All Things Open recap: Day 2 keynotes

Why design and marketing matter and what to do about it

Check out our recap of keynotes from day 2 of All Things Open 2016.

Arrows moving a process forward
Image by : 
Opensource.com
x

Subscribe now

Get the highlights in your inbox every week.

I love when technical conferences remember to include talks by the non-technical, for the non-technical. I've worked on documentation for open source projects for longer than I can remember, and it's not always easy to find a great talk about how to contribute to open source in non-technical ways.

Rachel Nabors started off the second morning of All Things Open with a great talk about the need for designers in open source.

Design matters

Rachel explains that too many projects put off design because they're focused on functionality. Or maybe you think your product is so spiffy that you don't need to worry about design? Maybe you want to work with designers but don't have time to train them? Whatever the case is, design needs to be brought into the entire process and not be an afterthought.

If you want someone to use something, you have to give them a clear reason to do so—this is known as the value proposition. Using the Sass site as an example, Rachel showed us how using technical language on the front page turned potential users off. Now, the new site reads "CSS with superpowers," and makes it perfectly clear to the intended audience why they would want to use Sass—who wouldn't want superpowers?

When Sass started competing on design as well as technical prowess, it started getting a bigger audience. It opened up its market to a whole new set of users. And they didn't just become users, but contributors too! The developers welcomed designers and took time to teach them, and they ended up with a better product because of it.

Where do you find and designers and how do you keep them? Don't wait for them to fall in your lap! Seek them out. Go to AIGA. Go to local meetups with designers. Designers don't get paid as much as programmers, so acknowledge that and incentivize them. Most importantly, trust designers as you would fellow developers. Respect their work and don't ask them to show statistics that blue is the right color for a link. If you do not have trust, you do not have a team.

Design needs to be one of a program's many features—we shouldn't lower it to being just one of a project's bug tickets.

Marketing matters

"Marketing is not all fluff, engineering is not all math." - Jackie Yeaney
Next up, Jackie Yeaney reminded us that it's not all about technical skills. She began with this statement: "Marketing is not all fluff, engineering is not all math." Like design, this is an area that we often overlook and just assume we'll be one of the few lucky projects out there to get famous.

Jackie pointed us to a study by University of Washington, Microsoft, Google, and the NSF entitled "What Makes a Great Engineer?" that listed the top traits for engineers:

  • Hardworking
  • Passionate
  • Open minded
  • Quick learners
  • Data driven
  • Cultivating a craft
  • Risk taking
  • Perseverance
  • Curious
  • Executing
  • Problem solving
  • Prideful
  • Handles complexity

When you compare this list to the ones pointed out by Forbes in "4 traits of successful marketing leaders" and Social Media Today's "Top 10 qualities of great marketing managers," you find a lot of overlap. Both engineers and marketers are:

  • Passionate
  • Open minded
  • Risk taking
  • Hardworking
  • Curious
  • Executing
  • Problem solving
  • Handles complexity

So let's take the open principles we use in engineering and apply them to marketing. Open marketing will transform how marketing operates by using the power of internal and external communities to gather more meaningful results. This model will empower us to stand for something bigger than just software.

How do we get started? Learn more about your marketing teams. Talk to a marketer over lunch or coffee. Get social online. Follow marketing leaders at your organization and in your industry and engage with them. Learn more about your marketers and share your experiences with them.

A few books to understand the world from a marketer's perspective:

About the author

Nicole C. Baratta - Nicole C. Baratta (Engard) is a Content Strategist at Red Hat. She received her MLIS from Drexel University and her BA from Juniata College. Nicole volunteers as the Director of ChickTech Austin. Nicole is known for many different publications including her books “Library Mashups", "More Library Mashups", and "Practical Open Source Software for Libraries". Nicole can be reached at ncbaratta@gmail.com.