TECHED: Office, SharePoint, User experience


A great first day at TechEd 2008.


I missed the keynote. And deliberately so. The reason being: I slept in. I had a late-ish night and wanted to ensure I was fresh for my session in the afternoon. So I had a full 8 hours sleep and great breakfast. Sadly, this meant missing the keynote, so I’ll be reading other accounts of that later.


Evolution of the Office System User Experience (Andrew Coates, Reed Shaffner)

It was interesting to hear about how the Office Ribbon came about. Interesting tidbit: the first prototype for the ribbon was built over 2 days in October 2003. A full 2-3 years before the product was released. This is interesting to me because it brought home the importance of understanding the user at the very beginning of any software development process.

It was amazing to hear just how much data was collected (and continues to be collected – in the order of 6 million data items daily!) about how people use Office. And another reminder that we as developers need to assume that users don’t use the same product features (eg developers use Ctrl+V for paste, where as many people use the toolbar paste command. Crazy but true!)


Deployment and Planning best practices for SharePoint (Kathy Hughes, Steve Smith)

This started slowly but built into some good reminders for how you should plan every business project. Things like understanding what the business requirements are, what the business logic is, etc. Seems like common sense right? Why then do many projects (and I’ve done this many times) jump to implementation and then worry about the users and business needs later?

I was interested to hear more of this session, but had to leave. The room was packed (standing room only) and the (big) guy next to me was snorting and sniffing, clearing his throat and generally driving me to distraction. :-(


User experience (Shane Morris)

So I left and popped into Shane’s talk on user experience. This was good. If I had to sum up usability and and an improved user experience, it would be one of Shane’s opening remarks: make it useful! Obvious? Yes. Commonly adhered to? Not so much. Work on that and you are way ahead of most other applications available.

This was a nice follow on from Andrew and Reed’s talk earlier, when they covered the Office 2007 Ribbon development process. It was all about making the product more useful and usable. It is about feeling like you as the user are the focus.

Another interesting tip: Define the user experience, even before the requirements have been collected. Sounds weird, but the reason is this: people can work better together when they have a picture for how it looks. I’ll think further about this one, but there are other reasons to consider it eg stakeholder buy-in, scope creep control and ‘keeping it real’. It might not be the perfect approach but it certainly beats the ‘program first’ mentality that has often been the norm.


Career Development for Architects (Kevin Francis)

This was probably the most interesting session for me personally (as opposed to technically) because it went through the various ‘flavours’ of architect (eg solutions architect, enterprise architect, etc) and commented on the career paths of each. Kevin went through the skills and requirements of each (and stressed how giving up code was common amongst them all). The skills include broad knowledge of technology (but not necessarily deep knowledge in many), the technology stack, communication skills, project management skills, business and commercial skills, and governance amongst others.

I found this session fascinating and a very useful insight into the various architect functions in enterprises.


VSTO v3 Deployment (Andrew Coates, Craig Bailey)

What can I say? Andrew was fantastic.

(My demos are here and here if you are interested)



I also managed to catch up with a whole bunch of people including Eka, Rahul and Feng from Talman. My favourite conversation of the day was sitting with Mitch Denny and just listening to his thoughts on technology and especially cloud computing. That guy is just way too smart!


Can’t wait to get back there tomorrow.

Technorati Tags: TechEd 2008

Add comment

By Craig Bailey