Posts Tagged ‘ux design’

User Experience Design in a Social Enterprise Environment: Connecting the Dots

Posted on: January 10th, 2012 by Fransgaard 1 Comment

The original version of this article can be seen at the award-winning Capgemini – Capping IT Off blog.

Social Enterprise is an exciting concept and in a series of blog posts I will share some tips on how to make a desirable and productive user experience for The Social Enterprise.

What is The Social Enterprise?

The Social Enterprise is not a technology or software, it is a concept that refers to an organisation that is fully connected and where all things are digitally integrated with each other using what I call The Social Glue.

It is an organisation that thinks differently and makes use of all the opportunities a digitally connected environment presents. It affects everything within the organisation from how systems integrate to how employees behave. It also has a profound impact in how the organisation interacts with its customers, how fast it can react to any correspondence and how well it can collaborate with them.

The switch to a Social Enterprise mindset can flip the company upside down by breaking down hierarchies and business silos and it creates a radically different and modern work environment suitable for the 21st century. Here at Capgemini Yammer has played a big part as covered by my colleagues Tom Barton and Rick Mans, but there are many other success stories on the web.

Connecting the dots

Chances are your organisation already have several of the cornerstones of a Social Enterprise, email being one of them. You may also have a file repository, perhaps digital working groups and maybe even instant messaging tools.

But are they linked together? Do they all identify themselves as official tools of your company? Have they ever been officially introduced as such?

Historically such initiatives were often not started at the top of the organisations. They were started by enthusiastic employees either by publicly being active on behalf of the company (whether in an official capacity or not) or who somehow got access to some server space and set up a wiki or similar to make life easier for themselves and their closest colleagues.

While such guerrilla tactics may have been borderline improper conduct they more often than not proved beneficial to the organisation and as such were adopted more widely with the management’s approval and backing.

Where does content live?

But the above isn’t actually a Social Enterprise strategy because these different initiatives, no matter how effective, are not working together as a single entity.

The first step is to look holistically at the systems and map out what each system brings to the collective experience because while they work independently of each other there is a danger of content being duplicated or misplaced leading to a disjointed experience forcing people back to old habits as they struggle to make sense of all these new systems spawning left and right.

Creating an overview of the systems will help determine where what type of content live which is crucial for an optimised workspace. It will also identify what functions might be missing for The Social Enterprise to function effectively as a single coherent system.

How do I find it?

For a traditional single site interface, such as a website, the rules for best practice in user experience design are:

  • Consistent Navigation Structure
  • Strong Search
  • All-Inclusive Sitemap.

But in reality very few Social Enterprises have a single global user interface as they make use of the default interface designs of the various systems. So for The Social Enterprise the two most important aspects are Search and Sitemap.

The search facility need to be able to search globally across systems and it needs the ability to return relevant results and provide user-controlled functions like filters. If the search cannot search all systems it need to state so very clearly and give the users alternative methods.

The sitemap is almost always forgotten for Social Enterprises because of how they appear out of individual systems fusing together. But nothing is more helpful for users than a single place to see all the different locations with clear indications of what should be used for what purposes. It is not enough to only inform people when they join the company; they need a destination to constantly remind themselves of the logic rather than wasting time finding information on… how to find information.

How do I keep informed?

Real-time information is at the heart of The Social Enterprise as it strives to bring content to users when they need it. This inevitably creates a huge communication stream between people and people as well as between objects and people. However, receiving a flood of automatically generated email alerts is counter-productive as it is time-consuming to manage and hard to filter.

A new mechanism is needed that can aggregate all communication into a single stream of chronological entries. Imagine a single location where alerts from practical systems, from working groups and from colleagues are found in one place, effectively being the digital footprint of the company but delivered in a modified version tailored to each individual employees job role requirements and interests.

Such an organisational Lifestream need to be at the core of any Social Enterprise to be truly effective and software providers are aware of this offering systems that can act as this social backbone of The Social Enterprise, but it is important to remember whatever system is chosen, it need to integrate with all the other systems to be effective, otherwise it is just another digital location soon to be forgotten by the employees.

But what do you think?

Please let me know your thoughts and feel free to share any suggestions for the next article on how to make a desirable and productive user experience across The Social Enterprise.

 

Conversation piece: What if Twitter hash tags were icons?

Posted on: April 12th, 2011 by Fransgaard 3 Comments
  • What if Twitter hash tags transformed themselves into related icons if one was available?
  • What would that mean for in-tweet hash tags?
  • What would it mean for the 140 character limit?
  • What would it mean for the user experience?

Twitter hashtags as icons

Can a website be too user friendly?

Posted on: February 20th, 2011 by Fransgaard No Comments

The original version of this article can be seen at the Capgemini – Capping IT Off blog.

A recent discussion on Linkedin led me to post:

“Perhaps it is possible to make things too uniform or too easy for users?”

This may seem like an odd thing for an experienced UX designer to say. But the idea stuck with me and it made me think about the user experience we, as the UX community, aim to deliver and how we approach it.

  • We create fantastic structures to help users through different tasks as painless and fast as possible.
  • We follow tried and tested standards we know users react favourably to such as positioning the search box top-right and the logo top-left.
  • We use clearly identifiable coloured and underlined links and big button-like calls-to-actions to help and guide users. Yes, a button at the center of a landing page achieve most clicks.

…in the end, are we just creating the same website over and over? And what are the implications to the brand experience if all websites provide the same experience? Are we potentially missing a vital opportunity to create a memorable brand experience online by funneling users through our sites as fast as possible?

Delivering the right brand experience online

It makes sense for big e-commerce/ service sites to deliver a speedy, low-barrier web experience. They aim to reach as broad a segment of the population as possible and after all the average web user is impatient and just want to find that book, that flight or that baguette fast.

But when designing for more a brand-reliant client with a more much defined and brand-conscious audience it may be better to step back and look at the website as a broader experience and not just a quick checkout machine.

Yes, ofcourse we would like our customers to buy something, but are they buying a pair of jeans or are they buying an idea? To a brand architect the experience is part of the product. It is a tangible element as valuable (if not more valuable) than the fabric and the shape of the object. A facet with a value extending beyond the immediate purchase or even the life span of the product itself. Done right this brand experience can turn customers into brand ambassadors.

Customer turned brand ambassadors have always been valuable. They advocate the use and purchase of products to their friends and family. But with the introduction of social networks brand ambassadors can reach a much bigger group of listeners.

Bringing personality to the pixels

Creating a non-uniform website gives the site an exclusive personality. It makes it stand out by not conforming to the standards, by being independent and by stepping away from the grey masses of the world wide web.

If you are familiar with such a site and its interface you are “in”. You are member of the club of the independent site. You are a leader, not a follower, a digital rebel riding a pixelated chopper in the middle of the information highway.

In fact, I’d love to see a website with exclusive items that can only be accessed in a certain way. Maybe you need a password from a Tweet; Maybe the items can only be bought if you are in a certain physical location; Maybe you need an invite from a friend or maybe you need to scan that QR barcode stuck under Tower Bridge. Suddenly the website experience becomes a gaming experience.

Game on!

Creating a website with added friction to the experience goes hand-in-hand with the emergence of “Gamification”, the use of game play mechanics for non-game applications. Giving customers the opportunity to explore and achieve helps create a fun and memorable environment. Crediting people for their gaming efforts, be it badges or discounts, can also increase return usage of the website.

Adding friction to a web experience need to be done right and in that sense it is much like traditional graphic design; You need to learn the rules to break them effectively. Friction should be identifiable challenges with the promise of real wins and must never look like mistakes.

Conclusion

User experience is giving the users the best experience. However, it is too often seen as identical to giving the users the fastest experience, but this can be at the expense of a memorable experience.

Looking at user experience as a brand experience opens the door for long term customer relations possibilities extending beyond the website visit and beyond the single customer to their friends.

Rather than fast-track and forgettable task, users should have the freedom to enjoy brands online and be part of a memorable experience they want to share with their peers – our future customers.

Robert Fransgaard is a member of Capgemini UK’s User Experience and Rapid Design Visualisation team and a self-proclaimed digital native. You can find Robert on Twitter.