Re: I need some advice

18 Aug 2004 - 10:33am
9 years ago
4 replies
529 reads
Jef Raskin
2004

Some workers in a situation similar to yours have briefly called in
well-known (and highly paid, to impress management) experts to back
them up.

A "big name" whose work in HCI has resulted in millions or billions of
dollars in sales can often speak directly to top management and make a
case that a lower level employee cannot.

Comments

19 Aug 2004 - 9:10am
Doug Anderson
2004

Hey Joe,

You appear to have a good "unsolved opportunity." I second the good suggestions you've already received (though I'd hold off on distributing "Inmates" to those in technical roles within your asylum, it could raise hackles).

It's good news that you were hired for your HCI background. Who did the hiring? Are they a potential ally in influencing positive changes in the company's methodology? Who is pitching UCD / HCI to prospective customers? They have at least a surface awareness that there is perceived value in UCD and might become allies.

As for a strategy with which those folks might assist you, there are two basic approaches that have been mentioned: top-down & bottom-up. If there is anyone at, or near, the top of the company food-chain whom you can influence to become a champion of UCD, that could help a lot.

However, even if you accomplish that, you're likely to need to "prove it" bottom-up. That's where the suggestion to pick a project and get approval to use a better, use-centered, design methodology with early & iterative user testing, etc. comes into play. Explain what methodology enhancements you think are valuable, and why. If you're explaining to technical folks, couch it in terms of project schedules and resources (easier to get it right than to make it right afterward). If you're explaining to business / marketing folks, couch it in terms of ROI, customer success & satisfaction, referrals, repeat business, reputation & competitive edge.

But remember that while you can & should try to help the company to take full advantage of your expertise in HCI, you won't necessarily be able to do so. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it apply UCD. If that's the outcome, take your experience & move on when the time is right for you. Interview the next company about their methodology and the role(s) they want you to play in applying and improving it.

Best of luck!
Doug Anderson
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, MN

Opinions expressed are necessarily mine, not necessarily those of the Mayo Foundation.

Original message:
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 10:17:07 +0100
From: Joe Leech <jleech at sift.co.uk>
Subject: [ID Discuss] I need some advice
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com

I have just started working at a medium size web development company
based in the South West of England after finishing an MSc in HCI. The
job market being as it it for us newbies (ie tough to get into) meant
that I stated applying for a web developers jobs. I got to the
interview for the company I work for now and the interviewer asked me
nothing about my web development skills and a lot about my HCI skills.

I was offered the job of web developer and I have been working here for
around 6 months now. The company is winning design and development
contracts partly on the basis of having a usability person in-house.
But when it comes to the actual deployment guess what? I'm not
involved. I might get some input towards the end of the project and of
course I build some of these sites (let me tell you there is nothing
more frustrating than building a web page that you know has got
fundamental usability issues). So now comes the question. I feel my
skills are unused and undervalued here.

How do go about convincing the powers that be that giving me more input
at certain points in the development cycle means not only will they get
more from me but they will also increase the quality of their product?

18 Aug 2004 - 8:42pm
Elizabeth Bacon
2003

Hi Joe,

It's really hard to institute change in an organization. I think that you're
not going to get anywhere with an ROI-oriented route, when your company is a
consulting company that simply gets paid by the job. There's no need for
them to worry about ROI -- when the job is finished, the money is paid, and
then the next project comes along.

To successfully introduce change into your organization, you need to find
the points of PAIN that exist in your company. Not until you get a
*recognition* of pain can you present a solution that will remove pain.
Until then, you're liable to fight an uphill battle against those who just
don't see that they're in a world of hurt.

Perhaps your efforts can simply start with your own pain...you do not feel
appreciated or engaged in the company's work. Your manager (or your
manager's manager, heaven forbid) may care about your pain, and help you do
something to change it. And you know that involves giving you the
opportunity to deliver usability input and see it through to the final
product!

Or perhaps your company finds that it's not getting much referral business.
Turns out, customers aren't really that charmed by the design delivered, as
it's not particularly easy or pleasant to use and didn't provide *them* with
enough ROI. And then the pain in your organization becomes one of survival,
and your solution is deeply compelling.

Good luck! It probably won't be easy, but you're fighting the good fight.

Cheers,
EB

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com]On Behalf Of Jef Raskin
Sent: Wednesday, August 18, 2004 8:34 AM
To: Joe Leech
Cc: discuss at ixdg.org
Subject: [ID Discuss] Re: I need some advice

Some workers in a situation similar to yours have briefly called in
well-known (and highly paid, to impress management) experts to back
them up.

A "big name" whose work in HCI has resulted in millions or billions of
dollars in sales can often speak directly to top management and make a
case that a lower level employee cannot.

20 Aug 2004 - 6:38am
Franck Ferront
2004

> A "big name" whose work in HCI has resulted in millions or billions of
> dollars in sales can often speak directly to top management and make a
> case that a lower level employee cannot.
>
YeSss... but...

During 3 years, I spend half of my time with users and waste the rest
of it explaining during middle management meetings why I was doing
this. And I felt tired... until I catch the new vice president (first
in the elevator) and explain how far was my graal... and how important
it was for the company that he becomes the usability champion...
("Politics of usability" & "Institutionalization of usability" are 2
excellent books for that).

We worked together on a presentation for the board of director. I
propose a list of usual methods (user test, focus group, storyboarding,
field study...) and I drew per product different scenarii. For exemple,
to reach level one and be microsoft compliant, we need an expert
review, a storyboarding and... To reach level two and enhance product,
we need a field study, a prototype, a user test...
Then CEO can choose which level of requirement we should catch and...
sign for the ressources...

I often communicate on usability testing results. And the same question
came each time : If I say that we've reach 1,38 point on a -2 to +2
scale for easyness to learn. There is always someone asking me "ok
Franck, and where is Microsoft on this scale ? what is the industry
standard ?"

Does anyone knows an usability international metric ?
Does Microsoft, Oracle or others communicate on their usability results
somewhere ?

20 Aug 2004 - 1:34pm
Robert Reimann
2003

Hi Franck,

> I often communicate on usability testing results. And the same question
> came each time : If I say that we've reach 1,38 point on a -2 to +2
> scale for easyness to learn. There is always someone asking me "ok
> Franck, and where is Microsoft on this scale ? what is the industry
> standard ?"
>
> Does anyone knows an usability international metric ?
> Does Microsoft, Oracle or others communicate on their usability
> results somewhere ?

I would imagine that isn't information they have a vested interest
in sharing, and I personally don't know of any standard metrics
(but would be interested in hearing about it if they do exist).

However, if what your execs need is comparative usability, you
can give it to them. Get someone in marketing to fund it as
competitive research and run some comparative usability tests.
Scaling your results properly is methodologically tricky, but
is possible (and potentially useful) to do. Mick McGee at Oracle
recently presented on this topic (McGee, Master usability scaling:
magnitude estimation and master scaling applied to usability
measurement, Proceedings of the 2004 conference on Human factors
in computing systems, p.335-342) at CHI2004.

Robert.

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.
com] On Behalf Of Franck Ferront
Sent: Friday, August 20, 2004 7:39 AM
To: Jef Raskin
Cc: discuss at ixdg.org
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Re: I need some advice

> A "big name" whose work in HCI has resulted in millions or billions of
> dollars in sales can often speak directly to top management and make a
> case that a lower level employee cannot.
>
YeSss... but...

During 3 years, I spend half of my time with users and waste the rest
of it explaining during middle management meetings why I was doing
this. And I felt tired... until I catch the new vice president (first
in the elevator) and explain how far was my graal... and how important
it was for the company that he becomes the usability champion... ("Politics
of usability" & "Institutionalization of usability" are 2
excellent books for that).

We worked together on a presentation for the board of director. I
propose a list of usual methods (user test, focus group, storyboarding,
field study...) and I drew per product different scenarii. For exemple,
to reach level one and be microsoft compliant, we need an expert
review, a storyboarding and... To reach level two and enhance product,
we need a field study, a prototype, a user test...
Then CEO can choose which level of requirement we should catch and...
sign for the ressources...

I often communicate on usability testing results. And the same question
came each time : If I say that we've reach 1,38 point on a -2 to +2
scale for easyness to learn. There is always someone asking me "ok
Franck, and where is Microsoft on this scale ? what is the industry
standard ?"

Does anyone knows an usability international metric ?
Does Microsoft, Oracle or others communicate on their usability results
somewhere ?

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