Simple Design for Happier Users

How many buttons does Google have?  Yes, exactly (2 is the answer if you can't be bothered checking).  OK, so they are a few hyperlinks to click as well, but as far as buttons associated with a form are concerned there are just two.  How many on Twitter?  Once logged in there aren't any!  How simple can it get?

One of the many things the product design team at Scholabo have to manage, is how to control the amount of information each of the end users will be exposed to.  For those who don't know Scholabo, it's an online communication and content distribution site acting as a conduit between schools and parents.  The parents being the consumers of information and the teachers and schools being the producers.

One of the key aims was always to make the decision making part for the end user as small as possible.  By that, I simply mean taking the Convention-over-Configuration approach to how a user actually uses the system.  For 80% of the end user use cases, we aimed to implement these automatically.  There would be nothing the end user would need to select, configure, choose or decide over, to get the news and information that what pertinent to them, their school or the teachers they wanted to watch.

Obviously that approach, took effort in understanding what those use cases were, and how the parent would like to consume the information that is available to them.  One of the key issues now regarding social media lead information flow, is picking out the valuable data from all of the noise.  There are many ways to filter out data noise from user learning techniques that result in automatic filtering, through to manual filtering based on a criteria check list.  The end result should allow the end user access to the information they are interested in quickly and simply.

In Scholabo we tried to make the information flow as simple as possible with the parent having instant access to the School news and content automatically.  In addition they would have a basic choice to decide which teachers they would like content from .  This layered approach to information flow keeps the noise to a minimum.

A common theme of social media is to aggregate data.  Once a filtering exercise has been completed, the data that is left is then aggregated often into a single view the user can muddle through.  Taking Twitter as a quick example, the time lines in Twitter can become unmanageable for a user following say several hundred or thousand users.  Many Twitter clients are available that allow you to group the data into streams or interest areas that allow the end user to manage the data in more bite sized chunks or threads.

In Scholabo data is automatically grouped based on origin and creation time, making it easy and simple to quickly find what is required.

From a product perspective, buttons and links are kept to a minimum.  Not only is this quite nice from a UI perspective, but it also makes the decision making process for the end quick and simple.  The number of duplicate pathways - button and link routes to a certain page - are minimized,  giving each link a distinct modular task, removing ambiguity and confusion,

When developing a SaaS solution, one of key dilemmas facing a product management team, is how to drive the use case and road map list.  A longer 6-12 month strategy can be pretty straight forward, but enhancement request always arrive from individual end users who want a specific option, change or alteration.  In this case, the idea is to try and baseline the user requests to identify the weakest link.

Which feature can be implemented that covers the bare minimum of all similar requests without damaging the user experience of ANY users?  As with any site, it can be difficult to implement edge or exception cases, as they will potentially impact other users who have no requirement for the new feature.

Simple generally always results in robustness.  Not just from a pure coding perspective, but from an end user perspective.  If they deem a feature or service as robust, they have a clear association in their mind of what the service will offer them - what features, what questions will it answer, how much time will it require and so on.  It's like developing a brand.

If your product is known for one thing and one thing only, it's quick for existing as well as new users to identify with your product and make the best use of it's service.