Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to share the stage with Jill Hart, at an AIIM New England event titled “Usability Matters”. Jill set me up, by asking me to speak first. She had the advantage of having seen my presentation and she knew that it included information about things we did wrong in addition to the things we did right. During my presentation, Jill revised her presentation to include quotes, examples and even pictures of me. Even as I introduced her, Jill was revising her presentation.
As we were preparing for the transition, I asked Jill if she wanted to use my remote control device to advance her slides. When she started speaking, she talked about how she immediately felt good once she realized that my remote was a Kensington. She had used this manufacture’s devices before, she knew it would work and, more importantly, she knew how it would work. She went on to talk about the ways that previously positive user experiences build brand loyalty with customers. She gave tons of examples, good and bad, and she helped me understand that although my wife jokes about me being a marketing sap, I am really responding to a great user experience when I reach for my Stanley FatMax tools. Then I started wondering about SharePoint.
If you are in a typical business environment, someone is bound to ask “where can I get a copy of…” and the answer, at least on occasion is going to be “that’s in SharePoint.” The next time that happens, watch the person’s facial expression. Are they as happy to know that the stuff they need is in SharePoint as Jill was to know that the remote was a Kensington? Are they as excited as I was the day I saw a Stanley FatMax Utility Knife hanging on the rack at Home Depot? If they aren’t then you haven’t done your job. If their expression is similar to that of someone who just realized that they are missing a key ingredient for a recipe, you could be in trouble. If their expression matches the one when they are told “you have to go to DMV to process that transaction” you might want to think about starting over.
I have to be honest, I am trying to stay out of trouble with SharePoint user experience; ours hasn’t always been good enough. The biggest problem has always been navigation. We would have that little discussion quoted above, and, along with the recipe face (see above), the person would say something like “oh, I can never find anything out there” in a way that would equate SharePoint with the area of space beyond the asteroid belt. When we upgraded to SharePoint 2010, we consolidated a lot of SharePoint content to make it easier to find. In some cases, we eliminated sites completely because the only thing of value in the site was a single document library. Why make people step around an empty task list, an empty list of links, an empty calendar and that picture of those freakishly happy people that adorns the Team Site template – all to get at one library. A very simple example of something we added was a link on most pages (we’re not done yet) back to the main page. Breadcrumbs are great, but they are still two clicks instead of one, and many people don’t realize that the little folder icon contains the breadcrumbs in SP 2010.
In my presentation, I also mentioned that we are working to decrease the degrees of separation between task and content. We bought SharePoint as an ECM solution, to manage our digital content, but there’s a problem with that approach. In most cases, digital content is the end of the line; the report, the PowerPoint file, the PDF, all represent end products of a sometimes lengthy process. We are working now to insert SharePoint into the process itself. We are trying to find ways to accommodate the precursors to those results, the links, data, reference material and images that went into the report or presentation. Hopefully, by bringing people into SharePoint earlier in their process, they will get more comfortable. Besides, someone is just as likely to want to find the image they used in a report last year as they are to find the actual report.
For the ROI fans in your organization, remind them that we will never get our money’s worth out of SharePoint if people only use it when they have to. If we want to move the bar on SharePoint adoption, we need to focus on user experience. I wonder if Stanley makes a FatMax web part.