Debra is a user experience researcher with 6 years of experience, including a special focus on remote user research methods. She has always geeked out over technology but been equally fascinated by people's behavior, which is why for her B.S. she double-majored in Computer Science and Psychology. After several formative internships at places like IBM, Wells Fargo, and TechSmith, she realized she was far more interested in designing and improving user experiences than in being a code monkey, which is what led her to getting her Masters in HCI and Social Computing from the University of Michigan.
At Michigan, Debra got involved with the local UX community and was instrumental in making their HCI student organization, SOCHI, into the most active student chapter in the country. Her other accomplishments include being part of the team that won 1st place in the CHI 2009 Student Design competition, and consulting on several projects for CouchSurfing.org.
Debra sees her strength in user research as being able to balance big-picture thinking with coming up with practical solutions that fit into the user's environment and lifestyle. She believes good design is all about constraints.
A lifelong Midwesterner, Debra nonetheless is eager to escape the snow and cold of Michigan for the fog and rain of San Francisco. Debra's hobbies include cooking delicious vegetarian dinners for the 20 members of her housing co-operative, practicing yoga, and using her 6 foot 3 frame to intimidate the opposing teams in her volleyball league into thinking that she can actually spike.
On Intelligence, by Jeff Hawkins
I've always been into cognitive psychology, and when I discovered this book, I couldn't put it down. Jeff Hawkins, the inventor of the PalmPilot, is a great writer and he explains in very clear and engaging terms his theory of the neocortex: that human cognition is realized using the same algorithm throughout the entire cortex, and that the crux of intelligence is our ability to make predictions about the future. It still blows my mind every time I think about the fact that the sum of each of our entire individual experiences, thoughts, and memories is stored in something as paper-thin as the neocortex.
Observing the User Experience, by Mike Kuniavsky
This book was invaluable to me the summer I was nearly-singlehandedly planning and conducting the large-scale user testing for CouchSurfing. Each chapter covers a different user research method, and does so in a practical, straight-forward way with many examples and suggestions. I followed his guidelines for how to recruit and schedule users, conduct interviews, and do the analysis 'by the book', and our user test was very successful as a result. Even now, this continues to be a great handbook, as I use it often as a reference when doing work for various projects.
Universal Principles of Design, by William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, and Jill Butler
I love this book because it's such a concise, well-designed guide to the principles from cognitive psychology and human behavior that can be used to guide design. Each of the concepts covered in this book is explained on one page including the references to the research it is based off of, with the facing page containing images of examples of that principle. The straightforward writing style and great examples are precisely what makes this book so useful.
Jared Spool's UIE BrainSparks blog - I got my idea for doing an inherent value test from this blog. Great podcasts too.
Information Aesthetics - Endless inspiration on ways to visualize and analyze data.
Signal vs. Noise - I like their design philosophy, and tune in for their posts on how they made design decisions and their finds of great designs from around the web. Also, Backpack rocks.
Adaptive Path - like SvN, they are a small company with a big impact, as their posts on user experience are always relevant and thought-provoking.
Bits - NY Times Technology blog - This is how I stay up to date on what's going on in the tech industry. I love to read their articles from my iPhone's RSS reader app whenever I have a few minutes of downtime.
dlauterbach at gmail dot com