James Acklin • UX Designer


Visual Design, UX Design, User Research, Human-Centered Design

Rhiza is a data analytics, visualization, and media research software platform, spun off from MAYA Design in 2006 and acquired by Nielsen in 2017. It seeks to make complex data operations and visualization techniques actionable for media salespeople and the research teams that support them. It also contains a powerful mapping component and exports to PowerPoint.

I’ve been at Rhiza (and now Nielsen) since late 2013, first as a front-end developer, and eventually moving into a UX research and design role. I’ve had a major hand in the design and implementation of several major features, so I’ll walk you through some of my day-to-day responsibilities and work at a high level. If you’d like to see a case study in greater detail, check out the Explorer Page project.

Collaborative Human-Centered Design Exercises

At Nielsen, I frequently conduct human-centered design exercises, intended to harness the team’s creativity and address human needs and interests. I tend to involve as many real users as early as possible in the process, eventually moving to the team where we can build interesting and tailor-made solutions for the exact users we serve.

The Importance-Difficulty Ranking Exercise seeks to rank issues along two axes: importance, or relative impact to a user population(s), and difficulty, or a measure of effort required to implement a solution or solve a problem. The issues are then divided by quadrant and prioritized accordingly. This particular exercise involved both product owners and developers as we worked to prioritize our UX issue and feature backlog.

Customer Journey Maps detail the arc of engagement a user (or potential user) has with a system. They attempt to show where users touch the system, what their thoughts and feelings are at certain crucial points, and the context surrounding that interaction. I conducted this exercise as we developed a clearer understanding of our users’ place and use of our tool throughout the advertising sales cycle.

Research, Prototyping, and Reviews

I document my approach to nearly every project as an initial presentation to stakeholders. Then, I conduct primary research and construct rough-and-ready prototypes of varying degrees of fidelity. I then test with as many real users (or proxies) as possible and adjust the prototypes as necessary. Lastly, I typically roll my approach for the project, the results of my tests, and my recommendations moving forward into a design review with as many parties as necessary.

Below is a working prototype (click to view) and a slide deck from a review for an first-use onboarding tour for our system.

Prototyping and Specification Diagramming

I prefer to involve developers as closely as possible in the prototyping phase of each project, such that the prototype becomes a design artifact in and of itself. However, I do generate lots of specifications along the way, diagramming interactions and the desired result.

Below are two examples of design artifacts: a video recording of a click-through prototype demonstrating the desired, typical use of an admin tool, and diagrams detailing how each widget should work.