My office has a Sony video camcorder which runs on hard disk drive (better to record a full day of interviews on) and pulling files out of the disk requires a cable. As it is with things in the office, the cable got lost somewhere between the last usability test and being loaned to marketing. So, when I needed to pull some files out, I had to hunt down the correct cable.

I took a look at the port on the video camcorder, which looks like this.

I didn’t recognize it, and knowing how Sony likes to use propriety ports and cards,  I assumed it was a special cable. I took a photo and went out to look for the cable. Well what a wild goose chase that turned out to be. I dropped by a Sony retail shop and the salesman said they didn’t stock this cable and suggested I head down to the main customer center in another part of town. That didn’t work for me as I couldn’t make it before the closing hours, so I went around a few shops in the store, but no-one seemed to have the suitable cable in stock. Boy was I frustrated, I thought it would be a simple task to buy a cable and it turned out to be a citywide search! Feeling defeated, I called the main customer center to check on the availability of the cable. When I conveyed my problem to the call agent, he duly informed me that I could just use any typical mini usb cable. What? But a typical usb cable port looks like this!

The next day in the office, I plugged a mini usb cable into the port and felt so silly when it fitted. But it wasn’t my fault for getting confused, was it? This is what the cables looks like.

and the shape is a perfect fit for the typical usb port but not for Sony’s! Electronic manufacturers had gotten it right by matching the shape of the cable to the shape of the port, which allows users to associate the 2 together and be able to intuitively find the right match. Just like an adults’ version of toy blocks that we played as kids.  Sony’s version must be a new variation (google search shows its also used in other electronics) and I wonder what prompted this change. Does it serves to improve the functionality in any way? or is it just cheaper to produce? It is rather sad that instead of a progression where electronics become more intuitive to use, we are seeing a regression instead. I certainly hope this new version doesn’t become more popular among electronics manufacturer.

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Having a career as a User Experience Designer(or UxD for short) is not an easy one. Its very much like an S & M relationship. In order to do a good job, you have to really care and be passionate about what you do. But when you put so much of yourself into your work, you get bitch-slapped left and right by the obstacles that stand in your way from technology which hasn’t caught up with your vision yet or the people who stand in your way because you can’t understand each other. So there goes the up and downs of being a UxD. And the tightrope we all walk on to still remain passionate but not be burnt out.

The last 2 years of my career was this defining period in my life as I was figuring out what should the next step for me be. My energy was running low having spent 3 years pushing myself endlessly for my work and I was losing focus about what I wanted in my career and in my life. It started a phase whereby I wasn’t entirely happy with where I was but I didnt know what to do about it either. It sucked real badly.

It took some trial and error, some mistakes, much courage and much explorations before I now feel more sure about what I want and how to go about achieving it. This journey has been like many design challenges, you start out with the fuzzy and unknown and it takes much divergence and then convergence before you reach the solution. Its tough dealing with the uncertaintly, but if I’ve learnt one thing in the last few years its that there is nothing to fear about uncertainty. Embrace the uncertaintly and forge ahead! As uncertain as things may seem at the start, it also means that the end may be better then you ever could predict.

So some advice I have for you, if you’re considering a career in UxD :

1. Be passionate about what you’re doing. Because if you’re not, there are much easier careers out there.

2. Take breaks from your work. Travel or have other hobbies. You would really need these to keep your passion going.

3. Network. Conversations with similarly passionate people help you keep the fire alive and it also opens you to what’s happening in your industry and when you start having doubts about your career, you can go to them.

4. Find a mentor. There may not be established mentoring system in many organisations for UxD since this is such a new field of study, but it is very important to have someone you could look up to as well as talk to about your career path. If its not avaliable in your organization, seek one outside of your organization.

5. Enjoy the journey. The tough patches may be hard to bear, but tough patches add to the richness of your life experiences and its only with these that you get to enjoy the sweetness of the smooth road ahead.

Some resources you can go to :

An Infographics on Ux Career

A Getting Started guide by Whitney Hess
What it takes to be a UxD
Free ebooks on User Experience

My new blog is up! I’m very excited about this. Before I started, I really wanted to make sure that I started on the right foot. And hence I spent a long time thinking of the blog name and the logo. I wanted to make sure that I had a catchy name and logo which I could use long term. And for now I’m using A Smirking Fox. I kind of thought of the logo first and formed the name around the logo, but I’m very happy with it.

Anyone who knows me know that I’m not a sweet little darling. I’ve spunk and a bite and that’s what my blog will be like. I say things as things are and you may not like hearing the truth. At the same time I know i need to stand up to the critism such truth will bring and all i can say is game on!

It has really taken me a long time to get this blog started (sharing to strangers is not really my forte) and now that I have,  I hope to be able to make it last. Stay tuned for more to come.

Welcome to my blog. This is a place which I would like to share my thoughts about design, user experience and in general life. I hope you enjoy your time here. And i’m all ready to roll for the journey ahead!