28 August 2009

Innovation… what it is not

In most cases innovative thought and break through ideas first come from the folks that are intimate with customers and their needs. Thorough understanding of the situation and the technology are next. Immersive expertise is paramount. Smart people with insight are very very helpful. But smart people from outside the domain… rarely drop in and provide brilliance. Innovation is rarely instant… it comes from hard work.

27 August 2009

Thoughtful and purposeful

Design should be purposeful. What I mean by that is it that needs to be thought about from the audience perspective and in light of the projects goals. Cool is not necessarily better. What works for project 17, probably won’t work for project 27, even though the two may me similar in scope.

Take a look at this blog (the one you are reading) for instance. I have received council and critique that this blog is kind of plain and clearly not designed. It is in fact very precisely designed. It is plain for a reason. I have no aspiration of conversion. I have no goal of expanding my reach. If you read this blog regularly you likely seek substance over style. You likely appreciate the utility – the efficiency of delivery. If you’re mostly attracted to shiny objects then you likely won’t be back here anytime soon. I’m pretty ok with that. There are plenty of places that provide visual sizzle and this is not one of them.

Think about lifestyles and demographics. Would not everyone want to look cool, wear black and live in Manhattan? Of course we all know the answer. High design and cutting edge design is really fun and I for one love it. But it does not serve anyone to apply it when the audience will be unreceptive.

All three dimensions of design; form, function and fit, must be considered. That one seems lacking from your perspective, does not mean it wasn’t considered.

06 August 2009

Search engine optimization…

I have this theory that as soon as the search engines (yes, mostly google) have indexed the web enough, they will no longer need the convenience of portals. They will then reduce the transparency how crawlers work and make it much more difficult to optimize a site for them. It only makes sense… the search engine becomes you own personal and customizable portal… but I digress.

Every day I get little reminders of the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). Bu today I got a startling example of what happens when you do absolutely nothing about it. I was searching for a small cabinetmaker in Maryland. It’s a very small shop – and that is partially why I was looking for them. They were actually listed third in the results. Not bad, until you looked at number two. In the number two spot was a listing that took me to a discussion forum. Within that forum, a very nice person had compiled a list of 20 or so cabinetmakers with a similar specialty. Suddenly, I have a full list of this guy’s competition. Surely this is not good for him in any way right?

So, some 10 years since my small design firm in Kansas (maybe our location caused us to try harder) began working to help clients optimize their sites so that they could be better found on the web… there are still people with web sites that have no clue. So much opportunity lost.

05 August 2009

What is “smart”?

The word is everywhere. In interviews, in meetings, and in process I hear the reference. What does it mean when someone says “she is really smart”?

Smart can be a lot of things. Smart can mean that a person knows a lot. Lot’s of knowledge frankly, is not always helpful. Applying the appropriate part of that knowledge to the problem at hand is quite useful. This part of smart is also a split category. Some smart people have read a lot. Some have done a lot. Knowledge without application is less than optimal. Experience without a core understanding of theory or reasoning can be problematic as well.

Smart can also mean that the person learns or figures stuff out… is a problem solver. That is also very useful in many, many situations. The third type of smart is really more an issue of judgment. These people are often notable because they seem to know what to do in certain situations. They may utilize “smarts” from either of the first two categories… or not.

Of note… is something that is perceived as smart, but may not be. A quick confident answer is often seen as smart. Be very careful with this one… it is primarily behavioral, and as such a learned skill. This one can get you into big trouble.