- Artwork by Eli Jorgensen
Welcome to Joe Natoli’s UX School of No B.S. Class is now in session. Joe reveals that there’s no limit to how far any UX’er with a healthy dose of grit and resilience can go. He puts jargon in a choke-hold, then proceeds to drop-kick it in the privates! He inspires us to be like Tom Hanks in “Big”…never afraid to ask questions for the betterment of the people and project. He motivates us to apply for any job we truly want, especially when we feel unqualified for it. He also teaches us how leaving a legacy should never start with one foot in the grave, it starts right here…right now!
Joe Natoli is a UX consultant, author and speaker. Everything he does is born from nearly three decades of consulting with and training the UX, design and product development teams of some of the world’s largest organizations. Every aspect of his training and consulting approach revolves around one single, critical idea: Great UX isn’t the result of what you do with your hands — it’s the result of how you use what’s between your ears. Change the way you THINK about the design and development decisions you make and you take the first step to infusing great UX into everything you do. Joe delivers practical advice delivered in clear, jargon-free language. Methods and advice that work in the messy reality of the real world, where we don’t always have the time, budget or approval we’d like. Fun-fact about Joe: He has nearly 2,000 hours of unreleased instrumental compositions, including classical music,that he still hasn’t worked up the courage to release into the world.
- What Do You Like to Do When You’re Not Working? (7:42)
- What Inspired You to Pursue a Career in This Field? (10:34)
- How Do You Get an Entry Level Job That Requires 3-5 Years of Experience? (34:28)
- What Is It About Jargon That Drives You Nuts? (47:31)
- One Definition of What UX Is (1:01:15)
- What Value Do Older UXers Bring to the Table? (1:08:16)
- UX Advice for Juniors in the Field (1:13:15)
- The One Thing You Wish You Knew When You Started (1:17:32)
- If You Had One Word for Folks Trying to Get into UX, What Would That Be? (1:20:16)
Full disclosure: I am an affiliate for Joe’s courses, so enrolling means you’re not only gaining legit UX career wisdom from a UX icon like Joe, but you’re helping User Defenders at no additional cost to you.
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“There Will Be Bugs” Meme with Joe Natoli (Created by Jason Ogle)
Jason Ogle: Greetings User Defenders. This is Jason Ogle, your host with a little bit of nasal congestion and make me sound a little bit like Barry White. In my case it’d be barely white. But yes, anyway, I got Joe Natoli with me and Joe Natoli probably doesn’t really need much of an introduction because he is somewhat, as I said on the twitters, I think I said “I have with me a UX icon, gentlemen and doctorate holder in the school of no BS. Which Joe, you seem to like that right?
Joe Natoli: I thought it was fantastic. The no BS part in particular. I don’t know about the icon stuff but.
Jason Ogle: Oh please. Yes! Well definitely true. You’ve been at this for a long time and I’m surprised this didn’t happen sooner, but I’m glad it’s happening now. You know, it’s one of those things where everything kind of aligned here and I’m glad that we got to know each other through the Twitters and you know, “One day I love to meet you IRL.” Is that what the kids say?
Joe Natoli: Yes, man.
Jason Ogle: In real life, that’d be great. And I think that’ll happen someday.
Joe Natoli: Hope so.
Jason Ogle: Yes, man. And so, Defenders, I want to just give, just a few touch points on Joe’s bio here. Joe is a UX consultant, author and speaker. And he’s also, like I said, he’s been at this for awhile, three decades of consulting with and training the UX design and product development teams of some of the world’s largest organizations. And I love Joe’s philosophies. I know he’s got many, but I love especially this one here. He really believes that “Great UX isn’t the result of what you do with your hands. It’s the result of how you use what’s between your ears.” I love that. That is so true. And I think you even have a book called Think First if I’m not mistaken?
Joe Natoli: Yes, sir.
Jason Ogle: And as possibly goes deep into what you mean by that. So, I would definitely recommend picking that up Defenders as well.
So, I’m just going to jump to the fun fact because I think, it’s really, really great. Oh, actually before that, Joe does deliver practical advice delivered in clear jargon free language. I think that’s another kind of pillar of your philosophies, Joe and I think we’ll probably learn a little bit more about what you mean by that as well today. But I love your fun fact and I’m going to share this now. Joe has nearly 2000 hours of unreleased instrumental compositions…
Jason Ogle: Including…
Jason Ogle: Secrets out man. Did they hear it here first?
Joe Natoli: Yes! I believe so.
Jason Ogle: Oh, UD got the scoop, y’all!
Joe Natoli: Amen.
Jason Ogle: All right. So, including classical music, that he still hasn’t worked up the courage to release into the world. Joe, thank you for your vulnerability and letting me share that. And I know we’re all curious.
Joe Natoli: Here it comes!
Jason Ogle: Tell us more. Is it like, it’s classical kind of arrangements? Are we talking like maybe – could these be used in potentially like soundtracks for filming and TV?
Joe Natoli: Yes! And a lot of what I do is sort of soundtrack kind of stuff, the classical stuff. Like, imagine a movie like, you know, think of every classic sort of Gladiator movie you’ve ever seen, Troy or, that was in my head. Now, I don’t know anything about music theory. I don’t know notes. I’ve been playing guitar and bass since I was 15 years old. If you asked me to play it, you know, an F-Sharp or an E-Minor, I have no idea where that is. Okay.
Jason Ogle: [Laughs]
Joe Natoli: I’m clueless. So, trying to do this as like, I don’t know, pogo sticking on one foot with both arms tied behind your back. I don’t know. But I want to do it and I’m sort of working my way through it and it’s been really fun and really exciting. So, like everything else I’m allowing myself to be really afraid and do it anyway.
Jason Ogle: I love it. I love it man. And I want to give you a nice little brotherly nudge to throw some of that out there man. Even throw like tracks, your favorite eight tracks out of those 2000. Put those out there please.
Joe Natoli: Alright.
Jason Ogle: And shared with us please.
Joe Natoli: Fair enough.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: I promise you here. I promise you all here that I will.
Jason Ogle: [laughs] oh I’m so excited. Well, Joe got vulnerable sharing that and I appreciate it. I’m going to be vulnerable back and share that. I was on Joe’s podcast. I had the great honor of being on Joe’s podcast recently. And one of the things that Joe has a very organized kind of a pre-interview sheet that he sends out. And one of the questions he asked is, “Is there anything that I shouldn’t ask you about?” And my answer was, and this is music related, I said, “Yes! Don’t ask me about the two to three Nickelback songs on my Spotify playlist.”
Joe Natoli: Which I didn’t. I should have.
Jason Ogle: You did not.
Joe Natoli: And that’s a missed opportunity.
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: Damn it.
Jason Ogle: And hopefully we still have listeners – listeners, don’t tune out. This is only going to go uphill from here.
Jason Ogle: [laughs] don’t hate me because I have a couple of Nickelback songs and my… These guys figured out how to write a power ballad. Okay. Certain, only the power ballads. It’s the formula.
Joe Natoli: That’s right.
Jason Ogle: Okay. Trying to defend my decision. Okay. I’m trying to articulate my design decision.
Joe Natoli: Well done. Well done.
Jason Ogle: Thank you. Alright! So, every superhero has a secret identity and origin story. And Joe, I’m really, really excited to talk about yours. I know you an interesting one. And so, I want to start the show out by you taking a few moments to give us a look into your personal life first. Kind of like, what do you like to do when you’re not working? And then I’d love to know, what inspired you to pursue a career in this exciting, challenging, and every evolving field?
Joe Natoli: Well, what do I do when I’m not working? That’s a lot of things. It’s certainly, you know, family time first. I mean my wife, I’ve got three kids, I’ve got one in college, one about to go to college and another one who has two years of high school left. So, there’s you know, a lot there. I have a motorcycle that I love – that I’ve been trying to get back into running shape for the last, I don’t know man, like four months, except I think I’ve finally figured it out, which is good as the weather is breaking.
I love to draw. I’d been doing that. I mean ever since I was old enough to hold a pen or a pencil in my hand, putting ink on paper is one of my favorite things in the world. And I’m trying to do a lot more of that nowadays because I’ve sort of neglected it for many, many, many years. Like a lot of things when you get into work, you know, all your energy and your focus go to all this stuff you know, that you’re doing. And the more people you have paying attention to that stuff, the easier it is the sort of let your personal time slip away. So, there’s that.
And then like you mentioned, the music thing. I’ve been in and out of bands my entire life, but I’m kind of not so much into that anymore because of the time and the travel demands that I already have. But, I love creating music, and I do, when I have free time, I do spend time with this little MacBook pro in front of me, laying down tracks, you know. And as I said, quite honestly trying to move out of my comfort zone because, you know, not that I want to be uncomfortable in any way. You know, a lot of people talk about that. It’s not that I want to be uncomfortable, there are things I want to do, you know, there are things I want to try and I don’t care so much whether it works out to the degree that you know, someone with a lot of experience or more talent in that area would be able to do it. I just want to go and see what happens, you know. And I kind of, at this point especially, it sounds like one of these big milestone things, right? And I don’t mean it that way, but at 50, honest to God, when you look at yourself and say, “I’m 50 years old.” You do think about some things differently, honestly. That started in my forties but, honestly, the older I get with every year that passes, everything just kind of becomes like, “Man, why not? Right. Why not? Why not?
Jason Ogle: What inspired you to pursue a career in this exciting, challenging, and every evolving field?
Joe Natoli: Well, I’ll go back, maybe farther than you want me to. But, it’s an important component of this story, right.
Jason Ogle: Please.
Joe Natoli: I grew up in a tiny town. Okay. I grew up in a really tiny town called Girard, Ohio. It’s near Youngstown, Ohio, which was steel mill country, back in the, you know, 60’s, 70’s. And you could drive through it, you can drive through my town from one end to the other in about three minutes. All right. You know, maybe. I had a predilection for art, obviously, like I said, at a very early age, I was a kid who was always drawing on his tests. You know, like I would finish and I’d be drawing like Spiderman in the margins and my teachers would be like, “Okay, what are you doing?”
Joe Natoli: And I just didn’t care. Anyway, when I got to high school, I had a wonderful art teacher, Sam Hatchment was his name. Incredibly compassionate, generous human being who really took me under his wing and said, “You have something you need to care about it. You need to cultivate it. You need to protect it.” When I told my high school guidance counselor that I wanted to do something art related with my life, when I was thinking about going to college, this guy looked at me and he told me verbatim that my best bet in life was to join the army, okay. That was the extent of what he saw of my capabilities.
Now, I think I’m very fortunate in that I was, you know, the kid of two very competent, very stubborn in some good ways folks who sort of imbued in me this sense of, “Look, if you work hard enough, if you apply yourself, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish.” Right. “And what you want to do matters.” So, I said some very choice words to him in response to that, that I can’t repeat here.
Joe Natoli: And I picked graphic design out of a catalog at Kent State University, which is about 45 minutes away, and said, “All right, I’m going to give this a shot.” Because it sounds like – it’s kind of art and it’s kind of like something I could do with my life, so my father will quit worried about me being a starving artist my entire life. So, I did that, right. And I’m just going to wing it and we’re going to do this. I get to school, I go to my first design class with a woman, a professor named Katie Kennedy. Blew my mind within the first 15 minutes. The stuff that she was talking about, the exercises that she had us do with, you know, organizing shapes and understanding spatial relationships and all this stuff. And it’s really simple, right? Blown away. That woman lit a fire under me that to this day has never burned out. Okay.
So, along with a lot of other people who have very generously, guided, helped, advised along the way, she deserves a huge chunk of the credit, okay. Because; I was hooked all right from day one. And no matter how hard things got – because I went to a school where you had two reviews at junior. There was, let me think, sophomore review and then a junior review. I think there were two and roughly somewhere around half of the people who took the review failed. Each time you got to take it one more time, if you failed again, they politely suggested you do something else with your life.
So, it was very rigorous. I was very lucky. Jay’s Charles Walker and John Buchanan, I have to give these guys a shout out because they ran that program. They were tough and there were a lot of times when I didn’t appreciate the toughness, right or the discipline or the insistence that you have to know why you made this visual decision? Why you chose that color? Why you chose that font? Why you chose an image? Why do people on the receiving end to this care about it? Right. It was designed as problem solving. That was hammered for four years over and over and over and over again. This was all about what does it say? What does it communicate? What does it allow people to do? What does it allow them to understand? Sounds an awful lot like UX doesn’t it?
Jason Ogle: Sure does.
Joe Natoli: Okay! So, I went through that program and I was lucky enough to land an internship my junior year with a company called an “Arduous Downey Little Advertising Agency” and they sort of threw me, this is another good friend of mine, Dave Flynn, who I worked for at the time, threw me headfirst into every project they were doing. Okay with clients, he got me involved. He said, “Here’s how we do things.” He showed me every aspect of how this business works, okay. And he treated me like I was an equal. Alright? I was a kid, I was still in college. Okay! He treated me like I was an equal. He led me into every aspect of that world. He was patient. He guided me along the way and I got a tremendous education. So, before I was out of college, I was actually working full time. All right, that transitioned into a full-time gig. So, to say, I was fortunate. It is a ridiculous understatement.
So, fast forward, I was dating someone at the time who was living in Long Island. I look for a job there, you know, when I graduated college, looked for a job there forever. I got a lot of doors slammed in my face. I had one woman who wanted me who wanted to hire me on a probationary period for like 13 grand a year in New York. [Laughs] right. So, you’re…
Joe Natoli: Yes! This is really bad.
Jason Ogle: [inaudible 14:40]
Joe Natoli: Yes! So, just because I felt like, you know, I’m in a small town, it’s not really what I want to be and I had big Yes! So, I was going on 4th of July to visit a friend of mine who was living in Baltimore, just social call, right. He calls me the night before he says, “Hey, I think my company’s hiring pack some decent clothes and a portfolio.” And that company was “Merry Go Round Incorporated.” If anybody remembers the Merry Go Round stores in the mall, men’s clothing. And they had this big 80’s thing, right? “IOU” was one of the big brands.
And I worked in house there for several years. Moved to a small boutique design firm shortly after that. Moved to an advertising agency after that, which was “WB Donor,” which is one of the largest in the world at the time, who had a headquarter in Baltimore.
And here’s where the story sort of begins for me or becomes interesting, let’s say. This was pre-Internet, okay. The Internet literally as a public thing launched, came to life while I was at this advertising agency, which was run by old white dudes who kind of didn’t want to know from technology, right? These were guys who had secretaries print out their emails and read it to them. In many cases.
Jason Ogle: Wow.
Joe Natoli: They were just averse to the whole thing, right. So, I’m watching this internet thing happened and then I’m watching in a very short period of time, businesses are starting to pay attention to it, right. And they have their own little web pages and at this point they’re a little more than like texts in a few images on a you know, gray screen.
Jason Ogle: Sure!
Joe Natoli: And you’re sort of watching it evolve really quickly and it’s fascinating. And the way, again, the way I was taught design resonated huge here. So, I’m trying to convince all these guys that, “Hey, this internet thing is something we should pay attention to. It’s something we should be talking to clients about.” Because I’m either brash enough or dumb enough or naive enough or young enough, whatever the case may be that I’m just, you know, spouting off at the mouth about all this stuff. And these guys are like, “Kid, go make me a cup of coffee or something.”
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: And, you know, that’s really what it was like. It was like, “Can you be quiet and leave me alone?”
Jason Ogle: Oh, man.
Joe Natoli: Again, I’d say I was either, I can’t call it brave enough or naive enough or dumb enough to say, “Fine, I’m going to start my own company.”
Jason Ogle: Audacious.
Joe Natoli: Yes, Yes! And now, I had done things like that before. I’d started a magazine. I started a little independent Book Publishing Company, publishing like poetry and art work and stuff like that. Hey, there’s just fold and staple jobs all right. You’d go to, like a Kinko’s Copy Center and Xerox, a hundred copies of something and trim it and staple it all together and you know, sell it for two bucks. I don’t know why it just seemed like a cool thing to do, right?
A lot of that relates back to – I grew up in the era of, you know, a lot of like punk rock type stuff. While I love every genre of music, the punk thing was important because there was what was known as the DIY Ethic, right. Do It Yourself, which was essentially, don’t wait for someone else to give you the permission to do something if you want it. Do it. If you want to make music, make music. If you want to release music, find a way to release it. If you want to create a magazine or Zeen as they were known at the time, do it, okay. Stop waiting around for someone to hold your hand and say, “Okay, you’re allowed to do this now.” That made a massive impact on me, especially as a teenager. And I think I’ve carried that ethic throughout my entire life.
So, anyway, I jumped ship at the agency, I take one employee with me and I start reading about – I can’t remember who it was, I want to say it was Cooper, Alan Cooper. Because “Cooper” is one of the first design firms that I really became aware of. And they were talking a lot, Alan would always talk a lot about experience, you know, his books. “The inmates are running the asylum” was a game changer. But he’s talking about interaction as experience, right? Well, how do people experience the things that they interact with. And that’s kind of the gig, right? And the light bulb went off in my head like “Yes, yes, yes, Yes!” So, I called us in experienced design firm. I had no idea what they really meant. I liked the feel of it. It sounded right. It sounded like it was in line with everything I had learned about design.
So, for a couple of years I did the Bill Gates thing, which is you go into a meeting and a client says, because the Internet is the wild west at this point, okay. Nobody knows anything. Everybody’s pretending they know something but it’s too new. So, you go into the meetings and a client says, “Can you do this or do you know how to do this or you have you ever done?” And I’m saying “Yes” to everything. “Yes, absolutely.” And I’m like bullshitting my way through these conversations. And I would go back and you know, we started with one and then we had three employees. And I would go back to the office and say, “Okay, does anyone know how to do this?”
Joe Natoli: We existed that way.
Jason Ogle: Google was not around.
Joe Natoli: No. In fact, Google was new shortly after that point, okay. This is in the midst of what became known as the “Dotcom Boom” and then the “Dotcom Burst.” The really fortunate stroke of luck here is that I was doing all these at a time when companies were springing up out of the ground doing all sorts of things. It’s like, “Well, we’re an internet technology company.” And no one even knows what that means, but investors are lining up to give these folks money. At that point, if you were a company, you were being valued based on your burn rate. How fast can you go through the money that you’re borrowing?
Jason Ogle: So weird.
Joe Natoli: Right. It sounds like lunacy. That was the lay of the land at the time, I’m telling you.
Jason Ogle: Yes! That’s why the bubble burst.
Joe Natoli: Big time, because of course it’s unsustainable. But, it was a great time to have done that because a tremendous amount of opportunity came my way really, really, really quickly, and I was smart enough to surround myself with people who were better than me. Okay, my employees, you know, who knew things I didn’t know. Who knew how to do things. I didn’t know how to do. Who had expertise in areas that I didn’t have. And I don’t believe that I was the best boss or manager that I could have been. I think I learned a lot, you know, through the school of hard knocks about what it takes to manage people and when to let go, okay. That was difficult for me. But, when you go through all that stuff, you know, and then when the bubble bursts, we took some very seriously hard hits. Eventually, which sort of forced me to close those doors. Everyone worked from home for several years after we closed the doors and we were sort of still together as a group.
And then I sort of got burned out. I sold the company to an IT firm extensively to hang out with them for three years and helped him establish a User Experience Practice. Discovered very quickly that they really had no interest in establishing a UX practice. It was a very command and control culture, asses in seats kind of thing. And I brought them bigger contracts than they had ever seen in their lives and it didn’t matter to anyone. [Laughs] I would be at lunch with a prospect, right, trying to win business and I’m getting phone calls. And eventually I apologize, the person in front of me and I listened to the voicemail and it’s like, “Where are you? No one knows where you are.” “I’m exactly where my calendar says I am that you have access to. So, it was that kind of thing, right? This is this very immature. As I said ” To heck with this, I’m just going to go back to independent practice.” Which I did.
And then the second great stroke of luck in my life happened, which is I met my wife, my current wife. And she was sort of a like minded individual. And aside from being my partner in all things in life and the person that I respect and lean on most in this world, she is an incredibly clear-eyed business partner, okay. She was the best business coach I ever had, right. So, we started a company together and then I started doing independent consulting. And she has guided that journey.
In introduction of her book, which I wrote, I said that “She built the ground that I walk on.” And that’s absolutely true, okay. The things I do, I’m very good at, don’t get me wrong, but harnessing and directing and strategizing and figuring out how you present that to the world, right. And how you make sure that it matters to folks. A lot of that is her. She took the best of what I do and focused it, you know. And said, “You need to be doing this and you need to let everything else go.” So, all of that, it’s a long answer to a very simple question brings us to the present. I do what I love, which in all forms really is teaching when you come down to it, right. Helping people.
Jason Ogle: Yes! And I appreciate you dive in deep there, Joe. Because there is so much there to be gleaned. I just love the fire, the passion, you know, and I think that’s really – you mentioned Katie Kennedy, like, that’s so cool. Like that, she still to this day, 30 years later, right? Like she’s still like a pillar like in kind of like lighting that fire in your life and how you’ve chosen to make your life one of service and one of teaching. And I can kind of see some parallels now. You know, like what she did in your life, like you’re really trying to do the same thing in a lot of other designers’ lives. And I think its really powerful man. And so, I just really appreciate that.
Joe Natoli: It means the world to me. It means everything, okay. At the end of the day, nothing I do matters more to me than when people come back to me with positive stories. “This helped me do, you know, A, B and C.” “This gave me confidence in myself to consider, you know, to strike out and try this or even, you know, in case of working with a client, right.” When, when the pressure in the room lifts, when the stress lifts, when everybody discovers it like, “Okay, this doesn’t have to be crazy. It doesn’t have to be painful or difficult or stressful and we can get to a better outcome without killing ourselves.” Like, wow. I mean those things, that’s the reason to keep doing it at this point. Because I’m lucky, right?
I mean, I do a lot of things, great following and student base who shows up for everything that I do, okay. I’ve conferences that asked me to come speak. I’m lucky enough that I sort of get to pick and choose what I do with consulting. With all that – okay, again, the only thing, you asked yourself, “Why do I do this? Right. “What’s the reason to get up in the morning and do any of it, right?”
Jason Ogle: What’s your why?
Joe Natoli: Yes! And the reason is what we’re talking about, the reason is what we’re talking about. Again, it’s an age thing, maybe to some degree. The older I get progressively that becomes more and more and more and more and more important. You know, we’re people, at the end of the day we are people. And you have to strip away all this artifice and all this – it’s like my rants about terminology and you know, UX centric best practices and all these stuff that people talk about, like just, man stop it. Yes, yes, Yes! Just stop it. Okay. To just talk to people like they’re human beings.
Jason Ogle: [Laughs]
Joe Natoli: Stop for God’s sake. You know?
Jason Ogle: [laughs] I wonder if part of that is, you know, you mentioned the older you get, the more important this stuff gets. And I definitely can identify with that a little bit. I’m right behind you brother, you know, I’m right behind you. And I feel like I would never want to go back and repeat school. I would never want to know back in and repeat a teenage.
Joe Natoli: No.
Jason Ogle: You know, there’s a reason we only do it once, you know, like it’s so that we can learn these lessons and the older we get, it’s like the wiser we get. And, you know, the more experience we get, the better we get at doing things. And so, I don’t know, there’s a lot of substance inside of this and I don’t know. You know, part of it too could be like, you just don’t have time. You know, when you get older – and don’t mistake, you know, getting older with being grumpy because I know that happens. That happens to some folks, but really, I think it’s the older you get, the more you realize that time is one of those priceless gifts that we can’t – it’s not replenishable, it’s non replenishable.
Everything else right in this life other than, you know, of course our loved ones, the humans around us. Everything else in this life is replenishable, you know, except time and the humans around us. So, I think there’s something here and I’m really feeling that and you know, the older you get, you just realize like, you know, “Let’s just cut through the bull crap. Like we just don’t have time. We don’t have time for this. Let’s get to the substance of this.” Right?
Joe Natoli: Absolutely! And I think that’s absolutely true. And it’s one of those clichés, right? You read about and hear about this kind of stuff all the time. “Well, I’m older and wiser now.” Now that makes it sound like it’s this perfect magical place where you know everything now and you take everything in stride as it comes and ran with it calmly and rationally that that’s not true.
Jason Ogle: Not true, Yes!
Joe Natoli: But there is always an overriding sense of what really matters here. Right, let’s stop screwing around. Let’s take a few steps back. Let’s stop diving deep into these weeds over here that don’t really matter yet. What’s really going on here, you know? And mileage is part of that. Time over the target is part of that. I say this all the time. When I first meet with prospective clients and clients, right on the first day. “Understand something, I am not omnipotent. I do not have all the answers intrinsically. What I have is a lot of time over the target.”
Jason Ogle: Okay!
Joe Natoli: “What I have is a lot of experiences, good, bad, and otherwise. And as you can imagine, the bad ones have taught me a great deal.” So, that’s why when you get to a certain point in your life and your career, when you see the movie, you know what the plot line is, you know what the dialogue is, you know what’s going to happen next. You can almost see it coming, right? So, I’ve seen this movie before, I know how it ends. I think we should step off right now and deviate from the established plot line. That’s mileage. You know, that’s every wrinkle and every gray that I have to me, I love those things. All right, that’s proof, that’s like evidence of you know, miles traveled, lessons learned, and those things are critical to being able to do what you do.
Now we’re talking about age, right, and years of experience, but, I want to stress that that is equally true. If you are someone who is just starting out in design or UX or product development or whatever it is, your experiences, every single one you’ve had to this point, even if that’s only, you know, four years of college or it’s two online courses, I don’t care. It’s all valuable. It all matters. It’s all teaching you something. That’s another thing I see a lot is, is that younger people in particular have this tendency to discount their experiences up to that point because they feel like they haven’t had enough of them. That’s garbage too, right. It’s not true.
Jason Ogle: Yes, Yes!
Joe Natoli: That’s actually not true. Everything you experienced is a teaching experience.
Jason Ogle: Absolutely! I’m just thinking about the Defenders listening right now. And many whom are younger, many of whom are just trying to get their feet wet. Trying to just dive in. I mean, I think you know, knowing on the community, on UD community and Joe, you’re in there and we’re honored to have you there. And you’ve been engaging and you know, you’ve been able to kind of observe some of the conversations as well and you can just sense that like, especially the Defenders, I know I’m biased, but I just feel like especially the listeners, my listeners to this show, like they just really, really are hungry. Like they are passionate and they are just wanting to go head first. It’s not just dip the toes in, like they want to dive in.
Joe Natoli: Yes!
Jason Ogle: You know what I mean?
Joe Natoli: Yes!
Jason Ogle: So, they might be listening to us and you just go on like, “Yes, well you guys got in, you got your foot in the door and you’ve had, you know, decades of experience at this. Like I can’t even get my foot in the door. Like I can’t even land a job.” Like there’s a conversation and I posted this on the community recently. You know, there’s a conversation out on Twitter about you know, how hard the barrier of entry seems to be to get into this field, yet how high the demand is for designers. Like I am like so confused about this. Like for example, three to five years of experience to get an entry level job in UX. What? Like how do you get three to five years of experience without a job that requires three to five years of experience? Can you riff on that?
Joe Natoli: Yes! You don’t, okay. And here’s the big thing. You have to not care about that requirements list in that job posting. I am absolutely serious about this. I don’t care what they’re asking for. If you think you can do the work you need to apply, okay, you need to apply and you need to make a case for why you’re the right person for the job. The experience credentials listed there. I understand why they’re there. They are not gates. Those are not obstacles. Those are not barriers. That is what somebody thinks is required for that job. That may or may not be true, and in many cases, I don’t think it’s true.
Okay, so the first part is, you cannot allow yourself to be intimidated by a job description or what they’re calling the position. There’s nothing there that should prevent you from applying. People see those kinds of things and they think, “Oh well that’s not me.” Or “I’ve never held that job title before. I’d never had that position before.” Who Cares? Who Cares? All right. You have to silence that voice. All that stuff in your head that is saying, “I’m not worthy of that and not ready for that. I don’t have an experience for that.” You have to forget all that. It can be there.
All right. It’s like the imposter syndrome thing, which I talk about often. It can be there. You can not let it dictate your actions. You can’t, okay. Because you would never do anything even at work, even if you have a job right now, okay. You have to be willing to be a contrary voice sometimes. You have to be willing to ask potentially embarrassing questions. You have to be willing to say and do the things that may get you strange looks from the other 18 people in the room.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: Because I’m going to tell you something. They’re just as afraid as you are. There is no question. Okay, I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in across, you know, almost three decades where I have always likened myself to “Tom Hanks” in “Big.” I don’t know if we talked about that before. But you know, there’s a scene in the film where, because; he’s a kid, right? He’s a kid in an adult’s body and he lands this job at a toy company and all these, all these old men you know, talking about this cool toy, it’s a robot that turns into a building. That’s like the most boring thing imaginable right?
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: And he’s listening and talking about it and he screwed up his face and he’s like, “What?” And finally, like raises his hand and that kid way worth like, you know, you’re waving like as if you’re drowning or something.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: And they were like, “Yes!” And he’s like, “I don’t get it.” He’s like, “Well, what’s fun about that?” And everybody there went silence, right. Everybody went silence, like, “Who the heck is this guy?”
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: I’ve done that my entire life. And I credit my father with that, okay. Because he sort of made me do that at a very early age in some very uncomfortable situations with teachers, okay. The message was, you know, why are you just accepting that this is the way this should be done? You have to ask that question. And I’m like, “Well I don’t want to ask that question. It’s scary and people are going to laugh at me.” And he’s like, “It doesn’t matter. Do you want to know or not?” Right, so you do that and you do get laughed at in a lot of situations, all right. I still go through that, were people are like, “Look, this guy.” I don’t care because I’m not going to go through my life. I’m not going to go through the next five minutes not knowing what the hell is going on around me. It’s not an option, okay.
So, and like I said, the other thing I’ve discovered across a very lengthy period of time is that most people aren’t asking the same question because they’re too afraid to do it. Every time I’ve ever put myself in that situation after the meeting ends or after, you know, something is over after Q&A session is over. 15 people are like, “Oh, I’m so glad you said that.”
Joe Natoli: It’s like…
Jason Ogle: You said what I wanted to say, but didn’t have the guts to say it.
Joe Natoli: Yes, Yes! It’s, you know, it’s just like terminology, right. People nod their heads and agree to things that they have no idea. They don’t even know what they’re agreeing to. Stop that.
Jason Ogle: That is so inspiring Joe. And I love the Tom Hanks analogy. I totally. When you were telling that story, I could see it in my mind’s eye. I could see that exact scenario in the meeting and him doing that. And I feel like there’s so much, that we need to take more action Defenders. We need to be willing to be like Tom Hanks, you know, in the meeting. We need to be willing to do that.
And you know, think about it this way. Like I think if your intentions are good and this is kind of where maybe where we need to kind of delineate here. I think your intentions have to be good. Nobody likes pedantic, you know, like know it all right? Nobody likes that. And so, it has to be in the right spirit. It has to be in the spirit of wanting it to be better. Like Tom Hanks. Like he wanted that to be a fun toy. He was like, he was the user. He wanted to have a toy that was actually fun to play with.
Joe Natoli: Right!
Jason Ogle: And so, I love that. And that’s another lesson too. You know, I love Uncle Jacob, but you know, uncle Jacob Nielsen, you’re wrong when you say that “Designers aren’t users.” Right, and so I feel like you’ll need me to be…
Joe Natoli: Don’t get me started.
Jason Ogle: [laughs] okay, that’s another podcast episode.
Joe Natoli: Yes, it is. It is.
Jason Ogle: We need to use the crap that we designed.
Joe Natoli: All I’m going to say is this. Okay, talking down to people in any way is never a good idea. Never, ever, never, ever. If what comes out of your mouth can’t be kind, right. And you shouldn’t say. And there are a lot of people operating in this field who don’t quite understand that concept, right. And I don’t get it. But, yes, it all matters how you do it, right? You’re not saying “That’s the most ridiculous thing I ever heard or I don’t believe that.” Or you saying, “Look, I’m not following you. Please take a minute and walk me through this and help me understand what exactly that means and why do we believe this is the answer.” You know?
Jason Ogle: Right. Yes!
Joe Natoli: Everybody’s knee jerking and saying, “We’re going to do this, this, this, this, and this.” Somebody has to say, “Okay, fair enough. Why do we believe that’s going to get us what we want and what are the first place?”
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: You know. Sometimes no one’s ever asked a question. “What are we after here?”
Jason Ogle: Yes! There’s nothing wrong with that.
Joe Natoli: There’s nothing wrong with asking a question. Nothing.
Jason Ogle: I like that. I liked that a lot. And I think even taking the – I mean, we are advocates for the users. I mean we fight for the users. That is really the cornerstone of this show is, you know, being an advocate, a champion for the users, you know. And of course, I know, and always caveat that too with we also need to be champion for the business too. There’s that fair balance. But I think that, you know – there was an interview with Jeff Bezos that came out recently. Is it Bezos? Bezos? I don’t know whatever it is.
Joe Natoli: I don’t know.
Jason Ogle: That guy from Amazon?
Joe Natoli: Jeff B.
Jason Ogle: Jeff B. Yes! He was talking about – and I can’t remember exactly what he was saying, but it had to do with you know, the business side of things. You know, this was like pre-Google. This was around the time, Joe, that you were talking about when you really got your career soaring. It was just basically to the effect about, you know, we serve customers. That’s what we do, number one. And the guy kept asking him, “What about your shareholders? What about the people investing in?” He’s like, “We serve customers and then the business takes care of itself.”
Joe Natoli: Yes!
Jason Ogle: It got like really intense at the end because the guy just like jargon, he was throwing jargon out as an interviewer, you know, trying to sound smart and Jeff was like, “I just want to serve customers. That’s my goal. And I want to do it well, I’m going to do it right. The business will work itself out if I do that well.” And, so that’s the reason.
Joe Natoli: Yes, Yes! Totally. I mean, that guy. Here’s a case in point, what we’re talking about. Alright. I remember when Amazon came out because it was around that time I was talking about, right. And I’m reading all these magazines like fast company first came out around that time. There’s another magazine called business 2.0. And the mantra everywhere, it was like, “Don’t rules are dead.” You know. When Bezos came out with the idea of “Amazon,” you guys listening, if you’re younger, especially, you have to understand that they made fun of him for a solid five years, at least.
Jason Ogle: That’s true.
Joe Natoli: In every conceivable media outlet, they made fun of this guy.
Jason Ogle: You’re right.
Joe Natoli: “He’s an idiot. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. This will never work.” Okay, he endured some of the harshest, most personalized, brutal, crass criticism I’ve ever seen leveled at a human being.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: So, whatever you think of him personally, okay, because; everybody’s flawed. But he withstood that, alright. He took a beating, and again, it was at least probably longer than this, but it was at least a solid five years of just people around him in every conceivable aspect of the media in particular. Saying, “The guy’s a moron. It’ll never work.”
Jason Ogle: Yes! [Laughs]
Joe Natoli: Okay. And he said, “No, I am going to do it anyway.” Right! He withstood that. He stood up, he took those questions. You know, people saying things like that to his face about him in magazines. And I’m sure it hurt him. I have no doubt that on some level you can’t tell – everybody takes things somewhat personally. It’s very difficult not to do it if you are a human being.
Jason Ogle: Yes! Business is personal.
Joe Natoli: Right. He went through it anyway.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: Okay. He went through it anyway because it was like, “Wow, I think I got something here. I believe in it and when it’s dead it’s dead.” So, that’s kind of what we’re talking about here.
Jason Ogle: He was right. [Laughs]
Joe Natoli: Yes! Obviously, obviously.
Jason Ogle: He’s like the third, fourth richest man in the world, something like that. Fourth richest person. Somehow in there.
Joe Natoli: Right. “Google,” same thing. When “Google” came out, everybody me included, made fun of the name. “Like what the heck is “Google?” Like, what does that even mean? Like why would you name a product “Google?” Like what are we three years old?” And well jokes on us.
Jason Ogle: “Google” rules the world now. I love the – especially just letting your voice be heard. I mean doing it in the right spirit for the best interest of the business and the users do that. Be Willing to do that. I know your palms are going to sweat, your heart’s going to, you know, pick up a beat or two. Be Willing to do it for the sake of making things better.
Joe Natoli: Yes!
Jason Ogle: Because that, as designers, that is the magnum opus of being a designer is making things better, leaving them better than you left it. If you leave that meeting and you know, there’s something that you need to speak up about and question that could make things better. Be Willing and I’m speaking to myself to, be willing to do that.
Joe Natoli: Yes!
Jason Ogle: It’s going to make things better, you know. And the users and the business as part of your argument. Like “How does this benefit the users? How does this benefit the business?” So, it’s not just you saying, “I think it should be like that.” You know, it’s like have a reason having. Articulate that design decision or articulate, you know, what you’re really trying to say. And you know, don’t feel like you have to use big words and sound smart and like the jargon thing.
Joe Natoli: Right!
Jason Ogle: Let’s jump into that a little bit more. Joe. What is it about jargon, you know, what is it about it that just drives you nuts? And describe the problem with it? Describe the problem?
Joe Natoli: It builds walls. It builds walls.
Jason Ogle: Okay!
Joe Natoli: Okay. It builds barriers to understanding. And UX isn’t the only industry that deals with this, okay. You can find any industry that does this. If you do government work of any kind, you’ll be awash in acronyms, you know, before you’ve even like taking your coat off. And that exists everywhere. My problem with UX terminology, my problem with all these terms that we use, these things that we throw around is that [sighs] they don’t mean anything to anybody. Look, design in general has always had a perception problem all the way back to graphic design, okay. Nobody ever really fully understood what graphic designers do. And that it’s more than just making things look pretty. Okay, all the problem-solving stuff that I mentioned which is the foundation of UX work to me, all that stuff has been misunderstood for a long time. Designers never did themselves any favors because we’re in meetings with clients and we’re talking about like our stuff, we’re talking about design principles and gestalt…
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: You know, and typography and kerning and…
Jason Ogle: You said that like a third Reich. [Laughs]
Joe Natoli: Right.
Jason Ogle: Gestalt.
Joe Natoli: Social orientation and all the – and like, “No one gives a shit, okay. No one cares. That doesn’t mean anything. It didn’t even know what you’re talking about.”
Jason Ogle: Right.
Joe Natoli: So, we can talk about best practices until you are blue in the face. It doesn’t mean anything. It just furthers the divide. It furthers the divide. And now people get up in arms. I had a Twitter conversation with somebody this morning who had good intentions already wasn’t being mean spirited in any way. But, it was the classic thing I hear all the time, which is, “Well, you know, stakeholders don’t care about UX and they should learn more about how UX and design work. Well, they know how its stuff works. They know about development, they respect business analysts.” You know what? It doesn’t matter why that is. That’s a known universe to them. Like it doesn’t like it, agree with it, don’t agree with it. It doesn’t matter. That’s a known universe they get. Our universe for whatever reason. And again, I’m not even interested in why that is. I’m not interested in talking about it, reading about it, debating it. It’s a waste of my time. It just is, okay.
So, it is beholden to us as practitioners to talk to people in a language that they understand. If I go to a foreign country, okay. Which you know, every year I go to different countries and I encounter people who speak different languages. Now, I am not conversant in any foreign language, but I usually try to learn enough to get by in the event that people don’t speak English, right?
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: It would be ridiculous to me to go to, you know, Peru or Germany or – I’m going to Prague at the end of this year. It would be ridiculous for me to go there and just insist on speaking English to every person I meet and in also insisting that they understand what I’m saying, okay. It’s not, their native language, it’s not what they’re used to. It’s not their sort of default level, you know, of communication. It doesn’t make any sense. This is the same thing. Okay, we’re expecting people to bend to our will when they don’t have the first thing about what we do anyway.
So, when you create all these convoluted processes and diagrams and fancy names for stuff, it doesn’t do anything to communicate. I say this all the time. I know all those words. I know all those terms. I don’t ever use them. Okay. I talk simply about what we’re trying to accomplish here. What you’re after. What people need to be able to do. Why they need to be able to do it. Why it matters to them, and why that’s valuable to you. Right?
Back to the business thing, when I deal with businesses, you know, you’ve got to remember that these are human beings as well, right? It’s not just about like benefiting the business. It’s about they’re human beings in that room who in a lot of cases are feeling a great deal of pressure and stress and fear because they’re on the hook for things that they don’t know how to accomplish. When there’s a UX problem, there’s a business problem behind it. And the business problem usually is money related. When that happens, people’s heads are on the chopping block, you know, literally or metaphorically, they are.
Jason Ogle: Sure! Joe Natoli: There is pressure there. There is stress there. There is fear there. And anything you do that further creates mystery around the work you’re going to do or further widens that gulf between, you know, what they need and what they understand and what you’re going to do, man you’re just making it worse, okay. You’re making it worse. So, of course they don’t want to listen to you. You’re scaring the heck out of everybody involved, right? That’s got to stop. You’ve got to speak to what are we trying to do here? What are you feeling right now? What do you want? What do you want to stop? You know. What do you want to happen? After these launches,
Jason Ogle: Right!
Joe Natoli: Three months, six months down the line, where do you want to be personally, professionally, as an organization? All those things matter, okay? If you’re not having those conversations, you’re never going to get the trust that you need. Those people need to feel like you’re on their side too. Okay, so is it about users? Of course, it is. But the part of the reason where businesses concerned, it’s about users because there’s value that has to come back as a result of doing something for those users, right?
Jason Ogle: Absolutely!
Joe Natoli: That’s the other half of the equation because otherwise this stuff isn’t going to exist. We can’t afford it. We’re not making any money. We’re losing money. You know, we can’t afford to hire all these people to do this work anymore. That’s what happens.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: So…
Jason Ogle: I guess that’s when it becomes more art, like it becomes more of an expression if there’s no business value right?
Joe Natoli: I think so. And you know, is their art in design? Sure, there is. From a visual standpoint, you’ll never get me to admit that UX and UI can be divorced, okay. I don’t believe that. I believe that visual communication is a massive part of good user experience. Our expectations as cognitive human beings are based on what we see. You’re never going to erase that. That’s how the brain works, okay. Whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant.
So, I get all that. But, this is about people too. If you treat businesses the way you treat users with the same degree of empathy, with the same degree of understanding and compassion and willingness to figure out where they live and what they’re used to and what they understand and what they don’t understand and where they’re stuck, everything changes, okay. The temperature in the room changes. I have productive relationships with clients, with client teams, with stakeholders, with executives, even in cases where I’m telling them something they don’t want to hear. Why? Because I’m saying it in a way that’s clear. That’s simple, that’s understandable and where they can see how and why that affects their reality. That’s just clear communication, okay.
All these names that we make up for things don’t enable that. You’re further shrouding yourself in mystery. And I personally believe that part of the reason we do it, it’s human nature. You want to be seen as credible. You want to be seen as knowledgeable. You want to be seen as accomplished, professional, expert, pick any adjective. So, you’re trying to legitimize yourself and say, “Look, I know what I’m doing. See, see I know what I’m doing. Because I did this or I created this diagram that shows how the process works.” Okay, I can live the rest of my life without ever seeing another UX process diagram.
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: I mean just stop already. Okay, just stop it. Every situation is different, there’s no one size fit.
Jason Ogle: Why?
Joe Natoli: Because; every situation is different. There are no one size fits all prescription. And furthermore, the more detailed it gets, the less likely anyone who really needs to read it and understand it is going to do so. We know all that, we get it right.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: And that to me, those things we’re talking to each other. People are like, “Why don’t stakeholders understand?” Because; you’re confusing the hell out of them.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: Think about volume, right? When we talk about UX, we talk about content volume, right, or data volume. Or the number of things on any given screen, for example. That produces instant overwhelm. The human reaction is, “If I’m going to understand any of this, I probably have to read all of it.” Okay, so when we create these massive user journeys, customer journeys, you know that span like, the length of a room and we expect people who don’t know what we do in the first place to pass that and get it right and, and be on board with it. Like, “Man, are you barking up the wrong tree.”
Okay. It’s intimidating as hell. It’s like, “Oh my God, I have to know all that stuff? What are you doing? What are we doing here? How long is this going to take? Like, we don’t have the staff for this. We can’t even get the work that we’re doing done right now.” These are all the things that you introduce when you do these things. And it’s all fear related, right? It’s concern. It’s, “Oh my God, where are we going?” Like, no one has time to sit down and review all these artifacts.
Jason Ogle: Right, yes!
Joe Natoli: These are the kinds of things that stakeholders are thinking to themselves. Even your fellow team members, right? Your developers, your product owners, your project managers, right?
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: You got to put yourself in their place with the same degree of empathy that you have for users. Because it’s your job to deal with them as well. They’re part of the package, whether you like it or not.
Jason Ogle: Exactly.
Joe Natoli: You know?
Jason Ogle: Yeah. That’s so true. You know there’s Miller’s law, it’s seven plus or minus two. I think that we just kind of forget that. As human beings, we can only retain seven plus or minus two bits of information before we check out, before we just have no more cognitive capacity. That’s a cognitive load. And I think we forget that, when we just like churn out a bunch of artifacts and a bunch of documentation. And the other thing is that it’s completely antithetical to the agile manifesto. Number two.
Joe Natoli: Yes!
Jason Ogle: What does it say? It says working software over comprehensive documentation. That’s why I’m so surprised when they still ask for comprehensive document. Why? If the software works like it should as it was built…
Joe Natoli: No one’s going to read it.
Jason Ogle: No one’s going to read the dang thing. That’s the reality.
Joe Natoli: No one, ever. Ever, never on any side, in any position. No one ever reads documentation. I worked on a gig for a year, okay, with a client. Where the project manager’s job was essentially to update the requirements document, that’s all he did. Eight hours a day, every day. That’s all he did because stuff kept changing.
Joe Natoli: And, and you know, and I remember it because I had a conversation with one of the VP level guys there. And he’s like, “You know, do you think Bill is just in over his head or what’s going on?” I said, “You guys want all this documentation that nobody’s reading. He’s spending at least six out of every eight hours simply updating the requirements. So, why are you doing this? So, the problem is not him, the problems where you’re working.” Right?
Jason Ogle: Oh, man.
Joe Natoli: Yes! It’s just like – and he’s got to simplify that. That’s what agile and lean and everything else is all about, right, simplify.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: Just like the seven plus or minus two things. Call it three and be done with it. Call it a three, three things, period. Don’t go past three if you can all avoided it. I mean, okay. Simplify.
Jason Ogle: Amen brother.
Joe Natoli: So, I don’t know. Wait a second. I could do this all day.
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: It’s a hot button for me. It really is. It really is. And I’m actually, I’m developing an entire workshop around this thing. Like, I kind of want to teach people to do exactly what I do, how I do it. And it all revolves around this you know?
Jason Ogle: Awesome! That’s good to know.
Joe Natoli: Because; I feel like man, you don’t know how many situations I walk into where it’s just, it’s not working. Okay, everyone’s trying to integrate UX into agile or integrate UX into lean or you know, consider UX at all in our daily activities. And it’s not working. It’s just not working, right.
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: And part of the reason is there’s this insistence that it has to be done a certain way by this recipe, by this dogmatic formula and explanation of what UX is and what it means and how we do it. And it’s just wrong. It’s wrong.
Jason Ogle: That’s a good segway my friend because I am going to ask you, I mean, and I’ll probably open a can of worms, but, everyone has a different definition for what UX is.
Joe Natoli: [Laughs] here we go.
Jason Ogle: What the hell is UX and like how do we come up with like one definition?
Joe Natoli: What do you want it to be Jason?
Joe Natoli: What would you like it to be?
Jason Ogle: Oh man. Unicorns and pixies.
Joe Natoli: Right, right. And that’s, that’s part of the problem, okay. I think that the original explanation, you know, between Don Norman and Jesse James Garrett, I think it’s sort of still where it is, right? Okay, I use something that’s an experience. My experience in perceiving what I see in acting on what I see in interacting with what’s available to me in you know, manipulating things. It’s either good or bad. It’s either valuable or not valuable. It’s either positive or negative. All right, that to me is UX. At its core, it’s like the sum total of everything and it’s not just the product.
If I call your support line and a call center person is a clueless or is rude to me. Or you know, if you put out a Twitter help handle, right, which a lot of companies do now, they have a specific help handle on Twitter. And you tweet them as they ask you to do and they ignore you for four days. That’s UX. Okay, it just is, and it’s either good or it’s bad. And when it’s bad, everybody loses. So, to me, the way I always define UX is, and I posted a video about this song won’t drag everybody through it, but to me it’s a value loop, okay.
Where if you have a product in the center of the equation, you’ve got to user on one side, you’ve got business folks on the other side. If someone’s perceives that there’s value in something in a product, they try it, write the, check it out, or they read more about it or whatever the case may be. If value comes back from that exchange, if they feel like, “Okay, this might be worth my time.” And then they act on it, they download it, they try it, they check it out and they go, “Yes! This is really cool.” It does all the things I expected it would do or it makes my life better in some measurable way. Then hurray, there’s value. If that happens, value usually comes back to the organization as well because; hey, we’re making or saving money in most cases.
If that happens now they’ve got a reason to care about the product, okay. Now they see value in it. Now they see a reason to continue investing in it to make it better for those people on the other, right. That’s a loop.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: The two things feed each other and if you fail on either side of that loop, to me, you fail. That’s when UX sort of ceases to be, alright. It doesn’t matter anymore because no one cares about it. So, I don’t know. That’s my definition. And I’ll say again that since we’re on the topic, I think all of his hand wringing over what exactly is user experience or why experiences can’t be designed or, I mean…
Jason Ogle: UX is dead. [Laughs]
Joe Natoli: Yes! Just stop it. Just stop. Stop direct your please. These are all very smart people, okay. They’re all really, really sharp people who have great experiences, great skills, great knowledge. Man, spend your time and energy doing something else. Saying something else, talking about something else that actually helped somebody do something. These debates about what things are called and I’ve gotten sucked into more than a couple, I’ll admit.
Jason Ogle: I’ll raise my hand.
Joe Natoli: But man, what a waste of time. What a tremendous waste of time. Who Cares? Do the work.
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: Okay. I mean, seriously, seriously, just do the work.
Jason Ogle: I was going to call this episode “Making UX work.” But I think we should change it to “Who cares, do the work.” [Laughs]
Joe Natoli: Who cares do the work. Right. That’s kind of my thing, you know.
Jason Ogle: I love it.
Joe Natoli: And I’ve said that, okay. I’ve said that out loud in – I mean, I’ve certainly said it in physical classrooms with students. I’ve said it online with students. I’ve said it in rooms with clients and their teams. Two words. Who Cares? Why is this important? Why are we discussing it? Why are we debating? How does any of that help us with what we’re here to do? The answer is we don’t know. Then start talking about it.
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: I’ll do something…
Jason Ogle: Let’s use that energy to make something better that’s broken. Because there is no end to the amount of work we can actually accomplish as designers because there’s so much terrible design in this world.
Joe Natoli: Right?
Jason Ogle: It’s broken.
Joe Natoli: Of course, it’s broken. We’re human. Even the best things, even the best, most well-designed things are broken. One of the biggest revelations I ever got very early on in my career with technology in particular is that no matter what everybody’s best efforts are, there are always bugs always. Right, they’re always [inaudible 01:03:37]
Jason Ogle: That’s true!
Joe Natoli: They’re always, they’re always bugs. They’re like, that’s an accepted part of the process. Yes, there will be bugs, no matter how diligently everybody does their work. That’s the nature of the beast. When I learned that, honest to God, this was like a revelation to me and it’s something that even this far along, I find myself reminding people on teams, clients, stakeholders, there will be bugs, things will be broken, okay. That’s the way all this works.
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: Calm down, calm down, go forward and just figure it out.
Jason Ogle: Ah, it’s so good. It’s so funny, there’s a movie called, “There will be blood.” I think we need to make it say “There will be bugs.”
Jason Ogle: I’m going to make that. Out your face on it.
Joe Natoli: You need the movie guy that does all those as voiceover, the old voiceover commercials. I don’t think he’d do that anymore.
Jason Ogle: “There will be bugs. In a world where there will be bugs.”
Joe Natoli: You know, I mean,
Jason Ogle: Yes! There’s something there. Who wants to get involved with making this short film with us?
Joe Natoli: Right, you know, except that things are perfect. And they just are…
Jason Ogle: And in a weird way, be grateful.
Joe Natoli: Yes!
Jason Ogle: It helps us get paid. [Laughs]
Joe Natoli: I don’t have a job. My God, if things weren’t the way they were supposed to, I would’ve been out of a job 20 years ago. Yes, man. That’s what keeps, makes the world go round.
Jason Ogle: Yes, indeed. We have a few really interesting, smart listen to the questions that we were able to field and I wonder if you have a few more minutes to, to answer some of these?
Joe Natoli: Of course.
Jason Ogle: Okay, wonderful. This one’s from Kristen Joy Courier Ludlow. That’s like a reporter name. Like that’s an awesome name right there. Yes! Kristin is great. She’s a real big enthusiast of what we’re both doing and has been really engaging in the community and now Twitter. She’s amazing. So, she had a really smart question and she said:
Listener Question: What value do older UX’ers bring to the table? How do we communicate in a real-world language? How can younger and older generations of designers learn and benefit from one another?
Joe Natoli: To answer all that is, you know, do you have a place? Yes, absolutely. Yes, I’m living proof, right? I am 50. Your advantage, your massive, monstrous advantage. You know, and those agents exist? Of course, it does. But your advantage is your time over the target. Your advantage is all the things that I was talking about before, okay. You’ve seen these movies before. Like I said before, you know the plot line, you know the dialogue. You know what’s coming next. You know, everyone I know who’s done this for any significant length of time feels the same way. Like, “Okay, I’ve met this person before, I’ve been in this situation before and I can sort of predict what’s going to happen next.” And nine times out of 10 you’re actually right.
So, the challenge– if you’re that person, whether you’re working inside a company or whether you’re trying to be a consultant, is to communicate that experience. Is to say, is to make clear. I’m not telling you this because I am the expert, the UX expert or the design expert. I’m telling you this because over X amount of years I’ve seen it play out this same way seven times out of 10, eight times out of 10 right. Away from best practice or you know, again, she mentioned jargon and terminology. Away from heuristic evaluation and all these kinds of things. I forget about all that. Here’s why I think you’re going to be very unhappy with the result if we go here. Here’s what I think is going to happen because I’ve seen it happen in this instance and this instance in this instance and this instance.
You’re having a meaningful conversation where you’re explaining the benefit of your experience without having it be a badge like, “Well, I’m old and I’ve seen some stuff.” Youngen okay. Seriously, I mean, you have to do it in a way where it’s like, I’m not just saying this because older and I know better, you have to tell the story behind why you think that’s happening. It’s just like anything else. And I think if you do the same thing in interviews, right? It’s like I said about interviews, forget about what they’re asking for. Forget about that laundry list of skills and software and all that stuff they think you need to have. Speak to your experience, speak to what you’ve accomplished, speak to the the problems and challenges you’ve seen, how you’ve overcome them. You got to stick to the positives of where you’ve been and what you’ve done. And if you are a DIY self-starter, chances are you’ve seen a lot and you’ve experienced a lot, right. And you’ve taken charge of situations that were probably difficult. And I know Kristen and I know that she has and continues to. You have to tell those stories, period.
Forget about all this other stuff on the periphery, right? The jargon and terminology, the process of the software. I don’t care. Tell those stories. Because the people doing the hiring or the people that you’re working with every day have some version of the sword of Damocles hanging over their head for some reason. You need to speak to how, what you’ve done and what you know, what you’ve experienced can remove that, right.
Jason Ogle: [laughs]
Joe Natoli: You got to tell that story. Those stories are there, you just have to bring them out. That’s my take. That’s what I do. It’s what I do all the time.
Jason Ogle: That’s so good. Yes, I love that. What a great reminder, I mean we all have stories. Everybody, Defender, you have a story to tell.
Joe Natoli: Yes!
Jason Ogle: You are a walking story.
Joe Natoli: Yes!
Jason Ogle: Right! Nobody has the same experience as you. Even somebody with more experience doesn’t have your experience, right?
Joe Natoli: How many portfolios have you looked at where the front page says, “I’m so and so, I’m a UX designer. I’m passionate about helping users.” What does that tell me about who you are, where you’ve been, what you’ve experienced, what you’re capable of? Answer. Nothing. Tell your story. Your story has value. That sentence has no value. The things that you’ve seen and experienced and done and overcome, those things have value. That’s what you need to be talking about.
Jason Ogle: And here’s another one. This is from Idam. She says…
Listener Question: Hi Joe and Jason, this is Madi or Idam, as I am told, I am currently transitioning into the field of UX. So, I’d like to ask Joe, as someone who teaches classes within UX, what is the best advice you can give two juniors in the field?
Joe Natoli: I think there’s a bunch of lessons. The most important one quite honestly, has a lot to do with UX, but in a way it has the least to do with UX. And that is, it goes back to what we were talking about before. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, okay.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: It’s my thing about, you know, feel the fear, do it anyway. Be Willing to be wrong, okay. That probably is the biggest piece of advice I’ve given people over as many years as I’ve been doing this. Every student I’ve ever had online or offline. Every team I’ve ever worked with, I’ve given them the same speech. Okay. The other things I could sort of go along with that for someone in a junior position is learn absolutely everything you can about everything you can. Be a sponge, okay. Be willing to immerse yourself in anything and everything, even if you feel like it’s not directly connected because in a lot of times, it is.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: You know, the other thing that’s really important to let go of, especially when you’re younger and when you’re feeling that pressure of being inexperienced. And you know, I don’t have the requisite three to five years’ experience that everybody wants from someone at my age is, is that you do not have to be the smartest person in the room. You don’t have to know everything. You do not have to know all the answers. That is not what any of this is about, right? It’s about the willingness. UX work, design work, really at the end of the day, it’s about the willingness to say, “You know what? I don’t know, but we need to find out.”
Alright, Doug Collins, who’s just one of my favorite people in this world, sent out a tweet one time that I quote to anyone who will listen. And it is, that’s like the definition of this gig saying, “I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.” That’s really what it is.
I can tell you that very early on in my career when I was struggling, right, with the same questions. When I was struggling with impostor syndrome and like, who the heck do I think I am and what have I gotten myself into? Nothing good really started happening until I sort of accepted that truth. Like, “You know what? I do not have to have answers here. That’s not the gig.” So, with prospects for instance, right? They’re saying, well, they’re kind of – you feel like you’re being tested. “All right, well, what do you know? How would you do this and how would you go about fixing this?” “I don’t know. We’ve only been talking for three minutes. I don’t know anything about your audience or your product or your company or anything, but part of this gig is that I have to find out, okay, I have to learn how to walk in your shoes. I have to ask you the right questions that give me the insights that help me understand your daily reality, your customers and users, daily reality.” This is all about asking questions. All right.
Jason Ogle: Yes! Right.
Joe Natoli: So, if you’re a junior person or get comfortable asking questions. And the more questions you ask, the better off you’re going to be. Again, even if you’re running the risk of everybody in the room looking at you like you have three heads, it doesn’t matter. At that point, it’s not only about your ability to do the job well, okay. Because if you don’t ask the question, you will not be able to do the job properly or well, I promise you. But the other part is, this is about your life as well and how you want it to go. If you don’t ask the question, you don’t ever learn anything. And if you don’t ever learn anything, you will never be as valuable to somebody as you should be. Right, whether that be an employer, a client. You know, for freelance, a student looking for advice right, later on in life. That’s the gig. Okay, get comfortable with not knowing except that as a required element of doing this work.
Jason Ogle: That’s so good. This is the last one. This is from Hg:
Listener Question: What is the one thing you wish you knew or that someone would have told you starting off a career in UX design?
Joe Natoli: It was that, it’s what I just said actually. That you don’t have to know everything, that you don’t have to know everything, that you don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t think I have the words to explain the pressure or the stress or the fear in a lot of cases that I was dealing with, especially when at the time when I started my own business. And it was there before that, okay. I mean, it was there in college certainly. It was there when I was a younger person in high school growing up in a town where I felt like an absolute outcast. But especially at the point when I decided to start my own business, the pressure to have all the answers was tremendous. Okay, even with my own employees, right? I felt like – I did go to my credit. I did go out of my way to find people, hire people who knew things that I didn’t, you know. My whole thing was I wanted to hire people who are better than I was.
But, I still at the same time as I intellectually knew that emotionally I felt this great pressure to like, I have to lead the charge everywhere, right. I have to be the person with all the answers. I have to be the source of strategic direction, right. It’s my job, it’s my responsibility. Everybody, everybody succeeds or fails on my ability to do all this stuff. And it’s just not true. It’s just not true, okay. And it hurts you a lot. You carry around a lot on your shoulders and in your heart every day when you do that to yourself. And it’s just not reality. Like I said, it’s just not reality. Find any expert in any field.
And I’ve been very privileged to have had conversations with a lot of people who are very famous in a lot of different walks of life. They will all tell you the same thing, okay. Nothing good happened until they sort of made peace with the fact that they didn’t know what the heck they were doing a lot of the time. Right, that’s the human condition. That’s the human condition. And until you make peace with that, you don’t start asking meaningful questions.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: And you don’t learn anything of value as a result, okay. So, it’s of critical importance. That client who’s looking at you, like you have to have all the answers. That stakeholders are looking at you like you have all the answers. You have to diffuse that from the start. I say, “You know look, let’s walk through this and figure it out. That’s what we’re here to do. I don’t want to guess. I want to know.”
Jason Ogle: So good man. As we kind of wrap up here, I think I do want to ask one more just quick question.
Joe Natoli: Sure.
Jason Ogle: I just want to know like, you know, all the Defenders listening, again, we touched on it earlier. There’s so many that are just itching to just get in and just dive in head first and start doing this work. And really there’s a lot of passion involved here. Like there’s a lot of passion that these folks have to really want to change the world. And I know that, that sounds like a cliché. I know that sounds like kind of blue sky, but, honestly like, just getting to know the Defenders and UD community and just hearing their hearts and what they’re even doing already. It keeps me like inspired, keeps me pumped up and charged up. So, I just want to ask you for these folks that are just wanting to make a difference. That are feeling maybe like some barricades or just feeling like maybe giving up even, because they just seem to be hearing no a lot more than Yes! Like you know, you touched on it a little bit but you know, if you had one word even, if it’s just one word for these folks and you can add onto it as well if you want, but what would that be?
Joe Natoli: Resilience. Okay, that’s the first word that came to mind and it’s the truest thing in my own career resilience. You are going – I promise you, I promise you all listening right now. You are going to get knocked down. You are going to get handed some things personally and professionally that when it happens you will feel like “There is no way I can deal with this. My life is over, my career is over. I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be doing something else.” There’re all sorts of unkind things that you will say to yourself that you will think to yourself. You will get knocked to the canvas. Okay, I’m a big fan of the “Rocky movies” as cliché…
Jason Ogle: Oh, Yes!
Joe Natoli: As trite as they can be because; the spirit of that is true to me, okay? All those lines that Stallone delivers with such drama are true, right? “Nothing is going to hit harder than life.” You’re going to get knocked down. What you do about it determines your success or failure. Is the moment going to happen? Yes! No matter how well prepared you are in, no matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work, no matter what a good person you are, okay? It’s going happen. You’re going to have setbacks, small and large. The key is to get back up right.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: I’ve said this in interviews before. Henry Rollins is one of my other favorite all-time people. And I’ve been lucky enough to have several conversations with him over the years. And believe it or not, a lot of people think different things about Henry, but he’s one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever known. And one of the key parts of the conversations that we had has always stuck with me. And that was, I asked him, we were talking about writing and how are you independent publishers. People who just like, “Hey, I want to write, I want to write this book. Or I want to create art. Or I want to do whatever.” Because; that’s what he did. I mean, this is a guy who was living in a tool shed at one point in his life.
He just decided, well, I want to do these things and so I’m, I’m going to do them. I said, “Well, what would you say to somebody who’s feeling intimidated or you know, beaten or just feeling like, man, there’s just no way I can get there.” And he said, “As crass as this sounds. You have to go out there and get your nose broken.” Because, when you do, here’s what happens. First you realize that you’re not dead, okay. It didn’t kill you. You realize that you’re still breathing, you’re still putting one foot in front of the other and it teaches you something about yourself. Because at the time you’re thinking, there’s no way I’m going to get through this. And then you do get through it and you survive. You live to fight another day and you get to try something else, right. In the case of you know, business like you get hired again, you get another opportunity to do something and you learn something.
Like, “Okay, so if I don’t quit, then opportunities still continue to present themselves.” But only if I continue to keep going and be there for them, right? If you quit, if you throw in the towel, you’re done, you’re done. It’s over. And that is nobody else’s fault, no matter what the situation is.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: It’s going to be hard. It’s going to hurt in some cases. You’ve got to go forward anyway. There is nothing I can tell anybody that’s more true than that. Because you will never get the reward unless you move past the pain. Unless you force yourself to get up again.
All right, here’s something that I don’t talk about, but I would like to say, and I know we’re well over time. I have four damaged vertebrae in my lower back, okay. And not just damaged, they’re basically broken, right. I sat with in a consult and with a surgeon and he said to me, look there broken, which means they’re not going to heal. Okay. And that feels exactly like you think it feels all right.
Jason Ogle: Oh man.
Joe Natoli: Now in the point of that is not to say like, “Oh, Joe’s, you know, he’s struggling through the pain.” And that’s not what this is about. That’s reality. It’s been reality for quite a number of years now, all right. And that guy told me at that time, he was like, “Look, can you have surgery? Yes! Is it going to fix your problem? Probably not. And then you’re going to be back in here every other year to have another surgery.” Because once you stabilize your spine, it’s like a domino effect.
Anyway, it’s like this, okay. Every day I have two choices. I can relentlessly complain about what I’m feeling and how hard it is to move through moments and do certain things with this sort of, you know, like poking you all day long. Or I can just get on with it and say it is and whatever, and give it less credence. Because it’s not going to stop. Okay, it’s not going to go away. Me being angry about it or bitching about it or any of those things, it’s not going to change, therefore is not worth my energy. Okay, its just isn’t.
Jason Ogle: Yes!
Joe Natoli: So, this is kind of, and again, the only reason I say that is because it’s a metaphor for all this stuff, all right. You just have to keep going. That’s it. Resilience.
Jason Ogle: Ah, man. I want to give you an opportunity to tell our Defenders the best way to connect and to keep up with you because I know they’re going to want to…
Joe Natoli: Yes, well…
Jason Ogle: And you know, you have some courses to like – you have to put that out there, my friend.
Joe Natoli: I do. I’ve got courses on “Udemy” which is obviously udemy.com. I have courses at learn.givegoodux.com. Both places. I have a website and a blog that I neglect all too often at givegoodux.com is a website that is woefully need of a redesign and I’m finally starting to do that. I have to say that out loud because it bothers me every time I look at it.
Jason Ogle: [laughs] I hear you brother.
Joe Natoli: Twitter @JoeNatoli is a great way to connect with me because I’m always there. And I openly encourage people to reach out. Okay, ask questions.
Again, back to the thing, right? Don’t sit on your hands and not ask the thing that’s a burning question. I also have a private Facebook group that’s worth mentioning, at friendsgivegoodux.com. And there are about 7,000 folks there, which is a really cool. But, you’ll find me User Defenders, you’ll find me at UX Mastery, you’ll find me on all sorts of places and that’s simply because, as we said at some point earlier. It’s really important to me that I’m available now. Am I able to answer every single question immediately as quickly as I’m asked? Not really.
But, I really work very hard to make sure that people do get answers, all right. If you email me, you will get an answer eventually. I feel like so overwhelming at times, you know, on Udemy it’s overwhelming to answer the volume of questions I get, but I feel like, look, I mean I owe all of those people my livelihood, so the very least I can do is try to be there. And like I always say; a lot of people have done that for me. It is absolutely my responsibility to pay it forward. And I say that to all of you listening. Okay. If you hear something on this podcast for or something from Jason or any of his incredible guests who I’m very honored to be in a company of. The best way you can be grateful for that. Pay it forward, right? Pay It forward. When you’re in a position to help somebody else do so. When you’re in position to have somebody benefit from your experience again, no matter how many years that is or isn’t do it. Okay, this is how this works. That’s how we all update ourselves. It’s how we elevate each other.
Jason Ogle: Thank you so much Joe. I was just thinking of a quote that I really like a lot. It says, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
Joe Natoli: Absolutely!
Jason Ogle: And you know what Defenders? The teacher’s here. And this has been really, really deep. It’s been really, really valuable. Joe, thank you for embracing your calling. Thank you for just going forward despite the fear. We’re all better for it and will continue to be. Keep doing what you’re doing, man. I am honored to know you. I’m thankful for this time that we had together. And I want to say last but not least, as always, fight on my friend.
Joe Natoli: You too brother.
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