What: Vision for web-based collaboration with shared documents.
Where: Sun Microsystems
How: Team Leader. Tasks included project management, focus groups, interviews, brainstorming, design sketches, and report writing.
I was asked by the Sun CTO to put together a team of designers and engineers to develop a vision for how a web portal could be used to effectively connect people and documents. Our end product was a detailed report that presented our vision for the next generation of web portals that focused on interpersonal computing. We began by studying the user population most likely to benefit from an application portal — novice internet users who have yet to utilize productivity applications. We found people liked how computers brought them together with others through e-mail, instant messaging, and chat rooms, even when they were asking for help on solving computer problems. On the other hand, users were frustrated by the complexity of personal computers and their inability to successfully complete tasks or find information. Even retrieving files that they had created themselves was a problem.
To begin the project, we ran a series of focus groups that included members of the target population. In parallel, we also interviewed a variety of Sun employees with an interest in application portals to understand the issues from a company perspective. Next, we tracked and examined the existing, related technologies as they emerged. This included both internal and external offerings.
Armed with this background information, we began a period of brainstorming to develop ideas for a new application portal service. During this period, we wrote usage scenarios from the perspective of our target users. This evolved into a collaborative portal conceptual user interface and a description of the technologies that would be needed to implement the features and the infrastructure.