Monthly Archives: December 2011

Is that a button on your page or are you just happy to see me?

How many times do you come to a web page and are confused on what to do next? Too many links? Too few? What did the author want you to do? Where did they want you to go?

A lack of proper direction can be very frustrating, and very noticeable, while a page that has a clear purpose can feel as comfortable as old sneakers (or southern comfort food, you take your pick). Here is an interesting thought, while you might not know what the creator of the above page wanted you to do; he, the author, did not know either. It is not something that is thought about often, but it should. Proper user interface strategy with nice and visible actions is the biggest differentiator between web sites that are a joy to use and that are  just a pain.

Case in point, one of my clients is a major media and entertainment company. I recently attended a discussion in which 2 VPs, 1 Director and several Managers discussed, for about 30 minutes, what color to make a particular button. Doing the math and assuming an average hourly salary of $150 in this room we see that this client has spent $900 in order to decide the color of a button. You might say that it was a waste of money. I think that it was an investment well spent. After all, this will lead to sales down the road. And in fact this type of work has already paid dividends. After all, this, mouse themed, client is solidly at the top of the industry and only keeps gaining the lead in the markets.

In summary, spend the time to think how your project will look, how your customer will experience it and how you will lead your user to complete their task.

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Bossypants, by Tina Fey

So I read Bossypants recently and I have to say, I loved it! I’ve been missing Liz Lemon since 30 Rock has been on its extended hiatus, and Bossypants was the perfect dose of Tina Fey. I loved her quirky, self-deprecating tone of voice. Really, it’s like watching Liz Lemon’s life, but in a much more toned-down, realistic way. (Can you tell that I love that she has gone on to do exactly what she wants to do in a vaguely autobiographical way? And that 30 Rock has stayed successful, despite what she might write about fearing that each season would be their last?)

I think that I can’t exactly call it a memoir or a strict autobiography when she gives so much more than that–advice, tidbits about history, a behind the scenes look at SNL. Of course, it’s complete with lots of funniness. (And I’m always impressed with people who manage to be truly funny.)

Seriously, go read this book and revel in Tina Fey’s funniness and her endearing messages:

“Obviously, as an adult I realize this girl-on-girl sabotage is the third worst kind of female behavior, right behind saying “like” all the time and leaving your baby in a dumpster. I’m proud to say I would never sabotage a fellow female like that now. Not even if Christina Applegate and I were both up for the same part as Vince Vaughn’s mother in a big-budget comedy called Beer Guys.” (page 53)

Message received: stop saying like all the time! And now I’m off to find something new to read.

(Also, I confess that I don’t really know what the difference between tags and categories on wordpress is. Consider this both tagged and categorized.)

(crossposted to my own blog)

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Yay to yaysornays! So exciting that it is my first post 🙂 Since it is my first post, let me talk about something I like.

Numbers!

I recently stumbled upon some pretty videos showing some pretty numbers on some financial issues. Both of them are kind of old from last year, but I still think they are well made and bring up some good points. And the first one is surprisingly from the ending of a Will Ferrell’s movie.

What I like about them is that they are both informative yet entertaining. Put things into perspective that makes you do more research and thinking about those numbers, like how the Iraq war spendings (3+ trillions) dominated everything else on the graph: OPEC climate change fund (3 billions) and saving amazon rainforest (21 billions).

It stimulates me into thinking about and researching about the numbers. After some research, I found that some part of the graph itself could be a little bit over-exaggerating. In the case of saving amazon rainforest as an example, we should note that the quoted 21 billions to save amazon rainforest is only the amount of money the Brazilian president raising for a new international fund. There are other funds to save the rain forest; policies and infrastructures to achieve the goal.  If you add the costs of those policies and funds over the years, it is definitely way greater than 21 billions; which is the way they calculated the quoted 3+ trillions number for the Iraq and Afghan war. It is a result of adding up the dollar amount spent with the estimated indirect cost and all the predicted costs (healthcare and facilities maintenance) over the future years.

What are your take-away from the graph? and what is the most striking number in the graph to you? What do you think about the the CEO pay to the average employee pay ratio of 319 to 1?

Yay to yaysorna…

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“The Inmates are Running the Asylum”

Just started reading This book by Alan Cooper. It is a technologist’s account on why we need to design better interactions between humans and computers and how to do it by focusing on the customer. This sentence was particularly interesting:

“The successful professional for the twenty-first century is either a business-savvy technologist or a technology-savvy businessperson, and I am writing for this person.”

Here, he touches upon something that I have been pondering in the past three and half years: why are so many IT projects failing (and hence needing consultants), even when you put a perfectly capable technology team and an equally capable business team together (and often, especially when both teams are experts at what they do)?  Because, the true business-savvy technologists and technology-savvy businessperson are rare. The elephant in the room seems to come down to the fact that technology-inclined and business-inclined people just have thought processes that are so fundamentally different from each other that it often impedes collaborative communication.

Have you ever been to a meeting with technologists and business folks all in one room where everyone seems to be agreeing, but really talking right across each other? Or are you a business person that feel your IT department produces bad software or a technologist that think your business department is all talks but don’t get down to get anything done? That is because technologists tend to take more of the “how” perspective while business strategists think more about the “why”. Mr. Cooper himself described how he had to resist his urges as a technologist to jump right into the “how” and instead focusing on making a “business case” first by taking on the average product users’ point of view.

You ask, what’s the solution then? Well, here’s an interesting while seemingly unrelated observation: what is it that makes love affairs between a computer geek guy and a art loving, poetry writing girl successful? It’s the same combo of opposite minds, but they sure seem to work out more often than IT projects do.

Essentially, I think it comes down to trust, respect and patient communication. If we are willing to think from the other team’s perspective and really on each other’s strength instead of pointing out our differences, no matter it is a relationship or IT project, it’s more likely to succeed. Easier said than done though.

Either way, rambling aside, it seems that no matter you are a technologist, a designer, or just a technology user, you’ll find some interesting insights in this book. Recommended.

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