Make it Work

I’ve been following a discussion on LinkedIn that started with a question about designing SharePoint custom interfaces and the assumption that, generally, SharePoint sites look poor, or, as the discussion owner said “Oh, look it’s SharePoint”. If you’re thinking this is leading to a blog post about branding, I hope you won’t be disappointed. My response included the comment about the mantra I adopted in systems development that I still like to follow: “make it work, make it fast, make it pretty.”

Before commenting about how I’m losing business with this attitude, let me explain that we’re not using SharePoint to sell a product. We’re using SharePoint to support Collaboration, Content Management, and to share information. I’m not saying that we don’t care about appearance; we care about appearance to the degree that it supports our goal of “making it work”.
Last month, I blogged about how we modified the appearance of a site to support an upcoming meeting. I can now add that the people who attended that meeting reported that they found the site very easy to use. SharePoint wasn’t the main attraction, so the goal for that site was to make it as easy as possible for people to find what they needed. Earlier, I blogged in a series about Document Workshops, SharePoint sites designed to put everything right where you need it. When people look at my work and say “oh look, it’s SharePoint” I want it to be a good thing.
Our Accounting department recently set up a site to support our annual audit. The site looks awesome but one look and most of my colleagues would say it also “…looks like SharePoint”. It is all out-of-the-box SharePoint; what makes it look good, and what makes it work, is the intuitive design. The site features a calendar, a list of audit related contacts and a series of well organized document libraries containing the content that will be reviewed, or awaiting the content that will be created. Everything has been exposed in carefully trimmed views that include the necessary information. According to the auditors, it works.

Branding is big business, and judging from the email offers I receive, a lot of people want to help me with this task that I am purposely avoiding. The LinkedIn discussion is on-going, and I was recently impressed with a comment by Adam Levithan, a Technology Consultant involved with SharePoint when he said: “what really matter is how SharePoint is helping companies on a daily basis”. Alan, you summed up my thoughts exactly! I think SharePoint can be our tool of choice, but I want it to be like the highway we take to the office. We don’t admire the road we’re on, we admire the scenery (content) and we appreciate how soon we arrive.

Next week, I’ll talk about “make it fast”