I was asked to do the closing plenery at the IA Summit this year. This is a real honor and I thought for a long time about what I wanted to talk about. I ended up talking about designing SlideShare and why we did not use many of the typical UX methods and tools for that. Instead we opted for an agile design process that works well with fast-paced development of a social (ok, I will use the word – “Web2.0”) application.
The point I wanted to get across was why we chose not to follow traditional UX methodologies for SlideShare. There are several reasons, but the most important reason is that SlideShare is a social application. Current UX methods and tools are not suited for design / prototyping of social apps. Showing early prototypes of the application to users would tell me nothing about its sociability. As such, the only way to really know whether SlideShare was going to catch user interest and engage them was to put an early version out there and let people react to it.
Additionally, as a fast, agile startup we knew we could get to an early Beta pretty soon. So the choice was between getting feedback to wireframes, early prototypes or simply get to an early Beta stage and put it out there. We chose the latter and have not regretted that choice.
I spoke from my personal experience – as the founder of a small, bootstrapped startup. I had thought that my talk would be somewhat heretical for an IA audience that takes prototypes and other artifacts seriously. After the talk, many people working in big companies, consultants came up to me after the talk and said that they identified with my reasoning, and felt that for many design situations it makes sense to take a similar approach.