Thursday, November 8, 2007

3 more Principles

So you're finally out! You've just completed your usability training from a commercial organization like HFI, or you've taken a program in Bentley College or Carleton University. Now what? Does the learning stop? Quite obviously, no. In fact, the real learning has just begun. While courses and programs give a basis and fundamentals from which to work on, the application of this knowledge is where you really start to learn. Please note, I said "Start". Even applying this knowledge is not enough. So really, when is enough really enough? From what I've learned over the past years are three timeless principles that contribute to the success of any businessperson:
  1. Read
  2. Listen
  3. Associate
Read - Read books and manuals for reference so that when you come across a situation you need more help in, refer to your materials. Also look for articles on the web that relate to UX that may give you a larger perspective on something you are encountering or may encounter in the future. It has been known that when a person reads, they retain more than 90% of the material because the brain is more active in producing visuals that interpret words to pictures.

Listen - I know for me, I have yet to do this. I have yet to plug myself into an audio book or a podcast. What I have done in fact is connect to some of HFI's webcasts on some of the topics I find interesting or relevant to what I'm currently doing. Video is just as effective a learning tool as audio as visual examples can really hit home what is being explained.

Associate - We have a local usability community that meets every month. Unfortunately, I was told by a colleague that I missed the entire year and I am guilty for not following this principle. It is in a physical forum that we learn the most from. There's nothing like telling a story and listening to them to impact others around you whether you're in a job or in your own business. This goes for success-thinking - if you want to be successful, associate with like-minded successful people. I also find it to be quite fun.

As a lesson then, continuous learning and growth is crucial to anyone looking to become successful. As an example, I heard that the GE corporation has been known to be one of the most advanced companies because of their expenditures on human resources and learning. Most people that come into the company are in fact retrained so they can "unlearn" what they've learned in traditional schooling.

Talk about assimilation to the extreme.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Focus on "BE-ing" instead of "DO-ing"

Here's some words of wisdom:

"We are human beings, not human doings."

With that said, while I see so many sites offering much insight into the outside world in techniques, ethnographic studies, case studies, etc. , not everyone knows what it takes to be the person on the inside. Enter, this blogspace - the one you're reading right now.

So to be a usability professional, user experience designer, usability analyst, user interaction designer and all these titles, one thing I've found in common, is that each of these positions require what I call, Design Sense. Without Design Sense, there is no distinction between good design and bad design. And Design Sense is not acquired overnight - it takes immense practice, sometimes years, and other times just days depending on the individual.

We had a discussion about how some corporations embrace the full user experience or usability from everything within their offices, making sure they're Feng Shui-compliant or to make certain structures accessible by the physically challenged. The fact is, it's not nearly as much about usability - it's merely a by-product of the actual design focus or Design Sense.

While we all know users are the worst designers (leave the designing to the designers!), we also know that they are instead the best people to provide feedback so we can change the design of any product. Being able to translate this also takes practice and a sort of innately-developed skill that not everyone has - it's more a sense of being, living in the present, taking in all the factors and then being able to produce. The translation gets lost sometimes because it's metaphysical - primarily in the brain, heart and soul of the designer (and not just in the brain).

And thus is defined as Design Sense.

One might ask, "How do you become a person that has this Design Sense?" Unfortunately, it's not as easy as exposing yourself to many pictures or products filled with great design - you might still be oblivious to this after that. Perhaps then, a slideshow juxtaposing words of
good versus bad with a picture, just like those in psychological experiments for conditioning might help? Nope.

To really develop a Design Sense, you must do it. You must create and refine, create and refine. Get feedback, create and refine. Or these basic steps:

Action, feedback, correction, action.

Get into an art or design class. Study architecture, still-life, industrial design, color theory, art history, drawing and painting.

Being a person with Design Sense also means dressing appropriately for certain times and events, making sure that not only is the color palette appropriate for your skin color and hair (as well as your aura), but also making sure the style is correct.

I must say that even though I'm writing about Design Sense, I cannot really pinpoint exactly what makes a person like me who has it, except to say that it's about having experiences that are timeless. And it's through these experiences that create the person who I am.