Interview with Kelly Goto

Sigurd recently visited San Francisco and writes in after catching up with Kelly Goto, speaking at Webstock for her second time:

Kelly Goto, Sigurd Magnusson

I recently whizzed by Kelly Goto’s infamous and very comfortable apartment offices. There I found a samurai simultaneously meeting the demands of just becoming a mother, working in her office but interrupted by the bureaucracy of sending parcels via Fedex, demonstrating gotomedia’s flash new stationery, and receiving a guest with a great big smile (I suspect that while Japanese culture hasn’t had female samurai previously, in the politeness of their culture they’d find room to award Kelly honorary status.)

Sigurd: You managed to fill 296 pages of a book and continue to provide edifying tutorials and talks on the process of building websites successfully. How do you manage to have an inexhaustible supply of insights and advice?

Kelly: I put the “exhausted” in “inexhaustible” these days. Juggling a new baby who doesn’t seem to need sleep with a workload that doesn’t stop is challenging. The secret here is to have a supportive and incredible team in place to keep everything moving forward. I think the answer to your question lies in two places – to keep on task and on target with work that is in front of us – while maintaining an active eye on the future. I always think two years out. Where do we want to go and where do we see things going and how can we merge the two into projects that are challenging and creative? We’ve moved from building web sites to building (and rebuilding) applications and now into applying content and services to the mobile web. At the same time, companies need to take a look at the future and build towards convergence, convenience and community. We have the luxury of separating ourselves from the companies we work with, and with that distance and insight we’re able to conduct research and offer strategies to help them move to the next level. The advice is all from direct experience – many people who write and lecture do not engage in real-world projects of diverse size and difficulties as much as we do. So we continue to learn and grow as a team through our experiences with every client and project.

Sigurd: Old habits often never die, and I’m sure you find some advice you’ve given on day one keeps rearing its head and needing reiteration time and time again.

Kelly: It’s always the same. Think like your users. Get to know your audience. Understand their needs and desires from the inside out.

Sigurd: Both gotomedia and you personally have done exceedingly well professionally. Companies years more established, and with dozens more staff can only dream of having the same reputation and outward success. What’s your secret?

Kelly: Our company mantra is “exceed expectations and take vacations.” You need to work with individuals who are passionate about what they do. Some projects are fun, riveting and rewarding. Other projects are tedious and sometimes we work with clients who are unreasonable. We try to balance our project load and give team members breaks when they need it.

Sigurd: You’ve had the privilege of working with a number of fantastic organisations. What work are you most happy with?

Kelly: We’ve recently completed a project that was both challenging and rewarding. It is the launch of a data visualization for a site called “Every Baby Has a Story” for the March of Dimes. They came to us last year looking for a forward-thinking “2.0” solution to their new campaign. We provided conceptual design work, information architecture, visual design and branding and flash-based data visualization programming for The data visualization is in the form of a dynamic quilt, with the ’tiles’ representing a story for numerous babies – some born premature, most healthy. It was especially timely because I helped to produce this project while in the 3rd trimester of my pregnancy, and of course I had one of the first baby stories published to the site.

Sigurd: What big trend have you been craving for on the web, and any idea on when it will occur?

Kelly: True convergence into lifestyle. We’re seeing the desktop web migrate to the mobile web, with new devices that are ‘sensing’ and interacting with eachother. Apple’s new MacBook Air is a new take on an old segment UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computing) that hopefully will do it right. Eventually a new PC Tablet that is touch-screen enabled and truly user friendly will emerge. Integrating these ‘personal’ devices into a home network or work environment seamlessly will take some time, but it is happening.

Sigurd: Having a child is an amazing experience, as it lets you re-examine your own childhood, life, and the future through a second, edifying perspective. In what ways do you feel the existing frenzied innovation which prevails on the web firstly positively and secondly negatively will act on the generation born in the last year?

Kelly: Something my husband and I have been discussing is the notion of privacy and protection for this next generation. It gets into concepts of identity and is often difficult for many parents to grasp when thinking about today’s web. The way I can best put it is to think about the responsibilities and rules you (as parents) should think about when establishing your child’s online presence. Today, we’re seeing parents post images to Flickr, MySpace and Facebook (I’m guilty of the same). We’re thinking it is OK, taking caution with each step, to post photos and enter information online about our kids. While it is harmless in today’s world, we don’t know how this information may be collected and distributed in tomorrow’s world. I’m not saying people should be paranoid, but we should be aware about the online identity we are creating for our kids, and how the information we start to enter on the web now may form a collective profile of them in the future.

Sigurd: We’re really excited to have you back for another webstock, and thanks for showing me around and fitting us into your preciously hectic schedule!

Kelly: I’m just as excited to be back in New Zealand, my favorite country in the world. You guys do such an amazing job putting this world class event together, it is an honor to be asked back.

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