Interface Design

  • Skills
  • Publications
  • Experience
  • PDF Resumé
  • When people ask what I do, I usually spare them the term "Interaction Designer." Instead, what I say is that I'm like an architect for a web site - I decide what the types of pages are, how you move around among them, and how they work. I produce the blueprint, or specification, and then hand it over to programmers to actually build. Then again, I've been known to get my hands dirty in the coding and graphic design, too.

    Below you'll find the various skills that go into user interface design, and below that you'll find publications and a detailed resume. You can also download a printable resume.


    User Interface Design (Conceptual)
    A conceptual design implements high-level requirements and typically consists of detailed sketches of key screens, templates of each screen type for an application, and a navigational map of a user interface. I produce these items as well as a conceptual prototype that allows for usability testing to validate the concept and also serves as a tool to communicate the design to management.
    User Interface Design (Detailed)
    Developers should be able to code directly from specifications without having to make assumptions or continually ask questions. I produce detailed specifications that provide developers with all the information they need to create screens. Typically, specifications include a graphic component for screen layout and a data component for field contents, interaction notes, and error messages.
    Front-end Development
    Sketches and wireframes are great tools to think through the design. When it comes to testing interaction or demonstrating a product design, though, prototypes are the way to go. I use HTML, CSS, XSLT, PHP, and Javascript to produce prototypes and then to implement the production version.
    User Analysis
    Project teams usually begin projects with a set of assumptions about their customers, some true and some not. I choose the user analysis technique that best answers the questions the project team has. Using methods from Contextual Inquiry to interviews, cognitive walkthroughs, and card sorting, I clearly describe users, their work, and their mental models. I also turn that information into requirements and conceptual user interface designs.
    Graphic Design
    After establishing the feature set and interaction design for an application, it is time to establish its graphic design. I provide logos, color schemes, font choices, icons, and illustrations to make sure the final product is both attractive and clear.
    Project Management
    Usability activities must fit into an overall project in terms of schedule, scope, and budget. I secure stakeholder buy-in and produce schedule and cost estimates for the most appropriate activities. I also make appropriate trade-offs when needed to achieve the project goals and track activities and hours to ensure that the project stays on track.
    Usability Testing
    The best way to ensure an interface's usability is by observing customers while they use it. I coordinate the logistics of usability tests, write test scripts, facilitate or observe during the test itself, analyze the results, and present recommendations.
    Expert Usability Review
    Heuristic reviews, or expert usability reviews, of a user interface are a quick and cost-effective way uncover usability issues. I inspect a user interface and note where it deviates from usability best practices. I also assign a severity to each observation to assist with analysis and prioritization.
    Product Team Facilitation
    At the beginning of a project, the entire team must be clear about a variety of usability issues: user groups, usability goals, business goals, business model, etc. The team must also be clear about management issues: scope, schedule, budget, roles, responsibility and accountability, etc. I lead team workshops to document these issues and better align business goals, IT goals, and user goals.
    User interface design and usability techniques, while common sense, are not always obvious. I provide workshops and training sessions at which participants learn these techniques and apply to them their workplace projects.
    Technical Writing
    I write clear, concise instructions, user messages, and training materials.


    Academic Manuscript Submission: A Case Study in Interaction Design
    McDaniel, S. (2007) Academic Manuscript Submission: A Case Study in Interaction Design. User-Centered Design Stories: Real-World UCD Case Studies. Morgan Kaufmann. 289-316. Available at Amazon
    Planning Usability Tests for Maximum Impact
    McDaniel, S and Snyder, L. (2004) Planning Usability Tests for Maximum Impact. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Society for Technical Communication. 345-349.
    Designing Search Pages
    McDaniel, S. (2004) Designing Search Pages. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Society for Technical Communication. 296-300.
    Selling Usability: Scope and Schedule Estimates
    McDaniel, S. (2003) Selling Usability: Scope and Schedule Estimates. Intercom, 50:12, 22-25.
    Uncovering True Motivations: The Whys and Wherefores
    McDaniel, S. (2003) Uncovering True Motivations: The Whys and Wherefores. Usability Interface, 10:2.
    What's Your Idea of a Mental Model?
    McDaniel, S. (2003) What's Your Idea of a Mental Model? Boxes and Arrows.
    The Big Dig: Mining Nuggets of Value
    McDaniel, S. and McDaniel, M. (2002) The Big Dig: Mining Nuggets of Value. User Experience, 1:2, 20-29.
    Surrogate Tests: When You Can't Get to Your Users
    McDaniel, S. (1999) Surrogate Tests: When You Can't Get To Your Users. Usability Interface, 6:1.
    A Heuristic Evaluation of the Usability of Infants
    McDaniel, S. (1999) A Heuristic Evaluation of the Usability of Infants. Intercom, 46:9, 44.


    Work History

    Kelly & Associates Insurance Group (via Vision Technologies)
    Web Developer
    2013 - Present
    I design and implement web applications for client companies' HR departments and individual employees. Technologies include ASP.NET, HTML, CSS with LESS, JavaScript and jQuery, and Subversion, and part of the process includes establishing code and design standards. Aside from development, the work also includes team facilitation, requirements gathering, and design.
    Design For Context
    User Experience Strategist
    2012 - 2013
    Designed web applications with specialized search interfaces for clients. Specific techniques include data visualization, results summaries, controlled vocabularies, and specialized tagging and results management interfaces. I also work with Drupal site-building and theming to maintain internal resources for Design for Context.
    Genetic Alliance
    Director of Web Projects
    2011 - 2012
    Managed and coded over 10 web properties for a health non-profit, many of them Drupal installations. I introduced the concepts of semantic markup and CSS, mentoring junior developers in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Drupal. Also, I introduced wireframing and pattern libraries to the organization..
    Network Designers, Inc.
    Senior Interaction Designer
    Managed web projects for the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Communications. I performed user analysis, testing, and requirements definition in an Agile setting. Projects included a social networking web site for FAA managers and FAA's strategy for mobile devices.
    NCBI / Lockheed Martin
    Interaction Designer
    2004 - 2010
    Designed and developed applications in XSLT, XHTML, and CSS to query several databases and present patients with a range of medical resources. Also, I designed user interfaces for PubMed, Map Viewer, and other web applications for scientists, librarians, and physicians. The National Center for Biotechnology Information is part of the National Library of Medicine.
    Cognetics Corporation
    Senior Interaction Designer
    2000 - 2004
    Provided user-centered design services to clients. Typical duties included user and task analysis, conceptual and detailed interaction design, usability testing, product specifications, and project management. Clients included Reed-Elsevier, ADP, IRS, Freddie Mac, and the Library of Congress.
    Technical Writer
    1998 - 2000
    Managed documentation projects and produced print and online documentation, incorporating usability and user-centered design into SAIC's products. Our primary client was the Environmental Protection Agency, whom we provided with a Lotus Notes system allowing the submission and processing of grant applications.
    MIL 3, Inc. (now OPNET Technologies)
    Technical Writer
    1996 - 1998
    Managed documentation projects and developed print and online tutorials, manuals, and other documentation. MIL 3 produces OPNET, a network simulator, and I documented not only the simulator's user interface, but also its API and network protocol reference material. In addition to writing duties, I also administered the MIL 3 web site for one year.
    Garcia Consulting, Inc.
    Technical Writer
    1994 - 1996
    Managed documentation projects, wrote online and print documentation, and designed user interfaces. Our primary client was the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, and I worked primarily on patent search and retrieval systems.


    • HTML5, CSS3 (Sass and LESS)
    • JavaScript, PHP, XSLT, .NET
    • Drupal, Wordpress
    • Eclipse, Subversion, Adobe Creative Suite, Visio, Omnigraffle


    • BS in Psychology, James Madison University
    • MA in Experimental Psychology, University of Rochester

    Associations & Activities

    Usability Professionals Association (UPA)
    Served as Vice-President of the Washington DC chapter
    Society for Technical Communication (STC)
    Founded the STC Washington D.C. Chapter's Special Interest Group for Usability