SDL Innovate: Contextual Matters

This was the agenda for my SDL Innovate workshop in San Francisco.

Hands-on Workshop: Web Content Management with SDL Tridion
Alvin Reyes, SDL
Any business’ website is a vital communication portal to its customers. However, keeping web content updated can be a tedious process.  Attend this workshop to learn how SDL Tridion Web Content Management allows content contributors to focus on the task at hand. The interface provides tremendous flexibility and enables contributors to edit content directly within the context of the website, through all major browsers and in the preferred language. 
Get hands on experience with the main features and functions of SDL Tridion 2013 SP1, complete with sample exercises to demonstrate the basics of content authoring, management and publication.   
This course is best suited for those new to SDL Tridion and will introduce the key concepts and terminology in a practical environment.  Participation will require you bring a personal laptop with Internet Explorer / Chrome / FireFox installed.
That's a lot to accomplish in a 2-hour workshop over hotel conference WiFi. I changed the goal to help attendees see how contextual experience apply to the back-office orchestration that authors face. Luckily I only had one author in the group along with a few with technical backgrounds, some projects managers, and those representing the business (that aren't necessarily authors themselves).

Contextual Defined

In my view, "contextual" means related things or actions you want when you're doing what you're doing, where you're doing it. 
Context isn't mysterious. Here are some recent observations on contextual experiences, or simply how we interact with tasks and activities in the Real World or with digital interfaces. Notice how these relate to another "c" word: "convenience."

Do you ever get requests or questions like these?
  • "Can you email me the file, please?"
  • "This is off-topic, but..." as seen in chat or email
  • "How do I use this tool without using the recommended approach? I want to do it this way instead."
As a personal example I recently moved a bookcase "the lazy way" by wiggling it and pushing stuff aside until I shoved it into it's final spot.

The proper way would have been to:
  • Remove everything off the shelves
  • Clear a path
  • Move it

Real World Contextual Preferences

What do these requests have in common?

In the context of what we're trying to do, it's hard changing context, going somewhere else, or starting something when something like it is readily accessible or familiar (browser, new chat window, or starting a new project). Why make two emails when you can address everyone in one? Here are the unspoken background contexts to the above situations:

1. [Since I have Outlook open but not my browser] can you email me the file, please?
2. Off-topic, but [since I have this chat open], let me ask you something.
3. [I am more familiar with with my approach and code.] I want to do it this way instead.

This isn't a criticism, just today's reality.

You will experience this when someone asks if the group wants to go somewhere and the response is lackluster. "Let's go?" "Meh." But once people are there, experiencing whatever you wanted them to do, in-context, then they become interested, have fun, or develop an opinion on how it should go.

People don't care and don't know until they're experiencing it. Hopefully my workshop attendees were experiencing what authors see, even if vicariously.

Have you?

  • Ever reached for any tool to open something rather than scissors.
  • Opened the easiest, most accessible tool on your computer rather than the right one
  • Preferred your computer and your examples rather than someone else's computer or example

Contextual Responses

The best experiences reflect people, products, or services that adjust to you.

  • If you want email, sure no problem. I'll keep a copy in the shared location as well.
  • If you ask, I'll try to answer.
  • If you don't want to try another approach, I'll answer best I can but also show the other approach is so much easier.
Things that just work have accounted for all the ways you might use it in context. Context include what's "nearby" while you're trying to do some task or activity. This includes:
  • Related actions or steps you might also want to do
  • Items that are the same as what you're working on
  • Recent or most popular activities
Context also includes the environment, device, and perhaps people around you when performing such an activity. It probably also includes the things you don't want to appear.

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