If you know me, or if you know my history, you know that I haven’t always placed an emphasis on “user experience.” I was more concerned with just making things work. Then I met Jill Hart at iPhoneDevCon and I got religion about user experience. I took a class taught by Bob Larrivee and I realized that you can and should design ECM solutions with people in mind. I met Marc Anderson and I learned that there are tons of ways to make SharePoint user friendly without slowing down the development process. I mention these people, not so much as a way of dropping popular cool names in the opening paragraph, but to pay them homage before making a statement that they might be tempted to beat me with.
Forget about the user; make the solution work for the organization!
I can hear my friends groaning. I can hear them saying “no Dan, you can focus on the organization AND the user” and I can almost see them shaking their heads.
I’m not trying to go back to my “make it work, make it fast and then make it pretty” roots, but lately I find myself worrying that the pendulum has swung a bit too far in favor of the user. Specifically, there is a fine line between a great user experience and a solution that is built for a specific user or a specific group of users.
Today people are getting used to having the apps they want, having them now and having them on the cheap, but we can’t afford to treat them like Congress. We can’t let them have their way at the expense of the greater good. Now, in case any of my coworkers are reading my blog, I’m not talking about you, I’m talking about, you know, that other guy. But, if I were talking about you, I might ask you to step back and stop thinking about our project in terms of the way you want this solution to work. Think about the way it needs to work. If I were talking to one of our consultants, I would ask them to stay true to the fundamental best practices that they have built their business on, and remember that they are here to add value to our situation even if their recommendation is a bitter pill. (OK, I think I used enough clichés in that sentence). If I were talking to the members of my team, I would remind them that we aren’t in a popularity contest, but that we have a job to do.
SharePoint is the foundation on which we build our solution. In building that solution, we need to create a viable and sustainable structure that can support the business process going forward. If you’re tired of trying to figure out the metaphors, I’m talking about having the right libraries, the right metadata and automating the right processes to the right extent. I’m talking about taking a hard look at the content we have and working hard to organize it in a way that makes sense. Once all of that is in place, go ahead and make it pretty. I’m fine with pretty. I like pretty (who doesn’t like pretty?), I’ll build pretty things. What I won’t do, is build a solution that is pretty but makes no sense. I won’t build a solution that embeds “the way we’ve always done things” into what is supposed to be a forward looking project. I will build solutions around the right way to do things, but I won’t build them around the way you want to do things (unless those are the same things).
Caveats, clichés, parenthetical expressions, disclaimers and explanations aside, the bottom line is we all have a responsibility to do the right thing as we commit our company’s information to a repository that our successors will have no choice but to use. Let’s get this right and then let’s make it pretty.
The above blathering rant is not based on any current projects and the references to people or people-like entities are not meant to represent my current or retired coworkers. This is all based on things I’ve heard, read about, imagined or things I remember from previous jobs.