A Blogging I Will Go

What is a UX blog anyway?  A dusty online tome, dry and chart-sprinkled, reverentially touring the works of Jacob Nielsen; perhaps it is a scatological day-in-the-life diary of a long suffering user experience dude; or maybe an extreme truth-tsunami rendered in hip, strident, drive-time tones?  This is, you’ve likely guessed, my first blog.  Many a blogging how-to book, online blogging article, and blogging advice blog stressed the need to get a conversation started.  Is it working?

Please forgive the previous ‘in-your-face’ tone.  After all, this is also a professional blog for Sears UX; read, we hope, by other members of the UX community – many of whom work for Sears right now.  We’re a big department with a lot of talent – some of the best I’ve worked with in my 17 years, but we have our work cut out for us.  It is a statement of fact that Sears helped build this country.  A combination of Google and FedEx, in its heyday it supplied and delivered anything from homes to lingerie.  124 years after the release of its first catalog, Sears strives to reinvent itself as an ecommerce leader.

How is anybody’s guess – mobile, personalization, localization, integrated retail, social shopping, you name it.  Hence the commitment to our giant UX staff, our debates, experiments, successes, incremental updates, and misses too.

As for me, I’m only one man – only one writer on this blog for that matter.  More qualified individuals abound to expand upon the subtleties of research, user testing, and the intricacies of industry best practice.  My roll (one nobody really asked for), provide my odd perspective, shot through the prism of an atypical career.

What’s my point, I forgot it some time ago, but I leave you with this.  While I’ve worked and studied within the IT universe for most of my adult life, I often note how young our field is, unexplored territory, terra incognita.  Harry Truman once said something like, “The only new history is the history you don’t know.”  But what history?  A few decades of user experience, a few more of human factors both arriving long after the start of the industrial revolution.  In truth, our field grants less wisdom than most of us care to admit.

Outside of work my own interests are broad: history, science, art; I even made an indie film back in the day.  It is from these and my interest in narrative in particular, that I draw my perspective and even UX strategy.  I don’t think Jacob Nielsen would approve.  If he were to read this blog and post a comment (don’t worry, he won’t), I would point out defensively that story structure is the heuristics of narrative and Aristotle is the Jacob Nielsen of storytelling.

Of course, Aristotle’s been dead for millennia so he’s unlikely to crow about it.  The real point is that narrative, the conveying of themes and concepts by demonstration, sits atop centuries of accrued insight.  One of the axioms of filmmaking is, “Give’um what they want.”  Essentially, its a rallying cry for audience engagement.  I hope this post and the others to follow, give you what you want and perhaps, secretly transmit a fresh perspective on UX practice.

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