Sunday, May 11, 2008


Document Engineering and User Experience Design

This past week (8 May 2008) at the DocTrainWest conference in Vancouver I gave a keynote talk titled "Document Engineering and User Experience Design."

My talk was based on some evolving ideas I've called "Bridging the Front Stage and Back Stage" in a paper and talks over the last year. The contrast and conflict I've been thinking and talking about is between information system designers with a "user experience" perspective and those with a "back end" or systems and data analysis perspective. People with the UX mindset focus on the interactions or encounters that people have with systems and services, and thus intentionally or unintentionally discount the contribution of the "back stage" work where materials or information needed by the front stage are processed. For example, if you analyze a web shopping experience from the front stage point of view, you emphasize usability and visual design considerations and don't think about the information exchanges between warehouses, shippers, banks and so on who have to work together if what you order is going to arrive on time. A great user experience on the web site doesn't mean squat if this back stage "content choreography" goes wrong.

So I've been saying that it is essential to consider the entire network of services that comprise the back and front stages as complementary parts of a "service system." We need new concepts and methods in service design that recognize how back stage information and processes can improve the front stage experience.

My DocTrain talk didn't say very much that was new, but I adapted my message to the technical writing and content management crowd a bit. I just said that another way to think about the front stage fixation is that it gives too much credit to user interface designers for the user experience, and not enough to people who design (and communicate) the documents and document choreography that are necessary to make the end-to-end system work. I'm not trying to take credit away from user interface designers, but they need to appreciate that the back end folks deserve some too.

This adapted message resonated with the DocTrain crowd. I had MIT Press ship 2 boxes (32 copies) of the paperback edition of my Document Engineering book for me to do a book signing after my talk, and the books sold out with people standing in line. Many of them then went and ordered the book on Amazon, and this jump in sales drove the book to #3000 for a short time (it has now recovered from this hyperstimulation in sales and is much lower now). And I'm flattered to discover today that several people have blogged positively about my DocTrain talk.

Antoine Giraud: "Content Choreographers Unite"

Anne Gentle

Sarah O'Keefe

So thanks for the encouragement. I hope that Scott Abel invites me to talk again at DocTrain.

-Bob Glushko

Thanks for the helpful information. Hope to hear more from you.
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Thank you for sharing article on "Document Engineering and User Experience Design". I read it completely and found it quite useful for me. Appreciable job! Cheers to Bob Glushk!
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