EUI Summit – Day 2

We started the second day of the Summit with another delicious breakfast on the deck of the Sky Hotel.  Amazingly, I was hungry, even though I had eaten mounds and mounds of delicious food the night before.

Sam Lawrence once again kicked off the day by explaining our agenda.  The plan was to do a short demo of the new release (coming out next week), and then break us into four groups to ‘deconstruct the UI’.  Basically, they wanted expert eyes focusing on four major areas of the product.  The areas of focus for the breakout were:

  • The landing / front page
  • Profiles, and in general how people are organized
  • Places (broad topic), how are we organizing content in Clearspace
  • Social networking (new to this release) along with the ability to follow people

This approach reflects a change of direction for Jive, because they’re moving away from a tools focus (where they started three years ago) and towards a concept where things are organized by topic.  This was based on some work with a designer.  Version 2.0 tried to further up the people aspect, not just the features.  With the more recent releases, people can set up their spaces the way they want.  There are other enhancements, like the removal of wiki markup in favor of rich-text editing, and the ability for people to organize groups within a workspace. 

The Jive team took the same questions that they had asked of the Summit participants, so they started by reviewing their design challenges …

New features include following people, and watching a tag. Some of their biggest challenges have to do with helping the users manage the signal-to-noise well.  How should users be able filter?   

Their current struggles include:

  • The design process is too cumbersome to catch all the scenarios.  It is top down, and feedback is not coming early enough in the process.
  • They believe they need to get to rapid prototyping.  They would like to generate user stories, and execute HTML prototyping for review both inside and outside.  In general they need to learn more about what they’re trying to build, earlier. 
  • They are discovering the lines between where we add value and where we need to integrate.  Where should those boundaries be? 

They have a big challenge because they allow total customization.  Similar to the challenges faced by the Salesforce team, it is challenging to think through the variations that a customer might implement – everything from widgets to the individual windows and how they might be organized.  There are now two versions of Jive, one for internal collaboration only, and another product for collaboration outside the firewall.  They are challenged with the complexity now of thinking how the features might need to be handled differently inside and outside the firewall. 

The team also faced some challenges in developing a Rich Text Editor. They heard a ton of feedback from customers (including SAP), saying that editing was too hard, it needs to be easier to engage.  In designing the interface, they had to consider and be explicit about where they do / don’t want it to look and act like a traditional word processor.  There aren’t any good foundations out there.

They currently do usability testing for every release, but it is not formalized.  Last time they tested about twenty people.  They also have communities (executives, developer communities) who are part of their Beta process. 

Finally, Jive has been exploring the last mile, the tentacle into the backend system.  Which hooks should they put or not put in the product?  If they are going to publish into SharePoint, where is that line?  The UI aspects there still remain to be addressed as well.

Matt Tucker (CTO and Co-founder) provided a demo of the new release, and then we headed into our breakout sessions.  Each session had one of the Jive UI designers, and they captured notes on our discussion.  Those were subsequently posted to the Clearstep workspace, which is Jive’s external forum for their customers and others in their ecosystem. 

Following the breakouts, we spend some time in ‘unconference’ mode, moderated by Sam and Matt.  We all raised the questions we were interested in exploring further, and then picked one or two to focus on. Some of the questions included:

  • Should there be a virtual geographic center?
  • Information ownership, profile ownership, blurring the lines between enterprise and individual ownership.
  • Micro-sharing
  • Corporate culture and social software.  How to get it to spread, achieve adoption goals.  Challenges, opportunities, and gaps.
  • Best practices for UI UX processes.
  • Context and terminology, and how it relates to horizontal organizations.
  • What is the leap in enterprise UI?  Will it fail, does Enterprise UI have to be boring?

Given that Jive had paid to bring us to Aspen because of their UI focus, I pushed hard to cover the fifth and sixth points.  I was really surprised how narrowly they are focused in UI, as opposed to really thinking about Information Architecture and other aspects of User Experience.  I feel strongly that they are going to have to more deeply embed their designer AND developers in a user-centered design (UCD) paradigm if they are going to continue to retain their competitive edge.  Our day ended in a lively discussion about UX processes, best practices, and other related topics. 


After having lunch and packing up our things, we headed to the Silver Queen Gondola to get a good view of Aspen from a local summit.  It was a beautiful, beautiful view, although we got hit with a bit of rain on the way back down.  I thought it was a great way to wind down, interact more with other Summit participants, and starting thinking about home.

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