Category Archives: Business

UX Maturity: an interview with Simon Norris

Posted by UX Booth |10 Dec 15 |

Simon Norris, founder of Nomensa, recently gave the keynote at Interact London. This week he spoke with us at UX Booth about everything from human psychology, to Nomensa’s proprietary UX Maturity Methodology.

The post UX Maturity: an interview with Simon Norris appeared first on UX Booth.

Rachel Andrew on the Business of Web Dev: It’s the People They Know

Posted by The fine folks at A List Apart |03 Dec 15 |

I was never supposed to be doing the job that I do. Via a series of fortunate events and chance encounters, I’ve built a career in an industry I that love and that still interests me today.

When I was at school, the web didn’t exist. Like many web folk of my age I stumbled into my career of the past 19 years accidentally. I might never have discovered this career had a PC World salesperson not upsold me to a computer on interest-free credit. It was 1996, and my aim was to get a word processor so I could take in typing work while pregnant and taking care of my baby. The computer enabled me to earn money typing while it opened up for me this new world of the web. My journey from new computer owner to web developer is a story for another day, but that salesperson will never know what he started by making his targets that day!

It was by chance that I came to have access to the web at all, and I might have remained someone who liked to play around with computers, who built websites for fun, had it not been for people who asked me to build websites for them.

My first paid work as a web developer came via friends of friends who needed websites. I would talk about the things I had been teaching myself. I had my own site online and a couple of sites I had volunteered to build for charities I was involved with. One by one, little jobs arrived, always because someone had mentioned to a friend of mine that they needed a website. All the things I learned building those small sites—learning Perl to add functionality, learning Linux so I could install a web server locally—enabled me to find a full-time job, and then leave again to set up on my own.

My husband and business partner Drew McLellan has similar stories. The first website he was paid to create came about while volunteering at the local amateur dramatics society. He met someone who was setting up a new business and needed a website. He was someone who she trusted who built websites.

I asked some fellow freelancers if anyone else had these stories of chance, or of the unusual ways we find work or contacts who are instrumental in our business success. Andrew Areoff had already written up a tale that spanned over 40 years, documenting how a man from Rhodesia is connected to the success of his business and that of his best client. Harry Llewelyn of Neat in Somerset, UK, told me how he made a friend in the USA via posting photography on Flickr. While staying with this friend he was introduced to another friend—a web designer who ultimately outsourced front-end work to Harry, bringing enough regular work for him to make the leap into full-time self-employment.

Jonathan Rawlins of Pixel Pixel Ltd had a story of how a Christmas Eve flood at home resulted in a painter and decorator being in the house while he was working from home. They chatted and Jonathan explained what he did, and discussed setting up a simple site for the decorator’s business. The site for the decorating business never materialized, but the two stayed in touch. Around two years later the decorator got back in touch about an idea for a much larger project. Jonathan is now working on this project in stages—helping to grow the application as the business grows.

Another freelancer had a lovely story of how a project he was working on with a friend failed due to the friend having personal issues and needing to get his life back on track. Despite the failed project, he supported his friend, who then introduced him to another contact. That contact has become a great client, and also brought interesting new possibilities.

There are common themes in all of these stories of chance and opportunity. They show that it is always worth talking about what it is that you do, even if the person you are speaking with doesn’t look like an obvious fit as a client. You then need to be ready to follow up leads that come from an unusual source. Even more than that, opportunity often comes to those who are willing to give freely. That giving might be in terms of your skills as a designer or developer, but might be in doing something else entirely. It might even be in terms of being supportive of a business partner or client when things don’t work out.

One thing I know for sure is that the more generous I am with my time and my knowledge, the more good fortune seems to come my way. This isn’t due to any mysterious karma at play, but simply that people talk to one another. As one of my contributors to this piece wisely pointed out, “it’s not the people you know, it’s the people they know!”

Ask Dr. Web with Jeffrey Zeldman: Looking for Love: Standing Out from the Crowd of Web Job Seekers

Posted by The fine folks at A List Apart |18 Nov 15 |

In our last installment, we talked about when, why, and how to quit your job.

This time out, we’ll discuss what to do when you have a lot to offer but can’t seem to connect with the right job.

I was hoping you could give me some direction on how to find a design mentor. I was laid off from my product design job about three months ago. I’ve been working as a designer and developer for almost 15 years, so I feel like I have a decent understanding of the industry.

I’ve found myself stuck in a position where I’m seeing little to no traction finding a job or even getting interviews. I don’t know if it’s because I’m currently unemployed, my portfolio is weak, or if I appear too senior on paper, or what. I’ve sought feedback from peers, but the only thing anyone wants to tell me is “you’re a good designer and your work is solid.” I can’t seem to find a source of objective feedback. I don’t know how to grow in order to get out of this slump. Do you have any advice for someone in my position?

Slumpy in Seattle

Dear Slumpy:

Judging from your website, your design work is excellent. Solid, yes—with a light, warm, human touch. Understated craftsmanship that conveys a sense of brand and place, using ordinary typefaces, colors, and interface conventions. I know how hard it is to achieve that level of elegance and grace. You are clearly a mature and seasoned designer.

Perhaps you’re looking for the wrong jobs. You may not be presenting a focused enough persona for the jobs you’ve applied for. A skilled and seasoned generalist designer can always find good work, but won’t get hired at, say, an overfunded and under-directed startup that is looking for cheap designers.

For that matter, a seasoned product designer with a general background won’t get hired by a startup—they’re not only looking for product specialists, they’re looking for product specialists who have a track record at companies just like theirs. They might not hire an excellent designer with a deep understanding of product who hasn’t worked at places like that. Slack, for example, might hire you as a product designer only if you’d already worked as a product designer at Twitter or Facebook. (I’m using Slack simply as an example. Their hiring practices may be entirely different from what I’ve described. But most startups hire people who’ve already worked at startups.)

In other words, people may be providing bland or vague feedback not because there’s anything wrong with your work, but simply because you’re not in the hiring track from which they draw candidates. I had a similar experience during my advertising career, when I was told I could never be hired at a hot boutique agency because I hadn’t started my career at one. (I ended up working at a hot boutique agency anyway, but only after years of wandering in the desert, and then only for peanuts.)

Given that your work is good but people aren’t responding so far, maybe the particular niche you’re seeking work in isn’t hiring people with your background, or maybe that niche is simply overstuffed with good candidates, making it harder to rise above the crowd and get noticed.

If that’s the case, maybe you need to freelance. Maybe you need to start a small independent studio or company with a like-minded peer or two. That’s what worked for me. My career was absolutely going nowhere until I started Happy Cog, originally as a design studio with only one employee—me. Today it’s a boutique studio with offices in two cities. (The kind of boutique studio that might not have hired my younger self.)

What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you, but it might. When you start your own business, you can stop worrying about other people’s limited judgements and their rules about who they want to hire, and start shaping your own destiny. Just an idea.

Not cut out for the rich-today-poor-tomorrow freelance life? Try seeking work outside the obvious circles. If you’ve been an agency person all your career, look in-house. Good web design isn’t limited to digital companies. Traditional businesses need great web designers, too. They may need them more than digital businesses do. Look for a gig at a place that desperately needs design help and acknowledges it in an interview. (You don’t want a job at a place that needs design help but doesn’t know it and won’t understand or value it. You want a place that’s ready to change and looking for the right designer to lead the charge. That’s you.)

Meantime, you’ve been stuck in your cubicle too long. Get yourself out there. (If your current peers aren’t providing feedback that gets you out of your comfort zone, take solace in their assessment that your work is very good—I agree!—then seek out new peers who can push you harder.)

Look for a mentor like you’d look for a mate. Attend meetups (they’re plentiful and free) and lectures (there are plenty of good ones that are free or affordable). If you like what someone says during the Q&A, go up to her or him after the Q&A and start a conversation. If the conversation goes well, exchange numbers. Invite your new friend to coffee. You may have met your mentor. And even if you haven’t, you’ve met a colleague who can help you gain the perspective you seek. Not all mentorship comes from folks in positions of seniority and authority. Sometimes you learn the most from someone else at your own level. Hope this helps!

Ask Dr. Web with Jeffrey Zeldman: Looking for Love: Standing Out from the Crowd of Web Job Seekers

Posted by The fine folks at A List Apart |18 Nov 15 |

In our last installment, we talked about when, why, and how to quit your job.

This time out, we’ll discuss what to do when you have a lot to offer but can’t seem to connect with the right job.

I was hoping you could give me some direction on how to find a design mentor. I was laid off from my product design job about three months ago. I’ve been working as a designer and developer for almost 15 years, so I feel like I have a decent understanding of the industry.

I’ve found myself stuck in a position where I’m seeing little to no traction finding a job or even getting interviews. I don’t know if it’s because I’m currently unemployed, my portfolio is weak, or if I appear too senior on paper, or what. I’ve sought feedback from peers, but the only thing anyone wants to tell me is “you’re a good designer and your work is solid.” I can’t seem to find a source of objective feedback. I don’t know how to grow in order to get out of this slump. Do you have any advice for someone in my position?

Slumpy in Seattle

Dear Slumpy:

Judging from your website, your design work is excellent. Solid, yes—with a light, warm, human touch. Understated craftsmanship that conveys a sense of brand and place, using ordinary typefaces, colors, and interface conventions. I know how hard it is to achieve that level of elegance and grace. You are clearly a mature and seasoned designer.

Perhaps you’re looking for the wrong jobs. You may not be presenting a focused enough persona for the jobs you’ve applied for. A skilled and seasoned generalist designer can always find good work, but won’t get hired at, say, an overfunded and under-directed startup that is looking for cheap designers.

For that matter, a seasoned product designer with a general background won’t get hired by a startup—they’re not only looking for product specialists, they’re looking for product specialists who have a track record at companies just like theirs. They might not hire an excellent designer with a deep understanding of product who hasn’t worked at places like that. Slack, for example, might hire you as a product designer only if you’d already worked as a product designer at Twitter or Facebook. (I’m using Slack simply as an example. Their hiring practices may be entirely different from what I’ve described. But most startups hire people who’ve already worked at startups.)

In other words, people may be providing bland or vague feedback not because there’s anything wrong with your work, but simply because you’re not in the hiring track from which they draw candidates. I had a similar experience during my advertising career, when I was told I could never be hired at a hot boutique agency because I hadn’t started my career at one. (I ended up working at a hot boutique agency anyway, but only after years of wandering in the desert, and then only for peanuts.)

Given that your work is good but people aren’t responding so far, maybe the particular niche you’re seeking work in isn’t hiring people with your background, or maybe that niche is simply overstuffed with good candidates, making it harder to rise above the crowd and get noticed.

If that’s the case, maybe you need to freelance. Maybe you need to start a small independent studio or company with a like-minded peer or two. That’s what worked for me. My career was absolutely going nowhere until I started Happy Cog, originally as a design studio with only one employee—me. Today it’s a boutique studio with offices in two cities. (The kind of boutique studio that might not have hired my younger self.)

What worked for me won’t necessarily work for you, but it might. When you start your own business, you can stop worrying about other people’s limited judgements and their rules about who they want to hire, and start shaping your own destiny. Just an idea.

Not cut out for the rich-today-poor-tomorrow freelance life? Try seeking work outside the obvious circles. If you’ve been an agency person all your career, look in-house. Good web design isn’t limited to digital companies. Traditional businesses need great web designers, too. They may need them more than digital businesses do. Look for a gig at a place that desperately needs design help and acknowledges it in an interview. (You don’t want a job at a place that needs design help but doesn’t know it and won’t understand or value it. You want a place that’s ready to change and looking for the right designer to lead the charge. That’s you.)

Meantime, you’ve been stuck in your cubicle too long. Get yourself out there. (If your current peers aren’t providing feedback that gets you out of your comfort zone, take solace in their assessment that your work is very good—I agree!—then seek out new peers who can push you harder.)

Look for a mentor like you’d look for a mate. Attend meetups (they’re plentiful and free) and lectures (there are plenty of good ones that are free or affordable). If you like what someone says during the Q&A, go up to her or him after the Q&A and start a conversation. If the conversation goes well, exchange numbers. Invite your new friend to coffee. You may have met your mentor. And even if you haven’t, you’ve met a colleague who can help you gain the perspective you seek. Not all mentorship comes from folks in positions of seniority and authority. Sometimes you learn the most from someone else at your own level. Hope this helps!

How to Cross the Chasm from Idea to Product

Posted by Thomas Gläser |06 Oct 15 |

It’s no secret – getting from idea to development can be a challenging process, whether it‘s about translating features into a user interface or aligning functionality to a user journey. In this article, Thomas Gläser, Head of UX at Delightex, and Eugene Belyaev, Founder at Delightex, will provide guidance on how to break through and get the job done.

The post How to Cross the Chasm from Idea to Product appeared first on UX Booth.

How to Cross the Chasm from Idea to Product

Posted by Thomas Gläser |06 Oct 15 |

It’s no secret – getting from idea to development can be a challenging process, whether it‘s about translating features into a user interface or aligning functionality to a user journey. In this article, Thomas Gläser, Head of UX at Delightex, and Eugene Belyaev, Founder at Delightex, will provide guidance on how to break through and get the job done.

The post How to Cross the Chasm from Idea to Product appeared first on UX Booth.