User Experience Goodness Included!

Ethan Winters - UX Web Developer

What the hell is
a UX Web Developer?

Long Version
Short Version

Good Question. Lets Talk History.

In the beginning of the internet there were webmasters and it was not so good. Having the same person design and program was stupid, so web designers and web developers were created to split up the job. Most of the original web designers were print designers and everyone quickly saw that designing something you can click on and manipulate was different than designing for something in a magazine. So web designers were split up into pure graphic designers and a new job called interaction designers. Interaction designers knew about cognitive psychology and mental models and how to make things easy to use.

At the same time the business guys were re-discovering the idea of design as a competitive advantage, so interaction designers were further broken down into user experience (UX) designers. User experience designers took into account how easy things were to use, but also tried to figure out how to make it fun.

"Watch out Apple!", the project manager says. The design team hands off pictures of all the screen of the design with detailed notes about what does what...and then it all falls apart. See, the development team is worried about efficient database queries, clean reusable code, keeping hackers out and all the wizardry that goes into the tech side of things. They are absolutely trying to follow the designs, but they don't understand the nuances of interaction design and UX, and if making computer software fun is about one thing, its about the details.

This is where the UX Web Developer comes in. The UX Web Developer acts as an advocate for maintaining great designs from within the development team. They can speak design, psychology and code. They are probably the most remarkable people on the planet. They are a very important part of a successful web team.

The Glue that Holds it Together.

The UX Web Developer is the person that acts as the design watch dog within the developer team. The UX Developer is a fellow coder but also has a background in design and psychology. The UX Developer makes sure that the designs the developer team was given stay attractive, easy to use, and fun while taking lead on some of the designs that aren't included in page mockups (like HOW something moves on the page, not just that it moves).

So. This Ethan Winters.
What is his deal?

Long Version
Short Version

An Even Better Question.

Ethan Winters shoots lightning bolts out of his arse, bleeds freedom and sweats courage. He grew up in the seat of freedom, Massachusetts, and is a huge fan of the Boston Bruins, who also sweat courage, and the Boston Red Sox, who are more likely to sweat beer and chicken grease.

When he was in high school, he took programming classes at the local community college. By the time he found himself in Southern California for his undergraduate experience in Claremont, he had decided that computer science wasn't a major that would get him the ladies and he switched his focus on psychology, which later on proved to be knowledge that was great to have under his belt as a programmer.

Upon graduation he began work at a small law firm in LA that was just about to take off. The firm specialized in helping people with money in their checking account to raise credit scores. You would be surprised how many Hollywood celebrities have bad credit. This was in 2005 and 2006 so the mortgage bubble was in full swing. The firm decided the best move was to package sell their business model as a "Business-in-a-Box" offering. Ethan, the firm's principal and a couple other decision makers worked with a developer to credit a software package that could automate the credit business and started selling.

Business was brisk and Ethan was trying to figure out how to bundle some of his responsibilities to hand off to new employees. Getting on the phone with new "Business-in-a-Box" clients and showing them a variety of website templates and making custom edits was time consuming. So Ethan dusted off the old programming books and picked up PHP and re-learned Javascript to create a custom content management system that allowed for one click installs of websites with all the client's related info baked in and abilities for clients to pick a template with one click and to make edits to the website copy. The content management system is still in use today by hundreds of sites.

Software demonstrations and customer support was particularly mind-blowing for Ethan. Freshman year of college mind-blowing. Things in the software that seemed obvious to him were not to people looking at it with fresh eyes. And a lot of these people were smart people and young savvy computer users. Ethan made up a survey for current users of the software and conducted a few shotgun usability tests and came up with a list of recommendations that the firm implemented.

By this time the mortgage industry was beginning to stink and Ethan thought it wise to spread out his risk a bit and started working for the company part-time while freelancing. Ethan spent the next few years freelancing and honing his developing skills using primarily jQuery and PHP while always maintaining a deep interest in usability, persuasive design and user experience through publications like Marketing Sherpa and books by people like Krug, Norman, and Fogg. He developed numerous websites and web apps during this time. In his personal life, he bounced around from Santa Monica to the hipsters in Echo Park and then all the way back east to Brooklyn. He spent a couple months in Spain were he met his current girlfriend, Lindsay, a Syracuse alum and graphic and interaction designer from Westchester County that loves Peggy Olson.

By the time 2010 rolled around Ethan found himself in Austin, TX and by the end of that year had partnered with a graphic designer (and old college roommate) named Tom Williamson to form a boutique agency called Earthwork Media. Earthwork Media creates websites and web apps focused on usability and user experience. Earthwork Media doesn't just hand off an attractive design, but efficient and compelling experiences. Earthwork Media backs up theories on how to do this with user testing throughout our design process and leave you with a highly polished brand and fantastic website that will be effective and last.

In mid-2012, Ethan joined the Advisory Board Company (ABC) as a Frontend Engineer. ABC is a publically traded DC consulting firm that specializes in medicine and education administration. The Austin office focuses on a suite of software products to help doctors provided better care while saving both you and the hospital money. Its pretty cool.

An Even Better Question.

Born and raised north of Boston, Ethan loves food, microbrews and sports. In his education (in Claremont, CA) and professional (in LA, NYC & Austin) career he has gone from programming to psychology to design and back again, leaving him as a well rounded person to have in your web development team. He works with HTML 5, CSS 3, jQuery, good old fashioned handwritten javascript, and PHP. He can work his way through an existing Ruby or Python script, but hasn't written anything production quality in them. Textmate Sublime Text 2 is his dev tool of choice and he keeps links to GitHub, JSFiddle, and Compass in his bookmark bar. He knows his way around Photoshop, but Illustrator is his archenemy.

His personal experience and books on his bookshelf from people like Krug, Norman, and Fogg have taught him the importance of, first, making extremely easy to use software and, hopefully, making software fun.

He lives in Austin, TX with his lovely girlfriend, Lindsay, a Yankee loving New Yorker. Ethan forgives her that sin.

Ethan Sounds Awesome.
How Do I Hire Him?

See, the thing can't.

As of mid-2012, Ethan left the wonderful world of running his own business to join The Advisory Board Company (ABC). ABC is a ridonkulously fast growing consulting firm out of DC specializing in medicine and education. Their Austin office is dedicated to software technologies to help doctors provide better care to patients while watching the bottom line (both for you and for them). Its a pretty cool gig.

If you just can't help yourself, feel free to send Ethan a tweet to @ethanwinters.