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How To Create A Strong SharePoint User Experience

 

 

When it comes to your SharePoint development projects, investing time and effort in user experience has benefits in terms of perceived value, brand value and building the right solutions. But if your SharePoint user experience is poor, you’re going to pay for it one way or another — if not in development costs, then in additional support or lack of user adoption.

If your organization doesn’t take the time to incorporate user insights into your SharePoint intranet, for instance, you’re likely to find that users look for alternatives and develop workarounds. Perhaps Google’s Professional Document Suite seems like a magic bullet, but once the novelty wears off, you’ll run into the same user experience problems. There’s just no way of getting around it.

Good user experience (UX) design overlaps with principles of visual design, information architecture and information design, but the basic goal is to create tools that prove to be useful, usable, desirable and adoptable. To clarify, let’s walk through each of those four concepts:

  1. Useful: Does your solution provide useful content that helps users accomplish their goals? In the case of documents, for example, a useful document rollup might have built-in functionalities that facilitate document discovery, dialogue and awareness within the user’s team or organization.
  2. Usable: How well does your design match your user’s mental models? When a user interacts with the interface, the elements in it should respond in ways the user anticipated. Achieving good usability means systematically identifying any obstacles people face in using the solution and then addressing those impediments within the interface or information design.
  3. Desirable: Many people confuse “desirability” in design with “pretty,” but the essential idea is to meet certain expectations based on the user’s frame of reference. These expectations depend on culture and context, and are almost subconscious. When stakeholders consciously critique a design, their approach isn’t the same as a user’s organic response, so designers need to look beyond explicit, verbalized likes and dislikes.
  4. Adoptable: In addition to a UX design being useful, usable and desirable, it also needs to be easily integrated into a user’s workflow. Plenty of great projects fizzle because users just don’t adopt them.Adoptability, in a sense, focuses on follow-through. Think about what happens when you try to start a good habit without integrating it into your lifestyle: You might decide to go to the gym five hours every week, but that won’t happen if you never make room for it in your schedule or make sure to pack gym clothes. A company intranet needs to fit within a user’s workflow — using it shouldn’t feel like an interruption or additional task if it’s truly part of the flow.

With SharePoint, developers have access to lots of good tools that they don’t have to make from scratch. Some people think that a good SharePoint user experience requires lots of custom development, but too much customization ultimately makes the application more difficult to support, and there’s already plenty of native, out-of-the-box functionality. For example, SharePoint 2013 includes the Image Renditions feature, allowing you to create multiple aspect ratios and sizes from one image.

Another advantage with SharePoint is that it’s taxonomy-forward. It doesn’t just make you think about how you’re going to build the structure of your site through your site map. It also makes you think about taxonomy design and information architecture: how to tag different content types and create relationships between documents and pages.

In the end, SharePoint offers a smart approach to metadata and content, which lends itself to usability and good user-centered design.

Learn more about creating a great SharePoint user experience for your organization by contacting Portal Solutions.

Contributor: Adam Krueger, Creative Director at Portal Solutions

 

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