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Posts Tagged ‘observing’

This weekend I decided to do something a bit differently than I normally do, just to see what I would gain from it. I purposefully changed my perspective, to see what I would learn from it.

I’ve been a mentor for a couple of times at this event called Evolv now. At Evolv we teach people who are interested in being an entrepreneur about the Lean Startup Methodology. I won’t go into what that is – because that’s more a topic for my business blog – but I will tell you that this time, I really wanted to be a participant, and not a mentor.

Doing my work as a coach in part of this methodology, I had encountered a couple of interactions with clients that made me realize that I did not know enough about what you’re going through when you go through this process. And it was in my opinion that I needed this experience to be able to coach people better in the process. So it was decided. I was going to be a participant, and not a coach, at this edition of Evolv Weekend. To learn more about Lean Startup myself, and also to experience what it would be like in the role of participant.

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A friend of mine said in a comment on this blog that having your own company IS personal development. Those two things are very difficult to separate. I couldn’t agree more, after this last week.

It is very hard not to attach yourself to the things you’re doing when building things up from scratch. It’s a human trait to do that. And it is probably good for something. But sometimes it can be easier for yourself if you learn not to.

Last week, I’ve focused on building my website. I’ve had a temporary website up, but it needed to have a bit more meat (somebody come up with an equivalent that doesn’t imply that meat is the core of a meal, please! ;)) So I’ve been working on this website very hard, and asked a friend what he thought of it. The following happened.

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I get it. I think I now understand why I’ve been having this same discussion lately with various people and why I have formed an opinion about it:

Them: “I don’t want people to see everything about me.”
Me: “Well, what you post on Facebook is up to you.”
Them: “Yes, but everyone is always sharing everything, and I think that can be quite dangerous.”
Me, thinking: Dangerous to what? To your career? To your reputation? To your life?
Me: “Well, I don’t have anything to hide, so I don’t really think there’s any danger in that.”
Them: “I just don’t want other people to see pictures or other things. That’s private.”
Me: “Yes, that’s your choice! And by all means, do this in your own way. I just think that many people are afraid of sharing things, without knowing why and without founded reasons. I think that sharing things can lead to new insights and find that valuable.”
Them: “I just don’t feel the need to tell everybody what I’m up to.”

And then I wonder. What is it that makes this other person not want to ride this freakin’ awesome rollercoaster ride of the new world where everything is shared and open? How come they don’t see how much greater the world can be using these tools? And why do I not share his/her opinion?

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I love baking. I’m making brownies today. To have all these raw ingredients, like eggs, sugar and flour and being able to turn them into something yummy makes me feel like I’ve actually achieved something. Making a lasagna from fresh self-made pasta and veggies and herbs makes me feel proud of myself. To me, this has more value than the ease and speed of using what I call ‘package food’. Of course, not every day allows me to do this. But still. I love it.

I’m a creator. I love creating something from nothing. I love combining existing things to make something new. Come to think of it, all the things I love doing most (creating music, writing, pondering, being creative, using my hands (click on any link at the right of this page 🙂 )) have this one thing in common. I’m a creator. I just need to build things.

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I’m immensely grateful for the amount of luck we have received the past couple of years as a family.

I’m immensely grateful of the amount of love that was at the kitchen table at Christmas.

I’m immensely grateful of the hope we all feel when looking in the eyes of our newest family member who is now 4 months old.

I’m immensely grateful that the distance that we have to cross to be together is not too great for us to overcome.

I’m immensely grateful of the opportunities that are given to us, or that we create for ourselves.

I’m immensely grateful of the choices we have made that turned out to be just what we needed.

I’m immensely grateful of the support our family gives us, even though sometimes that must be hard.

I’m immensely grateful for all the friends I have and for all the appreciation that they show me. I’m honored to call myself your friend.

I’m immensely grateful for the fun I’m having every day.

I’m immensely grateful for life as it is right now.

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Other people may think usability is about the buttons. But really, it’s about looking beyond the buttons.

Usability is about making things easier to use for people. Whenever I tell someone I’m a usability expert, they say: “Oh, I need you! It’s all far too complicated!” If a user feels like that, us usability experts get to do something about it. This in itself is not very complicated. It’s just using your common sense. But before using your common sense, you need to have the ability to observe the world surrounding you.

I sometimes feel like I’m preaching. What I learned about usability and doing research is sometimes hard to explain. People are used to listening to what a customer wants and then building it. They’re not very used (yet!) to thinking about what the user wants. And sometimes, the customer and the user are not the same person. If they do want to know what the user wants, they’re only willing to think about it, instead of putting some time (doesn’t have to be much) and effort (again, not much) in actually seeing what goes wrong, so you have a solid base for the decisions you have to make when designing the product. This solid base is very much needed if you want to end up with a good and easy to use product.

Usability is about solving problems for users. But before you can do that, you have to understand which problem they’re having. Most of the time, you think you should solve one problem, but if you really think about it, there an underlying problem that, if solved, magically makes everything better. And don’t be surprised if, beyond that problem, there’s yet another one.

In short, usability is about looking beyond the problem, by scrutinizing use in its context. It might just turn out that you don’t need those buttons at all!

The following article grasps most of the notions I always try to get across. It’s an interesting article (thank you, boagworld!).

Usability for handheld devices versus computers

My own summary:

– Look at REAL users of the product
– Look at real use of the product
– Be in the context of the use (of the real users)
– Don’t only ask questions. Observing is more insightful.

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