Usability Revisited

By DANIEL ANTION posted 11-11-2011 07:30


Several months ago, I wrote about how we had begun working to improve the user experience in SharePoint. I ranted about some of the things I don’t like, some of the things our users don’t like and I mentioned some of the things we were planning to do to improve the situation. Earlier this week, I had the privilege to speak at an AIIM New England event called “Usability Matters” along with Jill Hart. Jill is a flat-out usability expert; I am a usability wanna-be, but at least Jill gives me points for trying. Before Jill taught the people attending the event some important things about usability and user experience, I presented a case study. Mine was the kind of case study you don’t usually get; I talked about things that failed in addition to things that worked. The things that failed became fodder for Jill’s presentation, but I want to mention a few of the things that worked.

Navigation – This is such a simple component of usability that it’s hard to believe how often I overlook it.  Obviously, if people can’t find what they are looking for, your repository is useless, but navigation is more important than that. Even if they can find what they want, the user experience suffers with each step they take toward that content. In the solution I spoke about, I mentioned that we asked the users where they wanted to find the solution that we were building. The answer was simple: “this is our primary work product; we want to see a button on that bar at the top of the main page!” Done! Despite the fact that that is a clear departure from our navigation standards, it’s what they wanted.

Scope – When we started our project, the scope was confined to the ECM requirements of our company and the department we were working for – in other words: corporate goals. We later expanded the scope to include several precursors to that content. We built a content type from Document Set so we could include all the content that goes along the final product, and we moved the metadata to the set. Now everything associated with each document can be put in the same place and located the same way. We added 6 or 8 additional content types to help in the creation of those other documents. We added workflows to inform people of progress, tasks to be completed and to create PDFs and to store the PDFs in a records library. In other words, we made the process easier by addressing personal goals in addition to corporate goals.

Analysis – I mentioned in last week’s post that we are adding a management dashboard to this solution – another corporate goal. We are also addressing another type of analysis, the kind that helps these people do their job. This library holds engineering inspection reports, and these are reviewed at different points to glean information that feeds another process, a process we were not planning to automate. We are now working to define a solution that will support that task, and we are planning to link the report library to the analysis site to make the review process quick and easy. More and more I am discovering the benefit that lies in exposing the information that was captured along with the content we are managing. Don’t let that go to waste. 

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