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Jun 24, 2010: Go work for PayPal

I've been consulting for the past year for PayPal. So now you know that I'm a paid shill when I encourage you (or good people that you know) to apply for their open information architect position.

That said, despite some initial skepticism I am very impressed by the company. Although I'm not familiar with the salary and benefits package they're offering, I'm sure it's reasonably good, as they've managed to attract some really smart and highly motivated people.

And PayPal is beginning to tackle some really meaty IA challenges that include:

  • Centering their design efforts on a comprehensive user mental model (hooray for mental models!)
  • Figuring out and operationalizing the measurement of their site's findability and comprehension
  • Grappling with developing an information architecture for a truly global audience
  • Moving to a new content management platform (that alone should keep an army of information architects busy)

There's lots more going on there; I can imagine no shortage of interesting IA work in PayPal's future.

So why was I skeptical early on? Well, my initial experiences taking payments via PayPal (for IAI membership dues, many years ago) were not so good. The UX has gotten much better, but there is still obviously much room for improvement (I'm not sure who that wouldn't be true of). But my latest round of first-hand experience makes me hopeful; since setting it set up on Rosenfeld Media's site, about 25% of our customers immediately started paying via PayPal.

Surprisingly, PayPal has made this progress despite its culture of data-driven decision-making. PayPal's senior leadership comes from the worlds of banking and financial services, and as you might guess, these aren't the kinds of people who are typically comfortable with investing in areas—like UX—with a hazy return on investment. Yet they've done just that; in fact, I've never worked with a company that had staffed so many smart people to tackle user research, web analytics, and market research. It's really an impressive group.

They're also not a risk-averse company. X.com is PayPal's effort to operate as a platform for developers. When millions of people are using your services to move their money, it's, umm, unsettling to imagine opening things up a bit to perfect strangers. Yet PayPal is doing just that, and the impact could be revolutionary (imagine coding in ways to accept payments within that next game UI you design).

In short, I like the people, I like the work they're tackling, and I like the company's overall approach. So I hope you'll consider applying for the job, or encouraging others to do so.

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