My name is Shane and I am a brand new software developer with AppRiver. Well, not even a developer, but a junior developer. I have been working at AppRiver for almost 3 months. In a couple days, I’ll sit down with my mentor to discuss my 90-day review too. I’m not scared though, since AppRiver seems to be the type of organization where these processes are in place to help me along my career path. That being said, there are lots of other things going on here that have been helpful to a new developer such as myself. The weekly Ten Minute Topic (TMT) is given by anyone on the development team that has something to share with the whole team. The topics presented range from best practices and new technologies to charitable ideas outside of the company. A couple of them have been over my head, but all of them have been beneficial to my growth personally and professionally.
Ten Minute Topic Review
The purpose of this post is to highlight some key points from one recent TMT entitled “User Psychology” given by a member of the design team, Chris Barr. (See the below video for more details.) His talk was logical, prudent, and it was apparent that he was truly interested in making software a better experience for the user… ahem… person … I’ll get back to that later.
Among other things, he gets into user design by pointing out that it’s more about how things visually work than simply how it looks. He brought up an interesting point that by designing a page in the right way, you can steer the thoughts of the viewer to create understanding. You can actually do things to help people understand your site better and produce a better experience. He’s referring to subconscious understanding, not just explicitly explaining how to use the site… Watch the video, he does a better job of describing this than I can.
He also brings up a good point that as developers, we often forget that we know too much about how the software works. Because of this, we make inaccurate assumptions about the user. He suggests researching who will be using the software for one thing, but also that we as developers need to put ourselves in the role of the customer. We should use the software as an actual user, not just test to see if something we built works. This will build empathy for the user and ultimately, we’ll gain the ability to design our sites better. One thing that specifically stood out to me was the idea he brought up of using the word person rather than user to describe the people who use our software. This changes our mindset about them, making them more real and building empathy for them too. About two weeks after his talk, I heard on NPR that Facebook is actually planning to make that exact switch (Google it, if you don’t believe me.).
Another thing that I was able to directly implement just minutes after his talk, were these three questions you should ask yourself when designing a page:
- What is this?
- What’s in it for me?
- What do I do next?”
Just before going to his talk, I was finishing up a page that had a box containing a description of the page at the top. Before the talk, the description was somewhat confusing and it didn’t actually say what the page was about. I realized later that I only knew what the page did because I was responsible for implementing it. With help from Chris, I was able to reduce that paragraph to a single line that was simple to understand and got the point across. It felt much more approachable and turned an eyesore into useful information!
If you’re a new developer or even a seasoned one who would like to improve his/her client-facing design, I highly recommend checking out this short video (Yes, it’s more like 15 minutes than 10 but it is so worth it!).