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Do you want to make your readers passionate about your products? Do you want your users to move from novice to expert as quickly as possible?

FAST Consulting has experience with both software design and site design. We've worked the range from extremely complex telecommunications software to very simple, elegant websites. We're experts not just in usability but also in process management, risk management, non-profit management, and education.

Who we are

Susan Fowler and Victor Stanwick have been in business as FAST Writing and FAST Consulting since 1987. We have designed desktop and web applications, done usability testing, trained people online and in person, and written online help systems and books. We have expertise in non-profits, education, mortgages, pharmaceuticals, Wall Street and financial organizations, publishing, and database-driven projects in general. For more, see About Us.

Are you a non-profit?

Are you a non-profit, community, local government, or non-governmental organization (NGO)? Click here for information about resources for non-profits.

Website Design

Original version of Tug Pegasus Preservation Project
From one version to the other....
New version of the Tug Pegasus Preservation Project website
Original version of the Tug Pegasus Preservation Project website   New version of the Tug Pegasus Preservation Project website

FAST Consulting can help you solve marketing and technical problems, advise you on better overall approaches, and create a whole new website for you. But we're not just website designers. We also look at the usability and overall user experience of your site. Call for a free half-hour consultation: 718 720-1169.

Home page design

3 mockups of possible home-page styles, based on your current logo and colors.

For the site as a whole, FAST Consulting will also provide:

  1. Use of Unicode character sets so that the text is shown correctly no matter which language the reader uses.
  2. A CSS (cascading style sheet) with proportional fonts and tables so that the text and pages resize and print correctly and so that text formats can be changed easily.
  3. Use of design strategies that make the site accessible to a wide variety of people.
For more information about FAST Consulting’s design process, see

Additional page designs

Included are:

  1. An easily updated and automatically generated calendar for the Events page.
  2. Edited and correctly formatted text.
$100 per page

Navigation strategies

Navigation includes top, left-hand, and/or bottom menus; whether or not a search option is included; and optimization for people using screen-readers (for example, “skip to the content” links).

Search engine optimization


  1. Keywords, distinct page titles.
  2. Site map.
  3. Registration with Google, MSN, and Yahoo search engines.
$125 an hour

Domain registration, e-mail set-up, response-form set-up

Usually no more than 1 hour’s work.
$125 an hour

Shopping-cart set-up

Price depends on your ISP and what they offer for e-commerce.
$125 an hour

Consulting and training for site administration

FAST Consulting can train your staff to manage and maintain your site. See Training below.

If necessary, FAST Consulting will also help you review reader hits and decide on strategies for raising click rates.
$125 an hour

Flash or other animated graphics

Simple animations (a ticker-tape like crawl, a phrase or picture) can be used to point readers to news pages or inform them of a particular newsworthy event. Such animations will be designed to cycle through no more than 3 times when the page is accessed, and then stop.

See Amusements for two examples of simple animations. The first, the Penrose triangle, is an animated GIF and the second, the haiku, is a Flash animation

Complex “story” animations must be bid on separately. See the Virtual Book Party in Amusements for a complex animation.
$200 per simple animation

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Application Design

Designing applications requires a team with various skills and team-role types, working together toward a particular goal. The key to a good design is maintaining open minds in the beginning phases, then getting practical in the finishing phases.

FAST Consulting can help you through all phases or whichever phases you want, from picking the right team to ensuring you’re solving the right problem, from interviewing customers and lead users to testing paper prototypes, from a one-off solution to an ongoing user-centered design process.

Our rate for short-term projects (two to five days) is $125 an hour. Call for rates for long-term projects.

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WUD 2007 workshop on web application design
Attendees at the World Usability Day 2007 workshop in Moscow, on sticky problems in web application design. Some of the attendees are (not in order) Nataly Manuylova, Nikita Gindes, Alexander Uhov, Andrey Melnik, Alexei Boronnikov, Evgeny Ershov, Dimtry Samorodkin, Mike Fomin, Alexander Tanaev, Natalia Kotousova, Yulia Repetuk, and Victor Stanwick (back row) and Susan Fowler, seated.

We can train your employees or you can send your employees to one of our general-admission sessions. Call for prices and schedules: 718 720-1169.

If you’re part of a non-profit, usability, IT, or design organization and would like us to speak or give a seminar, please call us and we’ll arrange something: 718 720-1169.

Here are some of our workshops:

How to Maintain Your Website

We can show you in a structured workshop or on an hourly basis how to update your web pages yourself:

  • We can train you to use limited but easy-to-use programs like Contribute or high-end, professional products like Dreamweaver or GoLive, depending on your comfort level.
  • We can set up the programs you need to upload your files to your host computers.
  • Even if you don’t want to change your typefaces, menus, and search engine optimization strategies, it helps to know what to look for. We can cover cascading style sheets; keywords and search-engine optimization; accessibility options; and navigation strategies.
  • To reduce fear, we will show you how to “break” your site and then how to fix it. We’ll even provide some troubleshooting cheat sheets.

Price: For a workshop at your location for 4 to 15 people, $5,000 plus travel costs. On an hourly basis, $125/hour.

How to Set up and Run Moderated Usability Tests

A practical one-day introduction to moderated usability testing and some of the tools you can use. Your team will be able to do competent usability tests by the end of the day.

  • Preparation: Deciding what to test for. Developing the test script, scenarios, note-taking forms, and pre- and post-test questionnaires.
  • Running the test: Differences between testing in the lab vs. in the field, using paper prototypes vs. realistic mockups. Types of tests. Use of video and Morae vs. sound and Camtasia. Other automated tools.
  • Analyzing the results: What to put in the report. Making the right impact.

Price: At your location for 4 to 15 people, $5,000 plus travel costs.

How to Design Applications

For design teams ready to take a first or second step toward development maturity. This one-day overview lets your team experiment with new ways of working together and finding good solutions to sticky design problems. Follow-up consulting and facilitating is available.

  • Team roles and team building.
  • Picking the right problem: Lead users; personas; brainstorming; predicting the future.
  • Picking the right solution: Taking advantage of standards. Expected and unexpected input and output methods. Search, faceted search, browsing, and filtering.

Price: At your location for 4 to 15 people, $5,000 plus travel costs.

How to Run an Heuristic Evaluation

In 2003, researchers at Stanford University tested various factors to find out what made people feel a site is credible. They found that people thought a site was credible if:

  1. It looks professionally designed
  2. It is arranged in a way that makes sense
  3. The site does not take a long time to download
  4. The site is easy to navigate

Factors 2 and 4--how it feels as opposed to how it looks--are directly related to how usable the site is.

How can you make sure your site is usable without investing too early in a usability study or expert evalution? One answer is the "heuristic evaluation," which you can learn to do yourself quickly. This presentation will provide you both with the usability guidelines and practice applying them.

Price: Public session. Call for prices.

How to Predict the Future

Every culture on earth has developed a way to foretell the future:

  • I Ching
  • Tarot cards
  • Astrology
  • Tea-leaf reading….

These methods may have psychological and social validity. After all, you can ‘predict’ a child’s success in the classroom by telling her teacher that she’s one of the bright ones, as education researchers did 20 years ago. When teachers were told that certain children would do well, even though they were chosen at random, those children did do well.

Fortune-telling methods, as well as meditation and prayer, also give you a framework for thinking about a problem instead of worrying it to death. By moving outside the problem and getting perspective on it, you can sometimes see a solution. By creating a new path for yourself, in other words, you can predict your own future.

However, fortunetelling of this sort is not the topic of this talk. Instead, you will hear about three methods for predicting the near future—between one and ten years:

  • Delphi polls, which rely on experts making multiple passes through the same questionnaire
  • Futures exchanges, in which regular people make predictions, often with better results than the experts
  • Lead-user research, in which designers look for products in advance of the market

Invite us to give this talk if your company or organization is looking for a way to make changes or just to shake things up a bit.

Price: Public session. Call for prices.

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Expert Evaluations

FAST Consulting evaluates your application or website against the four “I am’s”:

I know where I am.

  • The system provides clear answers to “where am I?” and “where does this go?”
  • People know what section they’re in.
  • Each page is clearly branded.

I know what I’m doing.

  • The system supports the person’s work flow.
  • Help is right on the page or easily found.
  • The words on the page are familiar.
  • General information appears early, details later.

I am in control.

  • It’s easy for people to change their minds. Mistakes are easy to fix.
  • The system doesn’t make people do the things it can do better.
  • The system doesn’t ask for personal information without clear justification.
  • People with eyesight and movement problems can use the system easily.

I’m impressed.

  • The system is attractive, interesting, and professionally designed.
  • The system uses white space well. Text isn’t jammed into every square inch.
  • Interactive tools help people understand and manipulate information easily, but without unnecessary animation and imagery.

After reviewing your website or application and talking with your design team, we will produce a report or presentation on the various issues we uncover, listed in priority and severity order. The report will recommend ways to address the issues discovered and estimate the levels of risk associated with fixing or not fixing the problems. We’ll also let you know what works well and shouldn’t be changed.

Analyses usually take 40 hours, but we’ll work out a price with you based on the scope of the job. Our day rate is $1,000 or $125/hour.

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Usability Testing & Test Design

FAST Consulting does both moderated and unmoderated remote testing.

  • Moderated testing techniques include in-lab studies and studies using online conferencing software with a moderator. Is the goal to address problems and reduce risk before the product is released? To improve the product, small, ongoing tests are good.
  • Unmoderated testing involves web-based studies using online tools and no moderator. Is the goal to assess quality? For benchmarking and comparisons, the high participant numbers of unmoderated testing are good.

Moderated Testing

FAST Consulting can do all or a subset of the moderated testing tasks below, depending on your needs. For example:

  • If you just need an outside facilitator to run a session, we can do that.
  • If you’re not sure whether the test script is correct, we can analyze it and help you correct any errors.
  • If you’re new to usability testing, we can do it all and then train you how to do the testing yourself the next time.

Why learn how to do it yourself? Because the best time to do usability testing is always—you can and should do it at every point in the design process. Unless you want us living in your office with you, you can learn how to do it yourself and only call us in for tricky situations.

Review the project to be tested: Read all existing materials, look at earlier reports, and interview key members of the design team.

1 day

Develop a set of scenarios and questionnaires to be used during the test.

1 day

Look at the test lab or testing set-up and review the test documents and scenarios.

1/2 day

Run the tests, making any necessary adjustments to the test scenarios or documents at the end of each day.

Estimated at 4-6 test participants per day.

2-5 days

Provide a preliminary report on the results, including interpretation, analysis and recommendations, to the client. This report may include video clips if available.

2 days

Deliver a final report and provide the client with hardcopies.

1/2 day

Day rate: $1,000 or $125/hour.

Unmoderated Remote Testing

FAST Consulting can work with Keynote Systems or UserZoom to set up unmoderated remote tests for your firm. Costs depend on the type of license your company wants and the number of participants you want to invite to the study.

FAST Consulting can design the study with you, set up the test script, test it with the help of Keynote or UserZoom technicians, and analyze the results for you when the test ends.

We can also use smaller online tools—card-sorting, heat-maps, etc.—to address particular questions.

Since the cost of a remote test is generally 20 to 50 percent higher than an in-lab test with a dozen or so participants, remote tests are better for high-risk, high-value websites and marketing strategies.

Click here for a PowerPoint presentation about the differences between remote and in-lab usability testing.

Call us at 718 720-1169 or write us susan @ for more information.

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