About Cia Romano, founder

Curriculum vitae | Clients | Selected projects funded by science grants | Career

Cia Romano at Interface Guru

Cia Romano

Cia Romano is a pioneering investigator of user behavior and interaction with digital products; she has over 20 years of professional experience with Internet technologies and teams. Her core skills include facilitation, audience research, business strategy, usability testing and human factors analysis, science communication, and evaluation studies.

Personal statement: “I am, and have long been, on a mission to democratize the use and creation of digital products, to create an equitable arena in which all can be heard. To liberate people from the tyranny of obtuse interactions with the digital world.

“As the boundary line between digital products and the physical world begins to blur, fundamental questions about the purpose, scope, and ethical use of those products become even more challenging. Society cannot ignore these concerns, except at its peril. How did we arrive at this juncture? Will business, industry, and academia take a stand for ethical practices? Will we, the users and creators of digital technologies, demand our rights? In a better world, the market would meet its constituents in an honest exchange.

“The goal of user-centrism, a form of social justice, seemed achievable even if it already looked like a hard sell.”

“Interface Guru was founded in December 1999 with the goal of bringing more valuable user experiences to the planning and design of digital projects. At the time, increasing the focus on users – on people’s real needs – seemed possible. After five years as an Internet professional, I realized that wayfinding structure and content design was taking a back seat to endless discussions about the logo.

“The goal of user-centrism, a form of social justice, seemed achievable even if it already looked like a hard sell. So I cast my lot with the web’s confluence of technology, design and communication. The medium felt completely natural to me, and I was especially attracted to the oft-cited power of the Internet to “level the playing field.”

“Once digital became a commodity in the 2000s, the practice was dropped into the conventional waterfalls of business process: decisions at the top filtered down to implementers, versus the team thinker-and-implementer model that gave Silicon Valley its edge. The real skills required to build great digital were underestimated while the medium underwent explosive growth. (I realize now that the afterglow of the dot-com boom of the late 1990s covered the tracks of the moneymen and their eventual near-total manipulation of the medium.) The course change in digital did not extinguish my self-imposed mission as an advocate for people who use digital products. How did they feel? What did they need? What did they care about? Were we serving them, or taking advantage of them, intentionally or not? Were we missing opportunities to better serve them because we assumed we knew what to do?

“I became an advocate for the people who use digital products. Were we serving them, or taking advantage of them, intentionally or not?”

“Many organizations are now tied to digital products that do not meet with the needs of their customers nor, ultimately, the needs of the organization itself. The gap is easily measurable by deploying techniques such as scrutiny of analytics combined with user testing. The avoidance of this most basic type of audience research can be a tacit acknowledgment that there is nothing to be done about the way things are.

“Digital products today, while infinitely more powerful and usable than their predecessors, still fail to serve their users. While business suffers from short-term thinking and active resistance to research and testing, millions of users daily deal with confusing digital interactions, resulting in the inability to find basic information of all kinds. People experience frustration when conducting key online transactions in education, banking, insurance, and public sector services. People experience disorientation when interacting with incoherent business software products at work. These problems are often ignored for as long as possible, or until a competitor creates a better product.

“Ultimately, the organizational desire – and will – to serve users will always be evident in the end product.”

“Fortunately, enlightened leaders in business, sciences, healthcare and the public sector understand the value of evidence-based strategy for any organization that relies on digital communication. Ultimately, the organizational desire – and will – to serve users will always be evident in the end product. And the users will always have the last word.” back to top

Curriculum vitae

Education: BA, 1983, New College

Publications: “Exploring Inner Space: Engaging the Public With Ocean Scientists,” Marine Technology Society Journal, Volume 49, Number 4, July/August 2015, pp. 86-98(13), https://doi.org/10.4031/MTSJ.49.4.7


  • Editor, FutureProof, a blog of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology
  • Board member, Downtown Radio 99.1

Member: American Evaluation Association
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Work in media, business, government and associations:
TV Guide, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, Playboy, IEEE Spectrum, Crain’s Pensions and Investments, Crain’s Modern Healthcare, Penton Media, Kiplinger Washington Editors, Canyon Ranch, the American Society of Magazine Editors, MPA, Clickability Inc., National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Trex Company, Visit Orlando, Visit Tucson, Go Daddy Software, Classic Residence by Hyatt, The Sharper Image, Lifetime, Old Farmer’s Almanac, Arizona Lottery, Farm Journal Media, City of Tucson.

Work in sciences, engineering, education, and museums:
IEEE Publications Operations, IEEE Access, Proceedings of the IEEE, IEEE Computer Society, IEEE Technology and Society, Columbia Business School, The National Museum of the United States Air Force, The Higher Learning Commission, VEECO, the National Lightning Detection Network, Shedd Aquarium, Mystic Aquarium, Chicago History Museum, Monument Systems, Tucson Medical Center, City of Tucson, Tucson Water, Tucson Electric Power, University of Arizona Libraries, UA Science. back to top

Selected projects funded by science grants:

Northwest Passage Project/Inner Space Center, 2016 – 2019
Granting Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Description: Northwest Passage Project. An Arctic expedition designed to explore and document conditions in the Northwest Passage while training college students on the conduct of research. The Inner Space Center (ISC) will live-broadcast from the Arctic during the expedition, connecting the world to oceanographic exploration projects in real time.
Services: Digital strategy, usability testing
Partners: Exploratorium, Smithsonian Oceans Hall, and the Alaska Sea Life Center
URL: https://northwestpassageproject.org/

Cosmo Quest, 2013 – 2017
Granting Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Description: A new citizen science community focused on STEM education.
Service: Committee member, digital strategy, information architecture, user experience training, usability testing, evaluation plan
URL: http://cosmoquest.org/

Inner Space Center, 2010 – 2014
Granting Agency: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Description: The Unknown Ocean. Extending the work of Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard, The Inner Space Center (ISC) utilizes telepresence technologies to connect the world to oceanographic exploration projects in real time.
Artifacts: Touchscreen kiosk, website, controller for Exploration Command Station theatre program
Services: Digital strategy, usability, information design
Custom services: Storyboard for the Exploration Command Station, Ocean Exploration aquarium gallery design plan, project planning
Partners: Mystic Aquarium, South Carolina Aquarium
URL: http://isc.gso.uri.edu/

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), 2008 – 2015
Granting Agency: National Science Foundation (NSF) and LSST Corporation
Description: The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will produce an unprecedented wide-field astronomical survey of our universe using an 8.4-meter ground-based telescope. The National Research Council for the National Academy of Sciences ranked the LSST as its top priority for the next large ground-based astronomical facility.
Artifact: Website
Services: Digital strategy, information design
URL: http://www.lsst.org/lsst/

Zooniverse Cyber-Enabled Discovery and Innovation (Zooniverse CDI), 2010
Granting agency: National Science Foundation (NSF), in conjunction with Adler Planetarium and Oxford University
Description: The Zooniverse is a pioneering online citizen science framework based on the work of astrophysicist Dr. Christopher Lintott, who pioneered the GalaxyZoo project. Zooniverse now provides a reliable platform for citizen science projects in many fields of study.
Artifact: Website
Services: Usability testing
URL: https://www.zooniverse.org/

Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting, 2010
Granting agency: The Providence Journal Charitable Foundation, the A.H. Belo Corp., and the Philip L. Graham Fund
Description: The Metcalf Institute promotes clear and accurate reporting of scientific news and environmental issues.
Artifact: Website
Services: Digital strategy, information design
URL: http://www.metcalfinstitute.org/

Ocean Today, 2008
Granting agency: National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in partnership with the Coastal Education Learning Centers
Description: First deployed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and evaluated at Shedd Aquarium, Ocean Today provides an interactive kiosk where users can directly experience multimedia content about the world’s oceans.
Artifact: Touchscreen kiosk
Services: Usability testing
URL: http://oceantoday.noaa.gov/

Mid-Atlantic Regional Association Coastal Observing System (MARACOOS), 2008
Granting agency: National Science Foundation (NSF), in conjunction with Rutgers University
Description: MARACOOS’s mission is to seek, discover and apply new knowledge and understanding of our coastal ocean while extending that knowledge to “end users” – people whose livelihoods depend on the oceans.
Artifact: Website
Services: Usability testing
URL: http://maracoos.org/

 Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence – Networked Ocean World (COSEE NOW), 2008
Granting agency: National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Description: COSEE Networked Ocean World (COSEE NOW) is an online network of scientists and educators focused on using emerging Ocean Observing Systems (OOS) technologies and data.
Artifact: Website
Custom services: Onsite Workshop ‘Best Practices in Developing Web Communities’
URL: http://coseenow.net/

The Biodiversity Project (Great Lakes Forever), 2006
Partner: John G. Shedd Aquarium
Description: Great Lakes Forever is a public education initiative involving media outreach, educational advertising, point-of-experience signs at lakefront areas, and web-based outreach to inform and inspire action to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
Artifact: Website
Services: Usability analysis
URL: http://www.greatlakesforever.org/

Phoenix Mars Mission, 2005
Granting agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), in conjunction with the University of Arizona
Description: Launched in August 2007, the Phoenix Mars Mission was the first in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)‘s Scout Program, and found further evidence for the existence of water on Mars.
Artifact: Website
Custom services: Pro-bono website evaluation
URL: http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/

Wings of Eagles Discovery Center, 2011
Granting agency: Private
Description: Wings of Eagles strives to educate residents of New York’s Southern Tier and Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier through formal and informal education programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Artifact: Website
Services: Digital strategy, information design
URL: http://www.wingsofeagles.com/
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Chief Executive Officer and Lead Strategist
, Interface Guru/SymbolGroup Inc.
Tucson, Arizona
December 1999 – present
Principal of cutting-edge digital business consulting group. Duties include online business strategy and development, audience research, project management, information architecture, usability testing, and visual design. Developed Usable Times 5™ metric for fundamental usability analysis of Web sites. Educator and advocate for user-centered marketing and digital design, creating curricula for national conferences.

Chief Information Architect and Design Officer, 
Results Direct
Tucson, Arizona/Alexandria, Virginia
November 1998 – December 1999
Senior staff for Web design and development group specializing in nonprofits and associations based in the greater Washington, DC area. Responsible for all information design and primary visual design, online courseware development, client contact, end-to-end project management, writing of proposals and contracts, and public speaking.

New Media Specialist
StarNet/Tucson Newspapers Inc.
Tucson, Arizona
October 1997 – November 1998
Senior staff in charge of all corporate-level Web accounts. Wrote proposals, developed online marketing strategies, and created visual design for large projects. Managed sales and technical staff, implemented professional documentation for Web projects, and developed joint initiatives with print sales. Gave multimedia sales presentations to corporate clients; public speaking. Project-managed the first webcast of the Jerry Lewis telethon for MDA in 1998.

Design Development Manager
Phoenix, Arizona
December 1996 – October 1997
Managed all design projects for the Phoenix branch of the world’s first consulting-level Web development company. Wrote proposals, contracts, and documentation for large-scale Web projects; responsible for client management. Hands-on production of graphics, HTML, and Javascript for high-end Web sites.

Webwrangler/Associate Art Director

Arizona Highways Magazine/Arizona Department of Transportation
Phoenix, Arizona 
October 1994 – March 1997
Designed, produced, and managed the creation of all Arizona Highways marketing materials plus related-items catalog of over 180 products. Launched Arizona Highways Online, one of the first 300 dot-coms, in 1995 with early e-commerce implementation.
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