Dec 20, 2005

Visible web

The more I try to make things visual, the more I appreciate the value of visual communication.

When I was asked to lead a team responsible for placing information related to membership on the SME website, I needed to make the waste visible for them. The website itself was the gemba (where the work happens) so working my way around it was a “go and see” process. First, I located pages where visitors were most likely to start (from the “join” button, for example) in order to learn about membership, or do something membership-related.

I printed the “start” pages to help me trace links as deep as I could go, then I printed the “destination” pages. It did look like a lot of paper wasted, but just looking through the website does not expose the complexity or range of the information posted there. It was astonishing. I found hundreds and hundreds of pages and documents.

I took those piles of paper to a pair of soft walls that form an aisle through our office, and then started pinning up the paper. Nearly every page was replete with links. It was clear that I needed to represent the relationships among the pages somehow.


String! It was slow work, but I traced every relationship among the membership pages. Strings led from each link on each page to the page it referenced. When the display was complete, the current state was inescapably visual. Yikes! By the time the kaizen team met, they had a pretty good idea what they needed to do.

There was another benefit from this visual display process. Because the aisle was well-traveled, people casually walking by began to get the picture. If you saw me painstakingly festooning the office walls with bright pink and green string, you couldn’t help but comment. I could engage people in conversation – from the maintenance guys to directors – about the state of the website itself, and to challenge them to learn more about membership.

I’ll get into the kaizen itself in a later post, but it started with the “visible web.”

4 comments:

Terry said...

I can attest that the current state was colorful - lots of yarn going long distances to questionable destinations. Karen really helped make the mess visible! A good starting point.
Terry

Piquero said...

As an old systems hack I am not surprised but applaud your efforts so far.
Hyperlink pages evolve and often lose their original intent. There should have been a specific script and walk through of how the visitor would navigate the web site. In the programming world they call it "Use Cases" but in the older days we called it "prototyping."
Those simple scenarios should be documented by the design/web team. If not, don't redesign it without understanding how the visitor will perform various functions.

Karen Wilhelm said...

When we redesigned, we created paper prototypes and asked members to come and simulate use and give us feedback.

That resulted in some tearing-up and redesigning. If not for the prototyping, we would not have done a good job.

Anonymous said...

Karen,
Your article reminded me of how effectly we used yarn at Lantech to see the linkages and differences in different product flows. We made a huge map on the wall with each of the main options for each Process, and then took individual customer orders and showe how they flowed through the process. As we did order by order, it became really obvious what our different value streams were, and were able to create really good vision of the diffent value streams to create. Wish I had picture of it. But it was watershed event in our lean journey!
Jean Cunningham

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