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Jurij Burkanov

The sanity

Monday 13 February 2012 6:56:47 pm

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eZ Publish is changing heavily: the version 5 will bring us new API, Interfaces and tons of different improvements, empowering former strengths even further and delivering an amount of new features. As we all know, the more features a product has, the more sophisticated and complex (and hard to use) it becomes. What shall we do to keep eZ fast, clean and simple? How can we satisfy most of our users? How can we keep them from being harmed?

With this post I start a blog, dedicated to the design of eZ Publish, as seen from the perspective of the User Experience Designer (UxD): in hope to improve it's usability and give birth to the desireability.

"The inmates are running the asylum: why hi-tech products drive us crazy and how to restore the sanity": is the title of the book by Alan Cooper that made me rethink what I was doing for the last 15 years. Well, in this years I have coded some millions of lines code, pushed billions of pixels and vectors, wrote a respectable amount of specifications and almost got phone receiver grown into my ears while running a small team of out-sourced developers. I was successful enough at applying my front-end'er skills to a bunch of (mostly) german (and mostly) huge web-sites and communicating with my clients around the Europe.

It was all fine, but there was always some kind of unclear, imprecise inner dissatisfaction with what we were delivering to the world. It was a feeling, that was hard to evaluate and even harder to communicate. There was something wrong with design of our software: some buttons were misplaced, labels unclear, forms had two be filled twice, my time was wasted and my patience was tried - but I really did not know where to start. And then I've got my hands on this book with ridicules long and strange title. Thanks to it, I have now both the words to explain what annoys me so much and an understanding of how to get those problems fixed. Sure, all this years I was reading all kind of blogs and books on design, usability, information architecture, interfaces, typography, cognitive psychology, color theories, e.t.c. But it was Cooper's book that broke the camel's back. I didn't want anymore to apply goal-centered designTM and usability principles to the products. I wanted them to be the foundation. I want to build on them, not with them.

Now I'm here in the eZ Systems office at Herwarthstrasse in Cologne, since a couple of weeks, just got my working place organized, learning the company and looking at the mountain in front of me. I have to understand the company, I have to understand the users and I have to find the way to make eZ Publish desireable. Soon (after March, 1st) I'll be able to get my hands on personas and to start slicing and dicing the abstract idea of "UxD for eZ" down to

  • the persona's goals (to concentrate our effort on selected archetypes only), then to 
  • the generalized solutions (to let personas reach their goals while keeping other's weaknesses safe from harm), then to
  • the tasks (that personas must be able to accomplish), then to
  • the tools (to help accomplish those tasks) and then -

- to start developing a brand new eZ Publish User Interface both visually and technically.

For me it's all gonna be an incredible amount of things to learn and to test. Don't expect me to write really much in the next several weeks, because I will be learning the basics of eZ. But I promise to keep you informed about how it's going and what the state is. I will absolutely desperately need your help with evaluating the design / interface solutions, with usability testing, scripting, wording and thousands other aspects.

After the goals will be defined, I'll publish them all and everyone is invited to help us find the best solutions to let our personas reach them. Doing so, I hope to set some clear borders in which further R&D will be running - just to keep our efforts streamlined and concentrated.

Best reagards,
Jurij Burkanov 

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