Integrating your company's user experience strategy with a vended product

10 Feb 2005 - 5:28pm
9 years ago
11 replies
938 reads
FelcanSmith, Mark
2004

It's my question to the group:
How do you integrate your company's user experience strategy with
vended products (out of the box solutions)?

Anyone have an answer to this?

I feel like I have several ways to go about this, but I'm not fully
involved in the project (lack of resources), they may be looking to
bring in outside UX resources to supplement (but not right now) plus
our UX strategy is not well documented.

I've been asked to provide some guidelines on where to draw the line
on incorporating the company's UX strategy into the vended product
we're going to (most likely) purchase (read: budget constraints on
modifications to the base system).

I've talked about
- consistency in the brand
- visual design
- interactions / expected behaviors from one package(app) to another
- how well does the system provide assistive capabilities that match
our existing systems (error prevention and information messaging)
- consistency in offering help, the quality and contextual
availability of it
-

Are there examples out there that I may draw upon to help frame this
out?

Thanks,
Mark

Comments

10 Feb 2005 - 5:38pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Mark, I'm having trouble understanding your question.
Is the vended product a 3rd party product that you are OEMing along side
your own existing products?

I'm not sure what you mean by "vended"? Not familiar w/ the use of the term
like this.

-- dave

On 2/10/05 5:28 PM, "FelcanSmith, Mark" <mfelc at allstate.com> wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> It's my question to the group:
> How do you integrate your company's user experience strategy with
> vended products (out of the box solutions)?
>
> Anyone have an answer to this?
>
> I feel like I have several ways to go about this, but I'm not fully
> involved in the project (lack of resources), they may be looking to
> bring in outside UX resources to supplement (but not right now) plus
> our UX strategy is not well documented.
>
> I've been asked to provide some guidelines on where to draw the line
> on incorporating the company's UX strategy into the vended product
> we're going to (most likely) purchase (read: budget constraints on
> modifications to the base system).
>
> I've talked about
> - consistency in the brand
> - visual design
> - interactions / expected behaviors from one package(app) to another
> - how well does the system provide assistive capabilities that match
> our existing systems (error prevention and information messaging)
> - consistency in offering help, the quality and contextual
> availability of it
> -
>
> Are there examples out there that I may draw upon to help frame this
> out?
>
> Thanks,
> Mark
> _______________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Group!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixdg.org
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://discuss.ixdg.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixdg.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixdg.org
> Home ....................... http://ixdg.org/

10 Feb 2005 - 5:48pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

FelcanSmith, Mark wrote:

> It's my question to the group:
> How do you integrate your company's user experience strategy with
> vended products (out of the box solutions)?

This is a *huge* problem that we could spend months discussing, but I
think your answer basically lies in how much tolerance your company has
for lack of control at the UX level. And that answer tends to be one
that designers have a hard time accepting as most companies have a high
tolerance for giving up that UX control to gain functionality/features
they didn't have.

At a minimum, vended solutions tend to only offer a make-over with
regards to UX integration. You can change the colors and add a logo,
maybe swap in a new icon set, but that tends to be it. Outside of that,
it really becomes a design pain point when you look at deeper
interaction details, which also has an effect on the end-user to varying
degrees. If you are lucky, the developers built their solution with an
eye towards some modularity, so you can push pieces around like lego
blocks and fit them into various places in your own product. If you are
really lucky, you're just acquiring an engine with robust APIs that
allow you to simply build whatever front end you need on top of it.

The real answer tends to be: You want full control over the UX and need
to do whatever it takes to get a product that has been designed
cohesively. When you acquire vended solutions, you tend to forsake that
approach and cohesiveness at the outset for the convenience of adding
technology that has already been built. You give that control to the
vended solution and how well they have handled the problem.

Not quite an answer to your question I know, but this particular issue
tends to be you just deal with the circumstance as best as possible as a
designer, and aim to help your business people acquire vended solutions
that are more akin to engine libraries with robust APIs so you can build
whatever UX on top of it.

I've been involved with everything from integrating chart/data software
inside enterprise apps to buying an entire product and forcing an
overhaul of the product to fit into the current product line. I
recommend drinking a lot of wine on any project that requires UX
integration with outside or acquired technology. It eases the suffering. 8^)

Andrei

11 Feb 2005 - 10:15am
Greg Petroff
2004

In my environment we have similar issues. We are trying to place a
framework of UCD process within the deployment of technology in a heavily
tech oriented IT shop. This environment builds many of its own tools
without really understanding the end user and also uses many vendor tools
with out implementing them successfully toward the user. Some tools
especially in the IT space like monitoring tools or incident management
tools are designed to be "customized" to the environment. Educating the
culture that there are good ways to do this and bad ways to do this is a
challenge. Implementing Remedy for instance within an environment is an IA
and IxD exercise if you want to do it well and not make users suffer.

Our current strategy is to use UCD process to design the "magic wand
interface", no constraints, no technology issues and then evaluate how that
solution could be met by in-house development, buying cots software and
implementing it wisely or some hybrid of both. In the IT space it is
becoming easier to develop "custom solutions" because the demands of the
market for interoperability between vendor solutions are driving vendors to
use xml as data transport mechanism which we can pick off into our own
applications if we want to build a very specific user interface.

In a heavily requirements driven organization like SIAC we are having an
uphill battle selling UCD but are starting to get some traction with the
idea that the vendor solutions for managing the "content" are providing
organizational efficiencies (top down) while the UCD process is providing
better user experience = better user efficiency (bottom up).

The evaluation of the make versus buy argument, and the modify versus "use
as is", are what I would call "design strategy" decisions that are
informed by lots of criteria besides the user experience but are best made
if the users goals are well understood and advocated as part of the
process.

Gregory Petroff
desk 212 383 4092
mobile 646 387 2841

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11 Feb 2005 - 3:42pm
FelcanSmith, Mark
2004

Dave, I was referring to a 3rd party app, which we'll be integrating
with our existing product suite. Hopefully Andrei's response also helped
give better examples of what I was referring to w/ a vended product.

-Mark

-----Original Message-----
From: David Heller [mailto:dave at ixdg.org]
Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2005 4:38 PM
To: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Integrating your company's user
experiencestrategy with a vended product

Mark, I'm having trouble understanding your question.
Is the vended product a 3rd party product that you are OEMing along side
your own existing products?

I'm not sure what you mean by "vended"? Not familiar w/ the use of the
term
like this.

-- dave

On 2/10/05 5:28 PM, "FelcanSmith, Mark" <mfelc at allstate.com> wrote:

> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]
>
> It's my question to the group:
> How do you integrate your company's user experience strategy with
> vended products (out of the box solutions)?
>
> Anyone have an answer to this?
>
> I feel like I have several ways to go about this, but I'm not fully
> involved in the project (lack of resources), they may be looking to
> bring in outside UX resources to supplement (but not right now) plus
> our UX strategy is not well documented.
>
> I've been asked to provide some guidelines on where to draw the line
> on incorporating the company's UX strategy into the vended product
> we're going to (most likely) purchase (read: budget constraints on
> modifications to the base system).
>
> I've talked about
> - consistency in the brand
> - visual design
> - interactions / expected behaviors from one package(app) to another
> - how well does the system provide assistive capabilities that match
> our existing systems (error prevention and information messaging)
> - consistency in offering help, the quality and contextual
> availability of it
> -
>
> Are there examples out there that I may draw upon to help frame this
> out?
>
> Thanks,
> Mark
> _______________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Group!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixdg.org
> (Un)Subscription Options ... http://discuss.ixdg.org/
> Announcements List ......... http://subscribe-announce.ixdg.org/
> Questions .................. lists at ixdg.org
> Home ....................... http://ixdg.org/

11 Feb 2005 - 3:53pm
FelcanSmith, Mark
2004

Andrei you're absolutely right in that it is up to the company and their tolerance around lack of control. You helped me frame out in my mind a course that I can pursue, even though we don't have our strategy well-defined, at least on paper...yet.

By putting effort into documenting our strategy at the next level, more formalization around the structure and direction, I can use that as a benchmark when looking at the various products we're looking to pull in-house. It's been my experience that few of the product manufacturers have any substantial design specs around usability studies, or rationale that supports their information and interaction design decisions. But even so, with having a better documented UX strategy as the benchmark, I can better enable myself and others (remember the resource constraint) to make informed decisions. Knowing what trade-offs your willing to make.

Looking towards the future, I agree with the recommendations to look at products where the functionality is componentized or otherwise not embedded or tightly integrated w/ the presentation layer. That would afford us more opportunities to build the customized front-ends that would better fit with out internal strategy.

Any recommendations for good vino? ;)

-Mark

-----Original Message-----
From: Andrei Herasimchuk [mailto:andrei at designbyfire.com]
Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2005 4:49 PM
Cc: discuss at interactiondesigners.com
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Integrating your company's user experience
strategywith a vended product

FelcanSmith, Mark wrote:

> It's my question to the group:
> How do you integrate your company's user experience strategy with
> vended products (out of the box solutions)?

This is a *huge* problem that we could spend months discussing, but I
think your answer basically lies in how much tolerance your company has
for lack of control at the UX level. And that answer tends to be one
that designers have a hard time accepting as most companies have a high
tolerance for giving up that UX control to gain functionality/features
they didn't have.

At a minimum, vended solutions tend to only offer a make-over with
regards to UX integration. You can change the colors and add a logo,
maybe swap in a new icon set, but that tends to be it. Outside of that,
it really becomes a design pain point when you look at deeper
interaction details, which also has an effect on the end-user to varying
degrees. If you are lucky, the developers built their solution with an
eye towards some modularity, so you can push pieces around like lego
blocks and fit them into various places in your own product. If you are
really lucky, you're just acquiring an engine with robust APIs that
allow you to simply build whatever front end you need on top of it.

The real answer tends to be: You want full control over the UX and need
to do whatever it takes to get a product that has been designed
cohesively. When you acquire vended solutions, you tend to forsake that
approach and cohesiveness at the outset for the convenience of adding
technology that has already been built. You give that control to the
vended solution and how well they have handled the problem.

Not quite an answer to your question I know, but this particular issue
tends to be you just deal with the circumstance as best as possible as a
designer, and aim to help your business people acquire vended solutions
that are more akin to engine libraries with robust APIs so you can build
whatever UX on top of it.

I've been involved with everything from integrating chart/data software
inside enterprise apps to buying an entire product and forcing an
overhaul of the product to fit into the current product line. I
recommend drinking a lot of wine on any project that requires UX
integration with outside or acquired technology. It eases the suffering. 8^)

Andrei

11 Feb 2005 - 4:33pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

FelcanSmith, Mark wrote:

> Any recommendations for good vino? ;)

I tend to favor Ridge or Silveroak.

http://www.silveroak.com/
http://www.ridgewine.com/

8^)

By the way, you also made a great point that you as the designer need to
better educate or find ways to inform others in your company the things
you'd like to see in a vended solution from a UX point of view. You
definitely need to help everyone make informed decisions. I kind of
spoke around that point, but am glad you said it more directly.

Andrei

11 Feb 2005 - 4:42pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Ok, I asked this before and got ignored ...
What the heck is a "vended" solution?

-- dave

11 Feb 2005 - 5:02pm
FelcanSmith, Mark
2004

Heller, Dave wrote:

> Ok, I asked this before and got ignored ...
> What the heck is a "vended" solution?

> -- dave

Dave, didn't you see my earlier response? Didn't mean for you to take it
as ignoring you.

This is from my perspective, with an eye on presentation design,
usability, and user experience:

Vended solutions are those that are intended (by the manufacturer - and
too often by the business purchasing the solution) to be implemented as
the manufacturer has designed it (again this is presentation layer
design - not code architecture).

The example I was speaking of is for a customer service app, the vendor
has a version that comes "as is" (- any updates/changes to it will cost
extra dollars or are not supported by the vendor because you'll be
branching from their base code). That is they'll try to convince you
that other customers have taken it as-is and have "no problems" with it.
My questions with this type of pitch is that I can never get anyone from
the vendor side to share w/ me their usability studies, interaction
diagrams or information design specs.

I'm starting to describe some pain points of vended packages and trying
to work with them instead of just answering what a vended package
is...sorry.

Vended can be as simple as a shrink-wrapped software app, to Siebel or
Salesforce.com integrating w/ your CRM package.

Hope that helps.

-Mark

11 Feb 2005 - 5:12pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Thanx for the explanation but ...

> Vended solutions are those that are intended (by the manufacturer - and
> too often by the business purchasing the solution) to be implemented as
> the manufacturer has designed it (again this is presentation layer
> design - not code architecture).

> Vended can be as simple as a shrink-wrapped software app, to Siebel or
> Salesforce.com integrating w/ your CRM package.

These are not the same think. Siebel is never used "as is" and is barely
ever "shrinked-wrapped" and salesforce.com is an ASP and by design is for
more than one user type to use.

So I'm totally confused.

If I get the definition in the first paragraph.
iTunes is a vended application. It has a single use. Organize and listen to
music and even then, I might think of those as very different tasks. Some
people use iTunes for a desktop listening tool, some just to orgnize their
iPods, but one doesn't interfere with the other.

Siebel on the other hand is customized at the code level for almost every
enterprise installation and salesforce.com is also highly configurable
depending on the market that is using it and the size of the client and many
other variables.

I think if you have better definition and juxtaposition then this discussion
might be more useful (at least to me); otherwise it feels very ephemeral and
not realistic.

Mind you I've been heavily involved in the enterprise space for the last 4
years in both the buy (configure, customize) and install and the asp hosted
(configure) and install side of things.

I can't imagine what is different about either one of these scenarios. The
only thing I could think of is if you are working for the internal IT of an
organization that then wants to move to actually selling something for
others.

-- dave

11 Feb 2005 - 6:00pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

David Heller wrote:

> These are not the same think. Siebel is never used "as is" and is barely
> ever "shrinked-wrapped" and salesforce.com is an ASP and by design is for
> more than one user type to use.

I think Mark is speaking more generally than you are thinking about the
issue, Dave. The issue is basically when your company buys
technology/product from someone else that is required to be integrated
with your technology/product. There are many different scenarios for
this, but it comes down to when you have to work with and design around
technology that is brought in from outside the company walls.

The key word I think here is "integration."

Andrei

11 Feb 2005 - 6:05pm
FelcanSmith, Mark
2004

Heller, David wrote:

>These are not the same think. Siebel is never used "as is" and is
barely
>ever "shrinked-wrapped" and salesforce.com is an ASP and by design is
for
>more than one user type to use.
My intent here was to show the diversity of vended products.

>iTunes is a vended application.
Who is buying iTunes to use as a component in a tool suite? I don't get
this
example.

>Siebel on the other hand is customized at the code level for almost
every
enterprise installation
You're talking about customization at the code level, I was trying to be
quite
clear in my response that I was going to describe vended from the
presentation
layer perspective - not code architecture.

>I think if you have better definition and juxtaposition then this
discussion
>might be more useful (at least to me); otherwise it feels very
ephemeral and
>not realistic.
Dave, you can read into this what ever you find useful...or not
the gist I was trying to get to was straight-forward
How does a designer (or the company for that matter) account for your
existing
style guides, standards and experience strategy when working with a 3rd
party
solution provider.

The real crux is when there is limited budget and quite possibly your
business
partners have already decided which 3rd party solution they're going to
bring in house. What do you do then? Andrei had some useful information
to share
(at least I found it useful)

With all your experience, if you can't see the situation for what it is,
this
may in fact be an ephemeral discussion for you - but I can't believe you
would
say it's unrealistic...come on, what's more real than limited budgets
and decisions
being made w/o consulting the appropriate parties?

-Mark

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