What’s the point? Test, learn, grow

by Ben Allen on January 10, 2010

Who is Ben Allen?

I’m British, I live in Chicago, IL and I love the Internet. I think the creativity it fosters and the opportunities it presents are incredible. My focus for the last 5 years or so has been the web, web usability and more generally the customer centred design process. It’s a passion, a lust for the best solution for a user or group of users that gets me up in the morning.

For the last 2 years I’ve been helping build and develop a new team & office in Chicago for the nice people I work for – HeathWallace. This opportunity has broadened my horizons to the point where my interests have blossomed to include - entrepreneurship, new business development & marketing.

What is Ben doing here?

The single most important thing I want to do here, on this blog, is start a conversation on the topics I have a passion for. That could include a whole bunch of stuff:

  • Customer centred design process (huge fan of Avinash Kaushik & his trinity model)
  • Upfront research & requirements gathering
  • Web analtyics
  • Web usability
  • Business development & operations
  • Web accessibility
  • Web development
  • Web content
  • Career advice (dishing out and asking for help)
  • Chicago – ok the winters suck but apart from that I love this city

If conversation is the end game you might wonder “what is in it for him?”. A good question –  for me, the journey is the most important thing. My journey will be fraught with mistakes, saturated with bad writing & grammar and perhaps even a contradiction or 2. The point  is – that’s the point. You learn by doing, you learn by testing/playing/hacking, you learn from your mistakes. To put it more succinctly – you test, you learn, you grow. I’m here to do it myself and I’m also here to encourage it and explain some of the mistakes I’ve made in the hope you’ll be better educated to decide whether you want to make the same mistakes or avoid that path altogether.

I feel inspired by the “f**k up fast” mentality that got flickr through. I’m seeking out my niche, my dip (as Seth Godin would say) and I plan to power through it with a little help from the blogosphere.

Why should you care?

  1. I’m a practitioner –  I have 5 years of experience making big websites for big cheeses (sadly, most of which are confidential). I’ve done this within a business that went from 10 people in a barn to 70 in 3 locations around the world.
  2. I’ve seen a usability study or 2 – I’ve organised or sat through or analysed more than 50 usability studies. My user experience opinion is crafted, at least partly, on some science.
  3. I’ve travelled a bit – I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of places with my work. I’ve met loads of cool people on my travels and listened to lots of different opinions. I’m always thankful for this opportunity as it continuously broadens my horizons and challenges my own perspective.
  4. I’m an employer – I’m not going to post jobs here but I’m hoping I will be able to share some information that helped me in my career. A career in the web is a complex place and I’m passionate about helping people wrap their heads around it.
  5. I’m a weird hybrid of skills – my degree is in Computer Science so I started out as a developer but life did not end there. My competencies include Information Architecture, Customer Centred Design & I’m a newbie at Web Analytics (but I’m desperately trying to get good at this one). My skills are not quite as diverse as Nathan Myhrvold but I’m young so here’s hoping!
  6. I have a tendency to rant. I’ll try to clean up my ranting on this blog but a healthy dose might be beneficial from time to time as I’m sure you’ll be able to make better sense of what I’m trying to say.

Covering one’s bottom

This blog conveys the point of view of Ben Allen, not the view of past, present or future employers. Phew – glad we got that out there!

Ben needs your help – sweet, sweet feedback

This year, I’m determined to search out more feedback on my own performance and point of view. As mentioned previously I want to start a conversation rather than write in silence, without question. Please feel free to leave a comment or 2. Here are some questions for you:

  • Do you know me & think I should be writing about something else?
  • Do you think trial & error is a crude way to grow? What better techniques are there?
  • Do you have any blog article ideas?
  • Is there a user experience question you’d like to have answered?

Let the conversation begin.

Take care, speak soon, Ben

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