Category Archives: experience

Dead simple is not Stupid Easy … or why the idea of Pair Designing

Easier to keep things simple when working with a pair

Easier to keep things simple when working in a pair!

When I have a choice to make, if I am uncertain, I try to always choose the simplest of all the options I have. I basically look at the several paths and try to evaluate their complexity to pick the simplest. It is not only that I am lazy but more importantly that I realize it is often what works best.

Over the last years, in all fields, this has been working  well. More than that, the (not so) few times where I did not do that, usually I would realize things didn’t go well. Or let me say it differently: when things have not been good, I could have had them good by picking a simplest option…

Now making ‘things simple’ is not that simple! I was at this web meet-up and was hearing this guy using the “Dead Simple” and “Stupid Easy” phrases every two minutes, this made me rethink this all-simplicity thing in the context of my work.

I am currently spending a good share of my time reworking user interfaces, with the only goal to improve the User Experience of our software. This is a domain where having things simple is really super important and tough, as the software we work on is actually quite complex. I am working with a talented UX consultant on that project and its working pretty well. I am the product owner and he is the UX designer, but truth be told I am also designing a good share of the UI and he is owning a good share of the product.

The collaboration works fairly well, even if I am sure we could improve. One of the reasons why I think it works well is because, alternately, when one of us gets enthusiastic about a solution or a feature, in many cases he would tend to forget the importance of keeping things at their simplest. Working in a duo helps you achieve this better. Designing a product is a work that is tricky: you can’t design a good product if you are not inspired and passionate, and it is almost impossible when you are passionate to keep this external neutral view on things that is required to keep them simple. Even the more talented product designers can tend to lose this. As much as we are all conscious of the risk of the ‘feature creep’ virus, we are never really sure not to catch it, especially when we try to solve complex problems.

Of course, products should be designed not only involving 1 or 2 persons but much more, involving all end users, as they are the ones who know best what simple means. Actually it should be understood “simple to them”, not “simple to us”. I still think you can’t go through inception with too many people involved. This would take you back to the risk of designing the things people “want” not the ones people “need” (thanks for the early lesson on that Mister Jobs…)

So that was my thought on this Saturday morning. As much as in coding, where it is now a clear statement that Pair Programming (the practice of having two developers writing the code at the same time) is what leads to the best code (if you do it right), designing with two might be what leads to the best design! I am not an expert in the field and some folks surely already use that technique and name, but if ever this is not the case, I would be very happy to be a pioneer of using it. Pair Designing helps you keep things simple; that is its first value!

And to conclude on simplicity, isn’t it, in all things, what makes them great or not? The simplicity of silence in music, the simplicity of pure lines in art or of empty spaces in architecture, and don’t get me started with food and wine. Even more than anywhere, the simplicity of relations and communication between persons. And not forgetting to quote one more time one of the masters:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
— Leonardo Da vinci

Happy Weekend!

10 years ago, we were already in the Experience Management business!

The wrong train?

The wrong train?

This is a small rant I was on lately. If you’re not so much into “Content Management”, not sure this will speak to you… you might want to pass. This is of course only my personal opinion, and it is quite not about eZ itself (the company I work for) or about our products, it is more about our small industry, the ‘Content Management’ industry.

I hear some colleagues and friends in our industry, saying things like “eZ changed (again) positioning to move to Experience Management”, I also hear some people saying things like “I can’t stand this people calling WordPress a CMS” (to not only take eZ as an example). I hear some saying, “These guys are in the Portal industry, not in the CMS”. Actually I often hear myself explaining how our company, eZ, is moving from a pure Content Management platform to a more global “Experience Management” platform.

Come on! Truth to be said, this is somehow wrong. Just noise, or sometime may be trying to surf the good waves. Experience is for sure the word of 2013, the word to use and Experience Management the spot to be on! It is THE thing to do – fair enough (just learned from analysts today this might have to be adjusted to DX when speaking about acronyms, stands for Digital Experience… uh, what about when we do print business?).

But honestly this is just about our jargon. Is there really, beyond the words, any big change? I don’t think so, we just try to do things better. I think it seems to be a big change only if you are looking at software and at products from a wrong, short-sided view: the features and only the features.

Yes eZ Publish is in the Experience Management. Yes WordPress is a CMS, and in the Experience Management as well. They both have been for years now. And this stands for many others who jumped from one box to another, whether it is Portal, CMS, e-commerce, Blogging platform, Wiki…

To illustrate my thought I like to make a reference to this article of Harvard Business Review called “Marketing myopia” which introduced the famous question “what business are you really in?”. It uses the example of the railway industry in the US, who lost the transportation battle because it was too narrow-minded, considering itself in the “railway business” instead of being in the “transportation business”. Saying it in an other way, it was focusing on the product and the feature, not on the business objective.

Well, eZ has always been in the “Experience Management” business. So does WordPress. CMS has always come second. Content Management might be a process, it is more than anything a list of features that I don’t want to list here. I remember, I was then not yet working for eZ but using eZ Publish. The folks at eZ were hesitating between different appellations: e-commerce? portal? CMS? … this was because eZ had to give it a name and a position. I am pretty sure the goal was indeed, already, to create a platform for Experience Management!

What changed in between? Well, the ‘Digital Experiences’ our customer need to build have quite significantly evolved. 10 years ago it was still mostly about creating a website for communication and information purposes and simple way for the user to reach it, now it is just much more!

I predict a dark future on the mid-term to the people who are thinking they should stick to ‘Content Management’ feature set and certainly not touch other functional domains… I think they will miss the same train the railway industry missed!

Changing positioning as in the 2 examples that I gave above (eZ and WordPress) should not be seen as a sign of uncertainty, I believe it should more be recognized as a sign of lucidity in which business we are and how it is evolving!

And of course, at eZ, I will keep highlighting our changes to a bigger CXM / DX / UXP platform, but more to explain our vision on how Experience Management has evolved. Why it doesn’t ask for the same things yesterday, today and tomorrow and why we constantly innovate to try to provide these features – whether they are in the CMS box, in the BI box or in any other! Surely focus is required to be successful, but looking at the solutions from one single feature lens is not what I would call the right focus.