Month: May, 2012

Is Settling Really Settling, or Just Plain Common Sense?

Personal Finance

Personal Finance (Photo credit: 401K)

I participate in LinkedIn’s Harvard Business Review discussions. Don’t think too highly of me for this. These discussions are not always high-brow or research driven. In fact, they often degenerate into personal anecdotes, and even into the “I don’t mean to be rude, but . . . “ type of exchanges.

One recent discussion was about choosing the right company culture for one’s own benefit. Of course, most participants advocated a very selective job acceptance process, even if it meant staying unemployed longer than one wished or giving up more lucrative compensation packages.

The general gist of the threads focused exclusively on choice, assuming that we all had it. Yet, we all don’t. Not everyone can avoid taking or keeping a job that she dislikes, or at least that doesn’t full fit her talents, personality, ambition, and so on. Many of us must imply accept what circumstances give us.

Has anyone been in a job that just didn’t fit, but personal finances precluded a move? Did personal finances push anyone to take a job that wasn’t the perfect fit? How does one really know the company culture before taking the job in the first place?

Granted, if given the ability to choose, we all want jobs that fit us. If we’re highly aggressive, then maybe pit trader. If we’re low key, like to work with kids, then maybe public school teaching. If we want power but little risk, then a management track in a large corp. If we want power and lots of risk, then entrepreneurship.

It’s nice work if you can get. . . . and the rest of the song goes, you can get it, if you try. Try as we might, we all can’t get it. Circumstances do trump effort sometimes, not always, but often.

When we look at career moves, business moves, what have you, we have to create plans that include the limitations of the situation, the context, the circumstances. We can search in the long run for a good fit, but in the beginning, we often have to take what we’re given.

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Facebook and Inevitable Change

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Facebook went public for over $1 billion. I can’t tell you if that is a proper valuation and I doubt that anyone else can. What I can tell you is that the change in corporate culture will affect how the company operates.

A private company that is often personality driven, like Facebook has been, can reflect that vision of the one person. A public company is committee drive by the board of directors and reflects the vision of . . . no one in particular.

A private company can make long-term financial plans that may include short-term profit loss. A public company must increase its profit every single quarter or the stock price drops, investors panic, and the board of directors become more conservative.

In other words, Facebook has become just another corporation interested in safety of stock price, not innovation of product.

You might say, look at Apple. Exactly. Look at Apple. It ousted founder Steve Jobs, floundered, and then called him back and let him run the company as if it were a sole proprietorship.

Look at Google, you might say. Again, exactly. Google’s motto of “Do no evil.” was sound when the owners could forego profit in lieu of personal morals. Given the pressure to constantly increase profit, Google seems to have crossed the line (thick or thin) between good and evil.

Maybe Facebook’s stock is properly valued and maybe in the future the stock will increase in price. I don’t know. What I am certain of is that the way that Facebook does business will change in predictable ways.

UX and Gen Y

I’m currently researching Gen Y in the workplace with an emphasis on the UK, Scandinavia, and Europe in general. My client is a Swedish-based change consultant company specializing in helping companies better manage their Gen Y.

This job got me thinking about Gen Y and UX. What does Gen Y want in their design?

  • Let me figure it out: Gen Y is not averse to sites that are not completely self-explanatory. They will go for trial and error, maybe even researching how to use the site. Older persons want things clear, step-by-step. Their frustration level is much lower than Gen Y.
  • Optional Help: Many complicated web sites or applications automatically come up with a tutorial when first accessing them. Gen Y wants this to be an option, not a given. It’s almost an insult for them, as if the designers assumed that this generation was too dumb to figure it out on their own.
  • Real-time on-line help: Older persons still like to talk to someone on a phone, be it land-line or mobile. Gen Y also wants quick customer service, but texting or even skypeing are preferred. The attitude is, if I’m already on one device, why use a different device?
  • Fun: Gen Y wants fun, hence gamification, even at work. Utility is important, but Gen Y grew up in an age of dynamic innovation. Lots of people make lots of very functional products. That’s not a winner. Make it functional and fun. That’s a winner.

Remember that even experienced UX experts will only know the Gen Y perspective indirectly through research. Only a Gen Y sees the world as a Gen Y sees the world. Test with them, but also bring them onto your teams as content-area-experts.

Oh, and make being a UX team member fun.

Who Tests the Testers

A design process.

A design process. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Testing is the backbone of UX. That’s a given. Also given: each user is unique and experience any design in a unique manner.

Yet, aren’t the very UX experts also experiencing the design of the UX design process in a unique manner?

Or in other words, if we’re all experiencing the world in our own individual ways, which is what “unique” means, then who actually knows what’s going on.

What would we see if we conducted user tests of user testers using a user testing design?

We’d better find something shared and not unique or we’d have no design at all.

Good UX design must rest on similarity and averageness. Anything else results a theoretical world trapped in subjectivity.

This may seem like a trivial point to make, but the UX world talks a rather heady game at times. Read many recent UX blogs and you’ll read about psychology, cognitive biology, ethnography, and so on. All very serious sounding. All very complicated, too.

This amorphous theoretical basis of UX may be why UX is so difficult to define, and why so many people can simply claim UX expertise.

When it all comes down to perspective, why not?

Why not what, you ask? Exactly.

UX cannot rest on any ideas of uniqueness without ending up a mish-mash of competing claims.

One may praise the marketing place of ideas exemplified by UX, but then one cannot complain when one’s own ideas are not crowned champion.