Tag Archives: UX

User Experience

Person availability sparkline for Outlook meeting requests

Dear Outlook team:

As I was riding home on the train today talking with my fellow riders, an idea for a practical feature in an upcoming Outlook release developed. Since time is precious, and I’m focused on other pursuits, I wanted to place this idea into the Creative Commons for your consideration.

At least the passengers of the train car I typically occupy find it all too common to receive meeting requests in Outlook that clearly conflict with existing appointments already scheduled. It’s as if the person who called the meeting just added names (reading off a script) without even bothering to click into the Scheduling Assistant UI.

Default Outlook 2010 Meeting Request UI

This is unfortunate since that UI does a fairly good job of actually assisting the caller of a meeting with the scheduling process.

Outlook 2010 Meeting Request Scheduling Assistant

However, it’s hard to teach a drone how to find pollen; so, I think there is an opportunity to bring more assistance into the default Appointment UI.

Sparklines.

Here’s the essential idea: as attendees (or resources) are entered into a meeting request, dynamically shade the background of each name according to availability as follows:

  • Green – potential attendee is completely available
  • Yellow – potential attendee has a tentative conflict (i.e. a complet or partial conflict)
  • Red – potential attendee has already committed to attend another meeting

Changes to the date/time of the meeting should trigger event handlers that reflect any change in availability shading.

Additionally, you could also provide another, central visual cue for the overall meeting (e.g. a green highlight effect around the current Send button to indicate that there are presently no scheduling conflicts known to the system).

Frankly, I think it’s fair to question a person calling a meeting who doesn’t bother to confirm attendee availability. However, we are talking about drones not worker bees. So, for those of us who receive such meeting requests all too frequently, please consider this idea for a future release of Outlook. (If you have implementation questions, you can always reach out to your Excel colleagues. :-) )

Thanks for your consideration.

Realizing great customer experiences with LiveCycle ES3

Thanks to everyone at Adobe MAX 2010 who came to the sessions that I presented. I enjoyed the interactivity during after after the presentations, especially listening to your thoughts on how Adobe CEM will enable you to realize your own customer experience vision as well as the growing expectations of your prospects, consumers, customers and clients.

In order to keep the conversation going, I’ve uploaded this presentation as follows:

Realizing Great Customer Experiences with Adobe® LiveCycle® ES3 – Craig Randall

Whether you were able to attend MAX or not, I encourage you to check out MAX 2010 on Adobe TV (e.g. here are the keynotes). Please also visit the MAX 2010 session catalog to browse all sessions and download presentations of interest.

Update 11/5/2010: You can now watch and listen to this MAX session online (i.e. in synchronized fashion). It appears that the good folks at MAX decided to post the slides and recording that corresponded to my first delivery (on Monday during MAX). While that session went well, I did receive some feedback that I incorporated into a revised deck that was also recorded (on Wednesday during MAX). Personally, I liked the latter content and delivery better than the first, and that is what is provided here in this blog post, above.

Update 12/3/2010: Jayan has done a nice job of rounding up LiveCycle-flavored MAX sessions, including this one, here.

Subject To Change

I recently finished reading Subject To Change: Creating Great Products & Services for an Uncertain World, and I can recommend this book to anyone who wants, for example, to build software that resonates with its users.

Here are a list of thoughts and quotes this read produced:

  • Empathy is an understanding of a person or group’s subjective experience by sharing that experience vicariously that can be developed and cultivated through practice (i.e. it’s not innate). Using your sense of empathy can help you focus on the experience you want to deliver in a manner that is effective for those who will engage with it. Don’t confuse customer briefings with developing customer-focused empathy; there’s more to it!
  • Experience accounts for motivations, expectations, perceptions, abilities, flow, and culture.
  • Parity isn’t a strategy; neither is being the best.
  • Don’t craft the story of a product in isolation form the actual creation of that product.
  • Human life is complex–embrace this reality; don’t ignore it. Capture complexity with qualitative research (e.g. conduct interviews to elicit stories about experiences). Differentiate process (i.e. the how and why) from outcomes (i.e. the what, where, and when).
  • Sometimes experience strategy isn’t about hiding complexity as much as it’s about managing it (e.g. distribute complexity across a system so as not to overwhelm at any particular point). That is, the overall experience should never become too complex. There needs to be coordination among the experiences touch points, allowing each to fully exhibit its strengths.
  • “You have to recognize that a system will degrade, and make it such that such entropy doesn’t shatter the entire experience. The true success of experience design isn’t how well it works when everything is operating as planned, but how well it works when things start going wrong.” For example, provide meaningful seams into which people can insert themselves (i.e. leave an impression).
  • Great experience is difficult to plan for, and almost impossible to specify.
  • Good experiences require systematic coordination with the customer in mind (i.e. a focus on qualitative customer insights).
  • “Design is a way of approaching problem solving, decision making, and strategy planning that can yield better outcomes.”
  • “[Design-centric organizations] peer into the needs and desires of their customers, identify patterns of behavior, refine ideas that tap into those behaviors, then push into the unknown–or at least the uncertain.” -Roger Martin
  • “You can’t build a design competency overnight; it requires difficult changes in process, skills, and perhaps most importantly, culture.”
  • In my development organization we deploy a risk-driven iterative development process, with phases we call inception, elaboration, construction and transition. I’d liked the book’s description of “the fuzzy front end,” which I would liken to inception (e.g. “anticipation exceeds insight”).
  • “Good ideas need to fail early and often so you can arrive sooner at a great one.” Process won’t turn mundane ideas into stars–nor will great effort (strong execution). Therefore, avoid premature execution of an idea. For example, presuppose multiple solutions and suggest alternatives based on partial data. Define constraints that drive great solutions (e.g. think like a newbie, leverage empathy (that you’re developing, right? ;-) ).
  • “Strategy should bring clarity to an organization; it should be a signpost for showing people where you, as their leader, are taking them–and what they need to do to get there…. People need to have a visceral understanding–an image in their minds–of why you’ve chosen a certain strategy and what you’re attempting to create with it…. Because it’s pictorial, design describes the world in a way that’s not open to many interpretations.” -Tim Brown

On Monday, I noted 11 years with EMC (via its acquisition of Documentum). I can certainly say that “change happens” in the content management space and my own career.

My first engineering responsibilities were centered around the Documentum Desktop (aka Desktop Client) offering–client/server architecture implemented as a mixture of C++ and VB. Then I was called on to drive the first major release of WDK, a web-based application implemented in Java, JSP, HTML and XML. Next stop: creating an integration bridge between Documentum and authoring environments like Office, Adobe and XML editors (i.e. Application Connectors), which was specified as an N-tier architecture implemented as a mixture of C# (on the desktop) and Java (on the middle tier. Currently I’m focused on providing a rich set of services (i.e. local Java APIs, WSDL-based web services and RESTful web services) that drive a diverse set of applications, each with its own presentation layer technology decisions (e.g. Flash/Flex, ExtJS/DWR, etc.).

And “tomorrow” this will all be subject to change once again… :-)