By Jimi Wikman
As soon as you step into the office of a company you can sense what kind of company it is. It's in the decoration, in the way people dress, the body language and in the eyes of everyone working there. That is because great companies have great attitude that go beyond just doing great work. It's a passion and a love for what they do that no amount of skill or hard work can match.
I am sure you have felt it many times stepping into an office regardless of what business you are visiting: The stale and boring office where work is the only thing that matters where silent people stare at their computer screens with faces of stone that indicate a high performance company with little to no love for their employees. The bright and a little messy office where people talk and laugh, walking around with that enthusiastic light in the corner of the eye indicating a passionate company who cares about their employees.
It's a vibration in the air, a smell of freshness and a soft light that seem to be around everyone that works there. It is as if everyone is just full of life and creativity. It is in companies that can maintain that passion that you will find the best value because everyone will go out of their way to make sure their clients not only get what they think they want, but also that they get what they need.
It is also in these companies where change is always welcome and even encouraged. New ideas are born spontaneous without fear of rejection, no matter how silly or strange and everyone are open about their opinions on how things can be improved. This is where the employees come early and leave late and it's in companies like this where not all work is being charged because the people will work on it even when they are no longer at work. Not because they have to, but because they want to.
I have had the great fortune of working for several companies having this great attitude. I also work with clients that have this same great attitude and the thing that they all have in common is that its easy to make changes and people are passionate and willing to make things better. These are the companies that grow and become successful, not because of the products or services they sell, but because people will go above and beyond to make success happen.
I have also worked for companies that are the opposite. Stale and almost impossible to make changes happen, even if it's obvious to everyone that change is a necessity. Companies that treat people like numbers in a spreadsheet that use protocol and rules as ways to make others feel bad because they themselves are unhappy at work. The employees in these companies will never go the extra mile because they have learned that no one cares if they do and their passion have all but died inside them.
So the next time you consider doing business with another company think about what you want from that business arrangement. Do you want someone that will just give you want you ask of them even if it may not be the best solution, or do you want someone that will be passionate about giving you the best possible solution, even if it's not exactly what you ask for?
Do you want a silent grey production machine or someone that will work with you to get the best possible solution for your business?
Greatness is just around the corner, you just need to have the courage to go for it.
By Jimi Wikman
In the world of e-commerce things are moving fast. We see new reports every day about how E-commerce is breaking new boundaries. Mobile E-commerce is overtaking the desktop, as king of the E-commerce according to reports and on the surface it looks like E-commerce is the tip of the spear and the cutting edge of modern commerce. That is not the case however and in many ways E-commerce industry is still in its infancy. I will give you some examples on what I mean.
1. Still see things like multi- and onmichannel as new concepts.
It is quite remarkable that the concept of combining different channels into a whole is still something that most E-commerce companies struggle with. Despite the fact that E-commerce has been around for quite a while, many companies still consider this as a separate channel to be developed in parallel with their physical stores when looking at brick and mortar companies and the opposite for pure players that start with E-commerce and want to expand to physical stores.
Like Johan Hallgårde writes in his articles about omnichannel it is not a new concept and its time that we stop looking at E-commerce as something different from regular commerce. It’s all commerce and omnichannel should not be a vision for the future, it should be at the core of every business decision made internally in all projects related to commerce.
My best suggestion is to contact Johan Hallgårde and set up a inspiration day where he can elaborate on how you can move to the front of the competition by start thinking on your business as a whole and not a jigsaw puzzle. I assure you that you will not regret that decision.
2. Unrealistic belief in advertising agencies
In the E-commerce industry, especially in the larger companies that comes from a marketing driven brick and mortar past, there is an unrealistic belief in advertising agencies. I say unrealistic because there is a belief that because a advertising agency excel in advertisement and print, that does not in any way mean that they have a clue about the web. Even if they do there is the fact that web design is not the same as E-commerce design that makes it even more unrealistic.
The sad truth is that most of the larger companies want to work with a partner that they know can handle design and as they do not see the differences between the different mediums they often go for large print/web firms. I have seen, and I have heard of large, and small, E-commerce companies that did that and got a nice flashy website that did not convert half as well as the old one.
As I am a graphic designer, web developer and Neuro web designer with many years experience in E-commerce I tend to get invited as external consultant to act as support to the design companies from time to time, or even asked to take the full responsibility of the design myself. With my background as a system scientist and frontend developer as well as business/Requirement analyst I find that this role is quite rewarding as I can utilize my full skill set in these situations. So if you need a hand in ensuring that the design you ordered is well suited for E-commerce, feel free to contact me and discuss the situation.
3. Focus on technology instead of users
In every E-commerce project there are a great deal of technical aspects to consider and it’s natural to become internal and focus on “we need” instead of “they need”. As a requirement analyst I always have to ensure that workshops stay on the right level, as they tend to dive right down to the data mappings and API calls instead of the actual requirements. Sometimes that’s where they need to be, but a lot of times it is not. This is because the focus is on internal need where it’s all these nitty-gritty details that fill their day.
Unless you are focusing on building E-commerce site for your own sake, for a few millions, it’s crucial to lift the eyes above the wall surrounding your office and look at the users that will actually use the E-commerce site. What do they want? How can we make our products or services irresistible and what does that mean for the project, regardless if it is a redesign project of a feature based project.
At the end of the day the most important question you need to ask yourself is: whom do I build this for and do I really know what they want? This question is not just missing in E-commerce project but in most IT projects as well as the focus is on technology and not the users. The best way to take care of this problem is to ask the users. Set up workshops and interviews for internal usage and questionnaires, interviews and user testing for external users to create personas and hypothesis for a User Experience approach.
4. Interaction design instead of UX
Because many projects focus on technology and not users many projects get stuck in the interaction design phase and have problems moving over to the UX phase where the real magic happen. I have seen projects where the aim has been to improve UX that failed completely. Not because the effort was not made or the competence was missing, but because the project worked on assumptions coming from stakeholders that did not match reality at all.
Without understanding of the customers it’s impossible to work with UX because the very definition of UX is to improve the experience so it matches the users need. This is something that still seem to be unfamiliar and scary to many companies and in some cases it might even lead to a poor use of A/B testing as a substitute to communication.
If you feel that you have not really communicated with your users or feel confident that you can describe your 3-5 most important types of users as well as the top least desirable type of users, then you are most likely stuck in the interaction design phase, or wasting money trying to A/B test things based on hunches.
5. Analyze but don’t talk to their customers
Another thing that I see quite a lot is that companies spend a lot of time and money on setting up advanced tracking for their analytic system, but then either don’t know how to interpret the data or lack the communication with the users to improve the experience.
Having a good setup and track what happen on the website is very important and fortunately many have started to realize this. Tracking data and interpret the data is however a very different matter and it takes an experience analyst to really be able to draw conclusions from the data. It is also quite a difference between noticing that something is wrong with say the checkout and be able to understand what the problem really is.
In some cases it might be enough just to look at the troubled area, but most of the time you actually need to understand the users in order to understand the problem fully. The best way to solve that problem is to simply locate a few customers that match the personas of your most important user groups and then do a think-aloud test to get their opinions on the trouble areas. This is not an expensive test and it can give a lot of insight.
If you feel that you are focusing more on internal requirements and that even if you analyze your customers you are still not communicating with them or really know whom they are, then feel free to contact me or my co-worker Åsa Jonsson to discuss what you can do about the situation today.
These are just a few areas where the E-commerce industry is currently a bit behind in their thinking and where they seem stuck on old ways, seeing the E-commerce part of the business as a separate channel instead of a natural part of all their commerce.
Other areas include mobile maturity, lack of understanding of accessibility causing exclusion of the disabled, poor understanding of neuromarketing for web and not capitalizing the power of copywrite and quality graphics. I thought I should cover those in another topic however since this turned out to be quite a long post already.
If one of the topics above interests you, please let me know and I’ll focus on that for my next post.
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By Jimi Wikman
In your life you will spend more than half of your time at work and between traveling to and from work, social life, family life and every little curve ball life throw at you just to keep you on your toes, there is very little time left. If this is the only time you allow yourself to do what you love, then your life my not be what you want it to be.
Work is such an important part of our lives and if you look at it as a way to make money and not as a way of living, then you might end up doing something you don't like. Considering that work is such a huge part of our lives I have always found that regardless if it pays well or not, my life always feel richer doing what I love.
So my advice to you is to take a look inside your heart to see if it sing every time you go to work. If it does not, then consider what in your life makes your heart sing. What things would you do everyday even if you did not get paid for it?
When you find that answer, regardless of what it is, then find a way to make that your living. It does not matter how stupid or crazy it may seem to others, or even yourself, if it makes you happy, others will want to share that feeling with you.
It can be music, surfing, playing video games, taking care of others, creating strange artworks or doing maths. It can be running, designing clothes, make a difference in politics or making the perfect hamburger. It does not matter what your hearts desire is because as long as you follow that song in your heart you will be successful and you will get rich, but perhaps not on hard cold cash on the bank.
When you do what you love as a profession you will find that the time you spend on work will be invigorating and working overtime become a thing of joy rather than a burden. You will find yourself smiling and laughing more and being more positive in general. This will spread to others so they to will feel better and more positive about their day.
You will find that time passes slower as your mind will not just throw memories from work in the waste bin of your mind, but rather place it is the pleasure center in a place of honor. Every day will feel like an adventure and every day will feel like an accomplishment.
Money might not be plentiful always, but as you sit at the end of life and look back at your days on this earth I guarantee you that no amount of money can compare to the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment you will feel when spending a lifetime loving your work.
So please do not waste your life doing something you do not love. Find that thing that make you happy and just do that. It will not be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it.
I believe in you.
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[Article] Are we breaking down things to much for design and complicate the process or is it necessary in a more complex world?By Jimi Wikman
UX design, visual design, interaction design, creative technologist, GUI designer, usability consultant, information architect. The titles are endless these days and as someone who work with all of these pretty much every day I am starting to wonder if we are breaking things down to much these days, or if it is actually necessary to get things done?
10 years ago most of these titles were pretty uncommon, at least compared to the way they are used today. They still existed, they just were not as clearly defined and separated as they are today. Most just called themselves "designer" and that was pretty much ok.
When I had my own design business there was no distinction between a visual designer or a UX designer for example because without the knowledge of one you can not do the job of another.
Without knowing the information structure and the technical limitation of the platform I am designing for, I can not set the interaction design. Without the interaction design I can not set the UX and without the UX I can not set the visual design. It's not quite that linear as they all blend on multiple levels, but you get the idea.
So for me these things are always connected and maybe that is why I never felt comfortable focusing on just one area. How can I best help a client if I do not understand the whole picture? How can I create a solution without understanding everything from psychology to visual principles to information architecture and interaction patterns in the different touch points in a customer journey?
As the fields expand rapidly, just as they do for front end development, the information flow becomes almost unmanageable. Is this perhaps the reason why we see people that proclaim to be UX designers, visual designers or interaction designers? Or is it just that they still are "designers", but just focus on one area of expertise more than the other fields?
Unfortunately I see a division, just like the division happening for the front end developers, where we have designers that put the creative power of the visual design as their only craft and others with the intellectual focus of interaction and psychology as a separate craft.
I have been in projects where this division have worked fine and I have been in projects where this does absolutely does not work at all. It all depends on the people and the methodology where communication is always the key.
As we dig deeper into the psychology of design and user behavior, for the web in general and e-commerce in particular, does this mean that it become to difficult to stay on top of the development in all these fields so a division of discipline is required?
The tools we use suggest the opposite however and the borders between visual deign, interaction/UX design and even code becomes more and more blurred. So from a technical point of view we move towards where I was 10-15 years ago where you are doing just "design".
As of now I am not really sure what is the best way moving forward. Is it better to have very focused individuals that form teams to get the full width of the design process? Or is it better to have less focused individuals that can handle the full range of disciplines on their own? What does this mean for methodologies and work processes, does it matter at all?
What are your thoughts on this matter? What direction do you think we are headed and how do you feel about that?
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By Jimi Wikman
In most projects there is that one perfect moment when you look up from your screen and observe the team you are leading only to realize that they no longer need you. It is both terrifying and absolutely the best moment you can have.
As a project manager I have my own style that comes from many aspects of my life. From my brief time in the military I bring my sense of protection of the people I lead and from my childhood upbringing I bring a desire to encourage and treat others with respect. On top of that I add a touch of my need to understand the things around me and a curiosity to learn new things.
These things make me be the first one to start the workday and the last one to close my laptop at night. It is also the reason I gladly spend hours upon hours to make sure everything is prepared before my team start their work. Not because I want to control their work, but because I deeply feel that my single purpose as project manager is to make their life easier.
In order to do that I will put my heart and soul into solving as many problems as possible before my team ever need to know that they exist. This so they can focus on the work at hand and on becoming more than just a group of people working together so they can become a team.
I do not control my team, because I trust them completely and because I know that they work better if I give them the tools to manage themselves. In the beginning I steer the the team towards a work process I have used before and then I encourage the team to make changes together so we fine tune the process based on the need of the team.
By focusing on their need and by making sure everyone feel that their voice is heard and respected the team grow towards a sense of unity. I give responsibilities and make sure everyone in the team is pushed a little bit beyond their abilities or comfort zone. Not to punish, but to help them grow as I am there to support and assist every step of the way should they feel insecure or have doubt.
Then somewhere along the course of the project that perfect moment will happen. Usually when sitting at my desk on the outskirt of the team as I try to make sure the team sit closely together with me on the outside. In that moment it is like the sound of the room will change and become almost inaudible and as you look around you see the team engaged in work, helping each other or discussing solutions together.
Instantly you feel that the team no longer need your guidance and you no longer need to help them find their place within the team. They are a team now and all the heard work to build that up is now over. There is a positive energy over the team and you will see them smile and laugh together and then returning to their work with an amazing focus and efficiency.
In that moment there is a pride in your heart that threaten to bring you to tears. Not because of your accomplishments, but for theirs. As a proud parent you will see the growth of each of the team members and you will see how they take on responsibilities because they want to, not because they have to. They respect and protect each other as a team.
It is in that moment you have accomplished the most important aspect of leading a group and that is that you have managed to make them all feel safe. Safe to speak their mind and safe to take on any task knowing that it is ok to fail and try again. Safe because everyone share the same vision and motivation and safe because that they all know that no matter what happen you will always be there for them and have their back should they need it.
While you are no longer needed to guide them and to help them become a team, they still need you to be there to support them. Your role will change from that point on and you will spend less time managing and more time leading. Your team will look to you for decisions and clarifications, but other than that they are from that point on more than capable of managing their work on their own without you.
It is truly one of the best feelings in the world.
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