I need some advice

18 Aug 2004 - 4:17am
10 years ago
5 replies
495 reads
Joe Leech
2004

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?

Comments

18 Aug 2004 - 5:57am
Harry Brignull
2004

Hi Joe

off the top of my head, I'd suggest at looking at some books and
putting together a memo or powerpoint presentation detailing how other
companies have seen measurable benefits (ROI etc) through relatively
cheap & easy integration of usability techniques into the design
process. Alternatively / additionally, I guess you could independently
get some video footage of end users trying out the sites in question,
and edit together some excerpts of where they have problems. There is a
risk of looking like you're being over critical of your colleagues
work, making them look bad, creating more work for them, etc, etc -
worth approaching this very carefully. In fact, the more I think about
it, this advice could really back fire on you... what does everyone
else think?

- Harry

www.harrybrignull.com

On Wednesday, August 18, 2004, at 10:17 AM, Joe Leech wrote:

> 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?
>
> _______________________________________________
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18 Aug 2004 - 6:51am
Ben Hunt
2004

At a previous company, I bought copies of Alan Cooper's "The Inmates are
Running the Asylum" for the CEO, CTO and head of Client Services, which
sets out precisely the argument you require.

If you can manage to fire up your company leaders to placing interaction
design as a core discipline that is central to your success and future
competitiveness (hey, lots of other companies are doing it right now,
don't miss the boat lads), then you may see it trickle down to the shop
floor. Didn't work for me, I left 2 months later ;-)

- Ben Hunt
www.scratchmedia.co.uk

----- Harry said -----
I'd suggest at looking at some books and
putting together a memo or powerpoint presentation detailing how other
companies have seen measurable benefits (ROI etc) through relatively
cheap & easy integration of usability techniques into the design
process. Alternatively / additionally, I guess you could independently
get some video footage of end users trying out the sites in question,
and edit together some excerpts of where they have problems. There is a
risk of looking like you're being over critical of your colleagues
work, making them look bad, creating more work for them, etc, etc -
worth approaching this very carefully. In fact, the more I think about
it, this advice could really back fire on you... what does everyone
else think?

18 Aug 2004 - 7:30am
Martyn Jones BSc
2004

I can appreciate your position - maybe you feel that your company telling
client about the merits of usability is just a bit of spin to win contracts?
I've had experience dealing with web design companies, where management will
skip on the actual work off accessibility / best practices etc, because they
don't see the value in it.

Unfortunately life is always our own problem - never anyone else's. If you
feel there is a problem in the company re: HCI best practices, then the onus
is on you to doing something (subtly) about it, i.e. don't sit there and be
annoyed.

Whooah - sorry, that's sounded a bit too deep! Basically, just because
someone in your company might not see the value in 'doing things proper',
doesn't mean there's no value in it. When addressing the issue - don't be
critical of how the work is currently done - people become defensive when
attacked and may not listen to reason. You need to present the case that
will appeal to senior members of the company, e.g. for 20% increase in build
time we could see happier clients (increased chance of repeat business,
increased chance of new work from word of mouth), happier end user, better
reviews and write-ups etc.

I see a growing interest in accessibility / usability from the lay computer
client. They might not know exactly what it is, but as more mainstream
forms of entertainment become delivered over the Internet (equals more and
varied target audience), the demand for accessible / usable sites will only
grow. Best start building things in the correct fashion now, so your
company doesn't lose ground to competitors later.

Mart

----------------------
Martyn Jones BSc
Interaction Designer
Kode Digital Ltd.
----------------------

18 Aug 2004 - 7:48am
Gerard Torenvliet
2004

Joe:

You've got a sticky situation to work through; as other posters have already mentioned, people get uncomfortable when you critique their designs. You have to do everything to make sure that you don't just look like someone who complains about bad design.

My suggestion:

1. Find a key mid-level manager in your organization who 'owns' the customer-end design (as opposed to software architecture) of some of the projects that you are working on. In a product organization, these folks are generally product managers, but they may have some other title at your organization. That person is probably more focused on requirements than design, and also is responsible for ensuring that customers are satisfied.

2. Show that person some of the problems that you are noticing in the designs that you are working on, and tell her that you know a way to define requirements for designs that won't have that sort of problems. Put otherwise, you know a way to help that manager in her requirements-definition process, and you will ensure that the end-designs satisfy her customers more, helping her to achieve her objectives more easily.

3. Ask to be allowed to show your stuff on a small-scale project - something not very critical and something that you know no one was planning on spending much time on. The bar is set low for this sort of project, and it will be low-risk for you.

4. If you get an appropriate project, go to work. But don't be an island - meet with the manager you've identified as well as with other in-company stakeholders in the design to help you as a group to define your requirements and design more thoroughly than ever before.

5. Lather, rinse, repeat.

(...and be patient, but appropriately aggressive.)

Best regards,
-Gerard

:: Gerard Torenvliet / gerard.torenvliet at cmcelectronics.ca
:: Human Factors Engineering Design Specialist
:: CMC Electronics Inc.
::
:: Ph - 613 592 7400 x 2613
:: Fx - 613 592 7432
::
:: 415 Legget Drive, P.O. Box 13330
:: Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA, K2K 2B2
:: http://www.cmcelectronics.ca

-----Original Message-----
From: Joe Leech [mailto:jleech at sift.co.uk]
Sent: August 18, 2004 5:17 AM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: [ID Discuss] I need some advice

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?

_______________________________________________
Interaction Design Discussion List
discuss at ixdg.org
--
to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest): http://discuss.ixdg.org/
--
Questions: lists at ixdg.org
--
Announcement Online List (discussion list members get announcements already)
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18 Aug 2004 - 10:10am
Jens Meiert
2004

(Apologies for top-posting.)

I'm currently in a similar situation (and I think nobody dedicated to his
profession will ever be really happy then) -- but meanwhile I can confirm
what Gerard proposed, it's very useful to be in contact to product managers
etc., people who don't necessarily come along with /design critical/
smattering, to discreetly push the process towards quality.

But for the same time I also thought it might be nice to explicitly announce
significant increases in (above all) sales and customer satisfaction when
having the next job interview -- on the one hand to sensitize responsibles
and on the other hand to carve out the own position. Does anybody have
experience with this, and what do you think?

All the best,
Jens.

> [...]
>
> 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?

--
Jens Meiert
Interface Architect (IxD)

http://meiert.com/

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