Wednesday, January 13, 2010

UX meeting in Hamburg, Day One


Last week I was on holiday from my day job so I went to Hamburg to spend time on my hobby: I experienced the kind and warm hospitality of Sun, especially the Sun User Experience team and had the chance to get in contact with some more “new” people and discuss some topics which have been around for a while. I will report on my visit in two parts. Today is Part One.

Malte and “How to Use Non-Disruptive Messages?”

One of the first meetings was a surprise: Malte Timmermann asked me to discuss some details of a non-modal information bar which I wrote about two years ago; you may recall the Direct Manipulation Snippets for Documents. In general, this kind of non-modal interaction/information elements are used in many different applications like Mozilla Firefox, Gnome Desktop, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft File Explorer (Vista), Ubuntu Desktop, … For you may simply think of an information bar above the document view port which communicates simple information or warnings. During our meeting, Malte referred to one of my use cases which I would like to quote again (to be found in the wiki):

Example 2 “Macros”: If a user opens a document containing Macros, she/he is asked to confirm the execution of the macros. Until the confirmation, the user has no chance to see the document content. So why not loading the document without executing the Macros and asking the user afterwards for the permission?

If you read the wiki page thoroughly, you may have noticed that these “additional” Direct Manipulation Snippets for documents don't yet consider all kinds of situations. This was the reason for Malte to ask:
  • What if several messages shall be shown at the same time? For example, four messages would cover large parts of the document or may be bigger than the whole window. How to present them?
  • What if a user wants to recall a message which has been shown to him some time ago? For example, do we require some kind of message stack to be accessible afterwards?
  • What if a message is rather large, e.g. a user shares a document in a Document Management System and adds a rather large comment? How to show this message to the user – instantly – without requiring a large part of the window area?
  • What if a message is related to in general, e.g. the invitation to join our Improvement Program or to inform about software updates?
… and much more. You see, the discussion isn't finished yet. The funny thing is that – during the discussion – we collected more and more ideas for using this kind of non-modal interaction to make working with more pleasing and more efficient. Some examples:
  • If users add comments/notes without having entered a user name, we may ask him to add this information when required.
  • If users open signed documents we could explain to them what signed documents are. Today, many people don't know much about that.
  • If users add extensions we might inform them about the newly added functionality.
I think you got the point why I think it is worth to work on it. Let's see if Malte and his colleagues share that opinion.

Kay and “What is our common goal?”

Kay Koll is the friendly marketing guy who, for example, publishes the monthly newsletters to the community. During lunch, we started a nice discussion about what goals exist for working on If the goals are inconsistent or unclear, for example when working on the core functionality, documentation, web presence, etc, we face inconsistency and diverging development. Thus, we talked about how to make working on more target-oriented.

For example, we talked about the current improvements like “release mottos” for upcoming versions and the current – rather technical – mission statement. You may know that large organizations, both non-commercial and commercial, invest a lot of effort in developing a common mission and goals to be used in all their projects, teams,etc. Personally, I think that this kind of “tool” might help to ease development decisions. However, our discussion ended up generating some ideas for an upcoming visual design and branding meeting , so, we decided to wait for the outcome of that meeting.…

The Small Print

I would like to say a bit thank you to Liz who took care of me, like she did for other community members some months ago :-) She provided (as she called it) a warm and dry place to sleep and (as I would refer to) some delightful discussions apart from and all the development stuff. The same is true for the hospitality of Frank who arranged many tiny things to make my stay as comfortable as possible.

Besides that, many thanks to all the people (Christoph Lukasiak, Christian Jansen, Matthias Huetsch, Eric Savary, …) who discussed all the ideas and thoughts – or just dropped by to say hello! I hope to see you again, soon...

Have a nice day!

No comments: