RE: Usability

Subject: RE: Usability
From: Jimmy Breck-McKye <jb527 -at- hotmail -dot- co -dot- uk>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 22 May 2011 13:17:03 +0000


Replying to ERIKA_y -at- rad -dot- com,
> Hi Bobbi,
> The difference between XML, XHTML etc on one hand and usability and information architecture on the other hand is that the former is a 'harder' skill, and the latter 'softer'. Harder skills are best during downturns, when companies revert to bare bones and reduce fluff. Soft skill are better during upturns, when companies invest in 'nice-to-have' stuff, even in the form of part time employment opportunities as someone already mentioned.
> My 2 cents.
> Erika

But isn't there also an argument that 'harder' skills are transient (ie specific tools and technologies die out), 'softer' skills more adaptable and relevant in a wider range of contexts? 'Information architecture', for instance, is useful for anyone designing *anything* that delivers knowledge. Softer skills might be a better investment in the long-run, as specific tools and methodologies change.
Still, I can also see that 'hard' skills are much easier to prove - and quantify - than 'soft' ones. As a candidate, one could objectively say 'I am at a skill level where I can produce validated XML. I can prove it to you'. They couldn't do the same for information architecture, however - how do you prove your ability to pre-empt user requirements, for instance? How do you 'grade' that level of knowledge, and how do you quickly prove it?
Another point: soft skills will never be pre-requisites to a job. Hard skills may be. A recruiter can't demand 'level 9 knack for remembering UI patterns'. But he *can* demand 'you must know this tool'.
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References:
Usability: From: Roberta Hennessey
RE: Usability: From: Erika Yanovich

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