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Gartner Keynote: Don Norman on emotion

Don Norman is well known cognitive scientist who has spoken and written extensively on emotion and design in everyday things.  Today he is speaking at the Gartner Portal, Content and Collaboration Summit in San Diego.  He talked about how why and how emotions drive our decisions and our behaviors.  Something that we all know is important but in IT we often focus on the function and too little on the emotion.

Employees are people.  If they are seen as a cost center that is a missed opportunity.  Look at Mailbox App – now bought by Dropbox.    People love it because its gets the job done better than any other application.  Better than what Google can do or even Microsoft.  I think its Microsoft’s job is to KEEP email in our box, to drive more workflow INTO the box and not allowing resolution in a quick manner.

Look at when you get an email and you get the summary in your phone that says: “Email not displaying correctly?  Open in a browser”  This is a fail and IT can can be the catching point.  Employees should be profit centers.

Interruption proof…look at nurses who have to long into cumbersome systems and so they tend to write things down.

Get rid of error messages.  Provide assistance messages.  Don’t give me a 404 message.  We KNOW we messed up, tell us how to fix it.

Human Centered Design: understand the needs to solve real problems. Then think, brainstorm and ideate.  Create. Repeat.  When does it end?  When its good enough.  Designers love it.  Engineers, Managers and MBA’s hate it.  Historically to find a problem and go straight to the solution.  We all want creativity and we want it now.  Creativity is the process of asking dozens of stupid questions to get the core of the problem.  You need freedom to do exploration with no criticism.  For productivity you need and want to get convergence.  You need Structure focus and reviews.  They are diabolically opposed.  The golden rule is they have to keep in the metes and bounds of the budget and timeline.

After going to portal and similar conferences for a while now, I am starting to see that user experience and design are finally taking a more vocal seat at the table.  A lot of that has to do with the fact that the spend controls are not in IT anymore or if they are it is made pretty clear to the IT team that design is first and tech is there to support.  In fact, many portals are taking a more service-based approached so you can store content, applications and so forth which are surfaced through a service bus or API broker and the presentation layer truly can be anything from a mobile app to any portal application.  The logic by-an-large is server side and client side is very light which help SLA’s for global and spread out work forces.  It takes time and investment but I think unlike trends of the past, this approach is here to stay and it will also start to trickle down to the SMB market.

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