Category Archives: UX

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?


What Makes Training “Good?”


What is good training? That’s almost a trick question. Which of these are true?

  1. Good training is when somebody actually learns something
  2. Good training is when somebody learns something new
  3. Good training means learning how to do something faster
  4. Good training is when the student can pass a test or certification
  5. Good training provides the student with experience

Those are all probably “true” statements, but are they right? How about this instead:

“Good training is something that makes an employee more productive to the organization”

We might even need to add in that the new productivity has a higher value than the cost of the training. If a training program costs $10,000 and the net result is that one employee saves 5 minutes a day on one task, was that a gain?

Miscellaneous thoughts on training:

  • Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
    –Benjamin Franklin
  • Typical training: If you push this button, X will happen. Better training: if you’re trying to accomplish X, here’s what you need to do
  • The best training is self training (at least for most people)
  • Two typical attitudes about training:
    1. I don’t know how to do that, I need training
    2. I bet there’s a way to do that, let me figure it out
    When a person transitions from #1 to #2, think of the possibilities! (HT to Jim LaBarr)
  • Lengthy (all day, all week) training appears to have great results, but they usually don’t last. Short, even repetitive, topic-focused training has much longer results. Consider TED talks and their 18 minute rule
  • A lot of short, single-topic, “do it yourself” training bits may work better than typical classroom
  • Classroom is still good for the dialog, and to force training to happen for those who wouldn’t otherwise have the discipline
  • Lunch-n-Learn is almost always a good thing. Most people like food
  • Good training is specific to the organization’s culture. And processes. It may focus on those processes!
  • Spend more time on the every day stuff than the once-a-year stuff. [but define the once-a-year stuff in an easy to reference KB]
  • If doing classroom training set the expectation that each person will be called on. After the question is asked, not before!
  • Good training focuses more on why than on how

Where does training end and support start? Or vice versa? Or are they deeply intertwined? What would happen if design, development, implementation, configuration, training, and support where all tightly connected with each other. Would the end-users have a better experience?

Better training reduces friction. Or …

Better training helps things go right which in turn creates better user experiences.”

Is that the same as improved productivity? Probably

Document Collaboration Solutions

DocumentCollaborationDocument Collaboration — is there a solution that really works?

Different organizations certainly have different needs in document collaboration. Here are the requirements that I think I am looking for. Please share your thoughts in the comments!

  1. Truly live updating. More than one person at a time can be editing without conflict
  2. Ability to know who said what
  3. Notification of changes by others
  4. Nice bonus would be routing & workflow, such as a way to approve edits, and just to know when somebody else made a change

Sadly, I do not know of any one product that does all these things well! What have I missed?

Microsoft Word‘s “mark revisions” feature is fantastic for seeing who has made what changes in a document. But two people working on the same document at the same time? Good luck with that!

Evernote is a great shared notepad concept, but again, you don’t want two people trying to make changes at the same time. And when edits are made, it’s not at all easy to see who made what changes.

OneNote may be a good bit better at simultaneous editing AND seeing who has done what. And finally, in recent months, it’s become a good cross-platform solution. Without watching and looking at each note, it’s hard to know that someone else updated something. Of course, for some people, there is also the “I won’t use anything from Microsoft” issue that makes this slightly less desirable.

Google Docs (or Google Drive, depending on your reference) let’s multiple people edit simultaneously and does an excellent job of avoiding conflicting edits. After the fact it’s difficult to know who made what changes, and notifications, although possible, are not obvious. There’s also just this strange thing that a lot of people don’t like Google Docs, and tend to lose them and not know how to find them again. For those who are biased toward the familiarity of Microsoft Office products, the different interface and the fewer features can be a negative

Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and other such technologies all create ways to share,? but don’t much help with the simultaneous editing, and actually tend to cause issues if two people attempt to work simultaneously.

So, what’s a person to do? Google Docs are my current best answer, although I use every one of the above for different situations.


Update, 4:45pm: Thanks @JimMichael for the tinkering with Don’t think it’s the answer yet, but like Google Docs, heading in the right direction. We shall see what happens next.


Flashback Friday: Excellence from the Ziglar Corporation


Flashback Friday: Excellence from the Ziglar Corporation

FlashbackFriday150Flashback Friday. The post below was from December 2010. A bittersweet memory of an interaction with Tom Ziglar regarding his dad, Zig Ziglar. Just days ago I had another opportunity to interact with Tom Ziglar, and of course, it was an excellent encounter. Tom, I miss your dad. And I appreciate you!

The Ziglar Organization ? Excellence (as expected)

ZigAndTomZiglar A few weeks ago I had a good reason to contact the Zig Ziglar organization, or more specifically, to contact Tom Ziglar, the CEO. Now I need to say up front, I’ve listened to Zig’s materials for years, so I had very high expectations that Tom would respond, and even that he might respond quickly. All expectations were met, and exceeded. (actually, if I expected that he would exceed my expectations, does that mean he didn’t? Hmmm… 🙂

First, a bit of background. My dad, Harold Dye, is 93. As a veteran, and a long-time military officer, he gets a lot of chances to make speeches. In recent years, however, his presentation skills haven’t been quite as sharp (again, he’s 93). Sometimes he forgets what he wants to say, or gets distracted, or even repeats himself. Nothing too surprising for his age, but it bothers him that he’s not able to give his audience the quality of talk he was able to provide in the past. My sisters and I have been trying to think of how we might help him.

Now the Ziglar part of the story. Zig just turned 84 last month. (Trivia: Zig and my dad each have November birthdays, each were born in Alabama). A couple of years ago, Zig had an unfortunate experience with a set of stairs, and he banged his head pretty hard. As a result, sometimes he forgets what he wants to say, or gets distracted, or even repeats himself. Wait, that sounds quite familiar! But Zig is still very active as a professional speaker and still draws large audiences, who pay big money, and come away very satisfied.

It occurred to me that whatever solution the Ziglar organization is using might work for my dad. So, a simple inquiry to Tom (Tom’s blog makes it very easy to contact him, and he’s quite active on Twitter as well). Now, I didn’t actually pull out a stop watch, but I know Tom responded within a couple of hours, maybe within one, and it actually might have been even faster than that. This was no form letter response. He sincerely expressed interest in my dad’s situation, explained some of his dad’s story, and how they’ve come up with a great solution. Then he went just a bit further. He said that if I had any questions, to give him a call and he included his number. I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet that Tom would answer that phone personally, on the 2nd ring.

So here is an executive, of a successful company, who was willing to spend a few minutes helping a complete stranger. He certainly lived up to one of Zig’s most well known quotes, ?You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.?

Thank you Tom, you helped me. All the best to you and your dad and your company.

The Change Pyramid

The Change Pyramid

I’m a big fan of the Arbinger Institute books Leadership and Self-Deception and The Anatomy of Peace

The Change PyramidOne of the concepts from Anatomy of Peace is called the Change Pyramid. Real simply, the idea is to build systems and processes (or training) that help people do the right things, rather than complaining when they do the wrong things.


90% Make it easy to do the right things (Easy, Enjoyable, Effective)
10% correcting wrong things

?Correction rarely works with people.? (paraphrase) But it?s so natural to try! This may be my big aha from this book. And a blinding flash of the obvious! The problem of dealing with autonomous people. ?Helping things to go right.?

I?m liking this concept of helping people to have things go right. I?m have this ?Yes, right, that?s the answer? feeling deep inside. Exciting. And I also don?t think I know how to do that, which is frustrating, but I also think I?ve experienced it, which is exciting again. Wow, that?s a lot of challenge and contradiction! OK, I?m looking forward to seeing where this goes?

It’s different, but I sure think it’s related to Making things Natural. Easy? Probably not. Worth it? Absolutely! Isn’t this a core concept of both User Interface and Training?


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?

Flashback Friday: Four Dreaded Words

FlashbackFriday150Flashback Friday. This post on meetings is from June 19, 2007.



Four Dreaded Words

“I thought we decided”

FourdreadedwordsIf you’ve visited me in the past few years, you’ve seen this sign on my door.? We’re constantly looking at how to do meetings better, but this was one of our motivators.? We had so many meetings where the first segment of each was a rehash of the previous meting, trying to remember what decisions were made.

What’s the right answer for documenting meeting decisions, action items, information disseminated, etc.?? I don’t know, but we’ve sure found a lot of wrong answers 🙁

My Love/Hate of Video

Is this just an age thing? Seems there is such a demand and audience for video content. Video on your phone, video on web sites, etc. OK, I’m not anti-video per se, but video demands a big chunk of time before I can tell if it’s interesting. Video just can’t be skimmed! VideoYou want to make video better? Give me a little text around it that tells me what I’m going to see. Then, within the first few (very few) seconds of the video itself, convince me it’s worth it.

And yet, I know, there is great stuff I’m missing. I need a “this is worth it” pre-filter. Got one?

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?