“It’s All About Me”
By Richard Abrahams
Over the years, I have adapted a design principle that I like to call “It’s All About Me”. As a designer, I am incredibly passionate about creating user-centric systems that connect business operations seamlessly and guarantee that data stays within the system. And of course, when I say “me” I mean the end-user; the individual people and companies at large. I strongly believe that a successful design begins and ends with how well the user can interact with it.
I am constantly looking outward for inspiration. Experiencing systems in the real world influences me to push boundaries to design better systems that will meet the demands of those in this industry. In this blog post, I will share two rather interesting personal experiences that have influenced the way I approach this design principle.
My first experience centers around when my wife was working in Manhattan. She worked on Broadway, and I remember driving my Mini JCW (215 HP in a go-cart!) with the top down blasting Stairway to Heaven, heading up 6th Avenue to pick her up; the artist in me was thinking “life doesn’t get better than this!” I digress, but my wife is a Psychotherapist and very good at it, and the way she operated influenced me to be mindful of an important aspect of collaborative business systems. The office had a collaborative system that allowed therapists to enter client session notes. Billing, health insurance and scheduling information also had to be added, information that was required by the “back office” for the rest of the team to access. The problem she faced was in the complexities of entering the data other people needed, which even made it very frustrating to enter the private session notes, which increased the risk of session notes going missing. Extending this challenge to a shipping company chartering, operations and post fixture teams, I realized that a good collaborative system needs to do more than gathering data to be shared across the organization, it needs to make it easy for each individual to do their own job. In other words “It’s all about me”.
My second experience centers around the time I was at Heidmar. Observing Jim, one of our Suezmax Traders at work, I became more mindful of the need to ensure users remain in the system. Please allow me to pause to say that, while it may not have been perfect, I had been assured by peers outside of the company that our system was definitely very solid. In this particular instance, Jim was using a system that required the user to properly categorize a fixture the moment it was fixed to ensure the “back office” had the ability to follow up as needed correctly. With a task of organizing a large Suezmax fleet with numerous cargoes, it is pretty common to fix 4 or 5 cargoes on similar dates to be allocated to different vessels – all dependent on the timing of their previous voyages. Therefore, Jim had to input the categorization of each fixture, even if it would have to be redone should the vessels get shuffled around – a huge hassle and frustration. He actually found it easier to keep fixtures in a separate notebook and only enter them into the system once they were 100% confirmed. When I observed this, I instantly realized that this was a broken system – an “all about me” system would eliminate these frustrations.
The next time you visit a website, ask yourself, is this company operating under a “for other people” (the company) mindset, or an “It’s All About Me” (me, the user) mindset. A company-centric approach will constantly ask you for information that may not necessarily be relevant to the task at hand, as a way to collect as much information about you as possible to benefit their marketing efforts and business needs over yours. In comparison, a user-centric approach will most likely leave you feeling that you had a great experience and one that you would want to repeat.
At Q88, and as Systems Designer, I aim to do just that. Make our systems easy and pleasing so our users have one less thing to worry about. Be on the lookout for my next blog.