Archive - November, 2010

Some thoughts on mentoring

As we’re getting into the tail end of the year it’s become apparent to me that one of my themes for this year has been mentoring.

This year, I’ve been doing a bit of mentoring.

  • Quite a number of my commercial assignments have had a mentoring ‘skew’ to them – rather than project work, my mission has been to try to impart as much of my knowledge as I can to a person or team.
  • I’ve had the pleasure of working with interns on two of my projects this year (which is pretty unique and fortunate for a freelancer).
  • I’ve been involved with the Information Architecture Institute’s mentoring scheme (you need to be a member and be able to remember your login)  which has given me the opportunity to compare notes with a number of up and coming UXers in the UK.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to be a ‘mentee’ (is that the opposite of mentor?) on several occasions – mostly when I’ve just straight out asked people if I can have some of their time to talk about a topic that’s on my mind and that I could use some extra perspective or experience on. In addition to this, there are dozens of people who unknowingly act as informal mentors to me as they share their experiences on Twitter, in books and at conferences.

What I’ve found really surprising is that in both the mentoring and mentee situation, I feel like I’ve been the one who has benefited.

Obviously, in the latter situation, I benefited from the kindness, experience and wisdom of those who were willing to do a Skype call with me (that’s the usual format of my mentee-engagements). It was where I was acting as the mentor that I was really surprised.

There’s a saying ‘if you can’t teach it, you don’t know it’. I’m not sure it’s entirely true but there is a special kind of knowing you get from having gone through the process of thinking about how to communicate what you know to someone else.

It does something to the way you know things – firstly, it makes you more aware of what you know, which is gratifying and confidence building. I think it also makes your knowledge feel more accessible and more valuable.

If the majority of the learning you’re doing these days is informal and self directed, you may find that mentoring is almost a way to give yourself a mark out of ten, an end of year exam, a sense that you have actually accomplished some learning and know a bit about what you’re talking about!

So, I want to take a moment to thank my mentors, and to ask you to think about how you might be able to participate as a mentor.

Do you have opportunities where you could invite an intern to work with you and gain invaluable experience? Can you offer some time to be a more formal ‘mentor’ to a UX newbie? In my experience, it can take as much or as little time as you want it to and the benefits to all involved are significant.

And yes, you probably do know enough to be a mentor – the best way to answer that nagging doubt is to give it a try. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Take care of the pennies, Yahoo…

Yahoo have been copping a bit of strife lately about the way they’re running their business. Think what you will of their business strategy, the thing that bothers me the most is that I’ve been trying to give them money for Flickr for a couple of years now and failing abysmally. Every now and then I go back and check, thinking that surely they have fixed this revenue leak by now, but as of this morning, they’re still not allowing me to give them money for their service.

I reckon they’ve missed out on at least $50 from me, which is not much I guess. But I’m far from alone.

What’s the problem? Well, it’s a two stage thing. If I’m missing something obvious (and with that, two years of pro-membership) please do let me know.

The first problem – I want to pay with my credit card.

The credit card I previously used has expired (as they do). The only option I’m given around credit card payment is to EDIT the card, which I select. In order to proceed I then have to re-enter the card number OF MY EXPIRED CARD! Now, show of hands, how many people actually hold onto expired credit cards and would actually be able to complete this task? Anyone?!

larger image here.

After going backwards and forward searching for the part where I can simply add a new card I give up and go to plan B – using PayPal. I use PayPal all the time, I used it last week on eBay and it worked fine. And yet, when I try to pay for my Flickr account using PayPal this is what I’m told:

larger image here.

‘The email you entered is not associated to this payment agreement you are trying to confirm. Please try again’.

That isn’t even a sentence, right? I think I get the gist of what they’re saying but even with my advance PayPal skills (I moved from one country to another and still have a PayPal account – anyone else who has done that knows exactly how much more you know about PayPal than you ever wanted to) I’ve tried everything I know and can’t get this to work.

At any rate, I’ve now spent way more time on this than Flickr is worth to me. My once great love of Flickr is now dead. Yahoo has not only lost my $50, they’ve also lost my emotional connection to their brand and my previous evangelism – worth way more than all the pro subscriptions I’d ever pay in a lifetime would be worth.

But – here’s the point of the story (because I don’t really want to waste your time moaning about one company’s crappy user experience, where would we stop!) – this is a revenue point. This is a place in the user journey where money changes hands.

If you have a product that has interfaces like this – places where people are giving you money – please pay particular attention to them. Make sure they are working. Make it as easy as possible for me to give you my money.

There’s an old saying, ‘take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves’. I don’t think it’s entirely true – I think the pounds actually need their own special UX strategy but having lots of pennies come into the coffers to support us as we come up with great new ways of making lots of pounds is eminently sensible and a great way to STAY IN BUSINESS!

Don’t let easy money like this leak away. If you have interfaces like this one that might also be leaking, go check them now.

And, while you’re at it, make a note to check on them regularly.

Meanwhile, if you want to see my baby pics, I’ll be over at Facebook. I’m still looking for a new place to share my UX pics. Suggestions welcome.

Page 2 of 2«12