I wish someone told me

First JobWhen I started working many, many years ago I thought I knew how to work in an office, but had to get reminded I was a newb. I wish I could have avoided some uncomfortable conversations I had back then, but we all need to learn the hard way from time-to-time. Below are a few things that came to mind as I was thinking about this and some amazing co-workers added some good ones below.

While this is not an exhaustive list and far from the only list out there I hope it will help those looking to break into a the digital workplace. Many of these concepts are applicable to anyone entering the workforce. However, the ideas represented below are coming from an agency mindset. My hope is that perhaps this will help you as you begin your journey.

  • Kiss School Good-bye: The easy days of school are gone. Expectations are higher and you will be expected to deliver. Professors are easy to schmooze, clients are not. You aren’t going to be able to talk your way out of underperforming. Know this and you can avoid unnecessary stumbles as you start your career.
  • Set Goals: I had no idea what a goal was outside of hockey and soccer. Career goals meant nothing to me when I started. Some people have grand visions of being a CEO of a Fortune 100 company one day. Good for them. But for those of us with less lofty aspirations consider something you want to get out of this job in the next few months. It could be something like learning a particular technique in Illustrator or perhaps giving a presentation to a client. Your manager can help you here, but keep them attainable and realistic so you can get your feet under you.
  • Be Early: Don’t show up late to meetings. You aren’t important enough to get a pass. If you are expected to be in the meeting by 8:30am, you need to be situated in the meeting room by 8:29. Being situated means you have everything you need to start the meeting (drink, paper, presentation, projector, etc.).There is no harm in being first to a meeting, but there is quite a bit of negative attention you bring on yourself if you show up late, unprepared, flustered, distracted, etc.
  • Bring Paper and a Pencil/Pen: Keep laptops/devices closed unless needed. Take notes, even if you are not responsible. The more notes you take the better you get at picking out the key points during a discussion.
  • Questions: Client meetings aren’t always the best time to bring up questions. Listen, learn, write down the questions and ask your team during a break if they are worth bringing up. During team meetings you should ask questions so you can learn. Your team will get annoyed if they have to answer the same things multiple times or have to show you how to do something over and over. However, if you learn your team will appreciate you more.
  • Team work: This is crucial. You are expected to be tight with your team. That means joking, listening, caring and communicating with them is important. If you need to leave early or stay late, let them know. If you have a weird circumstance that means you need to work from home let them know. These are not trivial things, they are important so everyone knows what to expect from you.
  • Downtime: From time-to-time you will find that you have downtime. This could lead to boredom, but this time is more precious than gold. Why? You get to learn outside of a project. You have to seize these moments every chance you get. 1) Tell other teams and see if you can provide some support. 2) Listen in on pitches or other meetings and imagine how you would solve the problem. 3) Find things to learn with the tools you use or want to use. 4) Revisit some old work that you want to refine and make better. Don’t waste it!
  • Mentor: If you haven’t found someone that can mentor you yet, find them. In fact find two or three people you can learn from. Ask them to spend time with you periodically. This could be weekly or monthly, but respect their time. You should find someone in a higher position than yourself that is doing amazing things that will offer an opportunity to help you grow. Your mentors will change over time as you grow so feel free to adjust. Mentors should not be limited to a company or industry.
  • Meetings: If you want to speak to someone then it is your job to block the time on the calendar. That means you find a time that will work for you and the person(s) you would like to meet with and send them an invitation so their time will be blocked on the calendar. Especially as a junior employee you need to be respectful of the people you would like to meet with by setting up the time and making sure the meeting is an appropriate length. Do not suggest or book more than one hour unless they advise you to do otherwise.
  • Be Eager: You are going to have tasks and projects that are not exciting. It’s how it goes, but you need to give those projects even more attention so you prove your value to your team and coworkers. Take these opportunities to learn. Absorb what you can in each opportunity you are given.
  • Extra Hours: Plan on giving extra hours. This is part of getting your footing. It may not happen all the time, but expect to get asked and take advantage of the time. If you find you are being asked to stay late consistently bring it up with your manager because something isn’t right and they can help sort out what’s going on.
  • Email, Chat, Text: Remember not everyone uses shorthand when you message them. Whichever platform you choose to use with your manager and team you need to make sure the message is clear and concise. Assume most people are scanning this message and are not going to read a 50 line message.
  • Check Email/Voicemail: Perhaps you don’t like phone calls or just find email lame. Too bad, it’s still used by many people and some organizations live by it. You are responsible for knowing the contents of the email and voicemail and you can’t claim ignorance.
  • Vacation: They are great when you need them, but be sure you understand the vacation policy and use it wisely. Don’t abuse the time you have off and make sure your manager and resource manager understand your request. It’s not a guarantee until it has been approved so don’t spend a bunch of money that you can’t get back in case your request is denied. Make sure you have an out of office message on during the dates you are out that communicates how long you are gone and provide the appropriate contact(s).
  • Managers: Your manager should be there to help you. If you are struggling, confused, curious, burned out, tired, anxious, upset, etc. then you need to find time with them. They may direct you to other people in the organization that can better address your specific needs, but you can’t get help if you don’t ask. Your manager wants you to be successful so let them help you.
  • Hours: Core hours for the company should be communicated to you. This means you need to fulfill your obligation to the company and the team by being in the office during the core hours. You may find that you need to come in early or stay late, but your team is counting on you to be available during the core hours and fulfill the duration of your 8 hour day. This means if you aren’t busy you don’t get to leave early, you are expected to use downtime wisely; see above.
  • Clothes: Be sure you understand the expectations for dress in the office. Keep in mind this is not the right environment to wear revealing clothing. This applies to both men/women. What you may have worn to school or the part-time job you had in the past may not be appropriate in the office. When in doubt go conservative and ask your manager or mentor if you need additional clarification. Pay particular attention to what you wear when clients comes for a visit or you are visiting them. You want to make sure you are appropriately dressed so they feel comfortable.

Perhaps more will come from your feedback or questions.


To kill, or not to kill the hamburger, that is the question

I like to eat hamburgers and even turkey burgers. But we’re not talking about burgers that would make Jules Winnfield salivate. We’re talking app and mobile web experiences that have become the virtual junk drawer.

Thanks to Luis Abreu the conversation about the value of the hamburger has kicked up again. I don’t want to rehash what Luis has written. But in summary Luis suggests that the hamburger has become the place to stick all of the leftover stuff that couldn’t fit elsewhere.  Once you have relegated a feature to that area you run a significant risk of your users never finding it.

Many “big brands” consider themselves excluded from the discussion. Why? Take a look at the examples used by Luis? Facebook, Twitter or IRC chat are not going to be a strong sell to a Fortune 1000 company. The notion at those organization many times is that “we’re different” or “that might work for them but we have many more products/services”.

What to do then? How can a large corporate entity that isn’t a tech giant in social make sense of the UX pattern? How can consensus be built to avoid this pattern? Is this another blog post talking about a bunch of stuff that doesn’t apply to a corporate gig?

Stakeholders need to be reminded that mobile web/apps should not be treated like a website. Our websites have grown heavy with bloated keyword rich content, ‘sexy’ imagery, features and functionality that attempt to capture a long tail user. Repeatedly reminding stakeholders that mobile is a tiny screen where customers will view content in 60 seconds or less is going to be crucial in building a great mobile experience.

Companies may need to break the “concept” into different applications. This may sound like blasphemy, but it’s not unusual. Chances are you do it on the web already. Microsites are used all the time. But is anyone other than Facebook or Foursquare breaking up their apps? Yes!

There are 15 apps available for iPhone. They have made 7 of those apps available on the iPad as well as one iPad only app. That means ESPN, the “World Wide Leader In Sports” has 16 applications on iOS alone. Of these only three and a half use the hamburger menu. Couldn’t they just combine these into a “mega app”? Maybe but is anyone else doing this?

Ford has 16 apps available on iPhone and 9 of those work on iPad. They also made 8 iPad only applications. You might be able to argue that two of these apps have a hamburger menu. These two apps to have the icon, but it is presented in a different way than the typical location in the top left corner.

Others Examples
Rolex (4 apps, no burgers)
Amazon (15 apps, 4 burgers)
AT&T (40 apps, a few burgers)
Coca-Cola (40 apps, a few burgers)

In short, do not let the “hamburger menu” be the cure for all of your ills. There are ways around using this approach. Other large companies are doing it and so can you. If your direct competitors are lagging behind, champion a user centered approach that fits you user approach.

Next time we’ll explore some Pros and Cons to this approach and try to make some more sense for killing the hamburger menu. Sure it may be much easier to include a junk drawer to pacify stakeholders, but what about your users? Do you want to give them an easy experience that they keeps them coming back? Or do you make it a hassle that they despise?


Video From Space? Yes, please.

Dameisha Beach in Shenzhen, China

Thanks to Gizmodo I chased a rabbit down a long, dark hole. Years ago when Google integrated the satellite view into maps the world instantly felt much smaller and more accessible than ever. Later the “bird’s eye view” became an interesting view as planes would criss cross the sky and photograph cities. But I’ve always wondered when we would have a video feed from space at our disposal. I think of the scene in the movie “Patriot Games” where the raid is carried out in the desert and they watch live via a feed.

I’m sure that there are business cases for the use of HD Video from space and no doubt the cost implications are such that this is only going to be available to those with deep pockets. Perhaps one day we will have live video showing traffic issues and we can understand the situation better than a dark red line on a map. The possibilities are exciting.

Google Glass

There is quite a bit of talk about Google Glass now that they have opened the demo for big idea people to apply for their own test units. There is more unknown than known at this stage, but I think the idea holds plenty of potential for the right scenarios. I’m not convinced that we’re going to see millions of people walking around with these things though. Perhaps one day we’ll be completely comfortable with the prospect of a camera and microphone capturing our every move without our knowledge, but we still cling to a notion of privacy that should allow us to disengage when we feel compelled. I wonder if we’ll see ‘privacy’ devices that scramble nearby signals. Hmm.


News from Apple WWDC

Yesterday Apple announced a number of hardware, iOS and OS X updates. I’m not going to rehash all of the coverage you can find elsewhere on the web, but I’ll pick out a few things that I think are interesting. If you want to read more I’ve added a few links at the end.

First up, hardare. There are a number of updates to the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. However, the big news is the new laptop  MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The big selling point is the retina display, obviously. The pixel density is not has high as the iPhone or the iPad, but it is pretty significant. The $400-$600 difference between the retina display and the new updated MacBook Pro models is not just in the display. They have also added SSD drives and made the body  thinner and lighter. Given the difference in price it’s hard to ignore.

Next are the improvements to to the new Mac OS X version labeled Mountain Lion. First of all, the OS update is only going to cost $20. That’s pretty impressive considering the laundry list of items included in this release. The list is long, so go check it out if you are a mac user at home or at work and see what is coming. Some of the highlights for me are the inclusion of “Messages” across your devices/machines. Facebook and Twitter are embedded in the OS so you can more easily share from applications like Safari, iPhoto and more. There are deeper connections to iCloud which allow for more cross device compatibility (iPad, iPhone and computer sync).

The other big announcement were the updates to iOS 6. With over 200 updates I will again spare the list of things to come, but highlight a few interesting ones. Facebook integration is coming so you can be signed in ‘all the time’ and share from iOS applications easily. Maps have been completely redone without Google. Apple will use their own mapping service which will include turn-by-turn, 3D maps, traffic and more. Siri is also getting supporting more services. (Please no more Zooey Deschanel commercials.) One interesting service that my be of interest to many of you is “Passbook”. This will allow the Starbucks card, airline boarding passes, movie tickets, etc to be stored in one area for easy access. Dictation and notifications are also available. The convergence of device and computer OS is not far off. It wouldn’t surprise me if by OS 11 everything was merged.

The new macs are available now. OS X Mountain Lion is coming in July. The updates to iOS 6 will be available for iPhones 3G S and newer this fall.

Ars Technica

Now I know where to click

Yesterday I complained about the crazy page design below the fold on att.com. I happened to be on Amazon last night and while I know this is not the new design that I’ve seen on my tablet I felt compelled to pull something together. How is it that Amazon.com can put a page like this out there and have at least as many options to explore and likely even more clickable links or buttons than AT&T? I don’t have a degree in interaction design, but I’ve been working on the web for a long time and I can tell you what works for me and what doesn’t.

The answer is simply the organization of the content. When you look at the image above you can see a section headline like “Related to Items You’ve Viewed”. The items related to that section are indented slightly. So I can easily pick out the section headline and logically group the content in that section since they are indented. The five items displayed are lined up the same way in each section so I can know where to start and stop. Since the columns keep the content lined up vertically it is easy for my eye to move through the options.

You might point out that column on the far right with a bunch of smaller images arranged vertically. This is kind of like the ad space used in a newspaper. The section is more general in nature and not necessarily specific to my purchase or viewing patterns other than perhaps by category. This area is largely overlooked unless I’m in the mood to browse. But it is still easy to move through these options in an organized manner because the columns keep things aligned vertically. The image sizes and text treatment help to keep the important stuff highlighted.

Like I said, I’m not a designer but I’ve had the pleasure of working with some very talented designers in my day. I’m sure this layout could be debated at length and I’m not endorsing this design aesthetic but rather offering a comparison to the previous post that was much more difficult to use.

Umm, I don’t know what I’m supposed to look at


I know AT&T is not the only one guilty of this but I just happend to come across this earlier today. This page is so full of ‘important’ information that all of it sits below the fold. This feels like an attempt to appease different groups that want their content to appear somewhere on the site only to get stuck with everything else around it. This is a good example of how decision theory can be considered and particularly the ideas around the paradox of choice can cause some problems. To be honest I didn’t read anything in here to know if it is worth clicking on or even related to the section of the site.

Less is more.