Need for Portal Design Guidelines?

17 Nov 2009 - 2:10pm
5 years ago
12 replies
1372 reads
Paul Eisen
2007

A few days ago I posted a question about existing materials out there on portal design (http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=47358#47358). I'm very surprised that there was no response. I'm starting a new thread rather than posting a second item to the same thread to ask a closely related question:

Since there has been no response to my appeal, among the possibly thousands of readers on this discussion list, and since portal technology is pervasive these days, is it safe to conclude that a set of practical guidelines for the user-experience design of applications using portal technology represents a big void that needs to be filled?

Paul

Comments

17 Nov 2009 - 2:54pm
bminihan
2007

Hi Paul,

Do an academic search for "Information Workplace" and you'll return a ton of
Forrester articles from a few years back, explaining their take (with
research to back it up) on where portals were going back then.

They may have even updated those since I last researched them in 2007. I
built a working conceptual prototype of an IW and have it laying around here
somewhere, but the above search should take you to some useful information.

Bryan Minihan

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Paul
Eisen
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 3:10 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Need for Portal Design Guidelines?

A few days ago I posted a question about existing materials out there on
portal design (http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=47358#47358). I'm very
surprised that there was no response. I'm starting a new thread rather than
posting a second item to the same thread to ask a closely related question:

Since there has been no response to my appeal, among the possibly thousands
of readers on this discussion list, and since portal technology is pervasive
these days, is it safe to conclude that a set of practical guidelines for
the user-experience design of applications using portal technology
represents a big void that needs to be filled?

Paul

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17 Nov 2009 - 3:11pm
milan
2005

Hi Paul,

have a look at Joe Lamantia's Framework for modular Portal/Dashboard design:
http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/the-challenge-of

Also, consider expanding your research to intranets, the boundaries
between these technologies/definitions are blurring.

Kind regards
Milan

On Tue, November 17, 2009 21:54, Bryan Minihan wrote:
> Hi Paul,
>
>
> Do an academic search for "Information Workplace" and you'll return a ton
> of Forrester articles from a few years back, explaining their take (with
> research to back it up) on where portals were going back then.
>
> They may have even updated those since I last researched them in 2007. I
> built a working conceptual prototype of an IW and have it laying around
> here somewhere, but the above search should take you to some useful
> information.
>
> Bryan Minihan
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Paul
> Eisen
> Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 3:10 PM
> To: discuss at ixda.org
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Need for Portal Design Guidelines?
>
>
> A few days ago I posted a question about existing materials out there on
> portal design (http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=47358#47358). I'm very
> surprised that there was no response. I'm starting a new thread rather
> than posting a second item to the same thread to ask a closely related
> question:
>
>
> Since there has been no response to my appeal, among the possibly
> thousands of readers on this discussion list, and since portal technology
> is pervasive these days, is it safe to conclude that a set of practical
> guidelines for the user-experience design of applications using portal
> technology represents a big void that needs to be filled?
>
> Paul
>
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>
>

--
||| | | |||| || |||||||| | || | ||
milan guenther * interaction design
p +49 173 2856689 * www.guenther.cx

17 Nov 2009 - 4:08pm
Paul Eisen
2007

Thanks for the replies.

Bryan, I'm familiar with some of the Forrester thinking, but have
not come across practical design guidelines (in the past or just now
searching on your suggested term, "Information Workplace"). Maybe
I'm missing something, but I've always taken Forrester Research to
be strategic and directional, but not to get into the kind of
practical level of advice I describe below.

In the chapter I'm writing on the design of portals, I'm planning
on including very concrete suggestions for IA and IxD, for example,
on how and where to expose certain functionality, how to safely
provide customization, effective ways to implement search, etc. This
could be seen in some ways as a ground-floor elaboration of the very
robust framework presented in Boxes and Arrows by Joe Lamantia (as
Milan references).

Milan, I agree with the idea of looking more broadly into
"intranets" - I actually think there's more stuff there. But
strictly speaking, I'm targeting my thinking at portal technologies,
as applied anywhere (e.g., employee-facing, vendor-facing, or
customer-facing sites or applications). That is, how do you create
great user experiences when starting with a SharePoint, WebSphere,
etc. package that has a bunch of out-of-the-box features and
limitations (and strapping on other supporting technologies). And
where should we take those vendors to task to go back to the drawing
board to enable better user experiences. (For example, administration
comes to mind as something I've not once seen done right by the
vendors.)

Paul

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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17 Nov 2009 - 4:31pm
bminihan
2007

Ahah!

Didn't know you were getting to be that specific =]

In the context of your point below, I think you're right in that there is a
dearth of concrete guidance for sound interaction design across the suite of
enterprise portals on the market.

I believe (perhaps just my experience) that's because Sharepoint and
Websphere are as divided as their respective parent companies, and their
portals behave differently in very fundamental ways (include BEA Aqualogic
here too).

These portals SHOULDN'T be different. They just are, for the same reasons
OS X is nothing like Windows, etc. I've worked lightly with Sharepoint and
Websphere, but suppose it would be difficult to apply the same design rules
to both environments, without a lot of caveats.

I worked heavily in the enterprise portal space from 2003-2007 and met
designers and ucd folks from many other companies, all of whom pretty much
built their best practices from scratch, due to the lack of concrete
guidance from any industry. We often sought guidance from other folks, only
to find our own portal was way ahead of others of the same company size (we
had a customized BEA Aqualogic portal, with our own Verity search).

Wish I could help more, but when you finish your book, I'd love to read that
chapter, to learn what you found =]. You might find you need a bigger
chapter.

Bryan Minihan

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Paul
Eisen
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 2:09 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Need for Portal Design Guidelines?

Thanks for the replies.

Milan, I agree with the idea of looking more broadly into
"intranets" - I actually think there's more stuff there. But
strictly speaking, I'm targeting my thinking at portal technologies,
as applied anywhere (e.g., employee-facing, vendor-facing, or
customer-facing sites or applications). That is, how do you create
great user experiences when starting with a SharePoint, WebSphere,
etc. package that has a bunch of out-of-the-box features and
limitations (and strapping on other supporting technologies). And
where should we take those vendors to task to go back to the drawing
board to enable better user experiences. (For example, administration
comes to mind as something I've not once seen done right by the
vendors.)

Paul

17 Nov 2009 - 4:38pm
Paul Bryan
2008

I question the usefulness of UX guidelines for Portals. I've worked
on the user experience strategy for several Portals that serve up to
hundreds of thousands of employees each, and in each case the optimal
user experience was so tightly coupled to the culture, lines of
business, data warehouse, and idiosyncracies of that particular
business, that we had to start fresh with discovery research
activities that gave us a clear understanding of executive and
stakeholder perspectives, user archetypes, existing content, business
drivers for communication, manager's toolkit structure, project
approach, etc. etc. The portal user experience design rationale was
based on the data specific to each company.

The story of one such project for Delta is here:
http://www.usography.com/docs/Usography_Information_Needs_Flight_Attendants.pdf

The story of a design strategy project for Cox's portal is here:
http://www.intranetjournal.com/articles/200705/ij_05_24_07a.html

The resulting user experience of these two portals couldn't have
been more dissimilar, because the business and cultural DNA of the
companies are dissimilar. Many different kinds of people could ride
in my car and feel comfortable, but far fewer could wear my shoes and
feel comfortable.

Paul Bryan
Usography (http://www.usography.com)
Blog: Virtual Floorspace (http://www.virtualfloorspace.com)
Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/uxexperts

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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18 Nov 2009 - 7:55am
Paul Eisen
2007

Thanks for the case studies, Paul. My experience is similar to yours -
nothing will trump the importance of user research and other discovery
and user-centered activities to shape the needs of the portal solution
to the specific organization.

Still, do you not find repeating patterns among these solutions? I
certainly have. I've found, for example, effective ways to organize
documents, rather than having them scattered throughout the portal.
And I've discovered effective ways to enable access to portlet-level
content. So far I've found design approaches to these and certain
other challenges as universal. Documenting these may be of limited
benefit to a consultant who is already experienced in portal design,
but there are many people tasked with UI design of portal
technologies who have far more limited skills and experience.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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18 Nov 2009 - 9:59am
Chris Rivard
2005

Paul E., I'm very interested in where you're going with this
concept. I have been heavily involved in designing for portal over
the last 9 months and have found the technology to be too tightly
coupled to the interface. A very simple implementation can be
accomplished out of the box with most portal software, but anything
beyond the most basic configuration has been extremely problematic.

I surmise this is a larger issue in enterprise IT departments where
UX and IxD is more rare. As our practice becomes more mature within
the enterprise, it is no surprise that we are finding that bad design
abounds.

To Paul B.'s point, I'm not sure that UX guidelines for a portal
differ from UX guidelines across the board. A clear way to organize
and find documents is an applicable design pattern for portals and
non-portals.

Portal technology is built on the premise that the system supports
personalization by the user (iGoogle). I would be more interested in
hearing about design guidelines for personalization of a portal, not
necessarily best design practices, which are universal.

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18 Nov 2009 - 8:21pm
Tania Schlatter
2007

Hi Paul,

I wrote a white paper several years ago when I was a design lead at
ATG that outlined recommended best practices for the design process
of a dynamic/portal web application. It has some ATG-specific terms,
but the concepts are pretty much the same for any enterprise
portal/personalized application package. You can check it out here:
http://www.nimblepartners.com/ATG_design_process.pdf.

ATG provided "out of the box" software for portals and other
personalized web applications at the time. Their products focus on
e-commerce now. The paper was written for ATG customers who were
project managers and user experience designers.

I've thought about resurrecting the paper and rewriting it for a
general (non ATG) audience, but have not been sure if it is relevant
today. I'm interested in any comments.

Best,
Tania Schlatter

Nimble Partners, LLC
http://www.nimblepartners.com

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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19 Nov 2009 - 7:25am
John Labriola
2009

Hey Paul,

I've been working with portal for a few years now too. I think it is
same to say that there are definitely patterns. And that maybe those
are along industry as well finance/insurance vs nonprofit or pharma.
And also what the content is, you out of the box HR or HA stuff like
benefits or finding a person or team or collaborating are all common
not matter the industry.

Joe Lamantia has done a lot of writing about this. I saw someone
posted a link to one of his articles. But check out others he has
written for Boxes and Arrows as well as the this tag group on
Delicious: http://delicious.com/tag/ia_building_blocks

I for one would be very interested in this subject if you need to
bounce further ideas.

Good luck!
John

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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20 Nov 2009 - 10:24am
Paul Eisen
2007

Thanks to all for the additional comments and links.

Chris, your suggestion to emphasize practical guidelines make good
sense; I am perhaps using the term "best practices" too loosely in
this thread.

Tanya, I'm looking forward to reading through the ATG design process
paper.

John, thanks for the offer to provide further feedback; I may take
you up on it. Also, the Lamantia series on a portal framework is
excellent.

Paul

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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21 Nov 2009 - 11:27am
Paul Bryan
2008

Paul,

You are right, there are patterns. Those patterns would be very
interesting and useful to portal managers. They should also
understand that simply copying portal best practices will lead to the
perfect portal, but for some other company.

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Posted from the new ixda.org
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23 Nov 2009 - 2:33am
Joe Lamantia
2007

Paul,

Have a look at the series of articles I wrote a while back on IA / UX
for portals that's available in Boxes and Arrows.

This is the first:

http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/the-challenge-of

Beyond these, and a few fairly narrow dashboard pieces, it's a subject
that the UX community has not engaged with in any collective sense.
It's essentially in the blind spot of the UX discipline's field of view.

Given that so many digital experiences are built with the portal
model, from the technology, business, or user experience perspectives
(or all three), I've found this quite strange.

Regards,
Joe Lamantia

On Nov 17, 2009, at 12:10 PM, Paul Eisen wrote:

> A few days ago I posted a question about existing materials out
> there on portal design (http://www.ixda.org/discuss.php?post=47358#47358
> ). I'm very surprised that there was no response. I'm starting a new
> thread rather than posting a second item to the same thread to ask a
> closely related question:
>
> Since there has been no response to my appeal, among the possibly
> thousands of readers on this discussion list, and since portal
> technology is pervasive these days, is it safe to conclude that a
> set of practical guidelines for the user-experience design of
> applications using portal technology represents a big void that
> needs to be filled?
>
> Paul

joe.lamantia at gmail.com | www.joelamantia.com

"...life consists of approximations." - Guy De Maupassant

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