Seth Godin and Keith Kmett Inspire Identity Crisis

This isn’t a blog battle. It’s more of a mashup of two blogs that struck a chord with me this week. I do this from time to time.

Meet the Authors

Keith Kmett hails from Ankeny, Iowa. you may know him from our twitter feed. He maintains a blog called UX Delante and that’s where I found this post: Don’t forget your user experience common sense.

Seth Godin comes from outer space and has come here to explain our crazy carbon based world to us. (Seriously!)  You might know him from one of his books, like Linchpin or Tribes.  I really like his take of the education crisis which he documents in “Stop stealing dreams”.  His post, I want to put you in a category, spark some interest among my buddies on Facebook.

Survey the Posts

Keith sat down to write his UX design principles as a way to help him at work. He realized that the principles are based on common sense, which is really how a person perceives the world around them. Here is the kernel of Keith’s article:

Common sense is defined as “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.” This definition encapsulates what user experience is for me. User experience analysts are trying to give users enough facts in a situation to make a judgement. Ideally the judgement the user makes is inline with the business objectives and also leaves enough impression on them to share those facts or the situation with others.

Seth’s post breaks down the fundamental human condition in terms of marketing rules and business tips. His post is about expressing yourself ( your business, your website, your product) in terms of existing categories and user expectations.  Here is the kernel of Seth’s post:

Make it easy to categorize you and you’re likely to end up in the category you are hoping for.

Attempt to clarify a jumble of thoughts

It’s interesting to think of design principles as common sense. As the old saying goes common sense isn’t common. Just as our perceptions and context change, so does our common sense.It varies HUGELY between client and designer and all the stakeholders.

Seth points out that it’s important to express these things (principles, identity, etc.) in a clear and concise way. To express them in a way that is accepted and understood – TO THE RECIEVER. Fortunately for us living in modern Western society there are many different categories – so many ways to be ‘accepted and understood’

As we write down our design principles, we are making the implicit ‘common sense’  into an explicit ‘category’. We are defining ourselves firmly. [Are we doing it for ourselves? Or are we doing it for others?]

Writing out the principles is difficult. It’s difficult to know yourself that well. Or, to know yourself from a perspective that allows you to define yourself… It gets even harder to clearly define it in terms of existing categories. It’s easy to resist categorization and choose not to participate.

Seth explains that this is not a wise choice. That the consequence of nonparticipation and refusal to categorize yourself – the refusal to speak in terms of others’ perception – is misunderstanding and mis-categorization.

I’m exactly what you expect from the SOUTH.  Sweet, Fat, and Diabetic

About Paula: Paula Dean made the choice to crank up the signal / category of Southern Comfort, which includes Sugar and Fat. She became a caricature of the South. Bad, right? Not so fast. She now is struggling with Diabetes and THAT is part of her identity and category. She is cooking healthy now.  She is losing weight.  She shows that you can change. That one’s identity isn’t permanent. It must be curated.

Ben and I talk about signal-to-noise ratios. What Seth and Keith are talking about is amplifying your signal and reducing the noise.  Seth is saying that one man’s signal is another man’s noise. That sender and receiver need to be on the same page or have the same codec.  CODECS!

I think that thisI know is what user research is all about  – discovering the categories your users perceive. It’s about discovering what their common sense is. And, user centered design is about building things that align with ‘Your’ and ‘Their’ common senses.  It’s about aligning

Keith is saying that expressing your design principles and common sense is a valuable first step in working with others in the UX world. Seth is saying to take into account other’s perspective  – and that’s empathy.

Sum it all up

  • Make a choice about your identity.
  • Stick to it, until it’s time to change.
  • Curate your identity in terms of both yourself and others.
  • Focus on where your identity and other’s expectations overlap.
  • Do good work and wear sunscreen.
Personal Note: I’m leaving on a three tour of the West. Last year was the Swanee in a canoe with Charles.  This year is the Badlands in an RV with Joey Boats.  I wonder if we can get Ben off of Wrightsville Beach for a bit…  Anyway, Enjoy and thanks for reading.

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