Browsing articles tagged with "project management Archives | april.holle.blog"
May
18

Self-Inflicted Undue Pressure

I’ve been speaking to several colleagues lately within the web design community, and I’ve come to a harsh realization. I think that as a whole, our industry creates it’s own self-inflicted pressure with deadlines and customer relations.

Granted, some customers can come into the relationship wanting the impossible, but often, with a little enlightenment, customers can grasp how Rome cannot be built within a week. But I feel often, instead of investing in this conversation, we instead push ourselves to build things quicker, faster, and cheaper.

Sometimes we can just have a simple conversation with our clients, and often they’ll be totally accepting of our need for more time to create the desired product. Many times when I talk to a client, they themselves are not prepared for the product to be finished, they don’t have the content ready yet, they still need to gather all their product photos, etc.

Why do we tend to forgo these honest conversations that can strengthen our client relations and really give us a better working relationship in the long run? Is it our need for deadlines? Perhaps our procrastinative nature drives us to seek this adrenaline rush that is the last-minute push? Maybe a way to curb our creative natures that drive us to constantly expand the scope of possibilities for the project?

This issue has always frustrated me, why push ourselves to slam something out when there’s always more time to work? Sure, things have to get done, but does the quality of work have to suffer? We quit trying to achieve the best possible, and start undercutting to hit some date that really isn’t anything more than a spec of time in the span of the universe.

So I thought I’d toss it out there and see what you guys thought, why do we do this to ourselves?

Dec
14

Links of the Week Vol. 1

Welcome to the first week of LINKS OF THE WEEK! I come across some great informative and humorous content online, and I want to share that.. with all of you. Enjoy!

Wonderful cartoon explaining the communication struggle in development of applications.

Happy Webbies is like Happy Bunny for web geeks. Check out the animated talking heads of web design.

Burns Marketing will be closed up for the holidays, but they created a great viral marketing campaign with their Virtual Account Manager.

“wOOt” crowned as word of the year by Merriam-Webster, what does I have to say about this? WOOT!

CSS for Accessibility takes CSS a bit further, discussing how CSS can play a role in accessibility as well as layout.

 

Dec
4

Refresh Recap: ALA Web Design Survey

Alright so at this point everyone has read the 2007 Web Design Survey at A List Apart. If you haven’t, you should… really. This is the first time we’ve ever had a survey for the web industry alone, and while it’s not necessarily scientific, it is a good sampling of the community, nearly 33,000 web professionals.

The December edition of Refresh Phoenix shared the survey results and open discussion was has regarding what statistics we thought were interesting finds throughout the document. Such as:

16% of web workers polled were female.  Why is it that females are not prevalent in our industry? Check out a great set of interviews by fadtastic, where they contacted several of the industry’s leading female web designers to ask them the same question.

85% of web workers are white. What causes our industry to be so monochromatic? How is it that world wide there is still a serious racial rift in computers and design? Does this matter? Does this need to change?

53% of web workers said their field of study was directly related to their career. Leading one to reconsider the age old myth that you don’t need to be a college graduate to be in the web industry. Salary data also suggested that a bachelors degree helps boost web workers into that $40-60k salary range.

28% of web workers are in-house, 23% are self-employed and 22% are part of a design/advertising firm. This even split reminds us of all the employment possibilities there are. It also makes note that there really isn’t a large majority in one working environment.

23% of web workers work 30-40 hours a week, 42% 40-50 hours a week, and 12% 50-60 hours a week. So remember when you’re punching out at 7 pm that you’re not the only one out there!

When looking at the salary range data, salaries tend to bottom out at 40-60 k a year after 5 years of experience.  The highest paid are Information Architects and Usability Experts. The self-employed/freelance sector made the least, under $20,000 a year. However, this does not split full-time freelance and part-time freelance, so some of this may be supplemental income to their full time positions as well.

Project Managers and Information Architects seemed to be the most satisfied with their jobs, while designers, web designers, webmasters, and the self-employed were the least satisfied when looking at Job Satisfaction data by job title.

72% of web workers polled have a personal site or blog. This doesn’t seem unnatural that web savvy people would have their own sites, but what is interesting is that the percentage of people who blog across gender and salary ranges did not vary greatly. In other words, 72% of EVERYONE in the web industry has a personal site or blog. The real question is how often do they blog on their blog? hehe

One of the questions posed was, “What would you like to see survey statistics on that were not included in this document?” Answers ranged from “Percentage of web workers who have ADD?” to “Ratio of hours worked and salary.” The best questions that are currently not answered by the survey were, “What are the range of benefits?” and “What’s the percentage/range on working conditions (corporate vs. casual)?”

Still, my brief synopsis doesn’t do this survey justice. Please, if you haven’t already, read the full survey. It’s full of interesting information regarding education, salaries, work environments, how we stay current in trends, and more.

Dec
1

Lots to Do This Week

I just wanted to make sure you were invited to all the awesome web and design happenings this week in Phoenix!

Tues, Dec 4th – Refresh Phoenix

Refresh Phoenix meets every first Tuesday of the month to discuss current internet issues and trends. The topics range from becoming your own boss to css frameworks to make your work more efficient. This month the topic is results from the 2007 Web Design Survey that was put out by A List Apart. This should be a very interesting conversation since there really has never been a survey of the internet industry.

When: Tuesday, December 4th 6:30 – 9:30 pm (come early to get some networking in)

Where:
Inza Coffee
8658 East Shea Blvd, Scottsdale

Fri, Dec 7th – 16th Annual AIGA Art Auction

AIGA Arizona is holding it’s annual Art Auction event in Downtown Phoenix at MonOrchid Studios during December First Friday! AIGA Arizona is pleased to present over 100 original works of art (paintings, mixed media, photography, digital art, sculpture, jewelry, and more) displayed on sale in live and silent auction formats. Plus bid on a selection of special packages that include dining, entertainment and recreation. This year’s art auction will also feature the Mohawk Show.

When: Friday, December 7th 6-10 pm

Where:
MonOrchid Studios
214 E. Roosevelt Street, Phoenix

Sat, Dec 8th – BarCamp Phoenix

BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. All attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one. This is great because you can both speak and be an audience member.

When: Friday, December 8th 9 am – 5 pm

Where:
University of Advancing Technology (UAT)
2625 W. Baseline Road, Tempe

Nov
20

Making the "A" Team

Communication and team work really have a huge impact on bottom line, completion dates and overall employee moral.

When I say that, it seems like such a “duh” statement, but in day to day activities sometimes this simple statement can be so overlooked. I’ve worked in some very different team environments, and I feel that I’ve taken away with some decent experience as to what really makes a team successful in projects. I’m sure we’ve all had our parts in bad teams and in super ones. Each time we assess the team and wonder, “why was that so difficult/easy, compared to last time??”

So what are some ways good teamwork can be created? Wait… it can be created?! Yes. I believe anyone can become a great teammate, and a good team can be formed anywhere, any time, as long as a few guidelines are upheld.

  1. Be HONEST about your abilities, weaknesses, mistakes and concerns.
    • You need to know what the team has to work with, if you set out to accomplish a goal that your team isn’t prepared for, you’re doomed. Don’t take on a movie deal if you’re a couple of guys and a camcorder. Find out what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are.
    • Alert the team on any serious blockers as soon as they’re made known, hiding these serious road blocks and trying to find an answer yourself may be harder on team moral than just owning up to mistakes or changes and working out the kinks as a team instead of placing all the blame on one team mate for trying to cover it up until it was too late to repair. Everyone is human, we all make mistakes, own up to them and find a way to work around it instead of placing the blame on someone else.
    • If you have concerns or questions about what a project includes or what is required, talk to someone and be honest. If you think something won’t work, don’t be afraid to let someone know, it’s better the team knows about a possible roadblock before it becomes an issue. At least you can all start brainstorming ways to fix it now, instead of later when someone is freaking out because you didn’t tell them before.
  2. RESPECT your team mates as experts.
    • No one is ever any better than anyone else. Why? Because without everyone in the team you can’t complete your goal. Everyone is just as important as anyone else at getting the job done.
    • Just because you think their job is easy, doesn’t mean it is. Sometimes people are so good at what they do, they just make it look easy.
    • There’s nothing wrong with brainstorming ideas on the best practices on how to do something, but when your team mate is clearly more versed in what you’re trying to accomplish, take the time to actually listen to what they have to say.
    • If a suggested solution clearly isn’t a suitable answer, be prepared to back it up with fact and reason instead of “because I want to do it that way”.
  3. COMMUNICATE about the project and every person’s needs to get their part completed.
    • Don’t ever leap before you look. Always let all the team members know why they’re working on a project to begin with. Tell them what the goals are, tell them what the outlook is going to look like.
    • Don’t skimp on defining the needs or desires of the project, these guidelines will be important when you want to make quick decisions. Communication is so important when you want to work quickly, giving all team members all the information means that they can make informed decisions without having to interrupt someone else or having to wait until the team leader is available for questions. This can also save you time on rework when people make uninformed snap decisions that have to be later readdressed.
    • Sometimes additional needs and considerations aren’t thought of fully until the entire team is fully informed in the needs of the projects.
  4. Be OPEN to others opinions and questions.
    • Just because you’re an expert in a particular area, doesn’t mean someone else on the team doesn’t have a good idea on how to approach a difficult problem in a creative way.
    • When additional items, issues, concerns or changes are dug up, be open to accepting that one person can not always think of all the things that can go wrong or need to be addressed.
    • If a team member feels they need additional information to complete their tasks, take the time to listen and to at least try to address their concerns or questions. These questions can be vital to dredging up pot holes that could have derailed the project further down the line.
  5. LEARN as much as you can.
    • Learn about project, the proposed process and your team mates. Find out everyones goals, roles and bits and pieces. Figure out how you fit into the process and who is intimately relying on you to do your job and do it well.
    • Constantly expand your current knowledge base, the more you know about your field, the more of an expert you are. The more confident you will be of your decisions that effect the project and the less mistakes you’ll make (usually).
    • Knowing about how your piece fits in with everything else will help you in planning what you need to get out when or how to deliver it, because you’ll know more about how and when the next team mate will need it. This makes their job that much easier.

So that’s it! Honesty, Respect, Communication, Being Open, and Learning. That’s all it takes to become a great team mate and a great team in total. Sometimes in the heat of trying to get something done, you can forget these very simple guidelines, but just take a deep breath and remember that everyone you’re working with to get this done want the same thing. And that is, to get the project done, right, on time and under budget. You’re all on the same team, with the same overall goal. No one is against you, no one is trying to make your life harder for no real reason. Head up, smile, and remember Honesty, Respect, Communication, Being Open, and Learning.

Oct
16

Seth Godin: How To Create a Great Website

Seth Godin recently posted his top 10 principles to create a great website. I really agreed with his perspective and wanted to elaborate with my own views.

1. Fire the committee. No great website in history has been conceived of by more than three people. Not one. This is a dealbreaker.

When you involve too many people into the process you start to conform and compromise until a great, original idea has transformed into a safe, bland piece of uninspiring web junk.

2. Change the interaction. What makes great websites great is that they are simultaneously effortless and new at the same time. That means that the site teaches you a new thing or new interaction or new connection, but you know how to use it right away. (Hey, if doing this were easy, everyone would do it.)

The web is all about interaction and ease of use, make it easy and make it essential to life. People flock to technologies and websites that make it easier to connect, share, do, and use in a way that wasn’t possible before. Take for instance, Flckr, it’s made photo sharing so remarkably easy that the whole world started sharing their snapshots. Or look at MySpace, making connecting to old friends easy, customizable so you can have your very own space on the web.

3. Less. Fewer words, fewer pages, less fine print.

There’s a new trend on the web where less is more. Don’t pitch to the client, don’t dance around the fact that you have a service they are interested in, just give it to them straight. If they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t be on your website, and they’re on your site for more concise, to the point information about you, the services you provide, and if you’re right for them. However, on the web, attention spans are at an all time low, so make it snappy!

4. What works, works. Theory is irrelevant.

Ultimately, there is no golden ticket to being a giant on the web. For years everyone thought we needed MORE everywhere on the web, and then came along Google: a logo, a text box, and a button. PERIOD. While you may think for a long time on how something may work, the true test is just to launch and see what happens.

5. Patience. Some sites test great and work great from the start. (Great if you can find one). Others need people to use them and adjust to them. At some point, your gut tells you to launch. Then stick with it, despite the critics, as you gain traction.

The bigger the site, the more complex, the more bugs you’re going to find. You can test EVERY scenario on how a user will try to use something, and then the day you launch, a user will show you a different approach you didn’t think of. The web is ever evolving, even if you launch today and it’s perfect, you’ll still need to update to stay fresh. Nothing on the web is forever. If you place your flag in the sand and wait two years to build on what you’ve created you’ll realize you have to totally rebuild because you’re washed up. Keep fresh, keep building on what you’ve made.

6. Measure. If you’re not improving, if the yield is negative… kill it.

You can spend a ton of money on a new site, but how do you know you’re getting a return on your investment? Do you know how many new contacts or sales are coming to the website? Do you know how many visitors you have and what your conversion rate is? If you’re not getting the numbers and contacts you want, where are your users bailing out of the system? Knowing all this information is key to making sure your investment is really being returned and that what you do next is really required to boost those numbers. Don’t be afraid to bail out of something that isn’t working after a period of time. Don’t beat a dead horse, just get up and move on to another approach.

7. Insight is good, clever is bad. Many websites say, “look at me.” Your goal ought to be to say, “here’s what you were looking for.”

Just because your site has all the bells and whistles doesn’t mean you’re going to draw in those users you want. Building on the less is more strategy, make sure that that select content you choose to include in your website is insightful and what the client is really looking for.

8. If you hire a professional: hire a great one. The best one. Let her do her job. 10 mediocre website consultants working in perfect harmony can’t do the work of one rock star.

Think of it as if you’re going to the doctor, would you tell him that your leg is broken and how to set, pin and cast it? No. Would you go to the illegal doctor working out of a shack instead of a highly trained doctor in a hospital? You should have the same regard for your interactive professional. Tell them where it hurts, tell them what other marketing meds you’re on, but don’t tell them how to do their operation. Even though you might save some money in the short term by going to a hole in the wall web shop, you’ll get want you pay for, junk. You’re going to reap the benefits of plunking down the dollars for a professional organized, designed and developed website.

9. One voice, one vision.

Make sure you know what you want to say and how you want to say it. You should have a solid idea of what you’re looking for. This will save time and money when you start looking at companies and solutions to help you build your website.

10. Don’t settle.

In the end, you ARE paying for a service. Don’t be steamrolled by a company who simply isn’t giving you what you need or thought you were going to get. Make sure the company you’ve selected for your project is right, and feel free to shop around. If your idea simply isn’t going to happen for your budget, more than likely several companies will tell you.

Oct
15

Bill Buxton: What Makes a Good UX Designer?

I happened across a video interview with Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher for Microsoft Research, on Canadian User Experience today and thought some of his points were very interesting in regards to what makes a great user experience designer.

He was questioned about what a college graduate should focus on when entering the ux career field at Microsoft, and his answer was interesting. “I don’t want a Jack of All Trades, Master of None. I want “T-Shaped People”, People who have a broad understanding of the whole field (the horizontal part of the T) but then have deep understanding and perspective in one discipline in particular ( the vertical part of the T).” He went on to describe how having this deep knowledge in one area of the field makes you very creditable and an expert in your area. This deep knowledge allows you to catch details of UX that someone with shallow knowledge likely would have missed.

Building a team of T-Shaped People allows you to have experts in all areas of your full field, yet all of them have a broad understanding of the task at hand and how they fit into the process. Being a T-Shaped person allows you to be trusted as an expert of your area of discipline, and other experts have to trust that you know the very miniscual details of your expertise.

What is this?

This little blog happens to be the personal ramblings of one April Holle - I'm female, outspoken, webbie, a community evangelist, and Principal of Made Better Studio. Check out the about section for more info.

What People Are Saying…