Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Your site is not an island. You need to fit in with the rest of the web. (Keith Instone)

I am a firm believer in standards. My arguments in favor of them are typically two:
  1. Somebody else might have thought about this before
  2. Users might actually have gotten used to doing things a certain way

As a result, one of the things I love to do on any project is a quick competitive eval. I just go out and see what all our competitors are doing. This gives me a good sense of:
  • Whether there are any standards
  • How strong they are
  • Whether it would make any sense to break them

I’m always amazed, though, at how many people simply can’t wait to break standards. They usually cite innovation, and creative disruption, and whatever buzzword happens to be current.

Actually, I’ve come to the realization, over the years, that this may have more to do with personality than anything. If you’re familiar with Myers-Briggs, I’m a (weak) S. S’s tend to be more practical, down-to-earth, and data-driven. The people who I butt heads with tend to be (strong) N’s. They tend to be more abstract, intuitive, and full of ideas. 

I typically handle my N colleagues by getting them to:
  • Focus on higher-level issues, and less on details. For example, radio buttons are a pretty darn good way to tell a user that he needs to make just a single-choice. There’s really no need to reinvent this particular wheel. Developing a wizard to help a user pick the product that’s right for them? Now, there’s something that might actually add some real value.
  • Solve real problems rather than simply coming up with random new ideas. A colleague of mine likes to make the distinction between innovation (the former) and mere invention (the latter). 

By the by, before you can solve real problems, you have to identify them. And I’ve always been a big fan of ethnography when it comes to that.

Keith may be most famous for his work in getting going
the IA Summit, UXnet, and World Usability Day
(oh, and those glasses)

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