May 28, 2010

User Experience Matters

I didn’t mean for this article to turn into a specific rant, but I failed horribly in that regard.  I was doing some follow up research on my previous post regarding the final two silos and was being constantly reminded about how much productivity is lost in the enterprise space by two things:

  1. User Experience
  2. Employee Adoption

How many of you have had to endure the procedure, solution or tool that was mandated from on high without any regard to actual benefit (and in some cases major detriment)?  The politics of IT, when they crop up, will cause employee adoption to tank when the Information Worker feels left out of the decision making process.  It isn’t to suggest that the end users get to decide everything, but when articulating a tool or solution from IT’s perspective, IT should treat the IW or end user as ‘the customer.’  A case in point is User Experience.  My specific rant that came up?  IBM’s Lotus Notes product.  In my, admittedly biased, view, this is a product that fails so horribly at user experience, that an actual study of lost employee productivity could probably yield an insane TCO and equally insane ROI.  Here are some of the things I recently encountered when looking through Lotus Notes.  Caveat – this is not to say these items cannot be done, but rather, in my encounter with the product, the UX was so poor, a decently smart guy like myself couldn’t figure it out quickly:

  • You cannot mark something as read without opening it – like an email message.
  • You cannot hit a reply all without going through options in the header – and further, Reply All doesn’t appear to include history.
  • The word ‘download’ is not in the dictionary – this is just silly I know but COME ON
  • To recover something from the trash, you cannot drag it back into inbox, you have to use the ‘restore’ button, more than that, drag and drop really doesn’t seem to be a first class citizen throughout the product.
  • The search tool doesn’t permit search by last name, only first name, forget it if you have a middle initial – this is probably more related to the back end LDAP system than anything else, but my money is on the back end system being IBM as well.
  • At rest, the program takes up 188 meg of RAM – I have only 5 messages and no custom applications.
  • The add button for new contacts returns the following result: Added a contact. Yes or Cancel -> Both do the same thing.  Really?
  • Numbered lists – not so much – the way it functions is just shy of worthless
  • Calendaring just barely works with every other known calendaring tool on the planet – repeating events? Forget it
  • I have to open a calendar invite to accept it, and then, it doesn’t remove the invite from my inbox.
  • Custom applications that rely heavily replication appear brittle at best, and completely useless at worse.

Please don’t misrepresent my UX gripes as a general criticism on the now Microsoft employees that originally invented the product.  At the time it was invented, it was revolutionary.  A PIM + a rapid development platform built together with complex security and corporate adoption was amazing.  That was back in 1991 though and it seems as while the entire planet has evolved considerably, Lotus Notes has not.

In other news, it’s been great talking to clients about Lotus Notes to Exchange/SharePoint conversions.  The ROI and TCO studies alone absolutely SHOCK the BDMs…unless the politics of IT rear their ugly head.  In fairness, I’d probably be saying the same thing about Exchange/SharePoint if I had grown up and been involved in LN use for years…mmm, maybe not – Outlook let’s me drag and drop and SharePoint is just…better, cheaper, faster.  Back to work now.