more usable by end-users. To this end, we conducted 2 interview sessions ourselves, and analyzed 16 more transcripts (from interviews conducted by other colleagues) using grounded theory. In analyzing the data we found a profound disconnect between how students viewed their physical an virtual security, and discussed implications of this fact in the design of usable security systems.

The final report can be found here.

Non Participant Observation

       Over the course of 3 days, I spent several hours observing the use of technology on the Georgia Tech Campus.  Full descriptive notes and reflections can be found here.

Both of these projects were done in a class done by Dr. Rebecca Grinter.


Jigsaw, Visual Analytics Evaluation *

Technical Skills: Heuristic Evaluation, Redesign Planning, Think Aloud Study
Soft Skills: Teamwork, Strong Verbal Communication, Short and Long Term Planning

Currently overseeing the usability evaluation of JIGSAW, a visual Analytics tool that shows connections between entities in large report collections. Usability in of any system can be complex as professionals try to ensure that they are measuring the right variables. However, evaluation of visual analytic systems is especially challenging due to the difficulty in measuring insight i.e. how much of participant insight can be attributed to the use of JIGSAW?  But before users can make life changing  observations using the system, they need to be able to perform basic tasks. Therefore, in order to evaluate JIGSAW, we have developed a long term evaluation plan, testing usability first (ability of the system to support basic bottom up tasks) then moving on to observing users as they solve more analytical top down tasks.

JIGSAW will be presented by the Information Interfaces Lab at the annual InfoVis and VAST Conference in Sacramento California (Oct 28th - November 1st, 2007). Our approach to evaluating Jigsaw will be discussed along with other visual analytics software evaluation methods at a workshop at this conference. Our position paper can be found here.

3d Brain Computer Interfaces, Georgia Tech

Technical Skills: C++ Borland Builder 6, OpenGL, Application Testing in C++
Soft Skills: Teamwork, Strong Verbal Communication, Attention to Detail

Advisor: Dr. Melody Moore Jackson, Georgia Institute of Technology

Created 3D environments through which researchers could test the control of mouse cursors in 3D Space by patients with severe motor disabilities. Future work includes creating a framework for quickly building 3D Brain Computer Interface Test environments.

AJAX Effects on Programmer and User Experience, USC

Technical Skills: Online Surveys, Data Analysis
Soft Skills: Strong Written and Verbal Communication, Self Direction

Advisor: Dr. Michael Crowley, University of Southern California

Conducted a 4 month long study seeking to enumerate the basic characteristics of AJAX, to determine the positive and negative effects of AJAX use on the experience of the web programmer, web designer and end user and to draw conclusions on the potential of AJAX based on its benefits as judged by a subset of its developer and user community. Surveys on the GMAIL Web application were used in part to assess users’ response to features enabled by AJAX techniques while questionnaires on AJAX were given to web developers with varying proficiency with AJAX.

The final technical report can be viewed here.

Bistro, Internet Multimedia Laboratory, University of Southern California

Technical Skills: C++ Development
Soft Skills: Self Direction, Strong Written and Verbal Communication

Bistro seeks to develop scalable upload applications. I was engaged in running mathematical models against live network data in order to determine the best route for an uploaded document based on current and future predicted ratings of intermediate servers.

Kerena, Information Laboratory University of Southern California

Technical Skills: Website Design, Logo Design, Java Development
Soft Skills: Teamwork

Programmed a probability function in java to determine whether a file should be streamed or stored based on user preferences and resources; Designed and maintained erena Website, including official project logo, emphasizing information dissemination rather than visual appeal.

Web Projects

Viterbi Student Ambassador Management System

Technical Skills : PHP5, MYSQL
Soft Skills: Teamwork, Leadership, Strong Verbal Communication

Along with a fellow colleague, I built a web application called the Viterbi Student Ambassador Management System (VSAMS). It was the first online system created to reliably manage the everyday tasks of the engineering student ambassadors. The system featured secure login, built-in messaging that precluded the use of email, and a file submission program that managed content used in various publications. Three levels of user privileges were implemented, and finally, to manage participation in events, a sign up procedure was designed to allow regular users to submit available timeslots in their schedule and for admin users to create event flowcharts based on that information. Our team built VSAMS from the ground up using PHP5 and MySql. The site has vastly improved the running of our programs due to a reduced reliance on manual organization of information (for example, paper and emails) and is being expanded to coordinate events with other USC offices without the hassle of telephone calls.

Visual Design

Visual Design and Culture, Georgia Institute of Technology

TTechnical Skills: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Expression Graphic Designer
Soft Skills: Verbal Communication

This class examined two interrelated aspects of visual culture: visual experience/i> and visual communication. How do we understand and derive meaning from visual images? What are the basic elements of visual imagery and how can we use them to create images that convey meaning?  

Projects are currently posted posted here.
Final Project on Privacy Visualization is posted here.

Design Fundamentals, University of Southern California

TTechnical Skills: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Gouache Painting
Soft Skills: Verbal Communication

An introduction to the basic elements and processes of visual communications. The goal of this course was to provide students with a working understanding of perception relevant to the visual arts and the production of visual art products. Coursework explored design elements and vocabulary for critical purposes, through exercises that improve visual and manual dexterity. These exercises encompassed tone, color and properties of color, design elements (format, line, pattern, proportion, scale, shape, texture), interpretation of space (edge, perspective, dimension), and conceptualization. /p>

Project Descriptions Coming Soon....

Poster Design Design

Technical Skills: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator

Guyana Tourism Poster (presented in Class)
Caribbean Student's Association Club Poster  
Click Images above to Enlarge

* Projects Currently In Progress