As organizations struggle to provide users with meaningful solutions to improve daily work, user adoption has become a big area of focus. In many cases, the adoption issue has little or nothing to do with the technology and really comes down to the culture, the people and the end goal.
To build adoptable solutions, you must first understand your end goals and build a path to reach them. Having said that, SharePoint still has some great features that allow us to take small steps towards easy to use sites, which in most cases are the ones most easily adopted. Don't take these suggestions as the only path to adoptable solutions, merely additional tools for your toolbox.
By taking the time to incorporate some of the small items below into your solutions you will help your users to easily navigate, integrate and utilize your solutions. Often times as people build solutions they forget or overlook the smallest things — which can have a large impact.
Tip 1: Build Meaningful Navigation
The first thing to tackle is Meaningful Navigation. To be able to do this within your solution, you need to be able to answer the following questions:
- Who is using the solution?
- What do they need to do within the solution?
Once you answer these questions you can begin to focus on more specific use cases. One of the best things to do is create a set of use cases for your solution that focuses on the types of users within your solution and the common tasks they will be completing. When you've mapped this out, you can begin to map the tools available to fit your needs.
After determining which tools you'll use to build out a meaningful navigation, you can revisit the test cases and see if your solution provides a way for users to easily and quickly complete their expected scenarios without feeling overwhelmed or lost. This step will make sure that the simple things weren’t overlooked in the development of the solution.
Tip 2: Create a Personal Experience for Your Users
Users love getting relevant information and data. People don’t want to have to dig around and filter through noise to find what they need. They want solutions to help them identify what should matter to them and how it relates to them. By incorporating personalization elements into solutions we can help our users find relevant data quickly. They will be more engaged with the solution as a result and more likely to want to use it. A few key features in SharePoint can be used to provide personalization with your solutions including Audiences, filtered views and functional web parts.
Tip 3: Drive Process and Automation of Common Tasks with SharePoint Workflows
Whenever you can help with automation, users will become more engaged with your solution. There are many ways to do this and a few different approaches. One of the common approaches is using SharePoint as a tool to automate business process through workflows. This can remove the required human element and allow for the solution to route things through the process. You can also look at it as a way to provide automated announcements, notifications and reminders. These small changes provide multiple entry points for your users and remind them that they can be using the solution in more effective ways.
Tip 4: Design Your Site to Encourage Social Interaction
Adding social elements to your site is another way to encourage interaction and to drive usability. People by nature are social creatures who constantly interact with the world around them. Sometimes this involves technology.
Accepting that social is a huge part of the industry, we should be looking for ways to incorporate it in our solutions. SharePoint has a few features that can help as we look for ways to add this social level. Additional tools will be made available over time, allowing for an even richer integration between new social features and existing Office applications.
Tip 5: Utilize Existing Content and Apps within Your Solutions
Don't forget the solutions that already exist, take advantage of the App store. Why invest in the sweat and tears required to build something new, then go through usability testing if you can buy it from the store? While there might not be an app that fits your exact need, checking here should be your first stop — work on making the wheel better, not rebuilding it. Of course if you need a bucket you can’t go to a store a buy a wheel and expect to get the same results.
Tip 6: Take Advantage of Office Integration with SharePoint
The final tip to focus on is the integration points between the solutions we're building and the applications (such as Outlook, Word and Excel) people work with on a daily basis. The more the solution can integrate between these applications, the more usable they will be. In many cases, this can come down to training people about the integration between the applications.
These are just a few small steps to help make your site more usable and drive adoption. There are many more ways to accomplish this and more tips that could be added to this list. The important thing to remember is to keep adding new tips and tricks to your set of tools that you pull from every time you build a new solution within SharePoint. And continue to learn about your users as well. Users are also constantly developing and learning, so this learning path can be a shared one.
About the Author
Jennifer Mason is a SharePoint Server MVP that has spent the last several years providing consulting services around SharePoint Technologies. She is currently working with the team at Rackspace Hosting. Her focus has been on strategy, planning, governance and best practices for implementing business solutions using SharePoint Technologies. She is the author of “Microsoft SharePoint 2010: Creating and Implementing Real World Projects”, a resource for no-code solutions for SharePoint.
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