In my 6+ years as a consultant, "it depends" has been the favorite in my phrasebook since I first heard it from Lou Rosenfeld back in 2001. It is a phrase that has served me well and in most cases squarely meets hardest questions that are thrown at me by clients. It disarms the question, and gives both me and the clients pause for thought. It also removes the burden of providing a simple answer to what usual are very complex questions.
So I was asked a question from one of my colleagues yesterday:
"In an SMS interface, should the user be presented with the to field first or the message text field first?"
I wanted to say, "it depends", but I was stumped by the fact that this simplest of phrases is pretty hard to translate into Korean. That’s a problem. My best consultant weapon had been taken away from me. If you translate it, it goes something like, "you have to consider multiple factors":
Ugh. Not as simple or self contained as "it depends".
So I replied with the next best thing: "The answer is simple: both!"
Your ability as a consultant rests on what you follow "it depends" up with. What does it depend on? You have to quickly analyze the variables that can shine light on the problem. What are the factors that make it a complex problem?
In this case, the variables seem to be, what do the users prefer doing? Some prefer the enter whom they are sending the message to first (me), but others want to type the message first (my colleague). So an interface that allows the users to do both easily is the solution.
Market research seems to suggest that users will get used to whatever the telco provides them with: SKT (#1 in Korea) has the message text first, LGTelecom (#3 in Korea) you enter who you are sending it to first. No help there.
The usage scenario this problem arises in is when the users is writing a new message. In most cases I assume that users are replying to messages that they have received, so making it easy to reply to a message is also key (in this case the user only needs to type the message). Clearly defined multiple paths are important here, and answering the question with an A or B answer seems to defeat this fact and reduces the restricts the experience that the users expect.
Now back to the bigger problem: I just need to find the Korean phrase for "it depends" before I face a real client.
UPDATE (2007-10-19): After asking an old friend who has been a consultant in Korea for the past 9 years, he told me that there is no really good way to say "It depends" in Korean. In Korean this may actually sound arrogant and offputting. He says the best way to assert yourself is by saying, "In my opinion, it depends on these factors…"