Monday, April 28, 2008

Book Review: The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

A few weeks back I was feeling inspired by The 4-Hour Workweek. Even as I was meeting with clients and traveling to interviews, it didn't seem right to enjoy this book. As prospective clients spoke of agile process, deadlines, and working 60 hour weeks, I was dreaming of 4.

Then yesterday Timothy Ferris was interviewed on the BBC, and I wanted to laugh my ass off. He gave an analogy about a web designer in San Francisco who "only makes $40,000/year", and how this web designer could just up and go to Buenos Aires for three months and live like a king. Because BA is cheap, and this person does their work online, Mr. Ferris claims this would be an easy lifestyle adjustment. Somebody please introduce me to this mythic web designer who A. does not have (at least) a $12,000/year San Francisco rental responsibility, and B. who has a boss/client who is so cool they don't even want to know what you're designing every second of every day?

The 4-hour Workweek is not the greatest business book ever. It's not for everybody, you need to be ready to take the advice given here. Most of the advice is centered around selling something. This seems to be the easiest path to owning your own business. Mr. Ferris doesn't tell us things we don't already know, but like a coach he does inspire.

One of the funniest aspects of this book are some of the time saving tips which, if I were to enact them, would make me seem like a total bitch and nobody would want to talk to me. The author recommends limiting reading and writing email for ONLY an hour each day. He even tells you to spam all your contacts informing them of your new email regimen. He argues that people will understand that this is for efficient communication. I suppose if you are in sales this might work, but what about design reviews? Do women ever communicate efficiently? What if your client just likes to dictate their stream of conscious ideas while they're playing with their kids? What if you actually ARE a therapist?

One of the best parts of The 4-hour Workweek is the chapter on outsourcing to an overseas virtual assistant. At last I feel like I learned a secret that a lot of people in Silicon Valley don't share. The book provides you with useful anecdotes and links to outsourcing firms. Brickworks India here I come!

Another time saving tip is DON'T MULTITASK.
I completely agree with this tip, and now it's my new pet peeve. I never, ever, am good at anything when I do anything half-assed. I can never design anything without actually focusing some brainpower on it. This book just confirms this. Now I look around and I see how obsessed with multi-tasking the whole world is! Again the clients dictating while driving, at a game, waiting for a plane, and on and on.

Overall this book is best for people who are comfortable with the internet because a lot of his start-up ideas involve using the net to communicate efficiently, or to sell and market something to somebody in the simplest, cheapest way possible. I give this book 4 stars (out of 5) because it is inspiring in a to the point informative kinda way. But it is a little short sighted and unrealistic for a lot of people.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How Do I Design? What is My Design Process

Recently, I read this article about the Future of Web Design. It made me laugh (read final comment below). The most common question I always get, in one form or another is "How do you design something?". Since I usually design dynamic, interactive websites, my answer is to describe the web product design process.

Design IS a Process
Web product design is a process of refinement involving traditional design skills, merged with web development techniques. Web design is the balance of information and technology tailored to the right audience. And of course all websites should be adaptable, all web design teams should be very comfortable with the idea of evolutionary change, and build it into their business. You need to design it - try it - evaluate it - change it - and test it again and again. Always.
When Problems Happen
In my experience problems happen not in design but in the management of the design & development process. I can't tell you how many times I've worked on teams that have completely cut out producers/project managers because of somebody's false impression a that they have more control over their project. We all know that these people are just being tightwads.

I Cannot say it better than Alan Cooper
So I'll just link to his process. Alan Cooper is a design visionary who has been practicing for over 30 years. He's published numerous books including About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design and The Inmates Are Running the Asylum.

So... How do I design something?
I follow the process and communicate it with clients or other people involved in the project.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Studioroom.Com Update is Still Taking Way Too Long

OK. We simply have been blessed with way too much work to possibly deal with updating our portfolio. Sigh. It probably won't be until May before we get around to updating it. Promise (crossing fingers behind my back). I need a vacation.