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Design, Intranet, Rants

Jedi mind trick web design

I’m so stupid. After being underwhelmed (not even whelmed) by the design concept for our new intranet (the look n feel) I allowed the designer to tell me it was fresh, clean and modern. That it was what our people needed.

I thought it was dull. I tried to say I was looking for a richer experience, but I was told that we need to be careful not to ‘jolt’ the user.

Well, my CIO wants something that is more fun, more modern and y’know, richer.

I knew the design wasn’t good enough, but the designer (who is very well respected, well paid and quite quite brilliant) lectured me on usability, user expectations, change management, bottom-up design, parametric taxonomy and then, then, ‘Gestalt’ design ideals.

I broke at Gestalt. The design we were staring at was not Gestalt; I know a good ‘stalt when I see one. I called the designer out and lectured back on holistic design in comparison to the disjointed design in front of us. I cannot stand ‘bullshit bingo’ where business people flood conversation with buzz words.

But it was all academic; I knew the design was dull but I said ‘thank you’ all the same. Now the feedback is in (I’ve taken the design screenshots to my user group and to my stakeholders) and while everyone is pleased to see it, few people are dancing on tables of orchestrating fireworks to spell out my name (this is how I routinely measure success).

I allowed myself to be brow beaten by well paid consultants, all because deep down I fear that I’m a difficult person to work with. “No”, you say, “you don’t mean that Wedge”, but I do indeed fear that I’m a drama queen; and so I spend my office hours reeling in my emotional nature and holding my words back, for fear that people suspect I’m a tad OTT. I cultivate a mien of gravitas; I have the accoutrements and trappings of seniority – the suits, the shirts, the expensive hand crocheted ties. But somehow people still perceive me as the office junior. I guess I’m trying too hard. I should just be myself. But I’m a snob, so that’s not a good idea.

But I digest; I was talking about my utter failure to confront the bare-faced bleakness of this draft  intranet design. So, I allowed myself to be browbeaten into accepting a first rate dull intranet design by a Jedi consultant. I take full responsibility; but gods know how I’m going to engage and enthuse the designer to start again.

[Wedge]

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About Wedge

I’m Wedge, and this is my website! I’ve worked within internal communications since 2004, managing intranets and digital comms. Now I’m a freelance comms and intranet specialist - I help organisations plan and improve their intranets. I work with other agencies, and write a lot of blog and magazine articles. I founded the Intranet Now conference. You can catch up with me on Twitter - I’m @Wedge.

5 thoughts on “Jedi mind trick web design

  • Firstly, you are many things Wedge, but stupid certainly isn’t one them. It feels to me that this designer person has failed to listen to you and failed to respect your knowledge of what is needed, and ultimately failed in their design task as a result.

    Don’t be too hard on yourself for going along with it – it sounds as though you did try to steer things in a different direction but were ignored, and it’s not fair for the onus of this to fall on you. You shouldn’t have to ‘fight’ the designer to get what you want. It’s a designer’s job to hear you and act accordingly.

    The designer may very well be highly respected and well paid, but I would question their ‘brilliance’ in light of the fact that their client is not happy. They have failed. You haven’t.

    I think you’re right; you really *should* just be yourself. So what if some people find you a tad difficult at times – you have *several* areas of expertise and experience that deserve respect and admiration. I worry about you holding in so much of your self on a daily basis. Not everyone’s gonna like you Wedge – no matter *who* you try to be, so you may just as well be yourself.

    I admire you for taking responsibility for this failing, but I question the fairness of it. I hope the designer recognises that they are being paid to do a job, and that includes their enthusiasm and engagement – you really shouldn’t have to motivate them.

    I’m not just saying these thing because you’re my friend; they are my objective opinions.

    Breathe. Move on. Be yourself: be wonderful.

  • I expect our intranet design to appeal visually, interactively (that is, to entice and simplify interaction), and emotionally.

    Too often, only the visual aspect of design is considered.

    All three aspects are important. If the design doesn’t evoke an emotional response, if it doesn’t grab you in the gut and pull you in, then we’ve failed.

    Trust your gut, dear Wedge.

  • Mr. Amurgis!

    I have a quote from you on my wall, and I start many an intranet document with it:

    “An intranet is not something just to look at; its advantage over print is that you can instantly interact with an intranet. Good design, however, can serve as a lubricant to interaction – and bad design can introduce friction.”

    Thank you very much for your reminder about the aspects of design. I will reflect, regroup and return to the challenge tomorrow.

    Ms. Jules!

    Thank you too; I’m OK, I really am. I’m just kicking myself for respecting the designer’s stronger knowledge but not gaining the designer’s respect for mine. I don’t know everyone in our large company, but as I get *all* the feedback about our current (poor) intranet, I do know some of the things our people want and need.

    Now that the CIO and Internal Comms agree that we should be more cutting edge, I feel I can direct the design to be more engaging, and not just practical. Could be a long week though!

  • Jules is absolutely correct. It’s not your role to motivate an external agency/designer. Your role is to provide them with requirements and their job is to provide a solution that demonstrably meets your company’s needs. If they haven’t done that then they’ve failed. You haven’t.

    A good intranet design should provide its users with simple access to what they’re trying to do whilst also engaging them, but not at the expense of poor design. Good, even great, design entices people to want to get involved. I’m also a firm believer that an intranet should evoke the flavour or feel of the parent company, whilst not necessarily replicating the brand in it’s entirity, or copying the external internet. It should be part of the same family.

    We’re in the process of re-designing our intranet homepage and top level landing pages, and we’re incorporating elements of what we deliver externally, but it probably won’t be a duplicate of our internet site, even though some stakeholders are of the view that it should be.

    The consultant should either refund their fee or do the job again, and this time make sure they demonstrate that they’ve listened, and more importantly heard, what you’ve asked for. They don’t have to use, or manage, the result on a daily basis.

    Designers and consultants bring a useful external perspective, but it shouldn’t be about them; it should be squarely about meeting the business’ requirements.

    If they haven’t done this don’t pay them.

    If you’re happy to send me the design you’re not happy about, I’d be willing to make some comments, if you’d be comfortable to have another intranet managers view?

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