A couple of weeks back I attended Web Directions South in Sydney, Australia - http://www.webdirections.org/. Surprisingly, there were no presentations on SharePoint (;-)), rather it was focused on the latest generic Web trends – AJAX, design methodologies, accessibility and usability, etc. A few of the W3C guys were there (great presentations) and confirmed that we’ll see more vendor support for HTML5 functionality over the next couple of years ahead of its final release.
I also caught up with some of my university colleagues (http://mim.iml.uts.edu.au/). It was a full-on two days with over 700 attendees, mostly MAC users. As one delegate commented, if you turned ‘round and looked back up from the base of the auditorium all you could see were little lit up apple symbols (on the open lids of all the MACs). The Microsoft guys – Shane Morris and Jorke Odolphi - were there running demonstrations on Sketchflow and talking about WebsiteSpark (http://www.microsoft.com/web/websitespark/).
Some of the design presentations were a little like a refresher from uni days. But some were a good reminder that we can’t forget about Web design fundamentals, like, uhm, usability, no matter which Web technology or platform we’re working with. I recently had a call from a customer asking me to help ‘fix’ their SharePoint site/s. Turns out SharePoint Server 2007 had been installed by another company a couple of years back but subsequent user adoption had failed – people said it was too hard to use and didn’t meet their requirements - and they’d reverted back to using their file servers – sad state of affairs but a commonplace scenario (regardless of the Web technology).
I was reminded of what my boss at Citrix used to say – ‘I don’t want to know how it works’; ‘I just want it to work’; ‘It should be easy’. ‘It should be seamless’; ‘it should be intuitive’; ‘I shouldn’t need to have to ‘think how to use it’’. Now he’d love the Designing for Suits presentation from Web Directions South! “How suits think” “Resist educating the client”.
I’m often asked what I do. If it’s a non-technical person I usually respond with something like ‘I work in IT’. Then sometimes I get asked whether I can fix their Web site or other things, like can I tell them how to fix such and such in Word, etc. Just recently, I was approached by a ‘suit’, somewhat frustrated by all the latest technology ‘trends’. He would fit into the latter bracket of Baby Boomers as described in Bill English’s (Mindsharp) excellent post on “Generational SharePoint: Understanding Generational Differences in SharePoint Adoption” - http://sharepoint.mindsharpblogs.com/Bill/archive/2009/10/18/Generational-SharePoint[coln]-Understanding-Generational-Differences-in-SharePoint-Adoption.aspx. The conversation went something like this...
[him] We (sales guys) just got given new mini notebooks, but it now takes double the time it used to take to phone in an order. The battery only lasts for so long and wireless isn’t always available.
So what do you do?
[me] I work in IT.
[him] Oh I see. So do you design Web sites?
[him] Could you do ours, we don’t have a lot of money?
[me] It depends what you need.
[him] I don’t know. Why does it have to be so complex / complicated? Can’t you just build something?
[Conversation flows on a bit...]
[him] Well, I’m in Sales and don’t know a lot about technology.
[me] So do you use Twitter or FB?
[him] Oh I won’t touch that. How does that help business?
[And it goes on]
Designing for suits! Know your audience ... listen to your users ... understand your users.