If you’re creating something for others to use, you need access to at least a small sample of those people. If you do not have direct and immediate access, you will never understand their needs. Understanding their problems is the easiest way to create good solutions.
A good way to do this is to be in proximity of your customers. Go where they go. Read what they read. Think like they think. It’s hard to do and takes time, but it can be done.
An even better way to be in proximity of you customers is by being a customer yourself. It may be difficult to think of yourself in this way, since you can get in the way. But it’s just a matter of see yourself in context. Recognizing the things you do or say that make you part of a group.
In life. Is it important to have an understanding of our own purpose, to have purpose, or make sense of the things around us?
Or should we live in the now? Ignore the bigger picture. Move forward. Ignore context. Try new things. Focus on the granular. Take a step forwards.
Often times, meaning entails looking back or spending time figuring out the environment in which we live. Figuring out or examining the conversation. This doesn’t propel us further.
Maybe it’s better to join in the conversation. Better to grab your own soapbox from which to speak.
Meaning may or may not motivate us. But curiosity surely does.
In the modern world we define ourselves based on an idea that was created during the industrial revolution. The idea of a highly specialized workforce. Everyone has an area of focus, and you master it to get ahead.
While this is still true, and easy to benefit from, it will not last for much longer. Even looking at software development job postings, we see a high demand for full stack developers. It’s not enough to specialize, you need to not be able to define yourself easily. You need to be a complete human being.
Travel the world. Learn another language. Get into trouble. Increase your vocabulary. Exercise more.
These things matter more than being an expert in one, narrowly defined thing.
Does knowing how to send an email give you an advantage? No.
Does knowing how craft a convincing and persuasive letter give you an advantage? Yes.
Does knowing how to use Yelp find a restaurant give you an advantage? No.
Does knowing how to write an advanced recommendation AI engine give you an advantage? Yes.
It’s interesting to think about technology in terms of giving us advantages. Really, technology is just us, sped up. It’s there to complete tasks in a more efficient way.
Knowing how to use something, any tool, is not what is critical. It’s an important baseline, a minimum bar to meet, but does not inherently improve things.
Having more choices and knowing how we can help others and improve who we are, with the help of technology, is what matters most. The more choices we have the more advantages we have.
When you’re young, your ideas often times look strange. Especially to those around you. They’re dismissed as being naive, innocent, or ill informed. The unfortunate side affect is the sense that you’re wrong or your ideas will not spread. Then you either give up or adjust your idea to match how others perceive the world.
Of course, what’s great about being young and having young ideas is that you are actually more in tune with the current conversations going on in the world. It’s should not be about changing your ideas or molding them to be more palatable. It’s about finding the people who will listen. People who want to hear from you.
As adults, if this is true, what can (should!) we do? How can we help? Sit back and listen.
I love this little UX gem. Every time you open a new Balsamiq project, instead of a boring loading screen, you are welcomed with a new UI/UX quote:
If there is no way around something that’s annoying, may as well find a way to make it enjoyable. Better yet, turn it into something people anticipate and look forward to.
Funny enough, I get aggravated when the app loads too quickly and I don’t have time to read the quote!
Why is travel so enjoyable? Is it the desire to experience something new, or the need to leave something behind? If we’re always on the go, could it mean we are always on the run?
Maybe we just want to experience more. More environments, more languages, more food, and more people. Maybe we want to better understand who we are. But we can’t do this if we’re always traveling to the same places.
The more we interact with things that are different than ourselves, things that make us a bit uncomfortable, things we have never experiences, the more complete we can become.
Tony Haile writes in A correction around the death of the mobile web about the mistake of conflating time spent on the mobile web with time spent in a traditional browser. That users spend tremendous amounts time accessing the mobile web through social apps in-app browsers.
Knowing the ‘where’ helps us focus on where to place our efforts, if it’s where our customers want us to go. But it does not substitute for being who we are to our customers.
Comparing two things based on a seemingly common denominator gives the allusion of a fair assessment. Comparing math test scores of one set of kids in one district, in one state, with those in another district, in another state may seem like a good way to assess each, but tests ignore way too much.
Comparisons at most times are completely arbitrary.
What does it matter if someone is smarter than you. Faster than you. Stronger than you. There will always be someone x than you.
Better to use those around you as motivation for improving the things you care about.
Better to see and track where you where just yesterday and be better than that. To be better in a areas that matter most to you. Why let comparison get in the way of what you really want and need.
Figuring out your content strategy is not a simple task. You want to make informed decisions about the current state of your content, and where you want to take it. Luckily there are countless resources out there to help you along the way. Here are a few I’ve been using recently:
Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach
Content strategy classic.
Content Strategy Alliance Best Practices Handbook
A fantastic resource of guidelines, tools, and templates for seeing your content strategy from start to finish.
A Content Strategy Template You Can Build On
A template created by Isla McKetta at Moz. Focus is on three elements: 1. The present state of your content. 2. What your content should look like. And 3. Your contents governance.
10-Step Checklist for Your Next Website Redesign
Fleshed out checklist, but highly focused on the core elements of a content strategy.
How to Create a Content Strategy (In Only 652 Steps)
Great resource and tips on content inventory and goal setting.
The best thing about wandering into junk shops and thrift stores is coming across the things that remind you of your childhood. The Road Runner (Chariots of Fur video) was one of my favorite cartoons when I was young. Well, and to this day. Something about its simplicity, same with Tom and Jerry (The Invisible Mouse video), makes it so wonderfully addictive.
Couldn’t help snapping this photo of Strollbear, her face in one screen, back to four others.
It’s easy to think about the same things everyday. To have the same thoughts everyday. Thoughts on life. On time. What to read. What to write. Who to interact with. What to focus on. Unless your putting forth the effort, your thoughts can become formulaic.
This is ok for the mundane and the things that don’t matter, but detrimental if you want to grow and learn. Making new thoughts is great because it snaps us out of any mental doldrum we’re living with. It’s a fresh perspective that gets our mind working in new ways, rewarding us in new ways. It’s exercise for the brain.
A great way to make new thoughts is by interviewing people. People at work, your friends, or family. Inquire as to their thoughts on topics that interest you, or problems they have at work, how they overcame them, or have them teach you something they are an expert in. Look for the differences in their mode of thought. Something you can latch onto and develop into your own.
It’s not the app that matters. It’s the service or problem solved that we care about most. I didn’t download Letterspace onto my phone because I needed a note taking app. I needed a place to jot down ideas, clarify my thoughts, and track to-dos. The app itself is irrelevant. It’s just the vehicle. If I was aware of the app, it would have failed at its job.
I wonder if apps are still necessary. I wonder if they’ll start to disappear.
I generally do not spend a lot of time scrolling through streams of information. Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. It’s too easy to get sucked in, giving it more than it gives back. Scrolling and scrolling to find interesting or relevant information I can delve into.
If time is all we have, I’d rather have a highly focused and relevant stream enter my psyche with as little effort on my part as possible. Even automatically. How could this work? Is this possible? Do machines know enough about me to put the correct information in front of me?
Maybe it’s playing more games. Maybe it’s just picking something to read, digging in, almost blindly. Maybe scroll prevention. If I only get x scrolls a day, would I use them wisely?
It’s not that streams are evil. It’s that the format encourages the mediocrity. Scroll. Scroll. Scroll. We’re waiting for a spark. Not realizing that it’s better to make your own spark.
So, maybe it’s not the stream. It’s this constant focus on searching. Searching for something of interest. Peeking around one more corner, hoping something is there. But there never is and never will be. It’s better to tip the scale in favor of output. To enter the stream.
When is ok to stop at good? When is perfect the wrong stopping place?
Doing nothing is easy, but so is obsessing to the point of never finishing.
It’s deciding when good enough equals done and when doing nothing are the best options at hand.