The Value of Design

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Tonight at the Finland SharePoint user group in Helsinki, it was an evening of productivity. I’m not sure if that was the plan, or if divine providence was at play, but three presentations came together into an evening of great design and productivity discussion.

The SPUG group kicked things off with a presentation by local branding consultant Henry Scheinin, CEO of Solu Digital, who provided a fascinating overview of the history of design in his session “SharePoint User Interface Tailoring,” making the case for function leading form. A common mistake with UI is to focus almost entirely on form, but and Henry pointed out, good design works in conjunction with function.

He talked about Microsoft's historical stance on design changes to SharePoint: don’t mess with it, but use out of the box capabilities. With SharePoint 2010, and with the advent of SharePoint Designer, more and more organizations started pushing the limits on design of their sites and the overall environment, and, not surprisingly, many organization ran into issues with support and later with upgrade.

With SharePoint 2013, Microsoft once again has recommended that users stay within the construct of the SharePoint out of the box experience for design, but the platform has dramatically changed. In older versions, to change the design (outside of modifying master pages) it meant "breaking" SharePoint, whereas in SharePoint 2013, the construct has changed. Design can be done using whatever tools your design team is accustomed to using, without having to also be experts in SharePoint.

I then took the stage and presented my 10 best productivity features in SharePoint 2013. You can find my slides here.

Following my presentation and a brief intermission where Cher shirts were distributed, Jussi Mori, SharePoint MCM from Peaches Industries and Michael (missed his last name), on “Raising information worker productivity with SharePoint and Gamification in Intranets.” Michael discussed basic productivity principles, including Effectivity (doing the right things), Efficiency (doing things the right way), and the Pareto principle (which I always mention in my own presentations — 80% of the work is done in 20% of the time, but the last 20% takes 80% of the time). He then walked through certain principles for working with SharePoint, such as treating SharePoint as a friend and learning to work within its boundaries, using out-of-the-box first before trying to hack your way through a solution, using wireframes and mockups to visualize your design, and always starting your projects with architecture. Finland 052

From there, Jussi then opened the discussion on gamification – introducing games into the social language of SharePoint as a way to get more participation.

Wait…pause for a second: did you know that Farmville has more users than Twitter? Yes, that fact scares me, as well. Why is a stupid Facebook game so appealing to so many?Jussi walked through the SAPS reward system that may provide some answers: Status (building bragging rights), Access (providing privileged access), Power (giving you some control over your environment), and Objects (you get to win some stuff – real or imaginary). What these systems provide are “transparent and hyper available feedback loops” in which the player is always aware of the current progress in the game, the next steps, how they are performing, and how they are performing – all of which can be used to help the player improve performance and get to the next level.

<sidebar>It was at this point that I had an interesting thought: in management of people, it’s kind of like giving people a career path. If you, the manager, don’t provide people with a career path, more money may suffice for a while — but at some point, money stops acting as a motivator and people "want something more." </sidebar>

Jussi talked about the value of these principles in helping extend the user experience in SharePoint – and in improving adoption issues. He shared examples like Foursquare and RedCritter Tracker….and I threw Klout into the mix. All of them use gamification as a way of improving the social connections of teams, placing value on desired activities, and making it fun. Gamification can be used to improve team collaboration by encouraging certain behaviors.

I’m hearing more and more about gamification – not just within the SharePoint community, but across the broader social landscape. Some predict gamification will be a major intranet component within the next 4 to 5 years. Jussi wrapped up his presentation by talking about 3 or 4 vendors who have developed packaged solutions around gamification, and pointed to Badgeville, which has integrations with SharePoint to help track and reward user behavior in SharePoint. Fascinating stuff.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.