Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Freelance culture - what it can mean for your project

How many of us employ freelancers on our projects? In iMedia it seems to be quite the norm to supplement the team with extra skills from the freelance pool. We should admit that we can’t work without them. But with their non-conformist, free-spirit culture do they fit in with a team ethos?

iMedia development needs a mix of skills, creativity, technical know-how, hard-graft, attention to detail, time sensitivity, business nous, market awareness and project management. It’s a project development activity that cries out for a team of people. Quite often the client wants something that makes a difference whether in look or feel, and a team that has gelled through working together can operate more efficiently but may lack the spark of difference. This is what a new member may bring. Will the existing team squash or embrace the newbie freelancer? Will you? Will your management?

The interface between employees and freelancers has not been the focus of much attention when it should be. It poses risks and benefits that need managing sensitively.

The good news is that iMedia freelancers along with general creative freelancers have a pool of resources to help them. They have become more professional, tap into one another and listen to advice from more experienced freelancers. It is not the isolated black art it used to be and we can’t relate to it like that any more. Perhaps it’s time to reappraise it. Take a look at the analysis from an experienced freelancer, Jacques van Heerden, who explodes 5 myths in 5 freelance myths busted from the start. Do any of these myths reflect your attitude/ your company’s culture?

To understand freelancers better, why not take a look at how they need to relate to contracts that you may offer them. Often companies just have standard tweaked contracts for freelancers and it can cause a lot of trouble when they query them. But they do so with very good reason and we need to employ them so we should do it right, shouldn’t we? Hopefully you have recourse to legal advice and after reading 10 things to be wary of when signing a consultancy contract, by James May, from the interesting FreelanceUK site, you’ll be able to read your own company freelance contracts with a bit more appreciation.

The 10 points here relate to the IR35 tax regulations where if freelancers are not seen as sufficiently independent in the revenue’s eyes, they will be treated as employees when it comes to tax and national insurance. This could be detrimental to the contractor but it can also have knock-on effects for the company who hires the freelancer, and these can be applied retrospectively. Remember this only relates to IR35 and the ‘employment’ position but of course there are other issues that need to be addressed in a freelance contract, such as intellectual property and liability.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Web usability trends

Usability issues change as the users become more experienced. We all know this and can trace differences in approach to the issues over time on the various iMedia devices. Engaging with your users in meaningful ways now drives design far more than it used to. Understanding your market either happens because you have a track record in developing for the niche, or you build in time/money in your project's development to define the users' behaviour.

So, it came as no surprise for us to find an interesting research project on specific reactions to interactive devices for defined childrens' age ranges (0-6 and 6-12) on behalf of the BBC. They want to employ a psychologist who has experience with eye tracking interpretation to help assess reactions particularly from pre-school aged children. This group of children present great difficulty for researchers as they find it hard if not impossible to put their feelings into words. (The job deadline has just passed if you were interested.) See

Human Computer Interaction is an exciting field. It has come of age with the plethora of interactive devices coupled with the growth in use of the devices, and the understanding that making interaction usable and accessible can mean added value. This happens through increased sales, or, buying into a brand because of a connection with what it offers, or, faster comprehension of the content on offer - whatever makes the difference between competitors.

You may like to dip a toe into this HCI world if you’re not already party to it. There's a conference coming up in April in the USA with presentations on such aspects as: Making meaning in large displays, Understanding Cool, Avatars and virtual environments, Seniors using technology, Pixels and perception, Designing User Interfaces for Multi-touch and Surface-Gesture Devices, HCI in China, etc.

See the full advance program at

Exciting developments, don't you agree? How would you define your company's expertise in such matters? Do you collaborate with specialist companies?

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Collaboration – the mantra for successful teams and leadership for the future

It was refreshing to find recent confirmation of what we’ve been expounding for years for iMedia teams in our training courses and books. The confirmation comes from the strategic analysis on the future of work by such people as Lynda Gratton, Prof from The London Business School, and, Tammy Erikson, Thought Leader of nGenera, a strategic consultancy company.

So, what are they on about? It’s this idea of collaboration between diverse team members who may or may not be co-located (virtual teams). It won’t surprise anyone that collaboration comes down to trust. Therefore, how should a team leader build trust among diverse talents across cultures? This is the sort of dilemma you’ll have been facing in coordinating people within your teams or even in specifying as a trait you want in recruitment. Increasingly, people will need a balance between people-management skills and task performance skills to survive.

Collaboration “...can be catalyzed, but it can’t be mandated – and to that extent, it requires a shift in management mindset.” Tammy Erikson

One of the keys seems to lie in the ability of management to engender a culture of collaboration – how’s your company shaping up?

See the inserts from Lynda and Tammy on Pages 13 and 15 and read pages 13, 14, 15 for quick insights from the report Building the collaborative enterprise. Ten questions to ask about business opportunities through collaboration. nGenera Corporation 2009


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Prior experience in iMedia affects present design issues

One of the first issues we recommend you tackle with new projects and new clients is to understand any previous experiences your clients have had with technology and designers. Their prior experience will have an impact. What did they like/dislike about their experiences? These insights can affect your decisions of whether to work with them, how to work with them and what solutions to suggest.

Often as a result of this analysis, you may recognise that you might have to educate your client. They may have inappropriate expectations about what can be achieved for the time and money. They may be too internally focused by their own corporate politics and forget that they are trying to influence their audience. Who is their prime target market? Can they articulate who they are? Do they really know their market and its relationship with technological communication?

Equally, prior experience works both ways. Your experiences are part of your expertise. Your client should value and listen to your intelligence. Do they?

As part of your education you might like to point your clients at 10 Harsh Truths about Corporate Websites suggesting they think long and hard about all the points but particularly 4: Your website cannot appeal to everyone, 6: Your website is not all about you, and 8: Design by committee brings death. Nice analysis, Damien and Tania!

What you want from your clients is an enviable list of recommendations like WStore – surely they all can’t be made up! (No, they’re not because we know one person in the list.)

These would demonstrate positive prior experiences with iMedia, satisfied clients and return business. How would comments from your clients shape up?