Web App Masters Tour: The Experience of The Clouds

by March 23, 2011

At the Web App Masters Tour in Philadelphia, Aviva Rosenstein walked through how the Salesforce.com design team manages to keep user experience issues form being ignored in a high growth agile development organization. Here are my notes from her Designing the Experience of The Clouds presentation.

  • Salesforce.com focuses on agile, predictable, and on time delivery. People commit to things up front but as time goes on things come up and stuff starts to slip. If you can’t change the date or add more resources, you can only change scope. If you don’t get included in a release, you have to wait til the next one. How do you ensure user experience issues don’t get forgotten in these situations?
  • The Salesforce user experience team uses UX scorecards, postcard patterns, personas, and design studios to keep design an active participant in Salesforce’s agile product development process.
  • Salesforce UX team came up with a plan to send clear signals to executives about when there are usability issues. User Experience assessment is a score of the UX of a product release. How usable is the task, is it actually even useful for our users/customers. These scores allow executives to know if they should get involved to resolve issues and how severe they issues are (red, green, orange).
  • Patternforce is Salesforce’s agile approach to a pattern library. Patterns have been great at keeping the design of the Salesforce products aligned.
  • Teams can refer to the pattern library and not re-invent the wheel when designing products.
  • The first pattern library was a really heavyweight process. Over the course of six months, the team only produced 2 patterns.
  • Since then they simplified pattern documentation by creating “postcard patterns”: simple one-page patterns that are visual and quick to produce. 43 patterns in 3 months were developed using postcard patterns.
  • A postcard pattern has a title, summary, graphics and illustrations, the author, and date of last modification.
  • The list of patterns and their status is managed in a Google doc online and can be edited by anyone.
  • At Salesforce good ideas can come from customers, executives, and more. The team gathers ideas using an online tool, site visits, and working sessions.
  • Use Experience teams go out to visit users in the fields and collect information. Do research, synthesize it, and then tell stories about what they learned. To get people to be sympathetic with users –personas help.
  • Personas at Salesforce are role-based (enterprise apps). Different parts of the lifecycle have different persona sets. Personas are used to distribute information to teams building products.
  • Design studios get everyone on the team involved in working design sessions. Everyone participates by doing a lightweight design process. Present ideas in small groups and present to each other. Quickly get feedback and ideas from a lot of people through reviews.
  • Spend 15 minutes introducing use case and personas. Teams get 25 min to sketch, 25 minutes to discuss, 25 min to iterate, then share with bigger team.
  • Sketch fast, you don’t have to be an artist. Sharpie only on 11x17 pages –do not worry about fine details. Design, validate, iterate, rinse, repeat. Design team moves around the room to help if people need facilitation.