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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Taking a break

As it is coming up to Xmas, I'm planning to take a break from blogging - partly to have time for family and friends over the Xmas break but also because I want to just take a step back for the time being as I settle in to my new job. However I will be posting from around the 3rd week in January when I've taken some time to read up on a few things.

To all my readers both near and far - can I wish you all a happy Xmas and a happy 2008.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Imroving your system design

The excellent Matt Hodgson has an excellent post over the weekend on system design. I’ve cut and pasted it in directly as an aide memoire to myself. A number of them such as Content is King I have highlighted and utilised in other organisations. I’d also like to combine this with McAfees SLATES mnemonic which he developed in terms of Web 2.0 applications. These two elements combined don’t make a bad framework to help increase the usability of a system and improve the satisfaction levels of the end user. At the end of the day – be it intranet, CRM internet site the system has to help the user do their job better and quicker and be a pleasurable experience – otherwise your users will slowly ebb away.

Here’s Matt’s Top 10 list.

1. Know your users: Take time to understand the people who are going to use the system, whether its a website or application.

2. Content is King: Design features and content specifically for your users, not for yourself.

3. Make it logical: The organisation of information and how the navigation works has to be logical to those who will use it.

4. Be consistent: Don’t make people constantly adapt to changes layout, language and navigation paradigms — it makes learning about and using the system very confusing.

5. Make it simple: Using systems should require as little mental effort as possible — there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get the job done and having to work hard to remember how a system works at the same time.

6. Plain English please!: Do the terms and language used in the system make sense to the people who will use it? Don’t make them learn a whole new vocabulary with words that mean one thing to them but another thing when used in the system. Avoid legalese, bureaucratese and organisational jargon.

7. Make the information scanable: Information should be laid out on the screen so that it has a logical flow for the eye. Don’t make people have to remember that one piece of important information is here, while another piece is somewhere else. Similar pieces of information should be as closely associated as possible.

8. Navigation redundancy: People all think about information in different ways, mostly through association rather than categorisation. This means that you need to provide multiple ways of discovering information — and this doesn’t just mean browse and search. If you use taxonomy, make sure information can go in multiple categories, and complement it with a folksonomy.

9. Design by convention: People have an expectation of how systems and their components will work based on previous experience of other systems. This means you need to make your design comply with those design expectations — banners, navigation, search, login, and even cart features all need to appear according to existing design conventions. This doesn’t mean you can’t innovate — just know what your users expect and make it easy for them to learn your system.

10. Make the design clear: This will help people avoid making mistakes when they use your system. Help them recover from errors through providing consistent messaging in the interface itself.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Polling on your blog

Thanks to Arjun Thomas for this useful link also need to take my mind over Liverpool's defeat to Manchester United this afternoon.

I believe that blogs will develop some increasing forms of connectivity during 2008 – rather than just people commenting on your posts. A company called Vizu has developed a way to insert a simple poll in to your blog – to answer say a simple question and range of answers.

However, I can see a number of possible internal applications as firms start to develop blogs internally. Imagine if you have a chief executive blog and want to get a feel for a situation directly from the floor, then you can do so using this tool.

I will be experimenting with this tool in the New Year just to get some feedback and to try it to increase the links that I have with subscribers and readers to this blog.

Here is the link Vizu Web Polls

It is interesting that in 2007 that blogs are 10 years old – however it is really only in the last 18 months that blogs have started to take off in an enterprise setting. I think that this is a trend that will accelerate during 2008.

I prefer blogs as I consider that for project based work that you find more useful work-related conversations on a single work blog than you do on the whole of Facebook and that increasingly you and your work colleagues both within the business and with your external clients will network and do business on blogs every day.

Blogging I consider is the most successful and relevant Web 2.0 network, more so than wikis because of its ease of use and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A collection of Ideas in 2007

As an on line subscriber, I read the New York Times to pick up ideas and trends from over the Atlantic

In my review on Tuesday night, I found the link to the annual New York times looking at the last year in terms of ideas.

Some of them are strange some of them thought provoking. If you click on the title of this blog - then it will take you right there.

If you want a good read for what might occur in 2008 - I can strongly recommend a publication by the Economist called "The World in 2008" I've got all the editions for the last 10 years - as occasionally I like to flick backwards and forwards to see if there is an idea that got lost whose time might have come.

Anyway enjoy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Blogs made simple

A question that I've been asked from time to time - is what is a blog and how can I use it.
Here is a useful You Tube video from the excellent Commoncraft (hat tip also to Doug Cornelius at KM Space - congrats on your new arrival).

A number of organisations now use blogs within the enterprise setting and as I posted last year the new Microsoft Sharepoint Server software 2007 has blogs as well as wikis inbuilt. I can imagine blogs being used for a variety of things - working on a project, working with a virtual team as well as utilising it for in house communities of practice. I've also discussed utilising them as a means of capturing lessons at the end of a project. I'm also placing a link in to a post I made last September on this subject so if you'd like to be encouraged then click on the link below

Thoughts on the uses for an internal blog

One firm that I worked with started to get experts in a particular field blogging and they enhanced their profile in the firm because they started to write a blog and the viral marketing effect took over and more people in their group subscribed to their blog as a source of knowledge that captured the human element.

It would be interesting to find out some innovative ways that blogs have been used within enterprises, but also for people to start to think laterally how this might be used in their enterprise.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Demographics in China

Not always the best of writers last week or so, due to feeling a bit under the weather Xmas preparations, visitors etc etc, but back to my theme of demographics.

One area that is sometimes overlooked is China and the results of its one child policy that started in 1979. Well it is now over a quarter of a century old and this means that they will slowly be starting to leave the nest either to move to the cities. This means that the phenomenon of empty nesters that tends to kick in later in the UK as we tend to have the statistical 2.2 children is now starting to develop in China at a younger age - and more importantly at a younger working age.

So what does this mean to a rapidly developing country like China? Well according to the Economist, already there are 265 m Chinese aged between 40 to 64 with no dependent children. By the end of 2008 that will have risen by another 7m and by another 50 m over a ten year period.

This means that that for these empty nesters if mothers return to work will mean a large rise in disposable income. Already most of this group have basic household appliances washing machines fridges etc.

Some analysts believe (probably using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs no doubt) that there will be a rise in spending on premium products but also following on from the Japanese experience, they will want to travel a lot more probably initially in China but increasingly overseas. This of course is predicated that China’s economy continues to grow at the same pace and that there are jobs for everyone at the right level of expectations. There may also be cultural norms that the article doesn't consider that may also reduce the rate of growth.

This may mean more work designing hotels or increasing infrastructure investments to cope with some of these new migratory habits. It may also mean new cities that are environmentally neutral as the eco-city being built in Dongtan. Could we start to see China as we have in Dubai creating off shore islands close to cities for people to live in once their children have moved out?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

An old article revisited on wikis

I am a big fan of Commoncraft who do excellent small movies to explain technology to dummies like myself. I was browsing through some of my old posts and as I was asked about a wiki - thought that I would repost this useful video of what is a wiki.

I'm a big fan of wikis to use on small scale projects and feel that they can assist with the creation of a high performance workplace by improving communication and also because as I have cited before, these will be part of the IT plumbing. The main issue for me that it isn't that the plumbing is there people have to be shown how to use it but also understand some of the more advanced functionality to get the benefit.

I was talking to an old colleague the other day and he advised me that he was talking to an IT manager who had found by accident that younger employees where using a wiki that was hosted externally to the organisation because the firm had not allowed them to trial an in house wiki. By encouraging people to link people start networking internally and can aid each other as well as tapping in to and learning new knowledge.

Anyway I hope that if you haven't used a wiki, this will encourage you to try. If enough people reply then maybe there is someway we could trial a wiki on a KM subject or anything else that takes your fancy.