When compared to other software out there today (like 37Signals' Basecamp, for instance) all this Adobe online software seems over-complex, confusing, hard to navigate. In fact compared to hundreds of other online forums out there, it is severely lacking.
Just hire a decent usability consultant and I'm sure that after a few days work the usability of the site could be vastly improved. Or at least he or she could design a new navigation structure that would be improved. Then you'd have to implement it.
I get feeling that Adobe is building this with perhaps a visual designer and a team of Java developers. Perhaps they are hacking some existing software to fit a new shape. But this kind of software needs to be built from the starting point of user needs and user processes. Not cobbled together by developers on the fly. You need someone who can take a step back and look at the information architecture and usability from a fresh perspective, from the ground up.
Wake up, both the old and the new forums have usability that feels like it harkens back to the 1990s.
I'm sure they have usability consultants. And my guess is that they're *not* looking at the user forums.
Usability is *not* just a subjective art, and it's not just a matter of opinion. It really should involve user modeling and testing. Even on a small scale, using a card sort for example, they would not have arrived at the mess that is the adobe user forums.
Take this as an example:
When I go to the new forums, there are 2 places on the page that tell me whether I'm logged in or not. And sometimes these contradict each other! One place tells me I am logged in, while the other place tells me that I'm not. This is really, really basic stuff.
If it really is necessary to have 2 authentication systems running in parallel (which it probably isn't) then it would be essential to very clearly label them.
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This is just one example, there are others, and many more subtle things that tell me they don't have a usability guy working on this project.
The forum element of the page comes from the Jive software. The software allows some user customisation but Adobe are seeking to avoid customisation on their behalf by Jive, as that route is part of what has lead to problems with these forums - once you have a custom version of the software, it may not be possible then to keep it aligned with the non-custom versions that Jive then develops, so you end up in a backwater.
So to take your example, simple though it may be, the wording for whether or not people are logged onto the forums themselves may be preset and not variable by Adobe. The same might - or might not - apply to other usability matters that concern you.
I would like to think that the Jive software people have usability experts on board - it's perhaps they who should be making any necessary changes, not Adobe.
> you have a custom version of the software, it may not be possible then to keep it aligned with the non-custom versions that Jive then develops, so you end up in a backwater.
This argument is basically saying that we won't make our site usable because it causes us technical problems. That is not acceptable for a company with the size and budget and reputation of Adobe. It's a complete misunderstanding of how software should be developed in the 21st century. It is amateur. If you really cannot make your off-the-shelf software work properly through version updates (for example with a plugin) then don't use off-the-shelf software. Develop a custom solution. It is actually not that difficult or expensive (for someone like Adobe) to do this. There are many frameworks out there.
What tickles me is that we were told that it was too difficult to customize the Jive software to produce an acceptable uncluttered layout; and two contributors to the forum came up with Scripts to do exactly what was needed within about an hour!
> Develop a custom solution. It is actually not that difficult or expensive (for someone like Adobe) to do this. There are many frameworks out there.
If it's that easy and cheap for major corporations to do it, can you point to some good examples of those that have? And the frameworks you have in mind?
> What tickles me is that we were told that it was too difficult to customize the Jive software to produce an acceptable uncluttered layout; and two contributors to the forum came up with Scripts to do exactly what was needed within about an hour!
I suspect that if the contributors were asked to do the same with the Jive software (apply content filtering to the front end rather than the user end) it would have been a bit more than an hour to do. And not so easy to make it optional. And not so easy not to have it impose a global performance hit.