Friday, September 30, 2011

My Sunny Day In Southern California

On October 2, 1989 a truly amazing thing happened in my life. I was able to see the birth of my first child and be a part of a truly amazing experience. For those of you that have experienced this, as a father, you know it's something you will never forget. If you are still expecting your first child to be born I'm telling you now that it is one of the great moments in your life. It will change you forever. Enjoy it. Savor it. Be "there" for everything both physically and emotionally.

I remember being at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California for what needed to be a scheduled birth. My (then) wife was already in the delivery room and they told me to put on my "outfit" over my clothes. Some kind of paper garments that I slipped into with a mask. I felt like I was going into a combination of a surgical procedure and some sort of hazardous material scene. HA What I was going into was an event that has had in impact on me for 22 years and will continue to make me smile for the rest of my life.

Ashlyn, my daughter, was born and it was a wonderful experience. No, the c-section deal wasn't pleasant for me and I'm sure not for my poor wife. But we made it through it and I remember seeing that little girl for the first time and thinking she was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. Wonderful beyond words. They weighed her and wrapped her up and she was "ours".

Probably the thing that sticks in my mind, and in my heart, the most is when they took me into the side room to give her a bath and comb her beautiful hair and get her dressed. I remember watching and being in another world. Almost literally. I was beside myself with happiness and emotions. They handed her to me in that little room and I looked at her and said, "Hey sweetie, I'm your Daddy." I cried just as sure as I'm crying while I type this 22 years later. Introducing myself to this little person was what I will always remember as the height of my life at that point.

I don't want to downplay other events, by any means. I had already experienced many memorable moments in my life. (and have since then for certain) I also want to make a point to say how much I appreciate Ashlyn's mother for the beautiful gift she delivered that day. I'm eternally grateful for that. Thank you Ammy.

Ashlyn has been so very special to me and I've not always told her how much she means to me. I have made some big mistakes in the last 22 years and will always regret not having "been there" all of the time. But my heart has always been connected to that little baby as she has grown into the beautiful, sweet and intelligent young woman that she is today in 2011. People ask me all the time how many kids I have. When I tell them 5 they look beside me at the four little ones that I have with me and they get a puzzled look. I quickly tell them I have an older daughter from a previous marriage and smile. I think about Ashlyn and how while I have four little angels at home I have an original love affair with that beautiful little blonde-haired California girl that has given me so many good memories.

Ashlyn, I love you darlin'. You are beautiful. You are special. You are talented. You are a part of me that I am very proud of. Happy Birthday to you. Please know that I love you more than you can know. You will (hopefully) have children someday and truly know the special bond that a parent has with a child. It will come full-circle for you at that time but in the meantime believe your mother and me when we tell you that you are the greatest gift that God could have given us in sunny southern California that special day in 1989. You have lit up our lives and been a ray of sunshine to carry me through many gray skied days. Thank you for being my daughter and for the love that you have taught me to show. I love you.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Why Your Web Developer Can't Define The User Experience

As a web developer for many years before moving into consulting I have a lot of experience with the concept of having web developers (or IT people, or business people for that matter) be the ones responsible for making sure the user will adopt a system or website experience. For many years I was called on by both internal and external clients to "build it in a way that the customer will love it". I worked with the designers on the interface. I architected out the navigation and sections of the site. I worked with the IT staff on the backend that would be required to deliver the application. All of us, together, were the proverbial blind-leading-the-blind when it came to what the end-user was going to both enjoy using and adopt.

One of the things that happens is a technology person will try to get a committee of (normally) internal stakeholders together to ask them what they want to site to look and act like. If things don't slow to a stand-still soon thereafter it's at least almost always the case that the requirements are so scattered, in an attempt to please everyone, that everything being asked for can't all fit into the design and feature-set. Happens all the time....

What's wrong with this? Developers are not only NOT the user of the system in most instances but they also don't have the breadth of experience or the bandwidth to perform the research, architecture, design and taxonomy that will be required to have an engaging, enjoyable, positive experience. "That guy that does the website work" isn't the answer to creating/crafting the optimal experience that the users will either get from you or from your competition.

Why does this happen? It happens a lot when brands count on their limited technology department to look out for the company's interests. Well-meaning technology people hate to say that they don't have the skills or experience because they are counted on so often to shoulder the responsibility of not only the stability of their products but also carry the burden of adoption. It's often the case where, when a system fails to be adopted, the company blames it on the technology group as not having built a system that pleased everybody.

What is the solution? Smart companies value actually taking the user insights into consideration. Knowing who the target audience is important. It's not "everybody on the Internet". Come on. Knowing what those users are on the site to accomplish is vital. Knowing how the users think and what predispositions they have are key, as well. Research has to be done. The system has to be designed with the user in mind and the 80/20 Rule has to be put in place. By this I mean that the majority of the users' interests have to be held a higher weight than the minority peanut gallery.

Quick asterisks: By "experience" we can refer to not only experiencing a website but also software, offline experiences such as in retail, mobile applications, verbal communications and an assortment of other ways that a company engages their customers and employees. Also, by "users" I mean anyone that engages with a brand, not just customers.

And here is the paid endorsement: : ) Those of you that know me know I work for a great consulting company that has a unique methodology for incorporating user insights into system and software design and architecture. Macquarium has 20 years of experience in working with some of the top brands in the country to ensure that the users both delight in the engagement they have with our clients brands as well as adopt the system that is being deployed to them. Love to talk to you about how Macquarium can impact your engagements with your users. Just ping me anytime: