TOTW: Heroes #3 by Pikespice, originally uploaded to Flickr.
I'm at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston this week, and naturally I'm hearing a lot about collaboration, social and community tools, and enterprise transformation in general. What I'm not hearing anything about is design, and how it influences tools and adoption. In fact, not a single one of the E 2.0 sessions includes the word "design," except where it's cited as part of a company name. So with that in mind, I wanted to bring a little design conversation to the week.
I've been reading Donald A. Norman's Emotional Design, and it's given me a new framework to think about the different layers of design in any product, including SharePoint. Norman breaks down design into three levels:
Visceral Design: The appearance of the product that is assessed rapidly as good or bad. This is the design we're reacting to when we judge a book by its cover, loving or hating a product at first sight. It also encompasses the conditions of our surroundings that produce positive or negative affect - the soothing music in a hotel lobby, for example.
Behavioral Design: The pleasure and effectiveness of use. Trust and relationship are factors here - this is the realm of working with a product over time, and how well or badly it performs for us as we go about our daily activities.
Reflective Design: The self-image and personal satisfaction derived from use, or the memories associated with a product. We assign meaning to the products we use that goes well beyond their functionality or appearance. For those of us who used typewriters before computers, or rotary-dial phones with an actual set of bells for the ringer, we might feel nostalgia and affection about these objects when contemplating them - but at this point we'd most likely reject using them at the behavioral level to get our daily work done.
Now while all these variables are typically present in design, Norman points out that you don't have to succeed on all three levels in order to have a successful product. Great visceral design or a specific status projected by a product can make us forgive functional flaws, just as trustworthy functionality can help us see past an uninspiring visual design.
So of course as I'm reading this book I'm thinking about SharePoint. (I also can't help thinking about Apple's iPhone, released three years after this book was published, which seems to get it right on all three levels.) How to apply these concepts to the product I work with every day, or to any collaboration / content management system?
Visceral Design: Having worked on a number of SharePoint projects where no changes to the out-of-box look and feel were considered, and also on a number of projects where visual design was a fully-funded part of the implementation, I have seen firsthand how much impact design can have on the end-user's happiness and acceptance. This past February I gave a talk at SharePoint Saturday, Boston, on how to use the concepts behind the success of the iPhone to get great adoption of a SharePoint implementation. Elegant, intuitive design was one of these concepts, and I'll continue to make the case that it's a worthwhile investment. (Just last week, in a discussion of what the visual design should be for a new SP 2010 intranet, my company was asked to "please follow the Apple UI guidelines" in our visual design so that "it's beautiful and people want to interact with it." 'Nuff said.)
Behavioral Design: How's the functionality for your end users? If, for whatever reason, you're committed to the out-of-box SharePoint look and feel, an easy to use, highly functional, and reliable system will still inspire their loyalty and make their work life better. Have you given them applications they can't live without? On the flip side, how trustworthy is the system? Do users experience broken links, inexplicable search results, or surprise downtime? (and has priority been given to fixing this?)
Reflective Design: This is where it gets interesting, and it's the main reason I wrote this blog. Appealing design and reliable functionality will get you a great product, but if you want to be the SharePoint equivalent of Rupert Hine or Martin Scorcese, pulling the greatest performance out of your people over the longest term, this is the place you need to hit. When you think about influencing SharePoint usage at your organization, you probably think about training the user base, marketing and communicating key features, top-down evangelism, and governance. But what if you could influence the way they feel about themselves and the company as they use the product? I'm talking about thoughts like:
- Every time I add content, I'm building this company.
- I'm leaving a legacy for the people who will come after me.
- My company is on the cutting edge because they the latest version of this product.
- I'm an expert, and now I'm being recognized as such.
- I built something, all by myself, that my co-workers use every single day.
- Now that I don't have to answer fifteen calls a day asking the same question, I can do the important work I was hired to do.
This is the piece that can make your users feel like the fellow in the photo above - a superhero, who's somewhat surprised to discover that he is one.
All three are important. What can you do to address each area, in your collaboration environment or enterprise content management system, today?