I'm Joel Crawford-Smith. I have played multiple roles in his career including Front-end Developer, User Experience Designer, and Drupal Developer. My past experience both UX and development helps bring a "big picture" point of view.
As a relentless web accessibility fanatic, I strive to spread word about how to improve web accessibility by giving educational talks about WCAG fundamentals to staff and students at Duke University, as well as other organizations like TriUXPA, TISQA, in the greater Raleigh, NC area.
My hobbies include travel, photography, and searching out the dankest cat memes on earth.
I'm a Front-End Developer
I love the challenge of blending responsive web design with accessibility. My formal training in user-centered design allows me to code sites that work equally well on desktops as they do on touch devices. Throughout my career I have stayed on top of all the latest advances in front-end development to stay on top of my game and deliver quality scaleable code.
I have been developing/designing with CSS since it became mainstream. As CSS3 came to reality I was an early adopter and wrote many JS poly-fills for IE. Now that CSS Preprocessors have came into the mainstream I have used them to increase my productivity. I evolve. I have went from Gaurd to Grunt to Gulp (Thanks Will McCreary).
Working with many government clients over the years, I have developed deep experience in Accessibility 508/WCAG compliance. I also love that tedious stuff. I am always checking the contrast ratio of text, WAVE Web Accessibility Tool, and text equivalents when necessary. A website created with accessibility in mind will always be easier to view and use on touch devices. Principles like contrast ratios and larger touch targets go hand in hand.
When all these skills combine, they create high-fidelity prototypes that are fully functional static websites that the client can click through to see all the different page types. My high-fidelity prototypes are scalable and are ready for back-end developers to build on. I have experience making prototypes that get implemented in CommonSpot, Ektron, and Drupal. Although, for Drupal it is usually more efficient to go straight from comps to theming and skip the traditional HTML/CSS prototype phase.
I'm a User Experience Designer
Simply put, a user experience designers most basic job is to minimize Interaction Cost. Interaction cost is the sum of efforts — mental and physical — that the users must deploy in interacting with a site in order to reach their goals.
As part of my initial meeting with the client I have a Creative Session. This requires and open mind and listening skills. This is how you learn the clients branding requirements, frustrations with the current site, and hopes and dreams for the new site. This helps discover general required features and page types. During this initial meeting I show them other sites and get their reactions.
I compile the results of this meeting (and sometimes surveys) into a comprehensive Creative Brief. All my creative briefs include results form the meeting, wireframes, review of Google Analytics data, and create user-personas. The amount of detail depends on each client situation. From this document I can sum up vague ideas of what the client envisions the into concrete digestible document. These documents can be sent the design to any designer and they will have all the background necessary to make comps.
Wire-frames & Low-Fidelity Prototypes
Solid tested wire-frames are the foundation of good design. I put wire-framing in two categories: interactive wire-frames and non-interactive wire-frames. For non-interactive low-fidelity wireframes, I have used paper and pencil, Balsomic, or Adobe Illustrator. For fully interactive low-fidelity wireframes, I use straight HTML5/CSS3, Axure, or UXPin. Usually these wire-frames will also include a wire-frame for narrow viewports (mobile devices).
Understanding the concepts and the trends in design is key in delivering relevant designs. Each new wave of design is a reaction to the previous status quo. Seeing and understanding why the trends occur is critical to make forward thinking design. In the last 3 years, we have seen the evolution of skeuomorphism to flat design (most obvious example is the Apple's change from iOS 6 to iOS 7). My Certified Usability Analyst training allows me to analyze the effect of these new trends as it relates to usability.
Responsive Web Design
Mobile-First helps UX/UI professional and clients focus on core content and functionality. Its important to understand that we live in a world of evolving touch devices, like phablets and laptop tablets combos. Making mobile-first sites you are future proofing you site against the next wave of devices. A side benefit of making good mobile first designs also helps with creating accessible designs.
I'm a Drupal Cult Member
During the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to work in-depth with many content management systems. These include CommonSpot, DotNetNuke, SharePoint, and Convio spanning multiple programming languages and environments.
Drupal Theming & Front-end Developer
I can take any PhotoShop document or wireframe and turn it into a fully responsive website. I start with a basic theme like Omega 4 or Zen and create a proper sub-theme following Drupal best practices. I have a solid experience in all the critial Drupal fundamentals of modifying Drupal Theme hooks to display data, editing tpl files, how to utilize PHP to filter, process and output html, json, xml, and all that stuff.
Design & User Experience in Drupal
Having a background hybrid background in both development and Usability (Certified Usability Analyst) I can make practical UI/UX decisions that benefit both the end-user, the developer, and the client. For example, after gathering requirements from a client I can compare the features of an existing module against the features needed for a client. If they match it can be wire-framed to match the existing modules design pattern, saving both time and money for everyone.