Monthly Archives: October 2011

The Maturation of Web Usability – Making the Job Application Great

online application usabilityThe user experience has been the rallying cry for software success stories over the last few years. After a long time of clunky interfaces that work hard but are also difficult to use, focus on usability has been a welcome change.

Usable design involves a focus on reducing the amount of work a user has to do to use an application – reducing the number of clicks, keeping it simple, and considering the user needs above all.

However, focus on just making it easy isn’t enough – a more mature design methodology has emerged that marries functionality and a usable interface with the mission of the application.

Human Factors International has been championing this more advanced design methodology with PET design, which involves integrating persuasive engineering into software design. “We recognize that usability is no longer enough. We need to go beyond making it so that people can complete a task; we have to make sure that they will do the task, that they will convert,” says Dr. Eric Schaffer, CEO, Human Factors International.

For e-commerce sites, this may mean creating software that takes longer to use, but actually results in higher purchases. Stores put milk in the back of the store for the same reason – making the milk harder to find actually increases store sales – thus meeting their end goal.

This approach needs to be applied in the HR world to the online job application. Because the online application has been largely ignored and difficult to use for applicants, software providers are rushing to make the online application super usable in an apology to applicants.  However, the ultimate online application meshes usability with functionality, while accomplishing the end goal of the application. In this case, the need the application meets is matching the right applicant with the right job. A long, clunky process doesn’t meet that need any more than a short process that doesn’t collect necessary information. A well-designed, usable application that gives applicants the opportunity to present themselves in the best light, even if it takes a few more clicks, is a win for all. Recruiters want to maximize their resources in finding the best candidates, applicants want to showcase their skills.  A marriage between the two is the goal.

HFI quote from the white paper: “PET User Interface Structure: Much more than just another pretty interface.” Human Factors International.

Advice to Newly Graduated Programmers

datamation-1965-well-dressed-programmer

Image from Datamation magazine, 1965.  Courtesty of The Computer Boys

At myStaffingPro, we are fortunate to work with IT students during their college years.  As we send them off into the “real wold,” and hopefully into a full-time IT job, there’s some things I want them to know.

Put yourself in the user’s shoes
Listen to what the software user is saying with his heart, not just with his mouth.  Many users can’t verbalize exactly what they want.  Good developers will dig deeper to find the felt need and create software that meets that need.

Think like a hacker
Expect to spend more time on security than you want.  It’s a reality of the world that people will try to take advantage of you, your software, and your customers.

Delve deeper
Don’t stop at the first solution – keep digging for the best solution, while staying within time and budget constraints, of course.  Usually the best solution isn’t the something you’ll learn in a classroom.

P & I
Leverage the work of those before you by utilizing free online resources, attending conferences, and sharing code with other developers.  Study successful applications.  Share freely of your resources as well.

Mock up everything
Even if it’s just a drawing on a napkin, a mock-up will give you better focus.

Test it to death
Don’t hand anything in as complete until you’ve tested it at least 10 times more than you thought you needed.  Again, test it yourself, BEFORE handing it off to QA or your supervisor.

Communicate, communicate, communicate
By nature, most programmers focus so much on their skill that their communication skills don’t get used much.  Force yourself to communicate with your co-workers about what you’re doing.  Then listen, listen, listen.

Ask questions…
…but only after you’ve made an honest attempt to find the answers yourself.

Get to work on time and be nice to others
This applies to any career choice – hopefully the why is obvious.

You’ve chosen an exciting career that will allow you to create art in the form of software.  Keep your focus on the end goal of what you’re creating, and you’ll keep your inspiration.  Carpe diem!

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains of the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a human-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” – Steve Jobs in Fortune

HR Technology Conference – Nothing New, Yet That’s Still Something

While I didn’t think there was anything particularly new introduced at the latest HR Technology Conference (2011, Las Vegas), that doesn’t mean nothing happened.  In fact, the lack of the new is a happening in itself.  Here’s what I learned from HR Tech:

Mobile is here for good

Software companies  have mobile figured out and it’s a non-issue, technically.  Adoption by HR is another issue, but eventually mobile will become status quo.

The candidate experience might finally be getting its due

I was excited to attend the session on the Candidate Experience Awards, and even more excited to hear about the diversity of companies that won.  Companies from every industry and of every size were represented.  One thing that stood out to me based on their survey results – the career site is now an accepted and common HR tool, even though it took years for adoption.  What is it that is being touted now that may be as necessary in the future?  A usable applicant experience, maybe?

Small/ mid-size market yet untapped

The majority of companies I talked to have been using applicant tracking and HRIS systems for a while now.  If anything, they are looking for technology that delivers what it promises (hard to find), not new technology.  However, there are thousands of companies in the small/ mid-sized market that have yet to even implement an applicant tracking system or HRIS, that are largely ignored by tech giants.

Re-emergence of the big boys

I hear so many complaints about some of the unwieldy software giants that I thought they were losing ground.  Not so, it seems, based on the huge booths on display.  My guess is that they have been able to hang on through tough economic times by acquisitions and spending large amounts of cash.  Unfortunately some of the more innovative, smaller companies have been bought up.

Integration is king

I heard it over and over again – the need for a system that talks with their existing “x” system.  The ability to integrate is a differentiator and wise software purveyors will have rich APIs.

Overall trend toward usability

The features are there, now it’s time to make them usable.  Innovative companies will create interfaces that expose all the great business logic to the common man.  Well-designed user interfaces are going to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The odds are still against you

I learned the odds are still against you at the Vegas black jack tables.  I won’t tell you how I figured that out though.

Las Vegas black jack