Interview with Mads Soegaard, Founder of Interaction-Design.org
My friend Mads Soegaard is a man possessed. Possessed by the feeling that information, especially information about usability, should be readily available to all. To that end he’s literally poured his full devotion, time and energy (and money!) into Interaction-Design.org. What would turn a mild-mannered programmer and all around good guy into a fanatical devotee of web-based education for all? Well, read on!
Q1. What’s your background? Where did you go to school, what subjects interested you?
I’ve taken the majority of my education here in Denmark. I have a master’s in “Information Studies” and studied a PhD in computer science, which I never finished. I love anything that’s highly theoretical and highly practical at the same time. I get bored when I do too much of one or the other: After going to an academic conference and reading a lot of academic papers, my fingers begin to itch and I want to do practical programming and design wireframes. But after a while I begin to long for the theoretical stuff again.
Q2. How did you get into interaction design and usability field?
It seems I’ve always been here. I started a web development company way back in 1997 and our quickly made usability our hallmark. Since then, it has stuck with me. I think it’s because I have a love-hate relationship to technology. Some days I really hate technology, swear at it, and find it so frustrating, time-consuming and nerdy. On other days, I love it and appreciate how much it helps me.
Q3. What is it about interaction design and usability that you most enjoy, or find most rewarding?
Making cool stuff that works well and makes other people happy. It’s really as simple as that.
Q4. You founded the interaction-design.org site. What is interaction-design.org and why should someone use it?
It’s a new model for publishing. Instead of our community producing books that are read by only a few thousand people in the Western intellectual hemisphere, we want to teach millions of people about usability and interaction design. Not just the paying ones but everybody. From New York to New Delhi.
Q5. As founder of interaction-design.org, what was your motivation for creating this tool – why did you believe interaction-design was needed?
Because I‘ve read so many fantastic books by fantastic authors. I believe these authors have the minds to change the world. However, they are not going to – as long as their works are only read by a few thousand people. We need top-grade educational materials to be accessible online for the whole world to enjoy and learn.
Q6. From your experiences with how people use your website, what content or key learnings seem to be the most popular, and why do you think that is?
The encyclopedia and our calendar are the most popular sections. They get about 3,000 unique readers a day.
Q7. What advice do you have for other start-ups that wish to create an online education service, whether interaction-design related or otherwise?
My advice is to:
- Save up a lot of money – and be willing to spend it all during your startup process
- Be able to live on oatmeal for several years
- Be willing to sell your car, remortgage your house, and let go of your fancy title
- Have a determination like few other people
- Put almost everything on the line
Q8. What’s in the future for interaction-design.org, what changes or improvements are you working on?
Well…that’s a secret but it will be revealed August 1st, I hope. If we’re not late J
Q9. What do you think the next year to two years will bring for interaction design and usability? Do you see it growing, if so by how much?
I see it growing a lot. Our everyday lives are getting packed with technology and every little shop on every street corner has a website. So whether you’re designing websites or mobile phones or household object, you’ll be needed more and more in the coming years. People get frustrated with technology every day and we’re like doctors in that sense. We cure frustrating and time-consuming technology.
Q10. What’s next for you and your career in the next year or two, what would you like to focus on?
Well…that’s a secret but I’ll be happy to share the news with you on August 1st
Thank you Mads!