Exclusive Interview: Donna Spencer, Enterprise Systems Expert

April 20, 2009

Editor’s Note: Another speaker for what looks like a stellar conference agreed to an interview with Janus Boye. As you know, the Boye 09 Conference in Philadelphia takes place the first week in May 2009, May 5 to May 7, 2009, to be precise. Attendees can choose from a number of special interest tracks. These include a range of topics; including strategy and governance, Intranet, Web content management, SharePoint, user experience, and eHealth. Click here for more conference information. Janus Boye spoke with Donna Spencer on April 16, 2009.

Ms. Spencer is a freelance information architect, interaction designer and writer. She plans how to present the things you see on your computer screen, so that they’re easy to understand, engaging and compelling: Things like the navigation, forms, categories and words on intranets, websites, web applications and business systems.

The full text of the interview appears below.

Why is it so hard for organizations to get a grip on user experience design?

I don’t know that this is necessarily true. There are lots of organizations creating awesome user experiences. Of course, there are a lot who aren’t creating great experiences, but it isn’t because they can’t get a grip on user experience, it is because they care more about themselves than about their customers. If they really cared about their customers they’d do stuff to make their experiences great – and that’s possible without even knowing anything formal about user experience. But because they don’t care about their customers, they will fail, as they should…

Is content or visual design most important to the user experience?

Content (or functionality) is ultimately what people visit a website, intranet or application for. So it’s really, really important to get that right. If the core of the product is bad, it isn’t going to work.

But the visual design is often the part that helps people to get to the content. If the layout is poor, the colours and contrast awful and the site looks like it was designed in 1995, that’s going to stop people from even trying.

So both are important, though if I ever had to choose, I’d go for great content.

Is your book on card sorting really going to be released in 2009?

Yes, by the time the conference is on, there should be real, printed books. 150-odd pages of card sorting goodness. I hear that it should be out around 28 April. Really. I promise.

Does Facebook actually offer a better user experience after the redesign?

That’s a really interesting question. I can only speak for myself, but the thing that struck me about the redesign is that all of a sudden Facebook feels like a different beast. It used to be a site where friends were, but also where there were events, and groups and silly apps. Now it just feels like twitter that you can reply to. It feels like they have done a complete turn-around on who they actually are.

So for me the experience is worse. I can get a better idea of what my friends are doing, but I do that via twitter. Now it’s much harder for me to experience groups, events and all the other things we used to do there. I’m definitely using it less.

Why are you speaking at a Philadelphia web conference organized by a company based in Denmark?

Because they rock! But really, their core business overlaps a lot with what I do. I’m interested in the content the conference offers and I think my experience offers a lot to the attendees. Plus I’ve never been to Philly, and travelling to new places is a wonderful learning experience.


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