SharePoint leaves me a bloody mess

SharePoint is difficult. It is hard to use, confusing to set up and inconsistent. Now that I am done telling you what you already know, let me walk you through an inconsistency.

Recently I was working at a client site. They asked me to post my documents on Microsoft’s SharePoint so that everyone in the company can have access to the files. After hours of looking through all of the webparts, apps and what not that they jam into SharePoint I did not feel that I got very far providing access to all the documentation.

I soon found that it was not only the gross functionality that was all over the place but also the overall visuals combined with the basic interactions. Here is a walk-through of one page only looking at the hover-over actions and visuals. There are very few things on the page that do the same thing.

Visual affordance is key to knowing what to do. Guess what is clickable and what you expect it to do.

Office365 logo:

  • Cursor is a finger,
  • tooltip and
  • a footer URL

Sharepoint Office365 Logo

 How about the other white on red text such as “Outlook”?

  • Cursor is a finger and
  • the background goes lighter.

Sharepoint Outlook Tab

 And the toolbar changes to grey for the logged in user. It is a droplist.

  • Cursor is a finger,
  • tooltip,
  • the foreground gets darker and
  • the background gets lighter.
  • Droplist does not open.

Sharepoint Logged In User

Oh so the other 2 buttons: gears and the help “?” act the same way, right?

  • Cursor is a finger,
  • tooltip,
  • the foreground gets darker and
  • nothing happens to the background.
  • Share, Follow, Synch and Expand icon act the same way.

Why […]

Product Designer Impact

I have been working in enterprise software companies for the last 13 years. I started off working on a team of 4 designers for 300 developers and QA. This meant that I was working on 8 to 10 project teams at a time. If I just went to stand ups it would consume 2.5 hours per day of my time. After 5 years of working like that all we were able to do is create marginal improvements and keep the train from going off the tracks. I consider that experience a failure and so did my manager who decided to announce to the engineering VPs, infront of the lead UI architect and myself who were leading the charge, that the UI team sucked.

Peter Merholz describes this situation in his current post.

Supply and demand of digital product designers

There is a paradoxical risk when designers are in such demand. The demand reflects the value that is seen in design work. But, with such demand, most organizations have too few designers given what they’re trying to deliver. That means those designers are spread too thin, and are focused on execution that keeps the light on. Which means design isn’t being used to its fullest extent, driving not just execution, but product strategy and definition.

Because designers are seen as so valuable, they are not able to deliver their ultimate value. – Peter Merholz

I think that I have learned something that helps address this problem. Currently, my team and I work with the product owners and managers outside of the product teams. There are 28+ product teams. We identify the key problems to work on from the 5 directors of […]

5 Questions to Ask for a Better Solution

Are you a business owner or product manager looking to improve the design of your product? Even if you do not have a designer on staff, you have design minded team members that can be guided with right questions. Here are some questions to ask to get your team to drive to the optimal solution.

Question 1: What is the problem you are trying to solve?

There is a tendency to jump immediately to solutions without first stating the problem. Stating and clarifying the problem itself will crystallize the issue for both the product manager and the team. Ask this question to have team members verbalize the problem.

For example, I had a project manager ask me to design an icon to put on the screen. This button was the solution he determined for the customer problem. I asked him a series of questions around the problem and it turned out the button was a band-aid that would resolve the specific customer request. The real problem was much larger. Users were not able to get their work done smoothly and they wanted to speed up a process they did frequently throughout the day.

Question 2: Who has this problem?

There is a tendency to focus solutions on the most recent set of user requests or complaints, rather than generalizing to the overall user population. This question is asking about the persona or the archetype of the user. Identifying the persona determines the persona’s needs, goals, activities, environment and how the company wants to interact with this type of user. 

For example, I had a project manager come to me for help with a specific product enhancement. One customer was asking for a specific feature. By […]