UI and Magic!

In Jesse’s talk yesterday on Delivering Long-Term Design Value in a Short Term World, he mentioned that typically technology projects are built with data first in mind, then logic, and with UI tacked on top. He stressed the importance of not allowing your thinking to be limited by perceived technological limitations.

For the past few weeks as I’ve sat through ATG training, I’ve tried to be really aware of what ATG has to offer, and how to make its product and feature suite relevant to people in my organization. I’m currently in the business user/management training series, and the needs of this user base are dramatically different than those of the developers. I’ve been trying to think about how to explain ATG and how we can apply it in our work to the different user types.

Last night’s talk had me thinking about this even more. It’s not “ATG” that will sell, it’s what it offers the client. The whole premise of personalization and customization directly contributes to a better user experience, but using ATG for a site doesn’t inherently make for a better experience. It’s a means to an end, and all the tasks associated with determining user needs/wants/motivation still need to take place.

I’ve mentioned before that ATG is a technological platform that really is looking to meet a strategic need. Its standard implementation is rules-based, which is that layer of logic discussed yesterday. I think the challenge is that often from a UX standpoint, we want to achieve a certain result, without too much concern of the “how”. After the talk last night, someone mentioned pandora radio to me as an example of a personalized user experience with that “wow” factor. There is definitely an element of magic involved, which arguably makes the experience even more compelling. The average visitor doesn’t have to know how it works.

I feel that way about training, to some extent. For many of our creative or managerial types, they don’t need to know the intricacies of the platform, they just need to recognize the implications. Like any sort of personalization or customization, it’s about catering the message to the individual and satisfying his needs, to ensure he has a positive perception of what’s in front of him. There’s no need to overwhelm him with too much detail: it’s all about the “beautiful, elegant solution that works” 🙂