Category Archives: UA

The Perfect ChMS Add-On


I’ve been looking to help a few churches with the “perfect” Church Management tool add-on.

Over and over, churches need a better, or easier, or friendlier, or find your own phrase that fits, solution for queries and selections.

Most churches, occasionally, need to do some wild and crazy query of their database. Something like “find all men, over age 30, who have kids, who have attended the missions class, who have not been on a mission trip, and are not part of the special services events team.” When we use words, that sort of makes sense. But in most of the ChMS products, it’s not so easy. Some products let you get under the covers and use SQL statements, so then you have joins and includes and Boolean stuff, but how many regular church staff can work through that?!

The software developers don’t have a chance of pre-developing this type of query because it is, totally ad-hoc. And once you get those results, undoubtedly you’ll discover another condition you want to add.

Maybe there’s another answer. What if we used a person, instead of software? What if we had people at these churches, or even in consulting roles, who would do these queries for you. You explain in everyday language, and these people do the special work to accomplish the task. Somebody who does this every day is a lot more likely to get it right than the typical staff member who only attempts this once or twice a year.

Instead of fixing the software, let’s try using a people resource. Too easy?

Do you know any people like this?


Making Things Natural

JobsMovieFrom the Jobs movie.

I think you believe that the computer, or the Walkman, or whatever it may be, should be a natural extension of the individual, and it’s that mission, that devotion to quality
— Jony Ive (the movie characters, perhaps not the real one)

This quote, whether it’s really from Jony Ive or not, still gets to me every time I read it.  Isn’t this a calling for all product designers, including software designers and especially user interface designers?

Dropbox Alternatives – Why?

Recently, a few Church IT people in the Atlanta area had a local roundtable. One of the discussion topics was Dropbox alternatives. What we quickly discovered was that people had lots of different reasons for considering alternatives!

DropboxWhy do people like Dropbox? Quite simply, it works and it’s easy to use. If you haven’t read this article from a few years back, written by a competitor, it’s worth your time.  Some 20/20 Hindsight: Excellent lessons from Syncplicity vs. DropBox!

So, given that it’s easy and it works, what are the issues that make people want to change? This is not the exact list from the CITRT conversation, it’s just a list for discussion.

  • Higher security than Dropbox. This one comes up a lot. People have a concern about Dropbox security
  • Integration with file server files and directories
  • Primary on-site storage, with replication to cloud [vs. the other way around]
  • True collaboration: multiple people working on same data item simultaneously
  • Remote disconnect of sharing (i.e., lost BYOD device)
  • Confusion when private accounts and corporate accounts are brought together
  • Better management of backups and archiving; protection from accidental deletion

There are probably just as many things that people want to keep from Dropbox, including:

  • “hands off” connect, disconnect, reconnect, whenever connectivity is available
  • Ease of sharing folders and files. Easy to add sharing, easy to remove
  • Low resources on the client
  • Access from any device, any type of device [subject to security credentials]
  • A cheap backup solution — replicate your files across multiple devices easily, plus the cloud storage
  • Low cost (or free) for the needs of many users

What are YOUR reasons for wanting to change? What have you found that meets your needs?

Alternate question: how much of this need is a problem of users, or data usage, rather than of technology? If good security practices were followed, would most of the problems go away?

User Advocate

User200The terms User Advocate and User Advocacy have been on my mind these last few weeks. On a whim, I just did a LinkedIn search and came up with over 1000 people who have that as a key phrase in their profiles. There are real people who are identifying themselves as User Advocates! Companies are using these phrases. Companies have job openings with that title!

How often are IT people just the opposite of User Advocates? How often have I been the “Network Nazi” and done just the opposite of helping users? (“Lots” would be a good answer) “Sins of the past.” Can you forgive me?

Flashback Friday: Trusted, Friendly, Used

FlashbackFriday150Flashback Friday. This post first appeared July 23, 2007. Thinking about how much this coincides with A Powerful User Experience.

Revisiting the “Software Acceptance Triangle”

Back in Nov 2005, I posted about key needs of a ChMS.  At that time, I used the terms Trusted, Used, and Easy.

Well, “Easy” wasn’t the right word.  A lot of products miss the “easy” description, but are still very usable.  Products need to be appropriate to what’s expected.  What’s a better word?  After tinkering with intuitive, simple, understandable, discoverable, natural, and probably other words, Stephen Wareham through out the word “familiar” on ChMS discuss.  I’m still not sure that’s a perfect word, but I like it.  However, I’m going to use “friendly” until something else comes along.  If you like “familiar” better, I’m find with that!

Triangle So, now the three terms are 1) Friendly, 2) Trusted, and 3) Used.  I don’t know how many times I’ve drawn a triangle on a white-board explaining the relationship of these three, and started calling it the “Iron Triangle.”  Well… other people have used that term, so once again, I needed something else.  For now, I’m going with the “software acceptance triangle.”  Yeah…probably not going to win any marketing awards for that name!  (I’m open for suggestions)

The concept of this triangle remains the same: if you don’t have all three sides, you will probably have an acceptance problem (at best), or possibly a complete failure of adoption.

Now, the question: does one side need to come first?  And, more to think about, is software acceptance a triangle, or are there more than three parts?

Passwords or Pass-Phrases?

Revisiting password ideas, there is a lot of suggestion that passwords are dead, old fashioned, going away, or just don’t work. Soon we’ll have bio devices that take their place and are hack proof? OK, let me know when that happens! Especially if they are common-place and affordable (and actually work).

PassPhraseMany people have moved to the idea of pass-phrases. I’m for that! Sort of fits the original ideas. Just don’t forget the basics!

One strong suggestion in pass-phrases: have at least one non-dictionary word. Pass phrases made from a small number of dictionary words are actually slightly more prone to automated attacks than traditional passwords. Or, use our earlier ideas of mixing in a a number that triggers a sequence of special characters. And even though a pass phrase meets the longer is better requirement, you still want to be unique for each site.

Pass-phrases that are mixed case, have numbers, or special characters, are better than the ones that don’t. Arguable: leave the spaces out and use mixed case to make the password better. Example: 9AugustIsMyBirthday (which I still think is better than MyBirthdayIsAugust9 although since I’ve now published my birthday, neither is a good phrase!)

I use passwords AND pass-phrases. Ahead, pass-phrases will become my standard, I do believe, if we don’t find a trustworthy and affordable biometric solution.

Last Updated: 9/30/2014
All articles in this series on Passwords:



User Advocacy, or Action Transformation Methodology

Action Transformation Methodology. Isn’t Transformation what we want when it comes to equipping staff? (Isn’t it sort of the goal in almost everything in life?) Action Transformation Methodology is not a term I came up with. In searching out training concepts I stumbled upon this phrase on the site of Sherry Bevan Consulting, and instantly liked it. Legal Service Desk Consulting — now that’s a field quite foreign to me, not to mention that the site is in the UK. Still, interesting overlap with training, learning, user experience, and lots of other phrases that I’m trying to condense into one concept.

ButterflyHere’s my “batch of words,” that apply to that broad area of helping people get stuff done (more enjoyably):
Instructional Design, User Training, User Experience, User Interface, Software Design, “Trusted, Friendly, Used,” “Easy, Enjoyable, Effective,” “natural extension of the individual,” User Advocacy, “Training vs. Learning vs. Using,” Proficiency, Corporate Learning, User Engagement, Employee Engagement, Skill Transfer, Knowledge Transfer, Simplify, Clarify, Discovery, Involve*, and finally, the Escalator idea.

  • Regarding “Involve,” here’s a quote that speaks well to the idea:

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
–Benjamin Franklin

 I’m still looking forward to that day when products, especially software, will be so intuitive, so natural, that training will become a lost word (somehow, I don’t think 2014 will be that year). Until that happens, how do we improve the user engagement process? Action Transformation sure seems like a nice phrase. Got a better one?

Now, what’s a job title that goes with that? User Advocate sure comes to mind.


User Enablement

Think about something you could do for your users (Staff, Employees, even friends and family). Something that is there for them when they want it. Something that is easy to interact with, without having to wait. And something where you can tell your progress instantly, without any effort. How would you like something like that as a learning model?

Well, darn, I don’t have that solution. But isn’t that the sort of thing we want to provide for others, through training and experience?

  1. Ready for you whenever you are ready
  2. Easy to engage with (what’s more frustrating that needing to be trained on how to be trained?!)
  3. Clear progress, moment by moment

EscalatorThis post is inspired by a recent post by Seth Godin titled Escalators, elevators and the ferry. Yes, I’m going way off his original topic but the application jumped out at me. We want learning to be more like escalators. And yes, I know, some people don’t like escalators. OK, it’s not a perfect analogy.

Start with Culture

CultureBusThis post is inspired by a recent conversation with Chris Rivers of Culture Bus.

If you know me, you know that I’ve long thought helping a new employee get a good start is one of the most important things an employer can do. Hence, orientation ideas that empower on day one. Clearly, orientation will go better when you’ve made a great hire, but the hiring process is not really the starting point. A key point of great hiring is to find someone who fits the organization of your culture.

Every organization has a culture. The surprise is that not all organizations know what their culture is! Sometimes culture needs to be developed. Sometimes it even needs to change! (That’s not likely easy) Understand your culture as a starting point to driving your vision. If you need some help with that, you might want to talk to Chris.


Training vs. User Experience, Part 2

ThinkingContinuing from the previous post, still just thinking out loud…

Maybe training isn’t the real issue. After all, most training fails! Designers try their best. Developers try their best. Trainers try their best. So do users. But something isn’t working. What if we went a slightly different route that doesn’t focus on any person or team in that process, but instead focuses on the final outcome. For the moment I’m picking the term User Advocate. What if ALL of us where User Advocates for the end user. Are we all working toward things that are those natural extensions of the individual?

User Advocate? How does that sound? If designers, developers, trainers,  implementers, and all the rest of us, were really advocates for the users, where might we end up?