Usability Super Heroes

Usability in Civic Life is run by volunteers – usability super heroes – working on short and long-term projects to bring usability and a better experience to the human and technological systems that make up our civic environment.


Whitney Quesenbery

Whitney works as a user experience researcher for organizations such as the National Cancer Institute, IEEE and the Open University.  She served on the EAC Technical Guidelines Development Committee, developing the VVSG 2005 and Version 1.1. She is a co-author of the Brennan Center Better Ballots report, and has worked on usability and design projects in Minnesota (absentee ballot instructions), New York (error messages), and training and ballot testing in several states. She also served on the Access Board’s advisory committee to refresh the “Section 508” accessibility regulations, as President of the Usability Professionals Association and on the board of the Center for Plain Language. She is the author of two books, Storytelling for User Experience and Global UX: Design and research in a connected world.

Dana Chisnell

Dana E. Chisnell has trained thousands of election officials to test the design of their ballots. She also conducted a 2-year, in-depth study looking at ballot instructions, where, along with Dr. Janice C. Redish, they established best practices for the use of plain language in ballots. San Francisco’s former mayor Gavin Newsom appointed her to the country’s only body chartered with writing clear, objective, and unbiased summaries of ballot measures to be included in Voter Information Pamphlets for each city-county election. In 2007, the AIGA sought Dana’s expertise on the research methods behind their ground-breaking Design for Democracy project. She recently ran a 2-city study of ranked choice ballot design usability. She blogs on election topics at

Josephine Scott

Josie is a User Experience Design Lead at GE Capital. Her passion for user experience and universal access was incubated as she served for nearly 15 years as a Michigan election specialist. She has served as a user experience designer, researcher and architect for a wide variety of companies, including TechSmith, Compuware, Ford Motor, and She joined the Usability Professionals’ Association’s Voting and Usability Project in 2003 to continue voter advocacy through workshops, draft standards, design efforts, advocacy, testing and training.

Sarah Swierenga

Sarah J. Swierenga, Ph.D., C.P.E. is the Director of Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting (UARC) at Michigan State University. A researcher and a practitioner with over 25 years of experience in the scientific study of users in commercial, military, and academic environments, she possesses extensive skills in user interface design, data collection tools, and methodologies including usability tests, accessibility compliance evaluations, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and expert evaluations. She also co-authored Constructing Accessible Web Sites, and wrote a chapter for The User-Centered Design Casebook. She has presented widely on accessible website design, usability techniques, health communication technology, and voting ballot design, which comprise her research programs. She served as an alternate member of the U.S. Access Board 508/255 refresh committee.

Super Hero Volunteers

Usability in Civic Life runs on the energy and skills of the usability and user experience professionals who volunteer for our projects. Sign up to be a super hero, and we’ll let you know when the next project will take place.

Lynn Baumeister, Rick Bond, Dana Botka, Sara Cambridge, David Cary, Frank Castro, Josh Carroll, Fred Conrad, Drew Davies, Mike Elledge, Gretchen Enger, Chris Fahey, Jessica Freidman, Nancy Frishberg,  Josephine Giamo, Chelsey Glasson, Rachel Goddard, Cyd Harrell, Whitney Hess, Caroline Jarrett, Marion Joss,  Laurie Kantner, Jonathan Knoll, Beth Lingard,  Michele Marut, Christina Melton, Yelena Nakhimvosky, Ethan Newby, Sandy Olson, Laura Paajanen, Greg Palmer, Daviee Patel, Beth Pickard, Mary Quandt, Ginny Redish, David Rosen, Aaron Schwartz, Rebecca Sherrill, Kyle Soucy, Jared Spool, Bill Swallow, Sarah Swierenga, Angelos Tselepis, Wendy Voelker


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