Friday, November 04, 2005

Take a little time -- so others won't have to

A few more ideas came up about what it means to be a "usable person" as I did some final prep for the short talk I gave yesterday as part of NY's World Usability Day event.

Here's one idea:

Being usable to others means taking time on your end so the other person doesn't have to take time on their end.

Here's a simple example: If you take time to put your phone number next to the words "call me," the other person won't have to go looking for it.

Or if you take time to anticipate what a client or prospect or friend needs and then give it to them, they won't have to take the time to ask for it.

How 'bout this: if you take the time to confirm receipt of materials someone sends you, they won't have to take their time to reach out to you to ask if you received it -- not to mention whatever time and mental energy they spend wondering (and maybe even worrying) whether you received it.

And what about this: if you take the time and give your full attention when someone says their name, they won't have to repeat it or you won't have to look silly when you say you forgot it already.

So maybe "usable" is just another way to say "thoughtful."

What do you think?


Blogger Jeff Fisher LogoMotives said...

I do think is both usable and thoughtful when someone sending business email includes a signature, with all of their necessary contact info, at the end of their message. Quite often I've received email messages asking me to phone the person as soon as possible or send them something via snail mail - and no signature including a phone number or address is included within the email. Valuable time is wasted by then seeking their contact information by requesting it in a reply email or searching through other means.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Robert Bogart said...

include contact info
I always include a signature that contains my name, email address, phone numbers, and website address in any email message that I send.

separate with headings
In addition, if the message is longer than about two paragraphs, I find that it's helpful to add headings. This helps to break up the text, organize the ideas, and help the reader skip -- yes, actually skip -- a section that they may not need to read. For example, if I'm describing a situation and a solution, and sending the email to multiple readers, some may already know the situation and only need to read the solution.

We're all pressed for time so I want to do all I can to save time for my reader ...if I'm lucky, they'll do the same for me.

5:21 AM  
Anonymous Pamela Baggett-Wallis said...

Here's a question:

I always include my contact information on my e-mails, but what do you think about attaching a v-card so the recipient can easily drop and drag your contact information into his/her contact list?

Of course, this assumes everyone is using Outlook, but that's a fairly safe assumption in business.

Thanks for your thoughts,
Pamela Baggett-Wallis

6:27 AM  
Blogger Lyle said...

One way to be "usable personally" is to choose the right communication channel. For example, instant messaging (IM) isn't for everyone, and IM etiquette is still evolving. You should make sure people are okay with you IMing them before doing so. At a minimum, IM conversations should start with a quick "Hi, got a minute?" message to ask if *now* is a good time to "talk."

Examples of being "unusable":

1. Sending an email that only says "See attached memo" with a Word document attached. Why not just include the memo information in the email body?

2. Using email to start what is likely to be a lengthy dialogue. For example: "Ilise, Hi, just wondering what you think about the current political situation in the Gulf, and what it means for our XYZ product line. What do you think?" Some topics just need to be handled in real-time (phone or meeting) so a healthy discussion can happen.

A great book releated to this topic is "Simplicity" by Bill Jensen. His "handbook" is excellent as well. See

Lyle Kantrovich
Croc O' Lyle

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Laura Ward said...

I think the best way to be a usable person is to understand the limitations of the medium in which you are communicating.

For example, if you are using e-mail, short and to the point is the best way for people to understand you. Make expectations clear at the top of the message. If you're writing to more than one person, call out your expectations of each person in the message. This way, the recipients will not have to wonder if another person is working on it.

8:19 AM  
Anonymous Andrea Robinson said...

I agree but when I think of this concept - I think of going beyond the basics of providing your contact information.

Thinking ahead for your clients, anticipating their needs, being organized, planning and offering communication and ideas instead of reacting to your relationship and waiting for them to tell you what they need or want. Showing a client that you are mindful of their business before they ask.

Communicate with them in the method they prefer - planting thoughtful seeds of information. New projects naturally evolve. Clients are appreciative you are current with what is happening in their business. You are focused on them - it can make them feel like they are your only client because you put the extra effort to make yourself usable.

5:34 AM  

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