Education is a two way street

Paul Boag

In our desire to educate clients and colleagues about digital best practice, we often forget that we have as much if not more to learn from them.

The older I become the more I realise how little I know. When I was young I used to think I had all of the answers. I was the expert, the person clients and colleagues turned to for my knowledge about the web.

People still turn to me for my expertise about digital, but things are different now. I realise that I rarely (if ever) have all of the answers.

Users always surprise me

For a start, no matter how many websites and apps I have built, users always surprise me. I can think I have seen it all before, that I know how users will behave, but the minute I run a usability test session I discover how little I really know. It’s a humbling experience and it is why usability testing should lie at the heart of every project.

However, it is more than that. As I have matured and the web has grown I have come to realise that no individual can have all of the answers when it comes to digital. It is just too complex, too cross disciplinary.

I am obviously reliant on my team at Headscape who have a level of expertise in specific areas that I cannot hope to match. But I am also massively reliant on the knowledge of the client too.

Clients and colleagues have so much to teach us

In our rush to educate clients and colleagues about the web, we forget to learn all they know too. All their knowledge about the business is crucial. They understand the business objectives, the people, the politics, the products and the users. Yes, we can do usability testing, but our level of knowledge about the user will not match theirs.

We also forget that our clients and colleagues are experts in their own fields. They are marketers, project managers, consultants – there is so much we can learn from these fields.

I have worked with clients in the human resources sector who have taught me enormous amounts about psychology. I have worked with academics and lawyers who have helped me improve the way I justify my work. I have even worked with engineers whose approach has shaped my thinking about development.

My point here is that the web maybe 25 years old but compared to other industries it is still a baby. We can still learn so much from other sectors if we take the time to listen.

“businessman with hat in front of two roads” image courtesy of