Drummer Lessons: Serve Your Team, Your Designs, Your Users

My sons are drummers. One is a killer-good drummer who can riff in a drum-line or a kit all day long. The other is just starting out, but already lays down a groove that compels me to pick up a guitar and jam along with him.

They just make me want to play with them…because they make me sound better.

Well, now I know why. Their teacher just published three drumming books (Get them…you’ll love them). The forward of the third book is so inspiring I think we all could learn from it in how we work with our team at work, how we approach our designs, and ultimately how we can delight our users.

Especially the last line:

“What actually makes drummers of great value in the professional world is not the amount of fills they know but rather their ability to make the rest of the band sound as good as possible”

Imagine: While a drummer has the ability to be the loudest one in the group, the most impressive (selfish?), the most showy, what Alec shows is that by serving the band and letting them shine, you will actually be the most valued and sought-out drummer of anyone.

What could it be like if we used all our talents and skills solely to make the rest of our ‘band’ sound as good as possible, rather than to make ourselves look good? How motivated would our teams be? How focused would our designs be? How great will our user’s experience be…because we are serving them, not furthering our own agenda/portfolio?

Do me a favor: As you read the image below, replace “drummer” with “designer”, “leader”, “general manager”, or heck, even “dad”.

After you read it, list below who your ‘band’ is. your family? your team at work? IT administrators? Developers? A youth group? Your users who are skeptical of any software because they’ve been burned in the past? Then, describe what you could do to make the rest of your band sound as good as possible.

Ready? Go.



PS: I’m serious. Go get these books. At least, go read the intro yourself

Understanding the COMPLETE End-To-End User Experience

We in the tech industry talk a lot about ‘information integrity’, and ‘data security’, and how the world can use information to better their company…so keep it safe!

While true, I loved seeing this photo as a reminder that everything we create has a life-span. Nothing we create will last forever: Our products, our designs, and even the information we generate along the way.


And while most of us focus on offering solutions on how customers can securely analyze their precious data, this business found a way to be honest: Someday that precious data will not be useful; that destroying data is a natural part of the end-to-end experience.

I wonder how much more delighted we would make our customers if we guide them not only how to discover, try, and buy our products, but also on how to repair, upgrade, and eventually discard our products?

If we face ‘the end’ as a natural part of the full user experience, will we cherish our users more, and not take for granted how precious it is that humans are actually trying to use something we created to be more productive

Maybe if we do, ‘the end’ won’t arrive for quite a long time.

Usable vs. Useful: It’s All About Being Relevant

The Great Interweb is filled with sites about designing a product that is usable as well as sites about designing a product that is useful. If you google “usable vs. useful” you’ll even find a lot of great conversation debating the two, but I’ve never really internalized the difference.

My personal moment of clarity came with I picked up my wife’s iPhone.

With its familiar interface, fluid navigation, and multi-touch gestures, I can tell you right now that her iPhone was instantly usable. But after just a few minutes of frustration, I can also tell you right now that her iPhone was completely useless!

…for me.

Using her phone I couldn’t get to my email, my personal calendar, and and I couldn’t even tune my guitar with my favorite guitar tuner app!

That experience was a very eye-opening for me and made me realize that regardless of how shiny the presentation is, and how easy the navigation of a product is, if it is not relevant to me personally, the product is not worth my time.

That made me think: Is it more important to be useful than usable? Can you have one without the other? Also, why do I love products that are not shiny? Craigslist, for example…or my Library app? Neither are examples of awesome visual design, but they are so relevant for me I don’t really care.

That led me to think a bit deeper: Is it an individual personality/generational/character thing that determines which user experience characteristic is most important to a user? If a person is more concerned with the kind of car they drive or other external appearances, does that affect their opinion of a products outward appearance regardless of how useful it is?

How about you? What is most critical for you to have a great user experience?

Demoing A (You-Tell-Me) User Experience

It’s time.

Our over-a-year-focus on user experience enhancements is now being seen by the world. We couldn’t affect our whole product, but instead focused for this release on what customers said they use/need the most.

These enhancements are for our product IBM Flex System Manager, and it includes some really big user experience changes that our design team has been designing/iterating on for over a year. I haven’t been this excited about a release I’ve been involved with since my album (check it out here or on iTunes/Amazon… it ROCKS!)

We have received very positive feedback during our customer testing, and our own internal users seem thrilled. We have measurements that tell us we’ve reduced time/effort to get things done, that it’s simple to use, and it just looks pretty 🙂

But I wonder if I, or anyone, can really declare a level of user experience has been achieved until users get their hands on it and use it (probably for at least a month)? Because, in the end, it’s all about our users and if the product is useful to them…and delights them.

Be that as it may, check out what our new user experience is like…

How about you? Do you have a favorite way to share your improved user experience to your users? How do you get feedback?

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