— 3 January 2008 —

Part Of My Job Is To Become Irrelevant

I was IMing with Mr. Davis this morning and he asked me to bring some usability smack down to a Habari discussion on Google Groups. To whit (and wit) I responded:

me: Make it easy to use by everyone. Done and done.
mr. davis: Yeah, okay. If it was that easy, you wouldn’t have a job.
me: It is part of my job to make myself irrelevant.

It is part of my job to make myself irrelevant.

It’s not that I don’t want a job. I very much enjoy getting paid, and so do the people I owe money. I just look forward to a time when my work is done here, wherever “here” is.

When I work on a project, I don’t consider it my job to solely make a usable product or to validate that a product is usable. I also impart my knowledge of Usability (in its broadest sense) to the people I am working with.

I’ve grown up, so to speak, in the corporate world, but I’ve done my share of freelance and small-business client work as well. It’s rare that you ever work truly alone. And if you are not working alone it’s an opportunity to impart your knowledge, or mad skillz if you will, to those you work with. At least, that’s how I see things.

My hope is that the more you know about good design principles (graphic and interaction) the better choices you’ll make on the next project. And if I get you involved interacting with users and it helps you gain some insight, maybe you’ll ask to be involved next time. In a way, what I am trying to do is make your job easier.

I’ve worked with a handful of people over the last 10 years who think the same way I do. They’ve imparted business knowledge and development knowledge to me and it’s allowed me to make better design decisions.

Sure, we all had to be more involved in more activities on the project than our job descriptions defined, but we all knew more and thus made better decisions. At least that was the hope. I’ve found that the more people are involved in the beginning of a project, the less rework tends to happen later in the project. That’s not a new concept by any means, yet most people still resist getting involved early.

There are a number of heuristics that I try to impart to everyone I work with. The more they know about the stuff I know about, the less they’ll need me over time. Does it mean I’ll ever be truly irrelevant? Probably not. But it will mean, and has meant, that I get asked fewer “dumb” questions by the people I work with. I get pulled in to fewer conversations about the order of fields on a screen, or what font size should be used, or if we should add more blue. Okay, I still get that last one regardless of what I do.

Training you to be better at making good design decisions lets me focus on the things that are really complex, or something totally new, or on fixing “legacy” issues. Because of those things, I don’t think I’ll ever be out of a job. But a boy can dream.

It would be nice if everyone just did good design. They don’t. That and Yakob’s voracious publishing over the years on all things duh is what created the need for my position. But I really believe that the more everyone knows about creating things that are useful, usable, and satisfying, the better the world will be.

Yeah yeah. It may be idealistic crap, but I can’t stand knowledge hoarders. The project is to make something cool, not just to write code or requirements. Consider sharing your knowledge and maybe some day you too will become irrelevant.

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