Know this Nerd? Meet Jon Hadden

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John HaddenThank you to The Nerdery for underwriting the Know this Nerd? series.

Jon Hadden is a local user experience designer and owner of NiceUX. Jon volunteers with Boxes & Arrows, is amember of the IxDA Twin Cities chapter, and has previously worked at Yahoo!

“The best design solutions simply get out of the way, allowing users to achieve their goal as easy as possible.”

When and how did you originally become interested in technology?

My dad and brother were major influences on my road to a career in technology. We always had things around the house, Apple II, Build your own AM/FM radio kits, an Activision video game system (which is the alternative to Atari back in the day). When I grew older I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My brother was an Information Architect, told me about CSS and showed me CSSZenGarden.com and I was hooked.

At what age did you start graphic design? What was it?

It was a student project that was an used auto sales site. HTML layout was in in table’s, CSS was all inline, and the back end was super basic Coldfusion. Do you remember Coldfusion?

What do you do now? What are you proficient in?

I run NiceUX, a user experience design and development company based in the warehouse district of Minneapolis. We provide strategy, research, design and development for sites and applications big and small. I mostly spend my time sketching, in Photoshop, and HTML/CSS/JavaScript (jQuery). Worrying way too much about the details.

How have you increased your skillset over the years, formally or otherwise?

There’s a ridiculous amount of knowledge around us. Reading books, online publications like BoxesandArrows.com or AListApart.com, attending conferences and talking with people much smarter than me. Also, while in the field, simply listening to users. They will tell you all sorts of things, what works, what doesn’t, their expectations, what they like to feed their cat … all you have to do is listen to users, it’s that easy.

The Nerdery

Which do you prefer, the struggle or the achievement?

You can’t have one without the other. Struggles and failures are what make achievements recognizable as achievements. If I needed to build or design an interaction, and it went without a hitch, it’s just an expected result. Failing, or struggling with something you want to happen, so bad, makes us as humans work that much harder to use our brains to figure out how to get our desired result.

What people, groups, projects, or resources were most influential in your development as designer?

The IA Summit, hands down. I began learning more about people and how my designs and what I was building affected them. I also met many individuals who helped shape my career into what it is today.

What do you enjoy about it? Is there anything you dislike?

When I interview users and watch them struggle with a task they perform hundreds of times in a day on an interface, then prototype a solution to their problem and see the smile on their face, that’s what keeps me going. On the other hand, seeing an interface that was designed without a single user seeing it, and watching someone struggle with it is disappointing. Every product or experience we deliver should always strive to get out of the users way, allow them to accomplish their goals intuitively, not pose a new barrier.

If you were to be doing anything else, what would that be?

Building homes or work as an auto mechanic. I enjoy my home projects and working on cars in my spare time. I think they also have very similar aspects to user experience design and development. There’s the underlying functional piece, does it work as intended. If not, how do I fix it and get it to work. On the other side of the coin, is it aesthetically beautiful, pleasing to those who use it.

Where do you spend most of your time online?

Stackoverflow, Localhost, Twitter and various GIF Tumblr Blogs. Stackoverflow gives me the answers, most of the time, I need to implement problems I’m having in my local dev environment. Twitter gives me an opportunity to connect with my IA nerds around the world. And GIF tumblr blogs are just hilarious.

What concerns you most about where technology is headed?

It’s not so much where technology is headed, but the legislation that is trying to impede on it. Bills like SOPA and PIPA, which, Laurence H. Tribe describes as, “undermining the openness and free exchange of information at the heart of the Internet. And it would violate the First Amendment” make me scared that someone who knows very little about the internet, can potentially have such a large impact on what it is.

What excites you most about where technology is headed?

The seamless integration between devices and how much technology has come in the last 5 years is astounding. We are smack dab in the middle of a technical revolution and it’s pretty awesome. Technology like NFC enabled devices, gestural interactions, or cloud based data transfer gives us endless possibilities in the future. I’m excited to see and be a part of the future web.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

To all upcoming and student designers/developers out there, never settle with ‘good enough.’ There’s always a chance to learn more, make it better and push the boundaries of what’s possible.

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